This summer, I am traveling to three sites in Peru to investigate the development of the photographic technology during recent decades. Having established that my dissertation will address the broad topic of social practices of photography in Peru, this trip is intended to help narrow the focus of my research and explore potential sites for more extended fieldwork. I have chosen three locations, each with a rich photographic legacy.
My first stop was Huamanga (also known as Ayacucho), the capital city of the Huamanga province in the Ayacucho region of Peru. Among the people I spoke with was Giovana Alejos, granddaughter of photographer Baldomero Alejos. I found her in the Alejos photography store, with its own studio and laboratory, located on a side street off of the Plaza de Armas.
A photographer based in the city center of Huamanga from 1924-1976, Baldomero accumulated an archive of over 60,000 images. The subject matter of the photos ranges from high society portraits to funeral processions, student groups, and popular festivals. Continue reading
validación de agenda nacional, incluyendo creacion de plan de proteccion de promotoras y plan de incidencia politica.
Prior to arriving in Nicaragua, I was convinced I was going to research how women organize a pro-feminist women’s agenda to overturn restrictive reproductive rights policies. One such law that I was intent on researching was Nicaragua’s Codigo Penal, Articulo 165 that outlaws all forms of abortion, including therapeutic abortion, which means that women are not allowed to interrupt their pregnancies even if their lives are at risk. The ban and broader issues of abortion rights played a key role in the 2006 election that resulted in the return to power of former revolutionary and FSLN commander, Daniel Ortega. I originally planned on looking at this issue singularly and to assess it from a historical lens, to analyze top-down responses such as las casas maternas, which have sprouted throughout the country in response to the law that “prepare” women for parenting (even if their pregnancies were undesired), I intended to look at the Instituto Nicaraguense de la Mujer to analyze how the state approached reproductive rights, and, of course I was going to research women (feminists) organized response.
An interesting side note for readers, the right to a therapeutic abortion was a part of the 1893 Nicaraguan Codigo Penal, which means that Nicaragua has retrogressed over 100 years with this ban.
Panama City skyline from Casco Viejo, with the Cinta Costera viaduct development project in the center.
Panama has the fastest growing economy in Latin America. According to the CIA World Factbook, the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by more than 10% in 2012, miles ahead of its closest regional competitor, Peru, at 6.6%, and nearly double the growth rate of Chile. In fact, Panama’s economy grew faster in 2012 than all but six other nations’ worldwide – faster than China, faster than India, and far faster than the United States.
The gleaming skyline of the capital pays tribute to this unprecedented expansion. Of the ten tallest buildings in Latin America, nine are located in Panama City. Of the tallest twenty, Panama boasts fifteen, and all of them—all of them—have been completed since 2010. In step with this expansion, the country’s GDP per capita has risen from $6,200 in 2002 to $15,900 in 2012. According to the International Monetary Fund, Panama now boasts the fourth highest GDP per capita in Latin America, surpassing Costa Rica and Venezuela in recent years, and following close behind Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Fatima Antonio Gonzalez at her desk in her office in the Municipal Palace of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca
“I am the first female municipal secretary in my town,” Teotitlán del Valle, says Fatima Antonio González. She was named to the position by the current municipal president at 23 years old in 2010. As municipal secretary, she deals with community records and documents.
Teotitlán del Valle is one of 418 towns governed by the indigenous system of usos y costumbres in Oaxaca, Mexico. While Antonio González earns a small salary, government posts in usos y costumbres systems are considered service to the community and are done to give back to the community and not for money.
At the time that she was named to the post, Antonio González was collaborating on Teotitlán del Valle’s Plan for Municipal Development, which identified community needs and goals for the current government’s 3-year term. She was one of the few in her generation to earn a college degree in economics. She says that only 5 or 6 out of the 30 or so community members her age have a college degree.
Cubans enjoyed a long weekend this past week in celebration of the national holiday, el Día de Rebeldía Nacional. The national holiday commemorates the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks led by Fidel Castro on July 26, 1953. The strategic plan to raid the barracks was foiled, and the surviving young rebel combatants were captured and punished by the Batista government. Fidel Castro was sent to prison, later to be tried in court, where he gave his famous speech History Will Absolve Me. The attempt to take the garrisons was a militaristic fracaso, but it brought Fidel Castro’s Movement— some of who would later become the guerrillas to fight in the Sierra Maestra— to the world’s attention. The national holiday serves as a day of remembrance for all the men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for “a better Cuba.” This year, I was fortunate enough to be in Cuba on the 60th anniversary of el Día de Rebeldía Nacional to watch the ceremony live on television.
I’m in Oaxaca, Mexico for the summer doing research for my thesis on the role of women in traditional indigenous usos y costumbres-style governments. Oaxaca has 418 towns that are run by usos y costumbres, a form of government recognized by the state constitution. In these communities, only 18 women have ever become president (the highest office), and in about 80, women have not been allowed to vote.
Sergio Beltrán stands in front of a mural in his shared office space at The Hub, Oaxaca.
My first interview is with Sergio Beltrán, who just co-founded a new NGO in July called Herramientas para el buen vivir (Tools for Living the Good Life). Beltrán has spent the past 15 years working with towns run by usos y costumbres. He has collaborated on projects relating to technology, such as community radio stations, ecology, such as dry bathrooms, and the economy, like ecotourism. Most recently, Beltrán has been doing workshops on gender equality in Santa María Yucuhiti, a Mixteca indigenous community in southwestern Oaxaca state.
The Oaxacan state government passed laws in the late 2000s guaranteeing gender equality and freedom from violence, and Beltrán helps educate community members on what those laws mean. “The most urgent work is with the men,” says Beltrán. “The women are already informed.”
A small business in Havana offering cell phone repair and other services
This summer I came to Cuba to research the emergence of non-institutional art spaces in the city of Havana. As I began to make contact with local artists to discuss where they create, show and sell their art, I quickly discovered that modes of communication had drastically changed since the last time I had studied abroad in Cuba in 2008.
Although cell phones continue to be expensive for the average Cuban, most independent artists that I have interviewed thus far use cell phones as their primary form of communication. And they are astonished when they find out that I do not have a working cell phone while I am in Cuba (My cell phone carrier does not use SIM cards, and American cell phone service does not work in Cuba). Over these last two weeks, even amidst research focused on art spaces, I have witnessed how the recent economic reforms have made significant strides to bring the informal market, including cell phones, back into the fold of the formal sector, in an effort to address the modern-day demands of the Cuban people. Continue reading
I have been working closely with Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” to help contextualize the importance of popular theater and its techniques with my research. In the foreword to his book, Boal writes that popular theater functions as a weapon. That is, popular theater is a tool, a “weapon of liberation” against sources of domination (ix). Boal writes that popular theater fundamentally changes some of the theatrical forms established by traditional theater. In applying Boal’s concepts on popular theater to my research with Yuyachkani’s Antígona, I see how this particular one-woman performance also serves as a tool. In this case, Antígona is a tool not only to remember, but also to make a political statement. In my first blog, I talked about the existence of various forms of memorialization (truth commissions, museums, and performance). Along with this, there also exist different memories, sometimes conflicting. There is not one, sole memory of the internal armed conflict. It may be a result of the same event, but the way one remembers and what they remember is based on certain experiences. Antígona specifically triggers the memory of women who had members of their family disappeared and the struggle in demanding proper burials for their unburied dead. In fact, Teresa Ralli revealed that her portrayal of Antígona was based directly on a group of eight or nine women, whom she later invited individually to share their experiences and stories with her in Casa Yuyachkani. In the performance, Antígona serves as the embodiment of the fragility and power in these women’s testimonies.