Americas Journal JHU PRINTER+bcm.pdf
Volume 4 - 2013
Américas The Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Studies
FEATURING Reid Mosquera Charlotte James Tamar Nachmany Gabriela Mujica-Martorell
Lucy Coyle Kelsey Ripp Matthias Jäger Geoffrey Levin Adriana Foster
AmĂŠricas The Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Studies 2013 Volume 4
Published By The Johns Hopkins University Program in Latin American Studies Baltimore, Maryland
Américas, the Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Studies was established in 2005 by students and faculty at the Johns Hopkins University under the endorsement of the Program in Latin American Studies. Our mission is to provide a multi-disciplinary forum for students, scholars and policy-makers from all over the world to present and discuss articles pertaining to Latin America, its issues and its diaspora.
Américas’ editorial board is revised every year with the purpose of guaranteeing a journal of the highest quality. Américas’ criteria for article selection are: innovation of the topic, strength of the argument and supportive data and bibliography.
Our website is available at http://www.americasjhu.org Américas, the Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Stuides Published By The Johns Hopkins Univeristy Program in Latin American Studies 404 Macaulay Hall 3400 N. Charles St. Baltimore, Maryland 21218 United States
Américas: Journal of Latin American Studies
Table of Contents Acknowledgment and Journal Staff
Letter from the co-Editors-in-Chief
An Outburst of Human Rights Movements Under Operation Condor: The Struggle for Argentina’s Desaparecidos Reid Mosquera
Fear, Silence, and Memory in Latin America: An Analysis of Military Regimes and State-sponsored Violence Lucy Coyle
Politics as Family Business? Presiential Re-election and the Perpetuation of Power in Latin America Matthias Jäger
The Andes through Quechua: Reqsinakusunchis Familia Ezequiel Arce (Let’s Meet the Ezequiel Arce Family) Gabriela Mujica-Martorell
Beyond the Coffee: Health Disparities in Costa Rica Kelsey Ripp
The Interplay of Ethnicity and Class in Brazil: The Fiction and the Fact Adriana Foster
The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America: A Comparative Study of Minority Identity Geoffrey Levin
The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities in the Reintegration of Salvador’s Homeless Population: A Case Study of Comunidade da Trindade and Aurora da Rua Charlotte James
Borges, Heidegger, and the Mechanical Inspiration of the Scriptures Tamar Nachmany
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Acknowledgment We would like to thank our public relations team for organizing the submissions process and distribution of the journals, our editors and copy-editors for investing their time and expertise into each piece, and this year’s contributing authors for working tirelessly to ensure that the larger message was conveyed and the small details were addressed. Finally, we are extremely grateful to the Program in Latin American Studies for its annual financial and organizational support.
2013 Journal Staff
Amanda Levine Maria Elisa Smith
Eduardo González Franklin W. Knight
Aishwarya Raje Annie Minkyung Cho Ellie Hong Kaitlin A'Hearn Laura Grau Mónica López Zoe Kirshenberg
Copy Editing Team
Andrew Karns Amanda Levine Maria Elisa Smith
Chief of Public Relations
Public Relations Team
Kimberly Iboy Zoe Kirshenberg Andrew Karns Jeremy Nelson Isabella Ciuffetelli
Maria Elisa Smith Leiberh Diaz Maria Beatriz Troconis Yanes Américas: Journal of Latin American Studies
Letter from the Editors-In-Chief Dear readers, The articles in this journal demonstrate the challenges of understanding cultural, socioeconomic and political hierarchies in Latin America. A unifying theme in these pieces is that of conflict ranging from acts of violence to health disparities and racial tensions. These issues are often hard to grasp and understand, however, the authors featured in this edition have elucidated some of the underlying factors contributing towards them and have often proposed ideas that would contribute to their ongoing improvement. By grouping these articles into loose subcategories, we hope to provide the reader with a structure for understanding figurative themes of conflict in Latin America. Reid Mosquera highlights the impact of Argentina’s “Dirty War” on Argentineans due to the prioritization of national security above personal security. The deterioration of the state, Mosquera argues, is what prompted human rights movements to search for some activity among the silence of its citizens. Lucy Coyle brings to light a similar claim: Latin American military dictatorships became instigators of violence using specific rhetoric to induce fear in order to ensure silence among citizens. Conducting a state of terror was essential to the military dictatorships, namely in Guatemala, Argentina, and Colombia. Matthias Jäger explores the perpetuation of power within families. Questioning whether or not political endowment is a result of the re-election of family members to become leaders of many countries in the region, he introduces the elements of presidential re-elections in Latin America that could have a grave impact on the political agenda of each nation. It is rare to see indigenous languages present in scholarly works of art. This year we have the pleasure of introducing to you a selected final project from the class entitled, “The Andes through Quechua” by Gabriela Mujica-Martorell. This author writes a fictional narrative examining an important element of Andean culture. She bases her story on an indigenous family featured in Martín Chambi’s photograph La familia Ezequiel Arce con su cosecha de papas (Cusco, 1934). Kelsey Ripp calls attention to a crucial public health issue in Costa Rica through her photography montage from Fall 2011. Most notable are the health disparities that persist in rural and indigenous communities despite governmental and private efforts to alleviate them. Marginalization of indigenous populations, religious groups, and socially excluded street dwellers in Latin America spans across the next set of works. Adriana Foster explains how perceptions of ethnicity in Brazil has led to serious inequities and racial discrimination. Recently, the government has intervened with standardized social policies and even AfroBrazilian cultural education in primary schooling in order to increase tolerance of a racially diverse population. Geoffrey Levin focuses on a religious minority in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Peru: the Jewish community. Through personal interviews, he traces the historical development of Jews in Latin America and compares and contrasts the practices of each 2013 – Volume 4
community. Charlotte James discusses the re-integration of the homeless population in Salvador, Brazil. The interviews that she conducted contribute to her argument that social programs can surpass government assistance programs in terms of the vocational opportunities that an alternative community such as A Comunidade da Trinidade (Trinity Community) provides for its members. Just on the outskirts of the discussion of barriers to society is this year’s final article in which author Tamar Nachmany examines the works of the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, and the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. In particular, through a close reading of Borges’ philosophical text, she analyzes the concept of the mechanical inspiration of the Scriptures and explores Borges’ relationship to writing and God in comparison to Heidegger’s essay. The themes that we noticed throughout the editing phase inspired us to order the articles in this way. This year’s edition revolves around moments of figurative and literal conflict in Latin American society. It is our hope that students at Johns Hopkins University will continue to explore an array of topics like you will read about in a moment. We hope you enjoy the Spring 2013 edition of Américas: The Johns Hopkins Journal of Latin American Studies. Sincerely, Amanda Levine ‘13 Maria Elisa Smith ‘13 Co-Editors-In-Chief
Américas: Journal of Latin American Studies
An Outburst of Human Rights Movements Under Operation Condor The Struggle for Argentina’s Desaparecidos* Reid Mosquera ABSTRACT: This essay turns the hands of time back to one of the most horrific displays of human injustice in history. Political strife and a paralyzing sense of state-induced fear plagued life in many South American countries during the 1970s and early 1980s. But while the focus of this essay is to bring specific attention to the heroic actors who seemed to rise out of improbable despair, it is important to understand the painful longevity and lingering scars that countries like Argentina are still confronting today as a result of this troubled period. If it were not for dedicated Argentine mothers and grandmothers, who have incessantly cried for their lost loved ones, Congress and the Supreme Court may never have declared such pardons and laws unconstitutional, as they did in 2005. And if it were not for the repeated testimonies of thousands of broken, confused, and betrayed Argentine citizens, ruthlessly senseless men like ex-dictators Jorge Videla and General Reynaldo Bignone would never have received the multiple life sentences that they are now serving out since their trials in 2011.
Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina was under the direct command of a military-controlled state that operated within a cooperative inter-American organization, which came to be known as Operation Condor.1 The participating countries of Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina were committed to the spread of the National Security Doctrine. This doctrine emphasized a prioritization of “national security above personal security, the needs of the state before individual rights, and the judgment of a governing elite over the rule of law.”2 In their resolution to terminate all communist infiltration, the members of Operation Condor exchanged enforcement tactics that relied on predetermined, calculated, and secretive government violence that was directly responsible for the disappearance of approximately 30,000 people in Argentina alone.3 What were the implications of a state Reid Mosquera is currently a senior majoring in International Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. His desire to write about this topic stemmed from the stories his father, who was born and raised in Colombia, told him about life in South America during the late 20th century. This essay was written and submitted as a term paper for Professor Magda Zonia von der Heydt-Coca in her class “Political Sociology of Latin America” during the fall 2012 semester. * “Desaparecidos” literally means “the disappeared” and refers to the thousands of Argentines who were kidnapped and disappeared all over the country during the military dictatorship.
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Reid Mosquera devoted to a political strategy of terror? Who surfaced to lead the opposition against the blatant violations of human rights? This essay will address these specific questions to prove that a periodic lack of stable conditions and the regularity of violence in Argentina created a national environment ripe for total state oppression, which sought to take advantage of a depressed level of citizen security. In doing so, the rise of Argentina’s activity within Operation Condor shifted the protective obligation from the state level to four distinct molds of human rights mobilization: family-based groups, religious movements, groups of exiled Argentine and civilian libertarians. The economic, political, and social scene of activity in Argentina during the early twentieth century was most notably plagued with rising and falling phases of public support. These three spheres of activity significantly influenced the country’s deterioration towards the repressive military dictatorship that emerged during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the economic sphere, the people of Argentina grew increasingly accustomed to the chronic cycle of economic crisis. Like many of its neighboring Latin American countries, Argentina leaned heavily on foreign borrowing. While its economy was directly tied to the international market for Argentina’s primary exports of wheat and beef, the nation’s adherence to Import Substitution Industrialization policies proved ineffective in addressing its growing balance of payment problems. These debt problems led to periods of high inflation and economic polarization, prompting several demobilizing coups to replace the leading regime in the name of restoring order.4 Simultaneously, Argentina’s political sphere was dominated by routine military intervention and a constantly revolving door of government control. In the years leading up to the military junta Argentina witnessed three types of government. There were “those that derived their support from the military, those that governed by neutralizing the military, and the rest, whose destiny [was] to be overthrown by the military.”5 Thus the short-lived nature of Argentina’s changing political leaders fostered an environment of political violence and a developing repressive state. Finally, the social implications of Argentina’s economic and political turmoil created a national “legitimacy crisis.”6 This social crisis spread an enduring instability and shift towards a pervasive level of anti-system violence adopted by both the public and guerrilla factions, who began individually targeting military officers and their families.7 Crippled by instability, Argentina possessed all the necessary conditions for the ascent of a complete military dictatorship. The level of political unrest and street violence only escalated following the death of Argentina’s charismatic leader, Juan Perón, in 1974, as the right and left sides within his populist party vied for control. The stage was now set for the introduction of a government that would habitually promise national security with its words, while delivering fear and insecurity with its actions. After being appointed Commander in Chief of the Argentine Army, Jorge Rafael Videla successfully staged a coup that overthrew acting leader, Isabel Perón, in 1976. In the years that followed this military coup, the safety of the Argentine public, namely student and grassroots groups, rested more and more on the shoulders of 4
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An Outburst of Human Rights Movements Under Operation Condor its domestic social movements. For the rise of the military junta represented a shift to a political strategy that undermined the state protection of social and labor groups previously promoted by protectionist leaders like Juan Perón. This shift was first marked by a slew of political and social reforms that altered Argentina’s future as a “free country” in the midst of a global war against the influencing reaches of communism.8 For it was precisely these reforms under the junta’s overarching strategy to wipe out all forms of socialist promotion that ignited the formation and amplification of grassroots human rights movements during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” The approach of the new military junta was one of rule by decree, under which any person appearing to undermine the power of the militaristic state was deemed subversive and an enemy of the state. Under the direction of military generals like Jorge Videla these subversives became known as the “desaparecidos,” or disappeared, because they were repeatedly kidnapped and stripped of their personal rights. To bolster their efforts, the junta swiftly shut down all civil courts and placed a complete ban on all political parties, meetings, labor organizations, and anti-government demonstrations.9 In creating a single conglomeration of executive, legislative and constituent power, the Argentine directors of Operation Condor under Videla crippled the traditional judiciary power of the state. Although the original intention of the judiciary system was to protect citizens from excesses of authority, the uncontrollable military junta rendered the network of judges and lawyers powerless puppets.10 Following the coup, almost every judicial member was suspended from duty and replaced with judges acting out of loyalty to or fear of the military’s new objectives.11 Under General Jorge Rafael Videla, the military dictatorship even stripped away the power of the constitutional writ of habeas corpus and left it an ineffective formality.12 And as the number of disappearances grew, the public cries for legal representation and swift government action fell on the deaf ears of threatened, exiled, or even dead defense attorneys and public officials.13 Finally, the military junta imposed tight restrictions on the free expression of ideas by monitoring and censoring the nation’s mass media, maintaining high levels of fear, confusion, and panic.14 The ensuing combination of state terror tactics, which included abduction, torture, and execution, and the severely weakened predicament of customary protest gave way to a revitalized national defense against the violation of human rights that was shouldered by the Argentine public. Unlike the social movements of Argentina’s liberal and populist eras, which were often divided among class and ethnic stratifications, the rally for the protection of human rights that gripped Argentina in the 1970s was blind to such societal distinctions. For the “distressing events…of repression fostered meetings of people of different groups of society, searching to find ways to denounce and mobilize” against the criminal acts of military junta.15 This was a pivotal shift in the rallying support of human rights movements because it signified that ethnic, racial, or political identities no longer mattered. The escalation of political violence under Operation Condor initiatives instead pinpointed the source of human rights defense and organization to the most basic defense of life 2013 – Volume 4
Reid Mosquera itself.16 Members of separate families related to each other because they shared a common pain each experienced in losing a loved one, while facing the reality and likelihood of never seeing them again. Moreover, as a staggering 65% of the kidnapping actually took place in front of helpless family members, the affected families truly believed that “what [they] did wasn’t courage: [they] had no choice.”17 While a large majority of Argentines simply accepted the military junta’s inexcusable justifications out of pure fear, four distinct categories of human rights movements emerged in response to the overtly repressive military dictatorship. An observation must first be made, however, about a broader classification of the individuals motivated to mobilize against the rampant disappearances and their rationale for doing so. The first group of activists were those directly affected by the junta’s politics of fear and was primarily comprised of Argentine family members. These protestors were largely homogenous in that they were almost all relatives or friends of an abducted person.18 Their efforts to locate their friend or family member took precedence over notions of fear or strategic consideration. A significant portion of these affected activists were the parents of the disappeared, which understandably intensified their demand for immediate answers and action. Generally, their motivation lay in alleviating the pain they experienced after witnessing traumatic kidnappings that left them with deep emotional scars and looted homes.19 Finally, they benefited from an interwoven coordination of support among afflicted friends and families, who identified sources of aid among embassies, churches, and established human rights organizations.20 The second broad classification of human rights activists consisted of the indirectly affected Argentines, who commonly had past experience in engaging an oppressive state. These demonstrators were of a more heterogeneous mixture that brought together a wide range of politically oriented advocates of human rights.21 Since they lacked the common motivation that came from the unforgettable image of a tortured friend or relative, their rational for joining the protests was typically altruistic in nature. Without a tangible personal stake in the fight against the military junta, however, these altruists were often immobilized by the looming threat of state terror.22 Their action was additionally stifled by their apparent need to adhere to political alliances and associations.23 The two broad classifications of participating activists as detailed above were thus dispersed among the creation and growth of four specific types of human rights movements, which formed the cornerstone of the anti-military junta resistance. Charged with varying levels of proximity to occurrences of kidnapped relatives and friends, targeted human rights movements emerged to fill the void left by the military repression of men like then-dictators Jorge Videla and General Reynaldo Bignone, who stripped the Argentine people of their right to security, privacy, and protection from the abuse of power. The human rights movements that can be classified as family-based groups were those that formed in direct reaction to the height of state-inflicted terror. These family-based groups almost always lacked politically or professionally active members and were driven 6
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An Outburst of Human Rights Movements Under Operation Condor instead by individuals seeking to fulfill their obligation and right to protect the members of their family.24 Their strategy was one committed to a constant symbolic political protest that built up international attention through the “universal legitimacy of the family.”25 The two most notable and influential family-based human rights movements were Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo and Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. Like many other organizations that stood up against the blatant violations of human rights in Argentina during this time, Las Madres began as similarly affected citizens crossed paths and acted together to address the injustices they faced. In the case of Las Madres, the movement was comprised of mothers who demanded to know the location of their disappeared sons and daughters. Government offices and jails that claimed to have no knowledge or record of the disappeared persons, however, repeatedly turned the desperate mothers away. As their numbers grew from a mere fourteen to several thousands, Las Madres made the passive nature of their resistance clear. “[Las Madres] didn’t even ask for [the disappeared person’s] freedom. [They] were just trying to get [someone] to tell [them] where [the disappeared persons] were, of what they were accused, and that they be judged in accordance with the law and the legitimate right of defense.”26 In appealing to the traditional customs of prosecution and detainment, Las Madres were particularly successful despite the repressive efforts of the junta to quell all forms of protest mobilization. They sought and received international support as they famously wore trademark white scarves embroidered with the names of missing loved ones, while marching around the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires with posterized photos of their sons and daughters.27 In the year 1977, Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo was created to respond to the persistent inability Argentine families encountered in securing even the slightest forms of family security. Men were particularly excluded from these two familybased groups in the hopes of improving the treatment the group received at the hands of the military regime. Their hope was that their status as mothers and grandmothers would make them appear as minimally threatening as possible.28 Bringing international attention to an already declining Argentine public image, Las Abuelas “refused to deal with their [losses] in the private domestic sphere as ‘good’ mothers [were] expected to do.”29 Breaking the traditional chauvinistic mold, in which Argentine wives and mothers generally assumed less public roles, Las Abuelas refused to idly watch their families be torn apart. The appearance of religious human rights movements highlighted the degree to which the military junta paralyzed the lay and clerical activists, who faced swift state oppression if caught providing services to the affected family members of the country’s Dirty Wars. In lieu of acting upon a personally motivating sense of loss, religious movements like the Movimiento Ecumenico por los Derechos Humanos (Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights, MEDH) were inspired to act though a “philosophical commitment to a broad vision of social justice.”30 The MEDH was an exemplary religious human rights organization that brought together members of the Catholic clergy, who recognized the constrained and ineffective response the Church as a whole was capable of mustering against the increasingly popular state tactic of illegal abduction and torture.31 Its plea for international support was 2013 – Volume 4
Reid Mosquera conducted through the World Council of Churches, which used recognizable religious figures to uncover and bring attention to the illegitimate repression this South American country faced.32 On the domestic level, movements like the MEDH took the grave risk of bestowing material, spiritual, legal, and psychological assistance to afflicted families.33 The third category of the homegrown struggle against the terror-infused oppression of Argentina’s Dirty Wars was the group of exiled citizens that used the spread of information as their main oppositional weapon.34 Operating under the Coordinating Committee of Argentine Organizations in Exile, activist exile groups prioritized their objective to bring the extent of the daily human rights violations in Argentina to the attention of international and juridical spheres.35 The kind of international organizations they appealed to included the United Nations, Amnesty International, the European Parliament, the Organization of American States, and the Permanent People’s Tribunal. The centralized collaboration of exiled Argentine citizens brought an intense level of international scrutiny to the military junta through organized mass protests like those supporting Las Madres in Paris, along with the publication of literature that directly attacked the country’s military leaders. In essence, the protesting efforts of exiled groups added to Argentina’s rapidly declining international image by tirelessly attaching to it labels of a “state terrorism” plagued by “genocide.”36 Non-authoritarian, non-militant libertarians spearheaded the final classification of emerging human rights movements during the oppressive dictatorship in Argentina. These civil libertarians were primarily active members in the professions of law, education, and politics.37 Although they were by no means immune to the threat of military abduction, they were predominantly indirectly affected activists. As a result, they focused less energy on demanding the whereabouts of the disappeared persons and more on petitioning to the universal principles and respect for legal norms.38 The Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Center for Legal and Social Studies, CELS) remains one of Argentina’s noteworthy movements for the defense of human rights and was led by a group of lawyers.39 This particular human rights movement replaced the dearth of consistent documentation under the military junta and specialized in analyzing collected data on the growing number of missing persons. While it maintained no connection to a particular political party, the primary objective of the CELS was to adopt a more aggressive legal assault against the directors of Operation Condor, in spite of the loss of influence the Argentine judicial system suffered at the hands of the junta. Due to a lack of domestic, uncorrupted judicial power, the CELS was determined to seek the support of the International League for Human Rights and advocated for the expansion of “the international ties of concerned lawyers and affiliated activists.”40 When its contributions were combined with the documentation provided by the Asamblea por los Derechos Humanos (Assembly for Human Rights) concerning missing persons, there would prove to be more than enough evidence for the international and domestic investigations that would take place in the early 1980s. The overall impact of the movements for human rights that surfaced in Argentina during these years of military dictatorship was tied to a consistent recognition of the 8
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An Outburst of Human Rights Movements Under Operation Condor limitations enforced by the masterminds of Operation Condor and a devoted obligation to the protection of the Argentine family. The four forms of social mobilization explained in this essay understood the need to turn their weaknesses into strengths. For while the oppressive state regime demonstrated its tight control over territories, force, and domestic resources, the advocates for the protection of human rights took advantage of the reality that no state can truly monopolize the spread of information and legitimate human truths.41 Las Madres and Las Abuelas revolutionized the traditionally powerless role of females in Latin American society, while organizations like MEDH and CELS optimized their constricted realms of influence. In each category of mobilized protest, the participating activists emphasized the public exportation of the horrifying realities Argentine citizens suffered. The external release of incriminating information constantly appealed to international actors, who reacted by providing the resources and protection Argentine activists lacked beneath the grips of Operation Condor.42 Although a number of persons are still missing to this day, the clear rise of Argentina’s social mobilization in the face of a dangerous, despotic military regime proved that the hope of human rights movements persisted in their ability to “survive, save lives, and delegitimize the state.”43
v McSherry, J. Patrice, “Tracking the Origins of a State Terror Network: Operation Condor,” Latin American Perspectives, no. 29 (2002): 41. 2 Armony, Ariel: Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in America, 1977-1984, (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1997), 9. 3 Carlos Osorio, “Kissinger to Argentines on Dirty War: “The Quicker You Succeed the Better,” The National Security Archive, December 4, 2003, accessed November 20, 2012, http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/ NSAEBB/NSAEBB104/index.htm 4 Armony, Ariel: Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in America, 25 5 Ibid., 27. 6 Ibid., 28. 7 Ibid., 32. 8 Arditti, Rita, “The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Struggle against Impunity in Argentina,” Meridians, no. 1 (2002): 19. 9 “Dirty Wars: On the Unacceptability of Torture – A Conversation with Olga Talamante,” 111. 10 National Commission on Disappeared Persons, Nunca Mas, (London 1986) 387. 11 Brysk, Alison, “From Above and Below: Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina,” Comparative Political Studies, no. 29 (1993): 43. 12 Ibid., 44. 13 Thalhammer, Kristina E, “I’ll Take the High Road: Two Pathways to Altruistic Political Mobilization against Regime Repression in Argentina,” Political Psychology, no. 22 (2001): 114. 14 Brysk, Alison, “The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina,” 386. 15 Jelin, Elizabeth, “The Politics of Memory: The Human Rights Movement and the Construction of Democracy in Argentina,” Latin American Perspectives, no. 21 (1994): 40. 16 Ibid., 41. 17 Brysk, Alison, The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina, 42. 18 Ibid., 44 1
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Reid Mosquera National Commission on Disappeared Persons, Nunca Mas (London, 1986) 272. Klein, Emily, “Spectacular Citizenship: Staging Latina Resistance through Urban Performances of Pain,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, no. 32 (2001): 106. 21 Ibid., 106 22 Ibid., 107 23 Brysk, Alison; The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina, 48. 24 Ibid., 48. 25 Ibid., 264 26 Brysk, Alison; “Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina,” 45. 27 Thalhammer, Kristina E, “I’ll Take the High Road: Two Pathways to Altruistic Political Mobilization against Regime Repression in Argentina,” 495. 28 Ibid., 501 29 Klein, Emily, “Spectacular Citizenship” 106. 30 Brysk, Alison; “Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina,” 50. 31 Ibid., 51. 32 Brysk, Alison; “Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina,” 51. 33 Ibid., 52 34 Franco, Marina, “Between Urgency and Strategy: Argentine Exiles in Paris, 1976-1983,” Latin American Perspectives, no. 34 (2007): 54. 35 Ibid., 56. 36 Ibid., 55. 37 Ibid., 58. 38 Brysk, Alison; “Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina,” 46. 39 Ibid., 46. 40 Brysk, Alison; “Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina,” 47. 41 Jelin, Elizabeth, “The Human Rights Movement and the Construction of Democracy in Argentina,” 48. 42 Ibid., 52. 43 Ibid., 263. 19 20
Arditti, Rita. “The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Struggle against Impunity in Argentina.” Meridians, 1 (2002). Armony, Ariel. “Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in America,” Monographs in International Studies: Latin American Series. 26 (1997). Brysk, Alison. “From Above and Below: Social Movements, the International System, and Human Rights in Argentina” Comparative Political Studies. 29 (1993). Brysk, Alison. The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina: Protest, Change, and Democratization. Stanford University Press, 1994. Franco, Marina. “Between Urgency and Strategy: Argentine Exiles in Paris, 1976-1983” Latin American Perspectives. 34 (2007). Jelin, Elizabeth. “The Politics of Memory: The Human Rights Movement and the Construction of Democracy in Argentina” Latin American Perspectives. 21 (1994). Klein, Emily. “Spectacular Citizenship: Staging Latina Resistance through Urban Performances of Pain” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 32 (2001). McSherry, J. Patrice. “Tracking the Origins of a State Terror Network: Operation Condor” Latin American Perspectives. 29 (2002). National Commission on Disappeared Persons, Nunca Mas, (London 1986). Thalhammer, Kristina E. “I’ll Take the High Road: Two Pathways to Altruistic Political Mobilization against Regime Repression in Argentina” Political Psychology. 22 (2001).
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Fear, Silence, and Memory in Latin America
Fear, Silence, and Memory in Latin America An Analysis of Military Regimes and State-Sponsored Violence Lucy Coyle ABSTRACT: For several of the decades of the 20th century, many Latin American countries fell under dictatorial strong-armed governments that brought mass violence onto their populations and exhibited significant cruelty in doing so. These governments were most often military-led and they seized power as a response to the “communist-leaning” populism that had taken hold in many regions. The United States was frequently involved in providing support to these right-wing governments in the form of arms and military training. Military dictatorships eventually became synonymous with state-sponsored violence in Latin America, and the result on Latin American populations was truly traumatic. This paper will explore the results of widespread trauma on various populations of victims and perpetrators of violence. Specifically, the issue of speech and language will be addressed as one area majorly affected by state-sponsored violence and the fear that it insights. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate that there is a specific timeline in place when it comes to fear-induced silence and modified speech.
Renowned Harvard professor and author, Elaine Scarry, describes the relationship between linguistics and pain as quite simple, stating that there are no words available to describe the pain felt by those who have been tortured.1 Scarry’s definition is rather philosophical and thus poses a significant hurdle when attempting to understand the era of military dictatorships in Latin America from an outsider’s perspective. She prevents the reader from understanding in greater depth the complicated relationship between language, communication — or lack thereof — and the systematic violence practiced by the government or paramilitary groups. Throughout this essay I will attempt to create a broader picture of how language is used by both perpetrators and victims of state-spread violence in order to inflict further pain, isolate community members, and estrange one’s self from moral hazard, among others. I will focus mainly on the genocide in Guatemala that took place in the early 1980s as a case study, but will also back up my claims through a Lucy Coyle is an undergraduate junior at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Brazilian Studies. Lucy is originally from Rochester, New York, where the strong desire to leave inspired a subsequent love of world travel. She most recently returned from a semester in Rio de Janeiro, where she also worked at an international television production company, and where she hopes to return. 2013 – Volume 4
Lucy Coyle look at similar cases in other Latin American countries, including Argentina and Colombia. Finally, I will focus on the nature of silence as a reaction to pain, and I will question the timeline of using silence as a mechanism for surviving that pain. The first thing to understand about the use of language during torture, genocide, military kidnapping, and political targeting is that under military regimes such as those discussed below, a specific fear-induced silence often prevails among citizens. Linda Green discusses living and studying as an anthropologist in rural Guatemala during the period of the state-sponsored genocide of indigenous Guatemalans. This period of time in Guatemala was aptly described by some including famed Latin American historian Greg Grandin, as marked by “quiet genocide.”2 To give a brief historical context, this period of indigenous genocide followed as a response to an era of populism in Guatemala, in which Guatemalan presidents Juan Arevalo and Jacobo Arbenz enacted several land reforms targeted at increasing land holdings of indigenous peasant farmers. The popular land reforms of this era took hold in countries across the continent and were described by military leaders as communist-driven. Given that this was occurring during the Cold War era, such a message could not be ignored by the United States in its own sphere of influence. Moreover, U.S. business interests in Guatemala made it enticing to reverse those land reforms made under Arbenz. Consequently, the U.S. directly backed the 1954 coupe in Guatemala and the subsequent genocide of native Mayans across the countryside.3 Guatemala is but one example of the extent to which the U.S. assisted strong-armed leaders in eradicating the “communist threat” from its sphere of influence. The United States turned a blind eye to or even assisted these acts throughout Latin America, as military dictatorships arose in the name of eradicating communism and then proceeded to torture, kidnap, and kill citizens who were thought to go against the values of the conservative government.4 As much of the violence during this era in many Latin American countries was statesponsored, citizens were unlikely to appeal to their governments out of fear.5 In many cases across the continent, terror was no longer exceptional, but rather an everyday occurrence. Grandin writes: The nationalization and centralization of terror also relied upon an increasingly visible performance of what previously had been private acts such as rape, torture, and murder . . . and increasingly [these acts] became the trademark of government-linked death squads, both the representation and essence of public state power.6
In a state run by terror, fear is naturally overwhelming and silence among citizens is fueled by that fear – that is to say, genocide can become “quiet,” meaning that no one can speak out against it safely. As such, authors like Linda Greene and Michael Taussig refer to “terror as usual” across Latin America.7 The notion of terror as usual has linguistic significance. When exceptional acts such as torture and rape become the norm, new terminology must arise to deal with the newfound commonness of such acts. This new terminology may downplay the acts, barely reference the acts at all, or hint at the resulting pain subtly. Taussig ponders: In talking terror’s talk are we ourselves not tempted to absorb and conceal the immediate
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Fear, Silence, and Memory in Latin America violence in our own immediate life-worlds, in our universities, our workplaces, shopping malls, and even families, where, like business, its terror as usual? In particular, we zig-zag between wanting to conceal and wanting to reveal.8
This explanation of wanting to conceal or wanting to reveal pain is particularly poignant. In situations where terror becomes a nationalized and centralized act, silence often prevails among the government’s victims, not only because the government enforces that silence with terror, but also because the trauma caused is so great that silence is sought as a way to subdue persistent lingering pain. Yet there is still the desire to share the human experience with one another, and to realize that the new norm is not normal – that terror ‘as usual’ should not be as such. In the case of the Guatemalan genocide, the population that was targeted had been socially, politically, and economically outcast since the country’s colonization. The indigenous people in Guatemala were poor, uneducated, and now traumatized. As Linda Green points out, a population with these characteristics cannot easily explain the terror that they face, and so, she says, it is the job of an anthropologist or an intellectual to do so.9 But that is not to say that, when incited by Green, locals would not freely describe their past in acutely descriptive terms. In fact when Green inspected the issue further she came to note that the people (primarily widows) with whom she conversed about the violence generally gave accounts of past tragedies openly, although it was painful to do so.10 Teresa Caldeira described the talk of crime in Brazil in a similar way, dictating that retelling old stories of (in this case) criminal situations is cathartic and in no way boring to victims. She comments, “[T]hey seem compelled to keep talking about crime, as if the endless analysis of cases could help them cope with their perplexing experiences of the arbitrary and unusual nature of violence.”11 The repetition of old terror stories can be seen in the case of Guatemala as well, yet it is also interesting that the same women who told their histories over and over again would not discuss their present situation for any reason.12 Elaine Scarry claims that pain is indescribable. Yet perhaps that statement should now be modified to say, rather, that current pain is indescribable. And maybe keeping silence is not a reaction to the indescribable nature of pain, but rather is a survival mechanism. Green relates, “Silence can operate as a survival strategy, yet silencing is a powerful mechanism of control enforced through fear.”13 In many of the cases of state-sponsored violence in Latin America, language is particularly utilized on the part of those in the military to normalize their presence and their actions. In Guatemala, Linda Green notes that the army makes attempts to “sanitize” their actions by explaining to the locals (whom they may eventually kill) that they are their friends and that they are occupying the area in order to protect these locals from the communists hiding in the hills.14 In general, the military talk is full of falsities like this.15 Moreover, military officials are full of contradictions in their discussion of state-sponsored terror.16 In Colombia, for example, when a general is asked to explain the “dirty war” he explains that it is “said to be going on” and not that it is going on.17 Taussig comments, “[I]n political and operational terms . . . it is and it isn’t – in just the same way as abnormal is normal and disorder is orderly.”18 Often, military officials 2013 – Volume 4
Lucy Coyle describe their efforts as valiant through rhetoric abounding with grandeur.19 The situation in Argentina is a perfect example of this, in which the military junta described itself as the ultimate truth-teller, and the enemy as untrustworthy and everywhere. It made its war into a war of the people in doing so. Marguerite Feitlowitz, author of A Lexicon of Terror, describes the situation perfectly, commenting:
Argentineans lived in an echo chamber. With diabolical skill, the regime used language to: (1) shroud mystery in its true actions and intentions, (2) say the opposite of what it meant, (3) inspire trust, both at home and abroad, (4) instill guilt, especially in mothers, to seal their complicity, (5) and sow paralyzing terror and confusion.20
Many of these factors can be seen by simply referring back to the earlier example of the general in Colombia. Yet Argentina serves as a particularly interesting case given its degree of success at instilling trust both at home and abroad. There were many Argentineans who held complete faith that the Argentine government was in fact doing the country a favor by eliminating a dangerous communist subversive. It is almost surprising that such rhetoric worked in doing so, since, as Feitlowitz explains, the very public speeches made by the government were also incredibly vague concerning government actions, and often contradictory.21 The rhetoric of terror is often contradictory in this way – and the contradiction should not be surprising – because fundamentally, a country at war with its own people is a contradiction. Words like tira have been used by Colombian students to explain the bigbrother-like, ever-watching government.22 This word, tira, can mean “spy,” “throwing,” or “fucking” in various contexts. Taussig furthers the complexities of this type of linguistic manipulation, claiming the word offers us “some rare insight into the erotics not only of spying but of the terror-machine of the State as well, with its obscure medley of oppositions, seduction, and violence.”23 It is interesting to find, once again, that across borders the words used to describe perpetrators of violence carry subtle meaning within them and generally do not describe the perpetrators as such outright. The rhetoric used by perpetrators of violence to describe victims of violence is similarly inexplicit in its characterization. Its descriptors, however, prove more varied. As previously mentioned, governments have the tendency to display their countries’ regimes of violence as orderly, and they call into question whether or not violence is even actually occurring. When perpetrators of violence refer to their victims however, there is a tendency to do so in a rather visceral way. During La Violencia, the period of civil war in Colombia that took place from 1948-1958, people were not killed – rather, they were slaughtered. The terminology used by their killers certainly reflected that. Body parts were referred to in animal terms. The neck was referred to as a craw or gullet. The abdomen was referred to as the stomach of a quadruped, like a cow or pig. The human knee was referred to in the same term as that of a cow.24 The list goes on. The physical techniques used for human slaughter in this same scenario were also borrowed from food preparation terminology, including the expression for preparing fish and for dicing meat for tamales.25 Although this treatment of the human body through linguistics may seem cruel and unusual, it allows 14
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Fear, Silence, and Memory in Latin America for the distancing of oneself from the gruesome truth of human slaughter by relating it to animal butchering. In this sense, an extraordinary activity – the butchering of human flesh – is turned into an ordinary one – the butchering of animals – via changes in terminology. The transformation of human into animal is a technique of distancing that is commonly referred to as the construct of the Other. The construct of the Other largely consists of manipulating the physical terminology referring to victims. It also involves an explicit physical transformation from the human body into an inhuman Other. Moreover, the transformation further involves a great deal of ideological change, often from neighbor to stranger, or even enemy.26 It is important to acknowledge the role of these ideological shifts as instrumental in the construction of the Other, which at its core creates an oppositional binary that renders a situation as diametrically constructed: it is either black or white, right or wrong. As the Other is constructed so eloquently, especially through linguistics, it becomes easier to understand how a country can go to war with its own people. Elaine Scarry wrote about pain and torture as a window to the soul that cannot be opened. However, as has been demonstrated above, this is not exactly the case. While it is true that silence certainly permeates during periods of state-sponsored violence, it is also true that people are willing to share past experiences as an attempt to rationalize the irrational contradiction that is state-sponsored violence. Evidence shows that the rhetoric used in an open setting by military officials has successfully pitted groups against each other and formulated the body of the Other – a group completely alienated and outcast from society. The military dictatorships of Guatemala, Colombia, and Argentina discussed here have also had great success in creating widespread fear through rumor and the persistence of violence. With such a sense of widespread fear and a society pitted against one another, it is easy to understand how silence becomes the norm in everyday life, along with violence. This wall of silence is only broken by victims when they collectively share in past memories of violence as a method of catharsis.
v Elaine Scarry, “Violence in War and Peace,” in The Body in Pain: the Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 365-367. 2 Greg Grandin, “Politics by Other Means: Guatemala's Quiet Genocide,” in Quiet Genocide: Guatemala 19811983, ed. Etelle Higonnet (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2009), 7. 3 Granito, DVD, directed by Peter Kinoy (Brooklyn, NY: Skylight Pictures, 2011). 4 Ibid. 5 Linda Green, “Living in a State of Fear,” in Fieldwork Under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival, ed. Carolyn Nordstrom et al. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 118. 6 Ibid. 7 Michael T. Taussig, “Terror as Usual: Walter Benjamin's Theory of History as State of Siege” in The Nervous System (New York: Routledge, 1992), 12. 8 Ibid., 12. 9 Green, “Living in a State of Fear,” 106. 1
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Lucy Coyle Ibid., 112-113. Teresa Pires do Rio Caldeira, “Talking of Crime and Ordering the World,” in City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 19. 12 Green, “Living in a State of Fear,” 112-113. 13 Ibid., 118. 14 Ibid., 110. 15 Marguerite Feitlowitz, “A Lexicon of Terror,” in A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 20. 16 Taussig, “Terror as Usual,” 12, 22. 17 Ibid., 21 18 Ibid. 19 Feitlowitz, “A Lexicon of Terror,” 20. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Taussig, “Terror as Usual,” 22. 23 Ibid. 24 Maria Victoria Uribe, “Dismembering and Expelling: Semantics of Political Terror in Colombia,” in Public Culture 16, no. 1 (2004): 88. 25 Ibid., 89. 26 Ibid. 10 11
Caldeira, Teresa Pires do Rio. “Talking of Crime and Ordering the World.” In City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo, 19-52. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Feitlowitz, Marguerite. “A Lexicon of Terror.” In A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture, 2172. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Grandin, Greg. “Politics By Other Means: Guatemala’s Quiet Genocide.” In Quiet Genocide: Guatemala 19811983. Edited by Etelle Higonnet, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2009. Granito. DVD. Directed by Peter Kinoy. Brooklyn, NY: Skylight Pictures, 2011. Green, Linda. “Living in a State of Fear.” In Fieldwork under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival. Edited by Carolyn Nordstrom and Antonius C.G.M. Robben, 105-128, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Scarry, Elaine. “Violence in War and Peace.” In The Body in Pain; the Making and Unmaking of the World. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 2004. Taussig, Michael T. “Terror as Usual: Walter Benjamin’s Theory of History as State of Siege.” In The Nervous System, 11-36. New York: Routledge, 1992. Uribe, Maria Victoria. “Dismembering and Expelling: Semantics of Political Terror in Colombia.” Public Culture 16, no. 1 (2004): 79-95.
Américas: Journal of Latin American Studies
Politics as Family Business? Presidential Re-election and the Perpetuation of Power in Latin America Matthias Jäger ABSTRACT: In recent years, the phenomenon of presidential re-election in Latin America has received increasing attention, marked by analysts as a notable change in the political systems of the region. This essay attempts to provide a better understanding of this change through a study of the origins, characteristics, and consequences of presidential re-election in Latin America. The first section of the essay provides an overview of the historical development of the phenomenon so that it can identify the reasons for its evolution, and thus analyze its basic patterns. Next, the tendency of re-election in Latin America is discussed in terms of its consequences and implications for both single countries and the region as a whole. Questioning whether or not presidential re-election is always bad, the essay discusses instances wherein constitutional reforms towards re-elections have been or might be helpful. To conclude, the study considers Latin American patterns of re-election from an international perspective, and, in its final remarks, offers an opinion on future developments of the trend and its potential effects on the region.
“Democracy is an exercise in alternating power.” – Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva
The challenge of letting go There is a specter haunting Latin America – the specter of presidential re-election. If we take a look at the last elections in the region, we can observe that most of them had one thing in common: the candidates looked strangely familiar. What we saw were mainly the incumbents themselves running to remain in power, or their wives, widows or children trying to take over. In fact, today incumbents are increasingly dominating politics in Latin America; since 1985, 15 out of 17 incumbent presidents seeking re-election managed to win again.1 The region’s presidents have developed a notorious tendency to cling to power – be it through constitutional reform to allow a second or third term in office or Matthias Jäger is a Master in International Public Policy candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He holds a Master’s degree in Law and Latin American Studies from Bielefeld University, Germany, and completed his studies at the universities of Freiburg, Madrid (Universidad Complutense), and Mexico (UNAM). 2013 – Volume 4
Matthias Jäger maintaining influence through spousal or other kinship re-election. Two most recent events in the region may serve as examples for this trend: in Venezuela, the late Hugo Chávez – the longest-serving president in the Western Hemisphere to date – was re-elected in October 2012 for the third time. While the 1961 Venezuelan constitution had limited the presidential tenure to five-year terms and barred consecutive terms in office, the 1999 constitution extended presidential terms from five to six years and a referendum held in 2009 allowed indefinite re-election. In Argentina, one of the issues that dominates current political debates is the question of whether Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will or will not seek constitutional reform to allow her a third term despite massive protests against her government and re-election plans in the streets of Buenos Aires and the country’s other major cities. This trend towards perpetuation of power seems noteworthy, as not too many years ago “one of the most peculiar constitutional characteristics of Latin America in electoral matters [was] the prohibition of re-election.”2 That characteristic has changed considerably in the last few years, to a degree that the prohibition of re-election is, today, the exception rather than the rule. This change has received increasing attention among analysts who have marked it as the Latin American “re-election wave,”3 the “presidential re-election syndrome,”4 or the Latin American “re-election fever.”5 In recent years, the trend has shown a special twist, described in The Economist as “a growing Latin American trend for politics to become a family affair.”6 But are the constitutional reforms in Venezuela, which stipulate that the incumbent president is not term-limited, really something new in the Latin American context if we think of the Paraguayan constitution of 1967 which enabled Alfredo Stroessner to run for office ad perpetuum? Is the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, widow of former Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner, really something surprising if we remember the omnipresent figure of Evita Perón and the role of Isabel Martínez de Perón? Was the candidacy of Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, really a new phenomenon if we think of former Chilean president Eduardo Frei RuizTagle, whose father Eduardo Frei Montalva was Chile’s president 30 years before him? Or are these phenomena rather patterns deeply inherent in Latin American history and political culture? It is the purpose of this essay to provide a better understanding of the phenomenon of presidential re-election in Latin America, its origins, characteristics, and consequences. In order to do so, I will first outline the recent history of the phenomenon and provide an overview of the current situation. This will allow us to identify some of the reasons for the historic evolution of the phenomenon and analyze the basic patterns of re-election in the region. Secondly, I will take a closer look at the implications of the re-election trend. This will include a discussion on where constitutional reforms towards re-election have been or might be helpful, for instance to increase incentives for accountability and sustainable policies with a long-term perspective. A conclusion, finally, puts the phenomenon into an 18
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Politics as Family Business? international perspective and ventures a look at future developments of the analyzed trend. Reasons and patterns of re-election The prohibition of presidential re-election was long a defining characteristic of the political systems in Latin America. From today’s perspective, the experience of the brutal authoritarian rule in many countries of the region, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, is often perceived as the motivation behind these strict rules. Presidential re-election was seen as a method used by the dictators to provide pseudo-legitimacy to the regimes that repressed democratic freedoms of speech, assembly, and access to the media. Jonathan Hartlyn and Arturo Valenzuela, however, show that most countries in the region had introduced restrictions on presidential re-election much earlier than this explanation suggests,7 and much earlier than, for instance, the United States, which did not restrict presidential re-election until 1951. Uruguay first prohibited immediate re-election under its 1830 constitution. Chile limited presidential tenure to two terms in 1833, and in 1871 banned immediate re-election; the Chilean constitutions of 1925 and 1980 restricted the president to one term and no immediate re-election. Most other countries introduced such restrictions at a similarly early point in their history. All Latin American countries adopted restrictions on immediate re-election of their presidents in the nineteenth century.8 As common as these constitutional restrictions were in the region, so were the attempts to sidestep them. It is a historical constant in Latin America that these norms were temporarily suspended, re-established, or specified either in times of political change or to avoid political change: from Peru’s Augusto Leguía in the 1920s to Brazil’s Getulio Vargas in the 1930s to Argentina’s Juan Domingo Perón in the 1940s. Continuismo, the abuse of power by presidents to ensure their own perpetuation in office, has been a frequent phenomenon in the region during the first two centuries of independence. At the beginning of the current period of democratization, however, and mostly under the impression of recent dictatorships, the majority of Latin American states had banned the possibility of a direct presidential re-election. Only a few years later, in the 1990s, “presidential re-election returned to center stage in Latin America.”9 The current trend began with a number of South American presidents pushing constitutional reforms towards their previously forbidden re-election: Alberto Fujimori of Peru (in 1993), Carlos Menem of Argentina (in 1994), Brazil’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso (in 1998), and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez (in 1999). Álvaro Uribe of Colombia continued this trend at the beginning of the 21st century when he negotiated an amendment (in 2005) that allowed him to be re-elected. Colombia´s Constitutional Court later denied him another amendment to enable a third term. In searching for ways to explain why so many of the region’s presidents have been seeking consecutive re-election in the last years, Andrés Oppenheimer suggests an economic argument: “In many cases, they are benefiting from the last five years of rapid economic 2013 – Volume 4
Matthias Jäger growth, often tied to record high commodity prices. This has allowed presidents to pay for new social programs, causing their popularity to increase.”10 Another reason is of rather historical nature and attributes these developments to the political culture of the region, which is, more than other parts of the world, characterized by personalist schemes and has, since times of colonization and struggle for independence, required strong personal leadership. Today, the political systems in Latin America include a variety of models to regulate presidential terms of office. For the purposes of our analysis, we can cluster the current legal provisions into four categories: no re-election, alternating re-election, immediate re-election, and indefinite re-election. The length of terms of office in all models vary between four and five years, only Mexico has six-year-terms (sexenios). Today, the only two countries in Latin America that allow indefinite re-election are Cuba – the last remaining hardline autocracy in the region – and the “electoral autocracy” (Andreas Schedler) of Venezuela. For most authors, the idea of indefinite re-election is opposed to the democratic principle of alternation in the exercise of political power.11 Several countries do not allow an immediate re-election of the president but provide the possibility to run for office again one or two terms later, which is why this model is also described as “mediate re-election” or “delayed re-election.” One example of these countries is Chile where Michelle Bachelet, president from 2006 to 2010, enjoyed very high rates of popular approval at the end of her term but was barred by law from seeking a second consecutive term. She is widely seen as the left’s best hope to regain the presidency in 2013 but has yet to say if she will run again. Other prominent examples of presidents who have returned to power after sitting out one or more terms include Alan García of Peru, Óscar Arias of Costa Rica and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. Peru presents an interesting example in this context since it is the only Latin American country that went in reverse to the regional re-election trend: consecutive re-election was allowed in 1993 but limited to alternating re-election in 2000. Oppenheimer cites Chile’s Eduardo Frei and Uruguay’s Luis Alberto Lacalle as examples of former presidents who came back years later with intentions to rule the country again and, thus, prevent real democratic progress.12 However, the opposite is the case, as his own examples show: Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, president of Chile from 1994 to 2000, ran again in the 2010 presidential elections and lost against Sebastián Piñera. Luis Alberto Lacalle, president of Uruguay from 1990 to 1995, ran again for the presidency in the 1999, 2004 and 2009 elections – without success. Whether this shows a notorious cling to power or a deep conviction that their political projects need more time, it does not seem, in any case, to pose a serious threat to democracy, at least not in the context of consolidated democracies such as Chile and Uruguay. Six countries currently allow immediate re-election of the president: Argentina (since 1994), Bolivia (2009), Brazil (1997), Colombia (2004), Ecuador (2008), and Nicaragua (2010). The case of Nicaragua is especially worth mentioning because consecutive 20
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Politics as Family Business? terms were previously prohibited by the constitution. President Daniel Ortega, however, managed to reach a highly controversial decision of Nicaragua’s Supreme Court of Justice which declared this norm unconstitutional and, thus, allowed him to run (successfully) for a third term in the 2011 elections, after his presidencies from 1985 to 1990 and 2007 to 2012. Taking into account Zovatto’s assessment that “immediate re-election […] seems appropriate for countries with strong institutions, but instead may be counterproductive in countries with weak institutions,”13 this does not allow a very optimistic view of these recent incidents in Nicaragua. The only countries in Latin America that maintain the strict prohibition of presidential re-election are Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay. Given their importance for the understanding of the phenomenon and its causes and consequences, two of these cases will be analyzed in detail later on in the article. First Ladies first A relatively new trend in this context is the phenomenon of spousal re-election. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner inaugurated this trend when she succeeded her husband Néstor Kirchner in the presidency in 2007. Until his sudden death in October 2010, Néstor Kirchner had been expected to take over again in 2011. Instead, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, riding on a wave of support and sympathy because of her husband’s death, successfully ran for a second term and is now considering a reform allowing her the constitutionally forbidden third consecutive term. In Honduras, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya was confirmed as a presidential candidate for the November 2013 elections. Castro is the wife of ousted former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and will represent his party in the elections. Manuel Zelaya is currently prohibited from running as a presidential candidate by the Honduran constitution. He was overthrown by a military coup in June 2009 after seeking a referendum that was supposed to allow him, precisely, another term in office. Conjugal succession was also a threat in Nicaragua: had Daniel Ortega not put himself illegally onto this year’s ballot to seek a third term, his wife might have run in his stead. Finally, in the Dominican Republic, observers had expected Leonel Fernández, after ending his third term, to seek being followed by his spouse but instead she became vice-president of Fernández’s successor. One of the most bizarre cases is probably that of Guatemala’s former first lady Sandra Torres de Colom. Since the Guatemalan constitution does not allow the president’s relatives to run for office, she and her husband, president Álvaro Colom, without further ado decided to sidestep the rules by filing for divorce. In March 2011, six months before the presidential elections, she declared in a telenovela-like statement: “I am getting a divorce from the President to marry the people, the people of Guatemala.” The result was that the marriage is officially dissolved, but the way to the presidency remains blocked because the Supreme Court of Justice of Guatemala denied Torres the candidacy, accusing her of 2013 – Volume 4
Matthias Jäger legal fraud. Michelle Bachelet was, on the other side, “the first Latin American woman president who did not follow a politically prominent husband to office.”14 She has, since, been followed by Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff. The temptation of spousal succession has been observed in so many cases in recent years that experts recommend to include a special paragraph in the respective constitutional norms in Latin America: “To avoid the possibility of violation of the prohibition of re-election by facilitating continuity, it is advisable to extend the ban, clearly and precisely, not only to the spouse, domestic partner and significant other but also to the relatives within the fourth degree of consanguinity and second of affinity, thus preventing individual or family continuity.”15 This points to another phenomenon related to spousal re-election, and that is kinship succession in general. Examples of the dynastic character of leadership in Latin America include Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez’s brother Adán has been in charge several times when President Chávez was undergoing cancer treatments in Cuba, and, of course, Cuba itself, where Fidel Castro’s brother Raúl took over power in 2008 when Fidel’s formidable endurance started to abandon him. What is probably even more revealing, however, is the high number of less well-known relatives of Latin American presidents who pursue the highest offices, beyond Keiko Fujimori or Raúl Castro. In Argentina, Máximo Kirchner, who is increasingly accompanying his mother Cristina on official occasions, is said to be one of her main advisors and has been mentioned as a possible future candidate for the presidency – where he might join Ricardo Alfonsín, son of Raúl Alfonsín, who was president of Argentina from 1983 to 1989. In Guatemala, congresswoman Zury Ríos Montt, whose father is Guatemala’s former military dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt, withdrew her presidential candidacy early in the 2011 elections process. In Costa Rica, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother of two-term president Óscar Arias, has already declared his candidacy for the 2014 presidential elections. In Ecuador, the incumbent’s brother Fabricio Correa – at enmity with the president – registered a new political party thought to present him as presidential candidate for the 2013 elections. In many cases, we can observe a sense of entitlement to political positions – shown by numerous children following their parents as members of parliament in several countries of the region – that seems to be deeply engrained in Latin America’s elites and considerably undermines the rules of the democratic game. Is presidential re-election always bad? Suggestions for selected countries Considering this historical development of the phenomenon of presidential re-election in Latin America, it is worth looking at the consequences and implications this trend may have for single countries and the region as a whole. Is presidential re-election, even in the forms shaped by kinship relations mentioned above, necessarily bad? And what policy 22
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Politics as Family Business? recommendations can we deduce from answering these questions? First of all – and perhaps surprisingly from a European or US perspective – many Argentineans did not have any problem with the fact that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took over the presidency from her husband.16 We have not seen many major protests in other countries either, but we have to accept that in many cases the majority of voters agreed to the respective constitutional reforms through a referendum, allowing their presidents explicitly to remain in office. Second, most observers agree that the constitutional developments in some countries have implications for the whole region. In this sense, Oppenheimer warns about a “contagion effect” and sees especially Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa – who already amended their countries’ constitutions and had re-election approved, although for a single mandate – as “widely expected to follow Chavez’s lead and seek new constitutional changes to run indefinitely.”17 Others also conclude that “the effects of the new trends embodied in recent constitutional activity in the region will not likely occur in isolation, but will be evident throughout Latin America.”18 As for the consequences of the re-election trend, the recent constitutional reforms have certainly further strengthened the role of the presidents in Latin America, already considered “the continent of presidentialism par excellence.”19 On “a continent where strong presidential power has been the historic pattern, the executive branches of government have emerged overall even stronger after the latest changes in constitutional law.”20 Joaquín Roy has shown how this hinders the process of regional integration in Latin America and argues that “the overwhelming centrality of the presidential figure in the Latin American nation-states imposes a formidable obstacle for what appears to invite a move towards a sharing of sovereignty” in initiatives like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).21 Other analysts are worried about the consequences for the institutional frameworks in the region: “Latin America’s fragile democracies won’t get stronger with charismatic leaders, but with stronger institutions and a solid civic culture.”22 The weak party systems in the region, especially, seem not to benefit from the trend of strengthening the executive.23 In conclusion, most scholars see the trend towards less restrictive re-election norms as problematic. There are cases, however, where analysts regard re-election as an important incentive for better governance. Today, only four countries in the region stick to a complete prohibition of re-election. Where this strict prohibition exists one must take into account the particular context of the political history of the country. In Paraguay, for instance, the 1992 constitution prohibited a second term for presidents after the experience of a 35-year-rule of Alfredo Stroessner. To date, attempts to change this norm have failed: in July 2011 the opposition-dominated Congress declined a constitutional amendment to allow president Fernando Lugo a second term (he was then impeached by the same Congress in June 2012). The case of Mexico deserves closer attention, as it best exemplifies the historic origins 2013 – Volume 4
Matthias Jäger of such restrictions as well as the current debates and arguments to modify the constitution. The prohibition of presidential re-election has a long history in Mexico: “Sufragio efectivo – no reelección” (Effective Suffrage, No Re-election) was the slogan that Francisco I. Madero used in his 1910 campaign to oust dictator Porfirio Díaz, who had dominated the Mexican executive for 34 years. It marked the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Ironically, Porfirio Díaz had run an anti-re-election campaign himself against Benito Juárez in 1871, but that was long forgotten by most people by the time Madero used the slogan and made it famous throughout Latin America. As a consequence, Mexico’s current constitution, approved in 1917, includes a strict prohibition of presidential re-election. However, what was considered best in times of the Mexican Revolution may not necessarily help the country to consolidate its democratic transition a hundred years later. There is a scholarly debate about a shift from presidentialism towards considerably strengthening the legislative branch. Denise Dresser concludes that it is urgent to decide this question as “currently the institutional framework is caught in the worst of both worlds: a presidentialist system that operates with a parliamentary logic and precludes the formation of stable legislative alliances for reform.”24 In recent years, there have been increasing discussions in Mexico about a constitutional reform to allow re-election of legislators, governors, and municipal presidents,25 “because accountability cannot be achieved without it.”26 Interestingly enough, however, there are practically no serious initiatives to allow presidential re-election of any form. It is difficult to say what makes Mexico immune against the region-wide re-election trend. One might think that the explanation lies in the fact that, different from most Latin American countries, Mexico has not experienced a (military) dictatorship since it banned re-election in its constitution. This is true at first sight but does not take into consideration the fact that the country did experience a 71-year single-party rule with alternating leadership under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – a situation that Mario Vargas Llosa, in a famous televised statement in 1990, called “the perfect dictatorship.” Mexican citizens have been very critical of their governments, both during the PRI’s rule because they considered its regime entirely corrupt and afterwards because of the disappointment that democracy had not been able to deliver in a way many people had expected it to. It is one of the most widely accepted commonplaces in Mexico that the country could be much better off if it only had better leadership. In fact, Mexico has never had a president who reached the popular approval rates of Álvaro Uribe or Michelle Bachelet, let alone Lula da Silva. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Mexican voters would not elect any of their presidents for a second term. Given this constellation, there is no strong lobby in Mexico to crusade for presidential re-election, as this is generally seen as a means to strengthen the presidential role. Finally, the case of Honduras must be mentioned in this discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of re-election. If “re-election has been at the center of regime crisis” in Peru and Venezuela, so has the absolute prohibition of re-election in the case of Hondu24
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Politics as Family Business? ras. 27 The constitution of Honduras not only prohibits re-election but also sanctions with the immediate destitution of the officer who proposes or promotes it, and the disqualification from public office for ten years (Article 239 of the Honduran constitution of 1992). Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya caused a severe crisis of the state with his attempts to begin a re-election process through a referendum in 2009. This is why Honduras is cited as an example of how “an ironclad clause prohibiting re-election in absolute decision may seem too extreme and even counterproductive, not only for trying to bind future generations to the designs of the past but also the ability to generate strong political tensions within these societies.”28 Does Latin America need an Ibrahim Prize? As we have seen, the models of presidential re-election in Latin America have changed considerably in the last decade, generally towards less restrictive solutions: the majority of the region’s countries have modified their constitutions in recent years to either allow a one-time consecutive re-election, or to let former presidents return to power after at least one period out of office. What once characterized the constitutions of the region – the strict prohibition of presidential re-election – is today the exception rather than the rule. An increasing number of experts see the problem not in presidential re-election but in presidentialism itself. Valenzuela concludes, “The record compiled by Latin American presidentialism is grave and deeply worrying. It is no exaggeration to say that this sad arc of failure is among the reasons why democracy’s future now hangs in the balance across a huge swath of the Western Hemisphere.”29 He suggests looking at Europe and adopting parliamentarian systems in Latin America to overcome these problems. Less far-reaching but aimed in the same direction is a call to limit Latin American presidents’ power, not their terms of office.30 According to this point of view, “the debate about presidential term limits in Latin America is a remake of the debate over presidentialism and parliamentarism.”31As we have seen, in the case of Mexico there is already some debate on limiting the role of the president rather than strengthening it, but this is, certainly, not representative for the region as a whole. Putting the Latin American discussion in an international perspective, Africa provides an example that may be interesting in our context: the “Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.” Established in 2007, this award is granted to former African heads of state or government who came to power in a democratically elected way and left office after serving their constitutionally mandated term. Sponsored by former telecommunications mogul and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim through his foundation of the same name, the Ibrahim Prize is the largest annually awarded prize worldwide, with a value of US $5 million over ten years, US $200,000 per year for life thereafter, and US $200,000 per year available for public interest activities. Interestingly enough, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has had considerable difficulties to identify suitable candidates ever since, which is why the 2013 – Volume 4
Matthias Jäger prize in some years could not be awarded. Independent of these difficulties – does Latin America need an Ibrahim Prize in order to overcome its presidents’ or presidential families’ difficulty to let go, as described in this essay? Yes and no. Recent tendencies in Latin American politics might suggest a challenge with the perpetuation of power similar to the African context. While a prestigious and highly valuable award like the Ibrahim Prize could provide an attractive incentive to leave office in time, the recent Latin American phenomenon of kinship succession differs from the African example, poses different challenges, and makes such a prize seem less attractive. Additionally, it might be challenging to find a sponsor for such an endeavor, as Latin American philanthropists such as Carlos Slim have not necessarily stood out for their commitment to competition. Should one think of such an award for Latin America, former Brazilian president Lula da Silva might have a chance to become the first laureate. In a regional environment where even the best of the democrats tend to play with the system to prolong their time in office, da Silva was one of the few incumbents who, at a popular approval rate of almost 90 per cent upon finishing his second term, declined his party’s intentions to change the constitution to allow him a third term. Critics of such a nomination might argue, however, that Lula instead handpicked Dilma Rousseff, one of his closest former staff members, as his successor, making some observers speculate about his genius plan of a comeback after her one-term presidency. As of today, and taking into account his most recent statements, this looks unlikely. Irrespective of his health condition and advanced age, during a third term in office Lula would not be able to avoid dealing with the corruption scandals regarding his first two terms which have come up in the last years and include his closest collaborators within the workers’ party. With a decision to run for office again, Lula would not only put in danger his widely successful legacy, but also send a questionable signal for presidentialism in Latin America. Despite all obvious similarities, the countries in the region are too diverse historically and politically for a one-size-fits-all solution; what seems justifiable in one country´s current situation may be of more harm than benefit in another at this point in time. What is clear, however, is that the trend to cling to presidential power or hand it over to family members weakens the role of democratic institutions and political parties and, thus, poses a serious threat to the democratic consolidation in the region. Most recently, Raúl Castro has announced that he will step down from power once his second term in office ends in 2018, the death of Hugo Chávez has settled the matter of eternal re-election for the foreseeable future in Venezuela, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faces a steady decline in popularity. However, other actors in the region, such as Rafael Correa, are beginning a new term or are preparing their candidacy to run again. The specter that is haunting Latin America is likely to stick around for a while, and that is no good news for democracy in the region.
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v 1 Ian James, “In Latin America, incumbents increasingly dominate,” Associated press, October 24, 2012, accessed November 25, 2012, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iRHwm2UkuCOdT54_SSGBsbobmy1Q?docId=afbedcc738a445819bdd668c09a70e7e. 2 Dieter Nohlen, cited in Daniel Zovatto, “The reelection trend in Latin America,” Mundo Electoral/Electoral World, year 4 no. 12 (September 2011). 3 Ibid. 4 A.A., “The presidential re-election syndrome torments Latin America,” MercoPress, August 26, 2009, accessed November 25, 2012, http://en.mercopress.com/2009/08/25/the-presidential-re-election-syndrometorments-latinamerica. 5 Andrés Oppenheimer, “Re-election fever grips Latin America,” RealClearWorld, February 23, 2009, accessed November 25, 2009, http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2009/02/reelection_fever_grips_latin_a.html. 6 A. A., “Latin American political dynasties: Kin selection – When family replaces party,” The Economist, March 31, 2011. 7 Jonathan Hartlyn and Arturo Valenzuela, “Democracy in Latin America since 1930,” in Latin America: Politics and Society since 1930, ed. Leslie Bethell , (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3-66. 8 John M. Carey, “The reelection debate in Latin America,” in Latin American Democratic Transformations: Institutions, Actors, and Processes, ed. William C. Smith, (Miami: University of Miami, 2009), 69-90. 9 Ibid. 10 Oppenheimer, “Re-election fever.” 11 Zovatto, “Reelection trend.” 12 Oppenheimer, “Re-election fever.” 13 Zovatto, “Reelection trend.” 14 Peter M. Siavelis, “Chile: The end of the unfinished transition,“ in Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America, ed. Jorge I. Domínguez and Michael Shifter, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 177-208. 15 Zovatto, “Reelection trend.” 16 Martín Kohan, one of Argentina´s most important contemporary writers and analysts of the country´s dictatorial past, reacted almost angrily when asked by the author if this spousal succession might be problematic for Argentinian democracy (Martin Kohan, Personal interview with the author, Frankfurt Book Fair, October 2010). 17 Oppenheimer, “Re-election fever.” 18 Dante Figueroa, “Current constitutional developments in Latin America,” in International Legal Research Informer, (summer, 2011): 8-18. 19 Arturo Valenzuela, “Latin American presidencies interrupted,” in Journal of Democracy 15.4 (October 2004): 5-19. 20 Figueroa, “Constitutional developments,” 8-18. 21 Joaquín Roy, “Why the Latin American integration systems differ from the EU model” (unpublished paper, University of Miami, 2009), accessed November 25, 2012, http://euce.dal.ca/Files/Joaquin_Roy_paper.pdf. 22 Oppenheimer, “Re-election fever.” 23 A.A., Political dynasties in Patricio Navia, “Limit the power of presidents, not their term in office,” Americas Quarterly (spring, 2009). 24 Denise Dresser, “Mexico: Dysfunctional democracy,” in Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America, eds. Jorge I. Domínguez and Michael Shifter, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 242263. 25 Carey, “Reelection debate,” 69-90. 26 Dresser, “Dysfunctional democracy,” 242-263. 27 Carey, “Reelection debate,” 69-90.
