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For years, social scientists have wondered about what causes political development and what can be done to stimulate it in the developing world. By political development, they mean the creation of democratic governments and public bureaucracies that can effectively respond to citizens’ demands. Early in the Cold War era, most scholars were optimistic and assumed that political development would occur quickly and easily in the developing world. They expected that countries would democratize and that their governments would generate lots of state capacity to provide new public services. But, as time wore on, many observers came to realize that the process was often fitful.
Some scholars became convinced that countries faced inherent developmental tradeoffs. In the 1970s, Samuel Huntington and Joan Nelson — in a book titled No Easy Choice — warned that developing countries could not simultaneously sustain democracy and economic growth policies. They felt that democracy led to pressures for economic redistribution, which would impede growth, but also recognized that excluding people from democratic participation created turmoil. More recently, Francis Fukuyama (writing in the Journal of Democracy) concluded that countries couldn’t have a vigorous democracy unless their governments possessed significant state capacity. Herein lay a tradeoff: for a central government to uphold the rule of law — something necessary for a robust democracy — it has to concentrate power. But citizens in fledgling democracies often (justifiably) worry about governments holding too much power. Fukuyama suggested that political development was double-edged: implanting a strong democracy and building state capacity were in tension.
Around the time Fukuyama wrote his cautionary article, I set out to investigate how countries in the developing world had acquired state capacity in the past. I embarked on this research as American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq was making one thing clear: it’s really hard to build functional and effective states. I thought case studies might clarify how some countries had historically generated state capacity through more organic means, which might be useful knowledge for policymakers wanting to build up weak or failed states today.
I studied six countries in Latin America and Africa — Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Mauritius, and Nigeria — and discovered a striking pattern. I found that when each of them experienced their first major commodity boom (in commodities as diverse as cattle, copper, sugar, and wheat), there were groups involved in the production and marketing of these goods that asked their governments for similar things. They wanted the state to provide new transportation infrastructure and help them obtain finance, so they could enlarge their operations. The situation seemed like a “win-win”: exporters could expand their businesses, and governments would stimulate economic growth.
But, curiously, governments often spurned these requests. I found that only when exporters were part of the governing coalition — meaning they were closely allied with politicians — did the government assist them. This was the case in Argentina, Chile, and Mauritius. When exporters were politically marginalized, governments refused to help them. In fact, governments worked against them, taxing their goods heavily and redistributing that wealth into boondoggles. Governments in Colombia, Ghana, and Nigeria essentially chose to sacrifice economic growth in order to redirect export wealth to their political cronies. These choices had lasting consequences. Over the longer term, Argentina, Chile, and Mauritius built fairly capable states, while the other countries did not.
My professional self was elated by these findings, since researchers hadn’t emphasized this coalitional perspective to analyze state building. And yet I was troubled by what seemed to be a tradeoff present in my “success” stories. The countries that expanded their state capacity often did so repugnantly. The Chilean government invaded and “pacified” the lands of the Mapuche Indians. It then sold the land to established landed elites, who wanted to prevent others from ending their stranglehold on the country’s farmland. In Argentina, ranchers in Buenos Aires province got the government to go to war with the country’s other littoral provinces, where upstart ranchers were challenging the economic hegemony of Buenos Aires pastoralists. The government also launched a ghastly military campaign to subjugate Indian tribes that were preventing ranchers from moving their herds southward into Patagonia. And Mauritius created a legal labyrinth to harass people who had legally left the harsh conditions of sugar estates in search of a better life. The government intimidated many of them back onto plantations, where some historians liken the working conditions to slavery. State building came at the expense of the weak.
I wrestle with these findings because governments with considerable state capacity can do lots of good things, especially for the powerless. They can uphold the rule of law, ensure democratic accountability, and provide public goods, such as education systems and clean water. And weak or failing states are environments where insurgent and terrorist groups can flourish. So there are manifest reasons why we should want countries to expand their state capacity. Nevertheless, the lessons from my book do not translate easily into sensible policy, since state building was doubled-edged. I hope that state building doesn’t require a tradeoff between enhancing government capabilities and treating vulnerable groups fairly. But one thing is clear: state building is politically charged. Building effective states isn’t simply a technical endeavor, but a deeply political process — one with enduring consequences.
Featured image: USAID works with Nigerians to improve agriculture, health, education, and governance. By USAID Africa Bureau. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
On 12 August 2014 at precisely 2:58 a.m., a 5.1 earthquake struck, centered at the hilltop lightning huaca San Catequilla de Pichincha. Since this initial earthquake, there have been 57 aftershocks, all centered at or close to this hill. Cerro Catequilla is situated where the Río Monjas empties into the Río Guayllabamba, approximately 15 kilometers north of Quito in the Pomasqui Valley directly east of the town of San Antonio. This is the only known Inca huaca located directly under the equator at 0°0’02″ S by 78°25’43″ W at 2,683 meters above sea level, making this the paradigmatic place of the astral positioning. The southern terminus of the summit is situated directly on the Mitad del Mundo at the equator, 0º0’00” S, beside a series of natural springs. The mountains surrounding Cerro Cetquilla range from 3,000 to 4,000 meters above sea level and the Cerro Pululagua volcano is located due west.
Volcanoes have symbolic associations to lightning and the importance of this valley is evidenced by the two branches of the Inca road, or Camino Real, one to the east and the other to the west side of the hill. Numerous Inca sites are in the surrounding landscape, including Pucara de Rumicucho, an Inca fortress and administrative center. The lightning huaca is made up of two superimposed earthen platforms; a buried rectangular platform measuring about 100 meters N/S and about 80 meters E/W, below a large circular earthen platform measuring 60 meters in diameter. The locations of these superimposed platforms on the southwestern slopes of Cerro Catequilla are the only places on the 200-meter long hilltop where the equator is directly overhead. This is one of three Inca huacas with Catequilla toponyms between the equator and 3° N. Catequilla de Pichincha was the most highly venerated because of its location under the equator.
In 1609, the chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega stated that the pillars and columns on many platforms around Quito and to the north in Cayambe and Ibarra were “broken to pieces” by the Conquistador Sebastián de Benalcázar, who tore them all down because the Andeans worshiped them idolatrously. There is very little information in the Spanish chronicles or from the Audiencia de Quito on how temporal cycles were recorded in and around Quito during the Contact Period. Most scholars have found astronomical calculation regarding the solar calendar was achieved through shadow casting. The most highly venerated gnome was Catequilla de Pichincha, primarily because when the sun was overhead during certain parts of the annual cycle there was increasingly diminished shadow around the pillar or gnome at this lightning huaca.
The Inca constructed over a hundred ceremonial platforms and shrines (villcas), some on mountain passes (apachitas), others on the summits of the highest mountains in their empire, between 1438 and the Spanish Conquest in 1532. Lightning was the major theophany of weather in Inca religion, known as Ilapa, now Illapa, the Hispanic spelling. Huacas with “Catequil” or “Catequilla” toponyms were associated with the spread of Catequil, a religious cult to lightning throughout their empire. Lightning veneration extended from Quito to Cuzco during the early Colonial Period. The principal huaca associated with lightning, was another hilltop huaca in northern highland Peru, Catequil de Huamacucho, a huaca said to make other huacas “speak,” and therefore believed to have the ability to predict earthquakes. Spirits associated with lightning are malevolent, have ancient origins in Andean cosmology and religion, and are symbolically depicted in various cultural traditions.
