Gaspar Yanga – First Liberator of the Americas – section of mural located in the Palacio Municipal of Xalapa, Veracruz
Written by Patrick Moreno-Covington CLACS MA Candidate
Stepping out of customs and into one of the many cabs queued up outside of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez airport, I became immediately consumed by all things Chilango. Street performers and vendors at traffic lights, insane amounts of traffic, delicious spits of marinated pork known as al Pastor slowly rotating on the sidewalk and so. many. people. The sights, smells and sounds of the megalopolis almost subsumed my attentive capabilities so that I barely caught the taxi driver asking me where I was coming from. My Spanish accent (or the fact that I was leaving an airport) must have given me away.
‘The United States, Texas’, ‘Ahh the United States, there are a lot of racist problems over there, right?’ ‘And that politician, he said a lot of bad things about Mexicans’. While trying to avoid an elongated discussion on why Donald Trump lowers the political standards of the country with his shameful and inflammatory rhetoric, I did want to engage my driver’s interpretation of America’s race problems.
As part of the fieldwork for my thesis on the role of women in traditional indigenous usos y costumbres-style governments in Oaxaca, Mexico, I had the opportunity to flex my participant-observation skills and attend the fiesta for the Virgen de Asunción in Santa Catarina Lachatao. Lachatao is a small town with few educational or job opportunities in the Sierra Norte mountains of Oaxaca state, but community members have a fierce loyalty towards their hometown. Many of those who have migrated to Oaxaca City or Mexico City for school or work return for the fiesta on August 15th.
The fiesta highlights how the usos y costumbres system is based on giving or donating services for the common good. It is planned by a special August 15th party committee in conjunction with the Temple Committee whose members are named through the municipal government and work for free. Every community household is asked to donate $300 pesos to cover the costs of the event, and a member of the Temple Committee told me that everyone does. Some households volunteer to provide food for the band or donate a particular part of the event, such as the band fees, on top of giving $300 pesos.
No quería dejar pasar la oportunidad de postear sobre una grata sorpresa que me trajo mi viaje de investigación durante el verano. Aunque la generosa beca Tinker solamente pudo cubrir mi viaje a Lima y Bogotá, quiso la casualidad que el tercer país que anhelaba visitar viniera a mí. Gracias a coordinaciones con dos amigos teatreros peruanos, Lucero Medina y Michael Joan Gómez, y al Grupo Panparamayo Teatro, tuve la oportunidad de formar parte del taller de teatro “Memoria y olvido en la acción dramática”, ofrecido por el grupo Malayerba, de Quito, Ecuador. Dos de los miembros fundadores de este emblemático grupo, Arístides Vargas y Charo Francés, fueron hasta Lima a compartir su conocimiento y su pasión por la creación colectiva. Continue reading
In keeping align with my methodological approach utilizing multimedia to conduct collaborative ethnography; the latest installments of the project were interview workshops. In general, skill development workshops are a major component of this project. The workshops focus on creative reconnaissance and technological skill building activities. The participants and I work together (and with local experts) to learn more about different aspects of photography, video, and audio equipment and techniques, editing programs, blogging, creative writing, and more. Furthermore, another purpose of the meetings and workshops is to familiarize the participants with the greater New York City area.
Last week, I met with the young ladies, in groups of two, at Washington Square in Manhattan. Throughout the day, each participant was able to enter and observe New York University’s Bobst Library (where they were granted limited access to the stacks and facility!), the Tisch School of Art’s ITP lab (the Interactive Telecommunications Program, where we borrow the 5D camera and audio recording equipment), and the CLACS office and rooms (the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, where the footage was actually recorded). Each pair played artistic directors in setting the stage for their interview session. Unfortunately, a light decided to begin its slow, blinking decline during the “talk show” style interview, but the cameras kept rolling in order to maintain the “flow” of the conversation. Claritza and Valin decided that a conversation style would be the most comfortable and effective approach. Continue reading
Casa de Yuyachkani: Calle Tacna 363, Magdalena del Mar – Lima 17, Perú
La casa del Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani
– o “los Yuyas” como el tiempo y el cariño les ha dado como nombre – se encuentra en el antiguo distrito de Magdalena, cerca del mar limeño. Desde esta casona republicana han salido y a esta casa han ingresado los materiales humanos y culturales que alimentan una historia grupal de más de 40 años. Los integrantes del grupo – Augusto Casafranca, Amiel Cayo, Ana Correa, Débora Correa, Rebeca Ralli, Teresa Ralli, Julián Vargas, y su director, Miguel Rubio Zapata – descubrieron muy pronto que, para hacer un teatro en diálogo honesto con la historia política y social peruana, tenían que sondear en un pasado compartido, participar activamente en un presente fragmentado, y construir juntos un futuro abierto a la inclusión. En estas coordenadas temporales en constante flujo, sus cuerpos y sus voces fueron la materia prima que le permitió a Yuyachkani adentrarse individual y colectivamente en un viaje que se ha nutrido de memoria y que, a la vez, ha producido un espacio en donde ahora residen partes vitales de la memoria colectiva peruana. Continue reading
For my final research post, I wanted to share a bit about one of the most important parts of my project: to conduct both interviews and participant observation with a Bolivian soccer league in Buenos Aires. As with much of my research, where exactly this would take place depended much on the contacts I made and where they led me. Dr. Manuel Cervantes at FUNCRUSUR connected me with Augustin Flores, who brought me to two different parks: Parque Avellaneda y Parque Roca. My first day there, I talked with several “mesas de directores,” where the league leaders keep the paperwork and such. The first day, I completed some general interviews about basic organizational structures and took a lot of pictures.
