Friday, February 27, 2009
I remember some years ago I received some email jokes about the 9/11 attacks -sent to me by other Americans actually- and I forwarded them to close friends, not thinking about the consequences of having the NY and DC cityscapes filled with mesquites. Even today I remember my folks reactions.
But what can justify sending racist jokes with the title title "No Easter egg hunt this year" -you know implying that our first Black president eats watermelons like the stereotype has it- and doing it by using an official email address as a city Mayor. WTF
Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose -photo taken from his own website- thought the joke was funny and sent it to one of his volunteers who happened to be Black and who forwarded it to the media.
Grose will resign by Monday, in a city where 73% of the population is white and only 9% are black. At least Grose had the decency to admit his fault and leave.
On the contrary, The NY Post hasn't fired Sean Delonas, the guy who posted a racist cartoon showing a dead chimpanzee implying Obama's stimulus bill. Even if Rudolph Murdoch has apologized, the author is still working for that trashy newspaper.
Last week I was at an event with Afro descendants of Latin America, held in Washington, DC. I met a lady from Virginia who told me her experience at an "international market" when she saw a product made in Peru -where I was born- and she felt offended by the image representing a black woman as a colonial servant.
In the past, images that made fun of racial minorities and oppressed groups used to be funny and widely accepted. It was Ok. back then to mock people who otherwise have not access to equal rights. How far have we come!
As more people in the world gets to understand the value of diversity and the importance of equality among all cultures, we must educate ourselves about how other people feel when it comes to jokes or representations that involve themselves and/or their cultures.
If I had thought for a second that my friends would get offended by the religious joke I emailed them, I wouldn't have never shared it.
Take your time and check your messages before you click the send buttom. Think about how you would feel if you was in their position reading those messages.
As a matter of fact, why don't you stop sending silly jokes over the internet, and get to work or do something useful for once.
About 12 thousand students from all over the US are meeting in Washington, DC for the Power Shift '09, a youth workshop conference on climate change. This summit is intended to promote college students to take action and demand US policy makers and elected officials to rebuild the economy of the nation while changing the entire climate and energy policy.
- "The four day summit will feature speakers such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Donna Edwards and Ed Markey, Van Jones, Dr James Hansen, and special musical performances by The Roots and Santigold [...] We WILL ensure a clean energy future for the United States, and we want you to make it happen with us.
There will be seminars, panels, and workshops, a green career fair, legislative briefings and activist trainings, state-focused break-out sessions and a March 2 Lobby Day, where thousands will flood the halls of Congress to lobby our representatives."
The killers are members of a larger gang targeting Indigenous peoples from Latin America, as a result of a generalized anti immigrant campaign including anti immigrant legislation promoted by the County's Executive.
The teenagers are currently being prosecuted.
I spoke to Omar Henriquez, an advocate consultant on immigration issues who resides in Long Island and who has been involved in this case, during his recent visit to Washington, DC.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
- WASHINGTON (AP) - The people of District of Columbia would get the vote in Congress the Founding Fathers denied them under legislation the Senate has approved.
The Senate legislation would give the district a vote in the House of Representatives. The bill offsets what is certain to be a gain for Democrats by adding one seat in Republican-leaning Utah.
The House is to take up the measure next week and is expected to pass it easily. More difficult could be a certain court challenge from opponents who say it is unconstitutional to give a vote to the nation's capital because it is not a state.
I guess this one won't not be necessary anymore:
Latino Media Collective
7:00 to 8:00 PM
President Barack Obama promised during his campaign that he would change the US policies towards Cuba. Currently, there are bipartisan Congressional initiatives that intend to lift the ban on travel and money transfer to Cuba. According to recent polls mentioned at the House Subcommittee of Western Hemisphere, about 55 percent of Cuban Americans support the end of such ban and a change of the foreign policy towards Cuba.
If you want to help, please call your Congress member and tell them you support the H.R. 874 Delahunt-Flake bill "to allow travel between the United States and Cuba". To co-sponsor H.R. 874 contact Cliff Stammerman at Rep. Delahunt's office, or Chandler Moore at Rep. Flake's office.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Last Monday February 23, House members Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to his fellow House Representatives requesting their support for a letter to President Obama requesting his support of free and transparent elections in El Salvador.
“We call upon all U.S. government officials and Members of Congress to refrain from any attempt, at any point during the campaign, to influence the decision of Salvadoran voters.” says the letter sent by Grijalva and Kaptur.
The letter to be sent to President Obama “emerges in light of efforts by the ruling party, ARENA, to manipulate the official foreign policy of the United States toward El Salvador for partisan ends.” states a press release sent by the organizers.
Salvadoran Americans take a stand
Mario Fuentes, general director of the Salvadoran American National Association (SANA), stated yesterday that, “The latest elections in the United States have demonstrated the profound hope for change in America, and the same desire for change has been expressed by 80 percent of the Salvadoran people.”
In the past, the US government has participated actively in El Salvador politics, especially during the Bush administration. For instance, US State Department officials and members of the American embassy have warned Salvadorans that a victory of a leftist party would damage diplomatic ties with the US, and cause problems to Salvadoran immigrants, including deportations and a blockade on remittances to the country.
Yesterday, as I spoke to a young Salvadoran American leader lobbying at the Congress and she told me: "My parents left El Salvador because of the ARENA failed policies. I was born in the US but I want to help building a better country for all Salvadoreños."
If you want to help, contact your Congress member or send a letter to President Obama asking them to please stand for Salvadorans and their right of living in a fair nation in peace.
El Salvador is a country of hard working and family oriented people, where foreign political interests have otherwise divided and caused hatred, and is a country that deserves a better future.