Many lightning huacas around the equator and regions to the north have circular stone enclosures or platforms which local Andean informants have said to me are places where lightning struck and are therefore sanctified. Such features have also been identified archaeologically in and around the nearby Inca fortress at Pucara de Rumicucho. Circular stone enclosures or platform features generally measure between three to four meters in diameter and are dispersed throughout this region. However, these were not destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores because they were not venerated in an “idolatrous” manner. Some are located in indigenous towns in the surrounding valley and those in the nearby towns are clearly visible from the summit of Cerro Catequilla. My preliminary research at this site indicates that such features also had astronomical function in association with sight lines to the surrounding horizon, solar cycles, and constellations in the night sky. In the Andes, thunder and lightning have symbolic associations with rain, hail, earthquakes, and the metallurgical arts, particularly gold and silver, agricultural fertility, and fire and damaging hail storms.
Featured image: Andean landscape, north of Quito. This photo is looking north across Cerro Catequilla and was taken from the lightning huaca at 0°.00 latitude. This valley has historically been of critical importance to cultivation, transport, and the movement people and food crops into northern Ecuador and Colombia. Photo by John E. Staller.
As we gear up for the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’re highlighting some interesting facts about the final four competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World. Argentina and the Netherlands battled it out in a semi-final match on Wednesday 9 July; Argentina pulled through after a penalty shootout. The team will go head-to-head with Germany on Sunday, 13 July to determine the champion.
Argentina, a two-time World cup winner reached its fifth final when it defeated the Netherlands. The last time it had advanced that far was 24 years ago in 1986. To celebrate their achievement, here are a few facts to think about until then next Cup.
In 2007 Cristina Fernández De Kirchner was the first directly elected woman president in Argentina. She succeeded her late husband, Néstor Carlos Kirchner, who had previously served for four years. She was later reelected in 2011.
The country had a large indigenous population prior to European colonization; however 86% of Argentina’s population is now of European ancestry.
Argentina is South America’s second largest nation after Brazil, and the world’s eighth largest country. It is the fourth largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world.
Spain took control of Argentina in the 16th century and continued its reign until 1816, when the country won back its independence. Argentina later suffered from instability and periods of military rule.
The World Bank classifies Argentina as an “upper-middle-income” developing country. Its form of currency is the Argentine Peso which is equivalent to 100 centavos.
In 1991, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay set up an alliance, Mercosur, aimed at creating a common market. The agreement’s main purpose is to facilitate free trade.
Roman Catholicism accounts for a whopping 92% of the country’s population (Pope Francis was born and raised there). Protestantism and Judaism tie at a distant second making up 2% each of the population.
Oxford’s Atlas of the World – the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.
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Image credit: Buenos Aires desde el cielo (Estadio de River). By Elemaki. CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
As we gear up for the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’re highlighting some interesting facts about the final four competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t caught onto World Cup fever, the winner of the World Cup is near! Brazil and Germany faced off on Tuesday, 8 July. The shocking game left Germany the victor, with Argentina and the Netherlands battling it out on Wednesday 9 July. Argentina pulled through after a penalty shootout. The third place finalist will be determined on Saturday, 12 July with the final two teams going head-to-head on Sunday, 13 July to determine the champion.
The Federative Republic of Brazil, also known by the spelling Brasil, the world’s fifth largest country with a population of over 199 million, has the honor and distinction of hosting the World Cup this year, a fact that had this fútbol-centric nation even more hyped than usual.
A large country of over 3 million square miles, the area contains three main regions. Manaus, one of the host cities, has high temperatures all throughout the year. A tropical climate, rainfall is normally heavy, but lucky for players and cheering fans, the weather tends to be a bit drier from June through September.
Brazil is a leading economy in South America, described as a “rapidly industrializing economy.” You might not know that is the world’s top producers of products including cars, paper, aircrafts, and even materials ranging from diamonds to tin. With coffee as it’s leading export, agriculture employs 16% of the population. A major farming nation, products also include bananas, coca, rice, sugarcane, and maize.
With the Amazon, the world’s second largest river, in its backyard, forestry is a major industry although the fear that destroying the rainforests can accelerate global warming is a real concern. On a positive environmental note, Brazil is the second highest producer of hydroelectricity in the world, accounting for 12.3% of total world production.
Politically, the nation sets an example for progress in gender equality, having elected its first female president, Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party, in 2010. It’s government is a Federal Republic, having first declared itself an independent empire in 1822 after originally being claimed by Portugal in 1500. After periods of material rule from the 1930s, civilian rule was restored in 1985 with a new constitution adopted in 1988.
Oxford’s Atlas of the World – the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.
Recent talk of declining US influence in the Middle East has emphasized the Obama administration’s diplomatic blunders. Its poor security in Benghazi, its failure to predict events in Egypt, its difficulty in reaching a deal on withdrawal in Afghanistan, and its powerlessness before sectarian violence in Iraq, to be sure, all are symptoms of this loss of influence.
Yet all miss a crucial point about a region of the world crawling with US troops. What makes a foreign military presence most unpopular is simply that it is, well, military. It is a point almost too obvious to make, but one that is forgotten again and again as the United States and other nations keep sending troops abroad and flying drones to take out those who violently oppose them.
The warnings against military occupation are age-old. The Founding Fathers understood the harshness of an occupying force, at least a British one, and thus declared in the Third Amendment that “no soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
US occupations of small Latin American countries a century ago taught a similar lesson. What was most irksome for those who saw the US marines occupy Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic between 1912 and 1934 was not the State Department’s desire to protect US lives and property. It also wasn’t its paranoia about German gunboats during World War I. It wasn’t even the fact itself of intervention. While some of these occupations began with minimal violence and a surprising welcome by occupied peoples, as months turned into years, the behavior of US troops on the ground became so brutal, so arbitrary, and so insensitive to local cultures that they drove many to join movements to drive the marines back into the sea.
Ocupación militar del 1916 en República Dominicana by Walter. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
It was one thing to subdue armed supporters of the regimes overthrown by the United States in all three countries. Latin Americans often met the demise of those unpopular governments with relief. Besides, armed groups recognized the overwhelming training and firepower of the marines and agreed readily to disarmament. As one Haitian palace guard recalled of the marine landing of 1915, “Everyone fled. Me too. You had only to see them, with their weaponry, their massive, menacing appearance, to understand both that they came to do harm to our country and that resistance was futile.”
It was the violence during “peace” time that turned the masses against occupation. At times marines and their native constabularies hunted small groups of insurgents and treated all locals as potential traitors. Other times they enforced new regulations, replaced local political officials, or militarized borders. And they could do it all with virtual impunity since any of their crimes would be tried by their own in US-run military provost courts.
Abuses were particularly frequent and grave either when no marines supervised constabularies or when a single marine — often a non-commissioned officer elevated to officer status in the constabulary — unleashed a reign of terror in a small town.
