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.
Beds are hot; I understand why no one uses them here – hammocks allow the wind to find you, and for the sweat to dry as quick and gentle as it rises through the skin. They sell hammocks of all sorts and sizes: for two, for one, for infants, for the elderly, indoor, outdoor, for travel, for home. For now, until I find an apartment, I’ll have to make do with this hotel room. I could hardly sleep. The muggy heat leaked through cracks in the broken air conditioner, mounted high on the wall with loose screws, rattling as the condenser bucked and whistled with the first of the waking grackles.
The streets of the Cheguigu neighborhood are weightless at this hour. A blue-grey as deep as the ocean and as silent as a blade of grass washes over everything. Not until noon will they begin baking off their dust. For now, last night’s discarded mango peels are moist and unwrinkled in the gutters. Crows stand still behind a veil of dew in the Cacalosúchil trees. The tire-flattened lizards, and their last efforts to blend in with the grey pavement, are barely visible among the loose gravel and debris until you step on them. At this hour, the middles of the roads are for walking. At the cross streets in the flattening distance, the meandering shadows of street dogs hunch towards the marketplace, punctuated only by a drunk staggering, or the faint squeal of rusted pushcart spokes.
What changes for women when they are married? Do they work more or less? Do they earn more? What activities do women spend their time participating in once married? Determining whether being married helps Mexican women or hurts them economically is necessary because women’s wellbeing is frequently overlooked when scholars address economic development. If women can earn more married, then perhaps they are better off married. If women earn more single, perhaps staying single is key in women’s development. On the other hand, women must spend more time working in the home once they are married, reducing the number of hours available for them to work outside the home. If they cannot work as much as their unmarried counterparts, do they have as much opportunity to develop? Regardless of earning power, women forfeit their opportunities in the workplace when they marry because they take on the responsibilities of caring for the house and children. By closely examining the impact that frequently cited factors have on women’s development in juxtaposition with the impact marital status has, this project sheds new light on the importance of marriage for women in Mexico, and may open the door for future research in women’s economic development in other regions of the world.
In general, results suggest that women in Mexico are more likely to work if they are not married. In fact, unmarried women reported working more and making less, regardless of their head of the household status. Unmarried women who are not the heads of the household belong to households that enjoy the greatest annual income. Since these households also consume the most, it is reasonable to conclude that this could be a result of household size and more shared incomes. Unmarried women who are heads of their households consume the least and experience the lowest annual income. Married women, whether they are head of the household or not, enjoy annual incomes that fall between unmarried women’s incomes. They consume more than unmarried heads of households and less than unmarried women who are not heads of households. The results suggests that women who marry work less outside the home but more inside the home while still experiencing a greater annual income than they would if they were unmarried and the heads of their households.
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.
I began the second half of my K’ichee’ Maya language immersion last Friday – today is my first internet in 5 days. I woke up to a 7.1 earthquake at 5am. I have fleas.
But I’m learning a lot.
That is to say I’m taking a lot in. My retention rate however, leaves much to be desired. I’m in Nahualá, Guatemala – a K’ichee’ community about 30 minutes from Quetzaltenango/Xela.
My normal day begins with a feeling of immense thirst, which is no different than the thirst developed from sleeping for eight hours in Albuquerque. But here in Nahualá, sink water is not exactly potable. And although New Mexico has some of the highest levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the country in their drinking water, I decide not to chance the Nahualá tap water; partly because the program told us not to, but mostly because on my second day there we visited a little cow barn where we were able to practice some K’ichee’ vocab. Upon arriving to the
cow barn we students grinned at the opportunity to finally utilize animal vocabulary. I pointed and yelled “waakax” (which means cow) excitedly. When I looked back for adulation, our Nahualeño teachers were instead looking at the “ja’” (river), which was full of “kiik” (blood) from slaughtering the cows.
Bottled water has been a staple.
Following the “ronojel q’iij” (every day) thirst of water, I get my washcloth and walk downstairs into the courtyard. In the courtyard there are two washing stations with spouts – one for food and dishes, one for bathing and laundry. There is a maid at each one every morning when I wake up, no matter how early. Leaning against the bathing sink is Dorka, washing the family’s clothes. Her real name is Dora, but Naan Talin (Mother Talin) can’t pronounce a Spanish “r,” which sounds more like a “sh” in K’ichee’, so she sticks a “k” in to make it easier.
Dorka is a small girl between 8-12 years old. Some days she seems much older, like when she’s doing her chores. But some days she looks at the other kids playing and she can’t be a day older than 7. She never tells me her real age, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind to me when nobody is watching. I wet my washcloth and rub it over my face. “La utz awach?” (How are you?). She stares at me. She knows I know she won’t respond. She won’t respond because she thinks it’s a stupid question. She won’t respond because I’ve already been around two weeks. I shouldn’t be asking such simple questions anymore. She won’t respond because to her, it’s obvious. Of course she’s not “utz” (good). She’s washing people’s underwear.
