Posts Tagged ‘politics’
I first heard about Spoek Mathambo because of his hot group Sweat.X. But I almost missed that he released an awesome solo album late last year; the hybrid sounds are teasing and unexpected and in your face and usually political.
Below is his song “Mshini Wam,” which is a contraction of the phrase “Umshini Wami” and means “Bring me my machine gun.”
A photo of celebrations in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak announced he was stepping down. As protests demanding regime change now move to Yemen, I know I’m not the only one who is wondering: when will this finally happen south of the Sahara? Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia …
Photo via The Associated Press
“The apparent indifference of U.S. authorities to the many accusations of torture made against Leyzaola (Tijuana police chief) is somehow less puzzling. It is essential that the police start kicking ass in Mexico, and what’s a bit of waterboarding between friends, particularly in a national-security crisis?”
–from an earlier draft of this compelling, illuminating story on Tijuana in this week’s The New Yorker by William Finnegan.
(Subscription required to read the entire piece. And, sadly, that last line was mostly cut.)
Photo via The New Yorker
The final part of my conversation with the talented Gabriela Jauregui.
How has your reception been in the mainstream media and publishing world as a Mexican writer who tells multicultural stories? Do you find that independent and alternative presses are more open to multicultural and diverse stories, whether it be poetry, novels or non-fiction?
I think mainstream media is definitely open to the concept of “multiculturalism” broadly defined, but in general the works published in mainstream media (I guess we should probably also define what we mean by that…) are not as interesting to me because they tend to present stories or poems that are more traditional in their form or they can gloss over a specific culture and its complexity in an attempt to make it palatable to a general audience (in fact, the concept of “multiculturalism” can be problematic precisely because of that sweeping gesture implied in it). Of course there are exceptional things that filter into the mainstream, so I hate to generalize. But I do feel that the work done by independent or alternative media can be more interesting because there’s less of a market constraint, less of a concern for selling selling selling, and therefore it allows for more risk-taking. And of course taking a risk always implies the possibility of failure yet risk can also bear fruit: some of the most ground-breaking work has been written and published by people who take risks or leaps of faith.
What are some books you’ve read lately that you found to be inspired and that you enjoyed? And what’s next for you, writing and travel-wise?
I just finished writing my PhD dissertation, so I have been reading and re-reading and obsessing over the wonderful and earth-shatteringly good novel De donde son los cantantes (1967) by cuban writer, Severo Sarduy, as well as Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless (1988). In other things, I happened upon Jean-Luc Nancy’s La communauté désouvrée (translated to English as The Inoperative Community) and read some sections on community and writing that blew my mind. I just found a first-edition copy of Brion Gysin and William Burrough’s collaborative book, The Third Mind and I am incredibly excited about reading it.
I am looking forward to catching up on my creative writing once I am done with the PhD and I am working on a book of poems in Spanish. Travel-wise, I am moving back to Mexico in June, so that’s exciting but also sad because I will be leaving my friends, the family I have built, back in LA. And I will miss eating Pho whenever I want to (which is often)!
Gabriela, above, reads from her poetry collection Controlled Decay in Los Angeles.
Here is Part 2 of our conversation.
Tell me about the sur+ publishing collective and the Taquimecanografas, a group of female writers and visual artists living in Mexico City, NY and LA, both of which you belong to?
sur+ is a collective that envisions “the South as a new political imaginary,” to borrow Corinne Kumar’s words. Our name is both a word and sign play that implies the re-evaluation of the social south in a world dominated by the north, and on the other seeks to counter-pose itself to one of the meanings of the original french word surplus:the surfeit, what is left-over, what is no longer useful to the system. We are interesting in strengthening the dialogue amongst the social south and in an aesthetics that is as revolutionary as the politics behind it. The project started in the middle of last year when a group of friends got together and we decided that we wanted, no that we needed to publish a bunch of great writers who were not available in Spanish. So we have poetry, essay and fiction, for now we have published El Tiempo Se Volvió Cuero, the first Spanish translation bi-lingual anthology of British author Tom Raworth’s poems, our second book was Los vampiros de Whittier Boulevard, Juan Felipe Herrera’s first anthology to appear in Mexico, our third is Netamorfosis, an anthology of short stories from the ongoing Tepito workshop El Sotano de los Olvidados. And our forthcoming books are the first Spanish translation of Chris Abani’s Song for Night and of John Berger’s A Seventh Man. You can check it all out at www.surplusediciones.org and http://surplusediciones.blogspot.com/.