The latter is a former US president who illegally financed a 12-year civil war in El Salvador that caused the death of over 75 thousand people, and assured power for the ruling right-wing military and civil coalition that controls that Central American nation until today.
Art by Leo Samayoa
In about 20 days from today, a leftist party is expected to win elections in a country where its progressive and hard working population is still deeply divided by politics and social violence, and that has become the most violent in the hemisphere, plagued by gangs and drug trafficking.
Presidential elections in El Salvador will be held on March 15, 2009 and the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN party is the favorite as recent polls show a 11 points margin over ruling right-wing ARENA. The FMLN used to be a guerrilla group but they joined civil society after the peace accords signed in Mexico City in 1992.
FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes is a very popular and charismatic radio host and journalist, who is running in a platform of unity and peaceful transformation of a country that has become the most violent of the hemisphere. Funes has traveled constantly to the US and has met with Congress members and elected officials to show his commitment to guarantee a friendly and respectful relationship between both nations.
El Salvador shares strong ties to the United States as a political ally in the region. About 25% of Salvadorans live in the US, and the country’s economy is supported mainly by their remittances. Many say the country is run by 14 families, who live mostly in the US but control the land, economics and politics in that beautiful country.
Since the free trade agreement CAFTA was signed in 2005, it has caused negative effects in the Salvadoran rural population, increasing the undocumented migration towards the US, among other social problems. The current Labor Secretary Hilda Solis opposed CAFTA.
This is a historical possibility of change in El Salvador that many don’t want to see it happening. Many say that El Salvador is controlled by 14 families who own most of the land, and run the economy and politics and most of them live in the US. Based on what happened in recent municipal and legislative elections, there is a chance the right-wing political groups might orchestrate an electoral fraud.
The Organization of American States has released a report of the recent Legislative and Municipal elections of January 18, recommending that authorities must prevent any risk of violence in poll stations, noting that they were overcrowded and political groups trying to convince voters in line. Also, there were cases of citizens from Honduras and Nicaragua brought to El Salvador by the ruling party to vote against the FMLN, and rumors are talking about money offers to voter that support ARENA.
Meanwhile, FMLN activists in the US and El Salvador are working hard to assure that elections are conducted in a fair and transparent way, see my next post for more details.
Mauricio Funes arrives to a football game in San Salvador
Photos from DC Wire:
Photo by Doxie McCoy - Washington Post
DC Mayor Fenty said:
- "This vote was an encouraging first step in the passage of the DC Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Senate and I hope that the vote on final passage will follow suit. We are extremely pleased that the issue of DC voting rights is finally getting a full and fair hearing by the Congress and I look forward to the House of Representatives taking up its important companion legislation quickly to bring the District yet another step closer to full representation.
The full bill might be passed today in Congress before it's send to President Obama.
Monday, February 23, 2009
All of those bad news mean nothing to a group of courageous and hopeful neighbors in DC, who have organized themselves in order to buy the building they rent for years, located in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, DC.
The tenants of 1111 Columbia Rd NW have created the Tenants United for Dignity and Justice for All Tenants Association, with the support and advice from community leaders of the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) a non-profit with a special program intended to help prospect buyers to make a wise investment in their first home.
In order to collect necessary funds the TUDJATA has organized several fundraising events, including two successful Tenants Talent Shows. Here is a glance of what happened last weekend at one of those events:
Keeping DC a diverse and affordable place to live
In the last few years Washington, DC has seeing an increasing process of urban gentrification, which has brought fancy condo buildings and department stores to devastates neighbors like Columbia Heights for example, but that has also pushed working-class neighbors out because of an increasing cost of living.
Several property owners have even tried to take more advantage of this "housing boom" in the District, by neglecting their apartment buildings -or even setting them in fire?- so neighbors would leave on their own, hoping to convert them into expensive condominiums.
For those of us who live in DC, we can say that gentrification has caused a favorable impact to the eye of the visitors and rich newcomers to the area. But so many of us have faced the harsh reality of not being able to pay for a place to live. I know cases of people being evicted and becoming homeless, or forced to move to dangerous and distant areas of the metropolitan area.
It's been an impressive urban beautification program that has left the DC tenants as its last priority, while attracting necessary investment to the area regulators forgot about to most vulnerable.
The DC government has done its part to help tenants, however there seem to be some contradictions. The DC Council created for instance a special Office of the Tenants Rights Advocate, which has helped neighbors in times of crisis and has organized also advocacy training classes.
Still, many believe the city is not doing enough, or is even doing wrong: a group of homeless people are suing Mayor Fenty after he order to close the only DC downtown shelter, with promises of relocating over 300 men into free housing which turned out to be distant, unsafe and unsanitary for many of them.
The LEDC team believe that there should be another way to face the housing crisis in DC. For instance, current tenants should have the first priority when landlords want to sell, and they should organize collectively to buy. Also, the DC government should enforce and pass legislation, so housing inspections are first executed before any further action of sale or rent increase are taken. Meanwhile, several tenant meetings have been held to organize tenants and inform them of their rights.
This valuable effort made by the young activists of the LEDC team, ought to be praised. These organizers are assisting and working along DC neighbors, so they can preserve affordable housing. Many of the LEDC team were born and raised in DC or other big urban areas, and they believe that everyone can pitch in to build a better community, perhaps because they have seeing that happening in their own lives.
What kind of city is DC going to be? That depends on everyone who lives and works in this unique place. We can either let others design the spaces we call home -not just your tiny box with windows- or we can participate actively and make sure this urban center reflects the interests of everyone living here.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Who can deny the common roots and cultural similarities among Native peoples of the Americas and Black populations?
