Sunday, June 28, 2009

Defying “Beauty”, Colonial Structure, La Primera Maravilla, Los NO Uribistas, and Como Siempre More Amazing Comida.

By: Deivid Rojas

While the Taller de Paz group was preparing for the program last week, we got glimpse of some very interesting things:

1. Botero

On Thursday of last week, while pasiando around La Candelaria (Center City) we bumped into famous Colombia painter Fernando Botero’s museum. The museum, which used to be una casa colonial, has a a very large collection of Botero’s famous paintings. There are many different views on Botero’s purpose, such as using obesity to mock the rich and powerful. However, when I look at these paintings I see defiance. Defiance of the structures that are rooted in art and in society about the meaning of beauty. For example, in the following picture,

Botero gives this “gorda” a very sexual appeal, as implied by the fruit, the powerful colors, the whip (I like to believe its a whip), and the naked body of this woman.

2. Colonial Structure

Colombia, at least in Bogota, has kept some of the colonial organization left by the Spanish. This is best demonstrated by the continued importance of the “Plazas”. The following

These plazas were supposed to be the center of town, where government and administrative buildings are found, as well as well the towns church and schools.

Oh, and in the Plaza de Simon Bolivar (Bogota’s main plaza), you are bound to get attacked by pigeons.

3. La Primera Maravilla de Colombia

Last week on Father’s Day, the group, along with my family members, took a now tren turista, to go to Zipaquira. In Zipaquira, the famous salt mining town of Colombia, the group descended to the famous “Salt Cathedral” of Colombia. Voted, Colombia’s First Wonder, the cathedral is simply breathtaking, even for the non-religious. And yes, it is all made out of salt. Just lick the floor and walls!

4. Los NO Uribistas:

And now, for some political analysis. After almost seven years since President Uribe came to power, many readings on Colombia, and a Latin American Politics class, and I still have not decided if I am Uribista, leaning towards no. President Uribe is praised for his firm hand against the guerrilla movement, the drug war, and for making Colombia safer. Nevertheless, many things get missed from this analysis. During Uribe’s administration, the displacement crisis in Colombia has significantly increased (making Colombia the country with the most critical internal displacement crisis in the world), drug trafficking and production has also increased. Thus, yes its true that the guerrilla crisis is under more control, but at the cost of many innocent lives. That is the lives of farmworkers and villagers.

So, while talking with one of my Taller de Paz colleagues, Sandra, who is from Colombia. She made me realize the in fact Uribe has made Colombia safe. But, not safe for all. Safe for those who have money and live in the cities.

5. To leave on a good note. Here is more amazing Colombian food, yes, espero que se pongan celosos.

Crispy arepas.

Patacon, con carne y aguacate.

Crepes and Waffles: Cheese and Mushroom Creppe


Two Golden Buñuelos

And some miscellianous pictures:

Me drinking Colombian coffee!

Skyline of the north of Bogota
Dre and Cami cooking

Stay put, Up Next: The first week, Candelario Obeso, Colombian music.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First week of Taller de Arte

by Camila

Saludos a todos! We are so happy to hear people are enjoying our Taller de Paz blog! We are enjoying a leisurely Saturday after a busy and exciting first week of Taller de Paz. I wanted to share with everyone what we've been up to in the Art and Muraling Workshop. The two main projects we worked on this week were "Auto-retratos" (self-portraits) and the creation of masks inspired by the Carnaval de Barranquilla. The Carnaval de Barranquilla is celebrated every year in February the Saturday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The most famous masks from the Carnaval de Barranquilla are the "Marimondas" which are anthropomorphic elephant representations which reflect the diversity of Colombia's Caribbean region. These "elephant" masks began as a mockery of the upper classes. The Marimondas and the Carnaval de Barranquilla's other masks and dances reflect the combination of African, Indigenous and European cultures that exist in Colombia. Here are some photos from the Carnaval and the Marimonda masks:


Since we are working with such varied age groups, the focus of the self-portraits changed depending on what made sense for each age bracket. With the older kids the self-portraits included their Head (what they think about and worry about on a daily basis), their Heart (the people and places that are most important to them) and their Stomach (what they like to do and eat). To do this they had newspapers and magazines to cut out and colored pencils and markers with which to color. With they younger kids (ages 6-9) we let them do their self-portraits including cut-outs of anything they liked. One of our younger students decided to represent himself as a dinousaur. I will share photos of the self-portraits in my next post.

