BOOK REVIEW By Sarah Molinari
The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria calls into question the temporality of disaster, both in terms of lived experience and analysis. It was difficult for Puerto Ricans to mark the first anniversary while so many still live Maria’s daily effects physically, emotionally, and financially. Failing institutions and disaster recovery initiatives have too often deepened vulnerability in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, thus augmenting the confused sense of pre- and post-disaster. During a September Rutgers University symposium on the “Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico a Year after Maria,” anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla suggested that perhaps Hurricane Maria was the “aftershock” itself, the culmination of over a century of colonial-capitalist exploitation and layered traumas. If Hurricane Maria was the aftershock, how can we think about disaster and disaster capitalism? Naomi Klein’s The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (2018) is a helpful starting point.Read More
By FERNANDO TORMOS
Puerto Rico’s left-wing forces have long tried to unify, a goal that has proven difficult to reach and even harder to sustain. At its strongest, the Left has faced intense repression from both the United States and the island’s colonial government. Yet, activists and left-wing intellectuals agree that deeper differences account for the collective inability to build unity. Historically, left-wing forces in Puerto Rico have split over the national question. Pro-independence groups, arguably the largest sector, have prioritized decolonization while socialists, feminists, and environmentalists have proposed a broader anti-oppressive praxis centered on social and economic issues. Other groups, such as the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, do not see these struggles as mutually exclusive, calling for the formation of a socialist republic in Puerto Rico.
Today a new wave of Leftist organizing is emerging, one free from traditional Marxist or nationalist dogmas. This new Puerto Rican Left is organizing for economic justice and against colonialism while putting a greater emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. It aims to foster young leadership, articulate new solidarities, and revive the practice of community organizing. It is learning from the errors of the past while picking up the sediments of previous struggles. Yet, if the Left wants to remain relevant, it must collaborate with the youth, student, community, feminist, farmer, and environmental justice groups that are bringing new energy to the island. This essay contextualizes the Puerto Rican Left in relation to the island’s political economy, identifies the forces in the Puerto Rican Left, reviews their differences and recent history, and presents a brief analysis of their political influence in Puerto Rican and US politics.Read More
For the first time, Alternautas is proud to present an updated version of the special issue on “Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?”, which includes a Spanish translation of all the articles included to facilitate the distribution, collaboration and knowledge-sharing in Latin America beyond language barriers. We thank the authors and collaborators in assisting with the translation process.
Por primera vez, Alternautas se enorgullece en presentar una versión actualizada del Special Issue sobre “Agronegocios, (Neo)Extractivismo y Soberania Alimentaria: América Latina en la Encrucijada?”, que incluye una traducción en español de todos los artículos publicados originalmente, esperando que permíta la colaboración, distribución y el intercambio de conocimientos en América Latina, atravesando barreras de lenguaje. Agradecemos muy especialmente a los autores y colaboradores por la asistencia en el proceso de traducción.Read More
By Lily Bui
Disasters unravel--infrastructures, institutions, societies, and assumptions. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season brought forth multiple storms that not only stripped trees bare and dismounted roofs, but it also caught the Caribbean and Gulf Coast unprepared for the magnitude of destruction that such storms could bring, despite the best efforts of the messengers. Nearly half a year after the last hurricane season and half a year away from the onset of the next one, stories about the damage that Hurricane Irma and Maria caused have become hauntingly familiar. The stories less often told, though, are those about the long-term recovery efforts that have inevitably followed since the seas have calmed and the winds have died down.Read More
BY ROBERT COATES
