Zane Koss and Sergio Mondragón on June 11, 2018.
Posted by Zane Koss – PhD Candidate in English Literature at NYU
On June 11th, I had the pleasure of meeting with Sergio Mondragón in the Coyoacán neighbourhood of Mexico City. My dissertation focuses on Mexican and Canadian poetry in the 1960s and 1970s, searching for meaningful connections between poets and means of reading comparatively that are able to situate these poets both within their own complex national contexts and within broader transnational poetic movements. From 1962 to 1969, Mondragón co-edited and co-published El corno emplumado / The Plumed Horn, a bilingual magazine of poetry and the arts in Mexico City with Margaret Randall, a young poet who had recently arrived in Mexico from New York. The magazine was a flashpoint of transnational literary and cultural exchange, publishing young and established poets from across the Americas, translated into both Spanish and English whenever possible. Our conversation that day covered a wide array of subjects, but – as the sprightly 82-year-old warned me beforehand – his memories of the 1960s were “borrosos o entremezclados.”
The day after our meeting, I received an unexpected phone call from Sergio. At his request, I had sent him a couple of my own poems, and he wanted to return his compliments by inviting me for a meal at his home in the hills west of Coyoacán and San Ángel. When I had asked Sergio about the work he performed translating the Canadian poet George Bowering’s 1964 book of poems, The Man in the Yellow Boots / El hombre de las botas amarillas – published as the sixteenth issue of El corno – he had quickly pointed out that Margaret Randall, who edited magazine’s English-language portions, had likely done most of the work in selecting poems and corresponding with Bowering. He insisted further that she had probably helped extensively with the translations. I failed to register the full importance of this comment at the time, considering it more of a polite nudge from Sergio to redirect my inquiries to Randall. But visiting Sergio in his home revealed the deeper truth of his statement.
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.
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.
By Emilia Sawada, PhD Candidate in Social and Cultural Analysis. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant.
Although I spent only two weeks in the field (Mexico City, Mexico), this research expedition generated a wealth of information about two subjects of interest: post-revolutionary Mexican public art and the influence of the latter on contemporary Mexican and Japanese artists. In fact, I collected such an overwhelming amount of information from Mexico City’s museums, art fairs, and government buildings, not to mention my ethnographic interviews with contemporary artists, that I hardly know where to begin this blog post. I spent the entirety of the first week at museums and other landmarks in the historic center, photographing artworks and looking for examples of Asian mestizaje in Mexican history. Although I am particularly interested in post-revolutionary Mexican aesthetics, I found abundant examples of Asian influence in colonial ceramics and furniture—perhaps most obviously, the biombo, an Asian-style folding screen imported to New Spain in the fifteenth century. However, I had a more difficult time locating Asian subjects, or even Asian themes, in the public works of post-revolutionary muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Some of the subjects depicted in Rivera’s murals, for example, look Asian, but are more likely indigenous Mexicans. I wonder if the post-revolutionary muralists consciously mobilized this racial ambiguity in their work? Interestingly enough, some of my Mexican interviewees noted that their collaborations with Japanese artists had brought them closer to indigenous culture, suggesting that such Asian-indigenous connections persist into the present.
Even more striking is the history of Asian and Asian American participation in the Mexican muralismo movement, of which I was unaware until my visit to Mexico. Apparently, Los Angeles-born Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi actively participated in the muralismo movement, executing some of Rivera’s designs at sites like the Rodriguez Market in Mexico City. In fact, not only Noguchi, but Taro Okamoto, Koji Toneyama, Luis Nishizawa, and Shinsaburo Takeda also participated at least transiently in this 1920s-1930s post-revolutionary movement, which coincided with the mestizophilia (national obsession with racial hybridity) of the early twentieth century. This penchant for cross-racial public art continued for Japanese Mexican artist Nishizawa, who created a number of—unfortunately, unrealized—sketches for mural projects in the 1960s-1970s, at the height of postwar decolonization and the student liberation movements. Although an extensive body of literature exists on post-revolutionary muralismo, less work exists on the enduring influence of artists like Rivera on late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century Mexican and Asian artists. These historical moments promise a potential counterpoint to the concurrent 1960s-1970s U.S. public arts movement and its enduring legacy in California.
Lesvy Osorio was killed next to a telephone booth on the UNAM campus, long considered a sanctuary by students and the intellectual community. (Nidia Bautista)
Posted by Nidia Bautista – MA Candidate in Global Journalism and CLACS at NYU. This post was written in August, 2017, based on summer research funded by the Tinker Grant.
Mexico has become a dangerous place for everyone. This summer, during the time I spent investigating feminicide in Edomex, has been terrible for human rights and crime in the country. Ten journalists have been killed this year and Mexico is fast becoming the deadliest country for journalists in the world. Candido Rios, a crime reporter, is the latest journalist killed this month in Veracruz. He was murdered despite being placed under government protection. Mexico’s murder rate has also reached a record high this year. The government has recorded more than 12,100 homicides, with 2,234 murders in June alone. It was the deadliest month in twenty years.
The violence is also ravaging Mexico City, ranked New York Times number one city to visit in 2016. Just this month, patrons of a trendy theater and restaurant called Cine Tonala in the Roma Sur neighborhood were robbed by armed gunman. I used to live in the neighborhood and would often visit Cine Tonala and like many others, up until this summer, I didn’t think this kind of violence would happen in the capital. Previously, it has been easier to relegate this sort of violence to the peripheries. I have spent this summer monitoring and compiling a long list of stories and cases of extreme violence against women in one such periphery. The stories are appalling.
High school students participate in performace protest in Hank Gonzales, Edomex (Nidia Bautista)
Posted by Nidia Bautista – MA Candidate in Global Journalism and CLACS at NYU
Feminicide is defined as the extreme violence against women due to their gender, marked by impunity that violates their human rights and results in death. It’s a word that names the violence inflicted on women who were strangled, raped, tortured, mutilated, and killed. I’ve been researching how and why this is happening in Ecatepec, Edomex. The more I research and interview the issue, the more I notice that women, in addition to living in a context of continual violence, are doing the work to denounce and end this violence.
I have interviewed women family members of victims of feminicide, survivors of violence, and women human rights defenders. I have also interviewed feminist academics that focus on the issue. I have taken a course on Feminicide in Mexico sponsored at Mexico City’s Museum of Memory and Tolerance. I have attended another similar conference at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). While I have found and spoken to a few men that work to denounce the violence, the majority of my sources are women. What is striking, and admittingly overwhelming, is that fighting feminicide has become women’s work.
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.