Carnaval de Barranquilla Masks

My Art Workshop partner Angélica, and I, began this activity by asking the students if they new of any events in Colombia where there were masks. To my surprise even to youngest kids knew about the Marimondas and the Carnval de Barranquilla. I have loved this activity because the Taller de Paz participants were really excited to make their Marimonda and Tigre masks for the Carnaval de Barranquilla - a hugely important Colombian cultural event that they've all heard about but never been to. I also learned a lot from the students through this activity, since they know much more than I do about the Carnaval. With the younger students we made the masks out of cardboard and paint, glitter, blue and yarn. We are still working with some of the older kids on newspaper papier-mache masks of Marimondas. Below are some photos of the masks (more to come!):

Next week we will begin "maquetas de barrios" or models of the student's neighborhoods where they have to represent in 3-D from their communities and include issues that are present which they would like to change or address (some initial ideas were the presence of drugs, lack of activities for young people and poor trash management services which contaminate and attract rats). We started brainstorming ideas at the end of this week and people seemed very excited about this project. We told them to think about their maqueta as if they were presenting it to local community leaders and elected officials, giving them a young person's perspective on what must be done to improve their neighborhoods in Suba of La Gaitana, El Rincón and Lisboa. Additionally we will begin brainstorming for the mural that everyone in Taller de Arte will create. We are hoping to bring in some muralists and graffiti artists from Bogotá as guest artists and presenters. I'm excited for the coming weeks!

Lastly, I'd like to share with you the usual scene at home with my Taller de Paz family: everyone working, lesson planning and blog posting in front of their compu's:

besos y abrazos a todos desde Bogotá!

Friday, June 26, 2009

El Comienzo


It has taken a while for me to make my debut on this blog. I must apologize for that, it’s been a busy two weeks since I got here. For now, I would like to give everyone a recap on the events of last week and the beginning of this week.

Last Thursday and Friday (6/18-19) were the days that families had been notified to come to register their children for the Taller. On Thursday only five families showed up so by Friday we were slightly worried. Alex and I decided to go and observe – our Colombian peers were the ones actually conducting the interviews – by the time we got to the Alcaldía around 10AM only about ten other families had shown up. This was slightly worrisome. In the end, Alex and I ended up going across the Plaza de Suba (where the Alcaldía is located) to the UAO (Unidad de Atención Integral a Población Desplazada) de Suba with a community worker that we had met about five minutes before. The UAO is basically the agency that displaced persons must go to register and obtain official status as displaced persons which allows them three months of emergency medical care and access to other programs specifically for the displaced (this sounds like a decent system however in practice there are many issues with the administration of these emergency benefits). People also go to the UAO to make denunciations – to identify the reasons for which they were displaced, although few actually do this for fear of retribution from those that they are denouncing (usually either guerilla or paramilitary groups).

So this guy we met, Lionel Morillo, brought us to the UAO, gathered everyone (mostly single mothers who were there waiting to be attended) there into a conference room and had us present the project to them. Neither Alex nor I were prepared for the rush of stories and questions that followed. Almost everyone we talked to at the UAO had been directly affected by the armed conflict, either by guerrilla or paramilitary groups. Many had lost children, family members, or had been personally persecuted. Everyone was extremely eager to take advantage of the opportunity that we were offering and we ended up bringing about ten mothers back to the Alcaldía with us. This added about 15 children to our count and by the end of the day we had about 35 kids—what we needed. With our goal accomplished we had many more logistical issues to solve so meetings occupied the rest of the day. However my mind was not really ever able to escape the events of the morning, our first experience with the displaced community had taken a heavy emotional toll on Alex and I.

As this week was the beginning of the project, on Monday we had a “bienvenida” for the families of the kids that had been signed up through intake interviews in the Alcaldía the previous week. During the weekend leading up to Monday, we were afraid that not many families would actually come; our fears proved unfounded as we ended up having to create a waiting list for the families that we could not fit in. Almost everyone had fulfilled their commitment to coming to the Bienvenida even with the transportation costs that many families could ill afford, or the long walks for those that could not afford transportation.

