Category Archives: Recent Research

Finding the Bigger Story Behind the Chinchero Airport

Posted by Colleen Connolly – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

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The Plaza de Armas in Chinchero, Peru. (Photo by Colleen Connolly)

I ended my field work in Lima, about as far away as you can get from Chinchero in Peru. I swapped freezing night temperatures and extreme dryness for the gray humidity of Lima’s winters, mountains for coast and Quechua for Spanish — and even some English. The transition was striking. Even my body felt the effects (but not in a good way — I got the flu).

Lima offered me the chance to step back from the conversations and observations I’d had in Cusco and look at them from another perspective. Like in the United States, there exists a great social conflict in Peru between the coastal “elites” and the campesinos. Those in Cusco who support construction of the Chinchero airport have much to say about “el centralismo de Lima” and their hatred of it. Now, here I was in Lima, talking to some of these “elites” who don’t want to give the Cusqueños their airport.

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A Mineral Archive

Posted by Ricardo Duarte Filho – PhD Student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU

Vi os montes, e eis que tremiam.

E todos os outeiros estremeciam.

Olhei para a terra e eis que estava vazia,

sem nada nada nada.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade – Triste Horizonte.

This summer I am conducting a research about extractivism and mining in Brazil. I was propelled by the dam that collapsed in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, at the beginning of this year – an accident that killed at least 248 people. In my original plan, I had proposed a clear split between the archival research, to be conducted in the first two weeks, and the fieldwork, in which I would go visit some cities that are historically linked to mining activities – including the cities that were affected by the dam collapse. Even though I am still following this plan , it has been an interesting experience noticing how these two parts of the research are continuously superimposing each other. 

This minor – and almost cliché – realization is making me comprehend how the mining’s history – both to the Colonial golden rush as to the modern iron extractivism – is not only part of the documents that I had access through the archival research at the Biblioteca Nacional and Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa. This archive is also part of the day to day life of these cities affected by this activity, such as a long small talk between two strangers that I overheard on the bus trip from Goiás to Goiânia. The two men discussed the old gold mining and its relation to slavery and how both of them were certain that one could still find gold in the town’s river up to this day – neither of them had ever tried looking for it. This archive is also part of the own geology of these places, such as the rusted rocks alongside this river – Rio Vermelho (Red River), named for the reddish rust stains that indicate that these rocks contain iron minerals.

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La Fototeca Nacional (Pachuca, Hidalgo)

Posted by Jason Ahlenius — PhD Student of Spanish and Portuguese at NYU

Examining photo negatives at the Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca

She grew impatient when I did it for the second time. «¡Ay! Por favor, no hagas eso». Please don’t do that. But I did it. I broke the rules. I touched the photographic originals. I desecrated Mexico’s visual patrimony.

I have finally before me a physical object from the archive, a national relic, and it is as if the object itself is reaching out to me to connect with it, to make an affective connection through the body. Yet like the disciplinary-religious space of the art museum, however, there is an invisible barrier between my unclean hands and the sacred object. I retract my hands. I can only make the connection through the visual field.

Lo siento. Sorry. I reply.

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Veranopi, Peruman Risaqpuni Qhelqasaq Thesisniyta

Posted by Claretta Mills – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS

For most of the past Spring semester, I had been repeating this one particular line, especially in my Quechua class examples; “Veranopi, Peruman risaqpuni qhelqasaq thesisniyta.” This translates to, “In the summer, I am going to Peru to write my thesis.” 

Sure enough, a couple of months after consistently writing (and somewhat manifesting my destiny), I ended up in Peru during the end of June to observe performances leading up to Inti Raymi which to my surprise, included Corpus Christi processions. Additionally, I was delightfully surprised by the daily processions by local organizations, groups, and universities as they celebrated Cusco Month. 

I discovered the processions on my second-day in-country when I decided to go to San Pedro Mercado with my host.

Mercado Central de San Pedro
Mercado Central de San Pedro


Vibrantly colored produce.

The mercado was boastful of vibrant and bold colors all around with the fresh produce and meat sold by vendors encouraging you to ask them any questions you may have. After browsing the mercado, I decided to take a stroll down to Plaza de Armas which was a brisk walk that lasted less than 10 minutes. 

To my surprise, there had been a bandstand setup with seating and a bunch of onlookers and vendors watching various groups perform a variety of typical dances from different pueblos in Cusco. It was quite interesting observing both the differences and commonalities amongst the different dances while trying out some local treats from the vendors selling their treats to spectators.

Performer

During the entire duration of my trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fascinated I was with the immense variety of corn Peru had to offer and the different ways in which they were prepared. More specifically, I really wanted to try the huge puffed corn I saw numerous vendors carrying.

