Student History is Written in the Streets

by Heather Vrana, author of This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996

A nation-wide strike is set for Wednesday, September 20 in Guatemala. Last week, Guatemala’s Congress voted 104 to 25 against repealing the immunity that protects President Jimmy Morales from investigations into charges of corruption during his 2015 presidential campaign. For weeks, protestors had gathered outside of various government offices, chanting, “Iván stays, Jimmy goes” and “Student: history is written in the streets.” The vote dealt a huge blow to those who have worked for decades to fight a deep-rooted system of impunity that defends the powerful in spite of truth and reconciliation commissions, human rights tribunals, and international pressure. The great irony is that although Morales ran as the anti-corruption candidate (his slogan was “Ni corrupto, ni ladrón”), much of his presidency has been mired in controversy. What else can be expected of a man whose previous career required him to don outrageous—and often racist—costumes? Morales’ comedy career prepared him well.

As one Guatemala City professional recently said to me, “we are accustomed to this.”

Yet, to be accustomed to corruption is not to accept it. On the contrary, what has been so remarkable over the past few years is precisely the combative nature of Guatemala’s daily practice of politics.

In April and May 2015, thousands of Guatemalans began gathering on weekends in the Plaza de la Constitución to protest then president Otto Pérez Molina. It was an open secret that he was implicated in many deaths during the civil war and there was no greater symbol of impunity. By early September, the protestors were successful in removing Pérez Molina and his vice president from office. Such a thing had happened only once before in Guatemala’s history. Social media and news coverage of these electrifying days constantly referred to the protests of June and October 1944, when a wide alliance of popular groups and the military overthrew the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico.

My book, This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996 begins with the university student organizing that led up to these massive protests. It follows several generations of students at Guatemala’s only public university, the Universidad de San Carlos (USAC). Each chapter explores how students engaged with the university as an institution as well as Guatemalan and (to a lesser extent) U.S. state apparatuses between 1944 and 1996, a period marked by revolution, counterrevolution, and civil war. Through these encounters, USAC students (called San Carlistas) forged a loose consensus around faith in the principles of liberalism, especially belief in equal liberty, the constitutional republic, political rights, and the responsibility of university students to lead the nation. I call this consensus student nationalism and trace how it became a defining feature of Guatemala’s middle class across the twentieth century.

This tradition of political involvement that comes to define the middle class is in no small way the condition of possibility for the ongoing protests we see today. Student nationalism was a shared project for identity-making, premised on the inclusions and exclusions of citizenship. It was less something one had or believed than a way of making political claims. It helped to bring San Carlistas into enduring fraternal bonds with their classmates as well as other citizens in a broad popular movement. As the civil war progressed and the military and police declared war on the university and the popular sector, student nationalism helped the opposition wage culture wars over historical memory.

Today, the protestors gathered in the streets are inheritors of San Carlistas’ traditions of struggle. They expect to protest when the government fails to fulfill its paltry promises to the people. The names of student, peasant, and union martyrs adorn their signs and t-shirts. While my book is a history of many generations of young people: their hopes, their actions, their role in social change; attempts to control them; their struggles against the government; and their encounters with the university as a state apparatus and a crucial site for resistance and celebration, the struggle in the streets today continues to evolve and become much, much bigger than this.


Heather Vrana is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Florida and the editor of Anti-Colonial Texts from Central American Student Movements 1929–1983.


3 Books That Go Beyond Borders for Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA

Kicking off this month throughout Southern California, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, PST: LA/LA is a joint effort from more than 60 cultural institutions across the region, and UC Press is thrilled to be publishing three books in conjunction with this unprecedented collaboration. 

Learn more about each title and find out about related events below. #PSTLALA

The Tide Was Always High: The Music of Latin America in  Los Angeles 
Edited by Josh Kun

The Tide Was Always High gathers together essays, interviews, and analysis from leading academics, artists, journalists, and iconic Latin American musicians to explore the vibrant connections between Los Angeles and Latin America. From Hollywood film sets to recording studios, from vaudeville theaters to Sunset Strip nightclubs, and from Carmen Miranda to Pérez Prado and Juan García Esquivel, Latin American musicians and music have helped shape Los Angeles culture since the birth of the city.

Related events: Musical Interventions, a series of six live musical events presented by author Josh Kun at multiple PST: LA/LA institutions. Details and more at tidewasalwayshigh.com. September 23 – December 2, 2017

And tune in for monthly playlists curated by editor Josh Kun.

Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America
Edited by Jesse Lerner & Luciano Piazza

Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo is the first comprehensive, United States–based film program and catalogue to treat the full breadth of Latin America’s vibrant experimental film production. The fully bilingual catalogue features major scholars and artists working across nationalities, mediums, and time periods. Lerner and Piazza assemble a mix of original content authored by key curators, scholars, and archivists from Latin America: eighteen essays and articles translated for the first time pertaining to the history of Latin American experimental film, historical image-documents that are fundamental to the history of experimental film in Latin America, and program notes from the exhibition’s programs.

Related events: In partnership with the Los Angeles Filmforum, a series of screenings will take place between September 2017 and January 2018. The first weekend of screenings will take place September 22–24 at REDCAT. See a complete calendar of events at www.ismismism.org.

California Mexicana
Missions to Murals, 1820–1930
Edited by Katherine Manthorne

California Mexicana focuses for the first time on the range and vitality of artistic traditions growing out of the unique amalgam of Mexican and American culture that evolved in Southern California from 1820 through 1930. A study of these early regional manifestations provides the essential matrix out of which emerge later art and cultural issues. Featuring painters, printmakers, photographers, and mapmakers from both sides of the border, this collection demonstrates how they made the Mexican presence visible in their art. This beautifully illustrated catalogue addresses two key areas of inquiry: how Mexico became California, and how the visual arts reflected the shifting identity that grew out of that transformation.