"Africa too is our homeland" was the title of an event honoring Black History Month, organized by Fiesta DC and hosted at Carlos Rosario International School, in Washington, DC.
This video shows part of that cultural program held on Friday February 20. I spoke to some people attending the event, and also recorded part of the live performances by Panamanian Rhythms & Dances Group, and my friends from Mamauca Afro Peruvian dance group.
As people we have coexisted for centuries (long before the European contact) and our cultures are the summary of common elements, and a blend of Black and Brown traditions. It is ridiculous when sometimes our culture and racial origins are labeled as Latinos or Hispanic in the US, denying the true main heritages of our peoples.
For more info about about this and other events organized by Fiesta DC, check their annual calendar here.
Yesterday Saturday February 22, the Metropolitan Washington Gaymes Inc. and Team DC co-organized a Community Rally to promote the DC bid. The succesful event brought together about 300 hundred people, and it was held at the Kennedy Recreation Center on 7th Street & O Streets NW.
The ceremony was hosted by Vince Micone, president of MWG and by Brent Minor, president of Team DC, and there were four DC Council Members showing their support: David Catania, Jack Evans, Jim Graham, and Harry Thomas Jr. who presented together a special DC Council Resolution.
Last October 28, 2008 the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) announced the final candidates trying to host the 2014 Gay Games: Washington, DC made the short list that also includes Boston, Cleveland and Miami.
In order to achieve this bid, LGBT sports enthusiasts in DC have created the Metropolitan Washington Gaymes Inc. (MWG) a non profit especially founded to bring the world's biggest gay sports event to the capital city.
I went to the event with my friend, because I wanted to take some photos. When I got in there I filled a form for a raffle -and I told a nice lady "make sure I win"... and seems like she did, because I ended up winning the main prize of the event: a free registration to the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.
Photo by M.V. Jantzen
This prize caught me off guard, and I was very nervous but I managed to grab the mike and tell Brent Minor (Team DC) how to pronounce my "weird" last name correctly. Ha!
The prize is worth about 100 Euros (or $125 dollars), which includes tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies and free Metro transportation during the games.
Thanks so much!
If anyone wants to get involved on helping the success of this bid, or to enroll in one of several LGBT sports teams in the DC area, visit the Team DC website.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This cultural program that promises to be very rich and insightful, will be held tomorrow Friday February 20 at Carlos Rosario International Charter School from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM. There will be special reports on the reality of African descendants of the Americas today.
The program will be hosted by Jerry Phillips and Adrian Valdivia, and will begin with remarks by Roland Roebuck, the Program Coordinator; Rodrigo Leiva, Chairman of Fiesta DC; and Mercedes Lemp, from the DC government.
Following there will be music and dance live performances in this order: Panama Folklorico Group, my friends of Afro Peruvian Group Mamauca and Afro Colombian Group Tangare, along with Veny Varela and his Orchestra from Colombia.
DC Council members Kwame Brown and Jim Graham have been invited.
The program also includes special awards for individuals "who have advanced in the interests of Afro descendants" including Aisha Brown from Afro Descendientes, community leader Oswald Cameron, James Early the Director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Smithsonian Institution; and Judith Morrison from the Inter American Foundation.
I'm surprised to read that also Humberto Garces, someone working with a corrupted institution -where I used to volunteer- will be awarded. I am curious on why.
Finally there will be a special report from
(*) WOLA is not supporting this event.
Celebrating Black History Month
Friday February 20, 2009
6:00 to 11:00 PM
Carlos Rosario Int. Charter School
1100 Harvard Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Metro: Columbia Heights (Green Line)
View Larger Map
Here are some videos I made of some of the participating groups:
Afro Colombian Tangare
Afro Peruvian Mamauca
Grupo Folklorico Panama
Of course, don't forget that tomorrow also there is a wonderful Tenants Talent Show, which goes from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. I will try to attend both events.
|Photo by Michael Starghill|
Swimming in Washington DC
Washington, DC, has several swimming pools, public and private. The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) operates 7 indoor public pools which are open all year long, and 19 outdoor pools that open mostly in summer, and 6 children pools.
All DC residents can use those aquatic facilities for FREE, although some of the pools may be closed periodically depending on the time of the year. All the indoor pools have lifeguards permanently, the facilities are clean, well kept, beautifully built and easy to access by Metro train and bus.
The DPR has its own youth swiming team club: the DC Wave. This is great news for those who can't afford a private gym or pool, and anyone living in the District. For more information check out the DC Department of Parks & Recreation.
If you live outside of the District in the DMV metropolitan area, here are some locations of swimming facilities.
The 23rd Black History Invitational Swim Meet
The Black History Invitational Swim Meet is "the premier minority swim competition in the United States and in the World" and is been organized since 1987 by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation and the United Black Fund, Inc, honoring Black History Month and the event is open for children of all races.
The 23rd Annual BHI Swim Meet was held in February 13-15, 2009 at the Takoma Acuatic Center, in Washington, DC. This was a very successful and exciting event, there were anxious parents and coaches guiding and rooting for over 900 young swimmers ages 5 to 18 years old.
During this event I met Olympic medalist Cullen Jones [see video here]. Cullen seems to be a good person and he has become a role model for young swimmers. Few years ago when he was 14 years old, Jones placed last at the DC BHI Swim Meet, but he is now one of the best swimmers in the world.
23rd Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet - See the results of this event hereThanks to everyone who helped me recording this competition, congratulations to all the participant swimmers, parents, coaches and organizers of this event. All of you are winners!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This Catholic church is run by the Franciscan Capuchin order, and is located at the corner of 16th Street NW and Park Road NW, in Columbia Heights. It was built in 1922 -read its fascinating history here- and I took these photos because I liked its huge monumental spaces, the expressions of people, the colors and diverse shapes and sounds, and of course its beautiful Byzantine Romanesque architecture style.
