Latin Americanist Lunch: “Twenty-Five Years of Favela Tourism: Continuities, Changes, and Challenges”

 

After attending Professor Jamie Alves’ talk on racial discrimination and the ‘Zone of Nonbeing’, I was very intrigued to learn more about Brazil. Favela’s have garnered a lot of media attention from features in movies and television shows, to photos of children gazing from the Favela’s at the fireworks illuminating the sky during the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. I find the fascination with Favelas, which is simply a Portuguese term for slum, to be intriguing and I wanted to understand how tourism was affecting this community.

Professor Bianca Freire-Medeiros is a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and although she did not grow up in the Favela’s she has witnessed their evolution into a tourist attraction and what that means for those living in these slums. Typically, Favelas are inhabited by poorer Afro-Brazilians and drugs and crime tend to run rampant. However, there is an extreme juxtaposition of how Favela’s are, and how they are portrayed in the media. For example, there are ‘Favela Chic’ clubs in Europe which romanticizes this slums into blissful environments filled with smiles, laughter, and of course Carnival. To make matters worse, Favela inspired chairs can be sold for £6,000, highlighting the disparity between those who actually live in the Favelas’ and others who are glorifying it as a new travel ‘experience’.

During the end of the presentation Professor Freire-Medeiros took several questions and there was one that allowed Professor Freire-Medeiros to solidify her point. One of the students mentioned that he was from Peru and when he went to visit Brazil he went and took a Favela tour because he wanted to understand why they were so special, and what made them different from the slums of his country. He revealed to us that the Favelas of Brazil, where no different from the slums of Peru, increasing his confusion in their growing popularity. To this Professor Freire-Medeiros respectively questioned him on why he even needed to see the Favela’s in the first place, they are just people like you and I, sure some of them are poor but they still live, they still engage in activities. She challenged us to break this stigma of enhancing the Favelas to be seen as ‘other’ or ‘superior’ let people live, and stop treating ordinary situations, as chances for us to investigate or explore ‘the unknown lives of the poor’.

This presentation was unique and informative, detailing the exploitative nature of Favela tourism and why it needs to end. My only questions for Professor Freire-Medeiros are: 1.) how can we dispel the curiosity surrounding the Favelas without leaving a negative impact on the market created by Brazilian citizens? And 2.) What are signs that indicate a new community, or group is about to be used as a display prop, and how can we counteract this measure once we recognize it is happening?

 

Latin Americanist Lunch: “ZONE OF NONBEING: White Civil Life and Anti-Black Racial Terror in the Brazilian Polity”

As someone who is minoring in Spanish, and intending to study in Latin America, I was very intrigued when I realized Professor Jamie Alves would be speaking on racial inequality in Brazil. Although, Brazilians speak Portuguese, the problems encountered and demonstrated in this multicultural nation resonate a sense of familiarity with other Latin/Central American nations; I might add as an African-American female I wanted a deeper insight into Brazil’s social construct. It appears this particular topic came at a perfect time, as it mirrors our very own discussion of ‘race’ in both, America and Brazil in class.

When looking at Brazil it does not take long for one to realize the structural violence being perpetrated on their black citizens. Segregated into Favelas, or urban slums, where one can expect to encounter many Afro-Brazilians. The Favelas are looked down upon, because similarly, to a ghetto they attract drugs, rape, crime, and other forms of violence. Therefore, the Brazilian government, especially the police, put a label on the people living there, explicitly the Black people.

Mr. Alves relayed a story, which occurred in 2015, where five black teenagers were shot one-hundred and eleven times by the Brazilian police while they were in their vehicle, driving by the police checkpoint. Originally, the police denied they were at fault, and even planted a gun in the car to make the victims appear guilty, it was eventually deemed a homicide, but while the judge ‘figured’ out the case, they allowed the suspected officers to be released. This is why the Blacks of Brazil are so enraged, when they are unwarrantedly murdered no one cares except for them, to augment the disparity the know killers are given special treatment. On the contrary, when white Brazilians are killed, or injustices are perpetrated against them, the nation speaks out in an uproar.

During one of the slides the quote “the bullets that attack black bodies are not rubber bullets” reinforces the sentiment and feeling of forgottenness and anger which engulfs the blacks of Brazil. Alves stated that in Brazil blacks are not considered criminal or lawless, no they are deemed something much more aggressive, they are regarded as ‘enemies’ of Brazil. Could you imagine being an enemy of your own nation, because it refuses to recognize your humanity? I ponder about the situation in Brazil and wonder: how much violence is it going to take for Brazil to recognize the need for reconciliation, how many demonstrations must be made to enact change? Mr. Alves left us a with a deep and haunting sentiment, most people want change, but no one wants to endure the violence and aggression of the complete social reconstruction which is required to enact this change, but if no want wants to bear this responsibility will the nation ever fully propitiate?