The residents of Borgne, in Haiti, for instance, hated a Lieutenant Kelly for approving beatings and imprisonments for trivial crimes or for no apparent reason at all. While in the Dominican Republic, around Hato Mayor, Captain Thad Taylor riled over his own fear-filled fiefdom. As one marine described it, Taylor “believed that all circumstances called for a campaign of frightfulness; he arrested indiscriminately upon suspicion; then people rotted in jail pending investigation or search for evidence.” In Nicaragua, the “M company” was widely accused of violence against children, especially throwing them into the air and spearing them with bayonets. In Haiti, a forced labor system known as the corvée saw Americans stop people, peasants, servants, or anyone else, in the street and make them work, particularly to build roads. The identification of the corvée with occupation abuse was so strong that, years later, Haitians gladly worked for foreign corporations but refused to build roads for them.
Rape added an element of gendered terror to abuses. The cases that appear in the historical record — many more likely went unreported — indicate an attitude of permissiveness, fed by the occupations’ monopoly of force, that bred widespread fear among occupied women. Assault was so dreaded that Haitian women stopped bathing in rivers.
Marines were none too careful about keeping abuses quiet and perhaps wanted them to be widely known so as to terrorize the populace. They repeatedly beat and hanged occupied peoples in town plazas, walked them down country roads with ropes around their necks, and ordered them to dig graves for others.
Brutality also marked the behavior of US troops in the cities, where there was no open rebellion. Often, marines and sailors grew bored and turned to narcotics, alcohol, and prostitution, vices that were sure to bring on trouble. A Navy captain suggested the humiliation suffered by Nicaraguan police, soldiers, and artisans, who all made less money than local prostitutes. He also noted the “racial feeling, . . . which leads to the assumption of an air of superiority on the part of the marines.” In response, the US minister requested that Nicaragua provide space for a canteen, dance hall, motion picture theatre, and other buildings to occupy the marines’ time.
Even the non-violent aspects of occupation were repressive. A French minister in Haiti noted that all Haitians resented intrusions in their daily freedoms, especially the curfew. Trigger-happy US soldiers on patrol also exhibited “an extraordinary lack of discipline and in certain cases, an incredible disdain for propriety.” Dominicans considered US citizens to be “hypocrites” because they drank so much abroad while living under prohibition at home. Reviewing such cases, a commanding officer assessed that 90 percent of his “troubles with the men” stemmed from alcohol. In a particularly terrifying incident, private Mike Brunski left his Port-au-Prince legation post at 6 a.m. and started shooting Haitians “apparently without provocation,” killing one and wounding others. He walked back to the legation “and continued his random firing from the balcony.” Medical examiners pronounced Brunski “sane but drunk.”
Abuse proved a recruiting bonanza for insurgents. Little useful information, and even less military advance, was gained from abuse and torture in Nicaragua. A Haitian group also admitted that “internal peace could not be preserved because the permanent and brutal violation of individual rights of Haitian citizens was a perpetual provocation to revolt.” Terror otherwise hardened the population against the occupation. Many in the Dominican Republic later testified with disgust to having seen lynchings with their own eyes. There and in Haiti, newspaper editors braved prison sentences to publish tales of atrocities.
By 1928, the State Department’s Sumner Welles observed that occupation “inevitably loses for the United States infinitely more, through the continental hostility which it provokes, through the fears and suspicions which it engenders, through the lasting resentment on the part of those who are personally injured by the occupying force, than it ever gains for the United States through the temporary enforcement of an artificial peace.”
Hostile, troublesome, horrifying: the US military in Latin America encountered a range of accusations as they it on believing that it brought security and prosperity to the region. Sound familiar? The lessons of Latin American resistance a century ago are especially relevant today, when counterinsurgency doctrine posits that a successful occupation, such as the one by coalition forces in Afghanistan, must win over local public opinion in order to bring lasting security. Thankfully, it appears that the lesson has sunk in to a certain extent, with diplomats increasingly reclaiming their role from the military as go-betweens with locals. Yet much of the damage has been done, and in the case of drones, no amount of diplomacy can assuage the feeling of terror felt throughout the countryside of Afghanistan and Pakistan when that ominous buzzing sound approaches overhead. It is, perhaps for better and certainly for worse, the new face of US military occupation.
Charles Miller claimed to have brought the first footballs to Brazil, stepping off the boat in the port of Santos with a serious expression, his boots, balls and a copy of the FA regulations, ready to change the course of Brazilian history. There are no documents to record the event, only Miller’s own account of a conversation, in which historians have picked numerous holes. There are no images either, which is why to mark the impending Miller-mania surrounding English participation in the World Cup in Brazil, I recreated the scene on the docks at Santos, today South America’s biggest and busiest port. (Thanks to my colleague Gloria Lanci for capturing the solemnity of the occasion).
Opposite the passenger terminal, where the photo was taken, an old building is being converted into the Museu do Pelé, to house the history of Santos Futebol Clube’s most famous player, heralded by many as the greatest footballer of the twentieth century – though it will not be ready to open in time for the World Cup. The stories of Miller and Pelé are often linked to illustrate the development of football in Brazil. Gilberto Freyre, the Brazilian sociologist and historian, was one of the first:
‘[It was] Englishmen who introduced into Brazil the principal sporting and recreational replacements for our colonial jousting tournaments: horse-racing, tennis, cycling and football itself, which here became fully naturalised as a game not for fair-haired European expatriates in the tropics but for local people: […] people increasingly of varying shades of brown; with de-Anglicisation culminating in the admirable Pelé, after shining with Leônidas.
[Football] has become a veritable Afro-Brazilian dance, with footwork never imagined by its inventors. Has it stopped being British? Not in the slightest. Association football cannot be separated from its British origins to be considered a Brazilian or Afro-Brazilian invention. What it is, in its current, triumphant expression, is an Anglo-Afro-Brazilian game’. (Gilberto Freyre, The British in Brazil, London, 2011, first published in Portuguese in 1954, p.13.)
Charles Miller was born in São Paulo to a Scottish father and a Brazilian mother whose surname, Fox, reveals her English origins. During his lifetime the population of São Paulo ballooned from around 100,000 in 1874 to well over 2 million in 1953. Most of those new citizens were migrants and their children. São Paulo and Brazil were remaking themselves. Football and music became central ways for Brazilians to express a new inclusive identity after the abolition of slavery (1888) and the establishment of a new republic to replace monarchy (1889).
The sense of Brazilian football leaving its British origins behind as it headed for global domination on and off the pitch, as suggested by Freyre, is why there is no statue or plaque to Miller in the city, not even in the Praça Charles Miller, the square at the front of the Pacembu stadium which houses the Museu do Futebol. Though he was born and died in Brazil, and lived almost his entire life in Brazil (the exception was his schooling in Hampshire, England) Miller’s legend is that of an immigrant, stepping off the ship in Santos to begin a new life. His ambiguous identity, floating between Scottish, British and Brazilianmight explain why his simple grave in the Cemeterio de Protestantes in São Paulo is so modest (a cross marked C.W.M, which the director of the cemetery asked me not to photograph, “out of respect”). The Museu Charles Miller, housed in the exclusive Clube Athletico Sao Paulo, and available to visit on appointment, contains old photographs, trophies and a letter from Pelé.
