Author Archives: clacsblogadmin

“Portuñol”: Spanish and Portuguese Language Contact in Northern Uruguay

Posted by Madeline Gilbert – PhD student in Linguistics at NYU

For two months this summer, I am doing linguistic research in Uruguay. I am splitting my time between Montevideo, the capital, and Rivera, a city that lies on the border between Uruguay and Brazil. The border between Uruguay and Brazil actually runs right through the middle of a city (along a main street), which is called Rivera on the Uruguayan side and Santana do Livramento on the Brazilian side. For all intents and purposes, it’s a single city that happens to have a border running through it.

My main linguistic interests lie in sociolinguistics and phonetics. The former deals with how language reflects and is used within a social structure: who says what, why, and how. The latter focuses on the sounds of human speech. My project here in Uruguay combines elements of both: how does the contact between Spanish and Portuguese on the border between Uruguay and Brazil affect the phonetics Spanish spoken? I’m collecting interviews of casual speech in Montevideo and in Rivera to be able to compare speakers from both regions.

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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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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

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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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Looking for Asian ‘mestizaje’ in Mexican History

By Emilia Sawada, PhD Candidate in Social and Cultural Analysis. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 

Although I spent only two weeks in the field (Mexico City, Mexico), this research expedition generated a wealth of information about two subjects of interest: post-revolutionary Mexican public art and the influence of the latter on contemporary Mexican and Japanese artists. In fact, I collected such an overwhelming amount of information from Mexico City’s museums, art fairs, and government buildings, not to mention my ethnographic interviews with contemporary artists, that I hardly know where to begin this blog post. I spent the entirety of the first week at museums and other landmarks in the historic center, photographing artworks and looking for examples of Asian mestizaje in Mexican history. Although I am particularly interested in post-revolutionary Mexican aesthetics, I found abundant examples of Asian influence in colonial ceramics and furniture—perhaps most obviously, the biombo, an Asian-style folding screen imported to New Spain in the fifteenth century. However, I had a more difficult time locating Asian subjects, or even Asian themes, in the public works of post-revolutionary muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Some of the subjects depicted in Rivera’s murals, for example, look Asian, but are more likely indigenous Mexicans. I wonder if the post-revolutionary muralists consciously mobilized this racial ambiguity in their work? Interestingly enough, some of my Mexican interviewees noted that their collaborations with Japanese artists had brought them closer to indigenous culture, suggesting that such Asian-indigenous connections persist into the present.

Even more striking is the history of Asian and Asian American participation in the Mexican muralismo movement, of which I was unaware until my visit to Mexico. Apparently, Los Angeles-born Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi actively participated in the muralismo movement, executing some of Rivera’s designs at sites like the Rodriguez Market in Mexico City. In fact, not only Noguchi, but Taro Okamoto, Koji Toneyama, Luis Nishizawa, and Shinsaburo Takeda also participated at least transiently in this 1920s-1930s post-revolutionary movement, which coincided with the mestizophilia (national obsession with racial hybridity) of the early twentieth century. This penchant for cross-racial public art continued for Japanese Mexican artist Nishizawa, who created a number of—unfortunately, unrealized—sketches for mural projects in the 1960s-1970s, at the height of postwar decolonization and the student liberation movements. Although an extensive body of literature exists on post-revolutionary muralismo, less work exists on the enduring influence of artists like Rivera on late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century Mexican and Asian artists. These historical moments promise a potential counterpoint to the concurrent 1960s-1970s U.S. public arts movement and its enduring legacy in California.

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The Runasimi Outreach Committee (ROC) and CLACS host 3rd Annual Quechua Student Alliance Meeting

On November 11, 2017, the Runasimi Outreach Committee (ROC) and Quechua at New York University hosted the 3rd Annual Quechua Student Alliance Meeting, an all-day gathering sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, the Organizational Student Life Grant from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University, the K-12 Outreach Program at the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University, and The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies of the University of Illinois. The Meeting offered educators and future educators, students, advocates, program administrators, and other community members the opportunity to exchange their knowledge of Quechua language and culture with each other. Through various presentations and interactive discussions, the Meeting engaged its participants in Quechua language and cultural activities while raising awareness of the growing Quechua communities across New York and the U.S. as well as the increasing importance of Quechua language and cultural education.

The event began with paying respect to Quechua culture and language through a traditional ceremony called Q’oa, led by Julia Garcia, a language partner for Global Languages Network and a middle school teacher. This cultural ceremony grounded everyone in gratitude and in the values of Quechua peoples.

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Following the ceremony, presentations and interactive discussions took place, including:
– a roundtable discussion on Quechua language learning in a University context, presented by Quechua professor Américo Mendoza-Mori, from University of Pennsylvania as well as Quechua instructor, Carlos Molina-Vital, from the University of Illinois, Champagne Urbana. Américo Mendoza-Mori recently published an article on this very topic titled “Quechua Language Programs in the United States: Cultural Hubs for Indigenous Cultures” in Chiricú Journal: Latina/o Literatures, Arts, and Cultures.
– a presentation on Quechua linguistics by PhD Student, Gladys Camacho, from the University of Texas, Austin
– a showcase on the community organization by the Quechua Collective of New York
– an interactive conversation on Quechua pedagogical strategies, involving games and activities, led by a New York University CLACS alum, Arleen Dawes
– a discussion and demonstration session of the New York-produced Quechua podcast, Rimasun, presented by Christine Mladic Janet, a PhD student from New York University
– a presentation on the digitization of Quechua, moderated by Diego Arellano, Undergraduate at the University of Ohio.

After supporting a local Ecuadorian restaurant Naño, who provided our lunch, all participants gathered to share “Ima Rayku?”(“For what reason?”), in which they discussed with each other why they are interested in, study, or teach Quechua. This activity shed light on a variety of reasons why Quechua education is of growing importance in the U.S. during this time of globalization and increased international migration. Beginning the afternoon session, ROC presented a community organization award recognizing the work of Kichwa Hatari, a Bronx-based radio program that aires in Kichwa/Quechua for the greater New York community.

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Later, New York University Quechua professor, Odi Gonzalez, discussed his book on oral Quechua history and memories, followed by Bruce Mannheim, a linguistic anthropologist from the University of Michigan, who gave the keynote address. The event culminated with a book fair which ranged from a trilingual (Quechua, Spanish, and English) Quechua children’s books to more scholarly publications, including a bilingual (Quechua, Spanish) oral history book and a monolingual (Quechua) linguistics book.

Ultimately, the Meeting successfully brought together Quechua language and culture advocates, students and educators, connecting New York with the Andes. In fact, the day after the event, Daniela Del Alamo Garcia, a teacher in Cusco, Peru at the Language Heritage Institute published an article on the Meeting in El Diario, Cusco.

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Participants of this Meeting hailed primarily from New York, as well as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ontario, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, Illinois, New Mexico and Texas. Participants ranged from elementary-aged students to elders. In addition to members of New York’s Quechua community as well as local Kichwa/Quechua community organizations, participants also consisted of Quechua students and professors from NYU, Columbia, Fordham University, Hunter College, Lehman College, CUNY, Vassar College, Harvard University, University of New Mexico, Ohio State, and UT Austin. We very much look forward to see what next year’s meeting has instore!

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Quechua language registation at NYU is currently open for Spring 2018. Contact clacs@nyu.edu for more information!
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Sincere thanks to the reporting provided by Marial Quezada, ROC member and MA student from Columbia University