Latin Americanist Lunch over: “Population, Health, and Environment: Transitions in Latin America”

Attending Dr. Lopez-Carr’s presentation on Latin America, with several references to Africa, was quite insightful, as he had been awarded a grant to engage in socio-economic research within the Latin American region. In terms of urbanization, Latin America was one of the slower regions to pick up this new global phenomenon. However, per Dr. Lopez-Carr’s research 80% of Latin America is now urban, which has resulted in lower fertility. Families that would have originally had seven children, are now having roughly 3.5 children; this further changed the agriculture landscape. Instead of families having large acres of land, which would eventually be evenly distributed among the children, more families have acquired smaller acres of land to farm.

Keeping these new changes in mind, it should come as no surprise that Dr. Lopez-Carr has found the conversion of forest to agriculture has been the biggest impact on the environment by humans. Even, more troubling is that these urban population booms are taking place in the world’s poorest areas, where they cannot financially, and socially, support the growing populations. So, while your average rural family is having less kids to work the land, the families in the urban areas are reproducing at unprecedented rates.

During the duration of the talk my eyes were opened to new statistics, as the big picture was clearly depicted from these seemingly innocent facts. However, the most interesting/troubling piece of information I acquired was perhaps the biggest advocate for vegetarianism. Less than 1% of the earth’s surface is used for humans, for example soybeans, which were a crop driver at the start of the 2000s, of all the soybeans produced less than 1% were eaten by people, the rest were feed to livestock. This means three-fourths of the world’s used surface would be released into nature if people stopped eating animal protein. Therefore, I propose two questions for Dr. Lopez-Carr: 1.) Knowing what we do about deforestation and climate change, why have more Western governments not regulated the amount of meat households can buy, and 2.) In a world where the global north is so privileged, how are we going to sustain ourselves, when we are clearly destroying the land that feeds us? This was a very engaging talk, and I only touched on a small subsection of Dr. Lopez-Carr’s discussion.

 

Semester at a glance

I usually don’t post about anything to personal in this blog, however I just had some things on my heart that I felt would be easier for me to release if I was able to type my thoughts out. This was a very rough semester for me, and I don’t mean that in the sense that my whole life was crumbling a part, but it was definitely a time for some self-reflection. This semester I was only enrolled in 13 hours and yet, it was still one of my hardest semester. I started working this semester, which has been an adjustment, because I am trying to save up money for my study abroad trip this summer, so I have been covering quite a few shifts. I got overly involved, so much so I constantly found myself exhausted, and struggling to find time to do school work. That is a huge problem, I am a college student first, and I should never have to find time for school, school should always be my number one priority. I will not be engaging in any new extracurriculars next semester that I am not currently involved in. My grades suffered a bit this semester, and for the first time in a while I felt like an utter failure. I would study harder and longer then a lot of my friends for a class, yet continually do worse on them for every test. It is very frustrating when you know that you understand something, but you struggle to demonstrate that mastery when it matters. Classes that I usually make A’s in were B’s this semester, and I felt like no matter how hard I was trying, it was never good enough. Sometimes college can be a very challenging mental and emotional game, and it’s disheartening when you feel like you aren’t good or smart enough. I began to question my major, my future aspirations, and myself this semester because I felt like I was failing. I recognize that sometimes things get difficult, and I am really trying to use all these negatives as positives, and I am challenging myself to make a 4.0 next semester and to do better. Yes, I hate disappointing my family, and people who believed in me, but most importantly I hate not living up to my own expectations. So, for anyone who is struggling academically and personally, know that I am here with you, and we haven’t lost the battle yet, we just need regain the reigns. Fortunately, I have taken my last Calculus class this semester, which has been a problem area for me since i started college. I am going to use this break to regroup, refocus, and come back stronger than ever. Now that I have put some of these feelings down, I hope I can be set free of them and focus on moving forward.

We can all do it y’all, we just have to keep pushing and not give up. Happy Holidays, and may your 2017 be filled with your aspirations and achievements.

International Community Fall Festival

On Saturday, November 19 I attended the International Community Fall Festival hosted by the College of International and Area Studies, by the Kraettli Apartments. I attended this event as a part of my spirit organization RUF/NEKS Lil’ Sis, we were able to sign up to attend along with other members of the OU spirit program to mix this international affair with OU traditions. This event was a lot of fun, they had warm and sweet Apple cider, hot chocolate, popcorn and exotic animals! They had a joey (a baby kangaroo), a fluffy and soft chinchilla, and I even help a python. I honestly only held the python for the picture, because I felt it slithering in between my legs and I just about had a mini heart attack. It was a lot of fun seeing the international students, and families interact with these animals. For some people, since these animals aren’t native to their home country this was the first time they have ever gotten to see one. I mean I was pretty impressed when I got to see the lemur, which they had eating a sucker by the way, so I know if I was joyfully delighted this people were too. It was also fun to see some of the small children tentatively go up to the OU mascot Boomer, whom was also in attendance. I mean if I was three years old I might be slightly afraid of an overly excited horse as well. It was a really relaxed, and fun event that did a good job of mixing these foreign gems we know as animals, with your traditional OU aspects. Boomer! Also enjoy this picture of me holding a snake https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1290368524366487&l=583854aced

