Honor, Gender and Blackness in Spanish America

Laurent-Perrault - research in Venezuela - CLACS at NYU I have been in Caracas for a week now. I traveled with my two daughters last Sunday on July 11th, while following the final game of the FIFA World Cup on monitors located both at the Philadelphia and Miami International airports. My plan is to stay in Caracas until Thursday August the 12th, a week longer than what I had originally planned.

We are staying at my parent’s place located in the eastern part of the city in a neighborhood called “California Norte.” While Caracas is the city where I grew up, it is in constant change. The currency the “Bolívar-fuerte” for instances was devaluated after my last visit this past January, so I had to become familiar with the new exchange rate and values.

During this past first week I had two main objectives. The first one was to visit the “Archivo de la Academia Nacional de Historia” (from where I had previously collected materials). I owed them digital copies of the material I had photographed in 2008 and I wanted to give them these materials at my first visit. I also wanted to establish the research relationship with the “Archivo Histórico de la Arquidiócesis de Caracas,” to visit the new site of the “Archivo General de la Nación,” and to explore the content of the little private “Archivo John Boulton.” My second objective to find summer programs where my girls could go near the four archives I am planning to work with during this visit. While information of this nature is available on-line, most of it had not been posted yet because this was the last week of school for Venezuelan children, so I had to go to these places and see what would work best for us. These processes went very well; at the archives staffs were very helpful and willing to make my time here productive. Likewise I was able to register my daughters in fun and creative summer activities. The only drawback was to find out that most of the archives, are closing at 1:00PM due to a national electric energy shortage. Luckily the “Archivo General de la Nación” works long hours, from Mondays to Fridays, and on Saturday mornings.

The week was a success, not only I was able to accomplish all my objectives, I located some distinguished historians, whose work I have read and relate to my own research, I am currently trying to schedule meetings with them. I also began to look at some of the material stored at the “Archivo Histórico de la Arquidiócesis.” In addition, I was able to begin purchasing history books very relevant to my research that I had not previously found at U.S. libraries.

This coming week I plan to continue exploring the archives. I plan to visit both the “Universidad Central de Venezuela” and the Universidad Bolivariana to meet several historians and a anthropologist working on themes related to mine. I will let you know about it on my next entry.

Lastly, I feel compelled to tell you that I almost got something stolen from my backpack. As I was walking downstairs, towards the very busy subway station “Capitolio,” I felt a movement on my bag. I checked and noticed that its front pocket had been opened; I immediately turned around and saw a pair of eyes of a woman. I sensed it was her. I still don’t know how, in a fraction of a second I searched for her hands, but noticed a waist pouch she had not completely closed. In it was my sunglasses pouch. Without thinking about it, I opened her pouch and took my glasses back to what she replied “that was on the floor.” I did not reply, but kept going downstairs. My daughters had been walking in front of me, questioned what had happened when they saw me taking my glasses back from a stranger’s waist pouch. Surprisingly I do not recall how the woman looks like, only the look of her eyes, shocked to have been caught in the act of stealing. Pick pocketing is very common in Caracas, hopefully I won’t have too many more stories of this nature to tell.

Posted by Evelyne Laurent-Perrault – PhD Candidate in History at NYU

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