Category Archives: Recent Research

Chilean Popular Poetry and Biblical Psalms

Martinez, Chile, Santiago Figueroa

Santiago Figueroa. Folklorist, researcher and expert in popular music.

by Fernanda Martinez Varela, MA scholar at MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish. 

Shortly after arriving in Chile, I went to the public library of Doñihue in order to search for bibliographic material and, fortunately, there I met Santiago Figueroa Torres; a folklorist, researcher and expert in popular music. Talking informally while drinking coffee, I explained to him my thoughts about this investigation and he gave me his vision as an expert on the subject. Consequently, aided by this chance, his insights have served me as a guide for reading the bibliographic material found and redefining my research question.

What similarities exist between the Cantus to the divine cultivated in Chile and the Christian psalms in the Latin American version of the Catholic Bible? This is the question the present research will try to answer. For this purpose, in addition to ponder on some similarities, I will analyze and contrast two songs by the Chilean musician Violeta Parra (Maldigo del alto cielo and Volver a los 17) with the psalms 143 and 148.

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The Anti-Asylum Measures Impacting Mexico, and Those Implemented by Mexico

Posted by Leandra Barrett – PhD student in Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU

Recent news stories, which are as tragic as they are familiar, highlight the ways anti-asylum and anti-migration policies have been implemented worldwide. Such policies, including the United States’ own “Prevention through Deterrence,” have deadly consequences. In North America, migrants experience deadly exposure on both ends, at both international land-borders: migrants have trekked through blizzards and experienced life-threatening frostbite at the U.S.-Canadian border, and between September 2017 and June 2018, migrant deaths have risen more than 50% at the US-Mexico border.

This ever-changing landscape of immigration policy and enforcement was at the front of my mind as I visited the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’s “Día Mundial Del Refugiado” in Mexico City (the UNHCR is known here by it’s Spanish acronym, ACNUR). Held in the shadow of the city’s historic Monumento a la Revolución, the event engaged the public through a fair featuring many Mexico City-based organizations supporting refugees and asylum seekers, live coverage of the world cup, an art collaborative exhibit featuring work from refugees around the world, and games.

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In the foreground, a hand holds up postcard stating, “¿Te atreverías a cruzar la frontera sin nada más que la esperanza de poder vivir en paz y seguridad?” depicting a illustration of Central American child running to Mexico. Mexico City’s Monumento a la Revolución is in the background.

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“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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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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Strength at Posto 9

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. 

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Photo by Michelle Hurtubise

I was sitting on Rio de Janeiro’s rightly famed and beautiful Ipanema Beach, crafting lofty academic thoughts while humming Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema” when I heard clapping.  I looked around, thinking someone was performing and could not find the source.  As more and more people began to stand up clapping, I too kept my energy focused on an unknown event.  Something was happening.  I stood up.  And then I saw where everyone was looking, a tiny happy boy was perched on someone’s shoulder, raising his toy word high in the air.  His skinny arm was straight and strong, raised in a triumphant gesture of confidence. The clapping got louder and louder until a man trailing a few other kids in tow calming walked up and the tiny boy climbed down for a hug.  A family was reunited.  The clapping turned into a few happy cheers and then everyone went back to their beach chairs, beer, and high academic musings.  I stood stunned, tears stinging my eyes as I witnessed something normal to the people of Posto 9 at Ipanema.  

As I sniffled I thought how easily the community here could transcend language and class, culture and borders and help a lost child out with a simple clap.  And why not? Posto 9 has a history of being a gathering place for liberals and countercultural movements, but a friend also said this kind of clapping happens all over Latin America. After all, it is the most logical, easy, and cost effective solution.  Forget fear and shaming, isn’t it more productive to NOT instill fear in a lost child or shame the parent when these things happen all the time and with no ill intent?  When everyone gathered together, the solution was simple and clear.  Just clap, people will look, and everyone gets to share in the joy of reunion.  Never before have I seen such a instinctual, genuine, and collective responsibility for the young.  No one tried to pass the responsibility off to another, no one had any fear of being held responsible for someone else’s problem.  Higher authorities were not turned to for a solution, the little boy was not handed off to the Police.  And a child learned that he had neighbors, he had people he could turn to who would actually help him.  He belonged.  He knew the land was his, the people were on his side, and while things new seem as simple when we are grown, for a moment he was the center of a movement.  Where the state often instills a culture of fear and shame, the community overcame and the people stood in joy.  In five minutes my whole notion of what is possible was turned on its head, and I was so grateful to be in Latin America where people graciously showed me more truly is possible.

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Photo by Michelle Hurtubise

Maré at Night

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. 

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Photo by Michelle Hurtubise

My day started sleepily, having fended off an annoying mosquito all night.  I was gathering my strength, ready to encounter an unknown world, putting on first world makeup on to cover the bites when I heard the twerp again.  Oh I was ready.  Slap, blood, and thank goodness the mirror I hit with all my morning force didn’t shatter.  As I wiped up the mess I had the odd thought that I was cleaning up my own blood.  Forget about the mosquito, poor me.  I just spilled my own blood.

Recently I had seen BOPE (Special Police Operation Battalion) roll their tanks through the Maré Favela in Rio de Janeiro.  A school had closed because when a fire had started in a wastebasket, the firemen refused to come put it out.  They feared the favela.  So they called the police.  When BOPE rolled in, the community knew there would be trouble.  And then the shooting started.  So a school closed for the day because someone was scared to put out a fire in a wastebasket.  The tanks rolled by, and fanned the flames higher and higher and then bullets flew.

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