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