Related exhibition: California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930 October 15, 2017 – January 14, 2018 at the Laguna Art Museum

 


¡Celebra!: A National Hispanic Heritage Month Reading List

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! Each year from September 15 to October 15, we recognize and celebrate the heritage, the culture, and the contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

To showcase the unique history and experiences of Hispanic and Latino Americans and to recognize their vital place in our country’s culture, we have curated the following list of recommended titles. Be sure to check out last year’s reading list for more. Happy #HispanicHeritage Month, and happy reading!


La Nueva California: Latinos from Pioneers to Post-Millennials
David Hayes-Bautista

Since late 2001 more than fifty percent of the babies born in California have been Latino. When these babies reach adulthood, they will, by sheer force of numbers, influence the course of the Golden State. This essential study, based on decades of data, paints a vivid and energetic portrait of Latino society in California by providing a wealth of details about work ethic, family strengths, business establishments, and the surprisingly robust health profile that yields an average life expectancy for Latinos five years longer than that of the general population. Spanning one hundred years, this complex, fascinating analysis suggests that the future of Latinos in California will be neither complete assimilation nor unyielding separatism. Instead, the development of a distinctive regional identity will be based on Latino definitions of what it means to be American.

This updated edition now provides trend lines through the 2010 Census as well as information on the 1849 California Constitutional Convention and the ethnogenesis of how Latinos created the society of “Latinos de Estados Unidos” (Latinos in the US). In addition, two new chapters focus on Latino Post-Millennials—the first focusing on what it’s like to grow up in a digital world; and the second describing the contestation of Latinos at a national level and the dynamics that transnational relationships have on Latino Post-Millennials in Mexico and Central America.

 

The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants Are Changing American Life
Tomas Jimenez (Author)

The immigration patterns of the last three decades have profoundly changed nearly every aspect of life in the United States. What do those changes mean for the most established Americans—those whose families have been in the country for multiple generations?

The Other Side of Assimilation shows that assimilation is not a one-way street. Jiménez explains how established Americans undergo their own assimilation in response to profound immigration-driven ethnic, racial, political, economic, and cultural shifts. Drawing on interviews with a race and class spectrum of established Americans in three different Silicon Valley cities, The Other Side of Assimilation illuminates how established Americans make sense of their experiences in immigrant-rich environments, in work, school, public interactions, romantic life, and leisure activities. With lucid prose, Jiménez reveals how immigration not only changes the American cityscape but also reshapes the United States by altering the outlooks and identities of its most established citizens.

 

Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America
Jesse Lerner (Editor), Luciano Piazza (Editor)

Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo is the first comprehensive, United States–based film program and catalogue to treat the full breadth of Latin America’s vibrant experimental film production. The exhibition features key historical and contemporary films from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the United States. From innovative works by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica and Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo to the breathtaking yet practically unknown ouevre of queer Ecuadorian filmmaker Eduardo Solá Franco, the exhibition takes both the aficionado and the open-minded viewer on a journey into a wealth of materials culled from the forgotten corners of Latin American film archives. Equally unprecedented in its approach and scope, the accompanying fully bilingual catalogue features major scholars and artists working across nationalities, mediums, and time periods.

Published in association with the Los Angeles Filmforum, and as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.

 

A New History of Modern Latin America
Lawrence A. Clayton (Author), Michael L. Conniff (Author), Susan M. Gauss (Author)

A New History of Modern Latin America provides an engaging and readable narrative history of the nations of Latin America from the Wars of Independence in the nineteenth century to the democratic turn in the twenty-first. This new edition of a well-known text has been revised and updated to include the most recent interpretations of major themes in the economic, social, and cultural history of the region to show the unity of the Latin America experience while exploring the diversity of the region’s geography, peoples, and cultures. It also presents substantial new material on women, gender, and race in the region. Each chapter begins with primary documents, offering glimpses into moments in history and setting the scene for the chapter, and concludes with timelines and key words to reinforce content. Discussion questions are included to help students with research assignments and papers.

Both professors and students will find its narrative, chronological approach a useful guide to the history of this important area of the world.

 

Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Óscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice
Matt Eisenbrandt (Author)

On March 24, 1980, the assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop Óscar Romero rocked that nation and the world. Despite the efforts of many in El Salvador and beyond, those responsible for Romero’s murder remained unpunished for their heinous crime. Assassination of a Saint is the thrilling story of an international team of lawyers, private investigators, and human-rights experts that fought to bring justice for the slain hero. Matt Eisenbrandt, a lawyer who was part of the investigative team, recounts in this gripping narrative how he and his colleagues interviewed eyewitnesses and former members of death squads while searching for evidence on those who financed them. As investigators worked toward the only court verdict ever reached for the murder of the martyred archbishop, they uncovered information with profound implications for El Salvador and the United States.

 

The Tide Was Always High: The Music of Latin America in Los Angeles
Josh Kun (Editor)

In 1980, the celebrated new wave band Blondie headed to Los Angeles to record a new album and along with it, the cover song “The Tide Is High,” originally written by Jamaican legend John Holt. Featuring percussion by Peruvian drummer and veteran LA session musician “Alex” Acuña, and with horns and violins that were pure LA mariachi by way of Mexico, “The Tide Is High” demonstrates just one of the ways in which Los Angeles and the music of Latin America have been intertwined since the birth of the city in the eighteenth century.