In this post I review disaster risk/reduction in Cuba, particularly in light of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. The year after Irma is, for a number of reasons, an appropriate time to revisit the practices, meanings, and politics of disaster risk in this most interesting of cases. While Puerto Rico is negotiating temporary housing, an insufficient budget for critical services, and a disruptive political dispute over the post-disaster privatisation of education, the signs from Cuba are of significant recovery and business-as-usual as it enters the next hurricane season. Further intrigue is added by the fact that Raúl Castro stepped down as Cuban leader in April 2018, ending 59 years of Castro rule. The recent thaw in relations with the US under the Obama administration—and only partially refrozen by Trump—leads us to think through what the future might hold for disaster risk in a state widely considered to be in a process of opening to global influences and markets. I should add that I have as my primary target here an understanding of disaster risk rather than political ideology. Yet, as I will show, viewing the two separately proves impossible, given the clear links between societal form and top-down planning. Viewing them in tandem helps us to consider the mutually reinforcing connections between ideology, political-institutional legitimacy, and the triumph of societal organisation over not-so-natural disasters. As Cuba moves into the post-Castro era, its approach to hurricane exposure remains emphatically exceptional to what’s become a sad Caribbean norm of destitution, debt, blame shifting, and global political ineptness. Clues in dealing with the presence of natural hazards going forward must surely be found in independent analysis, as far as is possible free from twentieth century ideological conjecture.Read More
By César J. Pérez-Lizasuain
Undoubtedly, the colonial and neoliberal regime in Puerto Rico precedes the scourge of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. Therefore, when evaluating the “responses” that followed this atmospheric disaster, it is important to consider that the political, legal and economic base for such “answers” have been articulated from a long-standing colonial-neoliberal complex in the island. In this article, the author identifies this complex with what he calls the degenerative evolution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, established in 1952.Read More
By Oscar Webber
Hurricanes are the hazard most synonymous with the Caribbean and have, consequently, received the most attention from historians. Yet, they have tended to be considered exogenous phenomena. There has been little attention paid to the role endogenous factors have played in exacerbating the potential for loss from hurricane impacts. Through a comparison of the impacts of the Barbadian hurricane of 1831 and the Dominican hurricane of 1834 this article seeks to advance the existing literature by examining the role the plantation played in exacerbating hurricane vulnerability. In revealing the significantly contrasting amount of damage these islands sustained, this article shows that, at least in this case, the more expansive plantation agriculture of Barbados exposed its habitants to far greater human, economic and environmental losses.Read More
By Javier A. Arce-Nazario
When Hurricane María stripped Puerto Rico of its characteristic verdant foliage, it revealed complex layers of hidden geographies. The media coverage in the United States presented the destruction through visual and textual references to developing and “third-world” landscapes, while the accompanying headlines reminded us that its residents are “Americans”. This provocative juxtaposition was supported by several photographic themes, such as residents surveying debris or floods engulfing vehicles and neighborhoods. This article explores narratives of post-María experiences from non-PRASA communities. It is based on mixed-method interviews with non-PRASA community residents about conditions after the hurricane, in phone interviews conducted between September 2017 and January 2018, and in in-person interviews carried out in December 2017. Patterns are evident in these narratives that highlight the different experiences of consumers depending on their water source and access technology, and also highlight the contrasts that these residents drew with neighboring, PRASA-served communities. The experiences related below reveal how non-PRASA communities contribute to the overall Puerto Rican waterscape. They also illuminate issues around the discourses of sustainability and agency, development, society and technology, and colonialism.Read More
By Gibrán Cruz-Martínez, Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia, Janialy Ortiz Camacho & Patria Román-Velazquez
Hurricanes are not a novelty in the Caribbean. However, 2017 left several shocking facts for history books regarding intensity and frequency. Two Category 4 and two Category 5 hurricanes – the strongest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale – hit the Caribbean in a month's-time. Despite the label ‘natural disaster’, colonialism and human-induced factors are behind the high levels of inequality, climate change and incomplete recoveries in the Caribbean region, which increase the region's vulnerability to disaster. This special issue addresses the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in the impacted neighbouring islands of Barbuda and Cuba. We expect this to be the beginning of a number of critical social research examining the Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin the Dominican Republic, and the rest of Caribbean countries who encounters natural and not-so-natural disasters.Read More
The contributions presented in this fifth issue offer valuable debates and analyses that resonate with the contemporary transformations and challenges faced by Latin America and the world. The different papers offer both theoretical and empirical discussions on a variety of issues including Buen Vivir, climate change vulnerability, food sovereignty and gender, popular participation, urban inequality, the indigenous movement and the modernisation of peasantry.Read More
