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.

Barrett_Mexico_Migration Postcard

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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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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Coming up in CLACS: Spotlight on U.S-Latin America Relations

Over the following week, the Center for Latin American Studies at NYU will be hosting two events that deal with the United States’ influence on Latin America.

First off, on Monday, March 9th, is The U.S., Mexico, and Latin America: A New Agenda for a New Reality. This event will feature a conversation with Dr. Jorge Castañeda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico (2000-2003) and Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, about the current and future status of U.S.-Latin American relations. An important emphasis will be placed on the impact that the 2018 elections in Latin America will have on trade, migration.

This conference is organized by the Human Rights and International Law League (THRILL), the Mexican Student Association (MEXSA), and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS). This discussion will be followed by a light reception.

The event will take place in the Auditorium C95 at the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life (238 Thompson St) at NYU, starting at 17:30. You can RSVP here!

Prof. Jorge Castañeda

Dr. Jorge Castañeda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico and Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

The following week, on Monday, March 16th, our focus shifts to the Caribbean for the event Puerto Rico Before and After María. Six months after hurricanes Irma and María, Puerto Rico is ruled and abandoned by the metropolis, with a collapsed economic model, shrinking population and the aftereffects of these natural disasters. Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the island?

Join Dr. Ángel Collado-Schwarz, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and author of several books including Decolonization Models for America’s Last Colony: Puerto Rico, for a conversation about the island’s future under its current conditions. Dr. Collado-Schwarz is also the host of a weekly radio program, La Voz del Centro, at Univision in Puerto Rico and New York.

The event will take place in the Auditorium at the King Juan Carlos of Spain Center (53 Washington Square S), starting at 18:00. Following the conversation, refreshments will be served. RSVP here!

Puerto Rico Before and After María

A talk with Dr. Àngel Collado-Schwartz (Columbia University) on Puerto Rico’s resilience after hurricanes Irma and María.

Multiparty Politics in Post-Conflict Guatemala: A Qualitative Assessment 

Papelete TSE 2015

The official ballot for President and Vice-President in the 2015 Guatemalan General elections included 14 participating parties. Source: Soy502 and the Tribunal Supremo Electoral de Guatemala

Posted by Vaclav Mašek, MA Candidate at NYU’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. This post was written in the spring of 2018, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 


Following a 36-year armed conflict, which culminated with the Acuerdos de Paz Firme y Duradera (“Peace Accords on Long and Lasting Peace”), Guatemala’s transition to democracy signified the beginning of free and open elections. A new Constitution came into effect in 1984, and twelve years later, the Peace Accords made the ceasefire official between the insurgent guerrillas and the Guatemalan armed forces. While today the strengthening of the political institutions in the country has shown little progress in accountability and transparency—4 out of the 5 last presidents have been accused or sentenced in high-profile cases of corruption—, a lively multiparty system has emerged: in 1995, 19 parties contested in the presidential election, although only one party remains active until today. Twenty years later, in 2015, 14 political parties participated in the presidential contest, where the winner was candidate with no prior experience in public administration running on a party that had never succeeded in having members elected to any position in government.

A particular trend seems to have consolidated in this dynamic process of political alternation: no single party has gained enough traction to secure continuity in the executive. More surprisingly, as the 1999, 2003, and 2015 Guatemalan elections show, some parties that have proved successful in winning the presidential ballot have disappeared from the political map. Populist tendencies, exercised through the practice of clientelism to gain the voter’s gratitude in exchange for a vote, seem to have co-opted both sides of the ideological scale.

May the combination of a multiparty system and a presidential system be inimical to stable democracy in Guatemala? What effect does this have in the way the political system is organized and political parties created? How does the myriad options affect the way Guatemalan citizens cast their vote—and how they do politics in general?

Between March 6th and March 17th, 2018, I travelled to my home country’s capital, Guatemala City, to interview a dozen of engaged Guatemalans. Individuals featured include prominent scholars and political scientists, journalists and political commentators, former statesmen and current government bureaucrats, and activists and lobbyists, whom I talked about issues related to Guatemala’s multiparty system.


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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