Personal Experiences

This page is dedicated to our personal experiences, stories, and observations that we would like to share with the world. Beyond the classroom and academia, we discovered so much about the cultural, social, and political aspect of Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is a type of learning that is only made possible through travel, interaction, and experience.

Christian Mera, Class of 2015

Argentine Economist Lecture (Alexis)

Alexis, the Argentine Economist whom spoke to our Learning Cluster group about the importance of housing and Argentina’s Economy presented loads of information that clearly laid out the many crises throughout the country. The lecture was very well delivered; he touched on the failure to abide by Article 25.1 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the concept of inflation and its negative effects on the Argentine Economy and included his own system he believes could possibly turn the world around. In terms of a personal question that arose while I took notes on his lecture, I wondered what would be the best frame of things that could resolve universal poverty and how important would sustainability be for this resolution.

Alexis made sure he introduced his lecture by referring to Article 25.1 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states:

Everybody has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Up to now it is apparent that we aren’t applying the right policies to resolve the problem of housing deficiencies. Argentina is home to many areas referred to as “slumps” and “villas.” These areas are filled with poverty; the people whom live in these places usually don’t have access to water and struggle to obtain food to nourish themselves and the lives of their loved ones stuck in the same predicament. What is interesting to see is how governments overlook these issues and exploit these people instead of attacking the problem head on which could ultimately prove beneficial to the entire state. Politicians especially see this issue of poverty as ammunition for their own business, lying to the poor in order for their votes in any given campaign that politician is running. Not to say the world is corrupt, but it needs drastic change.

Inflation is one of many concepts that is diminishing the possibilities for people, especially in Argentina, to purchase homes for their families let alone even purchasing some land in which to build their own shelters, whether environmentally friendly or not. For example, in Argentina, inflation causes a raise in prices annually by 25%, this causes people to lose their purchasing power because they would be receiving less for their money after every purchase made. Now imagine in attempt to purchase a home, where the cost can range through a wide scale of costs, mortgages are essential when purchasing a home but have proven to be extremely costly, who can qualify? Argentina consists mostly of a standard-middle class whose revenue is relatively low; APRs on mortgages turn out to be 23%, which is extremely unrealistic for the typical Argentine family to maintain steady payments. Right then and there, the flow of money throughout the economy is unstable further leading to more inflated prices on all goods.

Alexis had an idea that seemed promising but would take many years to eventually accomplish, many different cities in which can sustain each other through living and even a proper education to better the entirety of the nation as a whole. In order to convince governments to help is to show persistence and urge people living in poverty to show that they are capable of attacking this issue and are willing to do whatever is necessary. Understanding Economics in this way helps to ensure a better understanding of how the concept of slavery continues to persist and where we need change in order to possibly resolve this issue entirely.

Katy Fetters, Class of 2015

Walking the Streets of Buenos Aires

I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Buenos Aires, but I prepared myself to do a lot of walking. I had just bought new nike running shoes to do all my walking in as much comfort as possible. What I noticed immediately was that the sidewalks were so poorly paved, I had to watch my every step. There were large cracks in the pavement, uprooting trees, large piles of dirt, glass, and concrete just lying off to the side of the walkway due to the constant, ongoing construction. The reason I was so conscious of the sidewalks and streets in Buenos Aires is because I have Cerebral Palsy, a physical condition that affects my balance and coordination skills in my legs. I can get around pretty well, but when I know I have a full day of walking ahead of me in a foreign city, it can feel pretty daunting. As we began walking around the city and seeing all of the different and beautiful types of buildings, I tired easily but I didn’t want to miss out on anything! I just accepted the fact that I just had to do the best I could do with walking, and remain conscious of my physical health. I always had to be extra careful in certain areas where road construction and development was always at work. There were certainly nice areas of the city that I found very pleasant to walk around in, but that was not always the case.

The neighborhood we stayed in has uneven sidewalks and I felt like it would be a death trap for someone with CP or any other physical disability that inhibits walking abilities. This awareness led me to really question the attention toward people with disabilities in the city, and if they even have access to easy transportation around the city. Mobility is always an issue for someone with CP, so I began to wonder what type of system was in place for accessibility and mobility for people with physical handicaps. I started to look for handicap signs for parking, or buses, subways ect, and only saw a grand total of 3. Yes 3 handicap signs… I noticed one across the street from our hostel for a larger parking spot, one on a widened bus door, and one on a restaurant’s walkway ramp. With that said, I was not impressed. How frustrating! What type of government can allow such real issues go overlooked? It made me think: What if someone tragically was restrained to a wheelchair one day but had lived their whole lives taking the subte to work, school, and home? They simply could not live in Buenos Aires any longer due to their condition. Part of me was very quick to assume that the government just doesn’t care. They don’t want to invest the time, nor the money to give the disabled community the freedoms they deserve. The other part of me is willing to question if the government and the people of Buenos Aires simply just don’t know about disabilities.Our class interviewed with a young woman who, like me, is also 20 years old and is in college. I asked her how the majority perceived peoples with disabilities and she kind of dismissed my question out of ignorance for any solid answer. Once I realized this, I wanted to know more about any government or social action put into place concerning the rights of peoples with disabilities in Argentina. Here in the United States, we have the ADA, or the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990 that gives peoples with all kinds of handicaps the civil right to accessibility, education, service, independence ect… However, the only really solid piece of information that I came across was a conference on international action for disabilities. It was held in 2005 at the US Congress in which Argentine government representatives participated and declared their awareness of issues pertaining to this topic. No action was put into place at that time, and after having gone to the nation’s largest city, I still can’t help but wonder if anything or anyone will ever change.

Alexandra Cline, Class of 2015

Contrasting Architecture in Buenos Aires

From the instant we landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the hustle and bustle of the streets put me into a perpetual state of dizziness. Cars zoomed and honked, tail gated and swerved to dangerously close stops. I felt my chest seize with anxiety and tried to mentally block the nerve racking traffic, telling myself that soon I’d be within the safety of our hostel.

Upon arriving at the hostel, I couldn’t help but laugh at the stark contrast of architecture not only outside of the building, but within it as well. From the outer perspective of the building, the hostel looked as if it were the entrance to some magical land. Sardined between two rather modern yet run down multi-story edifices, our hostel managed to fit a massive and heavy wooden door on its small face. The door looked as if it belonged to a classically designed castle from some Disney movie.

Across the street a small market sat nestled between other modern apartments that awkwardly and narrowly teetered towards the sky, and just up the street a bright yellow home (perhaps divided into smaller apartments within) was an eye sore in its outrageously beautiful Victorian styled design. As I looked up and down the street, making a double take here and there, I wondered if the rest of the city was that much of a “mix”. As I have come to recently realize, the entire city of Buenos Aires is one big collage of every type of architectural design imaginable–and this fact is as hilarious as it is fascinating. In a work entitled “Buenos Aires – a cultural history” by Jason Wilson, I recounted a section on “Modernity and Plagiarism” within the city, and Wilson himself describes the city as one that is “constantly mutating” (Wilson, 4). So not only is the city a jumble, but it is a continuously growing and changing jumble. Everywhere you look a modern building of metal and glass can hug the stucco and stone of a building constructed so long ago, that those who built it are long dead.

Finally opening the door to what could have lead to Narnia for all we knew, I was a tad less surprised to see the same mix of old and new, rustic and mod decorating the hostel. Opening our bedroom door with a storybook kind of key, the lock clicked with a dull thud and the heavy wooden door that resembled the main entrance creaked open. Our bedroom consisted of two twin beds and a bunk bed set. My roommates and I found the beds that we would be resting in for the next two weeks and talked and smiled about the funny neon covers of the bed, and the attempted retro style within such a vintage looking room. And then, within a pause of our discussion, it hit us like a wave.

The noise.

The noise of the streets of Buenos Aires is not only incessant but boundless. It is relentless in its efforts and volumes and tireless even when you are desperate to find sleep. Traffic haunts me like a dark shadow, and even in the supposed safety found here in the hostel, I am still tail gated in my most tranquil dreams…

Buenos Aires. A city of everything – including traffic.

Midori Komatsu, Class of 2015

Hanging Out with Commuters in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a vast lively city with people continuously moving around in different directions. Because of this matter, an efficient way of public transportation is necessary. I visited the city with my classmates and professor, and stayed for over two weeks near the center of the city. We constantly used public transportation to get to different places and learned many things about how it functioned.

The first form of transportation we used was the bus. Buenos Aires has a constant stream of buses coming and going throughout the city for an affordable price depending on the destination. The quantity of public buses was almost in equal amount to cars. The price can range between 1 to 4 pesos per person. If compared to the US dollar, 1 dollar equals 5 to 7 pesos depending on the exchange rate, which means bus rides cost less than a dollar. There are also many subway stations called Subte that reach many parts of the city at an affordable price for 2.50 pesos per person.  Apart from buses and subways, there are also trains that can reach farther parts of the province of Buenos Aires. The prices for these trains are also cheaper compared to the United States. It can range from 8 pesos to 20 pesos depending on the station.

However, there are a few inconveniences with the public transportation. For example, buses do not take bills, and this can be very bothersome if you have no coins or not enough coins with you. Most Argentinians have the bus card called sube which is fast and practical, but for a tourist that isn’t sure if he or she will be using the bus as often it can be impractical.  Also, exchanging bills for coins can be very difficult since most business want to keep their change or simply don’t have. Another issue that presented to us while in Buenos Aires, was the schedule of the subways. In various occasions the entrance to the subway was closed for different reasons. If you aren’t familiar with the schedule, like we were, you might prefer to take the bus instead of the subway. Moreover, buses and subways didn’t have air conditioner and both can get very crowded and uncomfortable, especially during summer. Though, a few amount of buses did have air conditioner. Another small issue is the condition of the subway trains, it wasn’t at its best since there was graffiti all over it, and the seats weren’t very clean either.

Nevertheless, regardless of these issues with public transportation, the usefulness of it outweighs the inconveniences. Many Latin American countries can only dream to have a mode of transportation as efficient as the one in Buenos Aires. Even if at times it may be a bit of a struggle, it is cheap, and gets you to your destination, and that is the most important part.

  Zoe Witt

A Home Away From Home

In October, signing up for a traveling learning cluster seemed like a great idea.  It would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially for a freshman, and the topic in general was just so unique and cool.  However, as our departure date loomed closer, I began to regret my decision to join this cluster.  This would be my first time traveling without my family, as well as the longest I would be without them.  The thought of being separated from my family and friends for 17 nights began to drive me crazy.  Many nights prior to leaving were spent crying, desperately wishing I could somehow get out of taking this trip, and in Houston , I seriously considered not getting on the plane. 