By Valesca Lima
This article sets out to examine the inclusion of social movements in the designing of public policy in Brazil. I situate the Brazilian political and social context in terms of its persistent social inequalities and the inclusion of social movements in policy-making during the course of 2003–2010 (Lula da Silva’s first and second terms as president) and 2011–2014 (Dilma Rousseff’s first term as president). I discuss and explore mechanisms of participatory democracy, and more specifically, I look at the process of integration of civil society in spaces of decision-making related to housing issues. This paper found that, despite some concrete results of implementing greater popular participation, the inclusion of social movements still faces challenges to be effectively included in spaces of decision-making, especially under the current conservative administration.Read More
By JOSE LUIS ROCHA
In the past months Nicaragua has witnessed a wave of protests from different sectors of society, which have been met with violent repression by the Ortega/Murillo government. During this time, access to cities has been blocked, protesters have been arrested and disappeared, and some accounts report more than 300 deaths in 75 days of demonstrations. The role of the state in these events is linked to the deployment of the riot-squad police and of pro-government youth groups who have been accused of acting as paramilitary agents. Sparked by student protests, the movement has been joined by labour unions, business groups, academics and intellectuals in an uproar that goes beyond opposition to the state’s negligence and oppressive policies. The demonstrations are also fueled by the discomfort caused by the malfunctioning of the democratic systems and by alliances of the government with segments of society that a large part of the population interprets as a betrayal of the Sandinista ideals.
In this post, Alternautas reproduces an article by professor José Luis Rocha where he explains the events leading up to the demonstrations. Rocha’s article rests on an image that is very telling about what has happened in Nicaragua in the last months: the dormant tiger. The dormant tiger is a metaphor for a society that survived years of struggle, and that grew in social organisation through the Sandinista revolution and years of USA counter-revolutionary intervention. The tiger fell dormant after victory, fatigued from resistance but fed from years of collective collaboration. Today, the tiger seems to have awakened with renewed energy from the youth and cyberspace as the ideals that created it are replaced.Read More
BY ANNA HEIKKINEN
Peru has been ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the consequences of climate change (UNEP, 2013). Most of the world’s tropical glaciers (71%) are found in Peru (Vuille et al, 2008). During the past decades, scientists have observed the alarming impacts of global warming in the Peruvian Andes—thirty per cent of the glacier snowpack has been lost in a 30-year period (Urrutia & Vuille, 2009) and abnormal changes in seasonal precipitation patterns have been monitored (Sanabria et al, 2014). These changes in hydrological cycles pose a serious concern for populations living in the Andean lowland communities where glacier meltwater and precipitation provide a fundamental source of water.
In some regions of the Andean highlands, rural populations already have restricted access to potable water and irrigation. Poor highland communities often have less capacity to respond to the increasing water scarcity due to weak infrastructure, low income, strong reliance on agriculture and limited opportunities for alternative livelihoods. It is, therefore, projected that livelihoods and the daily survival of rural populations in the Andes will be threatened as the water supply continues to decline (Mark et al, 2010).
Myriad studies have been conducted on climate change in the Andean region from the standpoint of the natural sciences, revealing the biophysical threats climatic changes are posing to local ecosystems (Perez et al, 2010; Drenkahn et al, 2015). However, fewer studies have focused on climate vulnerability of local people in the rural highlands (Bury et al, 2011; Lynch, 2012).Andean highland populations have also suffered from political marginalization and discrimination for centuries in the Peruvian society, and some studies have suggested that climatic changes will further increase their vulnerability (Lynch, 2012; Rasmussen, 2015).Read More
During the last few months in 2018, the political crisis in Brazil has developed in alarming and dramatic events. As a group of scholars deeply committed to democracy and the rule of law in Latin America, we feel compelled to denounce these events and express our concerns about their consequences in Brazil and in the region as a whole.Read More
By ANTONIO LUIS HIDALGO-CAPITÁN & ANA PATRICIA CUBILLO-GUEVARA
Buen Vivir, as an alternative concept to development (Acosta 2012, Cubillo-Guevara & Hidalgo-Capitán 2015a), emerged in Ecuador at the beginning of the 1990s, with the contribution of some Amazonian Kichwa intellectuals, under the name of sumak kawsay (Viteri et al. 1992, Viteri 1993, Viteri 2000, Cubillo-Guevara & Hidalgo-Capitán 2015b); however, it did not gain relevance until the 2008 Ecuadorian Constitutions included it as a principle (Vanhulst and Beling 2016).
