Documentary: Indocumentales: “Al otro lado”

Panel 4, May 30 2011, 2:00 pm-3:30 pm
Moderator: Rhonda Neugebauer, University of California, Riverside
Presenter: Shamina de Gonzaga, what moves you?
Rapporteur: Ellen Jaramillo, Yale University

Indocumentales/Undocumentaries (http://indocumentales.com/) is an itinerant film and dialogue series on immigration and related issues. This U.S./Mexico Interdependent Film Series was founded by three organizations located in New York City: what moves you?, Cinema Tropical and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at New York University. “Academics, journalists, policy makers, migrants, artists, activists, students, film makers, librarians and the general public gather to discuss the topics raised by each documentary film. Each event is ‘done in’ collaboration with partner organizations and venues that involve their local communities in the dialogue. Indocumentales provides educational resources and an interactive network so that people have an opportunity to engage, come away more informed on the issues and have an impact”. [From their website]

Shamina de Gonzaga: When we present these films we usually compile a panel of discussants who can speak to the issues highlighted in the film. We actually inaugurated the film series with this film. This film is a lot about music and a lot about drugs, so we had at the time the head of the Drug Policy Alliance who gave his perspective on drug policy, we had Mexican musicians who play in the subways [for donations] in New York, who gave their perspectives on earning their livings in the U.S. in that way, and we had representatives of the Mexican Cultural Institute, a part of the Mexican government, who can only say so much because of who they are. This is a particularly enjoyable film to watch; the music makes the subject not quite as heavy, but rich in content.  Maybe Carlos [Gutiérrez, of Cinema Tropical] can give some more background.

Carlos Gutiérrez: This is the first film by Natalia Almada, who has made three films to date and is representative of the new generation of Latin American documentary film makers. The film premiered in 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival. I think this is an important film on the subject of illegal immigrants because most other films treat immigrants as victims, and when you victimize the subjects of a film you treat the audience as superiors, and there is no one-to-one connection to the story. What Natalia does here is engage with the personal stories of what forced people to migrate. Natalia was one of the first ones to bring the issue of drug trafficking to immigration issues. Another thing I admire is that she puts immigration within a larger cultural context, in this case with narcocorridos, and that presents a richer panorama of all the issues involved.

Questions & Comments:

Adán Griego (Stanford University): Is this film available for purchase?

Gutiérrez: Yes! And if you buy it through Indocumentales, we provide an educational resource package.

de Gonzaga: A lot of this filmmaker’s work is done at personal risk. You don’t just get in the middle of a group of narco-traffickers and start filming them, but she does. Do you all see a lot of interest with the students or the faculty in your institutions in these issues?  Part of it is finding the demand, what’s available on these issues in the mainstream media is pretty limited.  That you all are working with people who want to find out more about this has a tremendous richness.

Rhonda Neugebauer: Yes, they come to us. The films really reach people, so much differently.

Griego: Audio-visuals are a very good supplement to any course reader because you can only read so much. We receive multiple-entity generations where probably the written word is not their primary medium of experiences.

Neugebauer: Do you have any connection with the Chiapas Media Project?

Gutiérrez: I know her work for many years. The problem is to find the channels to make it to the United States. What happens is that film makers are placed in the role of also being educators. In many instances they don’t give much information about the context and people become uncomfortable because they don’t know the elements, and so that work gets placed on the film maker. That may be why a lot of films don’t get distributed, because they ask the film maker to contextualize the work. A typical question posed during film festivals is “What was your target audience?”, as if to say they were not engaged with your films so they weren’t meant for them.

de Gonzaga: Sometimes I think these films are more relevant for the people who don’t know. For example, with the [Almada’s second] film “Los Que Se Quedan,” the directors were traveling it around Mexico to different communities, basically showing people a reflection of their own stories. People had mixed reactions and they didn’t have the contexts, but they need to be seeing these films because it brings the questions to the surface. How do we get people to care, to feel connected? If people can feel a personal relationship to the issues that opens up a whole other avenue for greater interest that goes beyond the films.

Gutiérrez: Another thing about these films, last week the state of Sinaloa actually banned playing narcocorridos because they glorify drug trafficking.

de Gonzaga: I’m sure that will be really effective…

Gutiérrez: But then again they show something like “La Reina del Sur” [a telenovela that depicts a Sinaloan woman who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain] so there is a whole divide in the culture along what glorifies and what does not.

[Film plays] “AL OTRO LADO” (Natalia Almada, US/Mexico, 2005, 66 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) tells the human story behind illegal immigration and drug trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico through the eyes of Magdiel, a 23-year-old fisherman and aspiring composer who dreams of a better life. Due to lack of work and low fishing yields, many cross over, and like many in Sinaloa, the drug capital of Mexico, Magdiel faces two choices to better his life: trafficking drugs or crossing the border into the United States. For people south of the border, the “other side” is the dream of an impossibly rich United States, where even menial jobs can support families and whole communities that have been left behind. For people north of the border, “AL OTRO LADO” sheds light on the harsh choices that their neighbors to the south often face because of economic crisis.

Magdiel, however, has a special talent that could be his ticket out: composing corridos – songs about the narcotics underworld and undocumented immigrant life. For over 200 years, corridos have been Mexico’s musical underground newspaper and the voice of those rarely heard outside their communities. From Sinaloa to the streets of East Los Angeles, this film explores the world of drug smuggling, immigration and the corrido music that chronicles it all. If you really want to understand what is happening on the US/Mexico border, listen to the corridos, ballads that have become the voice of people whose views are rarely heard in mainstream media.

Questions & Comments:

Nancy Hallock (Harvard University): What happened to him [Magdiel, the protagonist]?

Gutiérrez: The film maker made a point of leaving it completely open. It’s the story of many people. Actually he made it to the U.S., but not on this trip. He got caught in a sweep, tried several other times, and eventually made it. The last time I heard from him, he was working in Las Vegas.

Claire-Lise Bénaud (University of New Mexico): Has it been shown in Mexico, and what was its reception?

Gutiérrez: Yes, it’s been shown in Mexico, in film festivals, and tours of documentaries. Migration is a rarely-discussed topic in Mexico City, for example. The debate is sort of creepy sometimes.

de Gonzaga: It goes across class lines to such an extent. I was with a colleague in New York, interviewing Mexicans of all different backgrounds and we had a question from one girl asking is it international cooperation when Mexican and American coyotes work together to get people across the border? You have U.S. citizens who do that kind of work, too. I was in a hotel in Mexico and none of the upper-middle class people I was working with were interested in this, but the woman cleaning the hotel room asked about it, because she, like many others, had an ex-husband who left her and stayed in the U. S. and another husband who went and wanted her to come. It’s such a common story for so many people, and yet for the segment of the population that can go to the U.S. whenever they want, it’s a hard conversation to have. One of our goals with this series is to take these discussions and have them over there, and try to create a space where people who are coming from very different places engage with each other. One of the things I love in this movie is the notion that appears in several songs, about “I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me,” and that’s something from a U.S. perspective that a lot of people take for granted that the borders are what they are, but that maybe for people who have been living in border areas for hundreds of years, that’s not so obvious. What you all are doing in terms of historical archiving and providing people with a broader spectrum to consider situations through is really important for all of us.

Patricia Figueroa (Brown University): Have these films been shown in the border areas?

Gutiérrez: We’re in the process of taking the whole series, the five films, to Arizona in the fall. We’ve screened one of them: “Los Que Se Quedan” in Tucson in March, and people reacted pretty well. Actually, Tucson is a fairly liberal town; we want to take it to Phoenix.

Figueroa: Have you heard perspectives from people who are very much against it [illegal immigration]?

Gutiérrez: Yes. We’re expecting more when we take it to Phoenix.

de Gonzaga: My feeling is that we sometimes have people in the audience who are not very sympathetic to the situation of migrants but who don’t share their perspective. Most of the people who come to these screenings are more sympathetic to the issue, so it creates a dynamic where people who don’t share these views will not necessarily express themselves. Part of the goal is to create a space where people with very different opinions can come together and feel safe enough to express their opinions in a respectful manner. It’s so easy just to stick with one’s own view, but the human aspect opens a doorway and it’s a conversation that has to happen, and that regular people have to be a part of.

Human Rights Abuses in Mexico: Claiming Space through Data, Bibliography, and Art

Panel 5, May 30, 2011, 4:00 pm- 5:30 pm
Moderator: Peter Stern, University of Massachusetts
Presenters: Molly Molloy, New Mexico State University (not present; PowerPoint presented by Peter Stern); Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda, Colegio de México; Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud, University of New Mexico
Rapporteur: Sócrates Silva, HAPI

 

The first presentation was “The Shifting Realities of Mexico’s Drug War Death Toll: Will We Ever Know How Many People Have Died?” by Molly Molloy. Molloy was not present but the panel’s moderator, Peter Stern, presented her PowerPoint. The following is a summary of Molloy’s presentation, drafted with her consultation. Molloy argues that the Mexican government is not fighting a “War on Drugs” but rather a war for the control over the huge amounts of money to be made from the drug trade. The number of casualties related to this war and the statistics released by the government are not clear; journalistic and academic sources in Mexico and the United States provide widely varying numbers. Since December 2006 when the government of Felipe Calderón declared “war” on organized crime numbers range from 35,000 to as high as 50,000. Molloy’s presentation looks at and questions these numbers both to critique the actions of the Mexican government and to question the numbers reported by academic resources and the press.

 

In her presentation, Molloy hones in on data regarding Ciudad Juárez, the epicenter of the violence. When numbers of dead are reported in the media, sources are typically government bodies such as the Fiscalia General del Estado de Chihuahua. Mexican journalists who report on crimes are often at risk. Molloy mentions Armando Rodriguez, a crime reporter for El Diario who was murdered in November 2008. After his death the crime reporting in the paper became less detailed and solely dependent on official police reports. There is little information about where the numbers come from or how the government determines what “a drug-war-related homicide” is. Calderón and his government repeatedly claim that 90 percent of the dead are criminals in the drug trade, despite a claim by the government that 95 percent of deaths in the “drug war” are not investigated.

 

Molloy also looks at the scholarship and activism concerning the murders of women in Juárez as cases of femicide. The number of women victimized from 1993 to the present has averaged around 9 percent of all murder victims. There is little evidence of gender-related violence. More and more women are becoming involved in illegal activities as maquiladora jobs disappear due to both the economic collapse in the United States and local violence and insecurity. This of course , how to make, does not mean that their deaths do not matter but rather that all the people of Juárez (women, men, boys and girls) – their lives and their deaths, all of them matter. Molloy whose work was recognized in 2011 with the José Toribio Medina Award provides daily updates on the murder toll in Ciudad Juárez and other border news through her Frontera List.

 

The second presentation by Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda entitled “Literatura mexicana sobre los derechos humanos: ¿quienes son y dónde publican los especialistas mexicanos?” covered publishing sources on the theme of human rights. Bocanegra first outlined government sources specializing in this material. The Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) created by the Secretaría de Gobernación and after 1999 fully independent of the government, exists to receive human rights complaints, pursue investigations, attempt conflict resolution, and foster legislative changes across various levels of government. CNDH also offers relevant Masters and Doctoral programs through its Centro Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CENADEH). Through its existence CENADEH has generated promotional literature, annual reports, monographs and a monthly journal, Revista del Centro Nacional de Derechos Humanos. Bocanegra also reviewed literature production by state government bodies, though these tend to publish less due to lack of financial resources and staff.

 

In addition, non-governmental organizations such as the Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos, the Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria,” and the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez all publish materials and research related to human rights and many of these publications can be found online. There are also numerous research institutions within universities, some with a specific focus on such issues as indigenous rights, migration, or international human rights. Bocanegra also looked at houses within the trade publishing industry that have edited and published human rights materials. By outlining these various publishing sources, Bocanegra hopes for more effective dissemination of Mexican human rights materials.

 

The last presentation “ASARO: Claiming Space in Digital Objects and Social Networks” by Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud looked at the work of the Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO), a collective of young artists that emerged as an appendage to protests originating from the 2006 National Teacher’s Union strike in Oaxaca. During the protracted uprising, state and commercial media were hostile to the protestors. In turn, street art flourished as artists clandestinely painted and printed their resistance on city walls. Schadl and Bénaud make the case that the work of ASARO is part of a Mexican tradition of graphic art collectives producing work in the service of social justice such as that of the Taller de Grafíca Popular and harking back to the legacy of printmaker José Guadalupe Posada. According to Schadl, this art tells a story that isn’t the official story. While ASARO’s art often portrays conditions in Oaxaca (such as the print Skull Helicopter which uses calavera representations of a family and a hovering calavera helicopter to depict a raid which would trigger a reminder of the uprising), the art also looks beyond local conditions, for example in art that deals with the violence in Ciudad Juárez.

 

One of the concerns Schadl and Bénaud bring up is that this ephemeral work, much of it being published through the ASARO blog, is not being documented properly. While ASARO may be center stage in 21st century Mexican graphic arts, academic library and archive projects aimed at archiving born digital artifacts of their work linger in the peripheries. A perusal of the blog reveals striking similarities with newspaper publications like La Patria Ilustrada and Gaceta Callejera, where Posada published, printed, and circulated his graphic production. Schadl and Bénaud argue that savvy digitally focused archival projects designed to save the work of Mexican graphic arts collectives must emerge in order to retain for posterity the creativity and voices of politically and socially active artists’ collectives in contemporary Mexico.

 

Memory Keepers: Librarians Documenting Unrest in Latin America

p>Panel 20, June 1, 2011, 11:00 am-12:30 pm
Moderator: Paula Covington, Vanderbilt University
Presenters: Barbara Tenenbaum, Library of Congress; Amy Puryear, Library of Congress; Donna Canevari de Paredes, University of Saskatchewan; Paul Losch, University of Florida
Rapporteur: Peter S. Bushnell, University of Florida

 

Barbara Tenenbaum‘s presentation “Putting the Mexican Revolution Online: The Library of Congress Experience” centered on a new website at the Library of Congress devoted to the Mexican Revolution. Not content with the official dates of 1910 to 1917, the site includes material from both before and after the Mexican Revolution. Some of the images to be seen include a picture of Agustín de Iturbide, title pages and covers of various books about the Revolution, broadsides, papers and pictures of President William Howard Taft and other U.S. diplomats, sheet music covers, and cartoons. Eventually the site will include film footage.

 

“The 1988 Plebiscite in Chile: A Personal Experience” was presented by Amy Puryear. She was living in Chile at the time of the plebiscite and was able to collect a wide variety of material. The day of the plebiscite was a Sunday and there were to be no gatherings of any sort (including no mass to be celebrated) that day. As a result, the day ended up being quite calm. The plebiscite itself was basically a referendum on Augusto Pinochet and the result was 45 % was in favor of Pinochet with 55 % opposed. When asked for her opinion, Puryear always kept her responses neutral. As far as collecting material, Puryear was able to gather documents of varying lengths (from single sheets to copyrighted material), buttons, and other ephemeral material from all sides and all types of sources.

 

Donna Canevari de Paredes presented “Eva Perón, Published Memory and Human Rights: The Bibliographer as Memory Keeper”. Eva Perón has been a topic for publications of all sorts (including fiction, poetry, drama) in Argentina and elsewhere for a long time. Along with Eudoxio Paredes-Ruiz, Canevari de Paredes has developed a database of approximately 2500 entries. The material included concerns itself chiefly with Eva Perón and human rights. Some of the more specific topics include race, social welfare, labor, education, social issues and women’s rights. In addition to scholarly works, popular works and everything in between is included. Finally everything is evaluated in terms of the mythology surrounding Eva Perón (positive, negative, in-between) and its research value as related to human rights.

 

Paul Losch in his presentation “The Mystery of the Fake Filibusterer: Using Digital Newspaper Archives to Reconstruct a Hoax from 1895” was able to combine Philadelphia (our host city), Gainesville, (home of the University of Florida where he works) and Cuba (always of interest to SALALM). Frank Hann, a native of Philadelphia (who lived on Chancellor St. which was also the original street of our hotel) for a few months in 1895 manufactured his participation in the Cuban revolution. He filed news reports during for a 2-3 month period. Most of these were posted from Gainesville and were reported in the local paper. However, reports were also included in other newspapers, including the New York Times, but still with Gainesville mentioned as point of origin.

 

Questions & Comments:

 

David Dressing (University of Notre Dame) asked Losch whether other sources had been checked for later information about Hann. Losch said he had found a wealth of information from various websites and learned that Hann eventually married a woman from North Carolina. It also came out that Hann had wanted to impress people. The closest he came to military service was filling out a draft card at the time of World War I.

Bushnell noted that many of the genealogical websites are based in Utah; he asked if any were connected to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Losch did not know.

Gayle Williams (Florida International University) remarked that when she worked at Emory, they had a subscription to ancestry.com which was loaded with information. Losch used ancestry.com at the local public library since the university did not subscribe.

 

Paula Covington remarked that a listing of the links to the newspaper websites could be put on a Libguide-type source and Losch said he would check into it. Canevari de Paredes added a microfilm list would also be useful.

Finally, Bushnell mentioned that back in 1990 he had earned good money by playing flute/piccolo/clarinet for a production of Evita.