Me with Rigoberto (committee leader) and Pedro (president) of the Asociacion Deportiva Guaqui.
Two weeks later, I returned to the Parque Avellaneda to talk more formally with the president and committee leader of the Asociacion Deportiva Guaqui, Pedro and Rigoberto. The Asociacion Deportiva Guaqui (ADQ) includes mainly members from the town of Guaqui near Lake Titicaca, following the normal pattern of groups made up of individuals from the same region of Bolivia. Continue reading
Benedict Anderson, best known as the author of Imagined Communities, asserts that newspapers can provide the “technical means for ‘re-presenting’ the kind of imagined community” that an immigrant community has created – in terms of my project, that the Bolivian community has created in Buenos Aires. Therefore, one of the facets of my research is to analyze the newspapers that are created for and by the Bolivian community to determine how they cover and describe sports. However, as most things tend to happen, this hasn’t gone exactly how I had planned. (Foreshadowing: it’s been better!)
First, I came to Buenos Aires with a list of about six Bolivian newspapers that I had found by scouring the web for mentions of them (as many don’t have an online presence). Upon arriving and speaking with Dr. Manuel Cervantes, he informed me that all but two of them were out of business. Luckily, he just so happened to be on the editorial board of one of those two (funny how these connections work!) so he set me up with a meeting with another editor. A few days before that interview, I googled Bolivia Unida and came up with not only their website, but their facebook page. The most recent post immediately caught my attention – there was going to be an academic conference at the Universidad Nacional de San Martin entitled “Seminar about Migrations, Cultural Identity, and Human Rights: The Actuality of Immigrants in Argentina.” Oh hey! That’s precisely what I’m looking at! I scrambled to fill out the registration form (this is around 11pm on Wednesday night, and the conference was on Friday) and prepared myself for my first international conference.
UPR Students Support Chilean Student Movement. Mural in Social Sciences Building.
The University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras has historically been a flashpoint for confrontation and protests. Since 1948, when the students protested the University’s decision to ban Don Pedro Albizu Campos from speaking, it has been the center for leftist activism and a hub for independentistas of all stripes. During its history, the protests have been varied and at times violent. Anyone will tell you that they rarely stayed constrained by the University gates and would flow into the streets of Río Piedras and at times beyond. There was once a march protesting the draft and the war in Vietnam that went from the campus to Old San Juan (some 8-10 miles) ripping and burning American flags as they went. Then there was the infamous strike that occurred to rid the campus of the ROTC in which a wooden building behind the ROTC building burned, rocks were thrown, police in riot gear descended on the campus, an ROTC cadet was killed defending the building, and 21 year old Antonia Martínez Lagares was murdered in cold blood by a police officer after looking down from her balcony and yelling at him to stop beating a protester. He calmly looked up at her, pointed his gun, and shot her in the head. Then, of course, there have been the more recent protests against the fee hikes and privatization of the university, which as the ACLU report has shown, has also ended with police brutality and a disproportionate amount of force. Americans that were shocked by the use of force against Occupy protesters in New York would be horrified to see what occurred on this island. However, while protests, especially at or around UPR-RP, have been one of the loudest mechanisms used by independentistasand nationalists in the past, protests that directly address suppression or colonialism are not the only way Puerto Ricans express their nationalism.
Puerto Rican Revolutionary Flag in Río Piedras
Around Christmas time it’s a tradition in Puerto Rico to go from door to door until the wee hours of the morning singing and playing music—with guitars, trumpets, and panderos often accompanied by instruments of the pot and pan variety—until your friends open the door and give you food and refreshments. One of the most known songs chronicling this Puerto Rican style caroling, known as a parranda is about the host giving the group of singers, or the trulla, an adult beverage or else they will cry. One of the lines in this song goes, “Los Tres Santos Reyes juntos a Santa Claus (2x) Tienen en Las Vegas montado un night club (2x). Or “The Three Wise Men along with Santa Claus/Have a nightclub set up in Las Vegas.” This has to be one of the best examples of the hybrid nature of Puerto Rican culture. Like most Latin American countries, Three Kings Day, also known as the day of the Epiphany, is the most celebrated Christmas related holiday. While Christmas Eve is time for food, singing, dancing, and getting together with the family, Three Kings Day was historically the day children received presents, one from each King if they left some grass for the Kings’ camels of course. With the attempted Americanization of the island came Santa Claus and the importance of cookies and Christmas day, although the lack of chimneys on a Caribbean island often caused logistical problems in the story—my grandparents told my mother he slipped in through the front door, pretty stealthy guy that Santa—Christmas did indeed become a major day, second only to Three Kings Day. Like creolization and syncretism of the indigenous populations once the Spanish imposed their culture in the “New World”, Puerto Rican culture didn’t disappear with the introduction of American culture, but rather the latter was absorbed and became part of the celebration, along with Las Vegas and night clubs apparently. I’ll get to what this has to do with Castro in a bit.