A look into Spanish Cinema

Near the end of the semester, my Spanish profesora had an optional movie day for the film Volver. As someone who is a huge movie buff, and into Spanish culture I was very excited about this opportunity. Pedro Almodóvar is a renowned Spanish director, screenwriter, producer, and former actor, in fact in 2006 at the Cannes film festival this movie won the best screenplay award. If you like films with an indie vibe, full of melodramatic tendencies, flourishing motifs and comedic relief this may be the film for you. I don’t want to give too much away but this is a film that revolves around the strength, beauty, and familial love that surrond women. Our protagonist Raimunda, played by Penelope-Cruz is a hard working mother, who has to deal with a family crisis, all the while is shocked with her sister Sole when they go and visit their ailing Aunt Paula. Like the title Volver insinuates (this translates as ‘to return home’ or ‘to go back’), they leading ladies in this film get a surprise visit from someone unexpected. This visits shakes things up, and put some puzzle pieces back together as well. If you are a fan of cinematic masterpieces, and appreciate art, and a truly touching, heartwarming, and thought-provoking story, Volver may be the film for you.

IBA Fall Update

So this was a bit of a slow semester for the International Business Association (IBA), we only had one meeting for the semester but we will be doing more in the Spring to increase awareness of our group, and just to have an increased amount of events. For those of you interested, I am keeping my recruitment officer position next semester, and will be working to hopefully get us a table for Winter Welcome Week, so be on the lookout for that if you are interested! Unfortunately,  for IBA three of our officers including our president will be studying abroad in the Spring, two in Spain and one in Chile, so we have elected some new officers. Some ideas we have for next semester, is trying to get more corporate speakers to mix it up, with the faculty and staff that we usually have speak. Also we are trying to partner with other organizations like the Multicultural Business Program (MBP), and international student groups so we can have greater diversity for conversation and programming. Hopefully, we have an eventful second semester and I have more to report for you all.

GEF Advisory Board

Last fall, Mrs. Jaci Gadenberger, the director of the Global Engagement Fellowship Program, decided to establish several advisory boards to help our group communicate more efficiently, and allow us to interact with each other. I was selected to serve on both the mentoring and the events boards, and one of our biggest accomplishments thus far was creating regional focus groups. This is just a great way to individual needs, and also expose people to new resources they may not have known about. For the fall, I was in charge of the Latin America and Spain newsletter, and while it was a lot of fun to write about and find all of these resources it actually took quite a bit of work. Although I am a Spanish minor, I couldn’t tell you all of the latino cult classic films, or point you to all of the literature that revolutionized the Hispanic culture. So, this assignment turned into my own little research project, where I learned more about a culture that I find so interesting and rich. After the article was published, thanks to help of fellow GEF Ivey Dyson, who helped ensure that the article looked very put together. We had a casual event at a local coffee shop, Second Wind, where people were able to share their Latin American/Spanish stories and experiences. I think this was a really cool idea, and I can’t wait to see how we expand upon this in the Spring. look out for my Italy newsletter probably around March. Also I will attach my newsletter to this blog post, for anyone whom is interested in checking it out. Latin America Newsletter

…and the Winner is…..

Near the beginning of my second semester of college, a fellow GEF and I decided to change up are weekend routine. OU has a lot of fun and unique events throughout the school year, you just have to know where to look. Well I simply read the “This Week at your University” email and saw that there was going to be a Miss Indian OU pageant. I love pageants, and my friend Felicia (the same Felicia I went to see Wadjda with) likes to do different things. It was a rather small pageant, involving only two contestants, and the event was held at Meachum. I was very surprised to see one of my hall mates, was a contestant in the pageant. At the beginning, they introduced several other Native American title holders from various tribes/pageants. Then it was time for the two contestants, first they had to wear the traditional dress of their tribe, and introduce themselves in their tribal language. Next, they had to be escorted in their formal wear, and finally they presented their platform on Native American reservation reform in professional wear. It was a really neat experience to be a part of, as the former Miss Indian OU passed down her crown, we got to see a very detailed slideshow of all she had accomplished through her title at OU, as well as witness a bit of her life before college. So congratulations to Cheyenne Joslin, the new Miss Indian OU 2016-2017.

Even though the pageant wasn’t very long, I defiantly learned a lot. Coming from Texas, where our native population is no wear this extensive- I really enjoy getting to learn more about such a beautiful and unique culture. Overall, I’d say step out of your box, go to new events (even if you don’t exactly understand what they are), and you’ll be surprised by what you learn.