Struggles for the Land in Latin America, Past and Present

Posted by Tony Wood, graduate student in Latin American History at NYU

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Poster for the “Luchas sociales por la tierra en América Latina” conference, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima

On 24 June 1969, Peru’s military government decreed a sweeping agrarian reform, and at the same time ordered that the day itself – previously designated the “day of the Indio”, a term which carried a racialized, discriminatory charge – be renamed the Día del Campesino. It was only fitting, then, that the Universidad Mayor Nacional de San Marcos in Lima should host its conference on “Luchas sociales por la tierra en América Latina” on 24-25 June this year.

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QUECHUA DIALECT IN TARABUCO, BOLIVIA

Posted by: Gladys Camacho Rios – MA Candidate at CLACS / Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU

I have come to Bolivia to gather data in two Quechua-speaking communities: one in the town of Tarabuco northwest of Sucre, and the other in Toro Toro north of the city of Potosí. Specifically, I am interested in doing a post-acoustic analysis of the uvular sound effects in high vowels /i u/ comparing the Quechua dialects of these two communities.

I started in Tarabuco which is the center of the Yampara culture. To get there, I flew to the city of Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia. Tarabuco is located 64 kilometers from Sucre and it is known for its colorful knitted fabrics.
When I got to the community, I looked for Quechua-speaking subjects originally from Tarabuco to record them. I met a young girl, Emiliana, with whom I spoke in Quechua the entire time. She was very friendly and helped me find other Quechua-speaking subjects.

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Recording Quechua speaking people in Tarabuco

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Another Day in the Dominican Republic: Threatening Blackness in Quisqueya

Posted by Amanda Moreno – MA/MSLIS Candidate at CLACS and The Palmer School of Library and Information Science at Long Island University – Manhattan

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Graffiti on Calle César Nicolás Pensón and Avenida Máximo Gómez demanding the expulsion of Haitians from Dominican Republic. Photo by Amanda Moreno, May 2015.

I noticed the graffiti on my way to dinner the night I arrive in the Dominican Republic. Outside of what I later learned is the equivalent of a papal embassy in Santo Domingo’s upper middle class neighborhood of Gazcue, the haphazard stenciling connotes an all too common message to Haitians living on the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola: get out, you are not wanted here. Continue reading

Prof. Katherine Smith’s Presentation on Haitian Freemasons at the 40th Annual CSA Conference

Freemasons parade in Jacmel, Haiti, 2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

Freemasons parade in Jacmel, Haiti, 2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

On May 25th, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow Katherine Smith presented her research on Haitian Freemasonry at the 40th Annual Caribbean Studies Association Conference in New Orleans. The Freemasons claim historical roots in medieval stone masonry guilds of Europe and mythological origins in the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. However, the organization, as it is known today, descends from lodges founded in England and Scotland in the 18th century. Masonic symbolism and rituals embodied Enlightenment ideals such as truth, reason, and liberty. The participation of Africans and their descendants in Freemasonry, and other fraternal organizations, complicates our understanding Enlightenment thought and, by extension, the historical formation of modernity. Smith’s paper focused on Haiti and the legacy of the Enlightenment as expressed in Masonic philosophy, aesthetics, and ceremonies in the present.

Freemasons celebrate the eve of Saint John's Day with a traditional bonfire. Jacmel, Haiti,  2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

Freemasons celebrate the eve of Saint John’s Day with a traditional bonfire. Jacmel, Haiti, 2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

Seeing the Change: La Fábrica in Havana

Posted by Nicki Fleischner- MA Candidate at CLACS/ Global Journalism at NYU 

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Kevin, a 24 year-old design student, checking out the skateboard exhibition at La Fábrica.

When we arrived there is already a line snaking its way around the block: Cuban girls in heels, boys in gold chains and brightly printed graphic tees, foreign tourists or exchange students sprinkled throughout. At the door a few groups try to grease the impressively built bouncers. Some people are successful just by dropping the right name, or flashing their Biennial art festival badges—available only to those (mostly foreign tour groups) who paid for them ahead of time. It’s the Biennial’s opening night at La Fábrica in Havana, and as several people have emphasized to me, it is the place to be.

I always knew I wanted to do my fieldwork in Havana. Following President Raúl Castro’s economic reforms in 2010 and then President Barack Obama’s decision to renew diplomatic relations with the country last December (and the slew of media hype that has followed), it feels like the right time to be here; a time when Cuba is on the brink of transformation (or not at all, as many of my more cynical Cuban friends will tell me). Leaving for Havana on my direct flight from New York (another change) the check-in line filled with American tour groups headed to Havana’s 12th Biennial— an international art festival that takes place in the city from late May through June—it did feel different, and that an opening up (and commercialization) is actually happening. Now in Havana it is my goal to assess what the “changes” we read about have tangibly resulted in for Cuba’s younger generation: does it impact their daily lives, their aspirations for the future, their conception of themselves?

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CLACS Alumnus Publishes Book Debunking the Myths of the Old West

CLACS Alumnus D.H. Figueredo '88 with his newest book Revolvers and Pistolas

CLACS Alumnus D.H. Figueredo ’88 with his newest book Revolvers and Pistolas

Written by CLACS Master’s Candidate Patrick Moreno-Covington

Does historical reality influence popular narrative or can popular culture construct its own historical reality? In his newest book, Revolvers and Pistolas, Vaqueros and Caballeros: Debunking the Old West, CLACS alumni D.H. Figueredo challenges commonly held perceptions of the American West to reveal the fundamental role of Mexican entrepreneurs, farmers and indeed heroes in settling the American frontier. In a conversation with the CLACS Blog, Mr. Figueredo chronicled the writing of the book and the role that his CLACS education has played in his professional and writing career.

