Posted by Susana Costa Amaral, PhD Candidate, Department of Spanish and Portuguese at NYU
“Eu sou porque nós somos” was Marielle Franco’s campaign slogan when she ran for office in 2016. The Brazilian congresswoman from Favela da Maré was elected with more than 40,000 votes for Rio de Janeiro’s Legislative Assembly. Black, lesbian, single-mother, she was a human rights activist, who constantly criticized and denounced police abuse and civil rights violations, particularly when it occurred in the most vulnerable areas of the city. Her political platform was based on the promise to give visibility to black and peripheral minorities of Rio de Janeiro.
On March 14, 2018, Marielle Franco was executed along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, while leaving a public event held at Casa das Pretas (Black Women’s House), a space created for hosting the voices of black women from the favelas. After a polemic investigation that lasted over a year, two former police officers were arrested accused of killing Franco, shedding light on Rio de Janeiro’s parallel state ruled by mílicias – paramilitary gangs led by Rio’s police force. Acting as an almost lateral power, the milícias operate wherever there is a vacuum or omission of the state. And for the last two decades, these groups have grown more powerful and their areas of influence have spread throughout the “marvelous city,” under the blind eye of Rio’s governors, of which five are or have been imprisoned sometime just in the past three years.
Despite the arrests, the question “Who killed Marielle Franco?” still haunts the streets of the city. It is unknown who ordered Marielle’s murder, as the two police officers accused of carrying out the action used to operate a “crime office,” responsible for executing commissioned killings.
Posted by Ricardo Duarte – PhD Student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU
“Everything in here seems covered in dust.” This was the thought that crossed my mind a few times while walking in the city of Brumadinho. The uncanny glitter that sparkled from the dust made it clear that it was not only the ordinary dirt that one thinks when picturing a dusty city, but that it was iron dust. While noticing how this mineral dust covered everything I could see – plants, bridges, streets -, a train passed by. A train whose wagons were loaded with tons of mined materials. In the background: a “pulverized mountain,” to use the title of one of Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s poems that bring questions related to mining to the forefront. Accordingly, the poem concludes by focusing on how the mountain that once appeared eternal when compared to the finite human life- “Of all Andrades that have gone and that will go, the mountain that does not go away,” – after being “drilled into a million pieces” only leaves behind a “miserable iron dust, and this does not go away – ever.” These last two verses kept drumming in my head while walking around the city. What stays in sites of such predatory extractivist activities, and how it affects the human bodies living in these sites, such as breathing problems, or other non-human entities.
A few weeks ago I went to a seed fair in Itapúa, the department in the southeast corner of Paraguay. We left at 4:30 a.m., and the sky lightened slowly as we turned through a tangle of highways south of Asuncion. We started seeing rows of these tall, skinny trees; backlit, they made a strobe-light out of the rising sun. The NGO director who was driving had already told me what she thought of eucalyptus, or rather, of PROEZA, a state plan incentivizing farmers to grow the tree. PROEZA has won support from the UN’s Green Climate Fund, a pool of $10 billion reserved to help poorer countries cut emissions, on the promise that it will reduce poverty while reforesting and promoting renewable energy. PROEZA’s critics say it will yield plantations that demand pesticides and constrain biodiversity, engulfing more lands and farmers into soybean-corn systems by powering grinders with biomass.
Posted by Alanna Elder – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU
I spent at least a third of an 8-hour layover in Houston exploring Paraguay on Google Maps, looking ahead to when I could finally see and move beyond the length of an airport terminal. Still laboring under the illusion that I would go for regular runs while I was in the capital, I made a mental note to check out the Avenida Costanera, a freeway and bike path that wraps around the Paraguay River. Tourist sites note the tereré stands, rollerblade rental, and boat access across the river to the neighboring department, Presidente Hayes. (That is, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, a b-side character once nicknamed “The Great Unknown” by his own party but appreciated in Paraguay for deciding a territorial dispute in the country’s favor). From the avenue, you can see the old city center and the new, two clumps of towers balancing the skyline. They might be swaying imperceptibly in the flow of money, history, and traffic, or facing each other down like the planning edition of Dorian Grey.
The Costanera seemed like a nice parallel for Riverside Park, the superhighway of green space and river access that fringes Manhattan’s West Side, and the closest park to my apartment. These two areas have something else in common: they caused some inconvenience for the people already living there. In the late 1930s, Robert Moses’ Park Commission added 132 acres to Riverside, fielding criticism for razing not only a so-called Hoovertown built by veterans, but also the Columbia Yacht Club. People still build shelters tucked along the Hudson, and in the 1990s another large group was kicked out for a state transportation project.
Posted by Bethany Pennington – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS
Cuando su hija tenía trece años, una señora del pueblo principal de la región llegó a su casita y le dijo: “préstame su hija, que vive en mi casa, que me ayude.”
Recordando este momento, mi nueva amiga me comentó: “Pues, no quiero prestar, porque digo, por lo menos, ni agua tenemos aquí…tenemos que caminar agua desde los pasitos, hasta el río…”
No la quiero prestar. Es que me ayude a traer agua. Ni agua aquí tenemos.
“No se preocupe del agua” la Señora dijo. “Yo le voy a decir a mi esposo que le de un proyecto…de toma de agua.” Contó que su esposo era presidente municipal, y seguro, aunque fuera manguera, iban a traer de el manantial.
Posted by Claretta Mills – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS
Traveling through Cusco in June and seeing numerous rainbow flags, which mark the heritage and pride of the city of Cusco, is a subtle reminder of the desfiles that are going on throughout the city.
“Hay desfiles en el Centro hoy,” was all I needed to hear to know that I would be able to observe some festivities. Religious processions, or desfiles, were in abundance almost daily in Cusco’s city center near Plaza del Armas. The desfiles varied daily as they featured performances from various types of groups and dances. One day may consist of groups of different disciplines from various universities, another consisted of groups from pueblitos within Cusco, and another consisted of various civil groups. Many of the religious processions for Corpus Christi were displays of various statues and shrines of patrimonios hoisted up and carried throughout the procession by about 30 men. The men carrying the Saints would process through the streets dancing and swaying the statue as they walked.
Posted by Claretta Mills – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS
To play mas, in regards to carnival, means to take part in carnival festivities and activities. Masquerades are one group of performers prevalent in carnival who play mas. Traditional masqueraders are a vital and signature part of carnivals throughout the Caribbean as they simplify various significant characters in Caribbean history. “Dancing the Masquerade,” is something locals and visitors alike look forward to witnessing during each country’s respective carnival.
Masqueraders perform a series of traditional dance moves that often consist of six dances which include Wild Mas, the Waltz, Fine, Boillola, Jig, and Quadrille. The dance movements are said to have originated in West Africa by the Yoruba people. The incorporation of these dance movements is symbolic of the Afro-centricity as it relates to the Caribbean and more explicitly, carnival.