Tag Archives: Spain

‘Proximities/Distances’: Theatre, Performance, and Dance Conference


Creators and performers from all over Latin America and Spain will converge at the King Juan Carlos Center (KJCC) next week for ‘Proximities/Distances’, a two-day event that will explore ideas and practices of proximity and distance in contemporary Spanish and Latin American theatre, performance and dance.

Drawing on the current interest in relational strategies and investigating the connections between art and audiences, the aesthetic and the socio-political, it will examine a diverse range of dramaturgies that bring these different media into contact.

The event is curated by Cristina Colmena (PhD Candidate, NYU Spanish Department) and Ana Sánchez Acevedo (PhD Candidate, CUNY Graduate Center). Participants will include La Phármaco (Spain), MAPA Teatro (Colombia), Íntegro (Peru), Claudio Tolcachir (Argentina), Daniel Salguero (Colombia), Pablo Remón (Spain), Alejandro Moreno (Chile), Arantxa Araujo (Mexico), David Espinosa (Spain), and more.

Please join us Tuesday, September 27 and Wednesday, September 28 at the KJCC Auditorium for this wonderful gathering of Latin American and Spanish creators and performers!

Announcing the Spring 2016 Colloquium

By Brendan Fields, CLACS MA Student

Beginning on February 1st at 6pm, CLACS will be hosting its research Spring colloquium series where top scholars will present current research in the field of Latin American Studies. The theme of the colloquium is “Political Imaginaries Across Latin America and The Caribbean.” “We chose this theme because it should allow us to think about processes and dynamics of power, ethnicity and state formation. Citizenship, race or gender are ways of thinking and forms of interdependence unfolding within power relations, not essences or monoliths,” says CLACS Professor Edgardo Pérez Morales who is one of our faculty members organizing the series. “That’s what we aim to grasp in this colloquium.”

To help attendees grasp the complexities involved in understanding these imaginaries, CLACS has invited a diverse group of scholars to present their work from disciplines ranging from anthropology to political science to religion. With such a collection of renowned scholars present, attendees will surely gain a lot from the talks. “If you attend the whole series, I think you can begin to really see the state of Latin American and Caribbean studies and what the new frontiers are,” says CLACS Professor Katherine Smith. “Plus, there’s always a reception, which is often when the best conversations and insights happen!” The opportunity to share time and conversations is invaluable as a way for individual students to participate in a community of knowledge. “Focusing on our political imagination is something worth considering. Coming to these talks can help take this normally individual endeavor and make it a bit more collective,” says CLACS Professor Pamela Calla.

To kick off the series on February 1st Irene Silverblatt, of Duke University, will give a talk entitled Stained Blood in the Old World and the New: New Christians and the Racial Categories of the Colonial-Modern World.

Professor Silverblatt will explore the racializing of human beings and its repercussions for colonial categories of rule and the cultural ordering of the modern world. The lecture and following discussion, moderated by CLACS faculty member  and Associate Professor of History at NYU Sinclair Thomson, is framed on the following abstract by the presenter:

Hannah Arendt, among others, understood 19th century European colonialism – a form of governance which, like twentieth century fascism, supported the world-wide dominance of a master race – as key to understanding the brutal, submerged underside of modern, Western experience. However, it was 16th century Europe’s first wave of colonial expansion, spearheaded by Spain, that provides a more elaborate picture. The first wave was forged during the turbulence of modern state-making when many (but not all) officials of Church and Crown believed the Iberian Peninsula’s “New Christians” (or conversos of Jewish and Moorish descent) could not be loyal subjects because they were cursed by the “stained blood” of their ancestors. Transported to the Americas, the New Christian syndrome, with its obsession with blood purity and its political language of stains, fertilized the racial bent of modern, colonial geopolitics. The point of entry into this discussion will be the meanings of “New Christian” in the New World.

Irene Silverblatt is a Professor of Cultural Anthropology, History, and Women’s Studies at Duke University. She researches the cultural dimensions of power; specifically, state-building and colonization in Latin America and the politics of memory in central Europe. Her published works include Harvest of Blossoms: Poetry of a Life Cut Short (Collected Poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger) (edited and with an introduction by Irene Silverblatt and Helene Silverblatt 2008); Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World (2004); Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru (1987) as well as articles on related themes. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard University), and the Social Science Research Council, among others. Professor Silverblatt has also served as President of the American Society for Ethnohistory.

For more information about the event and to RSVP, click here.

Letters from Argentina: Fabricating the Experience of Migration

Picture from the departure of Coral Sanz from Cadiz to Buenos Aires, with Puri Zahino and family

Picture from the departure of Coral Sanz from Cadiz to Buenos Aires, with Puri Zahino and family

Posted by Cristina Colmena- PhD Candidate at Spanish and Portuguese Department NYU

My project focused on the construction of identities through the correspondence of Spanish migrants who went to Argentina during the 1960´s under Francoism. My point of departure was the letters sent by Purificación Zahino to her family in Spain from 1962 to 1969. She died at the age of 34 in Rosario and those letters and photographs were the “texts” to elaborate a kind of autobiography not only by her, but also by their relatives who stayed in Spain. In Puri´s letters there was some confusing information about her life and the people who were her employers -and at the same time a sort of “family”- so I came to Argentina to get some interviews and maybe find more archival material that allow me to fill the gaps. After some research in CEMLA (Centro de Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos) in Buenos Aires and contacting with Centro Navarro in Rosario where she used to work, I found the relatives who lived with her and also had the chance to talk to people who knew her and gave me very relevant information for my study.

