WWW: BBC’s Afrocubism and Music of the African Diaspora in Cuba

ibrahim ferrerTake an audio-visual tour of music of the African diaspora in the Latin Caribbean on BBC’s Afrocubism.  This site offers sixteen incredible tracks from the album of the same title, Afrocubism, a project-album that involves a collaboration between Cuban and Malian musicians, representing the centuries-old connection between Western African and Latin Caribbean culture.  Once the Atlantic slave trade began, cultural traditions, languages, social structures and cosmological conceptions from the regions of western Africa were supplanted onto the islands of the Caribbean Sea, which up to that point had been inhabited by a plethora of Amerindian peoples, including the Taino and the Carib.

African traditions and languages, however, did not arrive alone; the entrance of European culture was equal in magnitude to that of West Africans, however the European influence took on a distinct aspect being that the colonial powers were systematically and institutionally advancing their languages, religions and cultural traditions, while those of the Africans were left alone, at best, and actively squashed by colonial authorizes at worst.  Out of this violent confluence of cultures and historical narratives, however, emerged new forms of identity, new forms of art and music that reflected this distinctive mix for the generations of Afrolatino Caribbean communities that followed.  On the island of Cuba, this has been exceptionally evident, as Havana and the Cuban hinterlands have been the source of so many world-famous movements in music and dance throughout the 20th century.  For a more regionally nuanced view, see this absolutely incredible resource on NPR’s Africa Boogaloo. Continue reading

WWW: Pelo Malo and Venezuelan Pop Music from the 70s

pelo malo juniorThis week we have an amazing film resource from Venezuela, 2013’s internationally-acclaimed Bad Hair (“Pelo Malo”). Writer/Director Mariana Rondón brings us this incredibly poignant story about a young boy named Junior who is obsessed with straightening his thick, curly hair, an obsession that drives his mother into a panic over her son’s masculinity.

Earlier this week, ¡Mira, Look! featured Laura Lacámara’s phenomenal book, Dalia’s Wondrous Hair (El cabello maravilloso de Dalia), a book that shares so many amazing similarities with today’s film, Bad Hair.  Firstly, and most obvious, they both deal with a child’s mix of struggle and enjoyment in learning to deal with their hair.  Both of the writers are women who come from Latin American countries with Caribbean coastline and strong Afrolatino cultures.  And, in the end, they both deal with love – love of community, love of family and love of self. That being said, let’s dive into some of the most salient points of Bad Hair, a film that will have you laughing and crying, and will surely leave you wanting to know more about life in Caracas, Venezuelan history, but mostly, it will leave you with a particular song stuck in your head.

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WWW: Human Rights and Indigenous Language in Iberia (Northern Spain)

Street Signs in Pais VascoContinuing with this month’s theme of human rights and indigenous language, I’d like to turn to an article that came out last month in Aljazeera’s America section, under the topic of Indigenous PeoplesThis opinion article entitled “Capitalism, colonialism and nationalism are language killers” highlights the growth of the world’s largest corporate cooperative: Mondragon. Mondragon is a federative organization where all of its member enterprises are equally responsible in the ownership and management of the organization.  The cooperative is made up of hundreds of enterprises that undertake alternative forms of capitalism, with more respect for human rights. Mondragon today encompasses 74,000 workers, and over $16 Billion in annual revenue.

But why is this featured for today’s article? And why would it be important for a class lesson on Latin American indigenous language?  Mondragon began in the 1950s as movement to revive an endangered indigenous language and culture: Basque.  Today the Basque region (in Spanish called Pais Vasco) is a semi-autonomous state, or an “autonomous community” in northern Spain, comprised of flourishing city centers such as Bilbao, as well as famously gorgeous country sides and a border with France in the east.  The story of Mondragon, named after the Basque town of Mondragón, is important for us not only because it highlights the Iberian peninsula as a place where indigenous language exists in Latin America, but also reveals a narrative in which movements to protect endangered languages are not futile or simply out of fashion or for hobbyists, but rather they are movements that are well-integrated into socioeconomic movements to protect and promote fair trade practices, human rights, and a basic respect for pluralism within nationalistic environments.  Ultimately, it can be debated whether or not one should classify the Euskara language as ‘indigenous’, but either way the debate itself highlights the problematic ways in which labels and conceptions of nationalism convolute our ability to see past ethnicity and socioeconomic class.

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WWW: Enduring Voices of Latin America

enduring voicesEnduring Voices is a National Geographic expedition of linguists and photographers whose mission is to document the world’s endangered and/or disappearing languages.  As we all know well, regions throughout Latin America are “hotspots” for indigenous languages, spoken since before the time of European arrival, preserved and often modernized throughout the colonial and postcolonial periods, despite intense cultural, political and economic pressures to learn Spanish, Portuguese or English.  This is a beautiful site to explore, with a ton of information about each language and a page design that is very easy to navigate.

In the photos and videos section, you can see several photo galleries including a couple of languages on our list.  Under ‘talking dictionaries’, there are audio clips for students to hear the languages aloud and see photos related to the words’ meanings.   If the students have access to a computer, or the teacher can lead them on one, here is an activity you can have the students do, or pieces of it can be explored as a class group:

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WWW: Food, Fashion and “Fridamania”

Homage to Frida by GemdiazFor our last post for the holidays, I’d like to turn to a familiar character in Mexican popular culture and history: Frida.  But, instead of looking at her art or pondering her tempestuous marriage with Diego Rivera, her wild affairs (including Leon Trotsky and Josephine Baker), and her tragic bus accident, I’d like to look at Frida in a different light – food, fashion and fame.

Until the 1990s, Frida’s artwork was relatively unknown outside of the Mexico City art world; however, her style of entertaining and cooking was renowned to anyone who was a guest at the Casa Azul.  Just like her trademark Oaxacan style of dress, her way with food, especially celebratory and holiday dishes, were essential parts of her artistic character, as central to her paintings as the brushes themselves.  The vibrant colors of southern Mexico’s textiles, the fragrant stew of Oaxacan mole, and the Spanish copla music were all a part of her world, and the world she inspired for others.  Below you’ll find a couple of Frida’s recipes from The Latin Kitchen perfect for the winter holidays.

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WWW: Latin American Art in the White-Walled Galleries of Google Museums

Alexis Leyva MachadoIn the past, we have seen that corporate wealth and a love for the arts and antiquities have come together to establish some of our most preeminent cultural institutions.  We can look at the Rockefellers and the Museum of Modern Art, J.P. Morgan and the Museum of Metropolitan Art, the Guggenheims, Carnegie Hall, and the list goes on.  But we could also look all the way back to the Babylonian Princess Ennigaldi-Nanna, who in the 6th century B.C. established a museum of artifacts in order to promote the cultural heritage of her wealthy and powerful empire.  The rise of wealth and power is often coupled with the desire to collect and promote the cultural artifacts of its past.  Therefore, it is no surprise that the internet giant Google has created the Google Cultural Institute, a digital collection of pristine visuals from the interiors of the world’s most celebrated museum galleries and exhibitions.  It truly is a world tour through art from the seat of your chair, and part of its Art Project takes us to the incredible Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Los Angeles.

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En la Clase: More Resources for Teaching Las Posadas

LuminariasLast week’s En la Clase shared a number of children’s books and ideas for how to teach about Las Posadas.  There were so many resources that I just couldn’t fit them all into one post, so today I’m sharing some other online resources and art activities that you can use to complement any of last week’s literature. Continue reading