In Brazilian football historiography, “Charles Miller” has become a cipher for the elite, foreign origins of a game which was were subsequently embraced by the Brazilian povo (the people). Something similar is true of Alexander Watson Hutton for Argentina, a more conventional immigrant figure, a Scot who arrived in Buenos Aires as an adult and set about institutionalising and regulating the game of football through schools, teams and leagues. At the II Simpósio Internacional de Estudos Sobre Futebol that I attended in São Paulo last week, Miller was referenced by many of the researchers as a scene-setter to establish their credentials, his name alone enough to conjure images of moustachioed elite white men in blazers tapping a ball around.
At the Simposio, discussing museums and football with Richard McBrearty, director of the Scottish Football Museum, and Daniela Alfonsi, Diretora de Conteudo do Museu de Futebol, Kevin Moore, director of the [English] National Football Museum, noted that Miller’s story is ‘the very epitome of the multinational, global nature of the origins of football’. But they also pointed out that the origins of football were anything but a one man show. Hundreds of people played football in Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century, and historian José Moraes dos Santos Neto has argued pretty convincingly that football was being played in several places in Brazil before Miller’s much-heralded return from England. The ways in which Brazilians took on the game and made it their own is the subject of many wonderful books, including Alex Bellos’ Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life and David Goldblatt’s Futebol Nation: A Footballing History of Brazil. The importance of Charles Miller lies not in any individual greatness but in the way that his story has captured something of the essence of being Brazilian, and of the ways in which football was adopted, regulated, internationalised and embraced around the world.
Dr Matthew Brown is a reader in Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol, and specialises in the history of sports in South America. In particular, the history of the very first football teams to be established. He contributed the biographies of Charles Miller and Alexander Hutton to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s May update.
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Many hope, even count on, photography to function as an agent of social change. In his 1998 book, Photojournalism and Foreign Policy: Icons of Outrage in International Crises, communications scholar David Perlmutter argues, however, that while photographs “may stir controversy, accolades, and emotion,” they “achieve absolutely nothing.”
In my current research project, I examine the difficult question of what contribution photography has made to social change through an examination of images documenting events from the Central American civil wars — El Salvador and Nicaragua, more specifically — that circulated in the United States in the 1980s. Rather than measure the influence of these photographs in terms of narrowly conceived causal relationships concerning issues of policy, I argue that to understand what these images did and did not achieve, they need to be situated in terms of their broader social, political, and cultural effects — effects that varied according to the ever shifting relations of their ongoing reproduction and reception. Below are three platforms across which photographs from the wars in Central America circulated and recirculated in the United States in the 1980s.
(1) In the early 1980s, the US government adopted a dual policy of military support in Central America. In El Salvador, they provided aid against the guerilla forces or FMLN while in Nicaragua they backed the contra war against the Sandinistas. Many Americans learned and formulated opinions about these policies through photographs that circulated in the news media. The cover of the 22 March 1982 issue of Time, for instance, featured a photograph of a gunship flying over El Salvador. Taken by US photojournalist Harry Mattison, the editors at Time used the photograph as part of their cover story questioning the use by the US government of aerial reconnaissance photographs of military installations in Nicaragua to establish a causal link between the leftist insurgents in El Salvador and Communist governments worldwide.
(2) In addition to these reconnaissance photographs, the Reagan administration also turned to photography in an eight-page State Department white paper entitled Communist Interference in El Salvador, which was released to the American public on 23 February 1981. In this white paper, the US government included two sets of military intelligence photographs of captured weapons, which they believed would help them to further provide the American public with “irrefutable proof” of Communist involvement via Russia and Cuba in Central America, and thereby justify the escalation of US military and economic aid to the supposedly moderate Salvadoran government. The aforementioned article in Time also questioned the validity of the sources used in this document.
(3) While photography played a prominent role in debates over the existence of a communist threat in Central America, beginning in 1983, a number of artists and photographers — Harry Mattison, Susan Meiselas, Group Material, Marta Bautis, Mel Rosenthal, among others — put photographs from the Central American conflicts, some of which had circulated directly in the aforementioned contexts and others which had not, to a different use. Rather than employ photographs to perpetuate or even question the accuracy of communist aggression in the region, these artists and photographers instead used the medium to examine the imperialist underpinning of the Reagan administration’s foreign policy in Central America as well as the longstanding geopolitical and historical implications of US involvement there. To this end, they produced the following: the 1983 photography book and exhibition El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers, which was edited by Harry Mattison, Susan Meiselas, and Fae Rubenstein and toured various US cities in 1984 and 1985; Group Material’s 1984 multi-media installation Timeline: A Chronicle of US Intervention in Central and Latin America, on view at the P.S. Contemporary Art Center in Queens, New York, as part of the ad hoc protest organization Artists Call Against US Intervention in Central America; and the exhibition The Nicaragua Media Project that toured various US cities in 1984 and 1985. Together these three photography books and art exhibitions provided, what I call, a “living” history for photographs from the Central American civil wars.
In his 1978 essay “Uses of Photography” that was anthologized in his 1980 book About Looking, cultural critic John Berger argues that for photographs to “exist in time,” they need to be placed in the “context of experience, social experience, social memory.” Using Berger’s definition of a “living” history as a model, my research project offers a novel way to think about how, within the contexts of these exhibitions and books, photographs from the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua functioned as dynamic, even affective objects, whose mobility and mutability could empower contemporary viewers to look beyond the so-called communist threat in the region that was perpetuated through the Reagan administration as well as the news media and begin to think more carefully about past histories of US imperialism and global human oppression in Central America.
Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.
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This March we celebrate Women’s History Month, commemorating the lives, legacies, and contributions of women around the world. We’ve compiled a brief reading list that demonstrates the diversity of women’s lives and achievements.
Illuminate the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.
Reach back through women’s long history of labor, political activism, and contributions to — or even support of — family and community well-being.
Women’s history encompasses the history of humankind, including men, but approaches it from a woman‐centered perspective. It highlights women’s activities and ideas and asserts that their problems, issues, and accomplishments are just as central to the telling of the human story as are those of their brothers, husbands, and sons. It places the sociopolitical relations between the sexes, or gender, at the center of historical inquiry and questions female subordination.
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How can we outline the discussion on the law and practice of international arbitration? What is the legal process for the drafting of the arbitration agreements or the enforcement of arbitral awards? Long-time international arbitrators Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunters — co-authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition with Nigel Blackaby — sat down with the OUPblog to discuss the latest developments in their field. Watch the following videos to learn more about current views on international arbitration and what changes they expect to see in the future.
Nigel Blackaby, Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunter are the authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition. Nigel Blackaby is one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Washington, DC. Constantine Partasides is a one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London. Alan Redfern is the barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers in London. Martin Hunter is currently a barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers.
