Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

"Saludos desde San Jose!" written by Jack Mace

By Annie Gibson

I am handing over my blog on the CIAPA Experience to the students participating in the program. This way you all can have a better idea of what life is like for a student at CIAPA. This blog entry is written by Currin Wallis. She is a freshman student who has begun her first semester of Tulane at CIAPA in Costa Rica 2012. Pura Vida, Professor Gibson

Jack’s Blog:

Saludos desde San Jose! Greetings!

Hello. I am writing this blog entry from my dorm room, room 205, which sits on the top floor of a large, hotel-like building on the joint Tulane – CIAPA campus in San Jose, Costa Rica. This building is where us Tulane students spend a lot of our time: studying for our various classes, eating, and sleeping, in that order of importance. The time as of now is 2:30 pm, on a Tuesday, October 7. Around me sits piles of essays and sketches strewn across my desk, and in front of me, pinned to a drawing board, is the schedule of my classes for the Fall 2012 Semester, which I double-check constantly out of forgetfulness. If I were to turn around and look out my open door, I would see the miniature rainforest that covers the CIAPA campus, and farther on, a towering golden “M”, for McDonald’s, back-dropped by the rolling, tropical-green hills and mountains that surround the city of San Jose. As I write this, the city is alive with a heavy rain, and thunder rumbles fiercely overhead, as it does almost every afternoon in this place. My name is Jack, and I’m one of the students studying at CIAPA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

As a student here at CIAPA, there is much and more to do, and almost everything we do is tied together with our studies. During the week my five other peers and I go about our daily business: going to class, taking the bus into San Jose, making our way to the local gym of which we have been granted membership, personal trainers, and thumb-print recognition access. Fellow gym members, most of them young, will often greet us with a “pura vida”, or “pure life”, a saying that Ticos (Costa Ricans) are fond of as both greetings and farewells.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, we visit two respective high schools in San Jose and work with English classes there. The last time we visited, we played the Spanish version of Scrabble with the class, and the next two hours saw countless conversations in Spanglish about life in general. The group that connects us with these schools is called the Youth Action Foundation, and it works with high schools all over Costa Rica to improve the quality of education for kids in primary and secondary school.
The rest of the week is spent studying and reading for our busy class schedule, which includes topics like Comparative Politics, Central American Government, and Latin American Art History. All of the classes are humanities, and I miss science, but they blend into such a cohesive study of Latin America – specifically Central America – that I often find myself forgetting which class I’m studying for. Weekends are usually a time to break free from the week’s routine and travel around the area, but occasionally we head out on organized, group weekend trips. So far these trips have led us to the cloud forests of Monteverde, white-water rafting in the mountains of Rara Avis, and, in the future, to the Caribbean beaches of the city of Limon. Again, I can’t express enough the beauty of this place.

Over the course of my stay here, I’ve made attempts to define the identity of this place called “Rich Coast”, and I have found it to be very difficult to pinpoint. Instead, flashes of inspiration will come to me in certain moments, much like the silent flashes of lightning that, late in the night, briefly illuminate the dark masses of mountains that surround CIAPA. I once watched out of a bus window as a series of young people marched on the street, banging unceremoniously and without rhythm on drums; this was Costa Rica. On one of our many weekend trips as a group, we visited the cloud forest of Monteverde, and were able to walk amidst and listen to the forest come alive with rain in the night; this was also Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s identity is hard to define, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Costa Rica is a proud country: proud of its natural splendor, proud of its history as one of the leading countries in Central America in political and economic stability, and proud of its happy people. At the same time, globalization and foreign influence have done their deeds, and Costa Rica’s identity is now attempting to cope with things like a beautiful, unique tropical bird perched on a giant, humming McDonald’s arch. Unfortunately that is only one of many examples of identity crisis. But this brings me to the National Theater.

When the United States was undergoing Industrialization, there began a large movement of appreciating and in turn depicting the vast, previously untouched nature of North America that was now being taken for granted. The United States has its Hudson River Painters, and Costa Rica has the National Theater in San Jose.

While it may be a bit of an overstatement to compare these two countries in terms of rejuvenating the appreciation for the national environment, it is certainly undeniable that both played, and are playing a part in the conservation of national identity when it comes to natural splendor. The National Theater is a huge building at the center of the Plaza of Culture in San Jose, which in turn is in the center of the city. The Plaza was originally built around the Theater, which was one of the first buildings to arise in the area, tall and majestic, dwarfing the one-story colonial homes it stood amidst at the turn of the 20th century. Now it stands as a cultural center for both locals and tourists. On the two occasions I’ve been to the theater (both of which played notable substitutions for our actual Tulane Interdisciplinary class), the shows seemed to emanate an irresistible love affair between Costa Rica and its people.
The first show was a performance by the Jazz pianist Chucho Valdez and his band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers. The performance was impossible to describe with words, but I can say that it gave me a newfound appreciation for Latin American music. When I got back to CIAPA I immediately downloaded all of Valdez’ music from “iTunes”. The performance was also unique in that involved the crowd pretty vehemently. Towards the end the band had everyone in the theater dancing, singing, and clapping. I can’t say for sure that this is a Costa Rican quality, but I can say that I would rarely see that in Seattle, Washington (where I’m from).