This concept has been defined as a way of life in harmony with oneself (identity), with society (equity) and with nature (sustainability) (Cubillo-Guevara, Hidalgo-Capitán & García-Álvarez 2016). This definition was commonly accepted by the majority of intellectuals and politicians who used the term since the drafting of the 2008 Constitution; but here the consensus ended, since this way of living in harmony took on very different meanings according to the ideological position of each intellectual and politician who used the concept. Thus, there have been at least three ways of understanding Buen Vivir in Ecuador: one indigenist, another socialist and another ecologist / post-developmentalist (Le-Quang & Vercoutère 2013, Cubillo-Guevara, Hidalgo-Capitán & Domínguez-Gómez 2014, Vanhulst 2015).Read More
By GABRIELA PINHEIRO MACHADO BROCHNER
This article aims to analyze how the concept of food sovereignty in Latin America has been constructed as a political tool for peasant women. In addition, it examines the practices found in this everyday life construction, by drawing on a multiscale perspective stemming from feminist political geography.
With regard to peasant women, or rather, transnational networks of peasant women, it is necessary to take into account where their demands come from and how they lead women in one region to create networks with other women movements in the world in order to achieve their goals. In Latin America, the life of rural women in agriculture revolves around family care and food production at the local scale, and also at the regional scale. Women experience different forms of violence (by state, transnational companies, partners, etc.), and their consequences are perceived in everyday life. What occurs at the local scale is reflected in other scales, such as the state, the region, and the global. Peasant women are capable of recognizing their demands as women, particularly as peasant woman, which allows them to identify a point of convergence with women from different places in Latin America, sharing demands within the region since scales are mutually constitutive.Read More
BY MAURICE TSCHOPP
Quinoa is currently integrated in global production networks, although this crop was almost completely unknown some decades ago. In Bolivia, prices of quinoa reached an all-time high in 2013 and 2014, which resulted in an important expansion of the agricultural frontier. This article discusses the impact of the quinoa boom through the lenses of the commoditisation debate. It examines practises and perceptions linked to land and labour, two elements that were coined out as “fictitious commodities” by Karl Polanyi. While Land cannot be sold in the region, because of its legal status, several elements point toward a commoditisation process. The findings also suggest that labour has been increasingly commoditised as well. Quinoa producers indeed tend to rely increasingly more on casual labour and the multiplication of productive assets in the area resulted in new forms of commoditised social relations.Read More
Beyond Puerto Rico, what kind of alternative Caribbean futures are being imagined and enacted in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season, and how are these entangled with a sense of greater infrastructural, relief or racial justice-- both local and regional? This special issue seeks to address the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in impacted neighbouring islands like Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin and the Dominican Republic, among others.Read More
BY JAVIER CUESTAS-CAZA
Nowadays, the paradigm of development-consumerism is responsible for the desolating panorama of social injustice and unrestrained exploitation of natural resources that leads to self-destruction of life on the planet (Huanacuni-Mamani, 2010). From the Global South, the voices that question in depth the philosophical and civilizational presuppositions of the Eurocentric developmental model are becoming stronger and more frequent. No one is surprised that these voices emanate from the population disillusioned by the promises of global culture (Álvarez, 2014; Estermann, 2013). From the Andes, a philosophical otherness arises, denominated "Andean Philosophy", which is a sapiential manifestation of an ancient tradition that questions the civilizational centrism of the Western (Estermann, 2015). The purpose of Andean's thought is reflected in the Sumak Kawsay.Read More