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Matthias Jäger Zovatto, “Reelection trend.” Valenzuela, “Latin American presidencies,” 5-19. 30 Navia, “Limit.” 31 The debate on the negative effects of the predominant presidential system on democratic stability in Latin America is one that has been going on since the end of the seventies and can not be included here in its complete theoretical dimension. For a current overview of the debate see, among others, José Fernando Flórez Ruiz, “Parlamentarismo vs. presidencialismo: Actualización de un debate crucial para América Latina,” Revista panameña de política no. 11 (January-June 2011), 25-47, or Jorge Carpizo, Concepto de democracia y sistemas de gobierno en América Latina, México: UNAM, 2007. 28 29
A., A. “Latin American political dynasties: Kin selection – When family replaces party.” The Economist, March 31, 2011. A., A. “The presidential re-election syndrome torments Latin America.” MercoPress, August 26, 2009. Accessed November 25, 2012. http://en.mercopress.com/2009/08/25/the-presidential-re-election-syndrome-torments-latinamerica. Carey, John M. “The reelection debate in Latin America.” In Latin American Democratic Transformations: Institutions, Actors, and Processes, edited by William C. Smith, 69-90. Miami: University of Miami, 2009. Dresser, Denise. “Mexico: Dysfunctional democracy.” In Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America, edited by Jorge I. Domínguez and Michael Shifter, 242-263. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Figueroa, Dante. “Current constitutional developments in Latin America.” International Legal Research Informer (summer 2011): 8-18. Hartlyn, Jonathan and Arturo Valenzuela. “Democracy in Latin America since 1930.” In Latin America: Politics and society since 1930, edited by Leslie Bethell , 3-66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. James, Ian. “In Latin America, incumbents increasingly dominate.” Associated Press, October 24, 2012. Accessed November 25, 2012. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iRHwm2UkuCOdT54_SSGBsbobmy1Q?docId=afbedcc738a445819bdd668c09a70e7e. Navia, Patricio. “Limit the power of presidents, not their term in office.” Americas Quarterly (spring, 2009). Nolte, Detlef and Almut Schilling-Vacaflor. New Constitutionalism in Latin America: Promises and Practices. Oxon, New York: Ashgate, 2012. Oppenheimer, Andrés. “Re-election fever grips Latin America.” RealClearWorld, February 23, 2009. Accessed November 25, 2009. http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2009/02/reelection_fever_grips_latin_a. html. Perea Díaz, Elena. “The presidential re-election in Latin America.” Mundo Electoral/Electoral World, year 2 no. 6 (September, 2009). Roy, Joaquín. “Why the Latin American integration systems differ from the EU model.” Unpublished paper, University of Miami, 2009. Accessed November 25, 2012. http://euce.dal.ca/Files/Joaquin_Roy_paper. pdf. Siavelis, Peter M. “Chile: The end of the unfinished transition.” In Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America, edited by Jorge I. Domínguez and Michael Shifter, 177-208. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Smith, Peter H. Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Smith, William C. Latin American Democratic Transformations: Institutions, Actors, and Processes. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2009. Uprimny, Rodrigo. “The recent transformation of constitutional law in Latin America: Trends and challenges.” Texas Law Review 89, no. 7 (2011): 1587-1609. Valenzuela, Arturo. “Latin American presidencies interrupted.” Journal of Democracy 15, no. 4 (October, 2004):
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Politics as Family Business? 5-19. Zovatto, Daniel. “The reelection trend in Latin America,” Mundo Electoral/Electoral World, year 4 no. 12 (September, 2011). Zovatto, Daniel, J. Mark Payne and Mercedes Mateo Díaz. Democracies in Development: Politics and Reform in Latin America. Washington D.C.: The Inter-American Development Bank, 2007.
2013 – Volume 4
The Andes through Quechua Reqsinakusunchis Familia Ezequiel Arce Let’s Meet the Ezequiel Arce Family Gabriela Mujica-Martorell
© Martín Chambi – Cusco, Perú
Gabriela Mujica-Martorell is a junior pre-medical student at the Johns Hopkins University majoring in Public Health and minoring in French Cultural Studies. She was born in Lima, Peru but moved with her parents and siblings to Maryland in 1997. She has returned to Peru often, spending several of her summer vacations in Arequipa. She is fluent in Spanish, English, and French and hopes to continue studying Quechua, the primary indigenous language in Peru. She hopes to attain a Bachelor’s degree and possibly a Master’s degree in Public Health in the next few years. 30
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Andes through Quechua About the Assignment This assignment was the final project for the 2013 three-week Intersession course, “The Andes Through Quechua,” taught by graduate student, Amanda Smith. It consisted of selecting a photograph by Martín Chambi and writing a paragraph in Quechua describing the people and actions in the photograph. Martín Chambi (1891-1973) is one of Peru’s most famous photographers and Latin America’s most prominent indigenous photographer. He is known for his photos depicting life in the Peruvian Andes and countryside. The official title of the photo I selected is La familia Ezequiel Arce con su cosecha de papas; it was taken in Cusco in 1934. This photo struck me for its portrayal of an indigenous Andean family and the great abundance that came out of their potato harvest. On the one hand, the large number of family members in the picture provided a good challenge for me as I had to describe basic information about each member of the family in Quechua: their names, ages, roles in the family, activities – that is, what I imagined their activities to be as the majority of this information is fictitious for the purposes of the assignment. On the other hand, I thought this portrait represented a critical aspect of Andean culture given that the potato is a staple food in Peruvian cuisine as well as the country’s most important crop. The picture nicely captures an indigenous family resting after many hours of harvesting an impressive amount of this major food product. Reqsinakusunchis Familia Ezequiel Arce Fotopin paykuna Familia Ezequiel Arce sutinku. Kaypi hatun familian. Paykuna Ayacuchomanta kanku ichaqa kunanqa Qosqopin tiyanku. Machula Josécha sutin. Pay machu, soqta chunka isqonniyoq watayoq. Pay pasu, warmichan wañupuran. Pay tawa wawayoq, paykuna fotopin kashanku. Kuraq wawa Luischa sutin. Pay tawa chunka watayoq ichaqa manan warmiyoqchu, wawayoqchu ima. Pay papa chakrapi llank’an. Joséchaq phiwi ususin Dolorescha sutin. Pay kinsa chunka kinsayoq watayoq. Pay manan qosayoqchu, ichaqa ch’ulla wawayoq. Pay wasipi llank’an, wayk’un, wawata isapan ima. Churin, Javiercha sutin, pay iskay watayoq. Fotopin kan. Doloreschaq hoq turan, Robertocha, iskay chunka isqonniyoq watayoq. Pay familiayoq, ichaqa manan fotopin kashankuchu. Robertochapas papa chakrapi llank’an wayqenwan. Joséchaq chana wawan, Mariacha, iskay pisqayoq watayoq. Chay waynacha qosan, Edwincha sutin. Pay iskay qanchis watayoq. Haqayri, wayqen, Mariocha, iskay chunka tawayoq watayoq. Edwincha Mariocha ima Universidadpi yachanku. Familia Ezequiel Arce runasimita rimanku, wayqekuna Edwincha Mariocha runasimita, castellanota ima rimanku. Erqe Javiercha manan runasimita rimanchu ichaqa runasimita entendin. Kaypi familia papankukunawan. Paykuna sarata, papata, kinwata, aychata, q���omerkunata, challwata, wallpata ima mikhunku. Manan qowiyta mikhunkuchu. Fotopin paykuna samashanku. 2013 – Volume 4
Gabriela Mujica-Martorell Let’s Meet the Ezequiel Arce Family The people in the photograph are the Ezequiel Arce family. Here is their big family. They are from Ayacucho, but they now live in Cusco. The grandfather is called José. He’s old, sixty-nine years. He is a widower; his wife died. He has four children; they are in the photograph. The oldest son is Luís. He is forty years old, but he is not married nor does he have any children. He works in the potato field. José’s oldest daughter is called Dolores. She is thirty-five years old. She does not have a husband, but she has one child. She works in her house, cooks, and raises her child. Her son’s name is Javier; he’s two. He’s in the photograph. Dolores has another brother, Roberto, who is twenty-nine. Roberto has a family, but they are not in the picture. Roberto also works in the potato field with his brother. José’s youngest child, María, is twenty-five. That young man is her husband. His name is Edwin. He is twenty-seven. That boy in the back is his brother, Mario, who is twenty-four years old. Edwin and Mario study at the university. The Ezequiel Arce family speaks Quechua. Edwin and Mario speak Quechua and Spanish. Little Javier does not speak Quechua but he understands it. In this photograph, the family is with their potatoes. They eat corn, potatoes, quinoa, meat, vegetables, fish, and chicken. They don’t eat guinea pig. They are resting in the picture.
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Beyond the Coffee
Beyond the Coffee Health Disparities in Costa Rica Kelsey Ripp Costa Rica is famous for its lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and high quality coffee. However, beneath the idyllic surface of this vibrant country there are obvious health disparities that I witnessed while studying abroad in 2011. Many of these heath disparities are connected to the food export industry or are amongst indigenous communities, sometimes in combination. Banana, pineapple, and coffee plantations can have negative effects on the health of surrounding communities mainly due to pesticide pollution and habitat destruction. Plantation workers are often most affected because of the harsh working conditions and direct contact with chemicals. Often these workers are migrants â€“ from neighboring countries or from indigenous populations within Costa Rica. In general, indigenous populations are disproportionately affected by health disparities because of their history of marginalization by the government and prolonged poverty. Governmental and non-governmental actions have improved worker protections and healthcare access; however, some sectors of the population have been slower to benefit.
Above: banana plantation workers; Top right: pineapple plantations (purposely) hidden from the road; Bottom right: community water source located at base of plantation. 2013 â€“ Volume 4
Kelsey Ripp Living conditions of migrant Panamanian NgĂśbe coffee farm workers
Poor sanitation and ventilation, as well as crowded homes put families at high risk of infections, including diarrheal diseases in children. Low pay, migrant status, language barriers, and lack of school access further contribute to health disparities.
AmĂŠricas: Journal of Latin American Studies
Beyond the Coffee Disparities in health care
Barriers to healthcare are physical (right: no bridge), economic, social and cultural.
Because of poor access to high quality hospitals (like the one pictured middle right), there have been innovations made to help bring healthcare to rural and disadvantaged populations. These include health screenings at the border (middle left), and mobile clinics (bottom left). Though these solutions help address lack of access, they continue to raise questions of health care equality. Kelsey Ripp is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is interested in global health and infectious disease. As an undergraduate, she studied in a Global Health & Tropical Medicine program through Duke University and The Organization for Tropical Studies. 2013 â€“ Volume 4
The Interplay of Ethnicity and Class in Brazil The Fiction and the Fact Adriana Foster ABSTRACT: In the past, Brazil was said to be a place without racial prejudices. Although this claim is wonderfully remarkable; unfortunately, recent studies have shown that Brazil has tremendous problems of discrimination and inequality. For many years, these problems were not being addressed. Brazil’s history of migration and miscegenation, along with popular ideologies about race relations in the country, contribute to the race and class conditions found today. This study presents statistics about inequities in the social, economic, and political spheres. Very recently, the silence surrounding these issues has been broken. This study focuses on how race and class issues affect Brazilians today, and examines the programs that the Brazilian government is instituting to address those issues.
The people of Brazil are cultural and racial amalgamations. Ethnicity is defined by “the shared social, cultural, and historical experiences, stemming from common national or regional backgrounds that make subgroups of a population different from one another.”1 Although the importance of biology to our concepts of race and ethnicity is subject to debate, classically, race was seen as distinctions made between people on a biological basis and ethnicity was distinctions made on a social basis.2 Brazilians have a shared history – Portuguese colonization – as well as a common language and religion. Soccer events and the celebration of Carnaval are occasions in which the unity amongst Brazilians, black and non-black alike, can be witnessed and even admired. Brazil is said to be one of the most racially diverse places on the globe, and many claim the inhabitants see beyond color lines. Though the assertion is awe-inspiring, a deeper look reveals that it does not hold true. Throughout the history of Brazil, certain groups have been favored over others and that favoring has created disparities. A study on income growth and distribution in Latin American countries revealed that annual income growth rates for Brazil (from 1990-1996) was between 1-1.5%, depending on the economic section being examined.3 Startlingly, the coefficient of inequality in Brazil in 1990 was 19.2 and increased to 21.5 in 1996.4 Thus, although Brazil’s income growth rate was somewhere in the middle for those countries investigated, the inequality was the highest of any of the nine countries examined. The Adriana Foster is a senior-year student majoring in Natural Sciences Area at Johns Hopkins University. This work was written for Dr. Magda von der Heydt’s Political Sociology of Latin America course. The author wants to sincerely thank her for all of the time and tremendous help she gave in the process of writing this article. 36
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The Interplay of Ethnicity and Class in Brazil coefficient of inequality for Brazil was more than double the second highest inequality values listed of Chile at 9.4 in 1990 and at 10.4 in 1996.5 This example is about economic standing but these inequalities are present in many more areas of life. There is a complex interplay between class, race, and ethnicity in Brazil, which simultaneously exists with a projected image of a race-blind nation. The questions I will address are the following: how did this paradox come to be, why does it persist, how has the reality affected Brazilians, and what is being done about it today? The history Widespread immigration and extensive miscegenation over the past 500 years have produced an extremely variegated population in Brazil. The skin colors span the entire spectrum. While it is easy to concisely classify these people with the term “Brazilian,” more specific racial classification has proven to be a complicated endeavor. Traditionally, the racial classification system contains four categories: white, black, yellow (Asian), and pardo (mixed-race).6 The categorical terms are clear but deciding who fits under them is anything but easy. These decisions are unquestionably subjective because they are based almost solely on skin color instead of actual racial makeup. This demonstrates how blurry these kinds of color lines can truly be. An even better illustration of this problem is given by the 1976 census conducted by the national census bureau, Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, IBGE). The IBGE Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (National Survey of Sample Households) developed a registry that year that left the racial classifications open.7 The person surveyed could decide on the term he or she wanted to use to describe his or herself instead of using the standard four categories. Subsequently, the surveyed persons came up with 135 different descriptive terms. The complexities of racial identity at present stem from a complicated but intriguing past. Ethnicity and race relations in Brazil have been affected by a number of events in their history including the transatlantic slave trade, the mass European immigration following abolition, and the advent of the “racial democracy” ideology. The Portuguese colonists realized they needed a labor force to support their burgeoning industries. Initially, they tried to utilize indigenous labor by forcing them onto plantations.8 As the indigenous people often died or fled the plantations altogether, the Portuguese turned to the seemingly unlimited supply of Africans. The transatlantic slave trade brought approximately 3.5-3.6 million Africans to Brazil between the 16th-19th centuries. The slave trade provided the labor force they were hoping for and greatly increased the African population in Brazil throughout the 17th century. The major industries, from sugar to gold to coffee, all became successful by the hands of slaves. This continued until the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888. Because of the tremendously large number of African peoples that came to Brazil through the slave trade, the look of the country was irrevocably altered. 2013 – Volume 4
Adriana Foster While the politicians were discussing and working towards the abolition of slavery, there came a systematic “Whitening” of the country. The minister of agriculture, trade, and public works- Minister Cansanção de Sinimbu led the Congresso Agrícola (Agricultural Congress) in 1878. The goal of the conference was to discuss concerns about the agricultural sector. Certain provinces were invited and delegates were sent, many of whom were politicians or landowners.9 Those in attendance debated about what their future actions should be as the country moved from forced labor to a free labor system. The delegates of the conference understood how dramatically different the country looked as a result of the slave trade. Not only was there a tremendous number of blacks in the country, but also, more importantly, the delegates reasoned that it was improbable that blacks could function in the open competitive market. Some members of the conference stated explicitly that because blacks were indolent and lazy a white work force would be best suited for their new free labor system.10 The new plan was to provide monetary incentives and jobs for Europeans to relocate to Brazil.11 The Brazilian ruling class felt this move was imperative in the interest of Brazil’s economic security because the Europeans were “superior.”12 They believed that the Europeans did not exhibit those bad traits of the other races and were a great deal more intelligent as well. These elites clearly had a racist agenda based on ontologization.13 They used these bigoted rationalizations to justify their desire to exclude non-whites from their Brazilian job market. In reality, their true goal was to procure a whiter, and in their eyes, brighter future for Brazil. Sociologist Sales Augusto dos Santos states, “They preferred a ‘civilized future’ with a ‘vigorous and conquering race’ to easy profits and the possibility of weakening a Brazilian civilization still under construction through the supposed backwardness of the black and yellow races.”14 Surprisingly, it has even created a push to end the long-standing utilization of slave labor. Joaquim Nabuco, a famed abolitionist leader, felt that having slaves would deter European immigration.15 The Europeans would not want to leave the stability of their lives and homes if their position in the market was not guaranteed. Slavery was eventually abolished and immigrants poured in from Italy, Portugal, Spain and other European countries. Whitening the country was so important at the time that legislators were changing regulations to bar African and Asian immigration altogether. Brazil was well on its way to being “Whitened.” The change in the ethnic composition was astounding. The slave trade brought an estimated 3.5 million people, while the mass European immigration brought an estimated 4.5 million. In 1872, the population was 60% nonwhite. By 1950, the percentages of whites and nonwhites in the country were reversed. Dos Santos remarks, “In a century of immigration policy subsidized by the Brazilian government, Brazil imported more manpower (of free whites) than that (of black slaves) imported in three centuries of slave trade.”16 The ideology of the “Racial Democracy” was another substantial contribution to ideas about race in Brazil. Gilberto Freyre, a Brazilian sociologist, proposed this theory during the 1930s. He posited that Brazil’s major races – Europeans, Indians, and Africans – would mix by intermarriage and other forms of miscegenation. This mixture over time would create 38
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The Interplay of Ethnicity and Class in Brazil a hybrid race that was “uniquely Brazilian.”17 Color lines would be so efficiently blurred that prejudice would have no place in society. The racial democracy idea was a source of great Brazilian pride because progression towards that ideal would be a much more pleasant alternative to the blatantly shameful and extremely violent racism that overtook the United States. Brazilians could be comforted in the fact that despite the similarities between United States and Brazil in both taking part in the horrific history of the Atlantic slave trade, they could potentially serve as a ray of hope to the world. The country could exemplify a beautifully peaceful and colorful nation. Unfortunately, the thought of Brazil’s racial democracy, formulated at the discursive level, did not come to fruition. In recent years, many sociologists have begun to uncover the “myth of racial democracy.”18 Throughout Brazil’s history, talks about race issues have been extremely limited and this ideology has often been cited as the cause. Sociologist Stanley Bailey writes, “Brazil is stratified along color lines, and Freyre’s academic musings reflect a romanticized view.”19 Racial democracy, unfortunately, was not instantiated and a resulting harrowing reality took over. The reality Miscegenation has played a pivotal role in Brazil’s history. It has generated a diverse population of individuals with extremely mixed racial backgrounds. During the colonial period, Portuguese colonists were predominately male and had unimpeded access to nonwhite, slave women.20 Miscegenation was at the forefront of the Whitening policy because many who advocated for it expected the Europeans to intermarry with nonwhite people. The goal was to create a better future for Brazil by diminishing the traces of the “nonwhite” in the population. They assumed that the inferiority of those who were nonwhite would eventually be absorbed and eradicated by more intermarriage with white individuals.21 And in the racial democracy theory, miscegenation was going to be the path to a race blind nation. Although miscegenation has created a “color continuum” instead of bright “color lines,” neither the goal of group eradication nor the goal of group creation was actually met.22 Sociologists have been drawn to studying Brazilians because the colorblindness claim is so unique. Through research, extensive reports have been made illuminating the presence of inequality, racism, and discrimination in Brazil; and its effects in the social, economic, and political spheres. Socially, there are inequities in areas such as healthcare, education, and housing segregation. The disparity in access to health care has left Afro-Brazilians to suffer greatly from diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.23 Maternal death is high for mothers of African descent and those of the indigenous population. White individuals systematically have access to and reach higher levels of education than nonwhite individuals. For white Brazilians versus African-descendant Brazilians, the rates of those with less than one year of schooling is 9.3% and 24.6% respectively; rates for attending university for white students versus African-descendant Brazilians is 14.3% and 2013 – Volume 4
Adriana Foster 3.2% respectively.24 School enrollment rates show racial inequality in all levels of education which translates into more inequality in job opportunities. The lighter skinned Brazilians have much better living conditions and the wealthy even live in very large homes in gated communities. Researcher Lucila B. Beato found, “In the first two months of 2000 alone, Sao Paulo recorded the deaths of 40 people buried under their shanty homes.”25 The favelas (shantytown homes) in which many dark skinned Brazilians reside are of extremely poor quality and are very overcrowded.26 Interactions with the police, judges and politicians demonstrate inequalities in the political sphere. Studies show that treatment by police varies based on color. Mitchell and Wood write, “High status individuals can expect the police to overlook an infraction. Low status individuals will experience the full force of the law.”27 In discussions about instituting welfare programs and interventions that may aid black Brazilians, politicians often claim that no one can really know who is black and who is not. However, the data shows that the police can easily make that distinction. There are higher incidences of police brutality and homicide towards nonwhite individuals than whites. Anthropologist Roberto da Matta investigated what it is like to be a citizen in Brazil and found that “rights are defined by the power relationships present in a certain circumstance.”28 Social, political, and economic issues are undoubtedly interrelated. As inequalities in one area cultivate inequalities in another, it is not hard to figure out who would benefit from these power relationships and who would not.29 The economic arena presents an even clearer illustration of inequality in Brazil. Beato writes, “There are 53 million poor Brazilians and 22 million indigents, among whom is an enormous overrepresentation of Brazilian African descendants in all age groups.”30 Concerning jobs, there is a larger percentage of child and adolescent labor in the AfroBrazilian population than the white population. With Brazilian children working between ages 10-14, whites make up 13% and African descendants make up 20%.31 Evidence shows that African-descendant Brazilian children are disproportionately exploited and forced into sex work.32 Unemployment rates are higher among nonwhite Brazilians. The jobs they perform sometimes involve a longer working day, harsher conditions, and dangerous duties.33 Wage discrimination is a problem as well. The concentration of wealth in Brazil is very high, as shown by the inequality coefficient. The data clearly shows discrimination is prevalent in Brazil. A look into the future With all the studies and data collected, what is being done about racial inequalities in Brazil today? Fortunately, people in power are recognizing the need for intervention. Black movement groups have pushed for more political focus on issues like public health and education. There have been many conversations about instituting affirmative action policies to ensure that Afro-Brazilians have access to educational opportunities. Open 40
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The Interplay of Ethnicity and Class in Brazil conversations about Brazil’s race problems started at the Third World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Intolerance in Durban, South Africa in 2001. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was the first Brazilian President to affirm publicly that racial democracy in fact did not exist and that discrimination really was present.34 Later, President Luís Incácio Lula da Silva , declared the same and instituted the Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (Special Secretariat on Policies to Promote Racial Equality-SEPPIR) in 2003.35 With these moves came efforts to increase black leadership in the political and judicial system. To move forward in the matter of racial equality, it is important to recognize and undermine those factors that cause and reproduce discrimination. Pierre Van de Berghe states in writing about ethnicity and class in Peru: There is such a considerable degree of overlap between class and ethnic status that frequently it is difficult to disentangle the effect of each; but it is also clear that neither class nor ethnicity can be discounted, and that ethnic and class-based disabilities tend to be cumulative.36
Stability of discrimination is created due to these cumulative effects. For instance, Sociologist Florestan Fernandes discusses the mindsets of whites and blacks shortly after slavery. During that time, the recently freed black people had not adapted to the new market from which so many elites tried to exclude them. Their communities were then plagued by social ills such as alcoholism, prostitution, child and elderly abandonment, and crime.37 The recently freed men could not find work and that idleness was looked at by whites from a “racial standpoint.”38 Fernandes writes:
Reading about these people in the newspapers or observing scenes of depravity, they accused the Negroes themselves of being responsible for their conditions since they had no ambition, did not like to work, were naturally inclined toward crime, prostitution, and drunkenness, and incapable of controlling themselves without the domination of the white people.39
They cited the Black Brazilians’ criminal behavior as a reason for their superiority over them. The cumulative effects of discrimination create a feedback mechanism and the ideas of superiority create a cycle of dysfunction in which those “superior individuals” continue to exclude and discriminate. These rationalizations still exist and need to be eradicated in order to move forward in a positive direction. Despite the discrimination and prejudice, recent government policies that address social exclusion, poverty, and access to education and job opportunities may provide hope for Brazil’s future. President Cardoso’s administration opened discussion of federal employment criteria that would enforce hiring quotas for women and blacks. President Lula implemented policies to require the inclusion of African history and Afro-Brazilian culture in primary education curricula.40 In addition, Programa Universidade para Todos (University Program For All) was set up to aid African-descendant and indigenous Brazilians. It is an affirmative action program based on quotas in which the government would provide tax exemptions to private colleges who provide scholarships. Similar affirmative action 2013 – Volume 4
Adriana Foster programs have been adopted by public universities as well. In efforts to break the cycle of poverty, Lula’s administration also started Bolsa Família, a conditional cash transfer program where mothers are given financial support on the condition that their children are enrolled in school and regularly see health care professionals.41 The program was absorbed by a much larger intervention plan, Plano Brasil Sem Miséria (Brazil without Extreme Poverty Plan) that was adopted in June 2011. Tereza Campello, the Social Development and Fight Against Hunger State Minister, said (in a document that describes Plano Brasil Sem Miséria), “2010 Census still identified 16.2 million individuals living below the extreme poverty line.”42 Furthermore, statistics about inequalities in Brazil show that class and ethnicity are inextricably linked. There are several different programs included in the plan. Their objectives include to identify families in need, to support children’s health and education, to provide funds for research on health issues that plague the poor, to provide technical and job training, to implement environmental sustainability measures, and to ensure that those in need have access to good food, clean water, and electricity.43 Although critics express concerns about the actual impact these programs have and the possibility of creating a culture of dependence, the government is still making big changes to address the social and economic problems of the population.44 Research has shown that the interventions made by the Brazilian government, e.g. their conditional cash transfer programs, contributed to a 19% drop in absolute poverty between the years of 2003 to 2005; household income for poorer Brazilians rose by 23.5% from 2001 to 2004.45 The GINI index, a measure of income inequality, has also continued to decrease in recent years.46 The interventions that are being utilized appear to be significant step in the right direction. Conclusion The long-standing silence in Brazil surrounding problems involving race and class does not imply the problem is nonexistent. The fact of the matter is the level of discrimination and the very large inequalities in almost all areas of life dispel any claim that the country is without race issues. It is encouraging that the problems are being recognized. The people of the country are unifying to make their concerns heard. Dos Santos writes “…the intense public discussion resulting from this unprecedented focus on the situation of blacks in Brazil secured a definitive place for the issue on the national political agenda or, at the very least, elevated it to a level at which it could never again be ignored.”47 As indicated above, the programs like Bolsa Família that seek to address the race and class in the country have shown great progress in recent years. Poverty has decreased and the inequality measures show improvement. It will take tremendous efforts to diminish the disparity gaps that pervade Brazilian life; but hopefully, the fictitious “color-blind” nation that Brazil has boasted about can one day become the fact.