The second performance celebrated an anniversary of the Theater, and involved three separate acts of dance. Throughout the show we saw naked women and men running around attempting not to conform to society; a man and a woman falling in and out of love with fiery Latin flare; and a slow, ritualistic dance with big jungle cats, lots of water, and artificial steam and bird noises. All of these acts shared the same quality of attempting to celebrate Costa Rican culture, and by the end, it had succeeded at least with me. Of course, I acknowledge that these performances are filtered from real experiences with these aspects of Costa Rican culture, but when it was over I at least had the feeling that I knew Costa Rica a little better.

In conclusion, come to Costa Rica, but don’t go to college here – there are too many distractions. While you are here, please visit the National Theater.

Pura vida,

Jack Mace

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Annie Gibson

    Professor of Practice/Director of the Early Experience at CIAPA

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Upcoming Events

Social Equity Matters & Greener Houses Can Help: talk with Manuel Antonio Aguilar

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In this session, Manuel Antonio Aguilar, President of CASSA will discuss the background of social housing, the current technologies available, the variables needed for a holistic approach to green design for self-sufficient houses, CASSA’s experiences in developing intelligent social housing, the lessons learned through the process in Guatemala and the potential for this type of solutions worldwide.

CASSA is a Guatemalan company focused on self-sufficient social housing that provides their users with 3 vital services: Clean Water, Clean Energy and Sanitation. It is projected that by 2030 1.6 billion people will live in inadequate housing globally. However, there are solutions for this problem. In 2014 our generation finds itself in a "perfect storm" where different variables have collided, where technologies and knowledge are finally accessible everywhere, including developing countries. Efficient lighting, water filters, renewable energies, and waste management tools can easily be manufactured, transported and installed even in the most isolated communities, ushering in the era of intelligent social housing. Sustainable design can improve the quality of life through a dignified dwelling that provides its occupants with resources and services in a clean and renewable way.

Manuel Antonio Aguilar is a social entrepreneur from Guatemala focused on the Base of the Pyramid. He graduated from Harvard University in 2006 with Master's in Astrophysics and a Bachelor with Honors in Astrophysics and Physics. In 2010, he co-founded Quetsol, a solar energy Company focused on rural electrification, where he served as Director of Technology and Board Chairman. For his work, he has received awards and recognition in local and international press and has participated in high-level forums in several countries. Previously, he worked for three years in quantitative finance and co-founded a global macro hedge fund in the United States.

This event is co-sponsored by the Payson Center for International Development, CIPR, and Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at Tulane University.

Event flyer can be found here.

"Social Equity matters, & Greener Houses Can Help": A discussion with Manuel Antonio Aguilar

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Mexican Filmmaker discusses his film Penumbra

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans, in collaboration with the 25th Annual New Orleans Film Festival, present a conversation with Mexican film director Eduardo Villanueva. Villanueva is the director of Penumbra which will be screened at the film festival on October 19th at 3:45 PM and October 20th at 6 PM.

Penumbra Synopsis:

A rural Mexican couple-poor and decades past their prime-carry about their ritualistic, day-to-day lives, awaiting the inevitable, in this pensive film from Mexican director Eduardo Villanueva. The man, Adelelmo Jimenez, whose face tells stories that his words never do, goes on hunting trips into the woods, setting traps for wild animals and gathering medicinal plants. Meanwhile, his wife, Dolores, tends to their provincial home, washing dishes and preparing whatever meal she can make with what Adelelmo brings home, all the while mourning the death of her son, who was stabbed to death while trying to cross into the U.S.

Like the films of fellow Mexican auteur Carlos Regadas, Penumbra appreciates stillness and likes to linger-oftentimes at length-on beautiful imagery. Shot almost exclusively during the magic-hour, right before the sun settles into night (the title means “partially shadowed”), the film examines the quiet twilight of a one couple’s life and finds the beauty in that transitional period from life to death.

View a trailer here

2014 Tulane University Study Abroad Fair

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The Office of Study Abroad is hosting the annual Study Abroad Fair on Wednesday, October 22nd from 2:00-5:00PM in the LBC Qatar Ballroom. The Stone Center for Latin American Studies will be promoting its Summer in Latin America programs and its semester at CIAPA (Costa Rica) programs, and the Cuban & Caribbean Studies Institute will be promoting its Summer in Cuba program.

Over 100 opportunities in more than 20 countries will be on display from Tulane and non-Tulane institutions to study, intern, volunteer, and travel. Talk to past participants, professors, administrators, and program representatives.

