Just a cool bus and a bicycling man in Cochabamba, Bolivia
The Plurinational State of Bolivia holds the key to the world’s energetic future. Tucked away under the salt flats of Uyuni, in southwestern Bolivia, lies the largest lithium reserve on the planet. Lithium, a metal now known as “the gold of the 21st century,” is the number one candidate to power the electric cars of tomorrow. Some experts say it will quickly become the most coveted metal in the world, which explains why carmakers and governments from around the globe have suddenly fixed their gaze on Bolivia.
But even before Bolivia was a sovereign nation, it has been the extraction site of one resource wealth after another. First it was the silver-rich Cerro Rico in Potosí. Then it was tin followed by oil and natural gas. At every turn, Bolivia has exported highly valuable resources to the benefit of foreign investors and to the detriment of its own struggling economy. Today, the question on everyone’s mind is: will lithium become yet another chapter of this troubled story? That’s precisely the question I’m trying to answer in my travels. Continue reading
I’m not sure how, but in a city dominated by images of José Martí and Che Guevara, my favorite place of refuge is marked by a very different cultural figure, at least in terms of where he grew up — John Lennon. Parque Lennon, full of yellow and red flowered trees that cast shadows over the quiet square, has become the spot where I go to read my books, brainstorm ideas, think over issues or just take a break from the acute intensity that is La Habana. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s nice having a familiar face welcoming me to come and sit for a second, or just that it’s the closest park to where I am staying. Either way, John has been an integral part of my research here so far.
One issue that was fleshed out there was the general structure of my project. The idea I came down with was to analyze the praises and criticisms of Julio Cortázar’s work during the 1960-70’s in order to paint a clearer picture of the intellectual environment in Latin America at the time. What the extensive archives and incredibly helpful people at the Casa de las Américas have helped me realize was that there was absolutely nothing clear about what was going on between writers during the first two decades of the Cuban Revolution. It became obvious very quickly that trying to place these writers—who were arguing about issues like loyalty, freedom of expression, legibility, experimentation, influence and the meaning of exile—in a simple spectrum between liberal and conservative would not only be misleading but also impossible. Continue reading
Sign on the road to Cacha
I took a taxi up to Cacha the day after the festival on the most beautiful road I have seen so far in Ecuador! It is newly laid and makes the twisting ride up the mountain much more enjoyable than it would be on a dirt road. The billboard to the left is placed along this road and is also new, with a fantastic picture of the Pucara Tambo site, which is where I am staying for the duration of my time in Cacha. I have taken this week to settle in and get to know the people who work at the site. There are two women and two men who are there every day and they cook my meals and answer all my questions.
Cabins in Pucara Tambo
I was pleasantly surprised by the accommodations, they have five cabins, with two rooms each, that are a mix of single person rooms and rooms with bunk beds and each room has its own shower with hot water… ya! It gets pretty cold at night, but they have wonderful blankets that keep you nice and warm. Pucara Tambo is located up a mountain from Riobamba, so you get a fantastic view of the city and the other mountains surrounding the city, including Chimborazo, which is the tallest one in Ecuador. Continue reading
A few days after arriving in New Mexico, I sat down to talk with a local historian and later an archivist at the state’s oldest museum. Both the historian and archivist were pessimistic about the possibility of finding any support for my topic. Determined, I spent days in the archive pouring over historical documents of the museum’s history until I realized for myself that I was looking for a missing history even though I knew it wasn’t there. The overwhelming realization set in: my topic was too broad, too unclear, and I was very lost.
I decided to take a few days off to reorganize my thoughts in Las Vegas, NM with the comfort of family and familiarity. In a local restaurant I learned about an upcoming event, an “Academic Panel,” featuring New Mexican and Chicano legends, Reies Lopez Tijerina and Dolores Huerta. I attended the event in hopes of finding inspiration. The event was less academic and more so fanatic.
As I listened to speech after speech about Land Grants, the commodification of water, and the overwhelming loss of land, I noticed a reoccurring concern: the lack of knowledge of these histories among the youth in the state. This thought troubled me as I realized how little even I knew about the history of Land Grants and how the common Hispanic population of the state was affected. How could someone like me, who frequents museums in the state, took courses in New Mexico history in school, and is a member of a proud Hispanic family know so little about such a common and important history? Continue reading
Comida de Santo, Itaparica - Late Summer 2008
I pulled up this photo along with other work shot during my first excursion to Brazil (July-November 2008), as an aid in remembering where I have been-to prepare me for my return, and the next steps I need to take with my research. Officially, my trip begins three weeks from today.
