Chickasaw Nation – Visual Arts

I wrote this paper for NAS 1013 (Intro to Native American Studies). The prompt was to discuss some aspect of modern Native American life based on what we find in a given tribe’s newspaper archives.

 

“The study of arts and humanities highlights culture by expressing the beauty, strength, intelligence and spirit of the people and enhances the rich legacy of who Chickasaws were, who they are and who they will be.”*

 

The visual arts are evidently a significant aspect of Chickasaw culture. Of all the newspaper editions from January 2019 through April 2020, every single one featured at least one article about some form of visual art, often on the front page. Topics ranged from festivals and showcases to classes and competitions, from painting and sculpture to fashion design and filmography. Art is a means to express cultural identity and to preserve cultural heritage. Through this art, one can understand how the Chickasaw Nation views its past, present, and future.

Although art programs have been cut from many schools, the Chickasaw community is still committed to supporting art education. The Chickasaw Arts Academy is a two-week summer program for students between 8 and 18 years of age, and it features training in both the visual and performing arts with curriculum that is deeply rooted in Chickasaw culture. Younger students receive instruction in a broad range of subjects, while older students choose specific subjects on which they wish to focus. The experience culminates in a showcase and arts gala where students can display or perform their work. With art programs being cut from many schools, this program is often the only source of art education available to students, although some communities have access to after-school art programs at local galleries. The resounding success of the Academy demonstrates how greatly the community values artistic talent being passed on to the next generation. For adults, there are beadwork classes, moccasin making classes, and classes for numerous other traditional artforms that are regularly held at various locations across the Chickasaw Nation. These are valuable opportunities for tradition to be shared so that historical artistic methods are not lost.

Due to the great importance of art in the community, the Chickasaw Nation holds many art festivals and conferences throughout the year. Perhaps the most popular is the Artesian Arts Festival, held each May. This intertribal event features a variety of art, both traditional and modern, and includes competitions for a wide range of artistic media. In 2019, more than 11,000 people attended. In addition, the Native Creativity Fashion Show, the Holba’ Pisachi’ Native Film Festival, and the Imanoli Creative Writers Conference were all hosted by the Chickasaw Nation in 2019. The goal of each of these events was to share expressions of Native American culture that are both sensitive to history and relevant in modern times. The Native Creativity Fashion Show showcased a variety of modern designs that were inspired by each designer’s cultural heritage; design techniques are often deeply rooted in tradition and memories, yet they are applied to modern ideas and styles to create a unique marriage of old and new. This is a common theme in much of Native American art, as there is often a great desire to preserve the incredible craftsman techniques of old while still developing cutting-edge art that can be appreciated by a modern audience. In the film industry, this theme is expressed differently. The Holba’ Pisachi’ Native Film Festival featured the screening of nearly twenty Native American films, each with the same goal of telling the correct version of Native American stories. From its inception, the film industry has been dominated by non-Native perspectives, so the Chickasaw Nation developed its own film industry to give Natives an opportunity to tell their own story. Just as with other forms of art, these films aim to preserve ancestral perspectives and values while maintaining relevance in the modern day.

Further evidence of the importance of art in Chickasaw culture can be found in two galleries located on the reservation. The Chokma’si Gallery displays and sells art from the Chickasaw Nation and other Southeastern Native tribes. The purpose of the gallery is to benefit the community by providing evidence of the evolving and thriving Chickasaw culture. The ARTesian Gallery and Studios contains rotating exhibits of local artist work and several art studios where in-house artists and other locals can work. The in-house artists often do demonstrations for visitors and teach classes throughout the year. The main goal of these galleries is to get the local community involved in art, either through art appreciation or actual involvement in art creation. But the exhibit that Chickasaw artists are most proud of is the Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art touring exhibition, which features 57 artworks by 15 Chickasaw artists. The exhibit premiered in June 2018 at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma. It has also been displayed in museums in Mississippi, New Mexico, and North Carolina. The traveling exhibit provides a valuable opportunity for people outside the Native American community to appreciate the talents of Chickasaw artists.