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v Steven Barkan, “Race and Ethnicity” in Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, Comprehensive edition, accessed March 2013, http://flatworldknowledge.lardbucket.org/books/sociology-understanding-andchanging-the-social-world—comprehensive-edition/section_13_02.htm. 2 Audrey Smedley, “‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity,” American Anthropologist 100 (1998): 694, accessed March 6, 2013, http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/682047.pdf ?acceptTC=true. 3 Alejandro Portes and Kelly Hoffman, “Latin American Class Structures: Their Composition and Change during the Neoliberal Era,” Latin American Research Review 38 (2003): 41-63. 4 Ibid,. The data came from a table which describes annual income growth rates as the income growth rates in constant prices for each country. The coefficient of inequality is defined as a ratio of nominal average income of the top quintile of the population to the bottom two quintiles. Of the countries looked at in the study, the highest inequality values in 1990 were Brazil at 19.2, Chile at 9.4, Peru at 7.9. In 1996, these values were Brazil at 21.5, Chile at 10.4, Peru at 8.5. 5 Ibid. 6 Sales Augusto dos Santos, “Who Is Black in Brazil?: A Timely or a False Question in Brazilian Race Relations in the Era of Affirmative Action,” Latin American Perspectives 33 (2006): 34, accessed October 2, 2002, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27647947. 7 Ibid. 8 Percy Alvin Martin, “Slavery and Abolition in Brazil,” The Hispanic American Historical 13 (1933):152, accessed November 2012, http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/2506690.pdf. 9 Sales Augusto dos Santos and Laurence Hallewell, “Historical Roots of ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” Latin American Perspectives 29 (2002): 62, accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3185072. 10 dos Santos and Hallewell, “Historical Roots of ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 63-73. 11 The Brazilians not only held ill feelings for Africans; Asians were not very highly regarded either. Because the “superior intelligence” of the Europeans could become costly, Sinimbu suggested executing an immigration plan with Asians. Some at the conference agreed but certain committees were concerned. They stated that if anything, an Asian labor force should be considered a temporary solution because the “subservient and immoral character” could “contaminate the Brazilian population and scare of European immigration” (dos Santos, 2002). 12 dos Santos and Hallewell, “Historical Roots of ‘Whitening’ of Brazil,” 65. 13. Ontologization is defined in “Intergroup Relations, Racism and Attribution of Natural and Cultural Traits” (by Deschamps et al) as process of exclusion of a group from the human species (pg 29). 14 dos Santos and Hallewell, “Historical Roots of ‘Whitening’ of Brazil” 65. 15 Ibid., 66. 16 Ibid., 70. 17 Stanley Bailey, “Group Dominance and the Myth of Racial Democracy: Antiracism Attitudes in Brazil,” American Sociological Review 69 (2004): 729. 18 Ibid., 729. 19 Ibid., 730. 20 Martin, “Slavery and Abolition in Brazil”, 168. 21 dos Santos and Hallewell, “Historical Roots of ‘Whitening’ of Brazil”, 78-79. 22 Edward E. Telles, “Residential Segregation by Skin Color in Brazil,” American Sociological Review 57(1992): 186, accessed November 2, 2012, http://www/jstor.org/stable/2096204. 23 Lucila B. Beato, “Inequality and Human Rights of African Descendants in Brazil,” Journal of Black Studies 34(2004): 772, accessed October 2, 2012, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3180913. 24 Ibid., 774. 25 Ibid., 780. 26 Ibid., 779. 1
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Adriana Foster Mitchell, Michael and Charles H. Wood. “Ironies of Citizenship: Skin Color, Police Brutality, and the Challenge to Democracy in Brazil,” Social Forces 77(1999):1005, accessed October 2, 2012, http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3005969. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 30 Beato, “Inequality and Human Rights,” 778. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid., 782. 33 Ibid., 774-777. 34 dos Santos, “Who Is Black in Brazil?” 32. 35 Ibid., 33. 36 Pierre L. Van Den Berghe, “Ethnicity and Class in Highland Peru” in Peasants, Primitives, and Proletariats: The Struggle for Identity in South America Ethnicity and Class in Highland Peru, by David L. Browman (The Hague: Mouton, 1979) , 225. 37 Florestan Fernandes. “The Weight of the Past,” Daedalus 96 (1967): 564, accessed February 18, 2013, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027053. 38 Ibid., 565. 39 Ibid. 40 Joao Feres Junior and Veronica Toste Daflon and Luiz Augusto Campos. “Lula’s Approach to Affirmative Action and Race,” NACLA Report on the Americas 44(2011): 35, accessed February 14, 2013, http://web. ebscohost.com.proxy3.library.jhu.edu/ehost/detail?sid=11cb1149-7f04-4db1-98f08403b74e0ffc%40sessionm gr15&vid=1&hid=1&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=ofm&AN=510993314. 41 Anthony Hall, “Brazil’s Bolsa Família :A Double-Edged Sword?” Development and Change. 39 (2008): 805 42 A government website has a PDF in English describing the “Plano Brasil Sem Miséria”. <http://www. brasilsemmiseria.gov.br/documentos/mds_revista_ingles.pdf> 3. 43 Ibid., 1-40. 44 Hall, “Brazil’s Bolsa Família,” 811. 45 Ibid., 809. 46 The World Bank, “Gini Index,” accessed March 2013, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI/ countries/1W-BR?page=6&order=wbapi_data_value_1983%20wbapi_data_value%20wbapi_data_valuefirst&sort=asc&display=default. The World Bank describes the GINI Index as such “Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. A Lorenz curve plots the cumulative percentages of total income received against the cumulative number of recipients, starting with the poorest individual or household. The Gini index measures the area between the Lorenz curve and a hypothetical line of absolute equality, expressed as a percentage of the maximum area under the line. Thus a Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality.” 47 dos Santos, “Who Is Black in Brazil?” 31. 27
Bailey, Stanley. “Group Dominance and the Myth of Racial Democracy: Antiracism Attitudes in Brazil.” American Sociological Review 69 (2004): 728-747. Barkan, Steven E. “Race and Ethnicity” in Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, Comprehensive edition Accessed March 2013. http://flatworldknowledge.lardbucket.org/books/sociology-understandingand0changing-the-social-world—comprehensive-edition/section_13_02.html Beato, Lucila B. “Inequality and Human Rights of African Descendants in Brazil.” Journal of Black Studies 34(2004):766-786. Accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3180913 Deschamps, J. Claude and J. Vala, C. Marinho, R. Costa Lopes, R. Cabecinhas. “Intergroup Relations, Racism, and Attribution Of Natural And Cultural Traits.” Psicologia Politica 30 (2005): 27-39. Accessed January 18,
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The Interplay of Ethnicity and Class in Brazil 2013. http://www.uv.es/garzon/psicologia%20politica/N30-2.pdf. dos Santos, Sales Augusto. “Who Is Black in Brazil? A Timely or a False Question in Brazilian Race Relations in the Era of Affirmative Action.” Latin American Perspectives 33(2006): 30-48. Accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27647947 dos Santos, Sales Augusto and Hallewell, Laurence. “Historical Roots of ‘Whitening’ of Brazil.” Latin American Perspectives 29 (2002):61-82. Accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3185072. Fernandes, Florestan “Beyond Poverty: The Negro and The Mulatto in Brazil.” Race and Ethnicity in Latin America 7 (2004): 75-91 Fernandes, Florestan. “The Weight of the Past.” Daedalus 96 (1967): 560-579. Accessed February 18, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027053. Feres Junior, Joao and Veronica Toste Daflon and Luiz Augusto Campos. “Lula’s Approach to Affirmative Action and Race.” NACLA Report on the Americas. 44(2011):34-39. Accessed February 14, 2013. http:// web.ebscohost.com.proxy3.library.jhu.edu/ehost/detail?sid=11cb1149-7f04-4db1-98f08403b74e0ffc%4 0sessionmgr15&vid=1&hid=1&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=ofm& AN=510993314. Hall, Anthony. “Brazil’s Bolsa Família: A Double-Edged Sword?” Development and Change 39(2008):799-822. Harris, Marvin and Josiledeth Gomes Consorte and Joseph Lang and Bryan Byrne. “Who are the Whites? Imposed Census Categories and the Racial Demography of Brazil.” Social Forces 72(1993): 451-462. Accessed November 2, 2012. www.jstor.org/stable/2579856. Htun, Mala. From “Racial Democracy to Affirmative Action: Changing State Policy on Race in Brazil.” Latin American Research Review 39(2004): 60-89. Accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1555383. Lovell, Peggy A. “Race, Gender, and Regional Labor Market Inequalities in Brazi.l” Review of Social Economy 58(2000): 277-293. Accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.jsor/org/stable/29770066. Lovell, Peggy A and Charles H. Wood. “Skin Color, Racial Identity, and Life Chances in Brazil.” Latin America Perspectives 25(1998): 90-109. Accessed November 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org.stable/2634168. Martin, Percy Alvin. “Slavery and Abolition in Brazil.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 13(1933):151196. Accessed November 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/2506690.pdf. Mitchell, Michael and Charles H. Wood “Ironies of Citizenship: Skin Color, Police Brutality, and the Challenge to Democracy in Brazil.” Social Forces 77(1999): 1001-1020. Accessed October 2, 2012. http:// www.jstor.org/stable/3005969. Plano Brasil Sem Miséria. “Plano Brasil Sem Miséria.” Accessed 2/14/2013. <http://www.brasilsemmiseria. gov.br/documentos/mds_revista_ingles.pdf> Portes, Alejandro and Kelly Hoffman. “Latin American Class Structures: Their Composition and Change during the Neoliberal Era.” Latin American Research Review 38(2003): 41-63. Smedley, Audrey. “‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity.” American Anthropologist 100 (1998): 690702. Accessed March 6, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/682047.pdf ?acceptTC=true. Telles, Edward E. “Residential Segregation by Skin Color in Brazil.” American Sociological Review 57(1992):186197. Accessed November 2, 2012. http://www/jstor.org/stable/2096204. The World Bank. “Gini Index.” Accessed March 2013. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI/ countries/1W-BR?page=6&order=wbapi_data_value_1983%20wbapi_data_value%20wbapi_data_valuefirst&sort=asc&display=default. Wood, Charles H. and Peggy A. Lovell. “Racial Inequality and Child Mortality in Brazil.” Social Forces 70 (1992):703-724. Accessed November 2, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2579750. Van Den Berghe Pierre L, “Ethnicity and Class in Highland Peru” in Peasants, Primitives, and Proletariats: The Struggle for Identity in South America Ethnicity and Class in Highland Peru, by David L. Browman. The Hague: Mouton, 1979.
2013 – Volume 4
The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America A Comparative Study of Minority Identity Geoffrey Levin ABSTRACT: Though dwarfed by larger Jewish communities in Israel, the United States, and Europe, Latin America contains a vibrant and diverse Jewish community made up of over 400,000 individuals. Borders, language, and history divide them, but so too does the role of Jewish identity within their daily lives. Communities with a small population, such as Mexico and Peru, tend to be more insulated from the local nonJewish population, and often feel more connected to the global Jewish community and Israel. In Brazil and Argentina to a slightly lesser extent, it is more common for Jews to place their national identity above their Jewish one. Overall, this study paints a picture of diversity in Latin America’s Jewish communities, particularly the differing conceptions of Judaism, Zionism, and the self that can be seen across borders.