It was a magical night, I enjoyed seeing families together, people smiling, members of the youth ministry presenting a live representation of the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and I enjoyed the sermon given by father Stephen Carter -who is a Washingtonian born and raised- in perfect Salvadorean Spanish.
Most of the people attending were Native Americans and Blacks from Mexico, El Salvador and other parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Even though I'm agnostic, I respect religions and I especially I value the contributions of some churches and parishes, that work in behalf of their communities. This church is one example, and you can check its information here.
Oh the song in the video is called Gracias a la Vida [Thanks to Life] by Chilean poet Violeta Parra, and sang by Peruvian diva Tania Libertad.
A community meeting has been organized in the area where Jose Sanchez was killed in Columbia Heights, last January 30. One of the organizers -including the Mid 14th Street Business Association- told me that they will address problems of "safety, alcoholism, 911 response, homelessness and crime in the area".
This Friday, February 20th, 2009
7:00 to 10:00 PM
$10-20 donation requested
Trinity AME Zion Church
3505 16th St NW (at the corner of Oak St NW).
The entrance is on Oak St.
Washington, DC 20010
View Larger Map
There will be delicious food and great performers. The line-up includes: Gospel music, Tango, Son Jarocho Mexican music, Hip Hop, a Magic Act, and a Puppet Show performed by kids from the apartment building!
The event is a fundraiser for the "Tenants United for Dignity and Justice for All" tenants association, from a 40-unit apartment building on Columbia Rd NW. The tenants are currently working to buy their building, fix it up, and turn it into an affordable co-op. They are mostly low income families who, with support from the city and neighboring community, now have the opportunity to become owners of their building. The money raised at the Tenant Talent Show will help the tenants in their efforts to purchase the building.
Come and enjoy food, music and talent from around the world! This will be a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and to build community!
For more information, contact:
Daniel del Pielago: (202)-588-5102, ext. 7418
"The exhibition showcases new talent as the artists reveal the city through the eyes of the people who live and work in the DC area. The show is community-based and works are affordably priced to develop the next generation of arts patrons." says Gallery at Flashpoint, the host of the exhibit.
"Music by DJ Ten, Fewsion Media and sound provided by Hedrush Music. Emerging collectors are invited to join us for Emerge Exposed, March 3, 7 - 9 pm featuring a panel of experts sharing tips and ideas on how to begin collecting art. Co-hosted by DCist, Cultural Development Corporation and the Pink Line Project.
Check out the winners on DCist"
Friday, February 20, 5-9pm
February 20 - March 7, 2009
Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 6pm or by appointment
Gallery at Flashpoint
t. 202.315.1310 | f. 202.315.1303
The Gallery at Flashpoint is sponsored by the Abrams Family Foundation, Tim Hyde and other generous sponsors. Hotel Helix is Flashpoint's 2008-2009 Hotel Partner. Barefoot Wine is Flashpoint's 2008-2009 Wine Partner.
Gallery at Flashpoint · 916 G Street, NW · Washington, DC 20001
Film “The Milk of Sorrow” is Offensive and Racist to the Indigenous peoples and Victims of Violence in Peru
This film has been nominated by the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the category Best Foreign Language Film representing Peru. But the movie was produced by the Spanish government and two Spanish private companies; and financed by a German film festival and a Swiss film fund, along with the small contribution og Peru’s government film agency
Although the film is based on true stories of rape, violence and negative effects that the civil war of Peru caused to many Andean women, but unfortunately it presents our Indigenous communities in offensive, distorted and insulting ways. This is the result of a racist approach of director Claudia Llosa, a white woman of Italian and Spanish ancestry, who based the film of a book written by a U.S. scholar.
The Milk of Sorrow does not include the voices of Indigenous peoples of Peru, especially women, who represent most of the victims of last century’s civil war, and who are victims of a vicious racist discrimination and violence in today’s Peruvian society.
The movie was titled originally as La Teta Asustada but it was translated differently into English. Its name translates as The Scared Tit or The Frightened Breast, and is the story of Fausta (Magaly Solier), an Indigenous woman from the Ayacucho region who suffers of a psychological disorder, as a result of the violence that she and her community faced during Peru's civil war (1980 - ), including the rape and eventual death of her mother. She believes that her mother’s breast milk was poisoned by the violence she witnessed, so in order to avoid the same fate, she places a potato in her vagina.
Director Claudia Llosa based her film on the stories that few Andean women shared with Kimberly Theidon, a Harvard University scholar who wrote a book about the her experience in Peru. Claudia Llosa only uses the name and the myth of Theidon’s book, but her film mostly a cheesy, offensive set of stories about the sad life of Fausta, her family and her communities both in the Andes and in Lima as a migrant.
Llosa has said in Europe and the U.S. that her film is based on a true Andean myth and on current diseases of Indigenous women, which is false. In Peru she assures that her film is based on fiction, therefore Peruvians should be offended by the ridiculous ways she presents our traditions.
The film portrays our Indigenous communities as abandoned, defeated towns inhabited by exotic and curious peoples, products of the mountain life. The film presents our peoples of Ayacucho and Lima as objects of study and laughter, as superstitious individuals with ridiculous and even disgusting ways of living. All of which is covered up with a beautiful photography and a good technical production.
The use of a rotten potato inserted in a vagina, is based in isolated cases of Andean women who adopted a temporary tradition, unknown for most Indigenous women of Peru. The potato has a special meaning for Andean people, is a root developed by our Indigenous civilizations thousands of years ago. Its use as a sign of sexual repression and ignorance is plain offensive.
