Uno de los objetivos de mi viaje era seguir el rastro de los archivos de los procesos judiciales de reforma agraria que se llevaron a cabo después de 1953 en los departamentos de Cochabamba y La Paz, pues para mi tesis estoy interesada en estudiar los procesos de afectación y redistribución de tierras después de la reforma.
Para La Paz
Sabia de antemano que esa información no estaba en el Archivo histórico del Departamento de La Paz y tampoco se encontraba en el Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria. Uno de los retos de este viaje era encontrar donde había quedado esa información.
Encontré que los juicios de afectación de haciendas estaban guardados en el Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria (INRA) a nivel departamental. El INRA departamental no es propiamente un archivo histórico sino más bien un archivo judicial que esta en el centro de la ciudad y al que deben asistir alrededor de 100 personas en promedio cada día. Es una oficina con gran afluencia de abogados, miembros de las comunidades campesinas y comunidades indígenas, dirigentes de cooperativas demandando a los mas o menos 5 abogados, y alrededor de 10 o 15 auxiliares que ahí trabajan copias de algunos de los documentos que requieren para proseguir algún trámite judicial (tales como consolidación de su títulos de propiedad a nivel personal o comunal, etc). No hablamos pues de un espacio apto para historiadores sino para abogados donde los litigios, enojos y estreses están a la orden del día.
Cheers from Brazil! Two weeks ago I arrived in São Paulo to collect the data for my research on police corruption at the Police Ombudsman Office (Ouvidoria). Though I’ve lived 8 years in this city prior moving to NYC, it feels that coming here after exactly 1 year away has a different “taste”: maybe my experiences in NYC have exacerbated my critical look towards the city.
This exercise of alteridade begun right before my plane landed: the Brazilian air plane company I was flying with screened a promotional video about Sao Paulo emphasizing it’s multiculturalism, it’s dynamism and it’s “inner character” for both entertainment and business. Images of “the city that can never stop” were edited in accordance to this idea of movement and velocity. For a moment, it felt like we had returned to JFK! I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next couple of weeks – it seems that Sao Paulo sees (and sells) itself as a sort of Brazilian New York; actually, more specifically as Manhattan.
This post comes nearly two weeks after my return to the United States from Montevideo, Uruguay. As I could have predicted, my last couple weeks in Uruguay were conducted at a feverish pace as I struggled to fit last-minute interviews, museum and archive visits, events, and political marches into my last days in the field. I think my efforts paid off, and I’m happy to report that I was able to interview over forty subjects about the Ley de Caducidad (Expiry Law), each representing a wide range of political, ideological, and social perspectives on the law. Highlights of my last two weeks in Uruguay include interviews with the former president of Uruguay, Julio Maria Sanguinetti, presidential candidate Pedro Bordaberry, Senator Rafael Michelini, and other members of the Uruguayan government who were astonishingly easy to gain access to, despite my somewhat questionable status as a graduate student with no real press credentials (yet!). I was struck by the receptiveness of all my subjects, and could literally walk into Colorado Party headquarters off the street, ask for the phone numbers of the list of politicians I’d written down, and immediately receive a detailed list of work, home, and cell phone numbers. One party secretary scheduled an interview for me on the spot with the former Defense Minister, who received me in his home in Carrasco. While I’ve never enjoyed this level of access in the United States, it also created problems I hadn’t anticipated. Looking back, I regret not beginning the process sooner during my research – I may have been able to interview Tabaré Vazquez, the president of Uruguay and an important subject since he initially withheld his public support of the referendum on the Expiry Law and his party, the Frente Amplio, never attempted to repeal the law despite holding a majority of seats in Parliament. I’m sure it would be difficult to achieve the same level of access as in any other country as a student, but conducting interviews in Uruguay, “el país de las cercanías”, was an incredibly rewarding and fascinating experience.
In January 2009, led by a coalition of trade unions and community groups, a Lyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (Alliance Against Profiteering) began a general strike in Guadeloupe. Over 44 days they convened large community demonstrations, shut down schools and businesses, and brought activities on the island to a near halt. They were protesting la vie chère, or the high cost of goods and services that make life in Guadeloupe, a non-independent island of the French Caribbean, increasingly difficult for ordinarily people. Martinique shares the same political status as Guadeloupe, and the bone that strikers had to pick with the French state (and equally important, for Martinicans, with the white minority béké class that continues to control most of the commerce on their island) was shared by Martinican citizens. On 5 February that island, too, went on strike. Over 38 days cars were burned, businesses shuttered, and mobilized groups (both organized and not) clashed with the police in downtown Fort de France.