However, upon arriving in Buenos Aires, I was completely immersed in the culture and all my sorrows and worries were quickly forgotten.  Tomas kept us busy, taking us all over the city and summarizing the history of each part.  For example, La Boca was a part of Buenos Aires that was built by Italian immigrants and characterized by colorful buildings and raised sidewalks; the financial district was a very ritzy part of the city, with expensive shops and a beautiful mall; and lastly there was Recoleta, built my monks and home to Evita’s grave.  What I immediately noticed upon exploring the city was the kindness and hospitality of the locals to us foreigners.  Everyone was interested in hearing that we were from the states and people were patient with my attempts at Spanish. 

 I met so many cool people on this trip.  There was an ice-cream shop two blocks down from our hostel that I went to almost on a daily basis.  There I met Alan and Derlis, who would help me with my Spanish and soon figured out my flavor of choice- crema orea- and gave it to me for free.  I also met David, a Columbian living near Plazo de Mayo right now, who makes a living off of selling beautiful hand-made crafts at a street market in San Telmo.  David took Caroline and I to a spot where the locals congregate every Sunday evening to dance and drum.  That was such an exhilarating and exciting night, and I could not help but dance along with the parading locals pounding their drums.  Of course, there was Pablo, who so kindly welcomed us onto his land, making us feel comfortable and ensuring us that we were not just there to work, but to have fun as well.  Pablo was always so encouraging, thanking us for all our hard work and commitment to the project.  What I loved most about Pablo was his love for animals and I could not help but to shed a few tears when we had to say our good-byes to him and his playful pup, Flora.  And lastly, there were my fellow classmates.  Prior to this trip, I knew who everyone else was, but none of them were people I considered to be friends.  That has totally changed.  I became really close with everyone on this trip.  We bonded really well and overall, I think we were just a great and fun group of people to be around.  I am so thankful for this opportunity and all the cool people I became close to. 

Being back in Southern California and at Soka feels weird.  I really miss Beunos Aires; it turns out I came to love the city.  Although I am glad to be home, I feel like a part of my heart is still in Argentina and it is nice to know that I can feel at home in a totally different part of the world.    

Hector Castaneda, Class of 2015

Personal Experience

Going in to this project I had one question in my mind, which I intended to answer: How can you make people want to live in a house like this? While it is true that most advantages of ecological construction are self evident, most people are not very likely to make such drastic changes to their way of life just for the sake of reducing their carbon footprint or not having to pay a water bill. At the present ecological construction is, at least in my opinion, only appealing enough to a fringe minority of ecological enthusiasts and artists, but this needn’t be the case. While working in this learning cluster I noticed a few things that would be immediately appealing to most people who would not consider this type of construction a viable option.

The most obvious and persuasive advantage to ecological construction is a monetary one. Never mind the savings that come from the reduced cost of living; this house cost around 600 dollars to build. If that is not a persuasive little bit of information, I don’t know what is. We worked in a city where renting is the norm, so the idea of a whole house for the price of a couple months worth of rent money would be attractive for all who crave that independence. That being said many would rightfully be afraid of getting what they pay for: a cheap little hut.
One of my greatest personal qualms with ecological construction is that the houses that are produced using the techniques are usually very unappealing to those accustomed to traditional building techniques. This might not be a problem for the niche audience of the movement, but if you are trying to sell someone on the idea, the house has to look good, not only be practical. While building the house I was secretly afraid that we would end up with a hobbit-hole, but I was pleasantly surprised that we ended up drawing inspiration from several different construction techniques while keeping the house eco-friendly, with all the benefits that entails. In our case we utilized pallets and beams to build the structure and walls of the house and then we filled them with the adobe mixture. This created a wall that showed plenty of wood on the inside of the house and made the entire structure look much more geometric.

So in the end we had a cozy room where we could all see ourselves staying the night in and it cost next to nothing to make. It was aesthetically pleasing in both a traditional and artistic way. If were these ideas to be expanded to build an entire house or a group of independent structures connected by walkways it would probably look like something that most people would consider moving into. So during this learning cluster I learned two things: how to build a sustainable adobe structure and, perhaps more importantly, how to sell someone on the idea, something that will be extremely important for the expansion of this movement.

Jessica Delgadillo, Class of 2015

Personal Experience

Growing up in the typical, structured suburbs of Orange County                I immediately was struck by not only the structural but cultural differences upon arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina. No longer was I in a pristine “city” where more cars than people were ever seen out strolling about and making their way through their daily lives and routines. No longer was I in a peculiarly quiet town where every home and building looked to be same, but rather in a place where the constant mummer of buses and people filled the air at all times and the colorful array of buildings immediately captured ones attention and interest. I was no longer in the “bubble” of Orange County.

                Part of our learning cluster was to really assess whether sustainably made homes would be practical in every sense and not only as housing for the general population but those who, as defined by the UN, fall into the category of living in poverty or extreme poverty.  Because of our time constraint we were unable to visit the slums in Buenos Aires but we did have the opportunity to meet with an NGO known as Techo. Techo is one of many NGOs that focus on the issue of housing, per se. Yet despite the fact that housing is a central point in their mission, they recognize that it is but the surface of deeply rooted problem. With this, Techo’s approach is first to attack the problem right off the bat by providing emergency housing for the families that qualify and agree to terms set by the organization as reliance is always a dangerous possibility when it comes to NGO work. Techo sets a series of criteria for the family to meet in terms of self reliance such as asking them to pay part of the price for their emergency home, setting time limit as they must be able to be working in some form or another and be able to build a more stable home for themselves by a certain date.

                Although Techo seemed to be on the right track in terms of not only providing housing but actually looking at the deeper layers of the problem which include lack of education and moral from the community by helping provide programs concerning basic education but teaching them skills to help them find work, there seemed to be an obvious flaw in their strategy: their method of emergency housing. The emergency houses they built for the families were simple, flimsy wooden structures that took a couple days at the most to construct. An alternative to this wasteful and perhaps even time consuming is possible. For example, the small adobe studio we built took but a short 9 days, used minimal materials—most of which was borrowed from the land itself such as mud and sticks—as well as low in cost. Although it was hard work, it would make more sense for the people of Techo to take more time and involve the families in the building of their more sturdy adobe home. This in itself would assist them in improving their living conditions in a more sustainable fashion.

                After not only meeting with the NGO Techo, finishing the building of the adobe studio, and speaking with an expert Argentine economist, I realized the problem of housing was not only a social matter but one that involved politics and economics. It is an issue that must be addressed from every angle if there is any hope of alleviating the problem of lack of housing as well as dealing with its unsustainable nature.

Howee Wu, Class of 2016

Personal Experience

Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, I was ecstatic. Everything went smoothly and off we go! The ten hour flight was not bad at all. We had personal entertainment systems, pillows, and blankets. I thought to myself how lucky I was. This was my first time in a Latin American country and also the first time I exited the U.S. In nearly 7 years.  After the flight, we arrived in Ezeiza airport. I was shocked by the amount of tourists and people, all conglomerated onto migrations. When we went on the shuttle to the hostel, my first impression was that the drivers are crazy! They would veer in between lines and motorcyclists would drive in between cars. I nearly got an anxiety attack. In less than an hour, we arrived at our hostel! The males in the group, including me, got an air-conditioned room. I felt so lucky and very fortunate since the summer days in Buenos Aires are so hot and humid.

                How is the city like in Buenos Aires? My first impression was that the city is huge: people, buses, cars, and bustling about. It is super busy and chaotic. However, in the midst of the chaos, the natural, architectural surroundings distracted me. Teatro Colon is absolutely stunning. What an amazing theatre and structure to represent the wealth and capability of Argentina? Teatro Colon is a fantastic opera house considered to be the top 5 theatre in the world. The theatre is beside Avenida 9 de Julio. This famous avenue, the biggest avenue in the entire world, was the one that took our Learning Cluster group many attempts to cross the entire avenue. Okay, back to Teatro Colon. The building was built in the early 20th century, and has an eclectic style, typical of that time period. When the doors swung open to the lobby of the theater, I was speechless. Every single detail was thought out and planned. Floors to the ceiling were designed and made from Europe, countries like France and Italy. The main theatre itself is shaped like a horseshoe. Tomas and a couple of our classmate got to sit in the main theatre! So, the seating and level of importance one sits at the theatre matters a lot. The higher one sits, the more power and prominence one has. Also, the chandelier of theatre can hold opera singers and choruses. When they sing, it will sound like if they are singing directly in the audiences’ ears. How cool is that!  

Talking about architecture of Buenos Aires, I noticed that some buildings were aesthetically built, however became run down, with some buildings stained with black goo by the smog of the pollution. It seems like some buildings were very poorly handled and maintained with the decline of its beautiful architecture. It is truly the Paris of South America with all its monuments, statues, and eclectically prominent buildings. The social situation in Argentina is declining. Although the GNP of Argentina has grown 8% every year, the social, economic gap of the nation has grown. I learned a lot about the history of Argentina, especially talking to the economist, Alexis. He explained to us the situation of hyperinflation in 2001. People lost all their savings and the middle class were squeezed and pushed to poverty. The argentine peso, before, was 1 peso to 1 dollar. However, after 2001, many could not withdraw one dollar for one peso. The wealthy were furious with the government. I went with the rest of the group, and Tomas, to witness the anger and result of the people. People were frustrated and attacked the central bank of Argentina so they marched down the main avenues like Avenida de Mayo to protest. The door of the central bank was dented and I witness it.

Overall, this has been such a phenomenal trip and I cannot wait to go back in the future! Thanks Tomas for the opportunity of a lifetime!

Tamara Siemering, Class of 2015

Vegetarian in a Foreign Land

One of our first missions once we landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina was finding food. The city of Buenos Aires had a hectic, crazy vibe with a constant flow of speeding buses and taxis. We quickly discovered these cars stop for no one, leaving us pedestrians fending for our lives at every crosswalk. The sidewalks are wavy due to missing patches of pavement and turned over piles of cement. One moment you’re walking on cement, then on a patch of dirt and gravel and then on a board that’s been placed over a ditch.