Sponsored by:

The Office of Study Abroad
studyabroad.tulane.edu

Latino Film Series at the 2014 Annual New Orleans Film Festival

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The 25th Annual New Orleans Film Festival is proud to present its Latino Film Sidebar Series at the 2014 NOFF, presented by the New Orleans Film Society.

This year two feature length films and five short films by Latino filmmakers have been selected to premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival 2014.

For the complete festival schedule, film and event info plus online tickets, please visit the New Orleans Film Festival website.

The screening schedule for these films is as follows:

Of Kites and Borders
Follows four children living in Tijuana as they help their families to make ends meet, capturing what the U.S.-Mexico border looks like from the other side. The everyday routines and encounters collected here demonstrate how the border’s very existence — the possibility of crossing, the of America — shapes the lives of those who live alongside it, whether or not they ever leave Tijuana. Director: Yolanda Pividal. View a trailer here.
Saturday, October 18: 3:15pm at Canal Place Cinema
Thursday, October 23: 12:00pm at Canal Place Cinema

Triples (Trillizos) – documentary short screens just prior to each screening of Of Kites and Borders
Lorenzo, Leonel, and Luis are gifted 16-year-old triplets who live with their family in a two-room informal house in Tijuana, Mexico. Through discipline and resolve, they find alternatives to the limited opportunities available in conditions of structural poverty. Director: Itzel Martinez del Canizo

Penumbra
A rural Mexican couple — poor and decades past their prime — carry about their ritualistic, day- to-day lives, awaiting the inevitable, in this pensive film. Penumbra appreciates stillness and likes to linger — oftentimes at length — on beautiful imagery. Shot almost exclusively during the magic hour, right before the sun settles into night, the film examines the quiet twilight of one couple’s life and finds the beauty in that transitional period from life to death. Director: Eduardo Villanueva. View a trailer.
Sunday, October 19: 3:45pm at Canal Place Cinema
Monday, October 20: 6:00pm at Canal Place Cinema
Tuesday, October 21: 6:30pm at New Orleans Mexican Consulate (901 Convention Center Blvd. Suite #119 — 504.528.3722) — Special reception and talk with the Director of the film and the Mexican Consulate (Free and open to the public)

Mirza the Miraculous
This lo-fi, sci-fi tale of outer space, mystics and carnivals centers around a fraudulent shaman known as The Great Bazandini and his daughter, Mirza, who really does have special powers. Originally shot in 1999 along the Mexican border, this is a film 15 years in the making. Featuring Paul Soileau (Christeene) and an original score and sound effects by New Orleans’ own Quintron. Director: Brent Joseph
Sunday, October 19: 9:00pm at Prytania Theater (uptown)

Gloom (Perfidia)
A servant obsesses over the daughter of his recently deceased boss. Turns out the dead boss’ relationship with his daughter had an obsessive side as well. Director: David Figueroa Garcia
Saturday, October 18: 1:30pm at Canal Place Cinema
Tuesday, October 21: 2:00pm at Canal Place Cinema (FREE)

The Great Adventure (La Gran Aventura)
A thesis film from Cuban documentary film students, this short profiles the loneliness of a radio soap script writer. As her life is projected onto the character she is creating and sharing with a listener, she connects two different worlds which seek, through fiction, to make sense of the daily adventure of life. Director: Cassandra Oliveira
Sunday, October 19: 4:00pm at Canal Place Cinema
Thursday, October 23: 3:30pm at Canal Place Cinema (FREE)

Tonita’s
A portrait of the last Puerto Rican social club in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC. The 30-year- old Caribbean sports club has witnessed the transformation of South Williamsburg from a Hispanic neighborhood ravaged by gang violence and drugs into one of the hippest and most luxurious places in New York City. Director: Beyza Boyacioglu, Sebastian Diaz
Sunday, October 19: 4:00pm at Canal Place Cinema
Thursday, October 21: 3:30pm at Canal Place Cinema (FREE)

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Tickets for all screenings may be purchased online and/or at any of each film’s theater box office, as well as in person at the NOFF HQ Box Office inside the main lobby/atrium of the Contemporary Arts Center located at 900 Camp Street, New Orleans, LA, 70130.

Connecting Day of the Dead Traditions Across the Americas: Haiti

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Learn about Day of the Dead traditions in Haiti in this teacher workshop. The teacher workshop will be followed by an optional class on Traditional Haitian Folkloric Dance. Monique Moss, adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at Tulane University, will lead a teacher workshop about Day of the Dead traditions in Haiti. Day of the Dead traditions in Haiti have their roots in Haitian Vodoo and hence show both similarities and differences to Day of the Dead traditions in other areas of Latin America. The workshop will focus on the performance of Day of the Dead as well as connect the tradition through to New Orleans.

Teacher Workshop
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Traditional Haitian Folkloric Dance Master Class
1:00-2:15 PM
Taught by Menahem Laurent

For a more detailed schedule, please visit the workshop website.

Registration Fee is $10 and includes lunch, teaching materials, and admission to afternoon Haitian dance class.