Chickasaw artists of all ages are widely recognized for their artistic talent. Kaylee Martin won Best of Show in the youth division at the Red Earth Festival in 2019 for her metalwork sculpture of a buffalo, and this is the third time in four years that a Chickasaw student has won the top honor. Also in 2019, Mary Ruth Barnes received a national honor from the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution for her life of artistic creativity and her commitment to serving others with her talents, and Daniel Worcester received a Medal of Honor for Community Service during the Governor’s Arts Awards. Worcester is well-known in the Native American arts community, as he has received numerous awards for his bladesmith skills, including countless first place ribbons at the Red Earth Festival and being named the Red Earth Honored One in 2013 for his support and influence of younger Native American artists. He has also been a part of the Chickasaw Hall of Fame since 2009. These awards do more than recognize artistic prowess; they also demonstrate the value placed on community enrichment through the arts. Chickasaw artists are not only highly skilled in their crafts, but also community leaders who strive to be positive influences for the younger generations.

The Chickasaw Nation takes great pride in its local artists, so the newspaper often highlights their accomplishments. For example, 18-year-old Abby Kelly was featured on the front page of the Chickasaw Times in January of 2020 for winning the Chickasaw Nation Butterfly Art Contest. Additionally, artists such as Dustin Mater, Brent Deramus, Joshua Hinson, Donna Welch, and Lance Straughn have been recognized for their creative, modern styles that are often inspired or influenced by tribal history. Much of Mater’s work depicts traditional Chickasaw people, but with modern artistic methods. For example, he painted a man standing in a canoe, but from an aerial perspective.  He is inspired by jazz musicians and Picasso while always looking to the future for new techniques. Deramus is an 18-year-old Choctaw artist who works in the Chickasaw Nation’s Creative Services. He takes modern items, like skateboards and T-shirts, and paints on modern themes combined with traditional symbols. He also makes copper jewelry that is intended to be used for stomp dances. Hinson builds waterfowl decoys—items which are distinctly not of Chickasaw origin—and incorporates Chickasaw symbolism into the design. In doing so, he unites his passion for duck-hunting with his love for his Chickasaw heritage. Welch crafts gourds into both functional and display works of art that are intended to demonstrate the connection between mankind and nature. Her use of gourds is inspired by their traditional use in Native American society while her symbolism is inspired by traditional Native American beliefs, yet the end result is a very modern piece of art. Straughn has traditionally painted realistic impressionisms of Native American life, but he has recently discovered what he calls “spirit paintings.” He believes these new paintings are spiritually inspired so that the ideas are coming from somewhere other than himself. The work of these artists demonstrates how important cultural heritage is to the Chickasaw people. The past, present, and future are inseparable, so one cannot look to the future without honoring the past.

Not only is it important for artists to honor the past with their work, artists also strongly believe in the importance of passing their cultural motivations and skills down to the next generation. This conviction is one that is held by the Chickasaw community at large. Brenda Kingery is an artist who has been entered into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame because of her work teaching third-world women how to express their cultures through embroidery. This empowers women by giving them both a voice and a source of income, as the embroidered textiles are subsequently sold across the United States and Canada. She firmly believes that art is an essential method of passing down history and culture to the next generation, and the fact that she has been so prestigiously recognized for her work demonstrates that rest of the Chickasaw community agrees. J. Daniel Worcester (the son of the renowned Daniel Worcester) provides another example of this value. He is a metalworker like his father, and he hopes to pass his skills down to his own son when he comes of age. Because of his belief in the importance of passing down everything he knows to the next generation, he teaches metal working at the Chickasaw Arts Academy each summer. In this way, the art form and associated tribal heritage can be preserved for many years to come. The Arts Academy is an essential way in which Chickasaw artists can pass down their skills to the next generation. It is not enough to preserve tribal heritage in one’s own artwork; one must also ensure that the next generation has the skills to preserve the heritage as well.

The Chickasaw Nation highly values the visual arts, both as a method of expressing new ideas and preserving the old. They are dedicated to providing art education for both children and adults, and they host several festivals and conferences throughout the year in order to engage the public in the arts. Chickasaw artists are highly talented. Their works are displayed in two galleries on the reservation and in a travelling exhibit that has been viewed across the country, they have received numerous awards both for their artistic talent and their dedication to serving the community, and they are masters of preserving cultural heritage in their work and passing it down to the next generation.

Works Cited

“Abby Kelly named Dynamic Women butterfly art winner” Chickasaw Times, pages 1 and 8, January 2020.

“Annual Chickasaw Arts Academy June 15-26, July 11-24” Chickasaw Times, page 5, February 2020.

“Artisan Arts Festival a success; Navajo artist ‘Best of Show’” Chickasaw Times, pages 1 and 2, June 2019.