It’s easy to pass up the restaurants, shops and hostels that line the streets. Every store and restaurant lives up to the phrase “hole in the wall.” Eating out every meal, we became quite familiar with the restaurants of Buenos Aires. Among our group of students we ate at places that served burgers, pizzas, empanadas, pastas and barbeque. We were introduced to traditional Argentine foods including “choripan” and “empanadas.” As a group we observed that for the most part Argentines eat two things: bread and meat. It became apparent to me that finding vegetarian food in Argentina was going to be a challenge. The empanada was a reoccurring meal throughout our trip. An empanada is a doughy pouch, generally filled with meat and cheese, baked until delicious and warm. At first the empanada seemed like a revolutionary food product to me, however minus the meat it is simply cheese and dough, which will do strange things to one’s stomach. Needless to say, I had trouble adjusting to this new diet. Aside from empanadas, there was the choripan, a chorizo in a bun, sort of the Argentine version of the hot dog. Let me tell you that choripan without the chorizo is a sad state of affairs indeed. 

From day one obtaining meals in restaurants was an obstacle. The fact that I don’t speak enough Spanish to even understand the menus made for a surprise every time my meal arrived. Each time I could only hope I had managed to avoid meat. The words “pollo”, “jamon” and “pescado” ended being my tools for restaurant survival. As a vegetarian in Buenos Aires, I mainly ate carb filled foods: breads, pastas, more bread, cereals. Eventually I discovered the wonderful markets that sold fruit and vegetables for just a few pesos. The nature of our trip was so fast paced, it led to eating out more than anything else. However, I am sure that if I had the confidence to make meals for myself I could have created something that didn’t involve the Argentine favorites: bread and meat.

Caroline Sell, Class of 2015

Explosion of Beauty

It was the midnight before a ten hour flight to Buenos Aires Argentina. I still hadn’t figured out what heels would go best with my drinking-is-legal in Argentina outfits. Random piles of categorized clothes lay next to my bed;
An unopened package of Men’s white V-neck and Men’s white wife-beaters
(both purchased for this trip to be worn, torn, and thrown away)
Assorted black running shorts
Pair of tennis shoes purchased for my 7th grade track-and-field season
I only knew two things about the extracurricular activities of this sustainable housing oriented learning cluster; I am of legal drinking age and it is summer on the other side of the equator. What I knew about the service project, it was going to be dirty, and hard work.
Which shoes to bring…
Traveling is a chance to observe.
Observe people, reactions, body language, cultural practices etc. all based on a way of life that is nearly intangible to me until I find the heart of what I am looking for, experience it.
Experience is priceless.
There have been educational theories insisting that first hand experiential learning is a necessity of education. I agree.
Immersion is key.
 To surround oneself in the lifestyle of the culture, the various lifestyles of the culture, is to experience its heartbeat.
It was a three hour flight from Los Angeles to Houston. Layover in Houston allowed for a cigarette break and a last phone call to my little sister in Austin. I asked her what she kind of gift she wanted.
Something you can only get in Argentina.
I had flown internationally only twice before, to India, a fifteen hour flight. This one was only ten hours, with personal televisions and an all inclusive movie, music, and media selection. There is a particular kind of sick that awaits me on long flights; a mixture of dehydration, lack of oxygen, and a relentless dry throat; seemingly incurable and absolutely intolerable.
This too shall pass. We landed in Buenos Aires.
We were here to do work, to observe, to experience, to immerse.
The observation of different cultural mores is a favorite pastime of mine; especially witnessing the youth at play. I find myself surrounded by my peers more often than not, watching and listening. Irrespective of how similar they may seem to my own experience, cultural differences are powerful and influential. It’s the people; differences and similarities.
Es lo misma para mi.
For the first few days, maybe week, I was unsure about Buenos Aires; I felt ungrounded. I have a slow and casual walk; I like to meander, if you will. This city is fast moving. I couldn’t keep up and my feet never seemed to have time to touch the ground.
It took me ten days to find the culture I had been searching for.
It was Sunday and I was walking down San Telmo, a craft market that stretches at least 10 city blocks, looking for a gift for my little sister. I stopped at a booth, struck by the intricate metal work jewelry. The craftsman was tall and black with a kind face. We started talking about music and dancing; he told me to come back that night and he would take me to a drum circle. I bought my little sister a gift. (what gift?)
I was going to a place where the youth gather; to observe, experience, and immerse myself. 
It was on a hot summer night somewhere in Buenos Aires near the Playa de Mayo, the market was closing, the streets were emptier, and the city was calm. I walked with a man named David, from Columbia; tall and dark with dreadlocks that fell to the middle of his back.
I followed him first to his hostel so he could drop off the work he had been selling that day. I followed him through the streets, unfamiliar but full of things to look at. We passed a corner café with tall red doors and gold letters, “La Poesía”. As he led me, I wandered after him, allowing myself to observe this new part of Buenos Aires.
In the distance I could hear music, los tambores.
We walked past a large outdoor stage full of couples salsa and meringue dancing. Their music contrasted nicely with the still distant sound of drums. Watching women spin and twirl around the dance floor I was struck by their general age group. Older women, 30’s to 50’s dancing with ease and grace, obedient to their partner’s guidance. When I walked around the corner, there was a very different seen that lay before me.
A gathering of people filled a small street. There was drum music coming from the center of a mass of people dancing. I could see hips moving, people being twirled, people sitting, people drinking, people smoking, and a group of boys were juggling. Wandering through the crowed I looked at the people around me, una mezcla muy hermosa.
At the end of the street were the drums. I started to make my way over, the rhythm and beat was already making me smile. The music was being played by a group of men. They stood in 4 lines shoulder to shoulder, following the wand of the conductor who stood at the front. It did not by any means look professional, but it sounded organized, rhythmic, melodic, and made my hips sway.
I listened with my eyes closed, allowing the music to be my only point of focus. The people around me moved with the beat, the walking and talking became harmonies. I opened my eyes and saw an organism, pulsating with a steady beat. The people traveling from space to space gave the organism blood. The friendly smoking and passing of various herbs gave the organism breath. I was surrounded, completely immersed in the night life of the youth.
I had found the youth; I had found the heart.
Claudia Ahumada, Class of 2015

Personal Experience

I like to think of myself as a very adventurous person. Until I realized that it was only in theory. 
Someone once asked me if I had ever gone camping, my answer was yes. Until I realized, I actually hadn’t. I had never slept in a tent in the middle of nowhere nor had I been to a camping site before. I guess I had only dreamt of it. It must have been a really crazy dream too because I thought it had happened in Mexico! Anyway, how does this relate to this LC you ask? Well, one day when we were getting ready to leave from the constructing site in a rural area in Argentina to return to the busy city of Buenos Aires, four of us decided last minute to stay behind to work on the floor of the adobe studio. I was skeptical in staying, but a night under the stars while getting to know some of my classmates more was all the more exciting, not to mention, I love working outside and doing hands-on work. So, nailing the wood floor down was a dream come true!
Once the others had left, I felt nervous for it would be my first time camping outside in a tent, a legit tent, one that was a bit broken so we used tape to hold it up. Regardless, I felt safe and a bit relieved because I had two other friends I would be sleeping with in the tent, Katy and Tamara, and Andrew that would be nearby, who slept in Pablo’s humble home. I have two older sisters and thus felt reassured and in high spirits because I was reminded of them.

Prior to this trip, I had experience building homes with wood, nails, cement, bricks, and working with mud and hay was a completely new experience. It would be my first time building an adobe studio from scratch too! Up until this point, I still was uncertain of how this was going to turn out. We had only put up the logs that would be used as the structure, but within a few short hours we had a floor to walk on, and a new floor to sleep on as well!
The next morning when the white bus pulled in, I was happy to see everyone! But, I would miss the night before when we ventured out to the local stores and restaurant where Pablo, the artist and whose property we were working on had taken us after having finished the floor. It was an astonishing sight to see, it was a small community that was made entirely of recyclable materials. I had never seen something so well made from recyclables, and if I had, I hadn’t taken the time to realize it. That is one thing I can thank Argentina, this Learning Cluster, and Tomas. I take my time when speaking with friends and loved ones, and noticing the small things—taking the time to appreciate everything. 

Well, now I can say I’ve done many things, as I went camping for my first time, went to travel to Uruguay for the first time, I met an Australian, Uruguayan, Paraguayan, and Germans for the first time, I met new people both from Soka and abroad, I had my first SGI meeting in Argentina and then my second one in Uruguay, I helped built a sustainable adobe studio, I helped lead the group a few times which was a new experience for me—I’ve always relied on others as I am the youngest of my family. Excuses excuses, I know. But now, I have many new and beautiful stories to tell. 
I am thankful for this adventure of a lifetime and I look forward to the many I have to come. 

I thought I was adventurous, until I realized I have yet to sky dive! 

A Green City

Una Ciudad Verde: A Commentary on Sustainability

by: Julie Jackson

  This Learning Cluster to Buenos Aires, Argentina has allowed me to see how unsustainable our society currently is and has led to a new appreciation for the people trying to make a difference. Unfortunately, every moment of the day more and more waste is being created and we’re destroying our environment with the choices we make. However, there are many people trying to create new ways of living more sustainably, and environmentally-friendly efforts are being launched around the world. We don’t necessarily have to live in a house of adobe to be sustainable, (although it would help greatly), we can simply make informed decisions and adjust different aspects of our lives. The following discusses some of the steps that the city of Buenos Aires is taking to become a “green city”.    