The Tide Was Always High gathers together essays, interviews, and analysis from leading academics, artists, journalists, and iconic Latin American musicians to explore the vibrant connections between Los Angeles and Latin America. Published in conjunction with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, the book shows how Latin American musicians and music have helped shape the city’s culture—from Hollywood film sets to recording studios, from vaudeville theaters to Sunset Strip nightclubs, and from Carmen Miranda to Pérez Prado and Juan García Esquivel.

 

California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930
Katherine Manthorne (Editor)

Following the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848), lands that had for centuries belonged to New Spain, and later to Mexico, were transformed into the thirty-first state in the United States. This process was facilitated by visual artists, who forged distinct pictorial motifs and symbols to establish the state’s new identity. This collective cultural inheritance of the Spanish and Mexican periods forms a central current of California history but has been only sparingly studied by cultural and art historians. California Mexicana focuses for the first time on the range and vitality of artistic traditions growing out of the unique amalgam of Mexican and American culture that evolved in Southern California from 1820 through 1930. A study of these early regional manifestations provides the essential matrix out of which emerge later art and cultural issues. Featuring painters, printmakers, photographers, and mapmakers from both sides of the border, this collection demonstrates how they made the Mexican presence visible in their art. This beautifully illustrated catalogue addresses two key areas of inquiry: how Mexico became California, and how the visual arts reflected the shifting identity that grew out of that transformation.

Published in association with the Laguna Art Museum, and as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.

Exhibition dates:
Laguna Art Museum: October 15, 2017–January 14, 2018

 

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte
David Bacon (Author)

In this landmark work of photo-journalism, activist and photographer David Bacon documents the experiences of some of the hardest-working and most disenfranchised laborers in the country: the farmworkers who are responsible for making California “America’s breadbasket.” Combining haunting photographs with the voices of migrant farmworkers, Bacon offers three-dimensional portraits of laborers living under tarps, in trailer camps, and between countries, following jobs that last only for the harvesting season. He uncovers the inherent abuse in the labor contractor work system, and drives home the almost feudal nature of laboring in America’s fields.

Told in both English and Spanish, these are the stories of farmworkers exposed to extreme weather and pesticides, injured from years of working bent over for hours at a time, and treated as cheap labor. The stories in this book remind us that the food that appears on our dinner tables is the result of back-breaking labor, rampant exploitation, and powerful resilience.

 


The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands
Verónica Castillo-Muñoz (Author)

The Other California is the story of working-class communities and how they constituted the racially and ethnically diverse landscape of Baja California. Packed with new and transformative stories, the book examines the interplay of land reform and migratory labor on the peninsula from 1850 to 1954, as governments, foreign investors, and local communities shaped a vibrant and dynamic borderland alongside the booming cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, and Santa Rosalia. Migration and intermarriage between Mexican women and men from Asia, Europe, and the United States transformed Baja California into a multicultural society. Mixed-race families extended across national borders, forging new local communities, labor relations, and border politics.

 

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire
Matthew Robb (Editor)

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire examines new discoveries from the three main pyramids at the site—the Sun Pyramid, the Moon Pyramid, and, at the center of the Ciudadela complex, the Feathered Serpent Pyramid—which have fundamentally changed our understanding of the city’s history. With illustrations of the major objects from Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropología and from the museums and storage facilities of the Zona de Monumentos Arqueológicos de Teotihuacan, along with selected works from US and European collections, the catalogue examines these cultural artifacts to understand the roles that offerings of objects and programs of monumental sculpture and murals throughout the city played in the lives of Teotihuacan’s citizens.

Published in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Exhibition dates:
de Young, San Francisco, September 30, 2017–February 11, 2018
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), March–June 2018

 

Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary
Ronald Rael

Borderwall as Architecture is an artistic and intellectual hand grenade of a book, and a timely re-examination of what the physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be. It is both a protest against the wall and a projection about its future. Through a series of propositions suggesting that the nearly seven hundred miles of wall is an opportunity for economic and social development along the border that encourages its conceptual and physical dismantling, the book takes readers on a journey along a wall that cuts through a “third nation”—the Divided States of America. Rael proposes that despite the intended use of the wall, which is to keep people out and away, the wall is instead an attractor, engaging both sides in a common dialogue. Included is a collection of reflections on the wall and its consequences by leading experts Michael Dear, Norma Iglesias-Prieto, Marcello Di Cintio, and Teddy Cruz.

 

The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail
Jason De Leon (Author), Michael Wells (Photographer)

In his gripping and provocative debut, anthropologist Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time—the human consequences of US immigration policy. The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and deaths that occur daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempt to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

Drawing on the four major fields of anthropology, De León uses an innovative combination of ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, and forensic science to produce a scathing critique of “Prevention through Deterrence,” the federal border enforcement policy that encourages migrants to cross in areas characterized by extreme environmental conditions and high risk of death. For two decades, this policy has failed to deter border crossers while successfully turning the rugged terrain of southern Arizona into a killing field.

In harrowing detail, De León chronicles the journeys of people who have made dozens of attempts to cross the border and uncovers the stories of the objects and bodies left behind in the desert.

The Land of Open Graves will spark debate and controversy.

 

In Search of Soul: Hip-Hop, Literature, and Religion
Alejandro Nava (Author) 

In Search of Soul explores the meaning of “soul” in sacred and profane incarnations, from its biblical origins to its central place in the rich traditions of black and Latin history. Surveying the work of writers, artists, poets, musicians, philosophers and theologians, Alejandro Nava shows how their understandings of the “soul” revolve around narratives of justice, liberation, and spiritual redemption. He contends that biblical traditions and hip-hop emerged out of experiences of dispossession and oppression. Whether born in the ghettos of America or of the Roman Empire, hip-hop and Christianity have endured by giving voice to the persecuted. This book offers a view of soul in living color, as a breathing, suffering, dreaming thing.


