Mayas and Chapinxs at Sundance

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By William Ramírez (CLACS ’15)

*Watch upcoming screenings of 500 Years at NYU on April 21st and April 23rd , 2018.

It had only been about two months since I started my position as Visual Arts Engagement Coordinator at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana) in San José, California when I received the news from Pamela Yates in December of 2016: 500 Years had been accepted into the 2017 Sundance Film Festival!

An acclaimed documentary filmmaker, this was not the first time Yates, her work, and the team at Skylight Pictures have accomplished such a great feat. In fact, the two documentaries about Guatemala preceding 500 Years, When the Mountains Tremble (1984) and Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011) also premiered at the festival in their respective years.

During my time as a student at CLACS at NYU, I had the great privilege of interning as a Research Assistant at Skylight Pictures. Part of my work involved researching and collecting digital, visual, and scholastic material on past and current human and environmental rights violations in Guatemala that could be used in the documentary. While not directly in line with the research for my master’s thesis on the cultural production (specifically, literature) of the Guatemalan diaspora and its connection with cultural and artistic movements in the isthmus, this work still allowed me to delve deep into the social and political contexts that have shaped and are still influencing not only the country and its people, but also its artistic production today.

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Coming up in CLACS: Spotlight on U.S-Latin America Relations

Over the following week, the Center for Latin American Studies at NYU will be hosting two events that deal with the United States’ influence on Latin America.

First off, on Monday, March 9th, is The U.S., Mexico, and Latin America: A New Agenda for a New Reality. This event will feature a conversation with Dr. Jorge Castañeda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico (2000-2003) and Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, about the current and future status of U.S.-Latin American relations. An important emphasis will be placed on the impact that the 2018 elections in Latin America will have on trade, migration.

This conference is organized by the Human Rights and International Law League (THRILL), the Mexican Student Association (MEXSA), and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS). This discussion will be followed by a light reception.

The event will take place in the Auditorium C95 at the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life (238 Thompson St) at NYU, starting at 17:30. You can RSVP here!

Prof. Jorge Castañeda

Dr. Jorge Castañeda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico and Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

The following week, on Monday, March 16th, our focus shifts to the Caribbean for the event Puerto Rico Before and After María. Six months after hurricanes Irma and María, Puerto Rico is ruled and abandoned by the metropolis, with a collapsed economic model, shrinking population and the aftereffects of these natural disasters. Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the island?

Join Dr. Ángel Collado-Schwarz, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and author of several books including Decolonization Models for America’s Last Colony: Puerto Rico, for a conversation about the island’s future under its current conditions. Dr. Collado-Schwarz is also the host of a weekly radio program, La Voz del Centro, at Univision in Puerto Rico and New York.

The event will take place in the Auditorium at the King Juan Carlos of Spain Center (53 Washington Square S), starting at 18:00. Following the conversation, refreshments will be served. RSVP here!

Puerto Rico Before and After María

A talk with Dr. Àngel Collado-Schwartz (Columbia University) on Puerto Rico’s resilience after hurricanes Irma and María.

Multiparty Politics in Post-Conflict Guatemala: A Qualitative Assessment 

Papelete TSE 2015

The official ballot for President and Vice-President in the 2015 Guatemalan General elections included 14 participating parties. Source: Soy502 and the Tribunal Supremo Electoral de Guatemala

Posted by Vaclav Mašek, MA Candidate at NYU’s Center for Carribbean and Latin American Studies. This post was written in the spring of 2018, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 


Following a 36-year armed conflict, which culminated with the Acuerdos de Paz Firme y Duradera (“Peace Accords on Long and Lasting Peace”), Guatemala’s transition to democracy signified the beginning of free and open elections. A new Constitution came into effect in 1984, and twelve years later, the Peace Accords made the ceasefire official between the insurgent guerrillas and the Guatemalan armed forces. While today the strengthening of the political institutions in the country has shown little progress in accountability and transparency—4 out of the 5 last presidents have been accused or sentenced in high-profile cases of corruption—, a lively multiparty system has emerged: in 1995, 19 parties contested in the presidential election, although only one party remains active until today. Twenty years later, in 2015, 14 political parties participated in the presidential contest, where the winner was candidate with no prior experience in public administration running on a party that had never succeeded in having members elected to any position in government.