This movie doesn't include the voice of Andean women who suffered the violence of the war. It uses their stories and their cultural and religious beliefs, with a foreign and even white supremacist perspective, comparing the lives of Fausta and her abusive employer, a rich white woman of Lima.
As a film The Milk of Sorrow can be a successful and beautiful production, and it pretends to be sympathetic to the suffering of Andean women. But its messages to viewers are negative and contribute to the anti-Indigenous racism in Peruvian society.
This offensive approach has proven beneficial to Claudia Llosa, and her film has been awarded in festivals of Germany, Cuba, U.S. and other countries. While most reviews written in the U.S. assume that the images of The Milk of Sorrow are based on a true story:
Paralyzed with fear, the girl has inserted a potato in her intimate parts to protect herself from the same fate as her mother. As in "Madeinusa," Peruvian realities and Llosa's light magical realism mesh to create a vivid picture of a society and its problems. Things that might seem strange in any other context feel perfectly normal here.Most Indigenous women never place potatoes in their vaginas, there seem to be isolated cases in Ayacucho. In the film, Fausta's mother is left to die outdoors and her body is filled with flies in the streets of a shanty town of Lima shanty, but our Indigenous peoples have a deep respect for the dead, because we believe in life after death.
More offensive images can be seeing, like the dog smelling on the rotten potato that Fausta has in her vagina. In that moment she gave the dog a sick pigeon to eat. At some point an Indigenous man asked Fausta to shower him “with your menstruation blood". None less, this kind of images present our men and women as part of primitive and insensitive communities.
Fausta is presented as a scared woman working as the housekeeper of a rich white woman in Lima. Fausta is defenseless, naive, needy, and very dependent on her employer who is shown as the educated, sophisticated and elitist piano player. Even when the rich woman is mean spirited, the rich always is seeing as superior.
Claudia Llosa covers up the racist approach of her film with beautiful Native music, sang mostly by Magaly Solier in the Quechua language, the language of the Incas. This seems to be more of a commercialistic pose, than an honest expression of the cultures of our peoples. Llosa appropriates our traditions and uses Magaly Solier as her token actress.
During the 2009 Berlinale Film Festival in Germany, this film was awarded with the Golden Bear. In other words, Berlinale not only financed The Milk of Sorrow, but awarded it with its main prize. During the award ceremony, Claudia Llosa and her producers including Berlinale's director Dieter Kosslick, forced Magaly Solier to speak in Quechua language. Please watch this video:
Even when it’s very offensive, this film makes sense commercially. Many people in westernized societies love exotic movies, about "interesting" peoples and cultures from other parts of the world. Viewers who didn't grow up facing racism in Peru, might not even realize how offensive it is to Peruvians. A friend who is a film critic pointed out to me:
Filmmakers and western audiences in general are fond of stories that portray rural, Indigenous people as more simple, closer to nature, full of traditions, and in touch with magical aspects of the world, and they actually respect these things as positive qualities that the western world has lost.Personally, when I saw The Milk of Sorrow I was deeply offended, mostly because it reminded me of the racist concept that many white Peruvians have about our Andean peoples. Since I was born in the Andes and eventually my family moved to Lima, I have witnessed the racial and cultural discrimination that our Indigenous peoples face in Peru, especially in the city of Lima where we are discriminated by our accents, ways of living and traditions. At the same time, Lima profits from our cultures and resources.
To me, The Milk of Sorrow symbolizes that racial and economical division exactly. A filmmaker from Lima and her producers from Europe are using the sad experiences and the suffering of our Andean women as a topic for their profitable film. They present us really bad, with fake traditions, with false images of who we are, through false stories.
Peru is a country with a mixture of races and cultures, but the majority of our population is of Native Indigenous and African heritage. Since ours is a post colonial country, a minority are of Europeans controls most of the politics and economy, thus racism and class division has kept most Peruvians in rampant poverty, with small elites of European descendants directing the country. This discrimination is especially noticeable today in the extremely racist Peruvian media.
Peru is indeed one of the most racist countries in the Americas, and The Milk of Sorrow reminds me about such inequality, and Claudia Llosa's previous film Madeinusa was also very racist and disgusting to many Andean peoples. She presented our rural Native communities as idiots who live in backward ways, as unclean savages who eat the lice we pick from our hair, with men raping our daughters, and cruel racists who hate all white people.
In reality, there is only one explanation to the fact that 75% of the people in Ayacucho live in poverty, while this rate in Lima reaches 38% only. This huge gap is a sign of the social injustice dominating Peru, and the lack of sensibility and unity among Peruvians, as we are not one united nation.
An example of such division, is the cultural disconnection between Claudia Llosa and the women of Ayacucho. The filmmaker has based this film on a book written by a foreign scholar. The expression Teta Asustada [Scared Tit] was coined by the U.S. medical anthropologist
Kimberly Theidon, Ph.D. in the book Entre Prójimos:
In Quechua the term is mancharisqa ñuñu--mancharisqa is susto or fear, and ñuñula teta asustada. is breast or milk depending upon the context and/or suffix. Thus, I wanted a term that could capture the double meaning: both the woman herself who feels the fear and can then transmit that fear via breastmilk to her baby. I translated the original Quechua term as La Teta Asustada.How could Kimberly Theidon translate from Quechua, when she shows a lack of understanding of the way Spanish language is spoken in Peru, and our cultural heritage:
Rondas campesinas are translated as "farmers rounds/patrols" as in rounds of people. In Spanish language, many words are configured as feminine in sound but not in meaning.