Tune in: The Tide Was Always High Concert Series from September 23–December 2

“What does the relationship between Los Angeles and Latin America sound like?”

2016 MacArthur Fellow Josh Kun’s latest collection The Tide Was Always High gathers together essays, interviews, and analysis on the iconic Latin American musicians who helped shape L.A. culture—from Hollywood film sets to recording studios, vaudeville theaters to the Sunset Strip, and Carmen Miranda to Juan García Esquivel.

To celebrate these vibrant connections, Kun will debut “Musical Interventions,” a multi-part concert series at venues throughout L.A. in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA—the Getty’s effort to unite arts institutions across Southern California. To accompany the book and series, Kun has curated a monthly playlist of tunes related to his research, so listen up and read along with The Tide Was Always High. Order your copy now and save 30% with code 17M6662.

Musical Interventions 

Event details at tidewasalwayshigh.com


September 23, 2017: SONORAMA! Latin America in Hollywood—at The Getty Center

This outdoor dance concert will feature an electronic big band led by Mexico City’s Mexican Institute of Sound, with Sergio Mendoza (Orkestra Mendoza) and a crew of top local musicians helmed by percussionist Alberto López. They will interpret music written in, and for, Hollywood by the likes of Juan García Esquivel, Lalo Schifrin, Johnny Richards, Ary Barroso, and Maria Grever. Produced in partnership with the Getty.

October 7, 2017: Voice of the Xtabay: A Tribute to Yma Sumac—at Hammer Museum

A genre-bending roster of Los Angeles Latinx vocalists and musicians reimagine the songs of multi-octave Peruvian singer and Capitol Records recording star Yma Sumac. Inspired by the Hammer exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985, the evening features Empress Of, Nite Jewel, Maria Elena Altany, Ceci Bastida, Dorian Wood, Carmina Escobar, and Francisca Valenzuela. Produced in partnership with the Hammer Museum.

October 18, 2017: Playing With Fires: Chicano Batman Plays Carlos Almaraz—at LACMA

Celebrated Los Angeles band Chicano Batman will perform new music inspired by LACMA’s exhibition Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz. Performance will take place in the exhibition gallery. Produced in partnership with LACMA.

October 26, 2017: Tonight at the Palace!: A Variedades Tribute—at The Downtown Palace Theatre

Inspired by classic Spanish-language variety shows held at downtown movie palaces such as the Million Dollar and the Palace, this imaginative evening features live music, dance, comedy and a screening of restored Spanish language Laurel and Hardy films. Hosted by Mexico City performer and writer Amandititita, the evening includes the Versa-Style Dance Company and music from La Familia Gonzalez de Los Angeles, and an all-star jam session with Abraham Laboriel, Paulinho Da Costa, Alex Acuña, and Justo Almario. Produced in partnership with USC’s Visions & Voices.

November 4, 2017: Guillermo Galindo’s Human Nature: A Cyber-Totemic Sonic Codex—at The Huntington 

The Huntington’s exhibition “Visual Voyages” will be complemented by an experimental sound installation and a one night only live performance, both by composer, musician, and artist Guillermo Galindo. Produced in partnership with The Huntington.

December 2, 2017: That Bad Donato: The L.A. Brazil Connection—at Royce Hall, UCLA

This special evening revisits the 1970 album by legendary Brazilian pianist, producer and arranger João Donato, A Bad Donato (recorded in L.A.), and other moments of “Brazil-in-L.A”. musical creativity. Inspired by the Fowler Museum at UCLA exhibition Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis, the concert features performances by João Donato backed by Bixiga 70, and Bahia-raised Mateus Aleluia with L.A.-based Brazilian singer Thalma de Freitas. Produced in partnership with Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA.

Kicking off this month throughout Southern California and running through January 2018 is Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, PST: LA/LA is a joint effort of more than 70 cultural institutions, and UC Press is thrilled to be publishing three books in conjunction with this unprecedented collaboration. Learn more.

#PSTLALA // #TheTideWasAlwaysHigh


Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Opening at the REDCAT, September 22-24

In partnership with the Los Angeles Filmforum and as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA series, we are pleased to announce the launch of Ism Ism Ism: Experimental Film in Latin America (Ismo Ismo Ismo: Cine Experimental en América Latina), a multi-part screening series featuring key works of experimental, time-based media made in Latin America and by Latin American artists. The exhibition will take place as a series of sixteen curated screenings, hosted in a combination of screening venues, museums, galleries and community spaces located throughout Southern California. Screenings will take place from September 2017 until January 2018.

The opening weekend, hosted by REDCAT, will run from Friday, September 22 to Sunday, September 24th.

Be sure to check out UC Press’ accompanying bilingual catalogue, Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America.

Revisiting classic titles and introducing new works by key figures and emerging artists, Ism, Ism, Ism takes viewers on a journey through a wealth of materials culled from forgotten corners of Latin American film archives. REDCAT’s opening weekend includes a panel with curators and scholars and six film programs: Latin American surrealist shorts, films made in Southern California by Latinas and Latin American women, a solo presentation by veteran Chicano filmmaker Willie Varela, “camera-less” films by artists from several countries, documents of diverse countercultural movements, and revelatory shorts regarding revolutionary icon Che Guevara.

Contact sheet from La Langosta Azúl (1954). Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Enrique Grau Araújo, Luis Vicens, and Gabriel García Márquez.