“Artesian Gallery & Studios offers Chickasaw artists a place to showcase their works of art” Chickasaw Times, page 8, January 2019.

“Arts Academy marks 15 years of developing students” Chickasaw Times, pages 1 and 5, September 2019.

“Chickasaw artist crafts decoys to honor ancestral hunters” Chickasaw Times, page 2, February 2019.

“Chickasaw artist Daniel Worcester honored during Governor’s Arts Awards” Chickasaw Times, page 2, May 2019.

“Chickasaw artist Dustin Mater employs new methods that invite modern perspective” Chickasaw Times, page 2, March 2020.

“Chickasaw artist forges new life creating works of art from steel” Chickasaw Times, page 2, August 2019.

“Chickasaw artist Kingery’s ‘Threads of Blessing’ helps Third World women” Chickasaw Times, page 3, September 2019.

“Chickasaw artist Mary Ruth Barnes honored by National DAR” Chickasaw Times, page 2, May 2019.

“Chickasaw artist’s ‘In.Sight’ on display at Tulsa’s McKeon Center for Creativity” Chickasaw Times, page 2, April 2019.

“Chickasaw artist’s work evolves, expresses ‘spirit painting’” Chickasaw Times, page 2, March 2019.

“Chickasaw bladesmith takes top honors again at Red Earth” Chickasaw Times, page 15, July 2019.

“Chickasaw screenwriter, producer uses life experiences to drive storytelling” Chickasaw Times, page 2, November 2019.

*“Chickasaw youth artist Kaylee Martin captures ‘Best of Show’ at Red Earth” Chickasaw Times, page 2, July 2019.

“Choctaw artist creates Southeastern images through multiple avenues” Chickasaw Times, page 4, January 2020.

“Chokma’si Gallery offers great spot to study, acquire quality Native American artwork” Chickasaw Times, page 3, January 2020.

“Holba’ Pisachi Native Film Festival features movies created by Native artists” Chickasaw Times, pages 2 and 3, October 2019.

“Native Creativity Fashion Show a study of style” Chickasaw Times, pages 1 and 4, September 2019.

“Visual Voices Chickasaw art tour coming to N.C.” Chickasaw Times, page 2, December 2019.

“Visual Voices touring exhibition featured through June 2 in Mississippi” Chickasaw Times, pages 2 and 3, March 2019.

Fulbright

Receiving the Fulbright was a wonderful surprise. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to live and study in Paris for almost a year. Hopefully, travel restrictions will be lifted by August so I can be on my way. If all goes as planned, I will be spending 10 months completing a master’s degree in theoretical physics through ENS. I’m sure the experience will be quite different than it would have been a year ago, but I would happily take being quarantined in a Parisian apartment over being in the States. At least I would still have access to amazing crepes and macarons! Even if travel proves impossible, I will hopefully still be able to participate in the program virtually, although the time difference would make live lectures a bit annoying… An 8:00 am lecture in Paris corresponds to a 1:00 am lecture here!

Off to England

I am finally going to be studying abroad! I will be off to England for the next academic year, and I am very excited. I think I am really going to like being there. After all, a tea pot is guaranteed to be provided with all the living arrangements! So far I am going to have three flatmates, and there is room for one more still. It is going to be quite an adventure sharing one kitchen and one bathroom with so many people! It won’t be so bad though. Apparently the physics building is quite close to where I will be staying, and buses drive by every 5 or 10 minutes. But even then, I will probably just walk most of the time since it’s close enough. I am so excited to finally leave the country… and go on a plane. Fortunately I will be traveling over the summer on a plane, so my first plane ride will still be a domestic flight rather than an international one. That makes it slightly less terrifying at least.

Eating Hot Pot!

After all these years of living with a Chinese major, I finally got to eat hot pot. My roommate talked about it all the time, since she has eaten it several times with her Chinese friends. But this is the first time I actually got to try it myself. Her fiance came over with the special hot pot boiler thing, and we provided all the food. We had fish balls, pork, lamb, tofu, fish tofu, shrimp, needle mushrooms, fat mushrooms that I don’t remember the name of, QQQQQ noodles (Q means bouncy in Chinese apparently), bok choy, romaine lettuce, another lettuce I don’t remember the name of, and probably some other things I have forgotten about.