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After the judge’s ruling Monday in Guatemala City, the crowd outside erupted into cheers and set off fireworks. The unthinkable had happened: Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez had cleared the way for retired General Efraín Ríos Montt, who between 1982 and 1983 had overseen the darkest years of that nation’s 36-year long armed conflict, would stand trial for genocide. In that conflict (1960-1996), more than 150,000 Guatemalans died, the majority at the hands of their own government, which used their lives to prosecute a ferocious counterinsurgency war against a group of Marxist guerrillas who had hoped to bring a Sandinista-style socialist regime to Guatemala. For many, General Ríos Montt represented the face of this war, because it was during his short terms as president between March 1982 and August 1983 (he both came to power and was expelled in military coup d’états), that the Guatemalan army undertook the most bloody operation of the war, a violent scorched-earth campaign that not only nearly eliminated the guerrillas military operation, but which also killed many thousands of civilians, the vast majority of them Maya “Indians.” Now, some thirty years later, Ríos Montt will be prosecuted along with his former chief of intelligence, Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez, for genocide and crimes against humanity. Specifically, he will be charged with ordering the killings of more than 1,700 Maya Ixil people in a series of massacres that the Army conducted in the northern part of the country in 1982.
The axiom “justice delayed is justice denied” notwithstanding, the prosecution of fatally misguided leaders and despots such as Serbia’s Radovan Karadžić or Hutu leader Beatrice Munyenyezi is not unusual in the early 21st century. Trials such as these are designed to serve the cause of justice, of course, but they are also instrumental in helping a traumatized society create a coherent narrative and build a collective historical memory around what happened in its recent past. What is unusual about the case against Ríos Montt is that almost no one foresaw the day when such a trial would ever take place in Guatemala. In large part, this stems from Guatemala’s long-standing culture of impunity, where few people, from common criminals all the way up to corrupt businessmen and military officers, are held accountable for their crimes; generally speaking, the rule of law there simply does not rule. Beyond that, Ríos Montt’s continued influence in the country—among other things, he established and headed a powerful political party, the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco in the 1989, and he run an unsuccessful campaign for president as recently as 2003—further mitigated against expectations for his prosecution. His daughter, Zury Ríos Montt (who is married to former US Congressman Jerry Weller) is a rising and powerful young politician; her support for her father is so absolute that she stormed out of the courtroom yesterday before the judge could finalize his pronouncement. But most of all, the prosecution of Ríos Montt seemed most unlikely because, in the strange paradox of power that sometimes comes with authoritarian regimes, there were, and still continue to be, some Guatemalans who continue to respect him, remembering his bloody rule as a time when one could walk the streets of the capital safely and when the “raging wolves” of communism were kept at bay.
Adding to the complexity of this case is that fact that, at the time he served as chief of state in the early 1980s, (although called “President,” he did not actually hold this title, having taken power in a coup), Ríos Montt was a newly born again Christian, a member of a neo-Pentecostal denomination called the Church of the Word (Verbo). Fresh from the rush of his conversion, Ríos Montt addressed the nation weekly during his term of office, offering what people called his “Sunday sermons,”—discourses in which he drifted freely from topics ranging from his desire to defeat the “subversion,” to advice on wholesome family living, to his particular vision of a “New Guatemala” where all peoples would live together as one (a jab at the unassimilated Maya), in compliant obedience to a benign government that served the general good. Ríos Montt’s dream of a New Guatemala was in many ways as elusive as quicksilver, and in his sermons, he made no mention of the carnage going on in the countryside. The sacrifice of the Maya people and other “subversives” was not at all too high a price to pay, in his estimation, for the New Guatemala.
But the elegance, even the peaceability of his language, along with his strong affiliation with the Church of the Word (his closes advisors were church leaders, not his fellow generals) in that moment made Ríos Montt the darling of the emergent leaders of the Christian Right in the United States who were coming of age during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. For them, as for the Reagan administration, Ríos Montt seemed to have emerged out of nowhere from the turmoil of the Central American crisis of the early 1980s as an anti-communist Christian soldier and ally. It seemed unthinkable to them that the same man who, with one hand, reached out to called for honesty and familial devotion from his people, would order the killing of his own people with his other. And so it seems to some Guatemalans even today. Yet the strong and irrefutable body of evidence that produced yesterday’s ruling tells a very different, and much more tragic story.
On October 7 at 7:00pm, Children’s Book Press will be holding No Small Matter: A Fundraiser for Children’s Book Press at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission St., San Francisco). This event will honor Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for his work exploring the American identity, and Children’s Book Press founder Harriet Rohmer for her vision and legacy. Attendees will enjoy they dynamic artistry of Gregangelo & Velocity Circus, featuring whirling dervishes, contortionists and images taken from Children’s Book Press’ anthology, On My Block. The event will close with the swirling colors and pounding rhythms of Non Stop Bhangra, a dance troupe that combines traditional Punjabi folk music with hip hop, reggae, and electronica. Former California State Senator Art Torres will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Tickets are $70/person and can be purchased here.
Original Title: La Isla Bajo El Mar Release Date: January 1st, 2010, Latin America Publisher: Editorial Sudamericana, Latin America Age Group: Adult Categories: Slavery, Historical Fiction, Latin America Source: Bought Overall: 4 Monkeys Interest: Isabel Allende's Books Date Read: December 29th, '10 to January 4th, '11.
Summary from Goodreads:
Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité -known as Tété- is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tété finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves. When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint-Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride -but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave. Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.
Like every Allende novel, this book is rich in history and travels through the lives of a lot of characters.
It tells the story of Zarité -or Teté, as they called her- a slave in the French colony of Saint Domingue (now Haití). Teté is sold as a child to monsieur Toulouse Valmorain, fact which will mark her forever. She grows up in her master's plantation, Saint-Lazare, and, despite of being a domestic slave (she works in the house, as a housekeeper), she suffers a terrible life.
It's the 18th century, and slavery is something as common as the blue sky and a hot day in Saint Domingue. Slaves are just something more their masters own. Possessions. Teté will fight her whole life to protect her own, going through some very difficult challenges.
As always, Isabel's writing is excellent -the majority of the book is written in third person, and we get glimpses into Teté's mind in a few chapters written in her POV- and the story catches you until you finish it.
There'll be people who'll say this is a very long book, to the point of becoming tiresome, but to me, it's because they don't know how to appreciate Isabel's writing.
She's one of my favourite Latin authors, and I've read most of her work. Everything she's written is amazing.
The recent Cholera outbreak in Haiti reminds us that this is not simply a disease of the distant and unsanitary past. The current outbreak is both unique and typical. Caused by a disease that has a long and devastating history, this Haiti outbreak has much in common with the outbreaks of the nineteenth century and twentieth century. History helps us keep in mind five key factors:
The Role of Media Coverage in our awareness of cholera: In our current age, as well as in the past, the combination of rapidity and deadliness has made cholera epidemics into media events. In fact, much of the tragedy of global diarrheal disease happens beyond the public gaze. Vibrio cholerae accounts for only a small fraction of global diarrhea deaths. The microbe is widely distributed around the world. Most cholera cases are mild, often they will be unnoticed. Unfortunately these, and particularly those many diarrhea deaths, have become part of our normal.
Epidemiological Monroe Doctrinism: In the months preceding the Haiti outbreak there were outbreaks in Pakistan (following floods) and in parts of Africa. Western hemisphere outbreaks are news because they seem to threaten the sanitary sanctity of the U.S. Some reporters ask outright whether cholera will come to us; others hint. But how serious a problem cholera is conceived to be usually depends more on where the outbreaks are than how many are affected.