Kicking off in September 2017 and running through January 2018 throughout Southern California, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a joint effort from more than 60 cultural institutions across the region, and UC Press is thrilled to be publishing three books in conjunction with this unprecedented collaboration.

Learn more about UC Press’ Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA titles here.


From Tupac to Lorca: Finding the “Soul” in Hip-Hop and Literature

By Alejandro Nava, author of In Search of Soul: Hip-Hop, Literature, and Religion

Taking its name from a song by Bobby Byrd and James Brown, Eric B. and Rakim released a single in 1987, “I Know You Got Soul,” from their album Paid in Full. By sampling the funky rhythms and throbbing drums of James Brown’s signature sound, the rap looks backward to soul music while at the same time looking forward to a new age that will put on wax many of the hip-hop generation’s distinct idioms, brags, syntaxes, and struggles. The song epitomizes the fresh new prosody and poetics of the hip-hop generation, a generation that will use ghetto tongues to name and scrutinize American possibilities and shortcomings, American opportunities and grave injustices. As time goes on, other rap artists will jump aboard the soul train and pilfer its propulsive beats and energies, but they will also increasingly bring with them the weights and burdens of black lives in the twentieth century. As the title of their tenth album suggests—How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul—Public Enemy, for example, drags these issues to the forefront. Typical to their prophetically charged vision, the album philosophizes and raps with a hammer, warning its listeners to the commercial and cultural forces in American life that seek to steal and cheapen the soul. In our own day and age—the age of Trump—Kendrick Lamar has burst on the stage of hip hop with some of the same anxieties and judgments. In song after song—“For Sale,” “How Much a Dollar Cost?” and “Mortal Man,” to name a few—he describes and dramatizes a soul in anguish, fighting and grinding for survival in a culture of consumption and callousness, doing what it can to resist the temptations of “Lucy” (his epithet for meretricious charms of Lucifer).

Though my book, In Search of Soul: Hip-Hop, Literature and Religion, is broader in scope than the soundscapes of rap, I see it as sharing the same airwaves and preoccupations as hip-hop artists in the mold of Lauryn Hill, Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Immortal Technique, Chance the Rapper and others. Simply put, the book is a response to the crisis of the soul in our age, and it considers the pressures by way of money, power and greed that can tarnish the highest ideals and values of the soul. More specifically, though, it explores the different nuances in the meaning of soul, from religious interpretations to profane and musical accounts. Part I of the book defends the basic values associated with the soul in the Jewish and Christian traditions: contemplation, compassion, spiritual depth, and fundamental human rights. I follow the lead of Lauryn Hill when she remarks that we need to “change the focus from the richest to the brokest,” as well as the famous adage of Jesus, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Part II, then, moves to a cultural, artistic, and musical exploration of “soul” in African American and Hispanic traditions. In this second inflection, “soul” is a metaphor of artistic excellence and cultural/musical creativity. By examining the transformation in the grammar of “soul” from W.E.B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison to Federico García Lorca and hip-hop, I consider how this concept became a counter-cultural trope and a weapon of protest against oppressive forces in American life. In the hands of these artists, it became synonymous with a spiritual force that could repel and overcome powerful tides of injustice.

By weaving together these different strands of “soul,” the book draws not only from my experiences in the classroom at the University of Chicago (where I studied religion), or at University of Arizona (where I’ve been teaching courses on religion and hip-hop); it is also a product of my schooling outside the walls of the university. For whatever else is true about the question of the soul, it is certainly the case that there is something fundamentally inscrutable and uncanny about the concept, something that requires an existential commitment to untangle its labyrinthine mysteries. In my own life (as in the religious, literary and hip-hop artists that I consider in this book), the pursuit of soul has taken me down surprising and uncharted roads, beyond the restricting borders of academic codes and norms, beyond the divisions of the sacred and profane. In learning from the street scribes of hip-hop, I have come to realize that whaling can be one’s Harvard and Yale (Melville), that the slums and tenements of New York can be the finest tutors (Stephen Crane), and that “beyond the walls of intelligence, life is found” (Nas).

Playlist on “Soul”

Literary Samples

Federico Garcia Lorca, In Search of Duende

W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Ralph Ellison, The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison

Virginia Woolf, “The Russian Point of View,” in The Common Reader

Michael Eric Dyson, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur


Alejandro Nava is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Arizona and author of Wonder and Exile in the New World and The Mystical and Prophetic Thought of Simone Weil and Gustavo Gutierrez.


A Look at California Mexicana—An Upcoming Exhibition & Catalogue

Part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, the California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930 exhibition opens on October 15th at the Laguna Art Museum.

Artistic and cultural exchange between California and Mexico has flourished since the time when California was part of the United States of Mexico. The exhibition highlights this vital aspect of the state’s history through a panorama of works by artists on both sides of the border, from scenes of mission and rancho life through images of romantic Old California, to the emergence of a cross-border modern art scene.

Cover image is a detail of La Plaza de Toros: Sunday Morning in Monterey, 1874, by Charles Christian Nahl.

Edited by curator Katherine Manthore, the beautifully illustrated catalogue addresses two key areas of inquiry: how Mexico became California, and how the visual arts reflected the shifting identity that grew out of that transformation.