Hot pot is lots of fun because it takes lots of time to eat. Basically, you start with a soup base, then add the different food and eat as you go. We started with the meat and made our way to the vegetables. We had so much food that it actually took us two days to finish it all. We started eating on Saturday at 8:00 pm, and we ate until 11:00 pm when we were too stuffed to eat any more. Then on Sunday we started eating again at 2:00 pm and finally finished (almost) everything off at 5:00 pm.

The only problem with eating hot pot is that it is, well, very hot. Temperature hot that is (and spicy hot too if you want it). Since you have the water boiling in front of you the entire time you are eating, it tends to get very hot very fast. That’s why hot pot is usually eaten in the winter. Unfortunately, our air conditioner is broken. We had a fan blowing on us while we ate, but we were still burning up by the time we were done. It was entirely worth it though.

The Sounds that Transcend Culture

I just recently realized that there are probably only two sounds that everyone makes for the same reasons, no matter what culture: the sneeze and the cough. It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you have to sneeze, your sneeze is always going to be some variation of “achoo.” If you have to cough, your cough is always going to be some variation of “cough cough.” So if you ever want to break the language barrier between two cultures, just do a whole bunch of sneezing and coughing, and everyone will understand each other just fine!

International Music

I was recently thinking about how different cultures use different musical scales, yet the octave is always the same. An octave is basically when one note has a frequency that is double the frequency of the other note. So if a note has a frequency of 120 Hz, the octave up would have a frequency of 240 Hz. That definition is necessarily the same in every culture. But how you divide up the octave widely differs from culture to culture, and what “sounds good” with regard to combinations of notes also differs. For instance, Western and Middle Eastern music use two different scales (they divide the octave differently), and they also have two very different ideas about what intervals sound good. It is interesting how music can vary so much from culture to culture, but the octave will always mean the same thing. Some cultures might not consider the octave to sound good, but the octave is still always there. No matter what meaning people project onto the sounds, an octave will always exist. It is interesting how science is able to break the barriers of culture like that.

Nukes and North Korea

This was the final essay I wrote for my class.

The North Korean nuclear standoff is a complex political situation made worse by distrust and deception. North Korea does not trust the western powers and is willing to do anything to protect its regime. China supports North Korea because it wishes to maintain its economic relations, but it does not trust North Korea with nuclear weapons. The western powers do not trust North Korea to uphold any nuclear agreements, and their concerns are further motivated by North Korea’s denial of its human rights violations. This situation is best described by two opposing views of international relations. While North Korea and China are operating out of self-interest and a desire for power, the western powers are striving to maintain world order. However, even China is beginning to recognize the necessity of working with other countries to maintain peace. Thus, although North Korea is acting from a realist view, the overall situation is best described from the liberalist view.

North Korea’s main concern is self-protection. It feels threatened by the other countries who consistently question and challenge its authority, so it feels justified in its retention of missiles and nuclear weapons. “Kim Jong-il is trying to maintain the existing order, to strengthen his regime based on personal authority, and consolidate control of military forces with the goal of preventing an overthrow of the state” (Vorontsov). The country is certainly not operating out of an interest for the greater good of the global community or even its own citizens, so its leaders must be operating with the sole interest of obtaining power. The western powers are concerned that this interest will lead to a dangerous imbalance of power that will allow North Korea to begin threatening and dominating other countries. However, the response by the west – and particularly by the United States – does not seem to be helping the situation. “The [U.S. war]ships’ deployment angered North Korea, which said it proved Pyongyang was right to develop nuclear weapons to defend itself or use in a pre-emptive strike” (“Xi-Trump”). This is a clear example of a security dilemma; North Korea’s desire for self-protection threatens the western powers, and their response to the threat further encourages North Korea to defend itself. Yet there is no way to know what havoc the volatile country would wreak if there was no response to its actions, so the West does not seem to have any other option except to react against the threat in order to maintain the balance of power. This clearly demonstrates that North Korea’s struggle for power in its realist view is met by a liberal response from the western powers who wish to maintain stability in global politics.

China’s position in the North Korean conflict is rather complicated. It has historically operated from the realist perspective of self-interest, but has recently began recognizing the necessity of working with other powers to maintain the stability of the region. “[China’s] support for North Korea ensures a friendly nation on its northeastern border and provides a buffer between China and the democratic South, [… so] Beijing has consistently urged world powers not to push Pyongyang too hard, for fear of precipitating regime collapse and triggering dangerous military action” (Albert). For many years, China refused to do anything to jeopardize its relationship with North Korea because of the two countries’ strong economic ties. However, as the situation becomes worse and tensions increase, China is beginning to recognize that this advantage will be lost if the region falls into turmoil. As a result, “China has proposed North Korea suspend tests of missile and nuclear technology to ‘defuse a looming crisis.’ Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that in exchange, the US and South Korea could halt annual joint military drills, which consistently infuriate the North” (“China Calls”). China’s attempt to moderate negotiations between North Korea and the other world powers demonstrates that it recognizes the value of cooperation between countries. Although China is clearly still operating out of self-interest, it recognizes that the situation is not a zero-sum game, so the best way to help itself is to help the other powers as well. In this way, China is upholding the liberalist view.

China is now willing to work with the western powers to limit the strength of North Korea, but it is still not entirely willing to lose its economic ties. “Though Beijing, Seoul, and Washington agree that a denuclearized North Korea is a top priority, differences remain over how best to strip the country of its nuclear threat” (Albert). The western powers want to punish North Korea by cutting off economic ties, but China is reluctant to do so. This is likely because although China is beginning to embrace the liberalist view, it is still reluctant to give up the realist view. It realizes that stopping North Korea is in the best long-term interest of all countries involved, but it still does not want to be the one to temporarily lose in the process.

The main priority of the western countries involved is to prevent North Korea from doing anything brash. Their concerns are certainly justified based on the recent actions of the state. “North Korea’s government has continued its aggressive and erratic behavior, as demonstrated by recent military and cyber provocations, and continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons and long range missiles” (“Global Conflict”). Because of its refusal to work with other countries, world powers are reluctant to send aid to North Korea. “[T]he North’s provocative acts like the recent missile and nuclear tests are making it difficult for international aid groups to raise funds for the recovery” after a major flood (Cheol). The country will not allow workers to enter and offer their help, and there is a concern that any monetary aid given to the country will go to the government rather than the flood victims. As a solution, “The United States has pushed North Korea to irreversibly give up its nuclear weapons program in return for aid, diplomatic benefits, and normalization of relations” (Albert). However, it seems highly unlikely that the country will agree to such terms. North Korea clearly believes that the world operates on a zero-sum game, so it is not willing to do anything that might give another country an advantage and thereby diminish its own power.

North Korea’s strict adherence to the realist view of politics is arguably what has brought the other world powers together with a more liberalist view. Because of the horrific measures to which North Korea has gone to obtain its control, the other powers perhaps now realize that a selfish pursuit of power is not justifiable. North Korea has violated the international human rights law in numerous ways, and such actions are inexcusable. A report detailing North Korea’s human rights violations “documents ‘extermination,’ murder, enslavement, torture, rape and persecution on grounds of race, religion and gender [… and] also criticizes the political and security apparatus of the North Korean state, saying that it uses surveillance, fear, public executions and forced disappearances ‘to terrorize the population into submission’” (Mullany). To make matters worse, North Korea denies that these problems even exist, which stimulates further distrust in the country. When the country will not even admit to its internal atrocities, there is no way other countries can trust it to keep a promise to end all nuclear development. Then the only way to prevent a global disaster is for countries to band together against North Korea so that it does not dare to do anything brash.

Overall, the North Korean nuclear crisis is best understood through the liberalist view of politics. Although North Korea itself is operating from the realist view, the rest of the world powers have joined together in an effort to prevent North Korea from causing further damage. These countries are not fighting against each other for power; rather, they are working together in an effort to benefit the world community as a whole.

Works Cited

Albert, Eleanor. “The China–North Korea Relationship.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 26 Apr. 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

Cheol, Lee Yeon. “Amid Nuclear Tensions, North Korea Struggles to Secure Flood Aid.” VOA. VOA, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 07 May 2017.

“China Calls on N Korea to Suspend Missile and Nuclear Tests.” BBC News. BBC, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

“Global Conflict Tracker.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 8 May 2017. Web. 08 May 2017.

Mullany, Gerry, and Nick Cumming-Bruce. “China Faults Report Blaming North Korean Leader for Atrocities.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 May 2017.

Vorontsov, Alexander V. “North Korea’s Military-First Policy: A Curse or a Blessing?”     Brookings. Brookings, 28 July 2016. Web. 06 May 2017.

“Xi-Trump Call: China Urges ‘peaceful’ North Korea Solution.” BBC News. BBC, 12 Apr. 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

Hope for Honduran Campesinos

Again, this was written for a class. We read the book “Don’t be Afraid Gringo” by Elvia Alvarado and were asked to determine whether Alvarado could make a difference in the lives of the campesinos.

In “Don’t be Afraid Gringo,” Elvia Alvarado describes her efforts to combat the unjust treatment of poor Hondurans through organization of her fellow campesinos. There are many factors opposing her success, ranging from a lack of education to the corruption of the Honduran government, but she also has many supporters who are more than willing help fight for her cause. While their opponents are many, Alvarado and her supporters are certainly capable of reducing the inequality in the lives of campesinos.

Perhaps the greatest opposition Alvarado faces is the corrupt Honduran government. The Agrarian Reform Law was passed in order to return unused land to the campesinos. However, according to Alvarado, “The National Agrarian Institute, INA, is supposed to uphold the law… But that’s not what actually happens. While the 1975 law is a good law on paper, it’s not being put into practice” (68). As a result, the campesinos must take the law into their own hands. Rather than the government identifying unused land and turning it over to the campesinos, the people must find unused land themselves and make an appeal, which involves going through a lengthy legal process that usually results in years of delayed paperwork. When this happens, campesinos resort to performing “land recoveries,” which are always met with brutality from the landowners, who have the advantage of having the military on their side and being able to afford expensive lawyers (82). However, campesinos have strength in numbers. Although they must face military guns with just their machetes, are frequently jailed, and occasionally lose a comrade in the struggle, almost nothing can deter them from the fight. By banding together and refusing to back down, they are frequently able to obtain the land despite the vast odds against them.

Another major factor hindering the success of the campesinos is their lack of education. Whether or not they attend school, they are kept ignorant about their rights. Alvarado laments that even after obtaining a university education, “I’ve had students come to my house to ask me what the Agrarian Reform Law is all about, because they didn’t learn about it in school” (61). Furthermore, the government refuses to provide the campesinos with the proper technical assistance promised by the Agrarian Reform Law so they can farm their own land (77). The major companies insist that campesinos are not intelligent enough to manage a major farming business, yet the only reason why the they cannot manage on their own is because the government impedes any attempt for them to do so. Even if they do finally win land, the campesinos are often unable to farm it because they do not have any information about the land they are farming or the crop they are supposed to be raising. As a result, the land becomes nearly useless, and the campesinos simply go into more debt.

Fortunately, the campesinos do have support from some groups. One supporter of the campesino unions is the Christian Democratic Party, which offers courses that educate the campesinos about how to organize and fight against inequality (61). Some international groups also support the campesino movement, typically by sending boxes of food or clothing. Although Alvarado is insistent that this type of aid will not solve the problem, it does provide temporary relief while the campesinos fight for a more permanent solution. There are also many professionals such as lawyers and doctors who are willing to stand up for the campesinos, to defend and protect them despite the inevitable persecution they will suffer as a result. When this support is coupled with the organization of the campesino unions (at least, the ones that have not been bought out by the government), the campesinos have a force that can truly make a change.

The church is another source of both suppression and support for the campesinos. They were the first ones to begin organizing women, and they provided relatively safe places to meet and organize. For Alvarado, church was where she was taught to stand up for her rights and do something about her problems, and it encouraged her to become a leader and organize other campesinos as well (13). However, the church eventually stopped supporting the groups. Now many of the priests in the Catholic church do not care about the poor and teach that they should simply accept their lot in life, and many Evangelicals preach that it is a sin for campesinos to organize and fight against their oppressors (32). Yet despite such prevalence of false teaching in the church, not all church leaders have been corrupted; some continue to offer their support despite harsh consequences from the government. Furthermore, Alvarado believes that “the story of Christ proves we can make change if we fight hard enough and if we never lose faith in what we’re fighting for” (30). Jesus provides an example to the campesinos of how to fight for the rights of the poor, so they have a constant reminder that no matter what happens to them, they are suffering for a righteous cause, just as Jesus did. This gives the campesinos – and especially Alvarado – an incomparable amount of endurance, which in turn significantly increases their chance of success.

A different aspect of inequality in Alvarado’s life is that of gender inequality. For the most part, women are expected to stay in the house all day grinding corn and caring for children. They are generally viewed as unintelligent and only good for having babies, and men have the right to do anything they want to them. Furthermore, because there are so few jobs, men cannot find work and resort to drinking instead. Any money they might manage to make is squandered with drinks, then they frequently beat their wives when they return home (52). Unfortunately, this is the socially accepted standard way of life, so these problems are typically ignored. One of the greatest challenges Alvarado has with the male union leaders is that “they often don’t want their own wives to participate. They talk a good line about ‘the role of women,’ but when it comes to their women – well, that’s a different story” (90). However, the fact that these same men have great respect for Alvarado and are willing to work with her demonstrates that the situation is gradually beginning to change. With more and more women like Alvarado rising into leadership positions in the campesino unions, men are beginning gain a respect for women. And as men begin to have more respect for women, they will begin to treat women with more respect as well.

On her own, there is almost nothing Alvarado can do to lessen the inequality in her life. There are simply too many forces against her – the government, the landowners, and even the fact that she is a woman. However, this does not mean that there cannot be change. Elvia Alvarado is not alone in her struggle. She is united with her fellow campesinos through the unions, and their strength in numbers is powerful. The campesinos are anxious for change, and they are willing to work together to make it happen. They have nothing to lose, so there is nothing stopping them from fighting for their rights until they have finally won.

Living in the Kraettli Apartments

As I mentioned in the last post, I live in Kraettli Apartments. Kraettli is the super old university apartment complex across from Traditions East. The apartments certainly don’t look very nice, but they actually aren’t that bad. The rent is extremely cheap (which is what I like!), and the apartments are actually really big. I am fortunate enough to live in one of the more updated buildings (meaning I actually have a double sink in the kitchen and the walls were painted semi-recently), so I can’t complain much considering the cost.

The funny thing is, not very many American students live here. My neighbor across from me is American, but I don’t think I have seen any other American students here. Most people who live here seem to either be from Asia or the Middle East. I have also seen a couple of French people around before, but I think they might actually live in Traditions East. My roommate suggested that the reason why so many Asian and Middle Eastern students live here might be because of the difference in currency value. Since their currencies are not worth as much as the dollar, it is probably a lot harder to afford housing. In contrast, Americans probably don’t want to live here because it isn’t very stylish. I personally don’t see why curb appeal is so important when rent is so cheap, but I guess other people have different priorities.

Because of the large percentage of international students here, I am always surrounded by other cultures. It is always an adventure using the laundry facility because people often use the washers and dryers for non-traditional purposes, and you always have to check that the washer or dryer you want to use is actually clean.

I can also often smell the awesome food people are cooking, and it always makes me want to go eat at a good, authentic Chinese restaurant. Sometimes, though, people burn the oil they are using, and then the whole area smells like smoke for several hours. Often times, people actually cook with their doors open so that all the smoke can get out without setting off the fire alarm. One of my neighbors does that quite frequently. I have also seen some rather interesting things setting out in the courtyard. Over the summer, someone had hung some sort of food out to dry, and I could have sworn it looked like intestines. Someone kept going out to check on it, and I could smell that they were cooking something inside. The drying stuff certainly looked gross to me, but apparently they were pretty excited to eat it.

Kraettli really has quite a unique culture compared to most apartment complexes. A lot of families live here (I know at least three of my neighbors have young kids), but there are also a lot of people living here who are around my age. Everyone living here has to be attending OU because it is university housing, but unlike other university housing, there seems to be pretty even mix between undergraduate and graduate students. My neighbor next to me seems to throw a lot of parties, but it is pretty quiet other than that. It also seems like there is a lot more interaction between residents than in normal apartments because of all the different events and get-togethers that are held. It truly is just like living in a mini international community.

Living with a Chinese Major

As I have mentioned before, my roommate is a Chinese major. She is incredibly awesome at speaking Chinese, and she is always interacting with the Chinese students on campus. Then when she’s back at the apartment, her love for Chinese starts to rub off on me. Again as I have mentioned before, I don’t know any Chinese whatsoever, and I don’t exactly plan to learn it any time soon, but I can definitely still appreciate the Chinese culture. For one, my roommate cooks some pretty amazing Chinese cuisine, and I always love trying her new recipes she gets from her Chinese friends. She has also been introducing me to Chinese music. Sometimes she’ll run a playlist of Chinese songs while we’re cooking, and I’ve started to be able to sing along to some of them, even though I don’t really know what they are saying.

However, there is one thing that “annoys” me about my roommate… I’m the one studying French, yet she still meets more people from France than I do! She came back from Chinese Club one day and told me that a guy from France had shown up because he wanted to learn Chinese. Go figure. Plus, there is a French girl in one of her classes. I have never actually spoken with anyone from France here before, so I have to say that I am pretty jealous of her for that!