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“Racism Does Exist – But I Have Never Experienced It”

I came to Spain to better understand the Ecuadorian immigrant experience in regards to racism and discrimination.  What I found was that racism does exist in Spain and it is apparent in the laws and policies constituted by the Spanish government.  While these laws and policies directly affect Ecuadorian immigrants, the Ecuadorian immigrants that I spoke with were not very open in discussing their own experiences of racism.  Many believed that racism was a problem in Spain, but didn’t recount personal experiences of it.  Often, when racism was discussed, people spoke of the racist government and policies that have been making things difficult for them as immigrants, yet racism was rarely used to describe experiences with these policies.

Ecuadorian immigrants spoke of the immigration policies implemented by the newest president that have made it difficult for them to become citizens.  Some even referred to these policies as “racist,” yet others did not equate the policies as a personal experience of racism, even when they were being directly affected.  One immigrant had been waiting a year since he filed papers to become a Spanish citizen.  He stated that before the economic crisis, it only took a year to complete the process and it was very easy, but now, it could take twice as long.  Despite the policies directly affecting him, he did not seem to think that this was a racist or anti-immigrant issue.

Whitney - Spain - Metro

Police inside a Metro Station

Another policy that was heavily discussed among Ecuadorian immigrants was the policy of police checking papers and legal statuses of anyone in the country.  While the police have the right to check anyone’s papers, they have been known to mainly check those of racial minorities.  One immigrant said that the police would never check the papers of a “rubia,” but that they often ask immigrants for their documentation.  While this immigrant seemed to deny that Spain was a racist country despite his own experience of being asked for his papers, he referred to the police asking for documentation as “racism.” Continue reading

From the Philippines to Flanders in the Ochavo Chapel, Puebla

Gilding from the Rosario Chapel in Puebla, similar to the Ochavo Chapel.

Sitting in a spacious but sparsely furnished living room somewhere between Puebla and Cholula, chatting with three Germans, a Dutchman, and a Mexican, the subject of China came up. As we all marveled and prognosticated about its size, its culture, its history, and its role in the world economy, my thoughts turned to the 16th century (as, I suppose, is not particularly uncommon for me). The artist that forms the subject of my research, the Basque émigré to New Spain Baltasar de Echave Orio (1548? – 1623), would not have been a stranger to groupings of a similarly international flavor. His coterie would have included other Spaniards like the poet Bernardo de Balbuena, the German publisher Enrico Martínez (Heinrich Martin), and perhaps Creole intellectuals like Baltasar Dorantes de Carranza. And China was on their minds too. In Chapter III of his encomiastic ode to the viceregal capital, Grandeza Mexicana (1603), Balbuena makes consistent reference to the Chinese goods offered in the market of Mexico City. For Balbuena, the New Spanish capital was a “pueblo ilustre y rico, en que se pierde el deseo de más mundo.”[1]

For me, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of viceregal Mexico – the potential for its citizens to perceive themselves globally. A particularly striking manifestation of this global outlook is the Ochavo Chapel[2] at the Puebla Cathedral. Built in the 1680’s, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit gets its nickname, Ochavo, from its octagonal plan. A tall column of space with a reduced footprint, three of its walls house enormous and resplendent altarpieces. Each comprises a structure of gilded wood tangled into a thicket, suspending within its vines a panoply of precious objects. There are small oil paintings on wood and canvas made in Mexico, and painted copper plates imported from Flanders depicting religious scenes. Feather mosaics dot the walls, as do bits of bone set within opulent reliquaries, and one altarpiece is crowned by a sculpture of the Crucifixion made in ivory and likely imported from the Philippines.  In this agglomeration of objects the old (copper paintings in the early 16th c. style of Joachim Patinir) and the new (coppers by Juan Tinoco made in the late 17th century to complete the space) stand side by side. Quetzal feathers cozy up to Roman relics and Asian ivory.

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La Crisis: Economy and Racism in Spain

Whitney - Spain - Euro Cup

“Unite Against Racism” banner displayed during the 2012 Euro Cup

Not only is Spain facing an economic crisis but the people here are expressing angst and frustration towards the government for its incompetence to aid its people.  The current Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey, was sworn into office this past December.  While he has only been in office for 8 months, he has not been popular among the people, especially the immigrant community.  One Ecuadorian immigrant expressed that the former Prime Minister worked to get immigrants documented and legalized, while “Rajoy is racist and doesn’t do anything” for them.