Grizzly Bear of California, c. 1854, Charles Christian Nahl, Watercolor over graphite sketch, 7 ½ x 11 inches, City of Monterey Art Collection, gift from Mrs. Augusta Nahl Allen
Translation from the Maya, 1940, Dorr Bothwell, Oil on Celotex, 23 x 19 inches, Laguna Art Museum Collection Museum purchase with funds provided through prior gift of Lois Outerbridge
Fruit of the Vine, 1926, Norman Rockwell, Oil on canvas, 31 x 27 inches, Collection of the Sun-Maid Growers of California; on long-term loan to Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
San Gabriel Mission, Ferdinand Deppe, Oil on canvas, c. 1832, 27 x 37 inches, Laguna Art Museum Collection, Gift of Nancy Dustin Wall Moure

As evidenced by the selected images above, the catalogue includes diverse works by a wide array of artists including Frida Kahlo, Juan Correa, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José María Velasco, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Maxine Albro, Thomas Moran, unknown artists, and many others, making it both a pleasure and an adventure to read.


The Complicated History of Crime and the Truth in Mexico

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Pablo Piccato, author of A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico

Projects like the one resulting in my latest book have a life of their own. At first my goal was to take to the present the social history approach to the history of crime in Mexico City I used in City of Suspects (2001), and to engage more explicitly with the growing social science scholarship on security and drug trafficking in Mexico. But as I started the research, and the situation in Mexico deteriorated, the project changed, forcing me to ask new questions. For example, I compiled the statistics of indicted and sentenced in the entire country during the twentieth century only to find that violent crime had steadily decreased until the last years of the century. How to reconcile that with the increasing centrality of the themes of crime and justice in Mexican life? More important, perhaps, was my own disappointment with the emerging scholarship mentioned above. Political scientists, sociologists and legal scholars embraced a state-centered perspective that focused on security and policy models to solve the problem of crime. Yet much of this scholarship did not challenge some of the basic assumptions of the state discourse about crime: criminals were a well-defined group of people, policing and punishment were the only mechanisms to control them, civil society had no role in dealing with transgression, drug trafficking was the cause of everything bad that was happening in the country. A lot was happening indeed: criminal organizations were diversifying their activities and engaging in human trafficking, extortion and other predatory activities along with the production, smuggling and sale of illicit drugs. Mexican governments were increasingly relying on a militarized approach to the so-called “war on drugs.” Policies and aggressive enforcement nevertheless failed to stem the flow of drugs and reduce corruption and impunity. The arrests or killing of the higher ups of some organizations only created internecine fighting among them, and more violence across the national territory. By the beginning of this decade the toll had reached more than a hundred thousand deaths and a large number of disappeared.

Facing the overwhelming scale of the problem, it became clear to me that a mere historical narrative of the transformation of crime during the century would not be so useful. In 2010 I had published another monograph, Tyranny of Opinion, focusing on the history of the public sphere in the nineteenth century. That project’s focus on the public sphere helped me refine my approach to twentieth-century crime: questioning the way in which multiple actors discussed the problem of violence and the shortcomings of justice revealed the basic assumptions that informed contemporary understandings of crime. Thus, for example, examining the debates about famous cases in front of the jury, in the press, and in detective fiction explained the central role that murderers acquired in Mexican visions of crime during the century. Murderers became fascinating and complex characters whose first-person accounts, usually in the form of confessions, revealed the truth in a way that judicial institutions failed to achieve. Listening to people’s skeptical views about the police and judicial system since the 1930s gave me the key to understand the centrality of the problem of truth in contemporary Mexico. The majority of the homicides that are committed these days will never be investigated because the state gives priority to the disruption of criminal organizations over the loss of life that the war on drug entails. As a result, Mexican civil society, particularly the relatives of victims, no longer trust official accounts, and fight for their right to know the truth. Reading old crime news and detective novels allowed me to see the relevance and deep roots of Mexican citizens’ claims for the truth.

A History of Infamy also addressed another legacy of the middle decades of the twentieth century: Mexico’s reputation as a place of arbitrary violence and complete impunity. Today, this infamy is expressed through images and narratives of powerful narcos, and has been exploited by Donald Trump as a way to justify anti-immigrant measures. Murderers became celebrities decades ago, but it is only in recent years, and as a result of the scale of the violence of organized crime, that the entire country came to be identified with the threat of violence. As is the case with Mexican civil society, U.S. public opinion needs to go beyond the acceptance of these problems and demand the truth. Trying to understand this present, the book became an exploration of the difficult relationship between violence and the truth.


Pablo Piccato teaches Latin American history at Columbia University. He studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the University of Texas at Austin. His books include City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, 1900–1931 and The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor and the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere.


Ephemeral Histories

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Camilo Trumper, author of Ephemeral Histories: Public Art, Politics, and the Struggle for the Streets in Chile

Chile’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights marked 2017’s World Book Day by circulating a photograph of uniformed cadets burning books and magazines on city streets in 1973, a jarring image mobilized in hopes that “Never Again” would Chileans censor the written word as they had after the bloody coup that toppled Salvador Allende’s democratically elected socialist government. Photographer Kena Lorenzini’s collection of images, published as Marcas Crónicas: Rayados y panfletos de los 80, reveals a different practice of writing and erasure in Santiago, Chile’s capital city. Hers are austere records of the breathtaking range of rayados scrawled in public and semi-public spaces in the almost two decades of military rule: complicated debates taking place on, and taking advantage of the fleeting privacy afforded by, the locked doors of bathroom stalls; party slogans furtively etched on the back of bus seats; and banners unfurled by students, artists and activists to protest the dictatorship’s terror. These photographs map a hidden landscape of political writing hiding in plain sight.