As a small child, D.H. loved Westerns. He can remember reading the great Western novels by Karl May and attending films starring John Wayne, Randall Scott and Gary Cooper and thinking that if he were cast in these movies it would not be as a heroic cowboy but one of the nameless villains fated to be ignored in the background. As he grew older, D.H. began to discover that there was indeed a rich legacy of Mexican cowboys, important businesswomen and miners throughout what is commonly thought of the American Old West. To uncover their stories, D.H. knew that he would need to reject the stereotypes found in popular culture and document the true lives of the Latino figures who shared their knowledge and money in populating the West.

D.H. attributes this drive to view narratives from multiple angles to his time at CLACS. When Mr. Figueredo entered the CLACS Master’s Program, he was already a successful librarian helping to create the Newark Public Library’s Sala Hispanoamericana. Figueredo sought out CLACS to advance in his curatorial and library career but also to combine his interest with history with his passion for literature and popular culture. Beyond the education, Figueredo credits CLACS with helping to develop a strong professional and personal network of friends, scholars and colleagues that continued to challenge him after he graduated with an MA in Latin American Studies in 1988. This professional network would prove to be instrumental as D.H. composed an Encyclopedia of Caribbean Literature and Encyclopedia of Cuba: People, History, Culture as well as A Brief History of the Caribbean.

California Pioneer Juana Briones

California Pioneer Juana Briones

In Revolvers and Pistolas, Figueredo departs from the style of his previous works to tell the story the Latino West in an accessible and page-turning style. Part of the excitement stems from some of the important discoveries he is able to bring to light. Stories of powerful businesswomen like Juana Briones whose large estate helped to found San Francisco or Mifflin Kennedy who directed her husband to purchase and settle much of southern Texas. He recounts the Latino origins of the 1848 California gold rush which was spurred on by the expertise of the Mexican, Chilean and Peruvian miners who taught the first Eastern settlers in the region how to pan for gold. Figueredo was also able to challenge the stereotypes surrounding Mexican soldiers and trace the Mexican roots of popular figures like Zorro and the Cisco Kid. In doing so, Figueredo is able to debunk the myths that cloud our vision of the Old West and restore the proud legacy that Latinos shared constructing the American Southwest.

CLACS congratulates Mr. Figueredo on his recent publication. The Newark Public Library will be hosting a meet and greet with Mr. Figueredo on May 30th at 2 pm at 5 Washington Street, Newark. To RSVP or for more information please call 973–733–7772 (Sala Hispanoamericana) or email ibetancourt@npl.org.

Stay up to date with CLACS events, ongoing research and alumni announcements on our Facebook and Twitter Pages. 

Aponte and His World Conference Dives into A Radical Vision of Slave Uprising

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Dominique Serres, The Capture of Havana, 1762: Taking the Town, 14 August, c. 1775, oil on canvas

Written by CLACS MA Candidate Constanza Ontaneda Rehman-Khedker

Coming soon, on Friday May 8th and Saturday May 9th, NYU will be proud to host a one-of-a-kind two-day conference centered on the leader of the 1811-1812 massive slave rebellion in Cuba. “José Antonio Aponte. José Antonio Aponte and His World: Writing, Painting, and Making Freedom in the African Diaspora,” will feature more than twenty renowned scholars from NYU, and other distinguished institutions in the U.S. and abroad, who will discuss the visionary leader, his legendary “book of paintings,” and the future direction of “Apontian” scholarship.

Over the past fifteen years, scholars have shown a renewed interest in the political and historical legacy of José Antonio Aponte (?-1812), a free man of color, carpenter, artist, and alleged leader of a massive antislavery conspiracy and rebellion in colonial Cuba in 1811-1812. Aponte was also the creator of an unusual work of art—a “book of paintings” full of historical and mythical figures, including black kings, emperors, priests, and soldiers that he showed to and discussed with fellow conspirators. Aponte’s vision of a black history connected a diasporic and transatlantic past to the possibility of imagining a sovereign future for free and enslaved people of color in colonial Cuba. Although the “book of paintings” is believed to be lost, colonial Spanish officials interrogated Aponte about its contents after arresting him for organizing the rebellions, and Aponte’s sometimes elaborate, always elusive, descriptions of the book’s pages survive in the archival trial records.

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Gilles-Louis Chrétien after a drawing by Fouquet, Potrait of Vincent Ogé, 1790, engraving

From myriad academic backgrounds in the humanities, historians, anthropologists, philosophers, literary scholars, and art historians explore the figure of Aponte as artist, intellectual, revolutionary, and theorist. In addition to this scholarly interest, Aponte has also been re-enshrined as a national figure in contemporary Cuba, following a 2012 bicentennial that commemorated his death at the hands of colonial authorities. However, given the recent scholarly and public focus on Aponte, there has not yet been a conference dedicated to the interdisciplinary scholarly perspectives that have sought to advance the study of the singular “book of paintings” and its visionary creator.

“José Antonio Aponte. José Antonio Aponte and His World: Writing, Painting, and Making Freedom in the African Diaspora,” brings together scholars to discuss the current state of “Apontian” studies and suggest future directions for scholarship. It includes, as well, scholars doing work on questions of historical memory, the intellectual history of the enslaved, and the relationship between text, image, and politics in other settings in order to put Aponte’s history in conversation with a wider world, much, indeed, as his own “book of paintings” tried to do.

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For the conference program click here.

To register for the conference, please click here.

Join us for this conference at the King Juan Carlos Center at New York University, 53 Washington Square South. Click here for a Google map. The closest subway is the West 4th station where the A, B, C, D, E, F trains stop. For more information, please contact lmr273 [@] nyu [.] edu.

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Sponsorship for the conference has been generously provided by the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities and Diversity, the Caribbean Initiative of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Department of History, the Reed Foundation, and the Department of Art History.