The Poetic Imaginary of Miguel Urrelo Valdivia

Posted by Amanda Sommer Lotspike – MA Candidate at CLACS

This is Part II in a series of essays on the social life of the yareta, based on fieldwork supported by the Tinker Grant. Find Part I here.


Y llegan así, sin nada de nada, absoluto silencio
entre la página de un libro y el poema muerto
el vino del sueño quebrado en sus palabras
el sueño del vino embriagado en la esperanza

With these words, Miguel Urrelo Valdivia opens “Días,” a poem from his latest chapbook Jallp’ay, Tierra mía. Published with support from the National Corporation for Indigenous Development of Chile, Jallp’ay is Urrelo’s fifth book of poems and short stories. Among those are Cuentos de los Abuelos I, a compilation of oral histories passed down in the Alto Loa of San Pedro, Atacama, and II, a selection of new stories, which in Urrelo’s own words “are created by me, but emulate stories that were transmitted orally.”

Jallp’ay is Urrelo’s first bilingual Quechua-Spanish collection of poetry, an effort to reclaim Quechua as a pillar of nortino cultural identity. Raised in the small mining town of Amincha, Urrelo moved to the city of Calama with his mother and siblings at age ten following the passing of his father. “Calama welcomed us the way that all cities welcome indigenous migrants,” he told me as we sat, paused in the city square one morning, “with discrimination, with ignorance, with that [type of] scorn directed at indigenous communities.”

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Ecatepec as Mexico City’s Peripheral Edge

CLACS Blog 1

Hank Gonzles neighborhood in Ecatepec, Mexico State (Nidia Bautista)

Posted by Nidia Bautista – MA Candidate in Global Journalism and CLACS at NYU

Sitting in a cafe in the heart of Mexico City, my source, a high school teacher and organizer working in Ecatepec, Mexico State (Edomex), describes the most populous municipality in the country as a perfect example of the peripheral edge. Ecatepec is the periphery, he says, abundant in neoliberalism’s human waste and a place especially dangerous for women.

He has been organizing youth in Ecatepec to denounce feminicide through performance and protest for years and after initially talking via telephone we agree to meet in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico. As one of my first interviews upon starting my reporting, I felt safe conducting the interview in a neighborhood I’m very familiar with. I’ve spent over three years studying, working and reporting in Mexico City. Navigating the city comes easy for me and despite reports that the violence that’s plagued the rest of the country for years is now more visible in the capital, I have always felt comfortable traveling the city by myself. I have learned to be a fearless, confident, and street-savvy denizen in Mexico City.

This familiarity however was confined to the borders of the city and before this research trip I had traveled to Mexico State only a handful of times. Among other challenges, I have confronted the fear and uncertainty that comes with learning to navigate an unfamiliar and difficult transit system and asserting myself as a woman journalist in one of the most dangerous places for women in the country.

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App Economies: When Economic Blockades Create New Industries

Posted by Sam Kellogg — MA candidate in Media, Culture, and Communications at NYU

In my last blog post I addressed some of the nuances and contradictions of Internet adoption for contemporary Cuban sociality and economics, and discussed how these nuances bear on the ways we think about development. In this post, I’d like to unpack some of the unexpected consequences of the US economic blockade against Cuba, and explain how massive demand has created a unique new local industry around the installing and updating of apps.


Wifi-enabled public parks are sites of shared virtuality.

One of the more curious, and frustrating, consequences of the US economic embargo for Internet users in the island is that the Apple App Store and Google Play Store become unusable. Since Apple and Google are US companies, they’d be breaking the law if they did business with Cuba without explicit permission. To avoid this, these companies have implemented safeguards: if you try to download an app from the Apple App Store in Cuba, Apple’s servers will detect your location and throw an error code (1009—there are only a handful of places in the world you’ll see this error code). If Apple were a Canadian company you’d be able to download apps in Cuba as normal, but Apple must follow US government regulations, making it that much more difficult for Cubans to use the limited access available to them.

Of course, there are always routes around these kinds of restrictions, passageways available to circumnavigate a barrier. The easiest way to get around Apple’s error code is to install and use a VPN service to trick Apple’s servers into thinking you are in another country: there are a wide variety of free and commercial VPN services available; they are relatively easy to use and work well (read this if you want to learn how to choose and use one). If you don’t already have a VPN app on your phone when you enter Cuba, however, (and how would you if you’re Cuban), you’re once again in trouble: the only way to install apps on an iPhone is through the App Store, and that goes for VPN services as well as games or dating apps.


Connecting to public wifi using a scratch-off card.

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De la palabra escrita a la palabra hablada (II)

Una primera aproximación a la poesía dominicana reciente

(Segunda parte)

Adalber Salas Hernández, PhD Candidate at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, NYU

La poesía dominicana reciente circula por caminos oblicuos. Aparte de los eventos donde la palabra escrita se hace hablada (conciertos, recitales, eventos de spoken word como aquellos a los que me referí en el post anterior), el acceso a la palabra escrita e impresa es más complejo: muchos de los libros de la generación más reciente de poetas dominicanos han sido publicados en el exterior, por lo que circulan de manera excepcionalmente irregular. Pienso, por ejemplo, en el caso de Ariadna Vásquez Germán, varios de cuyos libros han sido publicados en Puerto Rico o en México. O el caso de Alejandro González Luna, cuyo segundo libro fue publicado recientemente en España. Esto permite que la joven poesía dominicana sea difundida en el exterior, lo cual sin duda es positivo, pero el circuito no es circular: ejemplares de esos libros no suelen llegar al país. Por otro lado, la Editora Nacional, que se encarga de la impresión de los libros ganadores de los concursos organizados por instancias gubernamentales (y que han sido ganados, en momentos distintos, por los poetas que acabo de mencionar) ciertamente podría distribuir con mayor regularidad.