The political activists who created this political landscape drew on a long history of urban contest that reached its apex under Allende. My book, Ephemeral Histories: Public Art, Politics, and the Struggle for the Street in Chile, studies how women and workers, students and artists claimed public spaces as their own, turning to murals, posters, and graffiti as a means of shaping city streets, squares and walls into vibrant arenas of political exchange in democracy. Creative forms of public art and writing were quickly targeted by the nascent military regime, which looked to “cleanse” the landscape of any trace of activism, and forced residents to whitewash walls at gunpoint, to burn and bury posters alongside books and magazines. But santiaguinos responded creatively to censure. Lorenzini’s most compelling images focus on the ordinary inscriptions that citizens carved onto city walls as everyday acts of urban transgression that sustained resistance to military rule. In one particularly poignant series, her lens follows a web of text as it snakes along city walls, arching across buildings and around corners. Erasure leads only to further expression. Just as quickly as phrases condemning dictatorship are scratched out, new, vibrant responses appear, crying out over the thin cover of whitewash. Her photographs suggests that santiaguinos turned again to clandestine public writing in dictatorship, perfecting techniques originally learned in democracy to re-build spaces of vibrant political debate. These ephemeral acts of public writing help build a public sphere of political debate rooted in public space, and an ephemeral practice of political citizenship played out in the very streets and walls quieted by state violence and attempted censorship.

This year’s LASA congress theme, “Dialogues of Knowledge,” suggests that we must open ourselves to consider creative forms of knowledge generated at the boundaries between disciplines, experiences, and spaces. Lorenzini’s photographs offer an excellent example of this form of critical interdisciplinary thinking. They reveal the strategies and tactics of urban conflict, and public writing in particular, to be creative responses to dictatorial rule, an “other” form of knowledge Chilean citizens living under dictatorship developed to navigate public and private spaces, sustain political dialogue, and limit the authority and legitimacy of military authority. In so doing, they transformed the city it into a vital political arena and themselves into active political citizens in the face of state-sponsored violence and terror.


Camilo D. Trumper is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Latin American History at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.


For the Rights of Laborers Worldwide: Recommended May Day & International Workers’ Day Reading

Though many in the Northern Hemisphere are more familiar with the traditional celebrations of the springtime season, people around the world also gather today to recognize the working class. May Day, sharing a date with International Workers’ Day and chosen to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket affair, serves to commemorate the fight for representation and rights for laborers worldwide — as well as the continuing efforts and struggle of the labor movement, shown by organized demonstrators and marchers every May 1st.

We invite you to peruse our recommended reading list that appears below in honor of May Day and the international labor movement.

Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor and Voices of Labor: Creativity, Craft, and Conflict in Global Hollywood
Edited by Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson

Free ebook versions of these titles are available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.

Precarious Creativity examines the seismic changes confronting media workers in an age of globalization and corporate conglomeration. This pathbreaking anthology peeks behind the hype and supposed glamor of screen media industries to reveal the intensifying pressures and challenges confronting actors, editors, electricians, and others. With contributions from such leading scholars as John Caldwell, Vicki Mayer, Herman Gray, and Tejaswini Ganti, Precarious Creativity offers timely critiques of media globalization while also intervening in broader debates about labor, creativity, and precarity.

“Wide-ranging, diverse, and authoritative. . . this book succeeds in building a balanced and comprehensive portrayal of the reshaping of the contours of work and industry organization under the twin circumstances of digital disruption and a globalizing media system.” —Tom O’Regan, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland

Rather than offer publicity-friendly anecdotes by marquee celebrities, Voices of Labor presents off-screen observations about the everyday realities of Global Hollywood. Ranging across job categories—from showrunner to make-up artist to location manager—this collection features voices of labor from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Prague, and Vancouver. Together they show how seemingly abstract concepts like conglomeration, financialization, and globalization are crucial tools for understanding contemporary Hollywood and for reflecting more generally on changes and challenges in the screen media workplace and our culture at large.

“By listening carefully to their interlocutors, Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson craft a powerful elegy for organized labor, demonstrating how critical theory is sung to the everyday rhythms of the workplace.” —Vicki Mayer, author of Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans: The Lure of the Local Film Economy


Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans: The Lure of the Local Film Economy

By Vicki Mayer

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program. 

Early in the twenty-first century, Louisiana, one of the poorest states in the United States, redirected millions in tax dollars from the public coffers in an effort to become the top location site globally for the production of Hollywood films and television series. Why would lawmakers support such a policy? Why would citizens accept the policy’s uncomfortable effects on their economy and culture? Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans addresses these questions through a study of the local and everyday experiences of the film economy in New Orleans, Louisiana—a city that has twice pursued the goal of becoming a movie production capital. From the silent era to today’s Hollywood South, Vicki Mayer explains that the aura of a film economy is inseparable from a prevailing sense of home, even as it changes that place irrevocably.

“A visionary in the study of cultural labor, economy, and geography, Mayer is that rare writer who combines exquisite storytelling with rigorous scholarship. This is an essential contribution to film and media studies, and an urgent history lesson for policy makers.”—Melissa Gregg, author of Work’s Intimacy

The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action
Edited by Alison Alkon and Julie Guthman

The New Food Activism explores how food activism can be pushed toward deeper and more complex engagement with social, racial, and economic justice and toward advocating for broader and more transformational shifts in the food system. Topics examined include struggles against pesticides and GMOs, efforts to improve workers’ pay and conditions throughout the food system, and ways to push food activism beyond its typical reliance on individualism, consumerism, and private property. The authors challenge and advance existing discourse on consumer trends, food movements, and the intersection of food with racial and economic inequalities.

The New Food Activism is one of the most important books on food this century. It is required, inspiring, and challenging reading for every student of food, every ‘foodie,’ as well as every grower, worker, and eater in today’s food system. . . groundbreaking.” —Seth Holmes, author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure of Workplace Protections in the United States
By Shannon Gleeson

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program.

