There is time a during every fiesta when the sun grows larger in the sky, stomachs grumble, and everyone takes a break. No feast day would be complete without a bowl of green chile stew and a tortilla to chew on when the heat becomes too much. As the afternoon drones on, the community settles into their lawn chairs and lethargically squints out at the play that has resumed on the plaza.
A 500 year old bullfight.
Kicking up dust in the center of the courtyard a cowboy lassos a guy in a bull costume and then frolics with a cross-dresser. The crowd cheers and chuckles. It’s fun to watch the same neighbors that you run into at the grocery store clown around, but what does it all mean? Everything is open to interpretation.
According to the church bulletin, the Ensaye is a play that comes from the village of Santa Fe, near Granada, Spain and was written in 1503. It tells the story of how the Spanish converted the Muslims to Christianity after they tried to steal the Holy Cross. The conquistadors performed the dance in an effort to evangelize New Mexico’s Native Americans, but instead, the Pueblos infused the spectacle with their own culture and beliefs. Throughout the years the role of each character has flip-flopped between good and evil to reflect the preferences of the performers. Continue reading →
“Tony, Tony, look around. Something’s lost and can’t be found.”
The Lash of the Penitentes is a 1937 oddity that is both a documentary and a B-movie. The circumstances surrounding the production of the film are shrouded in mystery and only a few scenes have survived, but it illustrates a murder mystery that took place in the Sandia mountains where I grew up.
Holding up the faith.
The film depicts the penitente brotherhood as a secret, self-flagellating sect and, to this day, the order lives up to its reputation. The pilgrims who walk north to Chimayo every Good Friday still whip and crucify themselves along the way. Through self-imposed suffering, they atone for their sins.
Back in the old days, San Antonio was a remote village and the priest only came down from Santa Fe once a year to hold a service. It was up to Los Hermanos Penitentes to care for the church and uphold Christianity at the edge of the frontier. Continue reading →
The shortcomings of foreign assistance, the potential of new technologies, and what the First World could learn from the Third.
The Price of Assistance
Even with the stopover in Switzerland, the ride from Dulles Intl. to Jomo Kenyatta was a long one. Somewhere over the Sahara I began to reflect on the project I was embarking upon. As a health worker, I was sent by an international NGO to teach better hygiene practices to those living in Kibera, an informal settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya. Last summer fuel prices were on the rise. The $2,300 price of the plane ticket was shocking. When I was told that the population I would be assisting lived off of a dollar a day I calculated that the same money the NGO spent on my travel could have sustained a Kibera resident for six years. Yes, I possess a few specialized skills. Yes, my experiences and education have given me some understanding about the field of international development. But how much of an impact would I truly make on the people I was so eager to help? I started to evaluate my effectiveness.
Kibera certainly has its share of problems, ranging from weak governance to crippling poverty, but it’s not completely destitute. One prominent feature of the slum is its bustling marketplace. Even though the government does not recognize the settlement, residents are able to live and work in Kibera by exchanging goods and services amongst each other and out of these transactions unofficial institutions are created. How does the informal economy drive indigenous innovation to keep its participants afloat? How effective is it compared to foreign assistance? The answers to these questions could help to define the murky underbelly of globalization. In addition, emerging new technologies have the potential to flattened traditional hierarchies and provide new opportunities that accelerate economic development in impoverished regions around the world. Continue reading →