“Withering Othering”: This is a phrase I used in the book to indicate the ease, which came to prominence in the nineteenth century, with which we use presumed sanitary status to group human populations. Cholera epidemics are occasions for magnifying distance between a clean “we” and a dirty “they.” Cholera is rightly associated with poor sanitation, along with the host of social, economic, political, and cultural factors that contribute to its spread. But often, blaming unsanitary conditions is an excuse to lose sight of that bigger story. Haiti has often served as default abjectness for the western hemisphere. When something bad happens, we shrug and say “Well, it is Haiti.” Cholera reinforces that abject ahistorical identity. I have taught a bit of Haitian history, am an admirer and minor collector of Haitian art, but certainly no expert. But the historian’s business is to explain both the perception of abjectness and the complicated antecedents of this cholera. Earthquake destruction is part of that latter story, but diarrheal disease was high in Haiti even before that. Haiti is a poor country, with a difficult political past. All this is coming to bear tragically in a large number of individual lives.
Pretense of Order: As an outside observer, most of the information I get is though press conference statements. In these, whatever has happened and however many have just died, is equalized as grey fact. Nothing ruffles bureaucratic prose, well organized web-sites, or well-dressed spokespersons. Effective response, it seems, requires emotional control, and, somehow, an overlooking of tragedy. This is not new – historians of epidemics will have often been struck by the disparity between the chaos of mass disease and the need to project that those in charge have things in hand — but I was shocked to see it happening. The cholera riots in Haiti too are wholly typical – people in cholera-stricken cities have rioted throughout the world both in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Often, in various ways, the pretense of normal seems to be at the root of their anger.
Preparation and Distribution of Resources: Cholera’s status in
With all the ambitious international goals and targets that developing countries have committed to, from poverty reduction to universal education and access to health care, we’ve observed a not uncommon response by the governments: too strong a focus on the public image of the new programs, not strong enough a focus on making the programs truly accessible. Here’s an example to illustrate our point: On a daily basis, Mexicans are exposed to immeasurable social development propaganda from government agencies. The propaganda is unavoidable because these messages are disseminated via commercials on public transportation, highway billboards, TV and radio, and posters in the most rural communities. Some of the current hot topics of these campaigns are diabetes and childhood obesity, nonviolence toward women and anti-corruption laws.
“Vivir Mejor” (“Live Better”) is the federal government’s umbrella strategy behind many of these flashy ads, and its aim is to eliminate extreme poverty and promote sustainable human development throughout the country. The rainbow-colored logo is impossible to miss and is stamped on nearly everything the government is involved with. “Vivir Mejor” social development campaigns share with the public the services they are entitled to. A man that never got the chance to study when he was young is now completing his secondary education – and you can do the same, for free! A smiling woman is receiving free prenatal health care –and you can sign up for it as well, it’s simple! In addition, many of the “Vivir Mejor” campaigns encourage the public to exercise their rights. This involves procedures like signing up for government health insurance, filing a report in the case of sexual harassment, and requesting information from the government’s transparency portals.
Making people aware of their rights and the social programs they can benefit from is indispensable…in theory. How can these types of public campaigns possibly be inefficient? Why aren’t poor people in Mexico seeking health care or going back to school or reporting abuse of their basic human rights? The first problem is most obvious: there are incredible structural barriers to accessing social services in Mexico; widespread corruption and absurdly bureaucratic procedures prevent Mexicans from registering for social programs or filing reports when their rights are violated.
The second problem is less obvious, but its solution is essential for Mexico to achieve its development objectives: there is a severe lack of civic engagement in Mexico. The lack of participation in pubic affairs that this implies results in the absence of social action and citizen monitoring, as well as the underutilization of government programs. The unengaged citizen lacks psychological preparedness for accessing his or her rights and seeking opportunities for personal development. Some examples of psychosocial barriers to participatory citizenship include the internalization of feelings of inferiority, a lack of intrinsic incentive to bring about change, and insufficient communication and team work skills. All of these factors are directly related to what’s been labeled “low intensity citizenship” in Mexico (Ochoa Espejo).
The solution to the problems we mention lies in the development of an individual’s personal agency. In other words, she needs to feel empowered and entitled to make changes in her life. If social programs were designed to facilitate the acquisition of psychosocial tools like assertive communication, autonomous decision-making, and critical thinking in addition to classic welfare services, citizens would become participatory agents of change. Once engaged, the everyday citizen has an incredible pow
Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, photographed by Tim O’Meara, My Abuelita
Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009.
“I live with my grandma. And she lives with me. I call her Abuelita.” So begins this lively love-filled story of a boy and his grandmother going about their morning routine. Tony Johnston’s masterful language and Yuyi Morales’ trademark vibrant palette turn the most prosaic of daily events – getting ready for work – into a magical adventure. As Abuelita bends, stretches, baths, yodels, hums, eats, and packs, the reader turning pages with anticipation: what job could possibly require a scarf like a cloud that flows down to the ground, or a skeleton and plumed snake, or a temple and a crown of stars?
Children and adults alike will delight in discovering Abuelita’s job, even as they revel in unexpected joys and surprises sprinkled throughout the text and images. Johnston’s figurative language perfectly compliments Morales’ intricate, impish visuals, which defy any notions of grandparents as elderly or aging. Abuelita wakes up with the sun and is round “like a calabeza, a pumpkin,” with “hair the color of salt and a face crinkled like a dried chile.” After she takes her morning shower, she looks like a great big bee wrapped in her black and yellow towel, and when they sit to breakfast, she eats fried eggs that look like stars.
Each step in the morning routine flies off the page in this 2010 Pura Belpré Honor book. Award-winning illustrator Morales builds on her former success by introducing a new illustration technique, building and staging puppets and taking photographs of the scenes. With the help of Tim O’Meara, she finishes each illustration digitally, which gives the whimsical, exuberant images a three-dimensional quality akin to a Pixar film. Family love wafts from words and pictures alike, as the narrator assists his grandmother in each step of their familiar morning routine, and confides he wants to be like her when he grows up. Magical realism, traditional iconography, and sprinklings of Spanish all root this story in its Mexican context, while its themes of love, family, and dreams make it immediately and intimately familiar to all. A joyful tale for readers and non-readers alike, and an ideal read-aloud for teachers, families, and friends.
April 11, 1961 marked the beginning of the trial against Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. In the course of the trial, the world came face to face with the reality of the Holocaust or what the Nazis called the “final solution of the Jewish problem” – the killing of 6 million people. Newspapers around the world published thousands of articles about Eichmann and his role in the Holocaust. But what none of the international journalists touched upon was probably the most intriguing aspect of Eichmann’s story: the way in which he, the bureaucrat of the Holocaust, managed to escape justice soon after the war and flee to Argentina.
The prominent philosopher Hannah Arendt, who closely followed the trial in Israel, was one of those who wondered why Eichmann’s escape never attracted more international attention. In her famous book Eichmann in Jerusalem she wrote “the trial authorities, for various reasons, had decided not to admit any testimony covering the time after the close of the war.” It seems that there was a conscious effort to restrict the dissemination of information on how Eichmann managed to escape to Argentina. This part of his story was to remain largely a secret, which took historians more than fifty years to uncover.
