Entries will include photographs, articles, inspirations, events, and more!
Join us for Economic Anthropology in Practice:
Sarah Hill, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Western Michigan University.
Date: March 22nd
Place: Sherman Function Hall
Dr. Alfonso Canella
Gerson Morales Cutzal
Latin American and Latino Studies is proud to announce our Jane’s Travel Grant Winter/Spring 2011/2012 Recipients:
Elise Allan, ‘12
“Investigating Ventures to Improve Alimentation: Measuring the affectivity of projects to improve the health of Guatemala’s rural, indigenous poor”
Bryce Davenport, PhD Anthropology
“Codices and Communities in the Mixteca Alta”
Emily Gelfman, MA Anthropology
“Modeling Pluralism, Modeling Discourse: The creation of a pluralistic Jewish space in Buenos Aires”
Hermann Hudde, MA Music
“The Untold Story about Latin American Music Composers at Tanglewood”
Donald Slater, PhD Anthropology
“Return to the Heart of the Turtle: Final Lab Analysis of Material Recovered by the Central Yucatan Archaeological Cave Project 2009-2011”
What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions.
Life is plurality, death is uniformity.
By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death.
The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us.
Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life
A few weeks ago I traveled to Mexico for a conference at the Colegio de Michoacán, a graduate school in social sciences located in the city of Zamora in the state of Michoacán. The conference brought together about fifty academics from Mexico, the US, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Spain, Denmark and Israel. One of the main topics covered was the shocking rise in drug-related (“narco”) violence over the past six years, resulting in the death of approximately 40,000 people, in shootouts, retaliation killings, kidnappings and massacres.
The proximate cause of the increasing violence is the policy that President Felipe Calderón began when he entered office in 2006 (Mexican presidents serve a six-year term with no re-election). Calderón came to office (in a highly contested and possibly fraudulent election) on a “law and order” platform. According to many, he disrupted the long-term arrangements between drug cartels and the government, mobilizing police and soldiers to take out the leaders of the various cartels in operation. Five years later, almost 40,000 people have been killed, many of them innocent bystanders, and there is no end in sight.
The conference touched on topics such as the role of the judiciary, testimonies of former cartel members, the use of video and other media in circulating horrific images of dead bodies, often dismembered or decapitated, the social critique expressed in the musical genre of “narcocorridos,” and many other topics. I, for one, was fascinated but also shocked and saddened during many of these presentations.
But, the sun was shining and the food was good, and the violence seemed comfortably distant. We finished the conference with a lively party in the Colegio’s courtyard, attended by all the staff and their families, with a live band, carnival games, tacos and pozole. We began the party by touring a selection of Day of the Dead altars constructed by the students. Each altar was made by a different student in the style of the region from which he or she came. The guided tour was introduced by a student wearing a three piece suit and made up as a zombie, just as you might see at a Halloween party in the states. Later we danced cumbia and watched a contest for the best kid’s costume, after which the infants were put to bed in strollers or nestled into Michoacán’s signature leather chairs, as their families continued to enjoy the evening.
We awoke cheerful (though tired) the next morning, when we heard that twenty people had been killed the day before in two Michoacán towns, one an hour away and the site of the Colegio’s other campus with the archaeology program. They had been killed in shootouts between the government and the narco. We never heard if any were bystanders.
On the way back to the airport that morning, we drove through a seemingly peaceful landscape of agave fields (used to make tequila), cow pastures, and white buildings painted with the ubiquitous red and green, blue or yellow murals promoting candidates from the three main political parties. As we passed the road that led to La Piedad, where ten people had died the day before, my friend and I got into conversation with the taxi driver. He told us that La Piedad was “muy caliente” (very hot, or dangerous) and that the taxi dispatchers no longer sent cars there. In the past few months four taxi drivers had been killed by the two narco groups “Los Templarios” (The Templars) and “Los Zetas” (The Zs) who are fighting for control of Michoacán, on suspicion of acting as messengers. One of the drivers was a teenager, the dispatcher’s nephew, maybe working in his first real job. He was found without hands. The taxi driver told us, “I kiss my wife and my children every time I leave the house, and if I’m annoyed with her, I won’t leave until we make up. Because I never know if I will come back safe again.”
Collective responses to this situation have been difficult, on account of fear and also a lack of clarity of exactly who and what is to blame – who or what to organize against. But in recent months Mexicans have come together more and more to demand accountability and viable solutions. The poet and essayist Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed earlier this year, has brought together the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, that has galvanized people into action and protest, sponsoring meetings and demonstrations around the country calling for an end to the violence, not only by the narcotraffickers, but also the arrests, disappearances and “enhanced interrogation” techniques of the government. On Monday, October 31, the Movement sponsored a Day of the Dead altar at Mexico City’s monument of the Angel of Independence, where hundreds brought candles in honor of the fallen - see Alma Guillermoprieto’s New York Review blog posting: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/nov/02/day-of-the-dead/. With the presidential elections coming in the summer 2012, some hope is blossoming for an end to this grisly chapter of Mexico’s history.