Buenos Aires is a large city striving to be environmentally conscious. The city is home to many wonderful parks and green spaces which are popular among residents and have helped contribute to a more healthy and active lifestyle. I was surprised to observe the overall level of activity in and around these parks, and discovered it is not uncommon for large mobs of people to all exercise at the same time, as seen in the video above. People take advantage of these beautiful places by walking, jogging,  running, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, or working out in these spaces. There are locations throughout the city that provide work out equipment that are built like playgrounds and open to the public who would  like to exercise outdoors, an idea that I would love to see implemented here at home. These parks and green
spaces are not only beautiful, but help combat the pollution by producing oxygen and
filtering the air. Being active is a popular trend here which promotes good health and an environmentally conscious mindset among Buenos Aires residents.
Walking is a main method of transportation in the
city, but for longer distances people can be seen using bikes, public
transportation, motorcycles, and cars. Bike racks are on almost every street
and clearly designated bike lanes are in frequent use. The bike lanes have
dividers from the rest of the street and are clearly marked which makes it
easier and safer to get around the city by bike. Motorcycles are also a very
popular mode of transportation and it seems that drivers are more aware and
respectful of people on motorcycles than what I have observed here in Southern
California. Other modes of transportation included buses, trains, and subways,
which still contribute to pollution, but help reduce the number of cars in the
city. Cars still populate the streets, but with other options for
transportation the need for them is much less. Buenos Aires has now removed
taxes on hybrid models and cars that use alternative fuels or energy sources,
which will promote alternative, “greener” models. Another interesting development
in progress is that the traffic signals are being replaced with LED technology
which is expected to decrease energy consumption between 45 and 50%.   Being a large city, waste and pollution is a huge problem. Through my observations it seems that everyone and their grandmother is a pet owner and can be found walking their dogs all throughout the day; however, these animals leave waste on the streets. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their animals, however this seems to be an issue throughout the city and an environmental friendly way to clean up after your dog and dispose waste has not been introduced. Every morning, shop owners step outside and hose down the sidewalk in front of their business so that the dirt, trash, and animal waste goes into the gutter. It cleans the street, but causes problems elsewhere and consumes a large amount of water. While this issue could use improvement, the city has tried to reduce the amount of waste by designing a new method of disposal. Large trash and recycle
bins can be found on every street in Palermo, the first neighborhood to use this method of  disposal. The city stresses the importance of separating waste and recycling,and many businesses have adopted these methods and are distinguished by “Ciudad Verde” logos that are posted for people to see. The mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle is highly publicized and it seems that residents are doing relatively well at implementing these ideas. Grocery stores charge
for plastic bags, so most locals have their own bags that they bring to the
supermarket to use (they also sell reusable bags at the store).This is a good
way to reduce the consumption and waste of plastic bags, and is hopefully a
trend that will catch on quickly in other parts of the world.    Artists and vendors are helping to promote the idea of reusing waste by creating products made of recycled materials. These goods can be found at ferreterias and include a variety of interesting and stylish products. Some examples include using old jeans to make shoes,
records to make bags, cans and bottles to make jewelry or decorations and the
list continues as people put their creativity to use. It’s great to see old products being
reused and given a new purpose, considering the amount of waste that is
produced every day. While these items are only produced on a small scale, every bit
makes a difference and helps promote a change in thinking. A change that keeps
sustainability in mind.    

  If you’re interested in learning more about the green city movement of
Buenos Aires, you can check out the city’s official site at:

Panorama del cine argentino 2011

Pagina 12

Panorama del cine argentino 2011

Lejos de las salas

Las cifras de espectadores de películas con distintas aspiraciones no fueron satisfactorias, pese a que el porcentaje del mercado se mantuvo. Y la respuesta a la invasión de los tanques hollywoodenses parece ser concentrarse en el Sistema de Televisión Digital.
Por Horacio Bernades

La ultraindependiente El estudiante fue vista por 20.000 personas.

¿Cine en el cine o cine en TV? Esa parece ser la opción que enfrenta, al día de hoy, el cine argentino. Víctima de la hiperconcentración cinematográfica, que –tal como recordó Luciano Monteagudo días atrás, en estas mismas páginas– no hace más que agudizarse año a año, el cine argentino se ve tan marginado de los grandes circuitos (o incluso dentro de ellos) como el cine independiente de todo el mundo. Y no parece haber medida de control o impuestos capaces de frenar la carga de los grandes tanques. Empujadas por la más pura lógica de conquista, las megaproducciones de Hollywood se lanzan cada vez con más copias, de modo de “tapar” las bocas de salida. Este año, las nuevas entregas de Piratas del Caribe, Harry Potter o Crepúsculo lograron superar con creces la barrera de las 300 copias por título, y nada indica que el año próximo ese listón vaya a correrse para atrás. Todo lo contrario. Esto es como el Monopoly: el que más tiene, más crece.

¿Qué le queda al cine argentino dentro de este panorama de hiperconcentración? Por lo visto, achicarse. Literalmente: al día de hoy, todos los cañones oficiales parecen apuntados no hacia la pantalla grande, sino a la de la televisión. Más precisamente, al Sistema de Televisión Digital, niña bonita que, según muchos, nubla la vista del cine argentino. Los números siguen sin cerrar. Aunque no se haya perdido porcentaje de mercado (la porción que le toca al cine argentino se mantiene en alrededor del 12 por ciento del total de la torta), la palabra “industria” sigue pareciendo excesiva, en relación con una dinámica económica que anda a los ponchazos. Los productores argumentan que no puede haber una verdadera industria cinematográfica si no se estimula la inversión. Y la inversión no se estimula si las fuentes de financiación se reducen a los dineros oficiales y los que con esfuerzo y saliva puede obtener cada productor en el exterior, proveniente de fundaciones de apoyo al cine o productoras privadas.

A diferencia de cinematografías como la francesa, la española y hasta la brasileña, el cine argentino no cuenta con el respaldo de un sistema que estimule la financiación privada local, vía apoyos oficiales o exenciones impositivas. Como además los plazos en los que se liquidan los subsidios oficiales se estiran cada vez más (uno de los temas que más rispideces vienen generando en los distintos sectores de la industria), al productor mediano se le hace cada vez menos estimulante embarcarse en algo de por sí largo y trabajoso como es montar una película.

Para leer el resto del articulo:

Las muñecas con huesos (scene 1-42)

Foto T.C.T


El sol cae sobre un cantero lleno de plantas. Parece una pequeña jungla. A su lado, un perro medio raquítico respira con la lengua afuera.


El sol se cuela por las rendijas de la persiana. LUCRECIA está acostada en el centro de una cama matrimonial. Las sábanas están revueltas al pie de la cama. Tiene la boca abierta y respira ahogada. Lucrecia tiene unos cuarenta años. A pesar de que es muy linda se la ve un poco baqueteada.Sus ojos están cerrados y tiemblan. La cámara se acerca a su boca e intenta captar el halo de su respiración. Desde la cama, se ve un pasillo y al final del pasillo un baño.


SERGIO, el hijo de Lucrecia, está de espaldas orinando. Tiene un par de auriculares puestos. Sergio tiene 17 años y se viste como un rockero (jeans ajustados, zapatillas Converse, una remera muy gastada de Las Pelotas). Sergio se cierra la bragueta y tira la cadena. Se limpia las manos con una toalla y la arroja con displicencia en un rincón. Cruza el pasillo y entra al cuarto de Lucrecia. Cuando pasa al lado de la cama Lucrecia le pregunta:

                        ¿Cuándo volvés?


Sergio sale del cuarto con la música a full.


Sergio guarda dos manuales de electrónica, un manojo de lápices y marcadores dentro de una mochila. Se pone su carga al hombro y sale del cuarto.

Lucrecia sigue acostada ahora con los ojos abiertos. Los rayos de sol que penetran por la persiana son más intensos. Afuera se escucha un bocinazo y el ronroneo de una moto. Lucrecia se levanta y se queda sentada en un costado de la cama con la mirada perdida.


Lucrecia cruza el comedor y entra a la cocina. Tiene puesta una remera grande que le llega hasta el muslo. De un manotazo prende la radio que está pasando un bolero de Tito Rodriguez. Camina hasta la cocina. Agarra un Magiclick y abre el gas de la ornalla. Se detiene para escuchar la canción.

                                    TITO RODRIGUEZ
Un cigarrillo, la lluvia y tú. Me trastorna. Dejo mis labios sobre tu piel. Me vuelvo loco. La posesión del momento, ya se olvidó del invierno. Y a la ventana se asoma buscando sus brazos muertos…
No le gusta. Cierra el gas, apoya el Magiclick sobre la mesada y regresa a la radio. Gira el dial. Encuentra un tango lacrimógeno. No le gusta. Vuelve a girar el dial. Se escuchan los primeros acordes de Top of the world de los Carpenters. Una voz de mujer habla sobre la canción.

Hola, soy Susana de San Justo y los llamo para felicitarlos y decirle que me gusta mucho las canciones que ponen en la radio. Cuando estoy triste…cansada…pongo la Energy y me siento bien. Gracias por la compañía.
Lucrecia levanta el volumen. Se escuchan los primeros versos de Top of the world.

Everything I want the world to be is now coming true especially for me. And the reason is clear.
It’s because you are here
You’re the nearest thing to heaven that I’ve seen…

Regresa a la cocina, enciende la ornalla y pone la pava en el fuego. La tapa salta violentamente cuando el agua empieza a hervir y cae en el piso. Justo en ese momento, dos golpes fuertes sacuden la puerta de la calle. Lucrecia se levanta para mirar por la mirilla. La casa de Lucrecia tiene un pequeño jardín en el frente. Desde mirilla de la puerta de la cocina se puede ver la mirilla de la puerta de la calle. Un bulto se mueve nerviosamente detrás del vidrio.

Lucrecia abre la puerta del frente y atraviesa el jardín. Cuando llega a puerta se encuentra con EL CARTERO, un flaquito calentón de esos que se paran en el kiosko para hacerse el bocho con la tapas de las revistas.

¿Sadoni, Lucrecia?

Si, soy yo.


El cartero le pasa el sobre por la ventana y se seca la frente con una pañuelo. El cartero se pone de puntas de pie y aprovecha para chispearle las piernas.

Qué calor, ¿no?

Lucrecia abre el sobre y lee el telegrama. El cartero se pone ansioso.

¿Lo puede leer después, señora?

El cartero le pasa una lapicera. Lucrecia da vuelta el sobre, firma y se lo devuelve.

La calle Dehesa, es para allá o para allá.

(indicándole la dirección)
Para allá.

Cuando el cartero se va aparece la cara regordeta de RITA en la mirilla. Rita tiene la misma edad que Lucrecia pero perdió la batalla contra su ansiedad y las ganas de comer. Es la típico gordita dulce de barrio, siempre lista a darle una mano a alguien, amigo o enemigo.

Te terminé el vestido, Lu. Por favor, pasá esta tarde a buscarlo y me saldás la deuda. Tengo que pagar el lame.

Lo terminastes. Entonces tengo que pasar a buscarlo.

¿Estás bien?

Sí, lo que pasa es que todavía no tomé mate.

Bueno, después del maté pasá. Te dejo, tengo un toco de laburo. Chau, Lu.

Lucrecia cierra la mirilla y regresa a la casa.


Lucrecia está parada frente a la pava. Se agarra la frente.


La casa de Rita está atestada de muebles antiguos lo que le da un ambiente funerario. Rita está sentada frente a una mesa redonda trabajando en su máquina de coser Singer. Al lado de la máquina de coser vemos un sándwich de milanesa mordisqueado. En la mesa hay retazos de telas, tijeras, carreteles de hilo de todos los colores, el busto de un maniquí, una cabeza de tergopol con una peluca rubia, rollos de papel madera, etc. Pegados del empapelado, cuelgan láminas de modelitos de revistas de corte y confección tipo Labores. Golpean a la puerta.