Precarious Claims tells the human story behind the bureaucratic process of fighting for justice in the U.S. workplace. How and why do vulnerable workers in low-wage industries, despite enormous barriers, come forward to seek justice, and what happens once they do? Based on extensive fieldwork in Northern California, Gleeson investigates the array of gatekeepers with whom workers must negotiate in the labor standards enforcement bureaucracy and, ultimately, the limited reach of formal legal protections. The author also tracks how workplace injustices—and the arduous process of contesting them—carry long-term effects on their everyday lives. Workers sometimes win, but their chances are precarious at best.

“Exceptional . . . Gleeson masterfully demonstrates how institutional inequality weakens employment rights through workplace power imbalances, bureaucratic procedures for claiming rights, and broader shifts toward precarious work in the global economy. A must read.” —Catherine Albiston, Professor of Law and Sociology, University of California Berkeley

 
Invisible Labor: Hidden Work in the Contemporary World
Edited by Marion Crain, Winifred Poster, and Miriam Cherry

Across the world, workers labor without pay for the benefit of profitable businesses—and it’s legal. Labor trends like outsourcing and technology hide some workers, and branding and employer mandates erase others. Invisible workers who remain under-protected by wage laws include retail workers who function as walking billboards and take payment in clothing discounts or prestige; waitstaff at “breastaurants” who conform their bodies to a business model; and inventory stockers at grocery stores who go hungry to complete their shifts. Invisible Labor gathers essays by prominent sociologists and legal scholars to illuminate how and why such labor has been hidden from view.

“A terrific collection . . . Resonating with our everyday experiences of life, this is a lively and thought-provoking volume.” —Miriam Glucksmann, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Essex 

The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, the CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America
By Ahmed White

In May 1937, seventy thousand workers walked off their jobs at four large steel companies known collectively as “Little Steel.” At least sixteen died and hundreds more were injured before the strike ended in failure. The violence and brutality of the Little Steel Strike became legendary. In many ways it was the last great strike in modern America. Traditionally the Little Steel Strike has been understood as a modest setback for steel workers, one that actually confirmed the potency of New Deal reforms and did little to impede the progress of the labor movement. However, The Last Great Strike tells a different story about the conflict and its significance for unions and labor rights. More than any other strike, it laid bare the contradictions of the industrial labor movement, the resilience of corporate power, and the limits of New Deal liberalism at a crucial time in American history.

The Last Great Strike is a strong piece of scholarship, rich with archival discoveries. Compelling and accessible . . . an important contribution to our understanding of U.S. labor history, union organizing, and class conflict.”—Monthly Review

The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West
By Ryan Dearinger

In the summer of 1968 Peter Matthiessen met Cesar Chavez for the first time. They were the same age: forty-one. Matthiessen lived in New York City, while Chavez lived in the Central Valley farm town of Delano, where the grape strike was unfolding. This book is Matthiessen’s panoramic yet finely detailed account of the three years he spent working and traveling with Chavez, including to Sal Si Puedes, the San Jose barrio where Chavez began his organizing.

“The Filth of Progress persuasively outlines the dark underbelly of the much-celebrated ‘progress’ that transportation improvements . . . compact, vividly written.” —Thomas G. Andrews, Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado and author of Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War and Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies

Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic
by Margaret Gray

Labor and the Locavore focuses on one of the most vibrant local food economies in the country, the Hudson Valley that supplies New York restaurants and farmers markets. Based on more than a decade’s in-depth interviews with workers, farmers, and others, Gray’s examination clearly shows how the currency of agrarian values serves to mask the labor concerns of an already hidden workforce. She also explores the historical roots of farmworkers’ predicaments and examines the ethnic shift from Black to Latino workers. With an analysis that can be applied to local food concerns around the country, this book challenges the reader to consider how the mentality of the alternative food movements implies a comprehensive food ethic that addresses workers’ concerns.

Labor and the Locavore is a timely and important antidote to much of today’s popular food writing on eating local. . . Margaret Gray shows that labor abuses are not unique to industrial scale agriculture—or to California.” —Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California
by Julie Guthman

In this groundbreaking study of organic farming, Julie Guthman challenges accepted wisdom about organic food and agriculture in the Golden State. Many continue to believe that small-scale organic farming is the answer to our environmental and health problems, but Guthman refutes popular portrayals that pit “small organic” against “big organic” and offers an alternative analysis that underscores the limits of an organic label as a pathway to transforming agriculture.

“A meticulous academic study of the institutional dynamics of [California’s] organic agriculture.”—Steven Shapin, New Yorker

 

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, With a Foreword by Philippe Bourgois
By Seth Holmes

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies provides an intimate examination of the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants in our contemporary food system. An anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, Holmes shows how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Holmes’s material is visceral and powerful. He trekked with his companions illegally through the desert into Arizona and was jailed with them before they were deported. He lived with indigenous families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the U.S., planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, and accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals. This “embodied anthropology” deepens our theoretical understanding of the ways in which social inequalities and suffering come to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care.

All of the book award money and royalties from the sales of this book have been donated to farm worker unions, farm worker organizations and farm worker projects in consultation with farm workers who appear in the book.

“By giving voice to silenced Mexican migrant laborers, Dr. Holmes exposes the links among suffering, the inequalities related to the structural violence of global trade which compel migration, and the symbolic violence of stereotypes and prejudices that normalize racism.” —Marilyn Gates New York Journal of Books


For more UC Press publishing relating to farmworkers, labor activism, and California history, click through to our recently posted Cesar Chavez Reading List.