Guillén: I'm aware of your work with gender studies, and was curious if you could comment upon why the rondas campesinas--the armed civil defense patrols composed of male community members--is configured as female?
Theidon: What a good question! Ronda is just--for some reason--a feminine word. I don't have a better answer. Ronderos are the men who participate.
Also there are rumors about the way Indigenous actors were treated by Llosa. Some witnesses in Lima assure that the people of Manchay, which is the poor shanty town outside of Lima where the movie was filmed, only received $20 each from the filmmakers. Some of the actors feel that they were ordered to act as idiots, clowns, sexist macho men who are always attacking defenseless women.
Most of the actors in this film are in fact, amateur Indigenous artists who are economically poor in real life, and Llosa has taken advantage of that reality. For instance, actress Magaly Solier, an Indigenous woman from Huanta, a city in the Ayacucho region, has been used as “the exotic character” by Claudia Llosa and her Spanish producers, and also as a marketing product.
Maria del Pilar Guerrero, another Native actress in this film, is actually the nanny of Claudia Llosa's sister, and not coincidentally she is hardly ever allowed to speak in media appearances.
Being this film about stories of Native peoples from the Andes and Lima, one can expect the wide participation and involvement of our communities in the film, its script or at least in the filming process. This is not the case. Historically, white Peruvians take over our Indigenous cultures to make profits. An example of this is what took place at the Berlinale ceremony, which to me were acts of white supremacy.
Racism in Peru is peculiar, because too often is product of a self-loathing racism where non-white people oppress their own communities, believing they are white. Also not all white peoples are racist in Peru. However, this racial discrimination has deadly consequences on our Native communities.
In conclusion, the film The Milk of Sorrow is a project for profit, fame and racist destruction of the self esteem of Peruvians, as its damaging images will impact the identity and culture of our children who see their parents, grandparents and friends presented in offensive ways.
We must be aware that Claudia Llosa is part of a racist elite of Lima, and she is related to the Hispanic-Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who strongly opposes the Indigenous movements of South America, accusing us of being "savages, obstacles to our development". This conservative writer also covered up the 1983 assassination of eight leftist journalists by a paramilitary group in Uchuraccay, in the Andes of Peru.
Perhaps because of Llosa’s powerful influences, the media in Peru, the U.S. and Europe have given "The Milk of Sorrow" a positive feedback. But no one is asking the Indigenous peoples in Peru, how we feel about it.
Films can help people and communities to overcome their worst problems, even if they are presented as fiction. They can educate and encourage societies to change, and transform their realities. But they can also be very destructives in that sense.
I care about the consequences of this film, because Peru as most Latin American countries is in urgent need to end racism and cultural discrimination, in order to achieve true development and progress. We need to build nations of equality where we teach our children that different people can live together while valuing our differences, our diversity, our races and cultures. We need to tell the world that is time to value that the fact that as humans we are diverse and equal at the end of the day. We ought to learn to respect each other. The Milk of Sorrow promotes exactly the opposite.
If the Academy gives the Oscar award to this film, it will send the wrong message to Peruvians and to the Indigenous peoples all over the Americas. It will state that is acceptable for filmmakers to create racist movies where Native peoples are not important, that no matter how offensive films can be for people in real life, it’s fair only because the end justifies the means.
My hope is that the Academy will chose wisely, in behalf of the arts and the humanity.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Black and Brown kids can swim, but they don't have the same opportunities to learn and practice swimming.
This is brief conversation I had with Cullen Jones, one of the U.S. Olympic Gold medalist in Beijing 2008. He is the 2007 World Champion, 2006 Fastest Swimmer in the World and a World Record holder.
Jones was in DC for the 23rd Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet, an event organized by DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and The United Black Fund, Inc. (UBF) honoring Black History Month.
Cullen Jones once participated in the DC Black History Swim Meet, ending last in the trials. But with his own effort and the support of his family, he has become one of the best swimmers of the world today.
Culen Jones has created the Make a Splash Foundation with USA Swimming, to promote swimming among Black and Brown children, who are 3 times more likely to drawn in the water than white children. Here is a great video of what the Make a Splash initiative is all about:
Don't miss the photos of the historical moment when Cullen and Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, and Jason Lezak obtained the gold medal for the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay, in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 11, 2008.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
For some reason I like black music very much, and I'm aware that all the American musical genres have been created by African Americans, or at least influenced by their culture. So I decided to record this video -with his permission- although I didn't know who he was for sure, until I googled his name at home.
Charlie Sayes grew up in foster homes in Massachusetts; he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Vietnam, where he learned how to play the blues harp. He returned home in 1971, with 8 Purple Heart medals. Then he decided to travel around the US playing in the streets, until he was discovered by the BBC for a 1975 documentary, and then a British record company produced his first record in 1976.
He moved to Washington, DC in 1975 to play for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and formed his band which has been active on and off since then. His music has "elements of New Orleans funk, Chicago blues and rock & roll" according to his website.
Sayes has played in several festivals in the US, Europe, Middle East, Caribbean and Asia. He played at the White House for President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He has taught blues harp in DC jails, sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts. He has produced about five records so far, and The Smithsonian Institution has published a harmonica instruction booklet written by him and his second instructional book will be released this year.
It was great meeting you Charlie.
"Artomatic is a creative community that collaborates to produce and present a free arts spectacular. Artomatic partners with the development community to transform unused building space into a playground for expression, serves as a catalyst for community growth in up-and-coming neighborhoods, and helps to grow our creative economy. Funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported by The National Endowment for the Arts."
THERE WILL BE A MAKE-OUT ROOM!
Make a date. Find a date. Multiple venues. All weekend long.