We held the Bienvenida in La casa de la participación which is also located in the Plaza de Suba across the street from the UAO. The event was set to begin at 10 and by that time, there was already a long line outside the door. Registration was completed without any many major hitches and our presentation for the parents began at 11. Daniel Huerga, one of the founding members of Consciencia Social and a student of La Javeriana, began the presentation by introducing the project after which a member of each Taller gave a short presentation about what they would be doing with the kids (for more on the presentation, watch the video in the sidebar). After the presentations, we held small group question and answer sessions to make sure that any fears or misunderstandings the parents might have would be assuaged. While all this was going on, the kids were taken to another room to do introduction activities.

What was great about this first day was that after months of planning and working on this project, we finally got to see the tangible results: everyone that showed up seemed very enthusiastic about the project and it was great to meet the kids we would be working with as well as all their families. It also provided an opportunity to learn more about the general histories of all the families as well as the conditions that they now live in. I left the Casa de la participación that day with a mix of feelings: happiness because of the success of the first day and all the energy that the families brought to our project, some melancholy, but mostly a sense of responsibility; our real work was about to begin.

Ingles y Literatura Day 4


After learning quite a lot of vocab in the first three days, today was a day of review. We started off as always with our Warm-ups; this time imitating transportation modes, expressions, and animals. For the second activity we played pictionary using the same vocab. Things got pretty heated between the two teams, but in the end we remembered that it was just a game.

Andrés waits expectantly as the teams work 
out the word Octopus (el pulpo)

Yeihfer draws out Eye Lashes (las pestañas) for his team to guess

Charlie (Carlos) trying to think of a word that 
has escaped him

Luis Felipe celebrating his team's correct guessing of a word

Fabian, unable to accept defeat

The beginning of the long trek up from the Colegio to 
the Parque de las Nevadas.
Ingrid, posing on a ledge above all of Suba

Eva, with a forlorn look, gazes over the city

The police who escorted us on our field trip
took the group picture.

At the park, we played soccer ... 
raced ... 
and took pictures of ourselves. 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ingles y Literatura Day 3


Today was an exciting day in the Taller de Ingles y Literatura for two reasons:

1) The students were able to really loosen up while they learned the vocabulary of quite a long list of animals. We ran, pounced, jumped, slithered, swam, and crawled around the room as monkeys, snakes, bulls, whales, penguins, wolves, and even rhinoceros. For the most part the rooms are sound proof, so the other classes were spared the multitude of noises made to howl at the moon, sing like a whale, growl like a dog, and OooOOooo like a monkey. 

2) We did are first activity with acting and many of the students loved it. The scene was at a police station with an investigator and a thief. The thief had to explain to the police officer why they had a certain animal in their bag. Though a bit ridiculous considering that the bag is about a 1'6'' x 1' and the thief had stolen a monkey, then an elephant, then a cat, the students had some creative and real answers. They were extremely adept at thinking on their feet.

I interviewed Andrés to see what his thoughts were on the
crime and to make sure that he wasn't an accomplice.

Those in the audience watched excitedly, often times
participating in what was happening in the scene. 

Juan Carlos had to explain how he fit a full-grown 
elephant in the small bag. Although the assumption was 
magic, the truth was much graver as he admitted to chopping
it apart in order to fit it. 

Juan Pablo was the first to go for the day. He was the perfect
monkey thief but with good intentions. He asserted that he 
had to steal the monkey in order to feed his children. 

Eventually, the students began to play every part including
a recorder of the investigation to be later used in court. 

Paula showed now mercy during her investigation. 
She gave up to 50 years in jail for the robbery. 

William played cool when he was on the hot seat. 
Nothing that I asked him seemed to phase him despite
the steep charges against him, including stealing a shark
in order to murder.
The younger students mapped out a zoo with the animals 
that they had learned earlier. I can't say that I am a huge fan
of zoos because the animals always look so depressed, but this
was an excellent activity to reinforce the vocab.