I will cover new geographic turf traveling close to the equator and the mouth of the Amazon in Maranhão state, south to Pernambuco, Bahia, (site of past field work) and the Mercado Madrueira in the Rio suburbs to observe one of largest sacred wholesale markets for foodstuffs, ephemera and religious objects. While in Bahia I will speak to and work with new and old colleagues as well as head inland to continue my observation of ‘A Festa da Boa Morte,’ The Festival of the Good Death in Cachoeira. I am anxious to engage with new populations and regions unfamiliar to me. Last week I received a warm welcome via email from my four mentors in Bahia; all professors at UFBa and/or CEAO in Anthro and History. Those former contacts have been quite helpful in the past and collectively they will all be invaluable to open the doorways, (giving Ogum his due) in these new locales. This is my first, ‘semi-official’ post since it has be generated in country, US of A and not in Brazil. Hello to all of my fellow Tinker travelers. What I have read so far makes it sound as though we are all in for fruitful and stimulating periods in our respective areas. Vai bem, walk softly and listen fully. Olé, Scott
Posted by Scott Barton – PhD in Food Studies at NYU
Museo de Arte de Lima
In the last decade, what Mari Carmen Ramirez calls the Frida Kahlo’s Syndrome in the US towards Latin American art is breaking down to give place to other art tendencies and histories about Latin American Art. In this perspective, Exhibitions such as Inverted Utopias (2004) in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and The Geometry of Hope (2007) have intended to relocate Latin American abstraction as an original movement in itself. While Constructive Spirit (2010), has stressed the links that have shaped both Latin American and American abstraction. However, in these exhibitions the participation of Peruvian artists have been very limited or none. Is this because in Peru geometric art was not an important art tendency? Or is it because the lack of a coherent and institutionalized art history had not allowed a visibilization of those works? I think it is the latter. However, in Peru things are changing to a more complete and encompass history of art.
First, in 2010, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Museo de Arte de San Marcos presented its enriched collection of contemporary art. This collection provides an important visual narrative that included different artists – from Lima and other regions- and from different tendencies. This gives referent to start an exhaustive research on the work of many of these artists. Second, the Museo de Arte de Lima has inaugurated this May 18th a compelling exhibition of the geometric artist Jorge Piqueras, called Jorge Piqueras: De la Estructura al Estillado. Una Geometria en Proceso 1952-59. This exhibition shows for the first time diverse material never seen before and opens up the arena for a broader exploration on Peruvian geometric art. With this the Museo de Arte de Lima, also responds to the international interest in Latin American abstract art, showing the Peruvian contribution. As the curators mention “Así, al documentar un periodo crucial en la obra de Piqueras esta muestra esboza también una importante aproximación al breve interludio del arte geométrico en Loma entre 1945 y 1955, sin duda un periodo crucial e injustamente olvidado de la historia plástica peruana del siglo XX”.
Posted by Giuliana Borea – PhD Candidate in Anthropology at NYU
- Center of the ceremonial circle.
After spending a week in Quito, Ecuador I made my way to Riobamba, which is the town closest to my site in Cacha.
This morning I took a taxi down to Cacha because my contact told me they were having their annual festival and I wouldn´t want to miss it and she was right!
The ceremony was held in the square right in front of El Museo de Cacha in the Pucara Tambo tourism project where I will be staying when I move there tomorrow. There were seven white circles chalked on the ground with people standing barefoot on each one and a group of people in the middle of the circle surrounding the fire that made up the center.
- A ceremonial position
The people in the center were two drummers, two horn blowers, a man and a woman holding candles, a woman holding a flag and a man in white who was directing the ceremony.
The man had the people take positions, which they would have to hold for a certain amount of time. The first is show in the first picture where they are squatting while holding their hands like they are praying and the second is shown above where they have one foot off the ground and their hands out their sides. They were then asked to jump up and down and chant what the man in white said.
Then they turned so that they were standing in two circles following one another and they danced around and around to the music provided by the drummers and horns and finally danced themselves out of the square. Then the chicha ceremony started with each person coming up to the man holding the jug of chicha and taking a gourd full, then holding the glass up to the sky while they said something and then drinking their portion. After this we were all served a huge plate of food, mostly made up of potatoes and corn, with a little salad and chicken on top.