Luck of the Draw: An Art & Music Experience
In the Capitol Riverfront Neighborhood
Friday, February 13
6 to 10 pm
Saturday, February 14
6 to 10 pm
Sunday, February 15
2 to 6 pm
The fun begins at the tent on Half Street, between L and K Streets SouthEAST. @ Navy Yard metro (on the green line). Take the Half Street exit and follow instructions from the friendly Clean & Safe folks.
View Larger Map
Friday, February 13
6:00 pm rifle recoil
7:00 pm Layne Harrett
8:00 pm Extremities
9:00 pm Sejayno
Saturday, February 14
Dance: Katrina Toews
6:00 pm BanjerDan
7:00 pm Violet
8:00 pm Blue Sausage Infant
9:00 pm Nkeng
Sunday, February 15
Dance: Contradiction Dance
2:00 pm Shadow Farm
3:00 pm Doug Stailey and Dan Barbiero
4:00 pm Pilesar
5:00 pm Janel & Anthony
Albus Cavus, David Barr, Andrea Collins, Sherill Anne Gross, Rebecca Katz, Carolina Mayorga, danny phantOM, Tariq Rafiq, Andrew Wodzianski, Alexandra Zealand.
"RED: St. Valentine bled for us"
Curated by Sondra Arkin and Ellyn Weiss:
Sondra Arkin, Chuck Baxter, Joan Belmar, Kristina Bilonick, Scott Brooks, Tory Cowles, Betsy Damos, Richard Dana, Don Daniels,Tom Drymon, Susan Finsen, Pat Goslee, Leila Holtsman, Judy Jashinsky, Tracy Lee, Anne Marchand, Lynn Putney, Veronica Szalus, Tim Tate, Erwin Timmers, Anita Walsh, Ellyn Weiss, Brian Williams.
Photography exhibit curated by Ten Miles Square:
Erin Antognoli, Amber Baum, James Calder, Chris Chen, Jason Colston, Max Cook, Brett Davis, Angela Kleis, Brian Knight, Marie Kwak, Amber Wiley, Pat Padua, Barry Schmetter, Alexandra Silverthorne, Matt Smith, Paivi Salonen, Steve Strawn, Sanjay Suchak, John Ulaszek, Brandon Wu, Josh Yospyn.
A collaboration between:
The Pink Line Project, Artomatic, and Capitol Riverfront BID.
Velocity Condos, Axiom at Capital Yards, Onyx on First
Do it for your parents, friends, brothers or sisters, neighbors, your doctor, priest, ex husband or wife, coworker, barista, best actor, housekeeper, adviser, your teacher, a soldier, your Congress member, do it for me, for this country, for equality in the world.
The Courage Campaign is an online organizing network based in Los Angeles, leading efforts from over 500,000 grassroots and net roots activists, for progressive change in California.
TCC partners include MoveOn.org, CREDO Mobile, Democracy for America, PowerPAC.org, United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), the California Nurses Association, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.
Deadline is March 2, 2009
Happy Valentine's Day
Friday, February 13, 2009
When we arrived at Ford’s Theatre, the 500 block of 11th Street NW was closed by security tape and police were standing everywhere, as guests arrived promptly. We walked into a tent where TV cameras and photographers stood, flashing everyone.
Photography by Carlos A. Quiroz (*)
There was DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and his beautiful wife Michelle talking to the press, and many celebrities were walking around, hugging and greeting people. Dozens of curious people were standing outside, waiting to see president Obama perhaps.
The crowd was a mix of federal and local politicians, artists and celebrities gathered at the historic Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC for its reopening ceremony, celebrating the 200th Anniversary of president Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
The entrance led to the lobby of the new building addition, which has a store and Lincoln memorabilia everywhere. A narrow ramp leads to the old building.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended the ceremony, arriving short after 7:30 pm. the scheduled time. This video shows the entering of guests, the new theatre building indoors and the entrance to the old building.
My first impression –excuse me- is why aren’t there more Black people in this ceremony, I saw very –very- few (mostly performing artists), and perhaps I was the only Native American person in the room. In this video I made, you can see the beginning of the program and the end of it.
The theatre itself is very small, for about 600 people. It reminded me of my old high school auditorium which was built in the same area around the 1860’s. The Ford’s Theatre building is very modest itself, you can tell America wasn’t as rich back then and people were, smaller.
The stage is huge for this venue, and the restoration included new lighting systems that are terribly exaggerated in my opinion. The seats are amazingly comfortable and the acoustic is perfect, I thought it was strange that singers had to use microphones when there wasn’t need for that.
I couldn't take better photos nor record the show itself -full of great music, choir performances, singing, acting and terrific speeches- because a "mysterious voice" ordered everyone to turn off all devices, including video and photo cameras. So this is all I could do:
It started with music by the United States Marine Brass Quintet, playing civil-war era marches while Barack Obama and Michelle Obama made a grandeur entrance. People gave them a standing ovation for about 2-3 minutes. The Obamas sat in the front row, and not at the Lincoln’s balcony as I thought, which a relief was.
The first piece was a great traditional African American spiritual "My Lord What a Morning", sang by the African American choir Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music, with Evan Black -a very young talented singer- and Joshua Bell in the violin. Very inspiring.
Right then, James Earl Olson made his entrance, reading a piece about "The Birth of Abraham Lincoln" by Carl Sandburg. Olson is a living legend, his presence and deep voice made a statement in the room. Ben Vereen offered a magnificent and touching version of "Oh Freedom" accompanied by Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music. Vereen’s interpretation was full of energy and very emotional, it almost brought me to tears.