Lucrecia entra con dos cuadritos en la mano. Rita se levanta y apaga la máquina.

¿Y eso?

En casa decían que son de un pintor famoso de Mar del Plata. Es lo único de valor que me dejó Mario.

Que yo sepa de Marpla no salió ningún Vangó.

No sé, pensé que lo podíamos vender y con eso pagábamos el lamé.

Sos muy ingenua, Lu. Dame esos mamarrachos y probate el vestido.


Lucrecia entra al dormitorio de Rita. Parece la celda de una monja. Sobre la cama hay un vestido de lamé violeta. Lucrecia se desviste y se pone el vestido. El vestido le queda bien pero es como de otro siglo-uno de esos vestuarios que usó Judy Garland en Meet me in Saint Louis.


Lucrecia entra modelando el vestido violeta.

Parezco Mirta Legrand en la entrega de los Martín Fierro. No te parece como demasiado. Es para un acto de graduación.

No seas boluda. Te apreta las caderas pero no te hace culona.

No me hace culona. Soy culona!

Por eso. Sabés la cantidad de viudos y divorciados que va a haber en el acto. Te queda divino. Vení que te termino el ruedo.


Rita y Lucrecia están sentadas sobre sillas de plásticos tomando un mate. Lucrecia se lleva la mano a la frente.

Todos los meses un imponderable, gorda.

Todo el mundo está como el orto, Lu. A mí, hace más de tres meses que no me pagan un trabajo. Disculpame, me gusta poder darte alguna changa, pero te digo, no tengo ya ni para morfar.

Ya sé, gorda. No te lo digo para que te pongas mal.

¿Y la pensión? La seguís cobrando.

Por ahora sí. Lo que pasa es que vengo guardándola porque le prometí a Sergio darle la moto cuando terminara el industrial. Quiere repartir pizzas con su amigo Hernán.

Ese pibe ya se dió un par de palos. Es un laburo peligroso.

Sabés como es él. Un cabeza dura.

Cuidalo más, Lu. No lo dejes hacer lo que quiere. Los chicos a su edad necesitan que los guien.

Sabés bien que yo para eso no sirvo. El tenía a su padre que lo quería pero murió. Ahora te tiene a vos.

Sí, pero yo no soy su madre. Lo puedo aconsejar pero hasta ahí. No me gusta darle órdenes. Eso lo tenés que hacer vos.

Ya sé.


Lucrecia está de rodillas refregando las baldozas del patio. El sol pega fuerte. Mete el cepillo en el balde y sigue resfregando. El agua enjabonada le salpica los brazos y las piernas. Se detiene, se seca la frente, y vuelve a darle. De repente, se escucha un suspiro. Es claro que no viene de ella. Lucrecia, levanta la cabeza, la gira y mira aterrorizada por sobre su hombro.


Foto T.C.T


Lucrecia abre las puertas de su armario. La mayoría de sus vestidos son muy coloridos. Al final del perchero encuentra un tapado gris. Lo saca y se lo prueba frente al espejo. Se arregla el pelo y se endereza la camiseta. Le queda bien. Regresa al ropero. En el piso del ropero hay un par de zapatillas reventadas, un par de sandalias y dos pares de zapatos: unos negros y otros marrones. Se pone los negros y camina con dificultad por el cuarto. Cansada, se sienta sobre la cama y se agarra la cabeza.

Lucrecia sale de su casa vistiendo el tapado, los zapatos negros de taco alto y un vestido de verano con florcitas. Por la calle Lugones viene un colectivo. Se apura a cerrar la puerta, guarda las llaves en una cartera de noche y cruza la calle agitando el brazo. El colectivo para en la esquina.


Lucrecia pone las monedas en la máquina. El colectivo se sacude para un costado y Lucrecia se agarra como puede de un poste. Una VIEJA que combate el calor sofocante con un abanico la mira sorprendida. Lucrecia baja la mirada y se mira la ropa. Camina para el fondo del colectivo. Está casi vacío. Una MADRE le está cantando una canción a su HIJO de seis años.

Quién sabe Alicia este país no estuvo hecho porque sí. Te vas a ir vas a salir pero te quedas dónde más vas a ir. Es que aquí, sabes que…

El trabalenguas, trabalenguas…el asesino te asesina…

Cuando Lucrecia pasa junto a ellos, la Madre le cuchichea algo al hijo y empiezan a reírse. Lucrecia se sienta y se abre el tapado. Tiene la frente cubierta de sudor.


Lucrecia camina hacia el Cementerio de la Chacarita. Una VENDEDORA DE FLORES pregona su mercadería en la vereda.

Señora, un ramo de flores,.

Otro día.

Lucrecia saca el telegrama del bolsillo.

¿La secretaría?

Le digo si me compra unas flores.

Bueno, dame una flor. Cualquiera.

¿Una sola?

Si, con una alcanza.

La mujer le envuelve un clavel rojo.

Agarre por el caminito de la izquierda.

Lucrecia empieza a caminar en esa dirección.

Eh! Son dos pesos.

Lucrecia se da vuelta, abre la cartera y le paga.


Lucrecia sube la escalera de la secretaría.

Foto T.C.T

Lucrecia apoya el clavel sobre el mostrador. El SECRETARIO está hablando con LAURA, su asistente. El secretario es un gordito que le cuesta la vida. No puede ni atarse los cordones sólo, pero eso no quiere decir que se un ingenuo o un boludo. En la mano lleva un pañuelo y cada dos por tres se seca un gota de sudor. Laura es una flaquita de anteojitos con cara de traga.

(con un mal tono)
Yo no agarro esa sartén por el mango. Yo ya les dije a esa gente. No sé si se lo llevaron, si se lo robaron, si se esfumó en el aire. No es problema mío. Que vayan a reclamarle a la policía.

El Secretario la ve entrar a Lucrecia, que tiene el telegrama en la mano.

Disculpeme, pero tengo un problema.

El Secretario agarra el telegrama con desgano. Lo lee.

Está claro, ¿no? Sino paga la deuda que tiene antes de fin de mes van a exhumar el cuerpo y ponerlo en el osario general.

¿En el osario general?

Es la fosa común donde se entierra a los familiares de los morosos. No tiene nada de que avergonzarse. Hay mucha gente pasa por lo mismo.

Pero mi marido tiene su tumba.

Y la va a seguir teniendo, pero en el osario general.

Lucrecia saca una libreta de cuero de la cartera. La abre y se la muestra al secretario.

Sino se puede hacer nada, entonces me gustaría poder despedirme de mi marido.

Vaya nomás. El cementerio está abierto.

Lucrecia parece estar desorientada.

(con compasión)
¿Hace mucho que no lo visita? No hay problema, señora. Laura la va a orientar. Laura, ayude a la señora.

Laura está terminando de discutir en el teléfono. Cuelga y se acerca al mostrador.

¿A ver la libretita, señora?

Mario Vázquez. Mi marido se llama Mario Vázquez.
Laura abre un libro de registros enorme. Las páginas están llenas de tachaduras y apuntes hechos a manos.

Acá está. Le hago un mapa. Es más fácil de esa forma.

Bien. Con un mapa está bien.

Foto T.C.T
Lucrecia camina por la calle principal de la Chacarita. Lleva el clavel, y el mapa que le dibujó Laura en la mano. Estudia el mapa y luego trata de orientarse mirando un cartel. Se saca el tapado, se lo cuelga del brazo y sigue por el camino cercado de árboles.

Cuando Lucrecia llega al lote de tumbas ve a UNA ANCIANA arrodillada sobre el pasto cambiando las flores en la tumba de su marido. Lucrecia se detiene y la mira con piedad. A unos metros, dos exhumadores están trabajando en otras tumbas. EL PELADO está arreglando un jardincito y EL NEGRO mueve tierra de una tumba para la otra con una pala. Los dos tienen más o menos la misma edad, unos cuarenta años. Tienen la piel curtida de tanto estar al sol y las manos y brazos salpicados de tierra. La tierra está reseca y los cascotes levantan polvo. Lucrecia consulta su mapa.

Esta es la sección cinco, manzana dos.

Sí, señora ¿Qué tablón?

El dieciséis.

¿La dieciséis, negro?

La dieciséis. Esa, la que está media hecha mierda.

El Pelado se da vuelta y apunta hacia una tumba. Lucrecia camina unos pasos hacia la dieciséis. La tumba está hundida y agrietada. Se agacha y apoya el clavel entre las grietas. Luego regresa y se dirige a los sepultureros.

Tengo un problema. Si no pago cuatrocientos pesos antes de fin de mes van a desenterrar a mi marido y lo van a poner en el osario general.

Ese es el procedimiento, señora.

¿Y no se puede hacer nada?

El Pelado se da vuelta nuevamente y lo mira al Negro. El Negro clava la pala en la tierra.

Si quiere puede ir a ver al patrón. Se conoce que él ayuda a la gente.

¿Cómo se llama el patrón?

Julio, el exhumador. Está en la casilla.

Lucrecia sigue el sendero de tumbas hasta llegar a la casilla. La puerta está entreabierta. Lucrecia empuja la puerta.


Sentado, con los codos apoyados sobre la mesa está JULIO. Julio tiene unos cincuenta años. Tiene las entradas bien marcadas y una barba de dos días. Tiene la pinta y la actitud de una estrella de un Western. La casilla está vacía, excepto por la mesa y la silla donde está sentado.

Los hombres que están trabajando afuera me dijeron que me puede ayudar.

¿Cuál es el problema?

No puedo pagar más la tumba de mi marido. Debo cuatrocientos pesos y no los tengo. Y sino pago lo van a tirar en el osario general.

¿Hace cuánto años que murió su marido?

Nueve…diez años. Creo.

Señora, usted tiene dos opciones- o acepta que pongan a su marido en la fosa común o se lleva sus huesos a casa.

¿A casa? ¿Y qué hago con los huesos de mi marido en casa?

La única condición que le pongo es que cuando le entrego los huesos usted los revisa ahí adelante mío y  me asegura que se puede hacer cargo. Si quiere mañana en El Imperio, la pizzería que está en frente de las estación, le hago la entrega. ¿A la mañana le parece bien?

Lucrecia duda.

Lo que pasa es que marido fue atropellado por un tren.


No sé le digo, por el estado del cuerpo, los huesos.

No se preocupe. Nosotros nos encargamos de todo.

Lucrecia se queda petrificada. No sabe cómo reaccionar a todo esto.

Vaya, señora. Me imagino que debe tener cosas que hacer.


