Art and Culture

Ranchera Music: A Mexican National Symbol

Monday, January 9, 2017 - 09:00

Ranchera, a style of music that grew out of the Mexican revolution, highlights the beauty and simplicity of Mexican life for all citizens. Known for its drama, passion and patriotism, this style of music elicits images of Mexican ranch life. The most famous ranchera singer is inarguably Vicente Fernandez, who has become a national icon in Mexico in the same manner as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley in the U.S.(1).

Nicaragua’s Century-Old Dispute

Monday, January 2, 2017 - 08:45

Indigenous communities in Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast are working to secure rights to broad "territories" based on traditional patterns of use and occupancy.  Nicaragua’s dispute over indigenous lands has claimed at least 30 lives since 2008. Two of those lives were lost[1] just a few weeks ago over this century-old dispute. The conflict has existed since the Mosquito Coast was annexed to Nicaragua more than 155 years ago.  The Miskitos were never conquered by the Spanish – for a long while, the region was a British protectorate.

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” goes the old saying. Eighteen years ago, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that Nicaragua had violated the rights of the Awas Tingni to property, by granting a concession to a company to carry out road construction work and logging without the consent of the Awas Tingni community.  Despite the native communities’ autonomy over the lands and preferential treatment under the law, a modern colonization-style land grab is underway as the Nicaraguan government looks the other way. The subsequent failure by the government to resolve the situation led to a decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights[2] [PDF] in 2001, which confirmed the existence of the indigenous land rights in question, including the right of participation in matters affecting land rights and the requirement of the consultation with the Awas Tigni indigenous peoples.

But the law favors the indigenous. Perhaps the most important piece of legislation is  law 455[3] on the Communal Property System of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast and of the Bocay, Coco, Indio and Maíz Rivers which, from 2003 on, also stipulates the right to self-government in the titled communities and territories. The 2006 General Education Law[4] also recognizes a Regional Autonomous Education System (SEAR).  When the Sandinista National Liberation Front came to power in Nicaragua in 1979, they subsequently had to face an armed insurgency supported by the United States. Indigenous peoples from the Caribbean Coast, primarily the Miskitu, took part in this insurgency. In order to put an end to indigenous resistance, the Sandinista government created law 28[5] on the Autonomous Regions of the North and South Atlantic (RAAN/RAAS), on the basis of a New Political Constitution and the Autonomy Law.

Yet, despite the constitutional and statutory provisions upholding indigenous land rights and authority, the Nicaraguan government itself has taken no definitive steps toward demarcating indigenous lands. Under the Nicaraguan civil code, all lands not titled to private owners belong to the state. It appears then that the Nicaraguan government, particularly its agencies charged with natural resource development, has approached the issue of land grabbing from the indigenous primarily from the standpoint of a party interested in securing its own property interests in the resource-rich Atlantic Coast.

 

L@s muxes: The Zapotec Third Gender

Monday, December 26, 2016 - 08:00

In the southern state of Oaxaca, in the town of Juchitán, lives indigenous Zapotec men, women, and muxes. Juchitán is a small town where a man wearing a dress would not necessarily be called transgender--there, they could also be considered a muxe (MOO-shay).  Muxes are neither man nor woman, they are identified as a separate category of gender, some call it a third gender. Generally, muxes are assigned as male at birth, but dress or act in a feminine way.

¿Estás ready?: A look at "Spanglish" in the United States

Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 08:00

Most Americans have heard of the term “Spanglish,” whether by the film bearing the same title from 2004, or the experience of hearing someone mix Spanish and English in a sentence. But what is Spanglish? Is it another language? And who is speaking it, and in what settings? What is the prevalence of Spanglish in the United States, and what role will it have for a country whose largest minority is Latinos (16.3 percent based on the most recent census)? (Ennis, Ríos-Vargas, & Albert, 2011)

Coca is not Synonymous with Cocaine: Coca Culture in Bolivia

Monday, November 28, 2016 - 10:30

Coca is a leaf that is integrated in the Bolivian culture through rituals, medicine, food, religion, social interactions, and much more. The primary use for the coca leaf is consumption; it is chewed or brewed for tea. Coca leaves are not exclusive to Bolivia, rather many Andean countries such as Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, and Brazil use coca for similar cultural practices as well.

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