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. 

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

Culture

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

hyperallergic / Instagram

Something pretty exciting is happening in Mexico. Yes, the Popocatépetl is erupting again. All of that volcanic activity is ejecting new life into the old world of Aztec and Mayan civilization. As you may recall, archeologists recently discovered a thousand-year-old Mayan palace located 63 miles west Cancún in Yucatán, Mexico. Before that, the  National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) also found hundreds of archaeological artifacts nearby the Yucatán that, as experts put it, contain “invaluable information related to the formation and fall of the ancient City of Water Sorcerers, and who were the founders of this iconic site.” This year a new study confirmed that a gold bar found in 1981 in a Mexico City park was part of the Aztec treasure that was stolen by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago. It feels like our ancestors are trying to tell us something. 

After decades of research, experts concluded in 2016 that a book they found years ago, in fact, is a 900-year-old authentic astronomy guide from the Mayan period. The book is called the Grolier Codex, and archaeologists say this is the oldest book found in the Americas.

Credit: hyperallergic / Instagram

One of the reasons the authenticity was always questioned is due to the backstory of how the book was found in the first place. According to ArsTechnica, the Grolier Codex was found by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz in 1966. Sáenz said that “a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found “in a dry cave” near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas.” 

What made this book even more fascinating, yet troubling, was that Sáenz said the men told him if he took the book, he wouldn’t be able to show it to anyone. Others then told Sáenz that the book was a fake, but did allow archaeologist Michael Coe to show the book in New York. He later would give the book to the Mexican government.

The 10-page book is said to be an insightful guide into astronomy and how the Mayans kept track of the sun and the planets. It was their early forms of calendar-keeping.

Credit: kushkatan / Instagram

ArsTechnica said the book was written during trying times — the late Mayan period. Brown University social scientist Stephen Houston described how each picture in the book offered critical information that Mayans needed for day-to-day duties. 

The images are of “workaday gods, deities who must be invoked for the simplest of life’s needs: sun, death, K’awiil—a lordly patron and personified lightning—even as they carry out the demands of the ‘star’ we call Venus. [The Dresden and Madrid Codices] both elucidate a wide range of Maya gods, but in Grolier, all is stripped down to fundamentals,” Houston said. 

What’s also fascinating about the timing of the book’s confirmation is that Michael Coe, the Yale anthropologist, who decoded the text, died last year at the age of 90.

Credit: kushkatan / Instagram

The New York Times wrote in his obit that Coe was instrumental at deciphering Mayan code and giving the Mayans credit for their work when many wrote off the images as just that. 

In “Breaking the Maya Code” (1992), he theorized that anthropologists had never given the Maya adequate credit for their linguistic advances because of what he called ‘quasi-racism,’ or an ‘unwillingness to grant the brown-skinned Maya a culture as complex as that of Europe, China or the Near East.'”

As we previously noted, a more recent discovery was made just this week. A gold bar that was found in a park in Mexico City in 1981 was finally determined to be an authentic Aztec treasure.

Credit: National Institute of Anthropology and History

It’s quite fascinating to see that just because artifacts are found, doesn’t necessarily mean they can be authenticated by archeologists with a snap of a finger. Their research takes years, sometimes decades. 

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said they used special equipment to research the gold bar including an X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) which is “a proven multi-elemental technique of high sensitivity, non-destructive, non-invasive and extremely fast.” 

With so many recent discoveries, we can only imagine what other types of treasures are still buried underneath the ancient lands of Mexico.

READ: Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano Erupted And Now People Think The World Is Coming To An End

For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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This year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. To honor the many fearless and historical women who made strides for the rights of women and minorities, People magazine is looking back on them through a new series called #SeeHer Story. The new digital video series airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles and is headed up by Katie Couric Media. 

This week, the new series has put a spotlight on the life and times of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the new video, the series highlights her work and contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and lifelong activist as a leader in her own right.

In the new series, King is hailed as a fearless leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

King, who had been born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama, has long been celebrated for her work as an author, activist and civil rights leader in the movement to advocate for African-American equality. Later in her life, years after her husband’s assassination, she broadened her fight for quality to include the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and the opposition of apartheid. 

Throughout her life, King faced racism but her eyes were opened to it at a young age as girl growing up in the south in the town of Marion, Alabama. As People reports, King was subjected to the physical threat of racism when her family home was destroyed by arsonists.

Education became a defining aspect of Coretta’s life. 

Having been born into a family whose paternal great-matriarch had been a former slave, education proved to be an essential requirement in her family home in her early ears. During a speech at Antioch College, Coretta once quoted her mother as having said, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.” She went onto study political activism at Antioch University and later music at  New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was during her time as a student that Coretta met Martin Luther King, Jr., then a theology student. There, the two students bonded over their interest in Ghandi and his practice of nonviolent protests and the two later married in 1953. 

Soon after they wed, they moved to Montgomery and found themselves thrust into the Civil Rights Movement. 

By 1955, King and her husband had taken on leadership positions in the protests that came about after Rosa Parks protest. 

After giving up her dreams to become a classical singer so that she could support her husband, Coretta watched her husband become a full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954.

“We found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself,” Coretta said in the video created by People. During their fight for equality, King and her husband faced extreme acts of racism and violence. In 1955, just months after the birth of their child, Yolanda, the Kings were targeted when a gunshot went through the front door of their home. In 1956, the family’s  front porch was destroyed by a homemade bomb. At the time  Coretta had been home with her  daughter and a family friend. Two years later, in 1958 King’s husband, Martin, had been stabbed while he’d been signing copies of his book.

Still, the couple would not be deterred. The two stood side by side as her husband continued to lead peaceful protests and give  speeches. King herself led a series of her own demonstrations by conducting concerts.

Then, in 1968, Coretta’s husband was shot and killed. 

After her husband’s death,  King had been left a widow and the single mother of four children. In the years after her husband’s death, King gave speeches advocating for civil rights speaking about her husband’s ideals. Eventually King took up her husband’s torch and broadened her fight to include women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, economic issues, world peace and apartheid.

“The world is in dire need of a spiritual awakening which will make those eternal values of love, justice, mercy and peace meaningful in our time,” Coretta said of her work in the clip by People.

Later in her life, King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and continued to extend her activism and worked to fight for nuclear disarmament. 

During her life and after it, Coretta has been celebrated for her work in keeping her husband’s legacy alive. She fought for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which thanks to King is observed today in all fifty states.