Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 27, 2015

El Gueguense-An Indigenous Satire of Empire


A report from TeleSur.

“El Güegüense o el Macho Ratón” is one of the oldest of the handful of literary works from popular indigenous culture that have survived from Latin America’s European dominated colonial era. Essentially a piece of street theater conceived in the indigenous Nahualt language, it combines music, dance, dialogue and masquerade portraying the interaction of an indigenous merchant with a Spanish colonial official. Written in Spanish and Nahuatl, the work has been passed on for over three centuries. The music of the piece was finally recorded in the 1940s.

The dialogue allows two alternative interpretations of the storyline. From the perspective of the Spanish colonizers, the indigenous merchant is a fraud and scoundrel seeking to advance his family’s interests by fooling the Spanish official into betrothing his daughter to the merchant’s son. From the point of view of the resisting indigenous people, far from being a treacherous fraud, the merchant in fact expresses the legitimate resistance of indigenous people to arbitrary taxation by the Spanish occupiers.

Just a few years ago UNESCO wrote on its Intangible Cultural Heritage web site that “Despite its popularity, El Güegüense is in danger of declining in popularity, and possibly disappearing, due to the country’s difficult economic situation, insufficient support for performers and a diminishing interest among young people.” The current Sandinista government has reversed that state of affairs, deliberately prioritizing the work’s propagation as an important part of recovering Nicaragua’s national cultural identity and resisting the facile, superficial homogeneity relentlessly promoted by powerful North American and European corporate media.

Luis Morales Alonso, Co-Director of Nicaragua’s Institute of Culture, explains, “El Güegüense is an icon of our nationality. It’s an ancient work of theater, a comedic dance, that dates from the end of the 17th Century or the early 18th century. The original versions were composed in a mixture of Spanish and Nahuatl. It’s theme is the rebellious reaction of our indigenous people against the dominion of the Spanish invasion. For us it represents a point of reference for our people’s resistance to the different kinds of invasion, colonialism and subjugation that have been imposed on us.

Its various characters and performance have persisted over the centuries, most currently in the city of Diriamba during the January religious feasts dedicated to the martyrdom of San Sebastian. It is performed in the streets as a comedy ballet accompanied by music that mixes European or Spanish instruments with indigenous instruments, for example, the native whistle and drum with the violin and Spanish guitar. It includes masquerade using wooden masks, some representing Spanish characters but danced by indigenous players and others representing the work mules.

It’s the story of a merchant selling his silks and cloths, his covers and hats, his slippers and shoes, a thousand items sold in Nicaragua. And he finds himself in a town with a Spanish governor and sees that the governor has a beautiful daughter and so the Güegüense wants to marry one of his two sons to the governor’s daughter. And the sequel plays out via dialogue in which the Güegüense – which in our country means the huehue, the wise old man – starts to mock the Spanish official, pretending to be deaf, answering at cross purposes, answering with double meaning and all that is very funny for us. It is satire. But it has a deep content in political and social terms and for that reason it represents one of the bastions of our indigenous people’s struggle.”

Altogether, El Güegüense has 14 characters, El Güegüense himself and his two sons, the Spanish governor, his sheriff, a clerk and an assistant; the governor’s daughter and two chaperones and the four mules, called machos. As can be seen in photographs or videos of the play, the costumes are very striking, colorful and ornate. As spectacle, El Güegüense combines not just dance and music but also the ornate craft work of its masks that give the piece powerful and picturesque plastic folkloric effects.

But all that spectacle is reinforced by a very beguiling plot with great resonance in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was this unique combination of spectacle with social and political significance that lead UNESCO in 2005 to name El Güegüense as a work belonging to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Luis Morales notes, “We feel very proud that 10 years ago the UN declared this foundational work of Nicaraguan literature, the comedic ballet, El Güegüense part of Intangible Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. That in itself constitutes a launch pad so that people around the world can become familiar with this cultural expression of our people, which is so rich culturally, combining literature, dance, music, theater, the skilled plastic art of the craft work, all those beautiful masks, the costumes, the choreography.

“So it really makes us proud that UNESCO has given Nicaragua’s El Güegüense the status of being part of Humanity’s Patrimony. And we know that his work of ours has a similar importance to other foundational cultural works of peoples across North, Central and South America who also represent the struggle of our populations, of our indigenous peoples who stood up to Spanish domination and European domination in the centuries prior to the 19th Century. And even still in the 20th Century we confronted new forms of domination and colonization and this has to be recognized in all of Latin America because this represents Latin America. The joy, the vivacity, the heroism of our peoples is all there in El Güegüense and we think it really does represent the feeling of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

That feeling itself is a fundamental impulse towards freedom and independence for which works like El Güegüense are absolutely indispensable reference points as part of the region’s cultural inheritance. Luis Morales Alonso points out that the characters of El Güegüense derive from “an ancient tradition of theater that commands our attention, a tradition of people’s street theater which can be found repeated among all the peoples of our America. We have incredible expressions of it in Bolivia, Peru, in Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, in Guatemala, each one with their masks, their ornate craft works, the beautiful, colorful costumes, and all that typifies our peoples.”

Under President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has made a priority of teaching Nicaragua’s cultural heritage. In Managua, in the former National Assembly, now the Palace of Culture, the Institute of Culture has a very attractive permanent exhibition dedicated to El Güegüense containing related works of art, in particular works by the distinguished Nicaraguan artist Carlos Montenegro. The Institute of Culture works very closely with the Ministry of Education and sees that work as essential to reinforce the role of El Güegüense as part of Nicaragua’s cultural identity.

“We have a great many activities with our schools and in this way, our new generations, our young people in their centers of study get to know this work, study it and perform it. Our government of national unity and reconciliation gives tremendous importance to this through the Institute of Culture and the Ministry of Education to promote familiarity and enjoyment of this dance comedy El Güegüense…

“Because it’s a work in which a local native makes fun of foreign authority, in this case the authority of Spain and through its theater manages to embody the aspirations of our peoples to a better life. That is seen in the theme of the marriage to the Governor’s daughter, but also in the mockery of the Governor himself. It is a very attractive work best expressed in the verses where El Güegüense utters satirical contradictions in his own burlesque way. That’s attractive to us because we Latin Americans are very joyful. Despite all the difficulties, for example the natural disasters we suffer as a result of not taking care of our Mother Earth, we face things with stoicism, with heroism, with joyfulness, with music and with dance.”

For the original report go to–An-Indigenous-Satire-of-Empire-20151126-0001.html

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 27, 2015

Ebony Patterson: Her Art Hangs in Museums and “Empire”


A profile by Ann Binlot for The New York Times.

AGE 34

HOMETOWN Kingston, Jamaica

NOW LIVES Ms. Patterson splits her time between the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where she is a painting professor, and Kingston, Jamaica.

CLAIM TO FAME Ms. Patterson is a multimedia artist who explores social issues, including race, class and gender, through a female lens. Her artworks, which often weave intricate patterns, jacquard photo tapestries and glitter, are prominently featured in the current season of the TV show “Empire.” “The works are not just background,” she said. “They really become a part of the conversation within the show.”

BIG BREAK In 2009, Ms. Patterson took part in Next Art Chicago, a now-defunct fair that supported emerging artists. Her “Gangstas for Life” portraits, which depict men in the Jamaican dance-hall scene with floral motifs, bleached skin and red lipstick as a way of challenging notions about homosexuality and beauty, caught the attention of the Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago, which became the first major gallery to represent her. “Around that time, there seemed to be a growing interest in what was happening in the Caribbean,” Ms. Patterson said. “The work at the time was also exploring ideas around gender and masculinity, and how all of that was playing out in popular culture.”

LATEST PROJECT Her first solo museum show in New York, “Dead Treez,” which opened at the Museum of Arts and Design on Nov. 10. It features 10 ornately dressed mannequins, representations of Jamaican men in dance-hall culture, set against tapestries embellished with rhinestones, glitter and silk flowers.

NEXT THING A show opening in March at the Studio Museum in Harlem. It includes a new series that Ms. Patterson says focuses on the popular perception of black children. “I’m particularly interested in the way black children are depicted within the media,” she said. “They’re often depicted as adults, not as children.”

ARTISTS MATTER One of the subjects of her coming exhibition is Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot by the Cleveland police in 2014. “I’m hoping to present six to eight large-scale works that explore children as subjects,” she said. The works, she said, “create a moment of confrontation” for viewers when they realize they are looking at black children.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 27, 2015

A Haitian Woman Celebrates her 110th Birthday


A report by Joseph Guyler Delva for The Haitian-Caribbean News Network.

A Haitian woman, Cathrine Augustin, is 110 years-old, enjoys good health conditions and is in very good physical and mental shape, as she toured radio stations this week in the Caribbean country’s capital.

Augustin celebrated her 110th anniversary on November 25 and was welcome at one of the most popular radio shows on Radio Caraibes FM in Port-au-Prince where she told the story of her life.

“I have one son and many grand and grand-grand children who give me a lot of affection and who take good care of me,” Cathrine Augustin told HCNN this week. “I am enjoying life, I feel good and I see a doctor very rarely,” she said.

Augustin comes from the Northern town of Port-de-Paix, but she has been living with her grand children in the capital for several years now.

“I always eat good organic food that freshly comes from the farm and I will continue to do that,” Augustin told HCNN when asked about her secrets to keep such good shape at her age.

For the original report go to


The American Literature Association Conference is May 26-29, 2016

Hyatt Regency in San Francisco

The Edwidge Danticat Society invites papers for a panel at the 27h Annual American Literature Association conference. In light of Edwidge Danticat’s most recent concern with the Haitian/Dominican border and citizenship crisis, we welcome papers that explore Danticat’s activist and creative work in relationship to borders, citizenship, and denationalization.

The Edwidge Danticat Society invites proposals for 15-minute presentations, possible topics include:

  • Re-thinking borderlands and citizenship through Edwidge Danticat’s works
  • Questions of Exile and Belonging in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, i.e.,Dominicans of Haitian descent
  • Representations of Dominican and Haitian Borders
  • Dominican Republic Citizenship Ruling and Denationalization
  • Intersections of Literature and Social Activism in Danticat’s work (Citizenship Ruling)

By December 20, 2015, please submit a 150 word biography, 300 word abstract (including working title) and any a/v needs to Megan Feifer,

Membership with the Edwidge Danticat Society is required for panelists, but it is not required to submit proposals for consideration. Membership dues to the Edwidge Danticat Society ( must be paid by March 15, 2015. ALA conference registration ( must be paid by March 15, 2015, or papers/panels will not appear in the conference program.


Posted by: ivetteromero | November 26, 2015

Amanda Coulson, Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas


Jaqueline Bishop (for the Huffington Post’s Arts and Culture section) turns the spotlight on Amanda Coulson, director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, her trajectory, and her contributions to the art scene in the Bahamas. Here are just a few excerpts; see the full article in the link below:

“The thing that is always tripping us up in the Caribbean is nationalism. We need to start thinking regionally, because in fact we share a similar history, a similar legacy and a common culture. We share more in common than not, and we can learn so much from each other by pooling closer together.” So maintains Amanda Coulson, who is Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. She continues, “The mandate of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, founded in 2003, is to preserve and promote Bahamian art. But increasingly I am finding that the term Bahamian art is quite elastic. I find myself asking questions like: What about people who have lived and worked in the country for many years but are not Bahamian citizens? What if you are married to a Bahamian and have children here and lived most of your life here? Isn’t there a place for you at the table too? How can I wrap regional artists into the mix of what is Bahamian art? These are some of the thoughts that I am preoccupied with these days.”

It is a forward-thinking and breathtaking proposition for someone who is the head of a national art gallery.

But perhaps this is no surprise coming from a woman who has always been traversing boundaries. Amanda Coulson was born in the United States to an American mother and a Bahamian father. She would be raised between England and the Bahamas, and would go on to get bachelor’s degrees in European Cultural Studies and Art History in France. From France she would pursue a master’s degree in Art History at New York University. Following her master’s degree Coulson would follow a peripatetic route that would see her working in an auction house focused on old master works in New York, being a film producer in Los Angeles, working in art galleries in Europe, being a critic for several notable art publications, before she and her husband decided to form the now renowned Volta Art Fair, which is focused on new and emerging art and artists. [. . .]

In so many ways the development of an indigenous Bahamian art parallels the development of art in many parts of the Caribbean. There have been two successive waves of Bahamian art. One that started in the 1950s as a tie-in with the independence movement, and a more recent generation of artists led by the likes of Blue Curry who are the offspring, so to speak, of an older generation of “master” artists who set about building structures, including galleries and an art school, on the islands of the nation state. [. . .]

For full article, see

dos1b21cc05ffcb.imageThere will be a talk and book signing for Fernando de Aragon’s book—Dos Santos, a Novel: Regaining History through Popular Literature–Puerto Rico 1508—on Monday, November 30, 2015 at 12:15pm at 262 Uris Hall, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The event is free and open to the public (light refreshments will be served.

Fernando de Aragón is a self-published author who works as director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council in Ithaca, NY, where he lives with his family. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he’s had a lifelong interest in history, in particular the dynamics of the cultural encounter of Europeans and the Taínos. The author holds undergraduate and master degrees in planning from Rutgers University and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dos Santos, Fernando de Aragón’s first novel based on the characters and events leading to the first European settlement of Puerto Rico and the encounter with the local Taíno people, has been chosen as a finalist in the category of Best Historical Fiction of the 15th Annual International Latino Book Awards. The book was first published in November 2011.

The novel follows the main character, Antonio Dos Santos, who joins Ponce de León and 50 others as they sail to Puerto Rico. There he meets the local Taínos and finds challenges to his long held beliefs and loyalties. The book offers a rare glimpse into the life of the Taíno culture of the period, while retracing a fascinating chapter in the early Spanish conquest of the ‘new world’.

For more information, see  and


Chakra Publishing House Ltd. requires advance reviewers for one its forthcoming book entitled, Multiple Identities: Essays on Caribbean Literature (see short description below) by Kumar Mahabir.

Chakra also needs an expert to write the Foreword of the book, and others to endorse the publication on the outside back cover. The Foreword must be about 2,000 words long. The endorsement can vary from a phrase to a paragraph. Anyone with international expertise, recognized knowledge, and/or publishing record in the field of Caribbean Literature should submit his/her name and contact information. Please also send your professional status and institutional affiliation which we would like to publish next to your name. More information will be provided to interested individuals.

Multiple Identities: Essays on Caribbean Literature by Kumar Mahabir is a collection of ten essays on a variety of literary works by Caribbean writers.

Part One comprises of critical perspectives of individual poems by A.L. Hendriks (“Neighbour, Tenth Floor”), Mervyn Morris (“Cave”), Eric Roach (“I am the Archipelago”) and Anthony McNeill (“Rimbaud Jingle”).

Part Two critiques individual novels by John Hearne (Voices under the Window), Wilson Harris (Palace of the Peacock), George Lamming (In the Castle of My Skin) and Earl Lovelace (The Dragon Can’t Dance), as well as works by V.S. Naipaul on his childhood and education.

Part Three studies the Trinidad observance of Hosay/Muharram as a form of folk drama/street theatre.

The collection concludes with an Appendix which contains an exclusive record of a speech by Samuel Selvon in 1982.

For details, please contact:

Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Chairman, Chakra Publishing House Ltd.

10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road
San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago

Tel: (868) 674-6008
Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707
Mobile (868) 756-4961

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 26, 2015

Call to Action: Climate Justice for the Caribbean


Saint Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte issues an urgent call to Caribbean artists in an ongoing Caribbean campaign for climate justice through Panos Caribbean and its partners for Climate Justice for the Caribbean. The campaign is broad movement in favor of the Caribbean’s negotiating positions in the lead-up to the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Paris in December 2015. Hippolyte calls for participation from all artists to use “their arts, shows, websites, Facebook accounts and concerts” in a week-end of action on November 27, 28 and 29, just before the start of the Paris Conference. The main message is “1.5 to stay alive.” See more below:

“The arts can make us act”, said award-winning Saint Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte [. . .] at the launch of a Caribbean campaign on Climate Justice, “and we need action in response to the threats, the realities of climate change”. The purpose of the campaign, dubbed #1point5tostayalive, seeks to raise awareness, momentum and popular support – a broad movement in favour of the Caribbean’s negotiating positions in the lead-up to the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Paris in December 2015.

“The message is 1.5 to stay alive”, said Saint Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development Dr. James Fletcher, because the Caribbean needs a legally binding global agreement that keeps temperature increases below 1.5o C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100. The Caribbean also wants this agreement to provide adequate, predictable and accessible climate financing to support adaptation, mitigation and other climate change-related needs in poor and vulnerable countries, including small island states.

Elevated temperatures, sea level rise, changing rainfall patterns, more intense droughts, storms, ocean acidification – all these pose grave risks to coastal lands, water supply, agriculture, biodiversity, fisheries and other sectors and assets. But it goes beyond this. Climate change threatens the very existence of some Caribbean islands. “These are pretty serious issues”, said Hippolyte, “we need to tell the world what we feel and what we want”.

The Saint Lucian poet, who has a long history of engagement in social and environmental justice [. . . ] called on “musicians, painters, dancers, writers, all artists to become involved in this campaign by using their arts, their shows, their websites, their Facebook accounts and their concerts”, in the coming weeks, to join the call of Panos Caribbean and its partners for Climate Justice for the Caribbean. In particular, he called for participation in a week-end of action on 27, 28 & 29 November, just before the start of the Paris Conference.

PANOS CARIBBEAN PRESS STATEMENT HERE + KENDEL HIPPOLYTE PICTURE. · · @1point5OK · #1point5tostayalive · #climatejustice

For more information, see

Posted by: ivetteromero | November 26, 2015

New Book: Aaron Blaylock’s “The Land of Look Behind”


Aaron Blaylock’s novel, The Land of Look Behind (February 2016) is a mix of mystery, adventure, historical fiction. The author lived and served as a missionary in Jamaica and “fell in love with the island and her people”; this is his first novel. The author will also host a blog tour of The Land of Look Behind during February 9-22 (other dates may be available by contacting the author—see below).

Description: The Land of Look Behind follows two men, separated by over three hundred years, as they seek to return to a cave marked with a mysterious symbol in the depths of the treacherous cockpit country of Jamaica.

Lieutenant Benjamin Jarvis is a British soldier, in the seventeenth century, in the midst of a conflict with a Spanish militia for control of the island. Gideon Goodwin is a recently returned missionary who discovers a symbol, which he recognizes, tucked within the pages of Jarvis’ journal. These men must brave the perilous but beautiful island wilderness and enlist the help of friends, both old and new, in their quest for the cave.  Along the way they encounter dark forces set to protect the treasure within.

Join Gideon and Jarvis on the adventure of a lifetime as they journey to The Land of Look Behind.

Aaron Blaylock was born and raised in Arizona. In 1997 he served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Jamaica Kingston Mission, where he learned to speak patois and fell in love with a country and a people.

For more information, see

Like the author on Facebook

Follow the author on Twitter

Order The Land of Look Behind on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble


Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 26, 2015

Talks Held on Sargassum, Lionfish, and Coastal Erosion


TACKLING the threat posed by invasive Sargassum seaweed, coastal erosion and invasive fish species such as the predatory Lionfish dominated a two-day symposium of the Caribbean Sea Commission which opened on Monday in Port-of-Spain Trinidad’s Newsday reports.

The symposium, titled, ‘Challenges, Dialogue and Cooperation toward the Sustainability of the Caribbean Sea’ saw the the entire first day session being devoted to presentations on the threat of the Sargassum Seaweed to the Caribbean Sea with speaker after speaker underlining the urgency of the threat posed by the seaweed to the regional tourism economy.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Frances Seignoret, said the recent rapid spread of the Sargassum Seaweed was destroying some of the region’s most significant tourist attractions. She added that many of Tobago’s most beautiful beaches have been affected, and it has become a grave problem affecting communities and the tourism sector. She said it has also affected the fishing industry, and posed health risks.

Professor Dale Webber, Pro- Vice Chancellor at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) said the issues being discussed at the symposium were very critical to the countries bathed by the Caribbean Sea. He hoped the meeting would identify specific activities which could be accomplished to deal with the threats posed by the Sargassum Seaweed, coastal erosion and the Lionfish.

He said that as a regional university, The UWI feels a need to act collectively to address the needs of the people and governments of the Caribbean. He said that with the symposium having identified the three threats, he was heartened that research conducted by academics of The UWI would be presented over the two days of the symposium.

He said the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies has been assigned by the principal of the Cave Hill Campus of The UWI, to take the lead on research into the Sargassum Seaweed, and in August organised and hosted a symposium on the subject to facilitate national dialogue among academics, and the public and private sectors.

He said another symposium on the subject is set for 2016. Yesterday’s session saw discussions centred around coastal erosion, and the invasion of the Lionfish – a fish that was originally from the Pacific Ocean but which has multiplied at an alarming rate in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, devouring other local threatened fish species.

For the original report go to,220420.html

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