Category Archives: Recent Research

Subtlety Is Very Heavy

Monument to Castelo Branco seen from below

Monument to Castelo Branco seen from below

I started my field research about Brazilian art during the military dictatorship in Porto Alegre, the capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Porto Alegre is a symbolic place in the history of the regime.
In 1961, when the then-president Jânio Quadros renounced his position, the military, sustained by the United States, tried to prevent the vice-president João Goulart (Jango) from taking office. At the time, Jango was in China. The military feared a leftist government and, as Jango was visiting a communist country, they asserted that they wanted to prevent a Bolshevist dictatorship. The governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Leonel Brizola, organized a civil resistance to maintain the juridical order and assure the respect of the Constitution, called Movement for Legality.
Many artists participated in the resistance and a group of visual artists, musicians, writers, journalists, actors, and newscasters signed the Manifesto de Intelectualidade contra o golpe (Manifesto of the Intelligentsia Against the Coup) that called the Brazilian artists and intellectuals to unite in defense of the constitutional order.
Thanks to the support of the General José Machado Lopes and other politicians, the campaign was successful. Nevertheless, Jango was overthrown three years later, on March 31, 1964 by the military coup that installed the dictatorship.
And it is at the Colegio Militar, the military school of Porto Alegre, that all the five dictators who governed during the regime studied.
I decided to do my first interview with Carlos Tenius, the sculptor who created the Monument to Castelo Branco, one of the organizers of the coup and the first president of the military regime.

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“Ole Skool Mas-Maker”

Steve Derek

At 9:00pm I was heading back from a pan yard (steel band headquarters) and happened to come across a dimly lit house surrounded by headdresses, yards of beading, and costume backpacks made out of wire. My boyfriend’s brother explained to me that this was the Mas Camp of one of Trinidad’s oldest carnival bands, D’ Midas. Continue reading

Interview with Mirta Kupferminc

Escobar - Argentina - Plaque

Following the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA, I began investigating the monument I had seen in the plaza where the commemoration was held. After researching the piece’s history, I reached out to its creator, Mirta Kupferminc, and we quickly set a date for an interview. A few days later, I found myself in her studio.

When we sat down to discuss her work, I had a clear list of questions in mind that I intended to ask related to the monument but in discussing her life and how she created the piece, she covered them all and more. Continue reading

Strike Tactics: Adapting to the University of São Paulo


Email received June 28th from the archivist at the Instituto dos Estudos Brasileiros (IEB), Elisabete Ribas:  “The organizers of the strike have closed the doors of the two sites of the IEB. I can only enter in the next few days to operate the temperature and humidity-related equipment of the Archive.”

The USP’s faculty of humanities and social sciences has been on strike since May, reacting against a plan by the Reitor, or President, that freezes salaries and the university budget, all while maintaining heavy loads of teaching and administration. But between the World Cup and the vacation time, the strike has been relatively inactive, mobilizing only the core of its membership. Now, things are intensifying, especially with next week signaling the official start of classes. I have, until now, been able to work around the strike. Continue reading

Caribbean Identity in Cuba

To what extent should Cuba be considered part of the Caribbean?

The question could be ridiculous. Consult any map and you will find the island smack in the middle of a gulf with Caribbean written all over it. Look at its economic history and, like in most Caribbean colonies, you will see sugar plantations built upon a system of racial slavery. There are careers built on examining the similarities between Cuban Santeria and Haitian Vodou, between Cuban and Jamaican rhythms.

The architecture is Spanish colonial, the cars American and Russian, the people…Caribbean?

The architecture is Spanish colonial, the cars American and Russian, the people…Caribbean?

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Festivities in La Mixteca


The kitchen of the mayordomo in San Juan Mixtepec. It stood alongside the shrine and the pavilion and fed over 2,000 people in one day.

Taku, hola, and hello from Oaxaca!

I just finished my fifth week of Mixtec instruction in Oaxaca City and thus far the experience has been nothing but amazing. Oaxaca City itself is a thriving urban landscape with a culturally diverse and politically charged environment. It is also surrounded by a myriad of smaller pueblos with distinct cultural and ethnic identities. Fortunately, my language program has provided me an opportunity to familiarize myself with many of these surrounding areas. San Diego State University’s Summer Mixtec Program has made it a principal objective to demonstrate that Mixtec identity goes beyond the confines of linguistic pedagogy. This cultural emphasis became apparent during our introductory excursion into the mountains of Oaxaca.

In order to accentuate the richness of Mixtec culture, the program took a slightly unorthodox approach by immersing the cohort directly into a community from the first day of instruction. In this manner, we were able to witness and experience one of the most important festivals in the region: the festival of San Juan Buatista, celebrated in the pueblo of San Juan Mixtepec. With the guidance of Professor Marcos Abraham Cruz Bautista, three doctoral students and I ventured off into the northern highland area of Oaxaca called La Mixteca. The trip took more than four hours of straight driving through the windy roads of the rural sierra, but it was ultimately worth the struggle.

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Michoacán: Autodefensas, Narcoterrorism, and a Militarized State

Federal Police Agents Patrolling the road to Uruapan

Eight years have passed since the start the drug war launched under the President Felipe Calderon administration. Since then murder, extortion, kidnappings, and insecurity have increased exponentially in the state of Michoacán, with various cartels including La Familia/Los Caballeros Templarios, Los Zetas, and Nuevo Jalisco using narcoterrorism to try to maintain control of the region and combat efforts by the government to eradicate organized crime. Last year, Michoacán had the third highest murder rate in the country, according to statistics recently released by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). Continue reading