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Conversaciones sobre belleza con las mujeres hermosas de Puebla

Posted by Alejandra Vela- PhD Student at Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures, NYU

Uno de los elementos más importantes de mi viaje a México era no sólo encontrar las revistas femeninas que conformarán mi principal archivo para la tesis, sino analizar los espacios de sociabilidad en los que éstas se encuentran y conservan. Como parte de mi búsqueda, y también en un esfuerzo por ampliar mi investigación más allá del centralismo de la Ciudad de México, viajé a Puebla de los Ángeles.IMG_1279

Capital del estado que lleva el mismo nombre, la ciudad se encuentra a dos horas en autobús. Famosa por la cantidad de iglesias que tiene (y por ser el lugar en donde se inventó el mole), la principal razón del viaje era visitar su barrio de antigüedades, “Los sapos”, y tratar de encontrar revistas que no fuera posible hallar en la Ciudad de México. Una vez instalada, y después de un breve paseo por el centro, me dirigí a las tiendas de antigüedades.

Al entrar en la tienda “El retablo” me recibieron dos mujeres. Una de ellas estaba limpiando el piso y la otra se encontraba leyendo una novela cuyo título sólo pude ver que contenía la palabra melancolía. La primera, mucho más joven, fue en realidad la que me dio la bienvenida y me dijo en qué parte de la tienda podría encontrar revistas y periódicos. Conforme me adentraba en los salones rebosados de sillas, mesas, lámparas, sentía los pasos de la mujer joven detrás de mí. Empezó entonces a decirme que muchas de esas cosas eran en realidad originalmente de la señora, haciendo referencia a la lectora que encontré en la entrada de la tienda. Me señaló un vestido vintage y me dijo en un susurro “ese por ejemplo, era de la señora”. Sorprendida por el dato, le pregunté de forma respetuosa que cuántos años tenía la señora, “pues ella siempre responde que 82, pero yo sé que tiene 91”.

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Traveling Alone and Being (Sometimes Reasonably) Afraid

Posted by Isabel Caballero-Samper – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU


A year and a half ago, when two Argentinian backpackers were murdered in the Ecuadorian beach town of Montañita, the hashtag #viajosola (I travel on my own, conjugated in the voice of a woman) became popular throughout Latin America. Maria José Coni, 22, and Marina Menegazzo, 21, had been traveling together, with each other, but commentators wondered why they had been traveling “alone” (making the question code for “without a man or a chaperone”). The two young women were even accused, by a psychiatrist consulted by an Argentinian news outlet, of being “víctimas propiciatorias”, encouraging victims.

At the time, the hashtag made me think about my own experience of travel. I had traveled through Europe by myself, visiting friends in some cities and going to others on my own. But in my own country, Colombia, I had never traveled alone.


Me in Bogota, preparing to leave for my field research on the gender dynamics of the recently demobilized Farc guerilla in the Colobian region of Arauca

Colombia is a country dominated by fear. When I was a kid in the late eighties and early nineties, bomb threats, scares and actual explosions were everyday events because of Pablo Escobar’s terrorist campaign that included bombing malls. And even after the worse years of drug related violence had passed (or more exactly moved on to Mexico, where the drug violence is said to have “Colombianized”) very high crime rates in the cities and a civil war in the countryside kept Colombians fearful of everything and everyone. (Or more exactly, in this stratified colonial society, of those who were not “gente como uno”, people like us: poor people, nouveau riche drug traffickers, and rebellious peasants).

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Ejercitando la Mirada Ch’ixi. Cuatro Semanas en La Paz, Bolivia.

Posted by Guillermo Severiche – MFA Student at Creative Writing in Spanish at NYU


La función más efectiva del colonialismo, según Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, ha sido la de hacer que las palabras no designen, sino encubran. Los discursos públicos se han convertido, dice también, en formas de no-decir ya naturalizados; y esto luego estalla en actos colectivos violentos e incluso irracionales (pienso en las diferentes manifestaciones que ocurren en el mundo con sus consecuentes muertos y heridos, por ejemplo). Es por eso que las imágenes merecen ser consideradas como fuentes cognoscitivas de alto valor teórico e histórico respecto a su tiempo de producción, ya que pueden decir cosas que las palabras no alcanzan o no tienen permitido presentar. Pero este tiempo no permanece aislado ni ajeno al bagaje de lo que muchos otros hicieron en el pasado: vivimos en un presente poroso, atravesado espontánea y también sistemáticamente por los resabios de los actos benévolos, rebeldes, violentos, opresivos y egoístas de la historia que perviven en lo que vamos haciendo y atestiguando día a día. El presente, dijo Silvia en un encuentro, es una superficie sintagmática en la que los diferentes horizontes políticos y sociológicos vuelven a aparecer todos juntos, apelmazados a veces, contradictorios también.

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