The unrest that rocked this island all of those months ago has left its traces both on the landscape and in the narratives that people tell me now, in the lull of this place’s summer quiet. In the streets of the city signs of political mobilization are everywhere visible: graffiti on the side of French mega-department store Galéries Lafayette calls for jistis kolonial (colonial justice); there are burn marks in the roads- traces of February’s garbage cans, cars, and barricades in flames; some businesses never re-opened their doors after incurring the losses of that time, and their windows remain broken and boarded up. Everyone I talk to is eager to tell me about the grève (strike)- about what they did during that time, about the iconic events and their conflicting experiences of them. Even corporate marketing bears the traces- billboards for a local supermarket sport a new tag line: Solidaires, Contre la Vie Chère! (In solidarity, against the expensive life).
Director Eliana Monteiro and assistant director Maria Emilia work with actor Bruna Freitag during a Teatro da Vertigem rehearsal
During one of my final weeks in Brazil, I was able to accompany Teatro da Vertigem to the Festival de Arte Serrinha, an arts festival in the interior of São Paulo state. Four company members led a workshop in developing theatrical pieces. They tried to condense their years-long processes into one week to teach students some techniques for collaboratively creating and presenting site-specific works.
The first day, company members discussed the history of Teatro da Vertigem with students. Though I had read about the group’s productions, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to hear them describe the processes of each piece and their personal experiences rehearsing and performing them. They traced how each piece had evolved from a theme and concept to a performance. To mirror this, they chose the themes of waiting and skin for the workshop in Serrinha. For each piece in Vertigem’s repertoire, they explained how each performance space had been selected. They emphasized the importance of a space’s history—the ghosts that stay in the walls of a room and how the space “contaminates” the actors, the play, and even the spectators. For example, during performances of O Livro de Jó (The Book of Job), which took place in a disused hospital, spectators would occasionally faint and comment on the smell of ether. However, company members explained that the space no longer had the smell of ether; it was the spectators’ associations with hospitals combined with performance that made them sensorially experience the memory of a smell as real. The company members’ use of the image of contamination to describe a particular kind of relationship between the internal space of the actors’ and spectators’ bodies and the external space surrounding them fascinates me. It emphasizes the porousness of the border between these two areas and stresses the dynamic exchange between interior and exterior of the body in Vertigem’s work.
MA Candidate, Gallatin
Greetings from Santo Domingo! For the past weeks I have been in the Dominican Republic researching the constitutional reform that proposes to change the definition of Article 11 in the current constitution to state that the children of undocumented immigrants born in the Dominican Republic would not be considered Dominican nationals.
Currently, the majority of undocumented immigrants are Haitian and for many civil society groups this amendment to the constitution is just the last of many attempts to create laws that would legally exclude a population that has been historically marginalized. With this proposed reform the children of undocumented immigrants will never be considered Dominicans and never have the opportunity to exercise their rights as full citizens. This would mean limited access to basic services and a sense of belonging nowhere; in sum, statelessness.
I’ve been looking for answers to many questions over the past few weeks and I feel that those questions have generated even more questions. The fact of the matter is that while there are undocumented immigrants coming from countries other than Haiti, the data on these groups is non-existent making it difficult to see how these laws and constitutional changes are affecting groups other than Dominicans of Haitian descent. It is also public knowledge that many opinion leaders have explicitly stated that Dominicans of Haitian descent are just as Haitian as their parents. In a country where politics are so entrenched in the daily lives of all, the opinion of these individuals does matter and can effectively influence.
My interviews with several non-governmental organizations have revealed that their struggle for inclusiveness and the right to a name and nationality for Dominicans of Haitian descent has been an uphill battle and at times they have felt as if all of their recourses had been exhausted. However, there have been victories such as Yean y Bosico vs Republica Dominicana in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded that two young Dominican girls of Haitian descent be granted their birth certificates and publicly acknowledge and apologize. The Dominican Republic continues to reject this ruling and in many ways have negatively responded to the international attention this case received.
In a country where economic development has not directly translated into human development it is concerning to see how large sectors of the Dominican population are being excluded. I must add that citizenship rights are not only limited to Dominicans of Haitian descent but to many poor Dominicans who are not of Haitian descent that do not have access to their birth certificates. In a country where birth certificates equal Dominican nationality it remains to be seen how those who cannot prove their nationality can define the imagined nation.
MA Candidate, CLACS