Yo soy un moro judío Que vive con los cristianos No sé qué dios es el mío Ni cuáles son mis hermanos1 – Jorge Drexler
The famous Uruguayan Jewish musician, Jorge Drexler, wrote the above lyrics for “Milonga del moro judío,” a song from his 2004 album.2 While this is only a snippet from a single song written by a single man, it gives a glance of the complicated identity of Latin American Jewry as a whole, beckoning the listener to ask a question: What does it mean to be a Jew born and raised in Latin America? In what way or ways do Latin American Jews feel and express their ‘Jewishness’? The varying aspects of Jewish identity held within this community, ranging from how Jews see themselves ethnically, religiously, socially, historically, communally, economically, and politically, are a result of the unique Geoffrey Levin is a visiting graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s Political Science Department. He received a B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State University in 2011 and also studied at the University of Haifa. He will be entering a PhD program in Hebrew and Judaic Studies/History at New York University in Fall 2013. This paper was originally written for Professor Kenneth Waltzer’s MC 399: Advanced Independent Study course on the history of Latin American Jewry, which was offered in Spring 2010 at Michigan State University. I would like to acknowledge his support and guidance in this project. I also want to thank Ms. Sonia Kurganoff, Mrs. Steny Sudit, and Mr. Eli Levine for their kindness and willingness to speak with me. In addition, I would like to thank Ms. Vicky Neiman and Ms. Michelle Sudit for their help in facilitating the interviews. 46
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The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America backgrounds and settings of the many Latin American Jewish communities. Due to their wide dispersion across many borders, any single answer to the question of how Latino Jews understand themselves would be incomplete. Thus, the three nations with the largest Jewish communities in Latin America – Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico – as well as a smaller one in Peru, will be used as case studies to answer questions about identity in the larger Latin American Jewish community, displaying the contrasting identities that differing backgrounds have forged among the region’s Jews. Over 400,000 Jews live in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries, yet they are often overlooked by scholars who choose to focus on larger Jewish communities in North America, Israel, and Europe – settings quite different from Latin America.3 4 While there is a great deal of variance within Latin America, the countries in the region tend to be religiously monolithic and far more socially hierarchal than other places where Jews live today. Latin America of the 19th, 20th, and even to some extent the 21st century, resembles the aristocratic-dominated Europe that constructed colonial Central and South America centuries ago. Though Jewish history in Latin America extends back early into the colonial era, it was not until later that significant numbers of Jews immigrated to the region. Among the three countries in this case study, Argentina has a population of between 185,000 and 250,000 Jews, Brazil has roughly 100,000, and Mexico has between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews.5 6 7 Outside the obvious language difference in Brazil, these three Jewish communities have very different societal background as well. Some of them are financially well off, others less so; some are more religious and some connect to their Judaism in less obvious ways. Argentina, the historic centerpiece of Latin American Jewish life, will be examined first. Argentina: A home for working-class Jews Although Jewish history in Argentina can be traced back to small converso communities established before independence in 1810, practicing Jews immigrated in small numbers throughout the mid-1800’s, primarily along with the non-Jewish immigration waves from France, Germany, and Italy.8 However, most Argentine Jews mark August 14, 1889 as the beginning of their community’s history, when 894 Russian Jews arrived in Buenos Aires. The Weser, the boat that brought them, is generally considered the Mayflower of Argentinian Jewry, and descendants of the pioneers are proud of their families’ history.9 10 However, the land that the Jewish community originally purchased was a small, uninhabitable plot distant from established urban areas. After many in the community died of typhoid, Baron Maurice Moses Hirsch of France agreed to buy suitable farmland for the community; in his honor, this new Jewish agricultural settlement was named Moíses Ville.11 12 This began an era of Jewish agricultural development, during which Jewish gauchos with a Zionist-like socialist ethos prospered by working the land.13 However, over the course of the next several decades, the rural emphasis of Argentine 2013 – Volume 4
Geoffrey Levin Jewry declined. Argentine Jews began to congregate in the major cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba, and Tucumán, where they were joined by a new influx of European Jewish immigrants.14 The years with the highest amounts of immigration to the country were 1900 through 1914, when 87,614 Jews immigrated to Argentina, while 25,000 came in the last 20 years of the 19th century. In contrast, a mere 2,000 Jews immigrated to Argentina in the 40 years prior.15 In total, the Jewish immigration to Argentina between 1840 and 1942 was about 8% of the United States’ figure, with similar countries of origin.16 Major Jewish institutions such as the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, AMIA) were created during this era, which were generally successful in fostering unity among the population. The 1994 bombing of the AMIA building brought Jews together, albeit for the unfortunate reason that even secular Jews felt alienated by the ambivalence with which the government and media treated the tragic event.17 While some immigrants held onto the Jewish religion as their primary source of identity, political association proved to be a greater source of communal connection among many Argentine Jews.18 Bundist, Zionist, and Jewish labor organizations and youth groups dominated Argentine Jewish life throughout the 1900s in both the rural and urban stages.19 While politics were a focus of this Jewish community that in no way meant that they abandoned their religion; there were synagogues in Argentina throughout the entire period of Jewish communal settlement. Sonia Kurganoff, an Argentine Jew who immigrated to Chicago in 2002, has a family history that closely mirrors the history of her people. Kurganoff ’s father was born in the famed agricultural settlement Moíses Ville to Russian Jewish immigrants. Kurganoff herself was born in the city of Tucumán, which is the home of Argentina’s fourth largest Jewish community.20 While her family would often attend synagogue, she recalled that most Jews felt more connected by their Zionist and socialist ideologies, with Jews coming together in ideological youth groups and labor unions. Argentine Jews felt a particular connection to Zionism, as they reflected nostalgically on their pioneering agricultural roots that resembled the early labor Zionist work ethic. Yet passing communal identity down to future generations through political identification alone proved to be very difficult. Of Kurganoff ’s nine adult cousins, only two of them married Jews, and among the extended family, only Kurganoff, one sister, and their children actively identify as Jews. “Most Jews there would consider themselves Argentines first and Jews second. Many of the ones who identify more as Jews tend to make aliyah [immigrated to Israel] or move to America like me,” Kurganoff says.21 “The economy today is bad, and in general most Jews are no wealthier than anyone else. There is a lot of anti-Semitism because Argentina is a very racist country,” Kurganoff claimed. “If you are very Jewish, why not move? And if you are not, why not just assimilate to make life easier?”22 By Kurganoff ’s reasoning, it is not hard to see why Argentina’s historic Jewish population is constantly shrinking. Yet around 200,000 people still identify as Jews there, many of whom attend the country’s many synagogues and also take part in secular Jewish life.23 Despite the dual temptations of assimilation and 48
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The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America emigration, Argentina’s Jews soldier on, proving through their very existence that they can overcome the challenges that currently face their communal identity. A Jewish oasis in Mexico City As in most Latin American countries, the first wave of Jewish immigration to Mexico was Sephardic, primarily consisting of conversos forced to hide their religious identity after the Spanish Inquisition of 1492. While some Ashkenazim began to arrive in the 1880s, and while many Sephardim arrived right before and after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the majority of Jewish immigrants to Mexico were Ashkenazim who came in the 1930s and 1940s to escape Nazism.24 As a result, Mexico’s Jewish population is primarily Ashkenazi and has a greater proportion of Orthodox synagogues per capita than any other community in the Americas.25 While small Jewish communities exist around Mexico in Guadalajara, Tijuana, and Monterrey, over 90% of Mexico’s Jews live in the capital city. In a few words, Jewish life in the city can be described as prosperous, cohesive, religious, and united despite its diversity. According to Mexican-American Jew Eli Levine, nearly all children in the Jewish community attend Jewish day schools free of charge thanks to the generosity of wealthy donors.26 Despite having only 40,000-50,000 Jews in the entire country, Mexico City’s population alone sustains 30 synagogues and ten different Jewish day schools. Synagogues and schools exist for the ultra-Orthodox, the secular, the Ashkenazim, the Sephardim, the German Jews, and the traditional. Yet despite these divides, the small community makes efforts to come together. Virtually all members of the community attend the Centro Deportivo Israelita, which serves as a giant recreational center for seniors, children, adults, and families to take part in social, cultural, and sporting events, interacting socially despite their differences.27 While there was a time when Sephardim and Ashkenazim would never marry each other, it is commonplace today.28 In addition, the ten Jewish day schools run a student exchange program for high schools in which students take courses at different schools, allowing them to interact with members of other parts of the Jewish community. Zionism is another factor in Mexico’s Jewish community that unites across ethnic and religious lines. The community will cover the expenses of any new high school graduates who wish to spend a gap year in Israel.29 The community in Mexico has “an exceptionally strong Jewish identity that expresses itself in many ways including politically, socially, culturally, historically, and religiously across different sectors of the population.”30 This identity is so strong that intermarriage with non-Jewish Mexicans is almost unheard of, in stark contrast to the Jewish communities elsewhere in the Americas. Even though most would consider themselves Jews first and Mexicans second, Mexican Jews are proud of their Mexican culture as well, as Levine sums it up best when he states: “Such pride tends to be kind of shallow…yes, we have Mexican personalities, enjoy Mexican food, and live in the culture, but nationalist feelings there are not the same as
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Geoffrey Levin they are among Jews here in America. We like Mexico, but we are really Jews at heart, and even though different Mexican Jews connect with their Jewish identity in different ways, we mostly agree that being a Jew comes first.”31
Brazil: Prosperity in a land of diversity On paper, the Brazilian Jewish community differs from others in a number of ways. While the majority of Jews there are Ashkenazi, Brazil has a higher proportion of Sephardim and Mizrachim than any other Jewish community in the western hemisphere.32 Despite the fact that Brazil contains over 100,000 Jewish citizens, they only make up about 0.05% of the national population, primarily concentrated in the cities of Saõ Paulo (45,000), Rio de Janeiro (25,000), and Porto Alegre (15,000).33 Yet despite their small numbers, Brazilian Jews are far more prominent and well integrated into their home country than their Spanish-speaking counterparts. In addition, despite some incidents of vandalism after the 2006 Hezbollah War, Brazil has had very little history of anti-Semitism. Though the western hemisphere’s first synagogue was built in the Brazilian city of Recife in 1636, Jewish life in Brazil today revolves neither around religion nor around Recife. Rather, the vast majority of Jews in Brazil descended from those who immigrated in the 1800s and early-to-mid 1900s. A key difference between early Brazil and other Latin American countries is that a far higher proportion of early immigrants were either French or Sephardic, usually Moroccan. While not native Portuguese speakers, these French and Ladino-speaking immigrants had a much easier time learning the local language than did the German, Russian, and Yiddish speakers who dominated other Jewish immigrant societies.34 When these Central and Eastern European Jews did begin to immigrate to Brazil in larger numbers in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, the Jewish communities were integrated enough themselves to help absorb the new immigrants, who came in smaller numbers than their Argentine counterparts.35 As in Argentina, these immigrant societies developed communal structures that were based more around unions, politics, and secular Jewish identity than around the synagogue. In addition, the fact that Brazil has always been a far more diverse society than Argentina facilitated greater integration into Brazilian life, as local Jews were always able to work their way up economically, even if they were politically limited from the start.36 However, prosperity and acceptance often leads to assimilation and a loss of Jewish identity. A short memoir by Professor Anita Novinsky of Saõ Paulo exemplifies the Brazilian Jewish dilemma. Her ultra-Orthodox mother and Zionist father from Krakow, Poland planned to “use Brazil as a bridge to get to the United States.”37 But, like many other Jewish migrants to Brazil, her father discovered that “Brazil was a ‘golden land,’ ” a place where Jews could live freely and prosper fairly.38 Her parents remained religious and identified strongly as Jews, and “although [her father] mingled with the non-Jews, he never assimilated.”39 Anita, however, was raised in secular schools despite her religious household. She outlines her family life in the following way:“I married a Jewish engineer 50
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The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America who is completely secular. He is the son of Russian Jews who were thoroughly assimilated, and we have two daughters who married non-Jews, divorced, and today are married to Jewish men. Both Sonia and Ilana Novinsky are completely assimilated.”40 Despite the success of Anita and her family, she currently feels as though she is in a crisis. As the oldest living member of her family, she tries to bring her daughters and grandchildren to synagogue. But deep inside, she tells herself, “I have made an error: I did not give them the Jewish tradition when they were growing up. Today they do not have the least bit of connection with Judaism … I feel separated from my children and grandchildren who feel that they are Brazilian.”41 Like the lyrics at the beginning written in neighboring Uruguay, the role that Judaism plays in the lives of some Jews in this region is unclear. This is a glimpse into the challenges facing Brazilian Jewry today. While the Novinskys are only one family – by no means do all families struggle with the same issues – their story reflects some of the unique identity issues that Brazilian Jews face. Their successful integration is a central reason why total assimilation is commonplace, but it is only part of the reason why they face different challenges than do other Latin American Jewish communities. The population is much smaller than Argentina, and much more dispersed than Mexico; even though they have the second-highest Jewish population in the region, there is still only one Jew for every 2,000 Brazilians, while Argentina has one for every 200.42 Brazil does not at all lack Jewish communal institutions; synagogues and even Jewish day schools exist within the country, although the fact that the Jewish community is dispersed leaves some Jews out. Brazilian Jewry tends to be more isolated, as it is the only Portuguese-speaking Jewish community in the region. Thus they have historically lacked communal leaders with sufficient religious training. According to Sidney Greenfield, shared historic experience, particularly revolving around past European antiSemitism, is a core aspect of Brazilian Jewish identity.43 Historic connection to identity may be weaker than religious connection, and this is potentially another reason why Brazilian Jews have a greater propensity to assimilate than other Jewish populations. Small Jewish populations throughout Latin America With the exception of the countries examined above and the addition of Chile, Venezuela, and Uruguay, the rest of the Latin American countries have small Jewish populations, ranging from 500 to 5,000 people in most cases. These communities are primarily urban and tight-knit, and very different from the larger Jewish communities in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico City. Countries with such Jewish communities include Panama (5,000), Colombia (3,100), Costa Rica (2,500), Peru (2,200), Paraguay (900), Guatemala (900), Cuba (500), and Bolivia (500).44 These communities have varied histories, but today they all deal with similar challenges that are posed by being a tiny minority in a predominantly Catholic urban metropolis. The Jewish community in Peru serves as an ideal case study of the aforementioned 2013 – Volume 4
Geoffrey Levin phenomenon. Like most of the others, the Jewish population is concentrated in one city, predominantly Ashkenazi, and lives in a country that has experienced both military governance and democracy. The community is based in the capital city of Lima, and contains only 2,200 individuals, which is very typical of many of these populations spread across cities in Central and South America.45 An interview with Mrs. Steny Sudit, a Peruvian Jew who immigrated to the United States in 1983 with her husband, sheds more light on the complex identity issues that Jews in such communities face. Like the majority of Lima’s Jews, who are descended from those who came to the city in the 1930s and 1940s, Sudit’s father and his family immigrated to Peru from Poland on the eve of the Holocaust.46 The Peruvian Jewish population peaked at 5,000 around when Sudit left, as many South American Jews have immigrated to Israel, the United States, or larger Latin American Jewish communities in recent decades. Jewish life in Lima is extremely different than in U.S. cities or in Buenos Aires, Saõ Paulo, or Mexico City. Despite the community’s small size, its inhabitants are entirely socially isolated from the Peruvian Catholic community around them. In the words of Sudit, “Every Jew in Peru considers himself a Jew first and Peruvian second. It is not even a question like it is in America … there is no deep connection to the Peruvian nation, Peru is just a place to live.”47 While the community, which revolves around three synagogues, one Jewish day school – which everyone attends from nursery school to high school graduation – and a Jewish recreational club, is integrated economically, it is not as socially connected. “Most Jews own small businesses and non-Jews work for them. That is the extent of interaction … my parents, who have lived in Lima for over 70 years, have no non-Jewish friends that I know of,” Sudit states.48 Thus, intermarriage is not at all a pressing issue in Peru like it is in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina, as Sudit claims. “Intermarriage is extremely rare, and when it does occur, the spouse converts to Judaism.”49 Religiously, the services are Orthodox, although the community has faced some communal religious challenges, including inability to obtain any kosher food during the time of the military government, which led some people to smuggle in Matzah – a food required on the important holiday of Passover. Another challenge they faced was the ignorance of the local population, as priests throughout the country claimed Jews had horns and tails, leading to occasional antiSemitic acts involving vandalism and threatening letters.50 When asked if Peruvian Jews feel most connected to their ‘Jewishness’ religiously, politically, culturally, historically, through Zionism, or through a connection to Israel, Sudit replied, “All of the above.”51 Like Mexican Jews, Peruvian Jews are almost uniformly connected to Israel, unlike their counterparts in some larger communities. “Every child starts learning both Hebrew and English at age 5 … by high school, they spend three hours a day speaking Hebrew in their Jewish Studies classes. Families who can afford it all send their children to a program in Israel where they spend six months working on a Kibbutz.”52 Interestingly, it appears that the challenges the community faces have led them to have a stronger and more well-rounded Jewish identity than the larger Jewish populations 52
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The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America that have more resources. Despite the linguistic, cultural, and historic similarities between small host countries like Peru and larger ones like Argentina and Brazil, the background and setting of the community creates great contrasts in how these populations perceive themselves as Jews. Conclusion Composed of many diverse communities, there is no clear-cut answer to what it means to be a Jew in Latin America. Each of the communities examined have very different backgrounds and divergent experiences in their host countries, which lead them to have varied understandings about what it means to be a Jew. The large working-class Argentine community tended to unite around political ideologies such as socialism and Zionism, while today their descendants struggle with questions of communal identity as many choose to emigrate or to fully assimilate. In Mexico, the size, proximity, and prosperity of Mexican Jewry has allowed them to create a community where everyone feels strongly connected to their identity, albeit in different ways. Smaller urban Jewish communities like those in Peru tend to foster a Jewish identity that is strong yet relatively uniform, due to the limited number of Jewish institutions and a mutually imposed social isolation of the Jewish community. Brazilian Jews, however, struggle with issues like intermarriage and assimilation due to their dispersion and the high degree of acceptance that has allowed them to integrate into Brazilian society. Jewish identity issues that are prevalent in one Latin American country are often totally unheard of in surrounding countries, showing that the unique backgrounds of Latin American Jews have fostered very different conceptions of what it means to be a Jew throughout the region.
v Translation from Spanish: “I am a Moorish Jew / That lives with Christians. / I don’t know which God is mine, / Nor which are my brothers.” 2 Translation from Spanish: “Milonga of the Moorish Jew.” Jorge Drexler, “Milogna del moro judío,” Eco, 2004. www.jorgedrexler.com. 3 “The Jewish Population of the World,” Jewish Virtual Library, 2006. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/Judaism/jewpop.html 4 Sergio Della Pergola, Uzi Rebhun, and Mark Tolts. “Contemporary Jewish Diaspora in Global Context: Human Development Correlate of Population Trends” Israel Studies 10.1 (2003): 64. 5 “The Jewish Population of the World,” Jewish Virtual Library, 2006. 6 Della Pergola, “Contemporary Jewish Diaspora,” 68. 7 Kristin Ruggiero, The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean: Fragments of Memory. Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2005, 2. 8 Judith Laikin Elkin. Jews of Latin America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998, 48-52. 9 Elkin, Jews of Latin America, 54. 10 Phone interview with Ms. Sonia Kurganoff, Argentine-American Jew living in Deerfield, Illinois, April 28, 1
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Geoffrey Levin 2010 11 Ruth Ades De Galagovsky, “Short Story about Moises Ville (English)” Moises Ville. www.mville.com.ar. 12 Ibid. 13 Phone interview with Ms. Sonia Kurganoff. 14 Elkin, Jews of Latin America, 54. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 17 Ruggiero, The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America, 86-92. 18 Elkin, Jews of Latin America, 56-57. 19 Ibid. 20 Phone interview with Ms. Sonia Kurganoff. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. 23 “The Jewish Population of the World,” Jewish Virtual Library, 2006. 24 Elkin, Jews of Latin America, 60-61. 25 Ibid. 26 Phone interview with Mr. Eli Levine, Mexican-American Jew living in San Diego, California, May 2, 2010. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid. 31 Ibid. 32 Elkin, Jews of Latin America, 61. 33 Ibid., 193. 34 Ibid., 228. 35 Ibid., 52. 36 Ibid., 228. 37 Leon Klenicki, Identity in Dispersion: Selected Memoirs from Latin American Jews, Cincinnati, OH: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, 1999, 80. 38 Ibid., 80. 39 Ibid., 81. 40 Ibid., 81. 41 Ibid., 82 42 “The Jewish Population of the World,” Jewish Virtual Library, 2006. 43 Sheinin, David; Barr, Lois Baer. The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996. 185. 44 Jewish Virtual Library, 2006. 45 Ibid. 46 Phone interview with Mrs. Steny Sudit, Peruvian-American Jew living in Buffalo, New York, April 25, 2010. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid.
De Galagovsky, Ruth Ades. “Short Story about Moises Ville (English),” Moises Ville, accessed March 23, 2010, http://www.mville.com.ar.
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The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America Della Pergola, Sergio; Uzi Rebhun, and Mark Tolts. “Contemporary Jewish Diaspora in Global Context: Human Development Correlate of Population Trends.” Israel Studies. 10.1 (2003): 61-95. Drexler, Jorge. “Milogna del moro judío,” accessed March 2010, www.jorgedrexler.com. Elkin, Judith Laikin. Jews of Latin America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Foster, David William. Latin American Jewish Cultural Production. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009. Klenicki, Leon. Identity in Dispersion; Selected Memoirs from Latin American Jews. Cincinnati, OH: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, 1999. Phone interview with Ms. Sonia Kurganoff, Argentine-American Jew living in Deerfield, Illinois, April 28, 2010. Phone interview with Mr. Eli Levine, Mexican-American Jew living in San Diego, California, May 2, 2010. Phone interview with Mrs. Steny Sudit, Peruvian-American Jew living in Buffalo, New York, April 25, 2010. Ruggiero, Kristin. The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean: Fragments of Memory. Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2005. Sheinin, David; Barr, Lois Baer. The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996. “The Jewish Population of the World.” Jewish Virtual Library. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2006.
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities in the Re-integration of Salvador’s Homeless Population A Case Study of Comunidade da Trindade and Aurora da Rua Charlotte James ABSTRACT: With more than 100 million homeless individuals worldwide, this problem has become an unavoidable epidemic. A combination of forces has caused a steep increase in the rates of homelessness; urbanization, globalization and capitalism heavily influence each individual’s ability to remain a productive member of their community. In Brazil the gap between the rich and the poor gets worse every year. Although the country has experienced substantial economic growth, the number of citizens living in poverty remains very large. Unfortunately, the government puts little focus on this issue and instead allows responsibility to fall to a private and individual level. In Salvador, A Comunidade da Trindade and the street paper Aurora da Rua, have taken on some of this responsibility by providing stability and alternative employment opportunities for a few of the cities’ previously homeless adults. Through oral life histories, informal interviews and participant observation, this essay will explore the social determinants that cause homelessness and the role this alternative community has in reintegrating and reconnecting homeless individuals with the society that excludes them. For many individuals, this community and newspaper have aided in redirecting their lives and providing a light of hope that at one point was completely extinguished. In nations where government aid is minimal, the creation of alternative communities and employment options such as A Comunidade da Trindade and Aurora da Rua can provide the support needed to curb the growth of this desperate issue.
