Posted by Madeline Gilbert – PhD student in Linguistics at NYU
Tile street art in Rivera (yes, this is right-side up!)
I have now been in Uruguay for a bit over a month. On one hand, it feels like I’ve accomplished quite a bit; on the other hand, there is a lifetime of research to be done here. In the last blog post I talked a bit about the project itself, which involves looking at the language contact situation on the border between Uruguay and Brazil, site of the famous portuñol, which, in the popular conception, is neither Spanish nor Portuguese but a broken mixture of the two. In this post, I want to talk a bit about the process of data collection, which is both full of challenges and very rewarding.
First: what kind of data am I collecting? Because I’m interested in peoples’ use of language in daily life, I’m conducting (and recording) sociolinguistic interviews, asking people to read a word list, and fill out some demographic and language use questionnaires. The process typically takes about 90 minutes. Sociolinguistic interviews consist of talking with people about topics like childhood, family, school, hobbies, work, travels, and the like. The goal is to elicit the most natural speech possible within the context of a recorded conversation. The word list reflects a more careful speech style and was designed around some linguistic variables. I have reason to think might be interesting to compare between speakers from Rivera and Montevideo. The demographic forms ask more explicitly about peoples’ linguistic history, places of residence, use of Spanish/Portuguese/other languages, and a little about their attitudes towards these languages.
Posted by Madeline Gilbert – PhD student in Linguistics at NYU
For two months this summer, I am doing linguistic research in Uruguay. I am splitting my time between Montevideo, the capital, and Rivera, a city that lies on the border between Uruguay and Brazil. The border between Uruguay and Brazil actually runs right through the middle of a city (along a main street), which is called Rivera on the Uruguayan side and Santana do Livramento on the Brazilian side. For all intents and purposes, it’s a single city that happens to have a border running through it.
My main linguistic interests lie in sociolinguistics and phonetics. The former deals with how language reflects and is used within a social structure: who says what, why, and how. The latter focuses on the sounds of human speech. My project here in Uruguay combines elements of both: how does the contact between Spanish and Portuguese on the border between Uruguay and Brazil affect the phonetics Spanish spoken? I’m collecting interviews of casual speech in Montevideo and in Rivera to be able to compare speakers from both regions.
Posted by Keyanah Freeland, PhD Student Department of History
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As I noted in my last entry, the Biblioteca Nacional de Uruguay houses a collection of Afro-Uruguayan periodicals spanning the mid-nineteenth century well into the twentieth. For the past few weeks, I have been conducting research there, parsing through the periodicals of the late nineteenth century in order to track the social, cultural, political, and intellectual exchanges between Afro-Uruguayans and their Afro-Argentine counterparts living in Buenos Aires. While the periodicals continue to confirm my aforementioned insights around the relationship between the making of diaspora and intellectual production, they also have revealed new developments around the contentious relationship between the Uruguayan state, the Afro-Uruguayan communities living in Montevideo and Buenos Aires, and the rationale behind the significant numbers of Afro-Uruguayans emigrating across the Río de la Plata at the turn of the twentieth century.
In June and July of 1889, the Afro-Uruguayan periodical, El Periódico, published extensive accounts of the Centro Uruguayo’s various celebrations of Uruguay’s national independence, written and sent back to Montevideo by their own correspondents in Buenos Aires. Founded in 1884, the Centro Uruguayo functioned as a mutual aid society for Afro-Uruguayans who had immigrated to Buenos Aires. Despite the relatively short institutional history of this mutual aid society, the 1889 coverage of the center suggests a strong political and social presence in Buenos Aires. According to El Periódico’s published reports, the center’s festivities not only attracted Afro-Uruguayans and Afro-Argentines alike, but in a brilliant act of political theatre —or perhaps protest— members of the center even visited the current President of the Uruguayan Republic, General Máximo Tajes, as he visited Buenos Aires.
Posted by – Keyanah Freeland, PhD Student NYU Department of History
January 11, 1885 Edition of the Afro-Uruguayan Newspaper “La Regeneración” discusses and critiques an anti-black article that appeared in another Montevideo periodical
Historically separated and linked by the estuary of the Río de la Plata, the cities of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay are not often figured as important sites within the historic formation of the African Diaspora within the Americas. Indeed, since the arrival of millions of European immigrants (mainly Spanish and Italian) to the region at the turn of the twentieth century, both nations have, to varying degrees, fashioned themselves as “white nations.” On the one hand, the precipitous decline of both cities’ populations of African descent from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth lent some credence to the presumed new racial homogeneity of both cities. According to the national censuses of both countries, the population of African descent in Buenos Aires had decreased from 25% to less than 2%, and in Montevideo from 10.7% to less than 1% (Reid Andrews, 1980, 2010). On the other, the ideological erasure of blackness on both sides of the Río de la Plata through the writings of prominent intellectuals and politicians contributed to a process of Europeanization, of reconstituting Europe physically and socially in the Americas. Blackness, as well as indigeneity and any other form of unaccepted nonwhiteness, thus had no place in the vision and constitution of these “white nations.”
However, as early as the 1930s, historians, anthropologists, and literary scholars have argued against the narratives of erasure that either deny the presence of people of African descent beyond the end of the nineteenth century (in the case of Argentina) or distort their contributions and importance to national history (in the case of Uruguay). From the pioneering works of historians Elena Studer, Miguel Angel Rosal, and George Reid Andrews, to the more recent scholarly contributions of historian Alex Borucki and anthropologist Lea Geler, a variety of counter-narratives have demonstrated the importance of slavery to the region throughout the colonial period, the profound contributions of men of color to the region’s wars of independence, the rich tradition of nineteenth and twentieth century black intellectual and journalistic production, and finally, the sustained fight for civic and political equality amidst continued discrimination. Continue reading
The documentary film Hit– co-written and co-directed by CLACS alum Adriana Loeff – takes a musical journey through the past five decades of Uruguayan culture and politics.
Hit is showing in the Uruguayan Film Festival at NYU on Saturday, October 22nd at 8:00pm. All films are free and open to the public.
Currently a producer at Televisión Nacional Uruguay (TNU), Adriana Loeff graduated from the Global Journalism – or GloJo – joint CLACS M.A. program. A Fulbright scholar, her research at CLACS focused on Uruguayan conditional cash transfer programs, which came about after the 2001 financial crisis led to rampant unemployment and poverty. She has also published articles in U.S. news sources, including NYU’s Pavement Pieces.
Official synopsis from HIT website: HIT tells the story of Uruguayan songs that have made history. In a journey that spans 50 years, the movie relates the milestones in music and in the life of a country, moments that have moved those who lived through them—and also those who did not. HIT reveals how these songs became symbols and survived the passing of time. It also discovers the personal and intimate stories of their composers: those who were forgotten, those who haven’t let go of their past successes, and those for whom recognition came too late.
Through the memories and confessions of some of the most important names in Uruguayan music, HIT brings to life the stories behind the songs that defined a country and that, in some cases, helped to change history.
The Uruguayan Film Festival runs from October 18th – 24th. Please note, I.D. is required for entry into all films.
CLACS alumni and students are invited to an alumni meet-up on November 8th. Alums and current students, please join us!
Date: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Room 701 of King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (KJCC), 53 Washington Square South, New York University, New York NY 10012
Posted by Von Diaz – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU