Translation of La Tinta del Sur IV

Ink from the South IV

La Tinta Del Sur IV

“I always dreamed of going South and starting over”
The man who ran after the wind

Interpretations of Carpe Diem

Today’s society is us, living poets
Do not allow the life to happen to you without your living it
– Walt Whitman

Months ago I met a couple of drunks
Submissive to the social opulence of a guild.
It was a couple of hours.
I did not need more to lift the mat from his inert whereabouts
maintained based on a white powder of illicit jungle
that tinanciaban with the accumulated intellect of the years,
and the juggling of a scalpel thirsty for organic time.
A couple of decades invested in the knowledge bank
in the search for the South American dorado
to become vampires of dreams
that brought new light to their patients. but darkness for their spirits.
I remember them as a pair of tireless bigmouths in front of me,
a man from town.
Sitting by his side,
he listened as they devoured turns to fill the foundations of his
were not to exclude them from the wealthy link that was now yielding
and eat shit again,
feeling “once again the popularity of its origins.
To show the eyes of the smallest,
-and more stupid-.
He did not live life in his retinas,
half yertas,
like anguished meat
that cracked and resurrected robotically

under an inhospitable light
in claustrolobic salons heartless by reputation,
where I had long ago evicted empathy
to house the opinions of his greed.
Its procedure is only one of codes and coordinates insensitive to the
Happiness that installed in air castles and on occasional ski passes in
Deluxe class to make yourself feel more human.
Empire that proudly exhibited his friend, and clan mate,
in its brand new Silicon Valley technology.
He also boasted of the collection of skirts that attracted his wealthy robe
when walking the clinical corridors,
detailing that more than one of her legs trembled at the perception of her aura.
His pulse did not tremble, especially his soul, when he looked at his patients.
At the same time,
the other butcher laughed, and the game followed him like a good henchman,
putting on the table his last big orgy.
Story he described while holding the ring on his ring finger.
Immersed in a sea of ​​tequilas I ventured to ask them about their
The most stupid,
He commented that it was one of those nights that he would pay to be called
-I imagine so that, at least, in his name it would harbor a loophole
Embraced in body – but not in spirit – this pair of idiots
I grabbed the drink and with hand up
repudiating his smiles scalpel
I toasted for a long life
despising each one of the pillars of his asqueróso Carpe Diem.

If you don’t understand it, look it up! It’s worth knowing.

Murio en Diciembre

Melancholy is the joy of being sad.
Victor Hugo

I do not know if it’s the mist that comes through the chimney
when in our kitchen it still smells like your laughter.

O the euphoria of a love simmered, gradual, secret,
like good sex,
but with a Woody Allen ending.

The tango of you would have and we would have learned in a
and that I did not know how to interpret in other trips after your death.

Life in a bottomless drawer
where we used to write down the list of our outbursts
to avoid the reproaches of the good morning of the last Monday of the month.

A shelf photograph that holds the pillars of your absence
and that supported by esparto tunovela
refuses to the cliffs of amnesia.

The collection of Maghreb shoes that were left without your feet.

The writing of a tickle handbook for our gray days
that powders and wears since I do not move your waist.

Breakfasts and dinners that still know the maturity of a romance
When I set the table and nobody takes over your cutlery.

A hollow guitar -as you left my body-
where the nostalgia is now scattered,
and that I can not find a way to refine when December returns.

a post-feeling without rancor that drowns in the mornings, without reaching
kill the will to live.

You have to understand that life is composed of agitations of the soul,
and that melancholy has those qualities,
that does not understand deaths, nor feeble hearts,
not to overly depreciate it.

Because like the vines of an unattended yard
it spreads stealthily down the slopes of the marrow
until you hit the memory interlinings
where the most precious fantasies and memories come together,
those. No wonder in the markets of forgetting I have no pretext for me
to forget.


It is so cute
Knowing that you exist

Mario Benedetti

I found it in the development of our passions,
disheveled by the mischievous sunset of a recent Patagonian past_
His face shone when he put his coffee smile to use
that hardened her chin and stretched her eyebrows in a loving way_
His wise and pointed nose
where he exhaled the smell of beauty.
His mouth cracked by the salt of the southern seas.
His arms sunburned by the will of the heavens of the world
They were holding an Andean leather pouch that looked light,
but that hid an anthology of jars full of handfuls of
other lives.
Behind him a halo of hope balloons gave color to the
platforms of your dreams,
dreams that were similar to mine.
He did not flinch in tourist class, he was born in it.
It got on trains, cars and carts, unknown agents
that opened his appetite for continuing to breathe.
Eternized the curiosity of the whys and why
to give a sense to the direction of the invisible before the eyes.
With carboncíllo stamped memories on ocher leaves
that signed in verse
He hung in his wandering rooms to enlighten other travelers.

Barefoot throbbed Earth wounds
going through the years of the towns and their fields,
and with words and silences it illuminated the exile of those who believed
My traveling soul, was not always an expert,
I was also sensitive to pillow fears,
I had outstanding scars to cure
and even I recognized to run the curtains some sunrises to avoid
the sadness of the West.
And I cried, believe me I cried for their sins and weaknesses,
I cried until I blushed the iris of their green almonds.
I have to say that, in a way that I still do not know,
untangling the amygdala and flattening the road to resilience.
Disarmed, not sunken,
he painted his lips with the brush of the bougainvillea of ​​the Mediterranean,
and he threw himself into the street without plans or ties,
again on the road,
where I found it,
willing to tattoo his memory with another trip
and to fill new jars with the knowledge of the world and its people.

My soulmate,
my traveling soul,
my partner.

In the valley of. An

To the sea (us)

Your hands named lifesavers.
rescuing the shipwrecks of my lonely afternoons.
The silence of the moles on your back.
Your smile like a Cove,
(prelude to your chest lit between my hands).

We have learned to wait for the rain as something good,
to share a candle,
to hold the music between your fingers,
to light the incense that rests in a blink.
And we grow every day like a garden, between seeds, books and photographs. ‘

My hands named lifeguards,
Rescuing the shipwrecks of your lonely nights.
The waves of my hair where we both inhabit.
My hands that are a bowl where I keep your teachings
And they are white thread that repairs your wounds.

We merged slowly into fleeting ports,
Freeing our shoulders of a weight that we carry on our backs,
and the notes of a past that hurts your ways and mine.
We are ocean and sea bordering coasts,
With that sound that diluted fears and absence.

I discover myself by your side every day,
on the high seas, with its waist full of maritime foam.
And I always see your eyes as a beacon,
fairy where the air that escapes from my mouth goes.

You discover yourself by my side every day,
making your voice a work of art,
making your walk poem,
and you see me knitting ñores to decorate my breasts,
as we grow each day as a garden,
between seeds, books and photographs.

I give you a movie …

Some enigmatic images show a badly wounded whale the surface of an unknown sea while a voice in off utters the sickening words: “Once I saw a whale with three calved harpoons and it still moved. It took an entire to die. We meet the bellena again. We had never been closer. He was weaker because of the harpoon that had fired at him. And covered with scars from all the battles I fight.”

We do not know where we are or who is the narrator. The we will find out more adclanlc. For now, outside of that scene inaugural, the story officially begins with the arrival of two boys to a remote place, the island of Bastoy, located in the fjord of Oslo, Norway. There reigns a disturbing peace where the cold, the fog and the sound of the waves and the wind tend to silence the voices of their forced tenants. Or maybe it is not only the wind, but we do not advance events. Well, in this land area of ​​one square mile stands a reformatory for young misfits that lasted more than fifty years since its opening at the beginning of the 20th century.

As in other narrations of a prison nature (and this one is), the first minutes are intended for introductions into this microcosm, in that place where time seems to have stopped in its tracks and in, the one that flies over a calm that is nothing but the prelude to the disturbing, realities that are sheltered there. The inmates there have been held stripped of their names and their daily work alternates physical works with
lessons in classrooms. The treatment of workers and vigilantes who are in charge of maintaining the correctional is a reflection of that confrontation between oppressors and oppressed often dismissed not only by the extreme rigor of the context, but also by that tendency (painfully human) to the army of power over queines are  onsidered inferior on the social scale.

Except for a few facts, we ignore Erling’s notebook, two young people who have just entered the center and about which the story begins to direct their attention. Erling, unlike the rest of the reprobates, who have internalized the rules of the game and behave like automata. Rapidly highlighting an indomitable character that leads him to be subject to harsh penalties. This composition calls the attention of one of the convicts of Bastoy. Olav, who, after having been there for six years, has completed a model of institutionalization in such a way that only a couple of weeks remain to be reinserted into society. The price has been high. Olav has had to keep silent, obey the orders of his superiors and ignore the injustices that have been testified. But something inside seems to have been removed after witnessing the unyielding Erling temperament and, in fact, despite the initial rivalry, will be producing between them a solid friendship. Throughout this journey, the camera registers with meticulousness the persistent glances of Olav, who assists admired again and again to the indiscipline actions of his commiffer. This friendship begins to shine as it becomes a denim light of the hopeless stage that welcomes them, a sign of humanity in a scenario dominated by sadness. While the relationship between the two boys evolves, the new convict will need help to write a letter addressed to his sister. It tells a strange story about his past experiences as a sailor… and about a hardy whale that refused to perish.

The question is that an exchange in the roles established by the narrative, because who we thought was a Secondary character (Olav) will initiate a gradual but moving process Transformation until seize the role of the film. This in this way, we are witnesses of an individual in whom the flame of the indignation, the nonconformity, the courage. . . , to the extreme of give up that longed for exit that, in the initial phases of history, A destination impossible to change. Many things passed between them, a revolt spurred by Olav himself after checking that the preceptor who had raped one of the boys in his barrack. Driving him to suicide, he has been reinstated in his position. Per, suffocated the Insurrection, the main character now will be the only inmate that achieves Evade the reformatory. Yes, unfortunately it will not be accompanied.

Events seem to have come to an end; but it is then when we return to those enigmatic images with which the story. And we guess its nature. These images, now we know, are mental projections of Olav from the marine narrations dictated by his old partner. We deduce that these recreations are have sedimentznlo in the memory of the character and tend to reappear over and over again in your imagination knowing that a portion of your current idiosinerasia was forged thanks to the example of that figure that instilled in him the seed of nonconformity. What we contemplate, therefore, it is nothing other than the internalization of an alien story, now integrated into the consciousness of another person. A prolonged ellipsis we moves to the present. Olav, as an adult, wakes up from his rest when, In the fishing vessel where you work, you are informed that you are Approaching the region to which the island of Bastoy belongs. Olav goes out on the deck and is reunited with the unmistakable sea that surrounded that prison where he spent a good part of his adolescence. And it’s here, with a noticeable pang of emotion, when those who return to their memory Mementos where he had no choice but to leave Erling behind, accidentally engulfed by the waters of an icy fjord, and travel with a wounded leg that snowy desert in search of his freedom.

The island of the forgotten ones (Marius Holt, 2010)
Jose A. Plans Pedrefio

New Translation of Pablo Neruda’s poem “The Dead Woman”

La Muerta, or The Dead Woman, was written by Pablo Neruda. I was reading a bilingual edition of this book at El Cafe de Otraparte and didn’t like the translation so have transcribed my own below on the right side, linked to where other translations are below and then explained why I think my translation is preferable to theirs.

Si de pronto no existes,
si de pronto no vives,
yo seguiré viviendo.No me atrevo,
no me atrevo a escribirlo,
si te mueres.Yo seguiré viviendo.Porque donde no tiene voz un hombre
allí, mi voz.

Donde los negros sean apaleados,
yo no puedo estar muerto.
Cuando entren en la cárcel mis hermanos
entraré yo con ellos.

Cuando la victoria,
no mi victoria,
sino la gran Victoria
aunque esté mudo debo hablar:
yo la veré llegar aunque esté ciego.

No, perdóname.
Si tú no vives,
si tú, querida, amor mío, si tú
te has muerto,
todas las hojas caerán en mi pecho,
lloverá sobre mi alma noche y día,
la nieve quemará mi corazón,
andaré con frío y fuego
y muerte y nieve,
mis pies querrán marchar hacia donde tú duermes, pero seguiré vivo,
porque tú me quisiste sobre
todas las cosas indomable,
y, amor, porque tú sabes que soy no sólo un hombre
sino todos los hombres.

If suddenly you do not exist,
if suddenly you no longer live,
I shall live on.I do not dare,
I do not dare to write it,
if you die.I’ll keep living.For where a man has no voice,
there, my voice.

Where blacks are beaten,
I cannot be without energy.
When into prison my brothers go,
I am with them.

When victory,
not my victory,
but the great victory
even though I am mute I must speak;
I shall see it come
though I am blind.

No, forgive me.
If you don’t live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall on my chest,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with cold and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to march to where you sleep, but
I’ll stay alive,
because you wanted me above all things indomitable,
and, my love, because you know that I am not only a man
but all humankind.

Why My Translation is Better

Where my translation differs from the other versions is as follows.

In the third stanza seguiré should read as a statement of commitment to life rather a phrase that a book with some sort of platitudinous title on coping with grief would tell you to repeat over and over again in a mirror until you start to feel that you are “back amongst the land of the living” and thus no longer “trapped in the past/in death”.

The fifth stanza I’ve changed for the following reasons. First, the other translators incorrectly attributed the Castilian meaning of the word rather than the Chilean. While generally sensible, any Spanish speaker that’s travelled know that there is a wide variety regional dialects and meanings. Here’s an screenshot of a Chilean Spanish Slang Dictionary:

If that’s not enough to convince you why my iteration is better, consider this – while “not being dead” may sounds poetic, it doesn’t imply the same sort of implication of commitment to ameliorating racial oppression that was a major component of Neruda’s politics. Pablo Neruda was an ardent Marxist, a member of the Communist Party and was a politician and diplomat under President Salvador Allende. The lines as they were slightly obfuscated something that Pablo Neruda would have been highly attuned.

As it was worded,
it suggested that the “I” of the poem – which is later on characterized as indomitable – respond to racial oppression merely by oneself not succumbing to death. Using a dictionary definition rather than an informal one thus loses the implied need for material commitment to oppressed peoples liberation evidenced in my rendition of “I cannot be without energy”. People in perilous situations that require great physical endurance to survive are able to exert themselves past the point they would normally collapse because of the importance of their actions. My rendition captures this, and for similar reasons the next two lines of the stanza is also lacking verisimilitude to what I believe to be Neruda’s intent.
Embed from Getty Images

As it was,  the “I” of the poem implied a commitment to revenge seeking or some kind of adventurism. That’s not, however, the case as Neruda would be very familiar with the concept of solidarity. Now I understand and even appreciate why it’s rendered that way, for the sake of sound, but I also think it’s important not to declaw the meaning behind the words of a poet who was assassinated by the government of General Pinochet with the assistance of the C.I.A.

Marchar en Chile

In the eight stanza I changed “breast” for “chest” as pecho is both and. Following that I think the translation is again playing fast and loose for the sake of sound. Neruda uses the word marchar, to march, and in the translation it’s replaced with walk, or caminar. While one certainly walks in a march, the collective sense implied in the Spanish word is lost in the old translation.

Lastly, I changed the last line from “all men” to “all humankind” as the gender specificity within Spanish nouns need not apply to the English rendition given the alternative which more accurately symbolizes socialism’s aspiration for universal solidarity.

“Don’t do with love, what a child does his balloon, that having ignored it, then loses it crying.”

Buy yourself a copy of Neruda.

The Struggle for Catalonian Independence and Art

82 years after the Asturias Revolt, and 78 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War Republican unrest is now mobilized enough again that politicians in Catalonia believe that independence from Madrid is a possibility. Spain has always had a special place in my heart and thus I’ve been closely following the events in Catalonia regarding their movement for independence. As a populist movement not only does it’s development lend itself to new forms of art, which I will briefly talk about below, but it also allowed President Maduro of Venezuela to troll Prime Minister Rajoy with the phrase, “Who’s the Dictator Now?” after Rajoy was critical Maduro’s response to U.S. backed attempts to destabilize the country and to bolster indigenous people’s attempts to create their own national governments, like in Kurdish Iraq. Massive Social Mobilization Across Catalonia These photos show the millions of participants in the protests that were part of the huelga general (general strike) called for by all the Catalan trade unions. According to the Catalan government the general strike was the largest economic paralyzation in the history of Catalonia. Reports I’ve read state how one of the many chants that  reverberated in dozens of cities across Catalonia, was “The streets will always be ours!” The reason for this stems from the fact that people were upset with Spanish state repression and police violence against the #CatalanReferendum, in which 90% of the voters voted for independence from Spain. Their claim that the streets belong to them reflects the fact that police from outside the region had to be brought in to control it.

Workers Against the State While the police were celebrated by small crowds in other regions for the oppression they would bring to their neighbors, Catalonian farmers blocked the ports to prevent more police officers from coming in, to prevent police vehicles from coming in and to otherwise hamper the movement of those that were already brought off shore to “reign in” the movement. The Huelga General, or General Strike, called by the Catalan unions is supposed to be the largest in history and has paralyzed commerce throughout the region.

The State Against Workers and Democracy 

“The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” – Leon Trotsky

Not all social services workers were willing to fight for the status quo, here we see firefighters that are attempting to keep the police from preventing people from going to polling stations. Other powerful photos of what’s going on there depict ballot boxes connected by chains to large concrete blocks to prevent police from confiscating them. Reports from all outlets depict greater  90% of those that voted wanted independence.

Is History Repeating Itself?

Let’s clean them out! – 2017 Comrade Lenin is Cleaning the World of Scum – 1917

100 Years on from the Russian Revolution and it is still inspiring people around the world trying to get free from oppression and exploitation. While reading some Spanish language news media, I came across the above poster on the right and was tinkled pink (or is tinkled red more appropriate here?) as it is a variation of the famous Lenin poster that I placed on the right. While the forces driving Catalonian independence are nationalist and not anti-capitalist – the region’s history as a Libertarian Communist/Radical Republican stronghold during the Civil War are well documented.

Or is History Adapting to the Conditions of the Present?

While I found myself resonating with the Escombrem Los! image and the illustration above to the left as it combines a famous photo by Robert Capa called Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936  with a depiction of the current suppression – this is one of the examples where historically powerfully iconography is repackaged in a way that’s not really appropriate. The anti-monarchic sentiment may be the same and there is similar dissatisfaction with the government on it’s spending choices – it’s not an international revolutionary movement.

The Future is Unwritten, But Has Certain Limits Brexit, massive youth unemployment and brain drain to Germany, growing nationalist movements – the hopes for a united European Union is starting to unravel. Just like the Catalonian independence movement is not likely to become a clarion even for those disaffected with the neoliberal world order nor is it that Catalonia will again be a testing ground for new weapons. And yet these historical images are still being used by those on the ground now as a reference for understanding the present.

While this is to be expected, it’s worth recalling Karl Marx’s famous quote on the subject: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

A More Appropriate Art of Protest

While there are certainly groups within the Catalan nationalist movement that wish to make the referendum for nationhood similarly a vote for socialism, this is a vocal but small group.

Because of this, I believe, a more appropriate aesthetic is less that which pulls from a revolutionary tradition and more one that sees it as solely a transfer of powers. It’s a lot less sexy, but a lot more accurate. It’s also a lot more dangerous, as continuing the state in this regard will not necessarily ameliorate the anxieties expressed in such social mobilization and opens up the way for new ones.

The Return of Fascistic Unity

Embed from Getty Images

Regardless of one’s position on Catalan independence, it’s worth noting the strong similarities with those against it and those that wish to make the United State a white ethno-state. It’s said that a picture says a thousands words, so notice the swastika tattoos on this anti-independence Catalan demonstrator at a National Unity rally in the centre of Barcelona during Catalonia National Day on September 1.

The struggles in the street over symbols, history and power will continue so long as profound dissatisfaction with the distribution of political and economic power continues. However, reliance upon old verities such as nationhood or race that once made people feel secure will not provide a genuine out for such problems. I hope that the electoral aspirations of the Catalonians are achieved, but also feel that should independence happen the hopes that they have will soon be lost given what will be their diminished power in the current world order.

Review of “The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads”

The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads by Alvo Civico is an engaging and at times haunting account of the armed conflict between various groups that has shaped Colombia’s political economy over the past forty years. The books anthropologically oriented methodology combines first person interviews with cocaine kingpins, leaders of para-military forces as well as the regulars, victims of paramilitary violence, as well as supporters of the paramilitary along with a historical account that contextualizes the events described in the interviewees stories. Through these accounts, Colombia’s rural interior comes to be seen as a space where actors project their desires for wealth and personally engage or organize horrific behavior in order to obtain it.

While it appears late in Para-State’s chapters, despo-capitalism is the term that Civio uses to describes the socio-economic dynamics of Colombia. It is a “threshold where the repressive forces of the despot combine with the liberating forces of capitalism” (140). His theoretical model for understanding the dynamics of despo-capitalism is decidedly Marxian with deference to Deleuze and a dash of Zizek. He states repeatedly, in fact, that the role of the AUC is what is described as a War Machine in the book A Thousand Plateaus. To bolster this positions, he includes a brief comparative political account based on interviews with an Italian prosecutor that illustrates the similarity of development of the Sicilian Mafia to the Colombian para-militaries.

Paisas Son Un Gente Muy Amable y Acogedoras

 If you consume enough of the marketing content that encourages travel and investment in Colombia or various polls, you’ll soon notice that one of the recurring themes is of how wonderful and welcoming the people are here. While as of writing this I’ve only spent time in Antioquia, this combined with the many others I met from this region while living in South Florida makes me feel that this is a general truism. The irony, of course, is the happiness that they feel despite there being a longest standing civil war throughout any Latin American country.

The reason for the Civil War is long, and stems in part to the violence between Liberal and Conservative Parties before that. Each operated with tenuous. After a number of periods of sectarian killings, including La Violencia, the political elite united around the Frente Nacional (1959), which is incredibly similar to Venezuela’s Pact of Punto Fijo (1958). This specifically lead to the establishment of the FARC and would later open up the conditions for the death squads the books describes. Unable to get enough civilian support in regions rich with fecund land and extractable primary goods, the para-militaries became a means for the elite to establish control.

Limpiezas were right wing paramilitary that went throughout the rural and urban areas and liquidated those that they considered FARC sympathizers (real and imagined) as well as desechables, gamines, and those in combos. There were a large number of such groups, such as the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU), that came to be united in name but not always in orientation under the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Regional groups were funded by either the upper classes with financial interests in a region or workers being under their total control or cocaine producers and distributors.

Death By BananasDespite what the above meme suggests, getting murdered because you don’t want to pick bananas for the wages offered is not something relegated to the not so distant past. In the period when the bi-lateral trade agreement between Colombia and the United States was being debated by the Legislative branches of government, the American trade unions pointed to the wave of over 450 assassinations of civil rights leaders, trade unionists and community leaders that was then going on. Chiquita Banana, may still face trial for its support of the AUC after the State Department deemed it a terrorist group.

The informant network created by the AUC deemed all such people as “collaborators to the FARC’s cause,” even if there was no such material support evidence. The mere belief that workers had a right to collectively bargain was considered cause for getting kidnapped, shot, dismembered by chainsaw and the remains left somewhere in the forest for animals to consume.

In regions with fecund soil that inhabitants had adopted a subsistence model of reproduction, market relations were either forced on them by paracos or they were dispossessed. In regions where wage-labor for agricultural production was pre-existent but drives for higher wages occurred, paracos enforced at gunpoint the continuation of work. In a word, the feudalistic model for enforcing labor participation for capitalist production was the norm.

The information network of the AUC would later identify and assassinate over 450 unionists, community rights leaders, and other “sympathizers” or collaborators to the FARC’s cause. If this seems high, well, the number of civilians the AUC killed is drastically higher. When a valley needed to be cleared of occupiers so that a foreign national company could grow bananas, for instance, or a gold lode was discovered that initial seismic wave readings indicated could be worth billions – paracos would declare that town a pueblo guerillero for resisting such displacement. After they’d encircle it with hundreds of heavily armed people, they’d raid a number of people specifically identified as trouble and then publicly execute them and put their bodies on display in an area with high pedestrian and automobile traffic.

The Direction of Colombia’s Economic Development is the Heart of its Civil Conflict

These capital and labor intensive industries along with cocaine production and trafficking are at the heart of the Colombian political economy. The latter more so as cocaine itself is a totem that organizes the distribution of bodies, practices, objects, symbols and words. The class divide determine by one’s placement in the such a system of capital circulation is both implicit by social norms but also by the legal system which designates people according to a legal class (estrata). Those that are lower class are not given much, if any, assistance by the state – hence the antagonism to it, as those on the lower end see the benefits given to those at the top – and thus can best earn through trafficking or muscle. An additional element driving the conflict has to do with US investment in the region.

Cocaine and the Development of Medellin

The Para-State’s account of cocaine’s role in the geographical and demographic development of Medellin describes evolving dangers from sundry violent actors working in unison and against each other. With vast amounts of capital coming into the country through sales via Miami and other points, the traffickers soon became the largest land holders in the country. Not all wanting to live in highly guarded fincas outside of the city center, they invested in different neighborhoods in Medellin.

As a result of the the aforementioned dispossessions and high level of unemployment, combos formed in these area. The effects that these two converging factors in one region is described on page 158 by Civico as follows:

“Medellin has long been crossed by these invisible but powerful boundaries, and transgression could trigger a death sentence from a rival armed group. These lives have shifted constantly, and residents have learned which streets to travel on, which ones to avoid, and which boundaries to cross. Walking on the wrong side of a street can get you killed. In several of the city’s barrios, survival has been a matter of such cartographic knowledge.

Having spent a few weeks now in Medellin, it’s worth noting that even now, 20-30 years after the period described the dynamic remain the same – with the higher areas along the mountains being more “dangerous” while the center is safer. That this is a dynamic caused by wealth inequality from the hegemonic economic capitalist enterprises is clearly shown to be the case.

De-armament, Reintegration and Politicization of the Struggle

Even before the recent FARC demobilization, those once in the AUC were in the process of demobilizing. As Civico describes it, however, this is not an easy process. The job prospects for those once involved pay significantly lower, making them ripe for recruitment by narcos, their history of violence makes them apt to end up in jail or dead over minor disputes and others that aware of their crimes – be they family members of those they killed or rival groups – sometimes take justice in their own hands. One of the interviewees that Civico writes about, in fact, is taken by a group that he was on bad terms with and is never seen again.

The politicization of the armed struggle is certainly a step in the right direction for a united Colombia, however as this book shows there is a lot of bloody history that will continue to make such a transition difficult. While it’s not clear if this will work, Civico is clear that if the massive modernization projects which dislocates thousands continue, if the assassination of leftists continues, if the state continues to fail in its ability to speak for all but the elite, that this project will fail.


Desechables – Literally means “disposable people”. This meant people that were drug addicts, petty thieves, homosexuals, domestic abusers and could sometime include people that had long hair.

Intreccio –the inter-twinement of the state and the parastate. First used to describe the relationship between the Italian Mafia and state

Traquetos – the people engaged in cocaine trafficking who make a show of their wealth with thick gold chains around their necks, expansive cars and stunning young women

Pajeria – literally means “squad”. People who enacted organized political violence

Vacuna – protection money

Farras – parties to get drunk

Urbano – a paramilitary working in an urban area

Bonification – a bonus according to the number of people you killed

Paracos – paramilitaries

Bara – The dynamic wherein a commander likes your performance and gives you frequent opportunities and recommends you

Limpieza – social cleansing accomplished through spectacular violence

Raspachin – coca gatherer

Pueblo guerillero – a town associated with guerillas

Gamine – street kids

Vallenato – romantic Colombian music from the coastal region with lyrical content similar to African griots

Pillos – a Medellin specific term for gang-members and junkies

Culebras – literally poisonous snakes. A term for one’s enemies.

Combos – street corner gangs

Review of “Lazarillo de Tornes and The Swindler: Two Spanish Picaresque Novels”

Lazarillo de Tornes and The Swindler: Two Spanish Picaresque Novels continues my study of the titularly named genre. Two young boys follow paths to dissolute lives. Lacking the upward mobility available in economies that weren’t primarily based upon slave labor extraction of mineral resources, their birth in the lower classes itself made certain things impossible in the way of the Spanish World. Apprenticeship would thus not take the form of tutelage under craftsman or artisans but among some of the most dejected members of the lumper-proletariat.

Lazarillo is the tale of a 14 year old young man whose unfortunate mothers leads her to give away her soon to an itinerant blind man in order to be relieved of the effort of caring for him. The seemingly affable despite his misfortunate loss of eyesight demeanor quickly drops once they are far from the house and walking on the way to the next city. The blind man demands him verbally and hits him of the head with his staff. he further abuses him and as he is the one who holds all of the coins received while begging is stingy with how he feeds his ward. Lazzarillo finds a number of ways to out guile the clever man. But he does learn a lot, and through their conversations Lazarillo comes to see a much more skeptical view of the Spanish Catholic’s religious beliefs and practices. They break their relationship, however, after a number of altercations following the blind man’s discovery of the ruses. After Lazarillo picks off enough cash to make it on his own for a while he has the blind man unwittingly jump into a pylon and then leaves him bloody and concussed to look after himself.

He briefly comes under the employ of a provincial noble that is on his way to become a student at a school for the elite. As they enter an inn to find shelter for the night, they are both quickly worked over by a group of smooth talking con-men. Lazarillo only realizes their deceit after his master is forced to pay the bill for all of their food and drink and he has lost all of his money gambling. He is dismissed and is thus forced to begging. It is while he is walking the streets of Maqueda singing pleas that he’d learned while working with the blind man that a priest stops in front of him. He listens briefly and then tells him he is now under his employ and to follow him. His next master is not physically violent like the last, but is strict and like the blind man is stingy with food. As such, like before, he decides he mush rely upon deception in order to supplement his meagre caloric intake. The task of stealing from the bread box is no Oceans affair, but the length at which he carries it on is a testament to his cunning. The descriptions of the Priest getting so enraged over a few crumbs being removed from the bread box and the demands of austerity placed upon Lazarillo is another not so subtle criticism of the Church.

Without getting into every little twist and turn of the novel, I’ll just state that additional deeds of deviousness occurs. The writing style has a a faced based economy of language. It develops quickly from the tradition of writing about a young boys development to a series of deceits enacted upon superiors because of the belief that allegiance to the self is the only true allegiance that one should have if one wants to move forward in the world. The book ends with the patina of a dignified life, and whether the question of whether or not such self-deceit is worth the cost of no longer having to wonder from where he’ll next get his meal and a place to rest his head.

The Swindler is the other story contained in the Penguin Classics pairing. It’s longer the Lazarillo and does not depict a similar transition away from criminality to semi-respectability. As the book’s title, a reference to the protagonist, suggest the plot revolves around someone that is essentially bad. His badness, however, mainly accelerates as a result of his choices to accompany people. This rogue’s gallery isn’t the only one unfavorably depicted, the Church’s isn’t kind to them either. They are, alternately,  schemers, pederasts, tight-wads, delusional in their adherence to certain ungodly practices.

The witches and heretics fair little better. In the opening of The Swindler, the protagonist is advised by his witch, whore of a mother’s Moorish thieving non-Church sanctioned husband: “If you’re crafty, you can get away with anything.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, many years after this exchange he is hung and dismembered by his mother’s brother the hangman. Seeing these pieces hung around the entrance to the city walls as as he comes home to receive his inheritance, shocks him. But he was going to carry on.

The confessor of this tale does not merely seek to shock and amaze with grotesque scenes, he advises that this is also a lesson book, if one so looked at it, to live a life based based upon deceit, swindles, subterfuges, lies, all around craftiness. Unlike Lazarillo, the writer’s character does not always have at least some of our sympathies. From unfortunate circumstances he adopts the wrong lessons and applies them in such a way that while getting admiration from a rotating band of conniving thieves he obtains a correct opprobrium from the well to do class which he aspires by false pretenses to marry himself into. A blow to the head leaves him with a telling disfigurement the exacerbates his willingness to commit criminal acts and live a debauched life. At this point, in no uncertain terms, he is a man that embodies a dangerous form of criminality. He takes a view similar to that of a N.W.A. anthem and goes on a drunk spree that results in a number of complications he must now flee with his whore lover.


Review of “Don Quixote Part 2”

While the first part of Don Quixote was certainly amusing in it’s satire of chivalrous literature, the second part of Cervantes novel fins the comedic duo of the eponymous character and Sancho Panza in a number of more humorous situations. In addition to the normal pickles they find themselves in, there is an added level of awareness in the characters as to their construction as literary personas. This is brought about as in both in real life and in the world of the book there was publication of a “Don Quixote: Part 2”. This is a cause for anxiety on the part of the aged and delusional itinerant knight as well as his squire. A number of times they must combat others false perceptions of them while at the same time combating the apparitions and illusions sent by the “sorcerers”.

Additionally I found a number of other aspects to be superior. For one, while in the first one there is recurrent reference to a number of slapstick events in the patter between master and servant – such as when Sancho was thrown in the air on a sheet after being beaten and when they were both beaten by the men along the river protecting their horse from Rocinante – in the second there is less of this. It wasn’t unfitting for these to be constantly brought up by Panza in their adventures, he was after all trying to maintain some control over his master. They were, less repetition of the past in the one. While there is recurrent emphasis on the fact that Quixote’s Dulcinea has been “transformed,” it does not reach the same level of redundancy. Additionally, I found a number of the adventures that transpire to be more amusing.

The armed combat with the Knight of Mirrors is, when fully revealed, quite absurd and the length to which a Duke and his wife proffering hospitality go in order to amuse themselves on Quixote’s behalf is quite engaging. I found the section wherein Sancho is the governor to be exceptionally worthwhile – for after his character had been established as the near-incarnation of folk knowledge seeming him succeed so well in his role despite the undermining of those around him was positively edifying. Not merely because of Quixote’s written imprecations to Panza, but also the way that he acts unto his own. Also, the sub-plot gave much needed fulfillment to the curiosity I’ve had as to whether or not Panza would achieve the goal he’d set for himself at the beginning of the adventure.

The story of Camacho’s Wedding was indicative of a thread of criticism towards the nobility that I noticed more in this book than in the other. In the case of this tale a poor man fools a rich man into paying for his wedding. In the Adventure of the Distressed Duenna the nobility exclaims that squires and servants are natural enemies of their masters as they see them in all of their human frailty, they “haunt the antechambers and keep an eye on us every minute when we’re not saying prayers, which is often enough, they spend their time whispering about us, digging up our bone, and burying our reputations.” Also, in part 2 Sanco Panza is here much more aware of his master’s madness and while often willing to play along is much less likely to unquestioningly follow him.

Cervantes closes his book stating that his intention with writing it was as follows: “I have had no other purpose than to arouse with abhorrence of mankind toward those false and nonsensical stories to be me with in the books of chivalry.” As to whether tales of this type are no longer told is debatable. It seems to me that a number of fantastic exploits showcasing the valor and temerity of a hero continue to be made and successfully reproduced, however not necessarily in the same form. The superhero genre seems to be a variation of this, which is worth pointing out as I feel that the recent film Bird-Man seems almost as if it is a satire of this particular genre in the same way Quixote was of chivalric books.