“Xinkoosik,” says Dorka. I scrunch my face, close my eyes, and put my left hand on my forehead. I don’t know what she’s saying. “Na weta’m taj” (I don’t know), I say. She draws her soapy hands out of the water and looks at me angrily. “Chaakuyuu numaak” (Pardon me/sorry), I say. She waves her hands in the air “Xinkoosik!” I squint my eyes and stare at her deeply and mumble “Xinkoosik…Xin-koos-ik. Ahhhh! La xatkoosik?” (Are you tired?). She looks, smiles quickly, and picks up the knob of soap again, “Jee, Xinkoosik”.
I smile and give her a thumbs up. It’s not until I get back to my room that I realize that I gave her a thumbs up to her telling me she’s tired. I wonder if 'thumbs up' is a thing here. Nonverbal communication is a HUGE deal in Nahualá. In any conversation it’s normal to point using your lower lip when referring to objects in the room. When speaking about trees, it is custom to lift one’s palm, flattened to the sky. When talking about a dog, or other animals, it’s customary to point to the animal with all five fingers in a flattened, spread fan manner. Then, there are all the derogatory hand signs that are made.
Due to my proclivity for that which is interestingly crude, it has taken a mere week to learn most of the vulgar words and hand signs in K’ichee’. Of course these are rarely used, and only ever among close friends. The Nahualeño teachers help me out with that. Later that day at school during our 15-minute-long break that frequently runs to 30 due to impromptu soccer games, I huddle in a corner with aXuan and aTe’k, and ask them about vulgarities as we sip coffee and eat fresh sweet bread. I convince them it’s because I want to more fully understand K’ichee’ and its intricacies. It works. aTe’k shoots me the five fingers in a flattened, spread fan hand sign. I think about it for a second. aXuan whispers “tz’i’” (dog). Oh.
He’s calling me a female dog.
Most of what is to be learned about cuss-words in K’ichee’ is similar to that in English and can be easily guessed.
Tz’ikin (n) bird
Pruta (n) banana
B’aaq (adj) thin; (n) bone, needle
All these mean essentially the same thing. But the most interesting are the ones that aren’t so obvious.
T’oot’ (n) snail, vagina
I first became interested in transitional justice in Uruguay when I heard the story of Macarena Gelman. Gelman was twenty-three years old in 2000 when she learned that she was born in a secret Argentine prison in 1976. Argentine and Uruguayan operatives extrajudicially abducted and murdered Gelman’s parents, transferring Gelman to live for the next twenty-three years as the unwitting daughter of a Uruguayan policeman and his wife. Sadly, the abduction and transfer of babies born in covert prisons was a widespread and systematic practice during the regional dirty war. There are likely numerous young adults across Latin America’s Southern Cone who today remain unaware that they, in effect, disappeared at birth.
Amnesty and the Disappearance of Children
In the 1990s, Uruguay’s Peace Commission received forty denouncements involving children; eight were alleged by young people doubting their biological identities. Given methodological limitations and challenges confronted by the Peace Commission during their investigation, disappearances of children are woefully underreported. Indeed, when Gelman and her grandfather brought a case against the Uruguayan state, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognized the systematic forcible transfer at birth of the children of detained political dissidents. While increasingly acknowledged in Argentina, the ICC’s recognition of forced infant disappearance reveals how the practice remains Uruguay’s dirty little secret.
So I became interested in transitional justice in Uruguay—particularly prosecutions, or the absence thereof. As a dual degree Law and Master’s student focusing on human rights in Latin America, I am interested in studying the role that amnesty laws play in negotiating the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in the wake of the region’s military regimes of the 1970s and 80s. The field of transitional justice— worldwide—has been partially shaped by debate surrounding the efficacy of amnesties as “necessary evils” for negotiating peace in the war torn nations of Latin America and Africa. Whatever the outcome of this ongoing theoretical debate, I am convinced that three decades of impunity in Uruguay must come to an end.
Democracy and Impunity in Uruguay
From 1973 until 1985, Uruguay was the prototypical Orwellian state. Military personnel entrenched themselves in most public offices. Police records classified citizens into categories of ideological trustworthiness, greatly limiting the opportunities for work and travel of those who were arbitrarily blacklisted. Worse still, the prime method of repression was mass-incarceration and torture. For much of the period, Uruguay was responsible for the highest per capita incarceration rate on the planet. The military locked away—without due process—student activists, professors, union organizers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, social workers, and Communist party members. Meanwhile, children like Gelman were born in military prisons and disappeared.
When the military stepped down in the mid ‘80s, the leaders of the fledgling democracy agreed to immunize the prior regime from future prosecution. In 1986, as victims and their families filed civil human rights lawsuits in Uruguayan courts, Parliament passed a retroactive amnesty resolution: the Ley de Caducidad (“Expiry Law”). Ignoring threats from the military, Uruguayans gathered over a half-million signatures to overturn the Expiry Law by referendum. Still, to the dissatisfaction of many Uruguayans and international human rights observers, the law survived. The architects of the dirty war were thus insulated from civil and criminal penalties.