Lucrecia, con el tapado puesto, acomoda unas bolsas de supermercado sobre la mesada. De una de las bolsas saca un paquete envuelto con papel manteca manchado de sangre, una lechuga, dos tomates peritas, tres pancitos y una botella de Coca-Cola. Se agacha y saca una tabla de madera con un clavo en el medio. Abre el paquete y clava la colita de cuadril en la tabla. Abre un cajón, saca un cuchillo desafilado y con torpeza comienza a quitarle la grasa a la colita. Cuando termina, se quita el tapado y lo apoya sobre una silla. Enciende la radio. Música folclórica. Sale al patio.

Lucrecia saca una parilla desvencijada de un rincón del jardín. Al lado de la parilla, hay una escoba, una pila de diarios amarillentos y un cuarto de bolsa carbón. Intenta limpiar la parrilla con la escoba, pero la escoba está demasiado vieja y seca y pedacitos de paja quedan pegados a la parrilla. Camina por el jardín y recoge unas ramitas. Las pone en la parrilla y con su encendedor enciende el fuego. No prende. Se tira sobre una silla de plástico. Con los pies, se saca los zapatos.

La puerta de entrada se abre y entran Sergio y NATI. Nati tiene diecisiete años, la misma edad que Sergio. Es muy linda y le encanta mostrarlo. Tiene puestos un par de jeans una remerita muy cortita para mostrar el ombligo. Está descalza. Sergio la viene agarrando de la cintura.

Vení acá, trola.

Los dos se ríen. Siguen jugueteando hasta que entran en el comedor.


Sergio la intenta agarrar a Nati de la cintura pero se safa y se escapa a la cocina. Por poco no se choca con Lucrecia que sale de la cocina con la cola de cuadril clavada en la tabla.


Con el codo, Lucrecia abre la puerta del comedor y sale al jardín.


Lucrecia tira la colita sobre la parrilla. Hay poco fuego y la carne no chilla. En off se escucha la voz de HERNÁN.


Lucrecia se da vuelta y lo ve a Hernán recostado sobre la reja del jardín.

¿Preparando un asado?

Sí, carne.

¿Puedo pasar?

Sí, claro. Pasá.

Lucrecia abre la reja y Hernán entra.

Permiso. ¿Sergio está adentro?

Sí, pasá.

Lucrecia regresa a la parrilla. Toca la carne cruda con el dedo. Hernán se acerca.

A ese fuego le falta carbón.

No hay más carbón. Se terminó la bolsa.

En casa tengo. Puedo ir a buscarlo.

No, no te molestes. Tiene que alcanzar.

Con permiso.

Pasá nomás.


Hace un calor de morirse. Las puertas del patio están abiertas. Se escucha el rumor de los grillos. Lucrecia está recostada en una silla abanicándose con un cartón. Hernán hace a un lado un pedazo de carne cruda. Sergio es el único que come. Natalia se sirve agua de una jarra de plástico y lo mira a Sergio con asco.

Cuando terminen de comer levanten la mesa por favor.

Lucrecia agarra su paquete de Jockey Club y sale al jardín.

No sé cómo podes comer carne cruda.

Ya estoy acostumbrado.

Sergio se mete el último pedazo de carne en la boca, se levanta y lleva su plato vacío a la cocina.


Hernán sale al jardín y encuentra a Lucrecia sentada en la silla fumando. Cuando lo ve a Hernán tira el cigarrillo entre la plantas.

No me gusta que Sergio me vea fumando.

¿Y qué la vea así? Discúlpeme, soy un poco…

…un poco atrevido.

¿La puedo ayudar en algo?

Le debo una plata al cementerio. Si no pago la deuda van a desenterrar a marido y lo van a tirar en una fosa común. Hoy fui a Chacarita y hablé con un tipo que dijo que me iba a ayudar.

¿Cómo la va a ayudar?

Me lo va entregar.

¿A su marido?

Sí, los huesos. Quedé en encontrarme con él mañana. No sé si tengo el coraje.

Si es por eso la acompaño. Mañana no trabajo. Podemos ir en la moto.

Lucrecia saca otro Jockey y lo enciende.

¿Vistes que raro está el cielo, hoy?

Un poco nublado, ¿no?

No me gusta nada este cielo. Algo va a pasar.


Hernán llega con la moto. La moto es una 350 con una caja térmica para poner las pizzas del reparto. Lucrecia abre el portón del jardín del frente y va a su encuentro. Está nerviosa y un poco desaliñada. Viste un vestido de verano con florcitas. El vestido está un poco raído. Le queda bien ajustado al cuerpo. Cruza el jardín del frente y abre el portón.

Lindo vestido.


Lucrecia toma la iniciativa y se sube a la moto. El ruedo del vestido se le queda enganchado en la moto exponiendo su muslo. Hernán se está por subir cuando Lucrecia lo detiene para poder bajarse el vestido.

¿Estás cómoda?

Sí, dale, vamos.

Hernán arranca y la moto sale despedida rugiendo por la calle.


La moto se mete entre los carriles de autos. Lucrecia se agarra el vestido para que no se levante con el viento.


Chacarita hierve de gente. La jornada de trabajo está a full. Lucrecia se baja de la moto y Hernán con dificultad sube su vehículo al cordón. Lucrecia encara para “El Imperio”.

Espere que la acompaño.

No, vos te quedás acá. Entro sola.


Lucrecia entra al Imperio. Busca a Julio entre las mesas. No lo encuentra, entonces camina hacia la barra. Un MOZO se le acerca deslizando sobre el mostrador una humeante taza de té.

La está esperando en el fondo. Me hace una gauchada, ¿se lo lleva?

Al principio Lucrecia duda en agarrar la taza, pero acepta el desafío. Camina con cuidado entre la clientela. Julio está sentado solo, de espaldas a la calle y de frente a los baños. Tiene los codos apoyados sobre la mesa y la mirada clavada en la distancia. Lucrecia se acerca y apoya la taza sobre la mesa.


Julio agarra la bolsa de té, con el hilito la escurre y la apoya en el plato. Con mucha elegancia, prueba el té. Lucrecia intenta sentarse pero un bolso Adidas ocupa la otra silla. Julio agarra el bolso y lo apoya sobre la mesa.

Su marido, señora. Ya le cepillamos bien todos los huesos.

Lucrecia agarra las manijas con las dos manos.

¿Le debo algo?

Un favor.

Lucrecia encara hacia la puerta. Julio la agarra del brazo.


Lucrecia se da vuelta.

No se olvide que tiene que inspeccionar el contenido del bolso. Ahí está el baño.


Lucrecia entra al baño. Es muy oscuro. Una canilla gotea y los espejos están manchados de humedad. El piso está cubierto de pisadas. Con la punta de su zapato, Lucrecia abre la puerta de un retrete.


El retrete está vacío. Lucrecia el bolso en el piso. Se agacha y tantea su exterior. Respira profundamente y abre el cierre. Mete la mano dentro del bolso pero inmediatamente la saca, como si una rata se la hubiese mordido.


Lucrecia sale del retrete.


Lucrecia camina hacia una de las piletas y se lava las manos. Se moja la nuca y el pecho. Se mira en el espejo. Está muy pálida. Da un paso para atrás y se mira las piernas. Una catarata de orina cae por sus piernas y se le mete en los zapatos. Desconcertada, se mete de nuevo en el retrete.


Lucrecia agarra un manojo de papel higiénico y se seca las piernas. Tira el papel en el inodoro, agarra el bolso y sale del retrete.


Lucrecia apoya el bolso en el piso, se arregla un poco el pelo frente al espejo, agarra el bolso y sale del baño.


Lucrecia pasa frente a la mesa de Julio que la sigue con la mirada. Cruza todo el restaurante y sale.


Hernán se baja de la moto y camina hacia ella.

¿Todo bien? ¿Te ayudo?

Con dificultad, Lucrecia se sube a la moto con el bolso entre las manos.

Dale, arrancá. Tengo cosas que hacer.

A Hernán le cuesta subirse a la moto porque Lucrecia y el bolso ocupan casi todo el asiento. Hernán arranca y manejando casi parado se pierde entre el tráfico.


Lucrecia apoya el bolso sobre la vereda y se baja de la moto. Hernán amaga a bajarse.

Dejá, puedo sola. Gracias, Hernán.

No me agradezca. No hice nada.

Sí, que hiciste. Me hiciste compañía. Pero ahora quiero estar sola. Si querés pasá a la noche y comemos juntos.

¿Traigo una pizza? Es buena y cada turno me regalan una.

Si te la regalan, traéla.

Lucrecia se le acerca y le planta un beso en la mejilla.

En serio, gracias.


Lucrecia entra a su casa cargando el bolso. Cierra la puera.



Learning Cluster, Winter Block 2009

Course description and goals:

This Learning Cluster will explore the history of Japanese immigrants to Brazil. The course will begin on the Soka campus examining some critical terms such as “Diaspora,” “immigration,” “emigration,” “transculturation,” “assimilation,” and “relocation.” We will try to determine why, where and when did Japanese people immigrate to Brazil and what conditions did they encounter in their host country. Students will read, discuss and analyze a comprehensive bibliography about the topic in preparation for the trip. Before our departure, the professor and a student with IT experience will lead a workshop on documentary film making. Each student will be assigned in a specific job (script supervisor, lighting assistant, camera assistant, etc.) by the professor to help complete a short documentary on our topic.

Students will stay in the city of Sao Paulo, where many Japanese immigrant families live. Among the activities we have scheduled is a visit to the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade, the largest “Japan town” in the world. We will interview different generations of restaurant and business owners to gather their impressions about what it means to be a person of Japanese descent living in Brazil. On Sunday, we will film a very popular fair in the Liberdade district where thousands of locals and tourists stroll and buy Japanese products and crafts. In order to document the different traditionally Japanese immigrant trades we will travel to Mogi das Cruzes and visit an agricultural collective. We have scheduled an interview with second generation Japanese-Brazilian entrepreneur, Carlos Uemi.

Students will also have the opportunity to visit the Instituto Educacional Soka do Brasil (Soka School, Brazil) in the neighborhood of Vila Maria. The director of the school and students will gather to discuss with the Learning Cluster how their Soka education engages with notions of Brazilian culture and how they negotiate their Japanese cultural traditions within the context of a Brazilian global identity. It will be a unique opportunity for our students to share their own SUA experiences with Brazilian-Japanese students.

During our stay we will also visit other Asian ethnic neighborhoods to interview Korean and Chinese-Brazilians in order understand how other Asian diasporic communities see themselves in relation to the Nikkeijin community. We will interview members of each community and pose the following questions: Do they feel they have “assimilated” to Brazilian culture? What sorts of traditions do they hold on to? What sorts of networks strengthen their ties to Japan and its culture? We anticipate we will have to consider issues of religion, sexuality, ethnicity, family formation and gender.