We now know what the Israeli authorities kept hidden during the Eichmann trial: the involvement of Vatican circles, Western intelligence services, various governments and the International Committee of the Red Cross in the escape of Eichmann and thousands of other Nazis, war criminals, and Holocaust perpetrators. A picture has emerged that raises many uncomfortable questions. It is clear that the agencies involved knew exactly what they were doing, but were able to justify the decisions they made and the actions they took with the Cold War. After all, as the Third Reich lay in ruins, the only enemy left for the Western Powers was the communist Soviet Union. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, communism was a ‘godless, deadly enemy’, even worse than Nazism.
After laying low in Germany for several years, in 1950 Adolf Eichmann decided to immigrate to Argentina. He used a tried route through Italy, where he acquired a new identity as Riccardo Klement, a South Tyrolean from Bolzano, and a travel document from the Red Cross. In Italy he was helped by the Vatican Aid Commission for Refugees, in cooperation with a small group of catholic priests, former SS comrades and some Argentinean officials. The ease with which he reached Argentina was also the result of Western intelligence services, such as the CIA and the German BND, turning a blind eye to where Eichmann was hiding. Research suggests that they knew of his new identity as Riccardo Klement, but ignored the information. But why would the Israeli government be so careful not to reveal any of this during Eichmann’s trial? The true reasons are unclear, but it is possible that Israelis simply did not want to embarrass governments and institutions who were now their allies.
Riccardo Klement’s life on the run came to an abrupt end in May 1960, when he was kidnapped by Israeli government agents just outside of his home in Buenos Aires and taken to Jerusalem: “I, the undersigned, Adolf Eichmann, hereby declare out of my own free will that since now my true identity has been revealed, I see clearly that it is useless to try and escape judgment any longer.” Eichmann had to stand trial and in the process the world came to know the horrible details about the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, from their forced emigration to centrally- planned industrialized genocide. But the world had to wait 50 years longer to finally learn the truth about how some of the worst Holocaust perpetrators fled justice and who were the institutions helping them do it.
The 9th annual National Latino Writers Conference takes place May 19 – 21 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The conference is uniquely devoted to writing by and for Latinos and is a magnet for Latino writers whose work has often been neglected by major publishing houses. Nationally prominent authors, editors and agents will come together to present workshops, panels and participate in one-on-one consultations with participants. Children’s book author Monica Brown will teach two workshops on Writing for Children and Francisco Alarcón will be teaching El Poder de la Poesía: Poetry for Two Languages. While all workshops and panels are closed to the public, the May 19th poetry reading by Alurista in the Bank of America Theatre will be open and free to the public.
Yuyi’s most recent book is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng (Candlewick Press/Walker Books, 2011). It is the story of a little girl Suhaila whose wish that she could know her grandmother is granted one night, when a golden ladder appears with Grandma Annie, ready to take her up to the moon. Read more about the book on Yuyi’s website, and take a look at the first few pages here - gorgeous!
This is not the first time Yuyi has depicted a grandmother by any means – there is her rosy-cheeked Abuelita with hair “the color of salt” in the exuberant My Abuelita written by Tony Johnston, our current Book of the Month on the main PaperTigers website (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009). And there are her own picture books starring Señor Calavera – Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (Chronicle Books, 2003) and Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Alphabet Book (Roaring Brook Press, 2008): we are big fans of both of them in our household and love Señor Calavera’s website.
My white dress of crochet clusters like popcorn, mama made especially for me.
She also made the wings and a halo with antennas, and painted with powder my cheeks, and when I saw myself in the mirror I was a butterfly.
At school I fluttered like I was supposed to do, I ran in a circle and flapped my arms with my wings behind. But nobody looked at me.
Everybody was too busy watching the pretty white girl flap her transparent arms and shake her chamomile washed hair.
Even mama, her swollen eyes straight at me, was looking somewhere else.
Nobody cares to watch the brown that is me.
Just like nobody wants to play with a girl with baby shoes that fit the insole inside and hold my leg right so that some day I can have straight feet.
“Mama, those shoes with the golden buckle and the bow on top are so lovely,” I have been telling her every time we pass by the glass case of the shoe store.
But mama doesn’t say much anymore.
She must be tired of repeating what I already know. That I have to stick with these ugly baby shoes until… when? Until I am a grown up.
Clipity, clap, clipity, clap, went my shoes while we left school.
Pling, plong, pling, plong, went my mama’s eye tears while we walked down the street. To Grandpa Felix’s house.
He is my abuelo because mama told me so. But he doesn’t remember me.
I know it because the other day when our teacher took us to the park, and my grandpa was
This past May the Fundación Juan March in Madrid closed the survey exhibition Cold America: Geometric Abstraction in Latin America (1934-1973). The exhibition gathered over 300 works by more than 60 artists, taking as a point of departure two very specific return trips from Europe that offered a chronological structure to the show; Joaquín Torres-García’s return to Uruguay in 1934, and Jesús Rafael Soto’s return to Venezuela in 1973. The exhibition’s strength lies in showcasing a comprehensive visual tracing of the complex histories of geometric abstraction in Latin America in an European institution; a legacy grounded on the aesthetic language of the European constructivist project which, renewed and transformed, thrived throughout Latin America well into the 1960s and 1970s. The title of the show, Cold America, alludes to the tradition's rational and objective forms which revealed chromatic structures and experiments in a diverse array of mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography and architecture.[...]
According to the tradition accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, a fifty-five-year old Native American who had converted to Christianity was moving down Tepeyac Hill to a church in Mexico City to attend mass. Suddenly, he beheld a vision of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ and an iconic figure in the Catholic Church. She instructed him to tell the local bishop to build a shrine to her on the spot. The Native American, Juan Diego, hurried to the bishop to relate the story. The bishop was intrigued but unconvinced; he needed proof, he said. Three days after the first encounter, on December 12, 1531, Diego saw the vision again. Asking for a sign, Mary told him to gather roses and carry them in his cloak to the bishop. When Diego opened his cloak and the roses fell out, the image of the Virgin Mary was embedded in the fabric of the inside of the cloak. A shrine was built on the site, and later a basilica.
The account is not universally accepted. The bishop identified in the story did not reach office until three years after the visitation was said to take place, and his papers say nothing of the event nor of Juan Diego. Indeed, documentary evidence about the visitation comes from more than a century later. Nevertheless, since the 1550s, the site has been home to a shrine—one of many dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe across Mexico. The Virgin of Guadalupe was named the patron saint of Mexico and recently was named the patroness of all the Americas. She has long been a national symbol for Mexicans. Today, the basilica in Tepeyac Hill contains a cloth said to be the original cloak—and is a much-visited pilgrimage destination.
On January 26, 1500, Spanish sailor Vincente Yáñez Pinzón spotted land. He named the cape the Cabo de Santa María de la Consolación. The site was near modern-day Recife, Brazil, making Pinzón the first European to explore Brazil.
Pinzón was an accomplished navigator who had taken part in the famous 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus. Pinzón commanded the Niña while his brother Martín commanded the Pinta (a third brother, Francisco, was Martín’s chief officer on that ship). It was not until 1499, however, that Pinzón set out on a new expedition.