A particular trend seems to have consolidated in this dynamic process of political alternation: no single party has gained enough traction to secure continuity in the executive. More surprisingly, as the 1999, 2003, and 2015 Guatemalan elections show, some parties that have proved successful in winning the presidential ballot have disappeared from the political map. Populist tendencies, exercised through the practice of clientelism to gain the voter’s gratitude in exchange for a vote, seem to have co-opted both sides of the ideological scale.

May the combination of a multiparty system and a presidential system be inimical to stable democracy in Guatemala? What effect does this have in the way the political system is organized and political parties created? How does the myriad options affect the way Guatemalan citizens cast their vote—and how they do politics in general?

Between March 6th and March 17th, 2018, I travelled to my home country’s capital, Guatemala City, to interview a dozen of engaged Guatemalans. Individuals featured include prominent scholars and political scientists, journalists and political commentators, former statesmen and current government bureaucrats, and activists and lobbyists, whom I talked about issues related to Guatemala’s multiparty system.


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Spotlight on Brazil this Week at CLACS

On Thursday, March 22nd CLACS will be hosting two events that will bring a spotlight on Brazil.  First at 12:30pm, Professor Marcos Cueto (Casa de Oswaldo Cruz and Visiting Scholar at the the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University) will be presenting a lecture titled “Brazil, Aids, and Global Health, 1996-2008.” In 1996, Brazil was the first country in the world to provide full and free access to antiretrovirals as part of a broad prevention and treatment health program. This decision was challenged by powerful pharmaceutical companies.  Cueto’s presentation will discuss the meanings and vicissitudes of universal access to antiretrovirals in global health at the turn of the 21st century and will be followed by a Q&A session with the scholar.

To RSVP for this event click here.

The same evening at 6pm, we will be hosting Um Filme de Dança, a film directed and produced by Carmen Luz. The film is a pioneering documentary on the history of Brazilian dance. Filmed in four major Brazilian cities and in New York, this documentary shows the personal histories, philosophies and work of some of the most active black creators of dance in Brazil. It celebrates the perseverance of black dancers and choreographers of different generations and the black body’s dominion over its own dance. Organized by NYU Cinema Studies PhD candidate Léonardo Cortana, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the Brazilian filmmaker Carmen Luz, Columbia Ethnomusicology PhD candidate Maria Fantinato, and performer Autumn Knight. This event is co-sponsored with the NYU Institute of African American Affairs, NYU Leadership Initiative and NYU Cinema Studies.

To RSVP to this event click here.

Un filme de danca

Adela

adela-front

Image source: Instagram (Casa Adela)

By Melissa Fuster, PhD, Assistant Professor in Public Health Nutrition at Brooklyn College – City University of New York (CUNY) 

It was a hot and humid August morning. Adela sat in the back of her restaurant, peeling potatoes, with only a small fan to appease the heat. The TV was tuned to Telemundo, with Elvis Crespo singing for Monica Puig, the Puerto Rican tennis player who days before had just won the first gold medal for the island at the Olympics in Rio. Pepe, a mutual friend and local community leader, introduced us. She smiled, turning back to her potatoes and television show. By the time we arrived, she had already been working for a couple of hours, making the necessary prepping for the day’s service. The smell of garlic, mixed with oregano and onion, forming the sofrito base, filled the air announcing to regulars and passersby that something delicious is being prepared. We sat at her table, and Pepe got the conversation started by asking Adela about her early days in the city.

Adela first came to New York City in 1971 for a visit. Back then, she worked as a seamstress in Puerto Rico, later transitioning to working with her mother, selling fiambreras (lunch boxes) to factory workers. She moved to New York City around 1975. When I asked why she moved, she replied with a smile, “Ese salto lo da todo el mundo que quiere progresar” [That leap is made by everyone who wants to progress in life]. Upon arrival, she worked as a cook, but quickly transitioned to establishing her own place. She rented her first restaurant, El Caribe, on the West Side, which she later bought from the Cuban owner. When the building was condemned, she moved her business to the Lower East Side, where she later established Casa Adela in 1976. While an exact timeline of life events and places was not specified, the one thing that was clear while talking with her was the entrepreneurial success. At one time, she recalled owning three establishments, with the goal of passing two of them to her children. However, she ended up selling two of them, with her children being actively involved in the running Casa Adela today.

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The Politics of Black Hair in Havana: Reflections on Sisterhood and Diaspora Solidarity

 

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August 2017 Hair Natural Hair Conference – Hair model from Mariano, Cuba

Posted by Moriah Ray, MA Candidate at NYU’s Center for Carribean and Latin American Studies. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 

In the Summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Havana, Cuba for three months. To prepare myself for my journey, I did what many black women do in preparation for travel; put my hair in braids. This is one of the multiple popular protective styles that black women commonly use for travel because they are low maintenance and last a long time. I assumed that this style would last me through the three months, but with the hot Havana heat, they did not last as long as expected. Before I could even get my braids out multiple women asked me for the extensions that were used to braid my hair. The first two times I was asked I assumed I misunderstood the women. How would my braiding hair be of any use to them? In the U.S when women take out their braiding extensions they normally throw the hair away. I told them that I could not give them my hair but when my Mom came to Cuba in September I would ask her to bring some. I continued to get stopped and asked about my hair. Who did it? Could they use the hair when I take out the braids? Could I do their hair? My hair connected me to diverse black women throughout Havana. I got their numbers and promised them I would return with packs of hair. After two long months, I ended up taking out my braids. I gave my hair to a close friend of mine who was thrilled to have it. She is still using it now, two years later!

I went to the Centro Comerical in Nuevo Vedado, one of the few “shopping centers” in Havana, to look for some hair products to do my hair. I wrongfully assumed that in a country that is majority black there would be hair products catered towards black women’s hair. There was absolutely nothing. The majority of the products had keratin chemicals to “treat” natural curls. After the centro comerical failed me, I looked in the “black market” stores I knew about, but found nothing. Discouraged, I asked my friend what she used in her natural hair to moisturize it? She told me that she used “cocinero,” a brand of cooking oil! How on earth did black women manage to maintain their natural hair in Cuba? 

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Rebelling and Resisting

Posted by Michelle Hurtubise, MA Candidate at NYU’s Center for Experimental Humanities. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 

When I said I wanted to go to a protest against Michel Temer this summer a mentor gently said, well just stay on the fringe.  Or in other words, this is Latin America young white one, you have no idea what you’re getting into.  I cared, I wanted to witness, what did it mean to protest in Rio de Janeiro?  There had been many a protest in New York in my recent past and I was curious.  Let’s just say that while I may be skittish, good thing I’m not a cat. 

I was surprised by a few things June 30, 2017.  One, what a great idea to sell drinks and snacks at a protest! Everyone gets hungry and needs a beer once in a while.  Two, seasoned journalists knew how to wear their riot gear as well as the police, only the press were the ones wearing blue helmets.  Three, you are never too old for more stickers. Four, fireworks thrown at police is a very effective scattering method. Five, do not be an undercover policeman discovered in a protest, ever. Six, tear gas does in fact make you cry.  But it wears off pretty quick. Seven, trash cans are usually removed from the path of the protest so as to decrease the amount of readily available material to set on fire. Eight, the sound of glass being shattered repeatedly can be oddly soothing in contrast to things exploding. Nine, I am definitely afraid and way out of my small sphere of limited existence.  Scaredy cat, check! Ten, I have never had something at stake in the same way these courageous Brazilians have.

 

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