The Expanse and Iberian History and Literature

I wasn’t feeling too well and a science fiction aficionado acquaintance of mine posted praise for a new SyFy show called The Expanse. I decided to give it a try and after watching the first episode I found myself thoroughly absorbed due to it’s compelling characters, intricate plot and high production values. I binged it over the next two days without regrets and look forward to subsequent seasons.

While watching it, I noticed a number of things that weren’t necessarily evident to the average viewer so wanted to share the information informing my enjoyment of it. Spoiler alert to those that have yet to see the show – in order to share my perspective, I have to speak in some detail about a number of points.

The ship Tachi has its name changed to Rocinante

It was upon viewing this name change that a number of previous events in the show took on a new meaning. Tachi is the name of the Mars Class ship that allows James Holden, Naomi Nagata and others to escape attack by an as of yet unknown enemy. Following escape from the battle, the ship is piloted to Tycho Station, an area controlled by Fred Johnson and the Outer Planet Alliance.

Now Rocinante is the name of the not so mighty nag of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Besides the fact that both Rocinantes transport people from adventure to adventure, there’s not much similarity beyond the name. It does, however, hint at a number of interesting signifiers that relates Iberian History and Literature which I touch on below.

Don Quixote is plagued by Enchanters, James Holden is plagued by an unknown Forces

In the first episode we see James Holden, the Executive Officer of The Canterbury, and a small crew launch off their main ship on a small craft to investigate a distress signal. Shortly after discovering that the signal was likely designed to get their main ship to stop its path – a cloaked ship destroys the Canterbury.

A number of Don Quixote’s adventures consist of him misinterpreting circumstances around him for situations that require him to intervene. These interventions, however, don’t actually assist those that he imagines in need of help and result in him getting hurt.
Now, I don’t believe that Holden is a variant or new incarnation of Quixote. From what we know of his character he’s not obsessed with knight-errantry or some other sort of fiction. However, following the death of his crewmates on the Canterbury which he blames himself for, he does seem to gain greater moral agency by uncovering and revealing the REAL truth about the Canterbury – which he is not yet aware of.

The viral spread of Holden’s video denouncing the Martians mirrors the publication of Don Quixote part II in Don Quixote Part IIRemember the Cant

In book two of Don Quixote, the eponymous character learns that the tales of his adventures have been published and he meets many people that are aware of who he is. Quixote does not mind this, but he does take qualm upon learning that a sequel, published by Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, is also available for purchase at booksellers stalls and that it contains many falsehoods. Don Quixote criticizes this False Quixote and even adjusts some of his behaviors so as to not be mistaken for the fake one.
Holden’s transmits a video denouncing the Martians for their purported blowing up of the Canterbury. This video makes him known far and wide. Upon encountering Martian consumers of the material, however, this fame is turned into infamy. He later realizes that they are not the one responsible and thus tries to correct the false image of him that exists in people’s minds.

Episode 7, titled Windmills, features a copy of Cervantes’ Quixote that is the brief subject of conversation between Holden’s mother and Avasarala

That’s mostly it in the headline. The only additional comment worth making is how it is that here we learn that Holden doesn’t, according to his mother, recognize Don Quixote as a tragedy. While I’d argue that Don Quixote isn’t tragedy – though it does has elements of it – it’s interesting that this comment is made to provide insight into Holden’s character.

The Geographic relationship between the Outer Belt and the Core Planets mirrors that of Spain and the Colonies

Placing the two maps side by side ought to suffice to illustrate this point.


The Expanse solar system map


However I think that it’s worth reinforcing this point through the below one.

The Economic relationship between the Outer Belt and the Core Planets mirrors that of Spain and it’s Colonies

The-Expanse-Series-Premiere-Chrisjen theexpanses01e01177

The Outer Planets exist in a relationship to Earth of complete economic dependence. Air and the technologies needed to survive are scarce. Belters lives on the physical and technical periphery of interplanetary trade. It is a large part of the reason that they have organized themselves into economic/political alliance. Why? Because resource extraction seems to be the primary economic activity and thus they are for the most part the suzerain partner to the much larger state. The Belt clearly demonstrates the qualities of a periphery as described in a historical context in Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Dependency and Development in Latin America and Immanuel Wallerstein’s Modern World Systems series.
While there are numerous allusions to this dynamic within the conversations of the characters I could quote, I found the graphic depiction of this relationship as illustrated following the capture of an OPA smuggler by United Nations forces to be particularly compelling.Chrisjen Avasarala, a powerful UN executive, submits the smuggler to gravity torture. His body is so distorted that literally can’t even stand up on his own – thus drastically limiting the possibilities for occupational development elsewhere. This is the curse of many a export economy, which is unable to develop a middle class due to underdevelopment.

The OPA Symbol is the IWA Symbol


Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 10.19.49 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-06 at 10.06.53 PM

The International Workers Association, also called the First Internationale, was an umbrella group for Anarchist and Socialist groups organizing in Europe founded in 1864. It was internationalist in orientation, but split into two main factions that disagreed whether or not to engage in parliamentary struggle or not. The faction supporting Mikhail Bakunin – the wing that rejected such struggles and which would later advocate for propaganda by the deed in the form of bombings and assassinations found it’s most numerous and vibrant following in Spain.

I don’t mean by the above to put forward an argument that claims that Iberian History and Culture are as influential to The Expanse as Game of Thrones is to the War of the Roses – as shown below – but merely to shows some interesting overlaps that I noticed with an area of my study.

Review of “Don Quixote Part I”

After I decided to move to Barcelona, Spain in order to study Spanish for a year I Bought a copy of Don Quixote in it’s original language. My intention in so doing was habitual, I enjoy reading the national literature of a country in the place it was produced. I learned that for this work, however, I was not up to the challenge. There was simply too much to see and all my free time was devoted to my young bride-to-be. Four years later I was anxious to re-read or really to start reading it in this fine edition that I got off eBay.
Now as any person with literary inclinations is sure to tell you, Don Quixote is often cited as the first modern novel and is also often named by writers as one of the best novels ever written. Though one may not have read the book, still one knows some of the details – a mad, older man considers himself a knight and then goes on a number of misadventures that includes battle with a windmill. The image of Quixote either with Sancho Panza is iconic, so much so that a good friend of mine even has a tattoo of them on their arm. These generalities aside, having just read the first part, I can understand why. Though with some reservations.

In a more conscious manner than Madame Bovary, Quixote is fixated upon literature. In his case it is not romance novels but tales of knight-errantry and the defunct even-at-the- time-the-book-was-written code of chivalry. Such books have, as those around him often say, warped his mind. This is not the limit of the role of literature in the novel – for throughout there are discussions between Don Quixote and other interlocutors on the values of chivalric literature. Don Quixote sees them as estimable, obviously, while those around him largely do not. They dislike them and it’s effect on him so much that at one point they burn a large portion of Quixote’s library.

One of the components of the book that I enjoyed was its use of multiple forms of writing. Be they letters or, as is more common, poetry and tales told in verse, the novel wends through a number of lives that Don Quixote touches and those that are literary productions. The last poem written by a shepherd that committed suicide over unrequited love, a didactic tale left at an inn by an old boarder the warns about the dangers of tempting virtue, and the tragic story of an offended lover wandering the countryside are just three of the many stories within the work. A majority of these tales of tragedy, however, lead to comedic – both in the telling of them as well as the improbable situations that emerge soon after their vocalization. Another literary element of the book that I liked is it’s meta-awareness. The character debate on what make a book meritorious in such a way that I felt as if Cervantes was laughing when writing it. Some of the lines within the presage purportedly written by the Censor for Spanish Books are hilarious.

For me the book really started to get going around 180 or so pages in. I was a little worried that the book was a paper version of Citizen Cane – something that is oft cited as an innovative stylistically but which has, to me, not aged well. Thankfully I was wrong. Shortly after this point the number of minor encounters introduced in this section starts to mesh together within the plot of Quixote and Panza. Characters that were thought to be passing figures take on a larger role, which allows for greater continuity as lacking them we have only the madmen Sancho Panza and Don Quixote bumping around aimlessly in misadventure. I also found the overwhelming number of quotes of chivalrous tales to be a bit overwhelming – but I can understand that at the time that it was printed his audience would be more informed of this. All in all I have so far enjoyed the book greatly and look forward to reading the second half.

Review of Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for Independence

In considering survey texts for a DP1 History of the Americas class I’d not at first considered Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence. At first I reviewed those texts that I’d read for my Global Histories Class with Dr. Maia Ramnath at NYU.The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic or The Americas in the Age of Revolution: 1750-1850 both seemed sensible. I knew full well that The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 would be too difficult for students so I didn’t even consider that. Looking through the class notes I read that the book was already assigned over the summer by the previous teacher and had an assignment with is already so I decided to forego such deliberations and read it to see how best to use it.

Americanos focuses solely on Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, unlike the other books I was considering that also include descriptions of developments in North America, I found it’s tight treatment of the various developments in the inchoate Latin American nations and their relationships to events in Europe more reading level appropriate to my students than the others. I wouldn’t say that it’s a simpler book, but that those not somewhat versed in political economy might miss the nuances described therein.
Following the American and French Revolutions criollos, who would later become americanos, began to feel that they had the tide of historical development on their side and thus a greater opportunity to greater press their claims for greater participation within the colonial governments and to liberalize trade relationship for greater personal profit.

Organized political action against the monarchy, however, was very limited due to the might of Spanish force and as there was little consensus as to how exactly this would occur. Following the invasion of Spain by France during the Peninsular War, the capture of the Spanish king Carlos IV, the ascension of Joseph Bonaparte to the throne, the formation of the Cadiz Cortes and Britain’s increased desire to establish enduring trading relationships with Latin America negated the traditional glues holding the colonies in thrall to Spain. Whereas previously those that had advocated for home rule were considered seditious, now one could make the same argument under what Chasteen calls the “Mask of Fernando” and attract supporters. After all, the self-elected bureaucratic body that was claiming to be the inheritor to the Spanish monarchy didn’t have the military personnel to protect themselves much less assert themselves across the ocean. While it was still dangerous to propagandize for a Republican model of government, a political orientation that was seen as French and thus unpalatable, those behind this mask were increasingly whipping up a nativist sentiment against “foreign” rule that though primarily elitist in its goals was populist in rhetoric.

Chasteen excels here at illustrating the cultural realities and historical situatedness and contradictions that the criollos and europeos faced and how circumstances across the ocean could rapidly change things in Latin America. National and regional developments were causing alliances to harden, split, pivot and reformulate with new political actors. Chasteen describes these shifts from the standpoint of the various Viceroyalties with great attention to the experiences of those leading them. Hidalgo, Morelos, San Martin, Simon Bolivar failures and success all lead to new conditions in a landscape of accelerating conflict and desire to eject the penninsulares/europes from power. Chasteen goes into extensive detail about Simon Rodriguez and his relationship to Simon Bolivar. From this vantage point the French inspiration for these conflicts comes to greater light.

While there are recurrent descriptions of the various forces and rhetorical tropes guiding the interests and actions of those seeking to overthrow the colonial yoke (and replace it with a neo-colonial one based upon raw goods exportation) I liked that Chasteen waited until the last chapter to have a thorough multi-page analysis of all of these social upheavals. Merely hinting at it in the prologue, here he goes into greater detail about the problems with importing the “Western” political values in Latin America. The previously only lightly touched upon nature of the state formation in these places is expounded upon (even deeper analysis can be found here) as well as the problematics of founding nations that are imagined predominantly by the elites and not the masses of workers.

Another aspect I liked about the book was how helpful it is to assisting students unfamiliar with the historical terms of political economy and those that have difficulty visualizing people. There is a directory of the people at the beginning that also contains pictures of those that are available in the front. My students expressed to me that this helped them picture the personages acting on the world historical stage with greater clarity. There is also a glossary in the back that contains definitions of the various racial caste terms and socio-economic terms used by the Spanish in the new world, i.e. encomienda, pardo, cabildo, etc. Also worth noting is that the book is well suited for viewing with the filmThe Liberator.