Richard Thomas was the ceremony emcee and he gave a welcoming speech that was nice but nothing extraordinary, and then he announced the main part of the ceremony: “The Great Speeches of Abraham Lincoln” which was started by great Broadway soprano Jessye Norman -The First Inaugural Address.
Immediately a short film was shown with 4 former presidents reading the famous Gettysburg Address: Clinton, G.W. Bush, Carter and G.H.W. Bush, in that order. It was a brief and boring film, it seemed like they were reading their own speeches, in my opinion.
Actor Jeffrey Wright came out and proclaimed “The Second Inaugural Address” with eloquence and much confidence. Wright’s voice is just perfect and he is an attractive man to see on stage. Right after, singer Cheryl Freeman sang “Some Day” accompanied by Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music, a great voice and a very sensual presence, and her dress was sexy distracting.
After that, Director Paul Treteault, and Wayne Renolds, Chairman of Ford’s Theatre offered Rededication speeches, and Donors Recognitions to those who made the restoration possible. That was a little boring and perhaps not necessary.
Talented violinist Joshua Bell played “Yankee Doodle” accompanied by Simon Mulligan, and that performance was outstanding: people applauded with appreciation. Following was a theatrical dialogue about “President Lincoln and the Theatre” by Richard Thomas, Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and Jeffrey Wright. This was very well spoken but an also a bit boring at this point of the evening.
Then I was more thinking about president Obama, since he wasn’t included in the official program, I kept hoping that he might give a speech, which it happened later.
A scene from currently on-stage play “The Heavens Are Hung in Black” was presented by David Selby, Norman Aronovic, Steven Carpenter, Michael Krammer, Chaney Tullos and Jonathan Watkins. They had very interesting wardrobe on, and at some point David Selby appeared as Abraham Lincoln, walking from the back of the theatre. I don’t know how Lincoln was in real life, but Selby sounded like an old country grandpa and looked just like in the old reminding photos.
Singer Audra McDonald sang “Candle in the Windows” a piece that was magnificent, although McDonalds seemed a bit nervous, and her beautiful figure was well shaped by a very sexy dress. Violinist Joshua Bell played along Simon Mulligan the “Romance from Violin Concerto # 2” which had a playful tune and sounded sometimes like American country music. Bell was wearing some sort of sneakers and an untucked shirt.
Immediately, the Lincoln Medals were presented. Katie Couric showed up with a beautiful and impressive red dress, very attractive but kind of too much for the eye. She presented Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in time presented George Lucas (Star Wars creator) and in her speech she asked "Who says arts can't create jobs?".
Lucas spoke about the importance of education for this nation and humanity, talking directly to president Obama, he said “stories were a way of education and cultural preservation… without education, humankind will be extinct…” and he vowed for his administration to invest in our youth. Applause followed. By the way, Pelosi stood next to Lucas smiling during the whole speech, and she was wearing also a very elegant black dress with red jacket.
James Earl Jones presented the award to legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who I later met. They hugged as old friends do, and Poitier, who walked very slow and seemed tired, gave a beautiful speech about his feelings on the occasion, racial equality and the first African American president, and that was applauded with enthusiasm.
More Donor Recognitions, by Director Tetreault who at some point stopped reading from the failing prompter. I thought it was a bad idea having people reading from a distance that was fairly long, some of them seemed robotic. Tetreault went on and grabbed his printed speech and read it joking about “life theatre”.
Actor Ben Vereen came back to stage and read “The Emancipation Proclamation” from a printed book also, and he rushed at first but at some point he slowed down with a strong southern accent. It was beautifully symbolic, and I must say I like Vereen’s energy, he makes a statement with his own persona. At that point I was very inspired –I know this might sound tacky- by all the speeches and music performances.
By the time singer Jessye Norman came out and sang “Spiritual Medley” accompanied by Damien Sneed, I cried. It was just beautiful, apotheosis and history in front of my eyes.
Richard Thomas came out with another brief speech: “Lincoln, Ford’s Theatre and Legacy of Hope”, followed by Audra McDonald who sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (gloria, gloria, alleluia…) but this time she was very sharp, strong and her voice was on point. She felt that song and made everyone in the room feel it too.
Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music joined McDonald with a very mellow entrance that grew up into a celebration song. Jessye Norman, Joshua Bell, the US Marine Band and the stage orchestra joined them, along with the entire company, including participating celebrities. This was amazing, very patriotic I must say and here I was once again falling into a romance mood with this part of American culture, with the people of this country, with its history. It was wonderfully presented.
And then, a group of suited men placed a podium for president Obama. Silence in the room and then the president stood up announced by the mysterious voice. Everyone stood up and applauded. He and Michelle greeted everyone on stage and then were presented with a replica of the Gettysburg Address by David Selby, as Abraham Lincoln.
President Obama gave a brief speech where he praised Lincoln for his admiration for the arts, the Ford’s Theatre legacy, and the need for the nation to stay strong and united in difficult times, as Lincoln did when he ordered to continue the construction of the Capitol building in times of civil war. “For despite all that divided us -- north and south, black and white -- he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people.” he added.
A long standing ovation followed the president’s speech, and he was greeted by everyone around, including front row guests, to whom he greeted one by one almost. Barack and Michelle left the room while people were still clapping, and then the event was over. A seating dinner followed at the National Portrait Gallery & Smithsonian American Art Museum.
What a night. It was theatrical, symbolical, and educational. I learned more about this nation, the values it stands for, its contradictions and protocols even when I don’t necessarily agree or understand, I chose to respect them.
I have to end this post by thanking the person who made possible for me to be in an event that I consider one of the most important moments in my life. Thank you.
DC Fox News posted this video:
(*) The original content of this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Carlos A. Quiroz.