Things That Matter

From Protests To Soccer Matches, The 2010s Have Been Full Of Historic Moments Across Latin America

The 2010s was by all accounts a convoluted decade the world over. As the decade started, it all seemed to be sort of fine and dandy after the world had managed to slowly pull itself together after the Global Financial Crisis that welcomed Barack Obama to the presidency. However, as the decade comes to a close things have gone de mal en peor for the world in general, but for the Latino population in the United States and Latin America as a region in particular.

Latinos in the US are facing unprecedented discrimination as immigration policies are tightened and white supremacists are emboldened by political discourse.

Latin American nations are facing challenges such as the overbearing influence of the drug cartels, conservative governments that cater for the interests of the most powerful and increased class warfare (countries like Mexico, Colombia and Chile, for example, are experiencing radical social polarization due to conflicting political views). 

Let’s start with a positive note. “Despacito” makes Latino music mainstream throughout the world in 2017.

This might seem like a banal example, but that is not a fair assessment. Luis Fonsi did what even big acts such as Ricky Martin and Shakira failed to do: he took Spanish-language music to markets that were previously hard to break into, such as the highly profitable Asian music scene. Des-pa-ci-to is the tune of the decade, regardless of language. 

Female presidents became the thing in South America.

Credit: Dario Oliveira / Anadolu Agency

In the mid 2010s female presidents in Latin America formed an alliance and stateswomen like Dilma Roussef in Brazil, Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina promised to lead the continent towards a brighter future. Even though their political fates ended up being grim, they collectively challenged the patriarchal structures in the highest echelons of political power in the continent. 

United States-Cuba relations became even more of a roller coaster.

Since Fidel Castro’s revolution in the 1960s, relationships between the US and Cuba have been rocky, to say the least. However, president Barack Obama opened up the Cuban market for American business (folk could finally get Cohiba cigars legally yo!). But as has happened with most of Obama’s foreign policy efforts, this increased closeness with the island has been reversed by the Donald J. Trump administration.

DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Even though the Trump administration has practically waged a war against this legislative initiative that grants a deferred action to people who were taken to the US as minors, this remains a high point for Latino culture. The act was approved by then president Barack Obama in 2012 and is now at risk of being cancelled. 

Brazilians said enough is enough: they love soccer, but they protested the 2014 World Cup.

The South American country is synonymous with soccer: they love the beautiful game and live for it. However, they grew tired of overspending when the country was living an economic crisis and government services were mediocre, to say the least. Brazilians took to the streets to denounce government corruption and the pan y circo approach to public administration. By the way: the national team did terribly and they suffered a humiliating defeat to Germany in the semifinals.  

Haiti is also part of Latin America and its capital city basically crumbled in the fatal 2010 earthquake.

We often forget that the French-speaking country of Haiti, one of the poorest in the world and the only nation founded by emancipated slaves, is also part of Latin America. In 2010 the island nation which borders with the Dominican Republic suffered a devastating earthquake that forced the displacement of 5 million people, caused cholera outbreaks. Approximately 250,000 people died and 300,000 were injured. This was basically the end of the world for many. For the rest of the decade Haitians migrated to countries such as Mexico, which launched a special program to host some of the displaced. 

Roma became the film event of the decade in the Spanish-speaking world.

Credit: Roma / Netflix

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron partnered with Netflix to launch the 2018 film Roma, which is perhaps the best representation of Latin American identity in terms of gender, political and racial relationships ever captured on film.

The story of a domestic worker and the tribulations of the middle-class family for which she works broke into the mainstream and won Oscars, such as Best Director and Best Cinematography, generally reserved for English-language films released by one of the big studios. The film also triggered discussions around race and privilege in Mexico due to the criticisms received by the lead actress, indigenous woman Yalitza Aparicio. 

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Things That Matter

Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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