Alarcón, born in Lima, Peru in 1977, is an American author who currently resides in San Francisco, California. Alarcón grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Columbia University and a Master’s from the renowned Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His books include War by Candlelight, a finalist for the 2005 PEN/Hemingway Award, and Lost City Radio, winner of the PEN USA award in 2008. He is Executive Producer of Radio Ambulante, a Spanish language narrative journalism podcast – telling Latin America’s stories in a very similar fashion to ‘This American Life.’ In 2010 The New Yorker included Alarcón in their best 20 writers under 40 list, and his most recent novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, was a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award.
I became interested in performance art while searching to be destroyed, to be challenged. I was searching for a space to explore physical theater as a way to achieve empowerment both within myself and without. Performance art offered me ways to constructively - as opposed to just conceptually - link collective and individual physical performance with the collective political consciousness. The performative aspect of it is physical and body-based - bodies are personal, and the personal is political. Art is about connecting ourselves with our humanity and to do this, art needs to be connected with reality.
Performance art allows us to explore expressing the essential questions of the human condition through staged actions. Because of this, theater can and should be used for community organizing, as a medium for self and collective discovery. Theater has the potential to create anything from scratch by using our bodies. That potential is not only beautiful but also empowering. And that potential is also the mystery of physical theater as a form of existence.
Theater for change has three main branches: the educational, the social, and the therapeutic. Theater allows people to reimagine reality, to explore alternative solutions to particular issues, as is the case with the Augusto Boal's Forum Theater game, in which people explore different aspects of their day-to-day life which otherwise would not be allowed. When theater exercises are used to solve problems within a community by staging issues and asking members of the community to participate by offering ideas of how the performance should end or develop, the members of these communities become the protagonists of their collective story. This also requires community members to improvise during the process; improvisation is a quest for discovery. Improvisation requires trust - trust in oneself, in the group, and in adversity. Participatory theater unites people by allowing them to become part of the solution. The advantage of using theater games among people to bring them together, is that it allows individuals to take risks, experiment, and discover aspects of themselves, the space, and the group within a safe space. It provides spaces for people to empower themselves and their communities.
Boal, Augusto. Games for Actors and Non Actors. Routledge, New York.1992.
Boal, Augusto. The rainbow of desire: the Boal method of theatre and therapy. Routledge, London. 1995.
Spolin, Viola. Improvisation for the theater: a handbook of teaching and directing techniques. Northwestern University Press. 1963.
UNM offers an exclusive opportunity for many scholars, including myself, to broaden our studies in very unique ways: We are able to study Quechua or K’iche’ Maya.
These two indigenous languages—found in the Andean region and Central America respectively—provide a special opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of world languages and distinctive world views in Latin America. Language learning provides students with new perspectives and a window into diverse world views. Each language has a unique perspective of how to relate to the world, demonstrated through distinctive syntax. How sentences are structured, the emphasis given to certain words and phrases, and the roots of vocabulary all provide clues to how its speakers interact with the world around them.
As I sat in our Quechua Class, taught by Yuliana Kenfield, I gradually gained more and more introspection into the lives lead by quechuahablantes (Quechua speakers). Through personal anecdotes from Kenfield’s life experiences, specially formulated class projects, and using the text Kasway Vida, our understanding of Quechua and its perspective on the world grew exponentially.
On October 29th, 2014, Karla Lara and company stopped at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice on their national tour to play music and talk about social justice issues for a special ¡SOLAS Presents! event. Karla was joined by guitarist Dany Morales and pianist José Antonio Velásquez Mejia.
Karla is a political activist, singer/songwriter, and advocate of women's rights. She began singing in 1985 with the Choir of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and with musical groups likes Rascaniguas and Cutumay Camones. She is part of the National Network of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras and has been a prominent voice in the Honduran Resistance Movement. She travels the world performing and raising awareness for social justice issues in Honduras and beyond.
Dany began his musical career at the age of 13 and is currently seeking his bachelor's degree in music at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. He is especially interested in jazz guitar, and has collaborated with several musicians and musical groups in Honduras, including Hibriduz and Tambor Negro. He is the co-founder of the Crescendo Music Conservatory, an institution dedicated to teaching music to children and adults.