Between the 1980s and 2005, four Uruguayan presidents sponsored policies of “silence and oblivion” regarding past crimes. Many citizens felt that Uruguay’s transition to democracy was incomplete without justice. As one Uruguayan told journalist Lawrence Weschler, “You can’t pardon someone who’s convinced he has behaved well.”
The Inter-American human rights regime has denounced impunity in Uruguay. In the early 90s, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a report concluding that the Expiry Law violated several articles of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights—including the right to justice, the duty of state parties to respect and ensure rights, and the right to judicial protection. In 2011, the Inter-American Court condemned Uruguay for the Gelman disappearance, ordering the State to guarantee that the Expiry Law would no longer impede investigation into past crimes. In response, on October 27, 2011, Uruguay negated its Expiry Law, purportedly ending nearly thirty years of amnesty for the aging generals of the military regime.
But impunity remains. In February of 2013, Uruguay’s Supreme Court ruled that portions of the law that derogated the Expiry Law were unconstitutionally retroactive, prompting the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights to remark that the “shadow of impunity” was potentially being restored in Uruguay. While many observers remain hopeful that past crimes will soon be investigated, I propose that it may be time for the international community to step in.
Prosecuting Uruguay's Generals in the International Criminal Court
Perhaps one strategy for forcing investigations and combatting impunity in Uruguay is to prosecute those responsible for the enforced disappearance of persons in the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). As a legal matter, the ICC is not bound by domestic amnesties or statutes of limitations. Crimes against humanity are considered nonderogable jus cogens, which cannot be insulated from prosecution by domestic law. The ICC’s arrest warrant for Joseph Kony in Uganda, for example, demonstrates that the ICC prosecutor can and will determine that a domestic amnesty has no legal effect on extraterritorial prosecution.
A more difficult obstacle is that the ICC has temporal jurisdiction only over crimes that occurred on or after July 1, 2002, the date that the statute establishing the ICC went into force. But enforced disappearance is a continuing crime—“continuing” in the sense that withholding information about the identities and fates of the disappeared is itself a crime that leaves families and entire communities of victims in a state of frozen mourning. The crime thus continues until the State identifies the whereabouts or fates of the disappeared.
Participants at the Rome Conference (the “framers” of the ICC) had considerable difficulty drafting Article 24, which eventually provided: “[N]o person shall be criminally responsible under this Statute for conduct prior to [July 1, 2002].” Some participants suggested that “[c]are should be taken not to bar prosecution” of acts that “began before but continued after the entry into force of the Statute.” One delegate even proposed to append the words “unless the crimes continued after that date” in order to ensure jurisdiction over continuing crimes, like enforced disappearance. This interpretation of Article 24 would permit ICC prosecution of pre-2002 disappearances in Uruguay, so long as the whereabouts or fates of the disappeared remain concealed. According to William Schabas, the chair of the Working Group on General Principles eventually resolved the highly contentious and “unresolvable” question of temporal jurisdiction over continuing crimes by avoiding the issue altogether and essentially leaving the issue open for interpretation.
An analysis of the proceedings at the Rome Conference and reconsideration of the temporal and legal status of criminal enforced disappearance suggests that there may be no concrete legal bar to prosecuting Uruguay’s generals in the ICC. The normative issues are much more difficult as extraterritorial prosecution arguably tramples Uruguay’s sovereignty and calls into question the viability of amnesty as a tool for negotiating transition to peace after civil conflict. Questions arise: Would future repressive regimes be willing to cede power knowing that amnesty laws will have no effect in the international sphere? Is it appropriate for the ICC, with its mandate to promote peace as well as justice, to assume the risks associated with the investigation of crimes that occurred decades ago? The real question, in other words, is what type of international court do we want?
 Mark Freeman, Necessary Evils: Amnesties and the Search for Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
 Lawrence Weschler, A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (University of Chicago Press, 1998), 198.
 William Schabas, An Introduction to the International Criminal Court (University of Chicago Press, 2011), 198.
On September 4, I attended a talk at UNM by Michael Hammer, Ambassador-Designate to Chile and former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy and Why it Matters to You”. Hammer gave an overview of the main duties of the State Department and discussed its ‘strategic priorities’ in advancing U.S. interests abroad. He highlighted several U.S. programs, including economic partnerships such as free trade agreements, jobs diplomacy to advance the interests of American companies abroad, empowerment of women and girls, and digital diplomacy. He finished by telling the audience members why they might want to work for the State Department, citing the foreign language skills that its employees develop, the experience of living in new cultures, and the variety and change of moving to new posts every 2-3 years.
Throughout his talk, Hammer emphasized the State Department’s commitment to promoting U.S. interests abroad. All of the priorities that he mentioned were expressed in terms of protecting U.S. national security, creating jobs in the U.S., and forging ties with other nations in order to enhance shared interests.The rhetoric of self-interest was juxtaposed with the stated priorities of promoting ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ in Latin America and around the world.
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 restaurantD.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.