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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Noon-Time Talk on Behind Closed Doors, Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898 with Lucia Abramovic

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Join Lucia Abramovich, NOMA's curatorial fellow for Spanish colonial art for a Noontime Talk on the exhibition Behind Closed Doors, Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898.

Noontime Talks are brief, informative discussions on exhibitions and installations in NOMA's galleries. Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents. Please visit the NOMA website for more information.

MARI Brown Bag: Marcello Canuto, "The Tombs of La Corona: La Noblesse Oblige"

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Marcello Canuto, Director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University, will present about his recent investigations at La Corona. The talk will focus on tombs discovered during the 2014 field season and the information these tombs provides about the broader socio-political relationships at La Corona.

M.A.R.I.'s Brown Bag talk series is meant to provide a venue for students and faculty focusing on topics related to Mesoamerica to discuss their latest research in an informal and friendly setting. If you are interested in presenting, please email Marcello Canuto (mcanuto@tulane.edu) for more information. For the current speaker list of this talk series, please click here.

Please remember to bring your lunch!

Mining, Privilege, and Artistic Production in the Colonial Andes: Short Film and Roundtable Discussion

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This program includes a screening of Harun Farocki's film The Silver and the Cross (20 min), which examines a 1758 painting by Gaspar Miguel de Berrío that depicts the city and the surrounding silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia. A roundtable discussion featuring three local scholars of Colonial Latin America will follow the film. The discussion will employ the film's description of colonial Potosí as an anchor for a broader discussion about colonial Andean economics, history, and art, particularly as it relates to Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898.

The goal of this event is to better understand the mechanisms that created the level of wealth exhibited in Behind Closed Doors, and to shed light on an often overlooked city that was essential to the economic success of Spanish America for hundreds of years.

The roundtable discussants are Dr. Kris Lane, the France V. Scholes Professor of Colonial Latin American History, Department of History, Tulane University; Dr. John Charles, Associate Professor of Colonial Spanish American Literature and Director of Graduate Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Department, Tulane University; and Dr. Ari Zighelboim, Lecturer, Spanish and Portuguese Department, Tulane University. Lucia Abramovich, NOMA's Curatorial Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art, will moderate the discussion.

About Dr. Kris Lane
Kris Lane holds the France V. Scholes Chair in Colonial Latin American History at Tulane University. His books include Quito 1599: City & Colony in Transition, Colour of Paradise: The Emerald in the Age of Gunpowder Empires, and Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750. He is currently writing a history of the great Potosí mint scandal of 1649, along with an annotated translation of early writings on Potosí.

About Dr. John Charles
John Charles is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University. He is the author of numerous articles on colonial Andean literature and history, and the book Allies at Odds: The Andean Church and Its Indigenous Agents, 1583-1671 (University of New Mexico Press, 2010).

About Dr. Ari Zighelboim
Ari Zighelboim (Lima, 1960) studied in Peru, Israel and the United States, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in history and East Asian studies, an MA in cultural anthropology and a PhD in Spanish and Latin American literature. His masters paper dealt with scenes of human sacrifice on mountains in Moche iconography, and his PhD thesis with the surviving Inca nobility during the colonial period in Peru and its cultural and social strategies. He has written about Ruben Dario, Juan de Espinosa Medrano, the drama in Quechua Ollantay, Potosí and other topics. He has also published a volume of poetry. He is now senior lecturer in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane university.

Reimagining Race, Class, and Identity in the New World

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Assistant Professor Mia Bagneris will lecture on "Reimagining Race, Class, and Identity in the New World," on Friday, September 12 at 6pm at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The lecture will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898.

Professor Bagneris teaches African American/Diaspora art history and studies of race in Western Art. Her own work concentrates on the construction of race in British and American art and visual culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Performance by Afro-Cuban band Sintesis

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The Cuban and Caribbean Institute presents: Sintesis

Afro-Cuban group Sintesis, founded in 1974 by Carlos Alfonso Valdes, is one of Cuba's musical emblems. The contemporary band has elements of ethno-fusion rhythms mixed with a core of jazz and rock and roll. In the 1980's, Sintesis grew in popularity, and by mid-late decade, the band was a staple of world music festivals. In 1989, they released their first album "Ancestros," and since then have released many more. Their album "Habana a Flor de Piel" was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Tropical Album in 2002.

All are welcome to attend.

Guantánamo Post-9/11: Human Rights & Constitutional Law in Modern America

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Guantánamo Post-9/11: Human Rights & Constitutional Law in Modern America

Guest speakers:
Jess Bravin: Wall Street Journal, author of Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay
Denny Leboeuf: ACLU, Tulane JD
Chaplain James Yee: Former U.S. Army Chaplain, author of For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project is a traveling exhibit that examines the history of the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from multiple perspectives and raises questions about U.S.-Cuban relations, civil liberties, national security, and public memory in the past, present, and future. The guest speakers will be giving a talk on the titled event. All are welcome to attend.

For more information about the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, visit http://gitmomemory.org.