The documentary film we will be shooting will serve the following central purposes:

1) It will contribute to the critical understanding of immigration patterns and strategies of transculturation in Brazil by providing students with the necessary critical distance from the subjects interviewed

2) It will train students to organize diverse material such as photographs, museum brochures, recordings, historical accounts, maps and graphs

3) Students will have to evaluate a few hours of recorded interviews and determine how to edit audio and visual tracks to create a powerful rhetorical work

4) During our visits and interviews, students will be asked to take copious notes and compare their notes with the response papers on the bibliography of the cluster that they had previously uploaded to Angel

5) The final essay for the cluster will serve to complement the narrative arch of the documentary and provide written complementary material to the audiovisual final assignment

3 Response papers to readings (1-2 pages each) 45%
Participation 30%
Production of documentary film 25%

Disability Issues
If you require academic accommodations based on a documented disability during this course, please see me early on.

Film screenings (Selections or entire films screened on campus or on reserve in Ikeda library).
History and Memory, Rea Tajiri (USA) 1992

In preparation for the documentary workshop students should read the first 6 chapters of Michael Rabiger’s Directing the Documentary. Boston: Focal Press, 1998. [On reserve in the library]


Day – January 1st
The Colonial Years in Latin America (Immigration, Slavery and Race Relations)

Daniels, Roger. “The Japanese diaspora in the New World.” In Nobuko Adachi. [Angel]

Ariel E. Dulitzky. “A Region in Denial: Racial Discrimination and Racism in Latin America.” In
Dzidzienyo, Anani and Suzanne Oboler. Neither Enemies Nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-

Day 2
Patterns of immigration

Masterson, Daniel and Sayaka Funada-Classen. The Japanese in Latin America. “The Impact of the Asian

War, 1938-52” and “Looking to the New Century: Confronting New Trends and Healing Old Wounds.” [Angel]

Anderson, Wanni and Robert G. Lee “Asian American Displacements.” In Wanni W. Anderson and Robert

G. Lee’s Displacements and Diasporas: Asians in the Americas.

Day 3
The Representation of Culture

Stanlaw, James. “Japanese emigration and immigration.” In Nobuko Adachi. [Angel]

Day 4 and 5
History and Memory and Representatiion

Sturken, Marita. “Absent Images of Memory: Remembering and Reenacting the Japanese Internment”.

Fujitani, T., Geofrey M. White, and Lisa Yoneyame, Editors. Perilous Memories: The Asia-

Pacific War(s). Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. [Angel]
FILM: History and Memory (screened in class)

1st RESPONSE PAPER IS DUE ON DISCUSSION FORUM: Discussion of “History and Memory”

Hirabayashi and Kikumura-Yano. “Japanese Latin Americans during World War II.” In Nobuko
Adachi. [Angel]

Day 6
Asian Migration in Latin America (ethnic subgroups and stereotypes)

Anderson, Wanni W., and Robert G. Lee, eds. Displacements and diasporas Asians in the
Americas / edited by Wanni W. Anderson, Robert G. Lee. New Brunswick, N.J:
Rutgers UP, 2005. (3-38, 112-121) [Angel]

Day 7
Asian Migration in Latin America (ethnic subgroups and stereotypes) continue

Goodman, Roger, Ceri Peach, Ayumi Takenaka, and Paul White, eds. Global Japan the experience of Japan’s new immigrant and overseas communities. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. (209-221) [Angel]

Day 8
Japanese Immigration to Brazil

Lone, Stewart. The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908-1940. Between Samurai and Carnival. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. (57-95) [Angel]

Day 9 January 9th
Japanese Immigration to Brazil (continue)

Masterson, Daniel M. Japanese in Latin America. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2004. (4-10, 112-148, 269-290) [Angel]

2nd RESPONSE PAPER IS DUE ON DISCUSSION FORUM: Ethnicity and national identity

Day 10
Ethnicity and transculturation

Lie, John. Multiethnic Japan. New York: Harvard UP, 2001. (53-82) [Angel]

Adachi, Nobuko. “Constructing Japanese Brazilian identity.” In Nobuko Adachi. [Angel]

Okihiro, Gary Y. “Acting Japanese.” In Nobuko Adachi. [Angel]

Lesser, Jeffrey. Immigrant Ethnicity in Brazil. In Robert M. Levine and John J. Crocitti’s The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics. [Angel]

Do Nascimento, Abdias. “The Myth of Racial Democracy.” In Robert M. Levine and John J. Crocitti’s The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics. [Angel]

Day 11
Gender and Immigration

Jacalyn D. Harden “The Enterprise of Empire: Race, Class, Gender, and Japanese National Identity.” In Lancaster, Roger N., and Micaela Di Leonardo, eds. The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Political Economy. [Angel]

Day 12 January 12th
The construction of national identity

Souza, Jesse, and Valter Sinder, eds. Imagining Brazil. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2005. (211-234)

3rd RESPONSE PAPER IS DUE ON DISCUSSION FORUM: Discussion of topics and subtopics in preparation for the documentary

Day 13
Immigration patterns (cont.)

Tsuda, Takeyuki. Strangers In The Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in
Transnational Perspective. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. (263-321)

Tsuda, Takeyuki. “Crossing ethnic boundaries.” In Nobuko Adachi.

Ishi, Angelo. “Transnational strategies by Japanese-Brazilian migrants in the age of IT.” In Goodman, Roger, Ceri Peach, Ayumi Takenaka, and Paul White, eds. Global Japan the experience of Japan’s new immigrant and overseas communities. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Day 14
Capitalism, labor and immigration

Masterson, Daniel M. “The Japanese of Peru: The first-century experience and beyond.” In Nobuko Adachi. [Angel]

Tsuda, Takeyuki. “Homeland-less Abroad, Transnational Liminality, Social Alienation, and Personal Malaise.” In Jeffrey Lesser’s Searching for Home Abroad: Japanese Brazilians and Transnationalism.

Roth, Joshua Hotaka. Brokered homeland Japanese Brazilian migrants in Japan / Joshua Hotaka Roth. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2002. (92-117)

Day 15
Ethnicity and religion

Lesser, Jeffrey. Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the

Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. [On
reserve in the library].

Lie, John. “Pop Multiethnicity.” In Multiethnic Japan. New York: Harvard UP, 2001.

Nakamaki, Hirochika. Japanese Religions at Home and Abroad. “Ecological and immunological aspects of Japanese Buddhism in the Americas.” [Angel]


Thursday, January 14th:
Leave for Brazil from LAX

Friday, January 15th:
Arrive in Brazil in GRU
Morning: Rest

Afternoon: Visit the Sociedade Brasileira de Cultura Japonesa e de Assistência Social (Brazilian Association of Japanese Culture and Society)
Interview Marcos Pesisi (Director of Immigration Deparment)
Saturday, January 16th:
Morning: Visit the Sociedade Brasileira de Cultura Japonesa e de Assistência Social (Japanese Museum of Immigration)
Afternoon: Cultural Activity

Sunday, January 17th:
Morning: Visit the Farmer’s/Flea Market in Japan Town (Liberdade Town)
Documentary Shooting/Interviews

Afternoon: Class meeting/Review of footage/Work on script

Monday, January 18th:
Morning: Mogi das Cruzes (Japanese Plantation)
Afternoon: Visit a successful 2nd generation Japanese businessman
Film and Interview Carlos Uemi

Tuesday, January 19th:
Morning: Visit Ex-Cooperativa Agrícola de Cotia (The first Japanese cooperative)
Afternoon: Film and Interview

Wednesday, January 20th:
Morning: Film and Interview Japanese-Brazilians on Paulista Avenue
Afternoon: Film and Interview Japanese-Brazilians in Liberdade Town

Thursday, January 21st:
Morning: Visit Brazil SGI Headquarters, Film and Interview
Afternoon: Visit Seicho-no-ie (New Thought Religious Church – It inherits its basic characteristics from Buddhism, Christianity and Shinto.)
Film and Interview

Friday, January 22nd:
Morning: Visit Soka School of Brazil, Film and Interview
Afternoon: Visit Santos Port (Was the place where the first Japanese immigrants sailed into the harbor in 1908)

Saturday, January 23rd:
Morning: Visit Museu do Café de Santos (Museum)
Afternoon: Film and Interview

Sunday, January 24th:
Morning: Return to São Paulo
Afternoon: Class meeting/Review of footage/Work on script

Monday, January 25th:
Spend the day in São Paulo
Afternoon: Class meeting/Review of footage/Work on script

Tuesday, January 26th:
Return to U.S. from GRU
Arrive in the U.S. from LAX

January 27, 28, 29, 30th
Editing of documentary film

Selected Bibliography

Adachi, Nobuko. Ed. Japanese Diasporas: Unsung pasts, conflicting presents, and uncertain futures. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Anderson, Wanni W., and Robert G. Lee, eds. Displacements and diasporas Asians in the Americas / edited by Wanni W. Anderson, Robert G. Lee. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers UP, 2005.

Dzidzienyo, Anani and Suzanne Oboler. Ed. Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Goodman, Roger, Ceri Peach, Ayumi Takenaka, and Paul White, eds. Global Japan the experience of Japan’s new immigrant and overseas communities. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Lancaster, Roger N., and Micaela Di Leonardo, eds. The Gender/Sexuality Reader Culture, History, Political Economy. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Lesser, Jefrey. Searching for home and abroad. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Levine, Robert M. and John J. Crocitti. The Brazil Reader. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999.

Lie, John. Multiethnic Japan. New York: Harvard UP, 2001.

Lone, Stewart. The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908-1940 Between Samurai and Carnival. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Masterson, Daniel M. and Sayaka Funada-Classen.The Japanese in Latin America. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2004.

Nakamaki, Hirochika. Japanese Religions at Home and Abroad: Anthropological perspectives.New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Nobuko., Adachi,. Japanese diasporas unsung pasts, conflicting presents and uncertain futures. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Roth, Joshua Hotaka. Brokered homeland Japanese Brazilian migrants in Japan / Joshua Hotaka Roth. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2002.

Souza, Jesse, and Valter Sinder, eds. Imagining Brazil. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2005.

Tsuda, Takeyuki. Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.


Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli studied journalism and film at San Francisco State University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990. In 1994,  received a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from San Francisco State University. He then went into the Spanish and Portuguese doctoral program at the University of California, Irvine and received his PhD in 2001. Before coming to SUA, Dr. Crowder-Taraborrelli taught at the University of San Francisco, where he founded the film collective Cine Campesino and made two documentaries in Honduras (2002-2004). He then received a Fellowship in the Humanities at Stanford University, California, where he taught and did research on the role of cinema in the investigation of crimes against humanity. He also co-founded the Stanford Film Lab and ran it from 2004-2008. Dr. Crowder-Taraborrelli also studied scriptwriting, lighting and direction at the Film Arts Foundation, San Francisco, California. He has given lectures and workshops on film and is one of the editors of the anthology Film and Genocide (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012).

Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli  currently teaches Latin American Studies at Soka University, California, where he is working on a manuscript entitled Documentary Film and the Condor Years. He is an associate producer of Community Cinema at Soka University, a documentary series produced by The Independent Television Services (ITVS). His articles on film have appeared in several journals and magazines. He is a member of the collective of coordinating editors at the journal Latin American Perspectives: A Journal of Capitalism and Socialism. He also serves as book and film review editor for Latin American Perspectives. He is also the director of Shooting Scripts, a consulting organization dedicated to the development of screenplays for feature films and documentaries. In March 2012, he was elected co-chair of the Film Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association.

Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli is member of the following organizations: International Documentary Association (IDA), Latin American Studies Association (LASA), International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies (PCCLAS), Modern Language Association (MLA), Cultural Studies Association (CSA ), Argentine Association of Audiovisual Film Studies (ASAECA).

Favorite movies I’ve seen…lately

Friends always ask me what are some of my favorite films I’ve seen in the last few months. So here is a list of must see movies!

1. Catfish. As good as Grey Gardens? Not really, but pretty freaking cool.
2. Inside Job. First forty or so minutes are a very technical descriptions of the economic meltdown, or the biggest economic heist of the last fifty years. The second part, is an expose of all the crooks that have left millions of Americans unemployed and homeless. Love the parts where ivy league academics are caught with their pants down. Priceless!
3. Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. A great portrait of an amazing artist. Made me want to listen to bebop every waking hour. Every young American should see this film. It teaches you about racism, discrimination, and the arrogance of art critics who are compelled to turn every creative spirit into a commodity.
4.Aftermath, The Remnants of War: One of the most chilling documentations I’ve seen of the apocalyptic effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people. More surreal, nauseating and brutal, than David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
5. Darwin’s Nightmare. Oh boy, after watching this doc all I wanted to do is sit down by myself at the dinner table and drink a whole bottle of Jameson.
6. Joan Rivers, piece of work. At times, I admire the work ethic of Joan Rivers, her acid humor and her ability to perform empathy. Other times, I despise her resentment, materialism, egocentrism and blind faith in fame. An accurate portrait of our good old U.S.A.
7. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. A Samson and Goliath story in the bizzarre world of classic video games. An honest, slightly autistic, family man faces the dark forces of the mafia that determines who holds the dubious honor of being the record holder of Donkey Kong. The most bizarre and charismatic collection of characters since Seinfeld.
8. The Pat Tillman Story. When the fog of war disperses what you see is the corruption of politicians, military officers and executives of the industrial military complex.

Peace Unveiled

Community Cinema at Soka University of America

September 22nd, Pauling 216, 7 p.m.

Peace Unveiled
When the U.S. troop surge was announced in late 2009, women in Afghanistan knew that the ground was being laid for peace talks with the Taliban. Peace Unveiled follows three women who immediately began to organize to make sure that women have a seat at the negotiating table. One is a savvy parliamentarian who participated in writing the Afghan constitution that guarantees equality for women; another, a former midwife who is one of the last women’s rights advocates alive in Kandahar; and the third, a young activist who lives in a traditional family in Kabul. Convinced that the Taliban will have demands that jeopardize women’s hard-earned gains, they maneuver against formidable odds to have their voices heard in a peace jirga and high peace council. We go behind Kabul’s closed doors as the women’s case is made to U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, General David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who promises the women that “peace and justice can’t come at the cost of women and women’s lives.” But will this promise be kept? Narrated by Tilda Swinton.

For more information about this film and the series please visit the ITVS website:

Panelists: Professor Ryan Caldwell, Professor Tomas F. Crowder-Taraborrelli and Mike Whipple, Chairman/CEO, International Orphan Care. 

For more information about IOC please visit their website at:

Learning Cluster, San Diego/Tijuana 2010


Last November, news programs around the globe commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall. They cheered for the final integration of two apparent contending regions of the world–the Capitalist West vs. the Communist East. The West had won, declared CNN, and with it democratic institutions and the rights of people all over the world. For someone who lives in Southern California those celebrations were dashed with hypocrisy since there is another wall just a few miles from Soka University of America that also attempts to divide two seemingly incompatible regions– the First and the Third World. Despite the U.S. government’s efforts to militarize the border, millions of people continue to cross, illegally and legally, developing migrant communities, family networks, and innovative cultural traditions. Many migrants perish in the mountains as they attempt to enter the U.S., killed at times by their coyotes, or organized crime. Women are often raped, and children are lost. The Tijuana/San Diego wall represents a humanitarian crisis, one often not covered by the news.

The controversial phenomenon of Globalization has created new commercial institutions. Maquiladoras are assembly plants run by foreign corporations along the US-Mexico border where employees are forced to work overtime for extremely low wages. They were first established in the mid 1960s by the Mexican government to attract American entrepreneurs. This type of private enterprise received a boost when in 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was ratified. More maquiladoras were built as the demand for cheap-labor increased, and as a consequence, labor violations and environmental wreckage increased. Opposition by labor unions could not stop the corporations from paying meager salaries, exposing their employees to long hours and hazardous working conditions. The turning point for maquiladoras began a few years ago when the economic recession hit the US, and Asian products flooded international markets. About 298,000 jobs (22.1% of all the jobs available) disappeared from four “maquiladora” cities in 17 months. Female workers were particularly affected by the crisis since women have to struggle with the double duty of working in the factory and at home.
The complexity of this issue concerning maquiladoras lies in the multifaceted influence of globalization. Even though some argue “maquiladoras exploit workers and threaten their human rights,” it is highly likely that those people enjoy cheap consumer goods produced in maquiladoras. Without this type of labor, people in developed countries would not be able to enjoy the standard of life they do today. Moreover, the fact that jobs at maquiladoras have given workers employment opportunities cannot be ignored. For these reasons, abolishing all the maquiladoras does not seem to be a perfect solution for this complex issue.
Such complex labor and social relations take place not only in Tijuana but also in Asian developing countries and other parts of the world as well. The concurrent problems will grow unless governments, businesses, workers, and consumers become aware of them and take countermeasures.

Primary objectives of the Learning Cluster

The primary objective of this learning cluster is for students to gain a comprehensive understanding of the economic policies and social conflicts that have shaped the economy of the San Diego/Tijuana Border region. They will examine both the positive and negative aspects of economic development along the Border and suggest ways of improving working conditions. Students will consider a relatively new concept of development often referred to as “sustainable business.” Sustainable business is commonly defined as a more ethical way of trading. The driving force behind a company’s production is not solely profit and grand salaries for their CEOS, but the well-being of the community.

We believe that this is a crucial economic model to investigate, as a growing number of companies are becoming more sensitive to the demands of their employees and committed to environmentally friendly forms of production. This class will investigate this socially conscious approach, analyzing the strategies used by organizations in the regions that lobby for labor and economic reform. Students will interview members of NGOs that monitored business practices and suggest reforms, and subsequently develop practical applications for a model of sustainability.

The importance of the topic of this Learning Cluster cannot be overlook. Now that health reform has been debated in Congress for almost a year, immigration reform is slated to be President Obama’s next undertaking. Academics should be contributing to the investigation of this complex issue, suggesting innovative forms of doing business in Border regions without trampling over the basic rights of workers, especially women. Labor and migration are two of the most debated topics in academia today, as proven by the dozens of books presented by major academic presses at the Latin American Studies Association conference in Toronto this month. Our Learning Cluster will examine this new literature, focusing on women’s labor conditions on both sides of the border. We will also spend a few classes exploring cultural representations of Border life- Norteña music, artist’s organizations in Tijuana, and documentary film collectives.

Approach and methodology

The approach to this course will be multidisciplinary. Students will read articles, watch films, and visit businesses and NGOs on both sides of the Border.

For instance, on January 21st, students will have the opportunity of attending a presentation by Pedro Rios, San Diego representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Mr. Rios will give a two-hour presentation in the AFSC office in downtown San Diego about monitoring abuses and human rights violations. He will also explain how the AFSC responds to community needs, the methodology caseworkers employ and current political and social issues that impact labor organizations. He will then take students on a three-hour field trip of the Border area on the U.S. side. A day later, students will take part of a maquiladora tour led by Enrique Dávalos from the San Diego Maquiladora Workers’ Solidarity Network.

Last November, sponsored by a grant from the American Embassy in Mexico, Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli visited Tijuana to lead a three-day film workshop at BORDOCS []. BORDOCS is an international documentary film festival, which features cutting edge films about life in the border. During the Learning Cluster students will have the opportunity of watching films featured in the festival and will be able to collaborate with a member of the BORDOCS team. Students will also have the opportunity to interview via Skype Annelise Wunderlich, Co-Producer of the award-wining Maquilapolis (2006), a documentary film that features testimonies from a number of female employees of factories in Tijuana.

Course objectives and organization

Students will spend a few classes researching theories of globalization and the history maquiladoras. As a class, we will determine how international economic agreements such as NAFTA, military programs as the one created to fight the “War on Drugs” can hamper the efforts of socially-conscious businesses to provide better living conditions to their workers. Students will write weekly responses on Angel (blog) based on the readings and class discussions. They will also work in groups investigating the model of sustainable business practices in preparation for the final project. The core group of students who have organized this Learning cluster have decided to organize the course in three stages:

1) Research stage (1st week): This course begins with the study of history behind the emergence of maquiladoras considering the results of globalization. Students will explore the labor and social issues that have emerged since the 1960s.

2) Investigation stage (2nd week): Students will visit San Diego and Tijuana in order to examine the current situation concerning labor and social issues in maquiladoras. Students will interview members of NGO, like the American Friends Service Committee and female workers in Tijuana. They will also participate in a workshop about documentation (interviewing for documentary films) with members of BorDocs, a documentary film collective in Tijuana.

3) Final project stage (3rd week): Students will discuss and address the situation and issues that have been brought up in the course and come up with a proposed resolution to improve working conditions in maquiladoras based on the sustainable business model. For more information about learning clusters see