Introduction: Homelessness, a global epidemic The value system in modern society is based on the individual’s ability to be a productive member of his/her community. Due to capitalistic ideals, productivity is understood as one’s ability to contribute to the local and global market. For homeless individuals, this is a nearly impossible goal to accomplish and thus they find themselves in a situation of complete social exclusion and isolation. The United Nations estimates that more than 100 million Charlotte James is a junior Latin American Studies major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is currently spending her junior year abroad, first in Salvador, Brazil and then in Córdoba Capital, Argentina. She would like to thank the volunteers and community members of A Comunidade da Trindade and the vendors of Aurora da Rua who continue the daily fight for human rights. 56
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities people are homeless worldwide.1 This shocking statistic does not include the millions more that dwell in informal housing such as favelas (Brazilian slums) and villas miserias (Argentine slums). Oftentimes, this problem is even more apparent in nations that find themselves in a period of economic transition. These time periods are generally marked by shifts in economic strategies that cause drastic, speedy, and, in the case of Brazil, positive fiscal shifts. Over the past five years, Brazil’s economy has been growing at a rapid rate; by the end of 2011, Brazil had officially surpassed England to become the sixth-largest world economy.2 While growth brings progress, it also creates even greater disparities: as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Although the number of Brazilians in the category of extreme poverty has decreased, the figure of those living beneath the poverty line has continued to rise. While state welfare programs aided in stabilizing families and creating opportunities for economic growth, they mainly focused their energy on those living in extreme conditions. While this was a positive agenda, it did not focus on those below the poverty line and instead lifted those from extreme poverty into poverty, bloating the category classified as impoverished. Furthermore, as the formal economic market has grown, a substantial informal market, driven in large part by illegal drug trafficking, has continued to expand. The introduction of crack cocaine approximately five years ago has left an ugly scar on the social map and can be seen as responsible for a large part of the homeless population. While drug and alcohol abuse are accountable for causing a good portion of homelessness, there are various other factors that contribute to this growing problem; mental illness, familial instability, lack of housing, poor education and unemployment can all lead to homelessness as well. Regardless of the reason, once individuals find themselves in this predicament, the reality of escaping their situation becomes harder to obtain with each passing day. Each day there are homeless people on the streets, they are pushed further and further to the outskirts of society. Their physical appearance continues to deteriorate, therefore making them easier to disregard; they are less able to participate in the free market, and, ultimately, their social exclusion is amplified. Unfortunately, this is the result of the stereotypes and preconceived notions associated with the homeless population. Seen as crazy, dirty, and dangerous, homeless individuals are assigned a character before they have the ability to develop their own. This is due in large part to the media, which tends to only report on homelessness in cases of violence committed by or against them. Internationally, many organizations are attempting to break these stereotypes through alternative methods of communication. One of these techniques is the use of “street papers,” or newspapers produced and sold by homeless and previously homeless individuals that aim to give a voice to a silenced population. In Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, Aurora da Rua (Street Aura), the only street paper in the northeast region, has had great success in disseminating this message and providing employment opportunities for the city’s homeless. I propose that the creation of an alternative community, A Comunidade da Trindade (Trinity Community), and the employment opportunities offered by Aurora da Rua have aided in creating agency and giving a voice to the homeless population of Salvador. This 2013 – Volume 4
Charlotte James voice helps to re-integrate homeless individuals into a society that views them as subhuman and unworthy of aid. I hope to prove this hypothesis through observation and interviews with community members and paper vendors. Location Salvador is a city of great social disparities, which can be observed in everyday life. In reality, Salvador is two cities: the upper and lower city, separated by elevators and trams that take residents from one level to the other. There is a large gap in the economic opportunities of the lower and upper city. The lower city, once a thriving center of industry, has since been abandoned. Furthermore, due to large-scale urbanization and population growth, the lower city has been transformed into a sequence of favela-like neighborhoods that were created with little city planning. Winding streets and deserted corners have been transformed into drug trafficking outlets and a refuge for many of the city’s homeless and disenfranchised, countless of which have become victims to the intense use of crack that now permeates the city. A Comunidade da Trindade is located in an abandoned church in Agua de Meninos, a neighborhood in the lower city with close proximity to the ferry to the islands, the Mercado do Peixe Popular and Feira São Joaquim. It is a high-traffic area with constant movement of people and goods. Upon arriving to the community, it is hard to ignore the pungent air, rotting trash, and abundance of homeless individuals who have transformed this area into their home. I spoke with numerous members of the community, many of whom expressed that their recovery is sometimes threatened due to the presence of the lives they are attempting to leave behind; there is easy access to most drugs in this area and many of the individuals they once called friends still reside in this locale. I will provide more specifics on the actual community and location in my description of its history. Literature review When discussing homelessness one must consider multiple theoretical frameworks, most notably social exclusion, marginalization, and the idea of human capital. Those that face poverty, especially extreme poverty, are already pushed to the outermost limits of society, isolated from thriving in society, and are located at the edges of government control. However, when an individual becomes homeless, their misery is removed from the physical margins of society and is placed at the center of the public eye – large cities. Homeless individuals transform public space, a space that is typically used as a space of work and leisure, into their homes. Although their existence is incredibly visible, they are treated as an invisible population. Their invisibility is not just a factor of social exclusion but of national policies. In Brazil, and many other large nations, a national census is taken every ten years to study the growth of the population for statistical and policy-creation purposes. However, the national census is based on residency and is performed with families in their 58
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities homes. As such, if an individual does not have a home they are not counted in the census, a practice that belies the very real existence of the homeless. This is one of the main issues surrounding homelessness: a lack of knowledge of the population. Without a homeless census, this population is essentially made up of invisible citizens. According to D.A. Snow and L. Anderson there are four categories of deficiency that limit the lives of the homeless: physical or mental deficiency, lack of human capital, lack of material resources, and lack of a social margin.3 For the purpose of this study, the lack of human capital can be viewed as the most problematic of these deficiencies. As stated in the introduction, the role of a globalized capitalist market has placed the utmost importance on an individual’s ability to create and spend capital. When an individual is not contributing to the global market they are seen as a “wasted life.” Zygmunt Bauman coined this term is his book, Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts, to describe those that have been left behind by an individualized society more focused on consumerism than citizenship.4 This concept has trickled down and forced individuals to consider themselves without value if they are not employed. For homeless individuals, this is almost always the reality. In a column titled “If I Were President” from a past edition of Aurora da Rua, one interviewee begins his commentary by stating, “Without work, a man has no honor.”5 This interviewee goes on to discuss that if he were president, he would create programs to train individuals in a skill and then stimulate the economy by creating more jobs. While this is a hypothetical situation, his commentary highlights society’s focus on productivity and the importance placed on employment. It also demonstrates how homeless individuals internalize the social attitudes against them, which can oftentimes result in even greater difficulties in changing their situation. This phenomenon will be further highlighted in the oral life history included in the results section. Once an individual becomes homeless, their social exclusion frequently destroys their last connection to society – familial networks. According to Serge Paugam, when people “leave the meshes of social protection they encounter an increasing degree of marginality, where misery is synonymous with de-socialization.”6 The longer an individual remains homeless, the further removed he/she becomes from society and the harder it becomes to reintegrate. The lack of structure in the lives of the homeless is yet another barrier that impedes their social inclusion. This is why transitional communities such as A Comunidade da Trindade work to re-socialize and establish daily routines that consequently unite previously homeless individuals with society. In a short documentary entitled “Invisible Men,” an interviewed woman states that she “ignores the people I know I should ignore.”7 Attitudes such as this halt progress and exasperate the issue at hand. When asked what resources are needed in order to improve the worldwide homeless epidemic at hand, Irmão Henrique simply answered, “human potential.”8 In other words, it is not that we lack the material resources to better the lives of millions of children and adults around the world; it is that we lack the compassion and drive to do so. 2013 – Volume 4
Charlotte James Definitions At the time of the Brazilian National Study on Homelessness, done in 2008, there were approximately 33,000 homeless adults in the nation, 3,200 of which resided in Salvador. This is the second greatest number of homeless individuals in a major Brazilian city after Rio de Janeiro.9 However, this study was only done in major cities with a population of 300,000 or more and only accounted for adults over the age of 18. If/when homeless children were found they were only counted when a legal adult claimed responsibility for them. This means that the population of unaccompanied homeless children remains invisible to the national eye and any policies developed specifically for the homeless population. Unfortunately, there is a large population of unaccompanied homeless children and thus their existence is extremely precarious. This limitation in data collection severely skews the truth of the homeless epidemic in Brazil. While the study included those residing in shelters, it did not account for children or the homeless populations of small cities. However, the study did include individuals utilizing shelters, both government- and privately-funded, which should be noted as very important. Nevertheless, although these individuals may be housed at the moment, if for any reason said shelters were to close, all individuals utilizing their services would once again be homeless. The study also pointed to a notable difference between large and small cities in Brazil: in larger cities it is somewhat common for laborers, notably construction workers and market vendors, to travel from rural areas to the cities to work during the week. These commuters often live in shelters, and return to their homes on the weekends. This is either because the cost of transportation in relation to salary is too large or because the distance is too great. The study accounted for cases such as these in its discussion of the data. An article published on October 12, 2012 in A Tribuna da Bahia claims there are 1.8 million homeless individuals nationally. The huge disparity between the National Study statistic and this one clearly highlights the difficulties in quantifying this population. This can be understood in terms of errors in data collection such as time of collection, location of collection, and, most notably, who is being counted. Without a clear, centralized definition of homelessness, the statistics will never represent the truth. The National Study defines the homeless population as: A heterogeneous population group, characterized by their condition of extreme poverty, fragile familial networks and lack of conventional living conditions. They are required to use local places (streets, city squares, cemeteries, etc.), degraded areas (abandoned houses, buildings, ruins, etc.) as shelter and occasionally utilize overnight shelters.10
The National Study utilizes the term “pessoas em situaçao de rua” instead of “morador de rua” for very specific reasons. In her work on homelessness in Salvador, Daiane de Santos Santos explains that the main difference in these terms is the connotation of permanence.11 “Morador de rua,” most closely translated as “street dweller,” implies that this individual has and will always be homeless. In Portuguese the verb “morar” means “to live” and so this term expresses that said individual has made the street his/her home instead of a 60
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities potential space of transition. “Pessoa em situação de rua,” most closely translated as “a person experiencing homelessness,” suggests that this individual has the potential to change his/ her current situation. “Morador de rua” is mainly an objective term while “pessoa em situação de rua” is a subjective term. For the purpose of this study, I will use the term “pessoa em situação de rua” when speaking with and interviewing homeless individuals and activists. I will use the English term “homeless” when writing due to a lack of distinction between the two when translated. Results Aurora da Rua: a short history and explanation The street paper Aurora da Rua was founded in 2007 within A Comunidade da Trindade. Along with more than one hundred and twenty other street papers worldwide, Aurora is a part of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP). INSP helps develop and support street press projects in forty countries and has been key to the success of this concept. Even though there are two other street papers in Brazil (Boca de Rua in Porto Alegre and Ocasin São Paulo), Aurora is unique in the way it approaches the creation process. One of the biggest challenges for street papers is that, oftentimes, homeless individuals lack the education level necessary for quality production and journalism. Instead of discovering innovative ways to face this challenge, some journals simply hire a journalist to serve as the voice of this vulnerable population. While this still helps the homeless, it nevertheless discredits their capacity to a certain extent. The purpose of these papers is to showcase a side of homelessness that is rarely covered by mainstream media; it only follows that the voice should come from within the group instead of from an outsider’s perspective. This is why Aurora includes the population it aims to help in every step of the production process. Street papers typically do not provide up-to-date news but instead select a theme that is relevant to the homeless population. Therefore, the paper never goes out of date and vendors can continue to sell past editions. Aurora begins the process by having an initial palta (literally avocado, but used in this case to refer to a meeting) where the vendors discuss and decide on a topic for the next edition. This palta is then followed by a round table discussion where everyone is able to contribute his or her story and opinions on the topic. Those that are not public speakers are able to express themselves through different mediums, such as art. Iris Quieroz, the official journalist for Aurora then transcribes these meetings into each edition’s main article. The author is never cited as Iris Quieroz and is instead listed as “Texto Coletivo,” (“Collective Text”). For those who can write, there are numerous opportunities and columns throughout each edition to which they can contribute. These articles then pass through an editorial process and, if accepted, are printed with the author’s name. There are also often articles contributed by professionals that work with the homeless population to provide numerous perspectives on the issue. The final product is a 2013 – Volume 4
Charlotte James bi-monthly, eight page, color newspaper that the vendors buy for .25 reais (R) and sell for 1.00R, keeping the .75R as their salary. To become a vendor of the paper each candidate much pass through an orientation process. This includes information sessions on the history of Aurora as well as the concept of street papers, ensuring that each vendor can make an informative sales pitch. The new vendor then accompanies an experienced vendor to practice and verify that he/she is representing the journal well. In each edition of the journal the vendor’s code of conduct is included along with contact information for the journal’s headquarters to assure potential buyers that they are participating in a legitimate project that takes pride in its existence. A Comunidade da Trindade: Henrique’s story12 When passing the Igreja de Santissima Trindade, a once-abandoned church located in the heart Salvador, many people think it remains as such. However, the reality proves the opposite. A thriving community occupies this space, and can be found after scaling the church’s large staircase that leads to its impressive wooden doors and walking to the back of the church. To the side of the main gates is the recycling collection area, one of the projects that helps to maintain the community. Below the church is an open clothing and book donation area that any homeless individual of the city can access. A small garden serves as a space of leisure for the residents and also provides some of the fresh food used to feed their community. An outdoor communal kitchen is used to prepare all of the meals that are either enjoyed inside the church or in the outside meeting space and dining room. Inside the church is a small library with a few computers, the communal bathrooms and the sanctuary, which is used as a place of storage as well as communal sleeping grounds. Behind the garden and newspaper offices are a few small houses that can be rented by community members once they have become more stable and have a means of support. The money paid to rent these houses is then returned to the community as another source of maintenance. The community described above, known today as A Comunidade da Trindade, owes its existence to Irmão (Brother) Henrique Peregrino, who agreed to sit down with me and discuss the history of its of development, along with his own role in its creation, in detail. More than twenty years ago Henrique, a French engineer, chose to leave his Western lifestyle behind and live as a homeless individual in order to better understand their precarious situation. Eleven years ago he founded A Comunidade da Trindade. Henrique first arrived in Brazil when he chose to consciously object mandatory French military service and was assigned to do service work. After two years of service he decided to leave behind material possessions and learn about homelessness in the most intense sense, living with the community itself. Henrique experienced homelessness in multiple South American and European nations and eventually returned to Salvador. During his twelve years of homelessness Henrique stayed in many shelters and transitional housing programs 62
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities yet, as he described with sadness in his eyes, he never felt truly housed or taken care of and for him, this caused a lot of pain. All of these placements were organized by social workers that Henrique felt saw him as more of a problem than a human being. Instead of being genuinely invested in improving the situation of the homeless, they saw each individual as more work on their desks. After living for some time on the streets of Salvador, Henrique was approached by a bishop who wanted him to open a type of shelter for Salvador’s homeless. This was not the first time Henrique was approached to establish a refuge. However, in the past he always denied the opportunity because he did not want to be controlled by a government that was detached from its populace nor did he want to recreate any of the shelters he had to experience. One day, while walking the streets of Salvador, Henrique stumbled upon the abandoned Igreja de Santissima Trindade. The church had been closed for ten years and was in extreme disarray, but Henrique saw it as an opportunity. Henrique quoted a passage from Psalms that states, “God’s altar is the wanderer’s home.” This excerpt made him realize that a church was the perfect place to develop a community of ex-homeless individuals because, while a house is nice, it is a far step from the streets and does not allow for a time of transition. The transitional period is of extreme importance because it is the time in which social norms and behaviors are relearned with the aid of volunteers, advocates and professionals. With this mentality he went back to the bishop and asked if he could utilize the space to establish a community. The bishop immediately accepted. That day, Henrique and three comrades opened the church and began a six-month process to clean it out. When they arrived the church had no running water, no electricity and was completely overgrown. Their first tasks were to build a bathroom and a kitchen, and to install running water. Once these details were in place, homeless individuals began to arrive to the community. The community now enjoys clean, organic water (rain water that passes through a filtration system) and solar-powered electricity. By Christmas the community had increased from three to fifteen members. Henrique emphasizes that there was never a plan for the community, only a motive, but that as more space became available, the community began to grow. The houses that surround the church were once occupied, but as residents moved out, the community would propose a new idea for growth to the archdiocese, who owned the houses, and he would accept. The first house became the office for artisan work, one of the ways the community generates income, the second became the office for the journal, Aurora da Rua, and the smaller ones can now be rented by individuals who have passed through the stage of communal living within the church and generate enough income to rent a small home. As we continued the interview, Henrique explained that if the members of the community wanted, they could receive government funding and expand at an even faster rate, potentially helping a larger percentage of the city’s homeless. However, this would completely change the dynamic of the community and transform it into the type of shelter Henrique is avoiding. With government funding, Henrique and the other coordinators would become administrators, the community would grow, and the close-knit relationships 2013 – Volume 4
Charlotte James that determine the success of the community would be lost due to sheer numbers. I agree with this ideology and viewed the community as an example on which one could base the creation of similar communities that would also thrive without reliance on government funding. Henrique began to discuss that homeless individuals are accustomed to receiving charity instead of creating their own agency and working for what sustains them. While I do not completely agree with this statement, I understood what he was attempting to communicate. In order to teach responsibility, the community focuses on self-sustainability, as previously outlined. There is no rent to live in the community but instead a collective understanding that to survive and thrive, they must be self-sufficient as a community, not individualistic. All of these elements of responsibility come together and serve as daily lessons for individuals who were once lost in the chaotic life of homelessness. When it becomes obvious that a community member is ready to move on, Henrique makes a point of speaking to them and encouraging them to take the next step, but never before it appears that the individual is ready. Henrique cites two determining factors for the creation of the community: the need to escape the violence of homelessness and the desire to express love to individuals who often feel hated. After two or three years on the streets, Henrique says that a conversation with another homeless man helped him understand the ultimate reason people become homeless. This man told Henrique that the only reason he found himself using the street as his home was because he never felt that anyone had truly loved him. Henrique notes that it may not be that the person was never loved but that they did not feel loved. This could be due to a history of domestic violence, disrupted familial networks, broken intimate relationships, or a number of other factors, but ultimately, the feeling was never there for the individual. This is why Henrique lives by the motto that only love heals. By creating a safe environment of likeminded individuals, Henrique and other community members are able to express mutual love and respect and reclaim their dignity together. A story of triumph: The life of an Aurora vendor With a somewhat confused smile on his face, Danny13 responds to my question about his childhood: â€œI had a completely normal childhood: a mother and father who loved me, supported me and provided everything I needed.â€? As I knew where his story was going, I was a bit surprised by this answer. I was expecting to hear tales of pain and struggle, not of tranquility and comfort. Danny was raised in the lower city neighborhood of Caixa das Aguas, in the years before heavy drug trafficking, following an industrial crash, came to plague the area. As a child, Danny enjoyed playing soccer with friends, going to school, and chasing after schoolgirls. At the age of fifteen he received his first job but explains that it was really only a job to give him a little extra money for going out. He never had to completely support himself, and even with a job, his father continued to give him extra money to pay for his entertainment. Fifteen was also the year Danny began experimenting 64
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities with drugs. However, as he explains, this really only meant going out with his friends to drink a few beers. Furthermore, when Danny was fifteen strict age limits had yet to be placed on the purchase of alcohol (not to say that the current restrictions can be called â€œstrict,â€? either), and it was seen as normal for young men and women to pass the time drinking together. Eventually, his group of friends decided to try smoking marijuana together. Danny says that it was never a factor of peer pressure because it was a first for everyone. They all enjoyed it and continued smoking because it never seemed like a big deal. At seventeen Danny met and fell in love with a young woman. At eighteen he was married; at nineteen he had his first child, and at twenty, his second. Throughout all of this he continued drinking and smoking marijuana and says that occasionally, when his group of friends had some extra money, they would buy a bit of cocaine to share. However, he did not see this as a problem and believed it was all recreational use. He was still under the impression that he had control over the drugs he was taking instead of those drugs having control over him. This may have been true for a while, but at twenty-two, when he separated from his wife and he became involved in drug trafficking, his relationship with drugs grew increasingly problematic. At first, he mainly sold drugs on a small scale, supplying his friends and his own habit. His family was aware of his involvement with trafficking and though they attempted to intervene, Danny did not allow them to help him. As he did not want his participation in trafficking to have consequences for his family, he began to separate himself from their lives. While his connection with his family grew weaker, his connection to the drug world grew stronger. He began to rise in the ranks of the trafficking world, thus giving him greater and easier access to the drugs he was using. Danny says that this is when his problems truly began. When an individual has more responsibility, there is more risk involved and what once seemed an exciting lifestyle starts to become dangerous. The further he descended into the world of trafficking, the more severely he abused cocaine. Although he was able to maintain himself through all of this and rented homes in multiple neighborhoods around the city, his life was slowly falling apart. The police became aware of his high-ranking presence and his movements became more sporadic and clandestine. Eventually, it was too much to handle, and at thirty-eight Danny found himself homeless. With little familial network remaining and an intense drug addiction, Danny was left to fend for himself. He says that it was on the streets that he was introduced to crack. He had always known about crack because he sold it but had never tried it because of his accessibility to cocaine. Once he was homeless, he virtually forgot about cocaine and became intensely addicted to smoking crack. Danny highlights that while he was homeless he never robbed, begged, or recycled plastic or paper products, a common source of income for those who find themselves in situations similar to his, to maintain his addiction. He did odd jobs such as carrying construction materials or watching cars, which was enough to maintain his use of crack, marijuana and alcohol. While still homeless Danny eventually decided that he was done with this lifestyle and 2013 â€“ Volume 4
Charlotte James stopped smoking crack. He continued to drink and smoke marijuana but realized that if he did not stop using crack, he would die homeless and remain invisible. This is when, at the age of forty, he chose to seek refuge within A Comunidade da Trindade. However, as the community requires its residents to lead a sober lifestyle, he was not permitted to sleep within the chapel and instead slept on the stairs of the church. After he had spent a month sleeping out front, he was approached to become a vendor of Aurora da Rua. He accepted the proposal, passed through the orientation process and began selling the journal. This is when his life truly began to change. He was invited to live within the community and was offered help with rehabilitation; he began seeing a psychologist who does volunteer work for the community and began working with some of the women who volunteer for the community. As many of these women are health professionals, they are able to monitor the progress of those going through withdrawal as well as its aftereffects. Danny stopped drinking and smoking marijuana and threw himself wholeheartedly into community life and his own recuperation. Now, at forty-two, Danny is one of the outstanding examples of the power of alternative communities and job opportunities. In an average week he can sell more than eighty journals, he gives lectures at high schools, universities and community events, and he has even been able to rent one of the small homes situated behind the church. However, it has been an incredibly difficult journey riddled with thoughts of suicide and near-relapses to arrive at this point. When I asked him about the role social attitudes play in the recuperation and reintegration of homeless individuals he began to speak about the devastating effect they have on one’s wellbeing. He shared that at one point, he thought so little of himself due to the way he was ignored by society that he thought it better to kill himself than continue living as a homeless drug addict. With therapy provided by the community, he is far past this low point. However, it serves as a prime example of the power of discrimination. When I asked Danny, “What doors have been opened because of stable employment and shelter?” Danny broke out in a giant smile and exclaimed, “Every door has been opened because of A Comunidade and Aurora da Rua.” Not only has he been able to change his own life, but also truly feels that the newspaper serves as a positive force in changing social attitudes towards the homeless. When he approaches people to sell the journal, explains its purpose, and shares a bit of his story of triumph, people are amazed that this eloquent, clean cut, respectable man was once a homeless crack addict. Each conversation he has and each relationship he establishes creates a network of individuals whose attitudes have been changed. While they may seem like small victories, each sale of a journal and each visit to the community by an outsider creates a ripple affect that can aid in the recuperation of the lives of countless lost and ignored individuals. No human should be subjugated to a life of invisibility, especially not when their condition is a result of the society they have been excluded from.