In November of that year, he sailed from Palos, Spain, reaching the South American coast by the next January. He spent several months exploring the coast, reaching as far north as the mouth of the Amazon River. Pinzón noticed that the color of the water had changed and, after sampling that differently color water, found it to be freshwater, and not saltwater. He named the body the Mar Dulce, or Sweetwater Sea, and using the strength of the outflowing current, he sailed for the West Indies before returning to Spain.
Records and maps from the Age of Exploration are not always clear or without controversy. Pinzón’s sighting of Brazil is subject to these uncertainties. Some historians think that he landed in Venezuela, not Brazil, and encountered the Orinoco River, not the Amazon. They believe that Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral—who certainly reached Brazil in April of 1500—was the first European to land there. At any rate, Portugal, not Spain, gained possession of Brazil and made it the cornerstone of its American empire.
On February 2, 1536, Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza founded the city he named Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire—Buenos Aires, Argentina. The new town was meant to spearhead the Spanish effort to colonize the interior of South America. It came less than two years after conquistadors had returned to Spain from Peru with treasures seized from the Inca empire.
Spain’s Charles I was spurred by the vast Inca wealth to seek further riches in South America. He also wanted to block any effort by Portugal to expand its foothold in Brazil. Accordingly, he commissioned Mendoza to mount an expedition to explore and settle the Río de la Plata, a vast estuary in southern South America that had been sighted back in 1516.
Mendoza set out in August 1535 in command of 800 to 1700 men (accounts vary) in around a dozen ships. The expedition — the largest sent from Spain to the Americas to date — was ill fated, however. A fierce storm blew the ships off course, and after regrouping Mendoza decided that one of his lieutenants was a rebel and had him executed. Troubles continued after the founding of Buenos Aires. At first the Spaniards received gifts of food from the indigenous locals but soon after fighting broke out between the two groups. That conflict cut off the chief source of food, and the Spaniards began to starve. Mendoza sent a lieutenant upriver in search of a friendlier site. He founded Asunción, now the capital of Paraguay.
Mendoza himself headed back to Spain in 1537. He was seriously ill — perhaps from syphilis — and died on the return trip. His settlement continued to struggle, and in 1541 the remaining colonists abandoned it, heading for Asunción. Not until 1580, when Juan de Garay returned to the scene, was a permanent Spanish presence established at Buenos Aires.
Fidel Castro arrives MATS Terminal, Washington, D.C. 15 April 1959.
Dressed in army fatigues and surrounded by supporters and reporters, 32-year old Fidel Castro took the oath of office as Cuba’s prime minister on February 16, 1959. He would remain in power for nearly fifty years.
In 1953, Castro had led an attack on a Cuban army barracks hoping to launch a revolt against the government of Fulgencio Batista. That attack failed and he was arrested and imprisoned, though later released in an amnesty of political prisoners. Castro and his brother Raúl formed a small rebel group and hid in Cuba’s eastern mountains as they gathered more supporters, trained them to fight, and connected with other anti-Batista groups. By late 1958, the rebel forces were advancing westward. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled the country and Castro entered Havana triumphant.
The initial provisional government included leaders from several rebel factions, not just Castro’s. At first, he refrained from taking any political power, although he was commander of the armed forces. In six weeks, though, the provisional prime minister—not a Castro ally—resigned, and he took the office.
During 1959, Castro supporters, including Raúl, filled more and more top-level positions. Meanwhile, hundreds of former Batista officials were tried and executed, and Castro began sending signals that he was a Communist. An exodus of thousands of Cubans began, some fearing for their lives because of links to Batista, others angered by Castro’s refusal to restore the 1940 constitution and hold promised elections. Cuban relations with the United States worsened when Castro seized the assets of several American companies and tilted toward the Soviet Union; they fractured when the U.S. government cancelled trade agreements and backed an invasion by anti-Castro Cubans, which failed miserably. By early 1962, Castro had announced that his revolution was socialist, and the United States had placed an embargo on trade with the island.
Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina
Children’s Book Press, 2011 (as of 2012 an imprint of Lee & Low Books).
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina is a perky bilingual tale about a mixed-heritage girl with a lot of spunk, by award-winning author Monica Brown (Waiting for the Biblioburro; Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People).
Inspired by the author’s personal experience as a Peruvian-American of European, Jewish and Amerindian descent, Marisol McDonald introduces us to a one-of-a-kind girl who defies stereotypes.
Stripes, polka dots and flower prints peacefully co-exist on Marisol’s outfit ensembles. In real life, however, her looks, clothes, playground games and food preferences seem to puzzle her friends, who love to say she “doesn’t match”.
Enchanting and quirky Marisol clearly marches to the beat of her own drums. And why wouldn’t she? After all, there’s nothing wrong with liking peanut butter & jelly burritos; wanting to play a game of soccer-pirates; or signing her first name in cursive and her last in print.
When a school friend challenges her, “Marisol, you couldn’t match if you wanted to!”, Marisol sets out to prove him wrong, dressing for school the next day in a single solid color, eating a “regular” peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch, playing a “normal” game of soccer… and feeling wrong all day long, until a thoughtful note from her teacher snaps her back to her old, cheerful, “mismatched” self.
Radiating joy and fun, Sara Palacios’ Pura Belpré Honor illustrations bring Marisol to life and convey the riches of her life and heritage. Children will enjoy looking for and finding clues in the pictures to all the different cultures, as well as to the story’s geographical—and very apt—setting.
Marisol’s lively story ends on a happy and sweet note, leaving readers with the important message that diversity is something to be embraced and celebrated.
Cynthia Weill, illustrated with folk art by Artisans from Oaxaca, Colores de la vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in English and Spanish
Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.
Hypnotic. The word is hypnotic. A deep green lizard with a jolting yellow band around its neck leaps off the light green page – literally. Green / verde. Two white polar bears curve into the even whiter page, fine black lines of their fearsome claws made bold by the painter’s brush. White / blanco. From full-color spread to full-color spread, Cynthia Weill uses hypnotic photographs of folk art figures from artisans from Oaxaca to illustrate the beauty, art, and vibrancy of the Colores de la vida, colors of life, in an unforgettable book as much about the wonder of the ways we can imagine the world around us as about names of colors.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading ABeCedarios (2007) or Opuestos (2009) will recognize the stylized, vibrantly-painted Oaxacan figures arranged in sets of twos and threes on each spread of marbleized papers in the same hues. Like her previous two books in the highly successful “First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art” series, Author Cynthia Weill brilliantly illustrates the theme of the book – colors – using folk art from other nations and culture. Using friendships formed and connections made during her time in Mexico as a Fullbright scholar, Weill employs artisans from across Oaxaca, both aspiring and well-known, to create the ceramic, tin, wood-carved and papier-mâché figures used.
Colores de la vida supplies minimal text, placing only a single word, the color name, printed in its namesake hue in English and Spanish. This lack of explanation or words, including what the animals actually are, reinforces the irresistible draw between viewer and animal figure. What are those extraordinary winged yellow figures heralding irrepressible glee as an egg hatches a third figure near them. A dragon? Another mythical figure? Each page captures a sense of wonder, of the vibrancy of color, the imagination of the artist, the name of the hue. Colors take life in this small picture book, perfect for small hands, in an astonishing pairing of visual intimacy and artistic joy that make this one of the most distinctive recent books on color – in English or otherwise.