I got to take a look a the museum really quickly before it closed and talked to some of the people working there and am looking forward to getting back to Cacha tomorrow to take my time going through it.
Posted by Sarah Szabo – MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU
Cusco is an exciting place to be at the moment. In addition to the sense of political possibility stoked by the significant election victory and the ongoing struggle in nearby Puno against invasive Canadian mining ventures, the city is celebrating its annual Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi days. Together the days, and the weeks leading up to them, constitute Cusco days, a period of intense revelry complete with parties, fireworks, and various parades through the central square. This year is especially exciting because it marks 100 years since Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu, an anniversary the authorities are touting intensely to boost the already booming tourist attraction (a TV crew showed up in the archives to film the earliest known reference to Machu Picchu). In addition, Yale (where Bingham worked) just recently returned various artifacts taken from that expedition and they will soon be displayed in a local museum. The result of these concurrent trends is a markedly optimistic Cusco.
The celebrations themselves are packed with local meaning. Vari0us groups, including businesses, student groups, university departments, political organizations, peasant communities, sports teams, and many others, work create a spectacle for the parade. They build floats, put together costumes, and choreograph dances and plays to be performed as they march through the Plaza de Armas and surrounding streets. These groups regularly reflect community or regional pride (depictions of Machu Picchu and the condor-puma-snake motif key to Andean mythology are popular) but often they relay simple messages or morals. For example, one health group depicted a nurse battling death with a paper mache syringe in an effort to popularize its own immunization program. Another radical student group had a float of the world being destroyed by environmental damage with soldiers (several labeled CIA) surrounding it, this globe was followed by an angelic depiction of justice holding scales which balanced human development against a glass of water, alluding to the water pollution which now threatens Lake Titicaca and Puno. Continue reading
Protesters across Spain have begun the work of cleaning the plazas they have occupied for weeks, and of extending the movements and national and international organizing ‘into the neighborhoods’, and into new kinds of forums. On the 16th of June, protesters in Barcelona assembled in the plaza San Jaume, in front of the Parliament of Barcelona, throwing insults and objects at politicians as they entered the building from motorcades, the backs of police vehicles, and in several helicopter flights. Confrontations between police and protesters, beginning early in the day, resulted in many injuries and more than two dozen arrests. The movement M15 has also invited citizens to participate in marches and protests in Barcelona for the 19th of June. In the days that followed, tensions between government officials, police and protesters, as well as accusations launched from all sides, have soared. Listening to the radio, talking to friends and scanning the hundreds of comments that follow online Catalan daily coverage of these events, it is clear that not everyone supports M-15. While many may agree with some of the movement’s claims, public sentiment fans across many lines of alignment and disagreement with the protesters’ actions. And amidst all of the political chaos in Spain and Europe, Democracia Real Ya has repeated its commitment to nonviolence. This is not 1968.
I have frequently been amazed by how quickly things can happen in Latin America if you talk to enough people, and I seem to have been talking a lot since I arrived in Colombia last week. I’m lucky to have a few friends here in Bogotá, and upon my arrival they began asking questions about what exactly my thesis research involves and what contacts I’ve already made. A few days later, emails started trickling in with helpful suggestions and useful contacts. Of course one might say that it would have been great to have these contacts before, but I’m certainly not going to turn them down.
So far, research has consisted of spending a lot of time in the public library in Bogotá, where I’ve been reading up on indigenous NGOs, land rights and involvement in sustainable development projects. I wasn’t expecting to find so much material in Bogotá, and it’s been great to realise that indigenous-lead NGOs have been very involved in positive political change at the national level. It’s also given me a lot to think about in terms of how I want to direct my research and to what use I can put the meetings I have organised in the coming weeks.
This weekend I head to the Caribbean coast where I will meet with representatives of the NGOs who headed the development project I’m studying, as well as leaders from the community at the center of the project. I’m excited at the prospect of adding some current perspectives to the background research I’ve completed in Bogotá, and about getting to know the people involved in the project I’ve spent so much time looking at from afar. I’m sure the change from chilly Bogotá weather to the warmth of the Caribbean won’t hurt either.. And of course, I will keep talking!
Posted by Cristal Downing – MA Candidate at CLACS