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities Conclusion When I first embarked on this research project one of my goals was to highlight the social determinants that cause homelessness and draw attention away from the common stereotype of the drug-addicted, homeless individual. Upon arriving to A Comunidade and throughout the interviewing process, it became evident that this goal would be a bit difficult to complete. This is not because substance abuse is the main reason individuals become homeless but because A Comunidade attracts many addicts as a consequence of the rehabilitation support they offer. Once this became clear, I allowed myself to shift focus a bit and recognize that substance abuse is itself a social determinant. My interview with Danny only solidified this observation because, aside from his substance abuse, he had everything in life he needed in order to succeed: a supportive and healthy family unit and opportunities for education and employment among other social factors. His homelessness was a direct result of his substance abuse, which consequently excluded him from society. Something that began as social recreation eventually led to the near destruction of his life. Thankfully, Danny discovered refuge in A Comunidade da Trindade and eventually Aurora da Rua, before his life was truly lost. These two unique projects were able to rescue Danny from the streets and offer him security, responsibility, dignity, and love, both for himself and for his fellow citizens. Although I have observed many housing programs in the United States that claim to create a sense of community, A Comunidade da Trindade is able to truly achieve this objective as a result of its openness. Anyone who approaches the front gates is greeted with a smile and those that show interest in becoming a community member are welcomed with open arms and few questions. This is not to say that every individual who arrives to the community is or will be an ideal fit, but for those who are ready to make a change, the community is there to be that extra foundation of support. The small size ensures that intimate relationships are able to develop and most importantly, there is enough mutual respect and love to result in success. The presence of the street paper adds to the triumphs of the community. By providing an alternative employment opportunity, the street paper is able to restore dignity and create agency on an individual – and population – wide scale. Not only does the individual feel they are able to contribute to and therefore truly be an integral part of A Comunidade da Trindade, they are moreover able to reconnect with mainstream society while educating the public on the realities of homelessness. As Henrique underlined, the purpose of Aurora da Rua is neither to glamorize nor demonize homelessness, but instead, it is meant to expose the beauty that already exists within this population despite the hardships that often mask their virtue. As I sat in on a new vendor’s orientation class I could not help but become excited for the potential future that lay ahead for this woman. At only thirty-one years of age, this community member had suffered her entire life with a mental deficiency that eventually played a role in the rupture of her familial network and her consequent experience with 2013 – Volume 4
Charlotte James homelessness. As her orientation came to a close, Iris took this woman’s hands in hers, looked her in the eyes and proclaimed “Congratulations, you are now an official vendor of Aurora da Rua.” The new vendor clapped her hands and allowed a huge smile to spread across her face. When I asked her how she felt and what this moment meant for her she simply replied, “Everything.” She did not need to say much more: her facial expression communicated all I needed to know.
v Milon Kothari, “Press Briefing by Special Rapporteur on Right to Adequate Housing,” United Nations, 11/052005, Accessed 12/03/2012, http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2005/kotharibrf050511.doc. htm 2 Phillip Inman, “Brazil’s economy overtakes UK to become world’s sixth largest,” The Guardian, March 6, 2012, Accessed 11/28/2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/mar/06/brazil-economy-worldssixth-largest. 3 D. Snow and L. Anderson, Down on Their Luck (Oakland: University of California Press, 1993). 4 Bauman, Zygmunt, Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts (Oxford: Polity, 2004). 5 “If I Were President,” anonymous vendor, interview by Iris Quieroz, Aurora da Rua 4, no. 23 (December 2010/January 2011). 6 Paugam, Serge O debate em torno de um conceito: pobreza, exclusão e desqualificação social, in Véras, M. B., Sposati, A. e Kowarick L. Por uma sociologia da exclusão social: o debate com Serge Paugam. (São Paulo: EDUC, 1999): 115-133. 7 “Homens Invisíveis” YouTube video, 9:10, posted by jcomunic, July 14, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=XyfmlNM2juo. 8 Ibid. 9 Pesquisa Nacional Sobre a População em Situação de Rua, April 2008. 10 Ibid. 11 Daiane Dos Santos Santos, “O Retrato do Morador de Rua da Cidade de Salvador-BA: Um Estudo de Caso,” Study, Universidade do Estado da Bahia, 2009. 12 Irmão Henrique Peregrino, interview by Charlotte James, 12/03/2012. 13 Pseudonym, for protection of privacy. 1
Aurora da Rua, Street Newspaper. Online/print. http://www.auroradarua.org.br/jornal.php Bauman, Zygmunt, Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts (Oxford: Polity Press, 2004). Bottil, Nadja Cristiane Lappann. “Condições de saúde da população de rua da cidade de Belo Horizonte.” Cadernos Brasileiros de Saúde Mental, (2009). Cantarino, Carolina. “A organização dos moradores de rua.” Noticias do Brasil, (2005). Danny [pseud.]. By Charlotte James. November 27, 2012. Escorel, Sarah. Vidas ao léu: trajetórias de exclusão social. Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz, 1999. Gomes Filho, José. “Identidade, Discurso e Poder do Morador de Rua: A construção de uma utopia atrevês do jornal ‘Aurora da Rua.’” III Simpôsio Nacional Discurso, Identidade e Sociedade (III SIDIS): Dilemas e desafios na contemporaneidade. “Homens Invisíveis” YouTube video, 9:10, posted by jcomunic, July 14, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=XyfmlNM2juo. Inman, Phillip. “Brazil’s economy overtakes UK to become world’s sixth largest.” The Guardian, March 6, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/mar/06/brazil-econo-
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The Role of Alternative Communities and Employment Opportunities my-worlds-sixth-largest. International Network of Street Papers. Accessed October 15, 2012. http://www.street-papers.org/. Kothari, Milon. “Press Briefing by Special Rapporteur on Right to Adequate Housing,” United Nations, 11/05/2005, Accessed December 03, 2012, http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2005/kotharibrf050511.doc.htm Mattos, Ricardo Mendes and Ricardo Franklin Ferreira. “Que Vocês Pensam que (Elas) São – Representações Sobre as Pessoas em Situação de Rua,” Psicologia & Sociedade 16, no. 2 (2004): 47-58. Paugam, Serge. “O debate em torno de um conceito: pobreza, exclusão e desqualificação social.” In Por uma sociologia da exclusão social: o debate com Serge Paugam. Edited by Maura Pardini Bicudo Véras. (São Paulo: EDUC, 1999), 115-133. Peregrino, Irmão Henrique. By Charlotte James. December 3, 2012. Pereira, Daniela. “1,8 milhão de brasileiros vivem nas ruas,” A Tribuna da Bahia, October 22, 2012. “Pesquisa Nacional Sobre a População em Situação de Rua.” Meta Instituto de Pesquisa de Opinião, Secretaria de Avaliação e Gestão da Informação. (Brasília: Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate a Fome, 2008). Rosa, C. M. M. Vidas de rua, destino de muitos. Sao Paulo: IEE-PUC/SP, 1999. Santos Santos, Daiane Dos. “O Retrato do Morador de Rua da Cidade de Salvador-BA: Um Estudo de Caso.” Study. Universidade do Estado da Bahia, 2009. da Silva Rozendo, Suzana . “Informações da Aurora: voz às pessoas em situação de rua.” RELEM – Revista Eletrônica Mutações (2011). Snow, D. and L. Anderson. Down on Their Luck. (Oakland: University of California Press, 1993). Varanda, Walter and Rubens de Camargo Ferriera Adorno. “Descartáveis urbanos: discutindo a complexidade da populacão de rua e o desafio para políticas de saúde.” Saúde e Sociedade (2004): 56-69.
2013 – Volume 4
Borges, Heidegger and the Mechanical Inspiration of the Scriptures Tamar Nachmany ABSTRACT: What does an author introduce into the world? The concept of the mechanical inspiration of the Scriptures is that the individuals who transcribed the Bible did not introduce anything new into these texts, but rather wrote as though receiving God’s dictation. In this essay I argue that both “A Defense of the Kabbalah” and “The Hometic Versions,” by the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, discretely express Borges’ philosophy of writing and God. I then compare Borges’ view with “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry” by Martin Heidegger. Similarly, Heidegger’s essay contemplates what, if anything, an individual poet creates. In “A Defense of the Kabbalah,” Borges argues for the idea of the writer as a transcriber. Accordingly, he sees the literary author as simply expressing literature’s next consequence and creation in the same way the transcribers of the Bible wrote mechanically, dictated by the voice of the Holy Spirit.
“A Defense of the Kabbalah” concerns two ideas that centrally inform Jorge Luis Borges’ thought: the absolute text and the mechanical dictation of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit. Beneath the guise of a brief celebration of esoteric Jewish theosophy and mysticism, “A Defense of the Kabbalah” is a four-page expression of Borges’ ideas about writing and God. In Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem writes, “For Kabbalah, Judaism in all its aspects was a system of mystical symbols reflecting the mystery of God and the universe, and the kabbalists’ aim was to discover and invent keys to the understanding of this symbolism.”1 According to the Zohar, a collection of foundational Kabbalistic writings, there are four levels of biblical exegesis, or interpretation, ranging from peshat, an analysis of the simple, literal meaning of the text, to sod, secret, which opens up the Torah’s inner meanings. As Scholem writes, “The tales related in the Torah are simply her outer garments.”2 What sod Tamar Nachmany (‘13) is a Woodrow Wilson Research Fellow and Johns Hopkins senior studying philosophy, bioethics, fiction writing, and theatre directing. She will graduate from Hopkins as a double major in philosophy and the writing seminars and is being awarded a Homewood Arts Certificate in Theatre as well. Tamar first came across Borges as a freshman in Borges, Bioy Casares, Cortazar and Their Time, an undergraduate course with Dr. Sara Castro-Klaren. Last spring she had the opportunity to participate in a graduate seminar on Borges with Professor Castro-Klaren in which she wrote this piece. Although the preoccupations of this paper reflect the content of the course, this position solely reflects her views on Borges, Kabbalah, and all relevant literature. 70
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Borges, Heidegger, and the Mechanical Inspiration of the Scriptures allows for is a penetration and discovery of “the soul of the soul of the Torah.”3 Borges uses the concepts of the mechanical inspiration of the Bible and “writing as transcription” as, in the elegant phrasing of Edna Aizenberg, “metaphors of intertextuality, expressing … his belief in the oneness, as opposed to separateness or originality of literature.”4Borges believed writers should strive towards creating “absolute,” multilayered texts that could be analyzed like scripture, moving away from the notion that a writer writes out of his or her distinct soul. I will begin with a discussion of “A Defense” then move to “The Homeric Versions” as an example of the way literature dictates the substance of a text. My analysis of “A Defense” will begin by unpacking the “world of attributes” of that essay, so to speak, and then articulate the heart of the piece, something more like the “primary world … the world of En-Sof (Infinite).”5 “The Homeric Versions” will serve to expand my argument. Finally, I will analyze Heidegger’s “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry,” with particular focus on the question of what the author introduces into the world. Parsing through Heidegger’s work and assessing whether the two theories are compatible will help unfold one small corner of Borges’ philosophy of writing and creation. In “A Defense of the Kabbalah” Borges discusses the wondrous possibility of an absolute text, that is, a text that yields true insights under all systemized analysis, including the mystical hermeneutics that characterize Kabbalistic readings of the Scriptures. The essay is structured as such: a disclaimer; a discussion of the concept of the mechanical inspiration of the Bible, of the Holy Spirit as the author of the Scriptures; a measure of different sorts of writing (in terms of the Scriptures); and then a vivid description of the wonder of an absolute, infinitely meaningful text. One can see, once familiar with Borges’ philosophy of writing, that the disclaimer does not reveal the lightness of Borges’ interest. In it, he confesses here that he does not read Hebrew, being mainly concerned with Kabbalist hermeneutical procedures. This comment suggests the very opposite of “lightness,” hinting that the fundamental principles of the Kabbalah are truthful in a non-provincial, universal way, an essential “story” in all languages, like the Iliad as I will discuss. In his essay, Borges quotes John Donne, “The Holy Spirit is an eloquent writer, a vehement and copious writer, but not verbose, as removed from an impoverished style as from a superfluous one.”6 Above all, “A Defense of the Kabbalah” is a work of philosophy expressing Borges’ beliefs about writing and about God. In his discussion of the Holy Trinity, Borges writes, “Hell is merely physical violence, but the three inextricable persons import an intellectual horror, a strangled, specious infinity like facing mirrors.”7 The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are a trinity, but together they form a single being. It would seem that the idea of three inextricable persons is an intellectual horror because it suggests the truth of multiple seemingly contradictory realities, such as Borges being both Jorge Luis Borges and John Dunne. Borges often writes about mirrors. Here, he uses this motif to demonstrate the “intellectual horror” of the Holy Trinity. 2013 – Volume 4
Tamar Nachmany The notion of this “strangled, specious infinity like facing mirrors” is as disruptive to our sense of reality as the idea that the world we see and believe we understand is actually a world of infinite layers, most (by far) unknown to us. The layered realities are all equal and inextricable, but different in the sense that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are different entities. This essay is ultimately about the fantastical idea of an absolute text, dictated by a divine intelligence, impervious to change, or rather, absolute enough to possess infinite purposes, meanings, and revelations. The importance of the Holy Spirit in this piece is twofold: the Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures, and is indicative of the type of universe that Borges posits, both great and terrible. Borges ends the essay with a brief but climactic discussion of absolute texts. An absolute text is, according to Borges, writing which is completely intentional, where the corroboration of chance, meaningless combinations of words is zero. Borges looks to the Scriptures as tight and fully intentional texts, created by an author who “sees all at once … not only all the events of this replete world but also those that would take place if even the most evanescent – or impossible – of them should change.”8 In contrast, he makes the insightful and incisive claim that works of journalism, works of sensational non-fiction, actually “allow for a considerable amount of chance.”9 These supposed statements of the reality of the world are ‘ephemeral statements.’ These statements of “yesterday’s always unusual assault” communicate “a formula which represents no one … In such indications the length and sound of the paragraphs are necessarily accidental.”10 The statements certainly do not hold together tightly and unfold themselves to infinite meanings. In fact, they only unfold themselves to the superficial meaning (superficial in both senses of the word) thereby having no bearing on the future. Alazraki, describing the layered nature of the Kabbalic reality, writes: The theory of the Sefiroth postulates that there are two worlds and that both represent God. ‘First a primary world, the most deeply hidden of all, which remains insensible and unintelligible to all but God, the world of En-Sof (Infinite); and secondly, one joined unto the first which makes it possible to know God, the world of attributes.’11
This language of multiple true layers and infinite meanings is directly in line with the language that Borges uses to describe an absolute text. Borges calls an absolute text “a book impervious to contingencies, a mechanism of infinite purposes, of infallible variations, of revelations lying in wait…”12 The Kabbalah suggests that the world is layered, and has, perhaps, infinite layers. The kind of world Borges posits is deeply compatible with this masked world. In “A Defense,” he calls the Trinity ‘monstrous,’ but continues, “This is what I believe, although I try to bear in mind that every object whose end is unknown to us is provisionally monstrous.”13 This comment is quite telling in getting at the tone of the infinitely layered world that Borges posits. It is horrifying in the sense that it is deeply frightening to try to conceive of how much of the world we regularly engage with is truly unknown and inaccessible to us. In an absolute text all possible combinations are true. If the Lord has seen, all at once, the events of the world and all the infinite permutations of these events – arising from 72
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Borges, Heidegger, and the Mechanical Inspiration of the Scriptures small changes in the smallest things – then fiction, which uses elements of “true” reality as a jumping off point, is an “unreality” which is real. We may return here to Gershon Scholem: “Creation mirrors the inner movement of the divine life … It is nothing but an external development of those forces which are active and alive in God Himself.”14 As such, these actively falsified tales are already true. Borges writes that chance ‘holds no meaning’ for the Lord – all of the possible combinations of reality have already been seen by the infinite intelligence. On its surface, “The Homeric Versions,” also by Borges, is, in contrast, a work on translation. As suggested by the Kabbalists, a surface level analysis of an absolute text does result in true meanings. Borges strives to create such texts. He writes, not autobiographically but perhaps introspectively, “[The intellectual] remotely approximates the Lord, for Whom the vague concept of change holds no meaning.”15 In the “Homeric Versions” Borges asks: Are not the many versions of the Iliad – from Chapman to Magnien – merely different perspectives on a mutable fact, a long experimental game of chance played with omissions and emphases? (There is no essential necessity to change languages; this intentional game of attention is possible within a single literature.) To assume that every recombination of elements is necessarily inferior to its original form is to assume that draft nine is necessarily inferior to draft H – for there can only be drafts.16
Essentially, Borges’ essay concerns the value of different translations of this classic work. His ultimate conclusion is that each translation is valuable and faithful as a different perspective on a mutable fact. Radically, he concludes that the literal translations are the least faithful in that they do not tell the story with the same intentions as a storyteller. Borges writes that their “virtue lies entirely in their contrast to contemporary practices.”17 In the quotation above Borges characterizes Literature, which supplies the material for the work of the Writer, as “a mutable fact.” His view of writing does leave space for the writer’s sensibilities to come through. Eizenberg uses Borges’ poem “Juan I, 14” as evidence of this sense, writing, “The amanuensis – a word Borges uses in the poem – by his mere handling of the transmitted tale refracts it through the prism of his particular insights…This, and only this is what could be called scriptural and Borgesian ‘originality’: refracting, emphasizing, distorting and falsifying the given,”18 – the writer as a mirror, and Literature a “strangled specious infinity like facing mirrors.”19 Martin Heidegger’s “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry” comes to this discourse from a different starting point. “Hölderlin” is concerned with articulating exactly what writer (the poet, more specifically) puts into the world through writing poems, and to what degree the poet is creating something that did not exist in the world beforehand. Both Borges and Heidegger are deeply concerned with the nature of being and creation. Michael Wheeler, author of The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy articulates one way that Heidegger on Hölderlin might relate to Borges, “Heidegger’s philosophical development began when he read Brentano and Aristotle, plus the latter’s medieval scholastic interpreters. Indeed, Aristotle’s demand in Metaphysics to know what unites all possible modes of being (or ‘is-ness’) is, in many ways, the question that ignites and drives Heidegger’s philosophy.”20 2013 – Volume 4
Tamar Nachmany Heidegger’s essay – more expository than argumentative – is narrated using various examples. I will analyze the following selection, which articulates the ideas and tone at the heart of his argument to see whether, or to what degree, his ideas are compatible with the ideas of writing that Borges posits in the two essays discussed above. Heidegger writes:
Poetry is the act of establishing by the word and in the word. What is established in this manner? The permanent. But can the permanent be established then? Is it not that which has always been present? No! Even the permanent must be fixed so that it will not be carried away, the simple must be wrested from confusion, proportion must be set before what lacks proportion. That which supports and dominates the existent in its entirety must become manifest. Being must be opened out, so that the existent may appear. But this very permanent is the transitory … The poet names the gods and names all things in that which they are. This naming does not consist merely in something already known being supplied with a name; it is rather that when the poet speaks the essential word, the existent is by this naming nominated as what it is. So it becomes known as existent. Poetry is the establishing of being by means of the word.21
The beginning of this selection would have us think that the poet, in “establishing by the word,” creates things that were not in the world before, ‘the permanent’. What does the poet introduce into the world? Both Borges and Heidegger interrogate this question. Heidegger asks, “Is [the permanent] not that which has always been present? No! Even the permanent must be fixed so that it will not be carried away, the simple must be wrested from confusion.” Heidegger’s remark is a challenge to parse in terms of Borges’ philosophy. He simultaneously rejects the idea that the permanent is that which has always been present, and suggests that the permanent need not be introduced, but only fixed so that it will not be carried away. This idea of fixing the permanent does seem to be in line with Borges in the sense that the intellectual author listens to the voice of Literature and tries to dictate that voice and that story as accurately as possible, ‘fixing it’ in a way. Although this quote shows that Heidegger has somewhat similar preoccupations to Borges, Heidegger also writes, “poetry is the act of establishing by the word and in the word.”22 Heidegger’s characterization of the poet is more similar to Borges’ characterization of God’s process of creation. Although Borges does draw parallels between God and the author (and suggests that perhaps the world is a dream in the mind of God, which may then suggest that God Himself may be the dream of another God), the author receives dictation whereas the Holy Spirit dictates and introduces elements into the world. The movement that Borges perceived – movement towards an idea of writing as an expression of one’s unique thought – has become even more prevalent in contemporary writing, facilitated by and in conjunction with technologies through which individuals feel they are introducing their individual consciousness into the world. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media seem to offer this opportunity. Borges may have argued that these confessions are ephemeral statements, which shrink in importance almost immediately after being read. Borges encourages a Kabbalistic reading of his work, which is accomplished in a 74
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Borges, Heidegger, and the Mechanical Inspiration of the Scriptures few ways: Borges’ many references (true and false) call for a process of leaving the text to inform one’s self and then returning. This weaving involves a process of substitution (substituting a term with what the term means according to another source), reminiscent of the snaking boustrophedon that Borges mentions. It is also reminiscent of the substitution of words for the meanings of words derived from the gematria (the system of assigning numerical values to letters, words, and phrases) with the sum total of the meanings of the numbers of its comprising letters. According to Borges, the author – the intellectual author – receives his material via dictation by something like the force of literature. Alazraki writes, “He [Borges] chose … to dwell in the Library as if it were the world.” Borges saw texts as worlds, and crafted these thickly, interspersed with radical jokes and commentaries. Alazraki summarizes the critical culture surrounding Borges well when she writes, “Borges has turned us all into inquisitive Kabbalists.”23 In fact, I believe Borges wanted his work to be analyzed this way, to continuously unfold under the decoding of literary detectives and “inquisitive Kabbalists.”
v Gershom G. Scholem, Kabbalah (New York: Meridian, 1978), 223-24. Gershom G. Scholem, Zohar (New York: Meridian, 1978), 5. 3 Ibid. 4 Edna Aizenberg, The Aleph Weaver: Biblical, Kabbalistic and Judaic Elements in Borges (Potomac: Scripta Humanistica, 1984), 72. 5 Jaime Alazraki, Borges and the Kabbalah: And Other Essays on His Fiction and Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 17. 6 Jorge Luis Borges, “A Defense of the Kabbalah,” in Selected Non-fictions, ed. Eliot Weinberger, (New York: Viking, 1999), 84-85. 7 Ibid., 84. 8 Ibid., 85. 9 Ibid., 84. 10 Ibid., 85. 11 Alazraki, Borges and the Kabbalah, 17. 12 Borges, “Defense,” 86. 13 Ibid., 84. 14 Scholem, Kabbalah, 223-24. 15 Borges, “Defense,” 85. 16 Ibid., 67. 17 Ibid., 74. 18 Aizenberg, Aleph Weaver, 74. 19 Borges, “Defense,” 84. 20 Michael Wheeler, “Martin Heidegger,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed Oct. 12, 2011, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/heidegger/. 21 Martin Heidegger, “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry,” in Critical Theory Since 1965, ed. Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1986), 761-62. 22 Ibid., 762. 1 2
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Alazraki, Borges and the Kabbalah, 3.
Aizenberg, Edna. The Aleph Weaver: Biblical, Kabbalistic and Judaic Elements in Borges. Potomac: Scripta Humanistica, 1984. Alazraki, Jaime. Borges and the Kabbalah: And Other Essays on His Fiction and Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Borges, Jorge Luis. “A Defense of the Kabbalah.” In Selected Non-fictions, edited by Eliot Weinberger, 84-85. New York: Viking, 1999. Heidegger, Martin. “Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry.” In Critical Theory Since 1965, edited by Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle, 761-62. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1986. Scholem, Gershom G. Kabbalah. New York: Meridian, 1978. —. Zohar. New York: Meridian, 1978. Wheeler, Michael. “Martin Heidegger.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed Oct. 12, 2011. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/heidegger/.
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Program in Latin American Studies 404 Macaulay Hall 3400 N. Charles St. Baltimore, Maryland 21218 United States