Puffed Corn Snack

I really appreciated the lessons from Professor Odi Gonzales as I was honestly able to pick up and catch on to a few sentences said in Quechua by the announcer of the festival. I ended up sitting next to an elderly man who spoke Quechua and Spanish and engaged in conversation with him as we watched the performances together. We ended up sharing the puffed corn together as we watched on.

One thing that definitely took me by surprise was how frigidly cold Cusco was, especially in the night time. During the daytime, I roamed the city in either a light parka coat or a compact bubble jacket with a sweater underneath. Now for the night time, that’s when I was really able to feel the chill, I went to bed in special socks designed for cold weather, a sweater, undergarments, and five different layers of covers. Long story short, Cusco was cold! 

¡Tupananchiskama! 

Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas

Sonidos de la ciudad

Posted by Bethany Pennington – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS

Roma por Alfonso Cuarón recibió mucha atención por los sonidos que empleó en la creación de la película. Según Sergio Díaz, el director de sonido de la película, los sonidos fueron grabados en las calles de México contemporáneo e interpolados en el escenario, el cual replicaba la ciudad de los ‘70.  Viviendo en esta gran ciudad, paseando por la Roma, o transitando por las venas subterráneas del metro, uno se da cuenta por qué: los sonidos de la vida diaria son únicos a la Ciudad de México. 

En mis primeras semanas aquí en México, intenté grabar los sonidos de la ciudad que uno escucha durante su rutina diaria: vendedores en el metro, los músicos que pasan mientras comes en una corrida, las grabaciones en audio que te avisan que una comida rica está cerca. Resulta que casi todos los sonidos que llenan el oído en la Ciudad de México están destinados a vender. Por todos lados los sonidos y las voces – a veces amplificados por micrófonos inalámbricos, pero más frecuentemente el resultado de mucha práctica proyectando la voz – están empleadas para ganarse la vida.  

En el metro, las ventas parecen ser cantos, ofuscados un poco por el ruido del metro y los muchos cuerpos que llenan los carros. Cómo ya hay wifi gratis en el metro y muchos llevan su celular para ver series en video o contemplar Facebook en sus viajes matutinos, las ventas son muchas veces de cables, audífonos, u otros accesorios para celulares.

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Feeding chickens, attending asambleas and surviving the cold in Chinchero

Posted by Colleen Connolly – MA candidate at CLACS/Global Journalism at NYU

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The road leading to the airport site in Chinchero.

Despite a rocky start to my trip to Peru (a lost credit card, a canceled flight, the deathly cold), I have been extremely fortunate with my research here. My first week was spent in Cusco and the next two weeks in Chinchero, a small rural town about an hour outside of Cusco. Despite its proximity to the large and vibrant city of Cusco, Chinchero could not be more different. Here, Quechua prevails over Spanish. I haven’t seen a single bar. I wake up in the morning and help my host feed the chickens, the llama and the guinea pigs. People here appear shy at first, but they are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. As a foreign reporter, I am so grateful for this.

I’m about halfway through my time in Chinchero now. Though the freezing temperatures make me want to sleep in and relax, I’m making sure to get out every day and talk to people or attend asambleas, a nearly daily occurrence here and a part of small-town life everywhere. These two weeks are my most important weeks of research and reporting. For my thesis, I’m exploring the relationship between tourism and globalization using the international airport in Chinchero as a case study. The airport is not built yet — it’s at least five years away from completion — but construction has begun, and the project is the subject of many conversations and asambleas here. I have read many articles about the airport in Chinchero, but none of them mention the local feelings of the Chincherinos, who stand to gain or lose the most. These are the people I want to populate my thesis and my story.

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The Art of (not) Finding: El Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint

Posted by Jason Ahlenius – Ph.D. student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU

Un facsímile del Códice Azteca del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas

I have begun to see a pattern in my “explorations” of Mexico’s archives: I arrive at the archive, and spend several days figuring out how to gain access to the archive, or searching through the catalog, only to have someone tell me that they have digitalized most of their collection, and that I could have done this work without leaving NYC. I leave disheartened that I was denied the chance to do the “sexy” work of digging through a physical archive with my latex gloves and a mask. This was more or less my experience at my first visit to the Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint, located in the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas (IIE) of the UNAM in Mexico City.

I began, rather idealistically, with an idea of archival research similar to that of a treasure map: I have a more or less clear idea of what I am looking for, and I follow a series of instructions to arrive at the “X” on the map, where my archive is hidden. My actual experience is often more akin to being dropped in the middle of a forest, not knowing exactly what I will find, while I am trying to make a map of my surroundings as I am trying to arrive at a city of whose whereabouts I am oblivious.

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