La Fototeca Nacional (Pachuca, Hidalgo)

Posted by Jason Ahlenius — PhD Student of Spanish and Portuguese at NYU

Examining photo negatives at the Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca

She grew impatient when I did it for the second time. «¡Ay! Por favor, no hagas eso». Please don’t do that. But I did it. I broke the rules. I touched the photographic originals. I desecrated Mexico’s visual patrimony.

I have finally before me a physical object from the archive, a national relic, and it is as if the object itself is reaching out to me to connect with it, to make an affective connection through the body. Yet like the disciplinary-religious space of the art museum, however, there is an invisible barrier between my unclean hands and the sacred object. I retract my hands. I can only make the connection through the visual field.

Lo siento. Sorry. I reply.

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Veranopi, Peruman Risaqpuni Qhelqasaq Thesisniyta

Posted by Claretta Mills – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS

For most of the past Spring semester, I had been repeating this one particular line, especially in my Quechua class examples; “Veranopi, Peruman risaqpuni qhelqasaq thesisniyta.” This translates to, “In the summer, I am going to Peru to write my thesis.” 

Sure enough, a couple of months after consistently writing (and somewhat manifesting my destiny), I ended up in Peru during the end of June to observe performances leading up to Inti Raymi which to my surprise, included Corpus Christi processions. Additionally, I was delightfully surprised by the daily processions by local organizations, groups, and universities as they celebrated Cusco Month. 

I discovered the processions on my second-day in-country when I decided to go to San Pedro Mercado with my host.

Mercado Central de San Pedro
Mercado Central de San Pedro


Vibrantly colored produce.

The mercado was boastful of vibrant and bold colors all around with the fresh produce and meat sold by vendors encouraging you to ask them any questions you may have. After browsing the mercado, I decided to take a stroll down to Plaza de Armas which was a brisk walk that lasted less than 10 minutes. 

To my surprise, there had been a bandstand setup with seating and a bunch of onlookers and vendors watching various groups perform a variety of typical dances from different pueblos in Cusco. It was quite interesting observing both the differences and commonalities amongst the different dances while trying out some local treats from the vendors selling their treats to spectators.

Performer

During the entire duration of my trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fascinated I was with the immense variety of corn Peru had to offer and the different ways in which they were prepared. More specifically, I really wanted to try the huge puffed corn I saw numerous vendors carrying.

Puffed Corn Snack

I really appreciated the lessons from Professor Odi Gonzales as I was honestly able to pick up and catch on to a few sentences said in Quechua by the announcer of the festival. I ended up sitting next to an elderly man who spoke Quechua and Spanish and engaged in conversation with him as we watched the performances together. We ended up sharing the puffed corn together as we watched on.

One thing that definitely took me by surprise was how frigidly cold Cusco was, especially in the night time. During the daytime, I roamed the city in either a light parka coat or a compact bubble jacket with a sweater underneath. Now for the night time, that’s when I was really able to feel the chill, I went to bed in special socks designed for cold weather, a sweater, undergarments, and five different layers of covers. Long story short, Cusco was cold! 

¡Tupananchiskama! 

Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas

Sonidos de la ciudad

Posted by Bethany Pennington – MA Candidate at NYU CLACS

Roma por Alfonso Cuarón recibió mucha atención por los sonidos que empleó en la creación de la película. Según Sergio Díaz, el director de sonido de la película, los sonidos fueron grabados en las calles de México contemporáneo e interpolados en el escenario, el cual replicaba la ciudad de los ‘70.  Viviendo en esta gran ciudad, paseando por la Roma, o transitando por las venas subterráneas del metro, uno se da cuenta por qué: los sonidos de la vida diaria son únicos a la Ciudad de México. 

En mis primeras semanas aquí en México, intenté grabar los sonidos de la ciudad que uno escucha durante su rutina diaria: vendedores en el metro, los músicos que pasan mientras comes en una corrida, las grabaciones en audio que te avisan que una comida rica está cerca. Resulta que casi todos los sonidos que llenan el oído en la Ciudad de México están destinados a vender. Por todos lados los sonidos y las voces – a veces amplificados por micrófonos inalámbricos, pero más frecuentemente el resultado de mucha práctica proyectando la voz – están empleadas para ganarse la vida.  

En el metro, las ventas parecen ser cantos, ofuscados un poco por el ruido del metro y los muchos cuerpos que llenan los carros. Cómo ya hay wifi gratis en el metro y muchos llevan su celular para ver series en video o contemplar Facebook en sus viajes matutinos, las ventas son muchas veces de cables, audífonos, u otros accesorios para celulares.

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Feeding chickens, attending asambleas and surviving the cold in Chinchero

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

DSC_0235
The road leading to the airport site in Chinchero.

Despite a rocky start to my trip to Peru (a lost credit card, a canceled flight, the deathly cold), I have been extremely fortunate with my research here. My first week was spent in Cusco and the next two weeks in Chinchero, a small rural town about an hour outside of Cusco. Despite its proximity to the large and vibrant city of Cusco, Chinchero could not be more different. Here, Quechua prevails over Spanish. I haven’t seen a single bar. I wake up in the morning and help my host feed the chickens, the llama and the guinea pigs. People here appear shy at first, but they are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. As a foreign reporter, I am so grateful for this.

I’m about halfway through my time in Chinchero now. Though the freezing temperatures make me want to sleep in and relax, I’m making sure to get out every day and talk to people or attend asambleas, a nearly daily occurrence here and a part of small-town life everywhere. These two weeks are my most important weeks of research and reporting. For my thesis, I’m exploring the relationship between tourism and globalization using the international airport in Chinchero as a case study. The airport is not built yet — it’s at least five years away from completion — but construction has begun, and the project is the subject of many conversations and asambleas here. I have read many articles about the airport in Chinchero, but none of them mention the local feelings of the Chincherinos, who stand to gain or lose the most. These are the people I want to populate my thesis and my story.

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The Art of (not) Finding: El Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint

Posted by Jason Ahlenius – Ph.D. student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU

Un facsímile del Códice Azteca del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas

I have begun to see a pattern in my “explorations” of Mexico’s archives: I arrive at the archive, and spend several days figuring out how to gain access to the archive, or searching through the catalog, only to have someone tell me that they have digitalized most of their collection, and that I could have done this work without leaving NYC. I leave disheartened that I was denied the chance to do the “sexy” work of digging through a physical archive with my latex gloves and a mask. This was more or less my experience at my first visit to the Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint, located in the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas (IIE) of the UNAM in Mexico City.

I began, rather idealistically, with an idea of archival research similar to that of a treasure map: I have a more or less clear idea of what I am looking for, and I follow a series of instructions to arrive at the “X” on the map, where my archive is hidden. My actual experience is often more akin to being dropped in the middle of a forest, not knowing exactly what I will find, while I am trying to make a map of my surroundings as I am trying to arrive at a city of whose whereabouts I am oblivious.

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The Chinese in Rio

Posted by Fan Fan – PhD Student at the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, NYU

Fan_Brazil_Palm

In the Royal Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro: the Palma Filia stands in place of the first royal palm (Palma Mater), planted by Dom João VI in 1809, after the latter palm was struck by lightning in 1972.

Brazilian journalist João do Rio published the crônica “Visões d’ópio” in Rio de Janeiro’s Gazeta de Notícias in 1905. The piece drew my attention not only because it is one of the few cultural texts I’ve seen from the belle époque period that provides a description of the Chinese in Brazil, but also for the unusual way that it approaches the topic. The crônica recounts the experiences of the journalist and a friend as they explore the alleyways of Rio’s Misericórdia neighborhood, where Chinese addicts languish away in provisional opium dens. True to his reputation as a writer of Rio’s margins, slums and other unsavory corners, however, the cronista focuses not on the Chinese themselves but on his fascination with opium and the drug’s associated images of the Orient and decay. Though the Chinese are the inhabitants of the Misericórdia slums, the consumers of opium, and the source of the abject, yellowed bodies on display in the crônica, the only hints João do Rio gives as to who they were and why they were in Rio are coded and sparse. He writes, “Os chineses são o resto da famosa imigração, vendem peixe na praia e vivem entre a rua da Misericórdia e a rua D. Manuel” (104) and “olham-nos com o susto covarde de coolies espancados” (106, original emphasis).

My reading of João do Rio’s crônica gave rise to several questions. Who were these Chinese, and how did they end up in Rio? What was the “famosa imigração” to which João do Rio referred? Why didn’t the journalist list other information about this immigration? Was it for stylistic reasons, or was it such common knowledge that it was assumed that his readers would readily understand his reference? Moreover, to what extent does his language reflect the trending expressions regarding Chinese laborers? Were the Chinese in the opium dens actual “coolies,” or was this word part of a popular linguistic currency?

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An escape from CDMX

Posted by Leo Schwartz – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

Mexico City epitomizes the urban sprawl: endless avenues more traffic than pavement, Russian doll neighborhoods boomeranging between high-end condos and lower-class housing, waves of smog rolling through the dry lake bed. In other words, every clichéd piece of language one could use to describe a mega-city. Having been here for five weeks (just kidding…I’m doing this blog post on time, two weeks after I arrived), I needed an escape from the city. Luckily, a couple friends were headed for a trip to Tepoztlán, one of the towns with the coveted “pueblo mágico” designation in the bordering state of Morelos, and for the sake of my sanity and my respiratory system, I eagerly tagged along. As my thesis is still being reported out—and of course includes some top-secret bombshells that I’m keeping closely under wraps—I’m writing a travelogue (I apologize).

To avoid the crowds, we met at the southern transportation hub of Tasqueña bright and early: 7 am. Mexico City—CDMX, DF, whatever you want to call it these days—is as worthy of the distinction “the city that never sleeps” as New York, with a much more robust informal economy of street stands hawking pretty much anything you could want at any hour. We hopped on a bus and headed out of the city, steadily climbing in altitude as early-morning fog shaded the surrounding mountain ranges and volcanos (which I was assured were not active) with an ethereal glow.

Tepoztlan

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