The Taquimecanógrafas is a collective that was formed by the late Aura Estrada, a dear friend and wonderful young writer who died tragically (but happily her legacy lives on with her first book Mis Días en Shanghai, and through the Aura Estrada Prize, and through her work in the collective). The other members are poet Mónica de la Torre (who lives in NY and edits BOMB magazine) and Laureana Toledo, a multi-talented visual artist who lives in London and Mexico City, and myself. We started working on loose constraints and re-writing each other’s texts (hence the play on the now-extinct female species of the taquimecanógrafa, or typist!) and we have finished a long verbo-visual experiment that will hopefully soon be published by Tumbona in Mexico City.
What is the significance to you of spoken word performances and of telling your story aloud to audiences? For many writers, the thought of presenting their work aloud is nerve-wracking.
I find that I am always very nervous before a reading, and I choose some texts beforehand but not all because I like to feel the place, the audience and then decide on most of what I read based on that. But once I am up there, and reading, a sense of calm washes over me: it’s like the work itself is speaking not me, my voice gets clear and I just let the words do their thing. It almost feels like being possessed, in a way.
But I wouldn’t call my reading style “spoken word” because that’s a specific genre within poetry that I don’t think my work is a part of. There’s elements of what is known as spoken word echoed in my work, and there’s a definite sense of reading out loud that is different from reading silently, there’s rhythm, and sound, and a sort of “performative” element, but my work is definitely not spoken word. I mean a lot of spoken word, for example, is done from memory, recited and not read, for example, and I never do that. I have a pretty awful memory for my own work, sadly. I admire people who can just recite like that (the theatrics, the exercise of that in itself) because I certainly cannot. Also I don’t feel like I am telling my story aloud, because poetry is not exactly like a story, it’s not narrative like that. And my poetry and fiction is and it isn’t personal at the same time–it comes from the I but is also not necessarily about the I– a lot of the “stories” contained in my work are not mine per se; they are not about me, necessarily, in that sense, you know?
I do think, nevertheless, that it is important and beautiful and (even!) fun to read out loud. For me, poetry is visual, but it is also and above all music, and music is meant to be heard. And the sharing of a communal space and a communal experience of hearing, of reading out loud can be a powerful political and aesthetic act– a ritual.
The AP ran a story last week about the growing force of indigenous political awakenings in Latin America. From the Shuar in Ecuador who are defending their ancestral lands to the Mapuche demanding basic social services in Chile, more appears to be happening than just Evo Morales’ historic win in Bolivia. Morales, the first Indian president of Bolivia, recently oversaw a constitutional amendment to allow the country’s 36 indigenous groups to rule themselves. Indians make up at least one in ten of Latin America’s 500 million residents. But they’re often the poorest, living in the most rural areas and under threat from exploitative oil and mining companies and their own neglectful governments.
From the article: “In Guatemala, three in four indigenous people are illiterate, the U.N. says. In Mexico, where 6 percent of the population is illiterate, 22 percent of adult Indians are. Even in Bolivia, only 55 percent of indigenous children finish primary school, compared to 81 percent of other kids.”
Morales famously said that Bolivia is no longer the South Africa of South America, and the country is heralded as the biggest Indian rights success story on the continent to date. But is the struggle over yet? As Bolivia’s presidential elections approach in December, Morales is facing an entrenched white elite that refuses to let go of its power in a nation where three out of five inhabitants are indigenous. Morales may well win despite fierce right-wing competition, but depending on that election’s outcome, indigenous apartheid may not be over just yet.
Photo via the AP
Mexican women’s rights groups are in an uproar over the upcoming appointment of Arturo Chavez Chavez as the country’s new attorney general. They accuse him of covering up the potentially thousands of murders and disappearances of women factory workers in Ciudad Juarez while he was head prosecutor in the state of Chihuahua.
“Both the women’s and men’s murder investigations were characterized by indifference, irregularities, lost files and evidence, threats against victims’ family members, and no credible prosecutions, in spite of credible leads.” — from the linked article.
They have a minor victory so far: Chavez’s ratification to the office was postponed until next Monday. In the above photo, a woman protests outside of the Senate yesterday.
Photo via AFP/Getty
Marcelo Ebrard is Mexico City’s current mayor, the centrist liberal head of one of the most green-friendly city governments in the world. Ebrard, playing with Pele above, has given himself a populist image and launched a massive environmental and leisure program for capital residents, including getting rid of the infamous but heavily polluting VW beetles, re-introducing recycling and revamping the disorganized trash system, closing streets weekly for cyclists, and building artificial beaches and ice-skating rinks in the city.
Mexico City is the only place in Mexico where it is legal to get an abortion and to enter in a same-sex civil union.
Some call him eccentric. Others say he’s all show and ambitious. Either way, he’s intriguing — far more mainstream and perhaps creative than the radical head of his party — and could make for a dynamic next president of Mexico, particularly as the U.S. military warns of a possible failed state future for the country.