Much has been speculated about the correlation between the growing economic crisis in Spain and the racism and xenophobia directed towards immigrants.  It has been argued that the tension caused by “la crisis,” as the locals call it, has only intensified fears of job loss, which could then cause Spaniards to resent those who could potentially take jobs away from Spanish citizens. Continue reading

Ecuadorians on the Move: Money on the Mind

There are many things on the Ecuadorian mind here in Spain.  For many, their first and foremost reason for immigrating to Spain has been influenced by the economy or lack thereof in their home country.  Whether they are sending money back to their families in Ecuador or simply saving their money for their future, past assurances of jobs and wealth have brought them to Spain over the years.

Now the current economic crisis in Spain is causing large sectors of the population to return to Ecuador.  From my conversations, Ecuadorians that are leaving seem to be bringing everything with them, which would indicate that they are planning to return to Ecuador for good.  One man brought 23 suitcases with him to the airport, while another brought 12 suitcases and two dogs.  Surely, this is in part influenced by “Plan Bienvenidos a Casa,” but has also led me to question the relationship between immigrants and their host country. Continue reading

CLACS Kicks Off Spring Colloquium on Latin American Independence in the Age of Revolution

CLACS Colloquium - Latin American Independence in the Age of RevolutionOn Monday, CLACS hosted the first event of the Spring 2012 Research Colloquium seriesRonald Briggs, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Cultures at Barnard College, presented on “Independence Pedagogy and the Cult of the Perfect Book.”  The event was well attended, and was a strong kick-off to the spring series!

Each semester, CLACS hosts a Research Colloquium series that combines a graduate level course with a speaker series. The course is co-taught by faculty of distinct disciplines, bringing together different academic fields of study. CLACS Director Sinclair Thomson (NYU History) and Sibylle Fischer (NYU Spanish) are teaching the course this spring.
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Wrapping Up & Thinking Ahead: Memory Politics in Spain & Argentina

My two-month stay in Spain has been an invaluable research experience.  The opportunity to spend time in Madrid and Barcelona, to observe and participate in an exhumation, and to interview forensic scientists, photographers, artists, and archivists about the intersection of science, visual representation, and history has allowed me to gain a more nuanced understanding of how memory can be mobilized to discuss the politics of both the past and the present.  The information that I have collected over the past eight weeks will be incredibly useful as I begin to define and design my dissertation research project.  Even more so, as I begin think about how forensic science and photographic practices are employed differently across different cultural, political, and historical contexts.

In this last post, I want to address a few topics that have come up in recent interviews as well as some themes that have appeared and reappeared throughout the course of fieldwork.  While in Barcelona, I have interviewed several visual artists and members of the academic community who share an interest in the ways in which visual media has been and can be used to call attention to or discuss the period of political violence that marked a large part of Spain’s recent history.  In almost all of these interviews, the “papeles de Salamanca” have played an important – if not a primary – role in describing local and national memory debates.  The Salamanca papers are a collection of documents that formerly pertained to the Archivo General de la Guerra Civil Española in Salamanca.  The Archive itself consists in an immense stockpile of thousands of documents that were produced and/or collected by the Francoist regime.  Now deemed to be an “archivo de la represión,” this particular archive is thought to be an invaluable source of information regarding the inner workings of the Franco dictatorship. Continue reading

Documenting Science, Narrating Experience: The Use of Audiovisual Technologies in Forensics

Last weekend, I made a trip to San Sebastián to interview a member of the Aranzadi forensic team (Universidad del País Vasco) that oversaw the exhumation that I attended several weeks ago.  Responsible for filming exhumations and creating short narrative documentaries about individual investigations, the person that I interviewed explained how audiovisual documentation has been integrated into standard forensic and archaeological methods employed by Aranzadi in the exhumation of mass graves.  As my interlocutor was keen to point out, the narrative capacity of audiovisual storytelling and its ability to document events and collect testimonies have made this type of media a useful methodological tool both within and without the realm of science.

A member of the Aranzadi team filming a testimony

During the exhumation process, audiovisual recording is used first and foremost to document the exhumation process.  It is used to create an audiovisual record of how an exhumation begins, how it is carried out, and finally how it concludes.  However, “levantando una fosa” is more than the application of archaeological methods.  It is an event that requires the collaboration of many different people, most of important of which are the families desaparecidos and those members of the community who have pushed for this kind of revision of the recent past to take place.  For those families who are exhuming missing loved ones, the exhumation is an emotionally charged event that is rooted in a wide range of memory practices.  It is therefore, an event that often lends itself to the emergence of personal narratives regarding past experience.  These narratives may be newly formed.  They can also be narratives that are being publicly voiced for the first time.  Video is useful here in that it provides a method and a medium for collecting these testimonies.  It creates a space in which those most directly affected by violence can reject silence by narrating their experience that will be recorded by an audiovisual technology that will ensure future accessibility.  In other words, video helps create a space for narrating experience while also facilitating the creation of an archive of experiences that illustrates the many ways in which social memory can manifest itself. Continue reading