José began his studies in art at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, but eventually entered the National School of Music specializing in percussion and piano. He has collaborated with popular musical groups in the region, as well as with symphonic orchestras. Like Dany, he became interested in jazz and joined forces with several musical groups in Honduras.
Dany and José began collaborating with Karla in 2010 and 2007 respectively with the intention of spreading messages of positivity and equality through music.
There is something interesting cooking in Brazil right now. Traditions are starting to change. The old guard, so keen on replicating the techniques and ingredients of Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States, are being edged out by those more keen to produce something authentically and honestly brasileiro. To add even more importance to this shift, the eyes of the outside world are starting to take notice, as they should be. But some of these eyes are not watching the ‘vem pa rua’ protests, nor are they watching Brazil’s uphill struggle to accommodate the world and its own citizens as it prepares for the Olympics and World Cup. These eyes are watching a man named Alex Atala.
Alex Atala is a celebrity chef. While the label ‘celebrity chef’ more often than not brings to mind images of acerbic and ego-maniacal TV personalities, Atala seems to be a force for good. Through his restaurant D.O.M in Sao Paulo - ranked as the sixth best restaurant in the world by some - Atala has used his new-found fame to push forward an ideology that is centered around the concept of alimento, which can be summed up as a manifesto that ties together environmental and social awareness, things that taste good, and a general sense of well-being.
Atala and his restaurants champion and use only ingredients that are found within Brazil, particularly the Amazonian Basin. Within culinary terms, this is, while not being entirely unique, not the road most travelled. Atala’s approach stands in contrast to the many menus that are flecked with ingredients that have crossed at least an ocean, if not more. While it is enjoyable, if ultimately curious, to be able to experience sushi in New Mexico, quinao in Georgia, or bananas in Alaska, there is something to be said about food that has a sense of place, what the French call terroir. Whereas the idea of terroir was once a superfluous term – of course people ate what was nearby, as there was no way of getting anything else – this idea contributed to the formation of ‘cuisine’ itself. Cuisines formed not because of preference, but because of the availability of resources. Foodstuffs, techniques, and climate all figured into the development of what we now see as cohesive cuisines. Atala pushes against the amorphous ‘global cuisine’ and looks at the ground that supports his feet. Yet even for those who question the importance of food in the human experience, Atala’s manifesto has had tangible socio-economic impacts in parts of Brazil. By using his celebrity, Atala has helped support and publicize small, agricultural ventures. These grassroots organizations often produce exotic and localized foodstuffs, often far away from Brazil’s major metropolitan areas and outside the reach of the nominal market.
Atala’s style of cooking rejects contemporary, scattered cuisine and draws from the greatest culinary tradition of all: that of the marginal. His menus are defined by regionally specific ingredients such as manioc, nameless river fish, ants, and the infinite flora of the Amazonian Basin. But more important than his ingredients are his sources. Atala and his newly formed Instituto ATÁ – an organization about humanity’s relationship to food – seek to enhance the socio-economic and cultural meaning of food by forging partnerships with Amazonian communities, assisting in the development of small-scale agro-businesses, and espousing the larder of the Amazon.
Celebrity chefs are not in short supply; however chefs who are changing the social, economic, and cultural relationships with food are. Atala represents a break from the old guard, from those who reside over an empire of restaurants and guest appearances. But perhaps what is most important to take from Atala is his self-awareness, of his consciousness of the earth that feeds him and of his fervor to pay his respects. Even more so, he seems to perceive the fragile, but essential, string that holds our entire food system together, to go outside what is wrapped in plastic, to forge bonds with people who are not wrapped in plastic, and create art and nourishment that pays tribute to both the land and the honest people who work it. While Brazil no doubt influenced him tremendously, his manifesto is not tied to any particular place, but can be applied where people can see the dirt between their toes. Maybe we should all, from time to time, look down instead of forward to find our next meal.
Here is the manifesto of Instituto ATÁ: