Mikhael G. Iglesias L. – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS
In the sixth month of the current health crisis caused by COVID-19, in which much of the world was caught off guard, Latin America and the Caribbean have become a focal point for infections. Historic inequality in access to healthcare services, high poverty rates and informal economies, marginalization of indigenous and afro-descendant communities, the new rise of populism, and lagging infrastructures are some of the biggest challenges for the region in facing the pandemic. In countries such as Haiti with precarious healthcare conditions or in Peru which is now the country in the region with the highest death toll per million inhabitants, this pandemic is critical. In Uruguay and Costa Rica responses seem to be having a positive effect. In this series of articles for the CLACS Blog, we will focus on the implications of COVID-19 in the region.
What is known?
COVID-19 continues to generate more questions than answers that challenge societies and their contingency strategies. So far, the scientific community has determined that COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. There have been other types of coronavirus before such as SARS in 2002 with the outbreak epicenter in China or MERS in 2012 with an outbreak epicenter in the Middle East. COVID-19 is thought to be transmitted mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Older adults have a major risk of developing more serious complications from COVID-19; as of July 18, around 80% of the deaths in the US due to Covid-19 have been 65 years or older. As the virus is spreading easily between people, measures such as social distancing and quarantines have been the main tools for preventing virus transmission while the world waits for a vaccine.
On Thursday, June 18th, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, giving thousands of young immigrants a relief from imminent deportation. This decision gives DACA recipients, or Dreamers as they are better known, and the activists who support them a temporary victory and a pathway to building the momentum needed towards permanent solutions such as giving a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. Education on these issues is critical in helping all who support immigrants and want to affect change on behalf of their families, neighbors, coworkers, students, who make an important part of the city and make the country whole.
Over the years, CLACS has created public programming and teacher training initiatives, as well as supported faculty and student research, on different aspects of migration in order to promote an understanding of the diversity of the Latin American experience in the US. Programming such as the decade-long collaborative film and conversation series Indocumentales, opened our space to community members, filmmakers, educators and activists in an effort to build networks of solidarity and resources while exposing audiences to the nuances of issues related to immigration.
On April 2019, Indocumentales featured a screening of The Unafraid, a film by Anayansi Prado and Heather Courtney that documents the lives of three dreamers -Alejandro, Silvia and Aldo- in Georgia and their journey towards college life in a state that denied them the opportunity to attend their higher education institutions. Here is a video of the conversation following its screening featuring Andrew Lim of the Partnership for a New American Economy and Staff Attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project (IRP) Celso Perez.
More insightful Indocumentales Q&A sessions can be found on this playlist.
At CLACS we stand in solidarity with the plight of Black, Afro-Descendants, and Afro-Indigenous communities, as well as with Indigenous People, and Immigrants, and against racism, xenophobia, and abuse of any kind. Through the years, we have created promoted scholarship, initiatives and programming designed to address the historical, cultural, and institutional roots of these issues and open the academic space to these conversations. As part of our commitment to continue promoting conversations and offering educational resources that would help further the understanding our current state of affairs, we want to share in one place some of those events held over the years.
We are starting off the Summer with two initiatives designed to give educators tool and resources to address timely issues of immigration, language learning, and teaching in times of COVID-19.
CLACS 2020 Teacher Fellowship Program:
Teaching About Language, Contemporary Culture and Immigration
The TeacherFellowship Program promotes the development of K-12 curriculum focused on the themes of language, contemporary culture, and immigration in Latin America and the Caribbean. The year-long program will include monthly workshops and mentoring by experts and CLACS faculty members, culminating in the presentation of a capstone curricular project that is both classroom applicable and that can be made available online to educators. Apply by June 5, 2020
Teaching the Middle East and Latin America in the Time of Covid-19
The purpose of this summer institute, indeed “unprecedented” is an appropriate term, is to provide through a month-long virtual format some of the tools and content that will be useful for teachers in designing engaging curricula for students in the age of Covid-19. How might historical incidences of plague in the Mediterranean and Middle East underscore the continued impact of global trade networks? How have colonial legacies in Latin America impacted the infrastructural and governmental capabilities in dealing with disease? What is the role of xenophobia towards and neglect of vulnerable populations, whether Middle Eastern refugee groups or indigenous communities in Latin America, in magnifying the intensity and probability of the spread of disease? What can we learn from cultural or “traditional” health practices of these communities in preventing the spread of disease?
The institute’s sessions will address important theoretical approaches to terms such as “disease,” “pandemic,” “public health,” and “quarantine.” Specialists will be presenting on their expertise drawn from a variety of fields, such as area studies, history, medical anthropology, political science, humanitarianism and human rights studies. Through a comparative approach that utilizes Latin America and the Middle East as two specific case studies, though with constant connections, influences, and impacts from/to the wider globe, we will explore both historical episodes of disease as well as the contemporary.
On February 24, CLACS hosted renowned interdisciplinary artist Coco Fusco for a screening of her film The Art of Intervention: The Performances of JuanSí González (2016), and a Q&A between Fusco and the audience regarding both the film and contemporary performance art in Cuba. In the film which includes footage and interviews, JuanSí González who now based in Ohio, talks about his performance pieces in 1980’s Havana and the politics of art in the Caribbean island. The discussion also covered the role of art in activism and ways in which public performance art often blurs the lines between art and politics. Visit the CLACS Youtube channel to view the entire event.
Kay rimaymi “coronavirusmanta” mast’arin imayna ama hap’ichikunapaq ima. Julián Roca Aguilar, Perú suyumanta runasimi rimaqmi. Paymi “activista digital” nisqa imaymana rikch’aq rimanapi rimamun runasimi kawsananpaq willakamun ima llapa runasimi rimaq runakunapaq.
Este audio explica qué es el coronavirus y qué podemos hacer para evitar la transmisión. Julián Roca Aguilar es quechua hablante de Perú. El trabaja como activista digital, usando una variedad de medios de comunicación para promover el uso del idioma quechua e informando a la comunidad en su idioma originario.
This podcast explains what coronavirus is and how we can avoid spreading it. Julián Roca Aguilar is a Quechua speaker from Peru. As a digital activist, he uses a variety of media to promote the use of Quechua and to inform broader communities in his native language.
In Ramoutar’s Antiman, an introverted young teen navigates the pressure by his father to become a cricket player. While he must prove his masculinity, he privately reconciles his love for an older boy while living in a homophobic village in a Guyanese countryside. In Richards’ The Seawall, ten year-old Malachi prepares to leave the capital city of Georgetown, Guyana and his beloved grandmother for the United States. As he wrestles with the impending rupture from his motherland, the film examines how migration, felt and lived through a child’s experiences, fragments a family.
The screenings were followed by an insightful conversation on the issues of boyhood, masculinity, and migration, within the Guyanese and Caribbean diaspora with Mason and Ramoutar, and Dr. Sheril Antonio who is Associate Arts Professor in the department of Art and Public Policy and the Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The event was organized in partnership with Grace Aneiza Ali, who also moderated the conversation.
The conversation highlighted the the issues land rights and security, the repercussions for different communities (indigenous, afro descendants, and farmers) after leaving lands and territories, while explaining the various historical issues forcing migration. This conversation was moderated by the event’s organizer, CLACS Faculty Fellow, Daniel Mendiola.
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.