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Wednesday, February 1

  1. 7:09 am
  2. page home edited ... Seamos claros. De la antropofagia no entiendo na’ de na’, pero sé que las culturas – y por end…
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    Seamos claros. De la antropofagia no entiendo na’ de na’, pero sé que las culturas – y por ende la antropología – se entienden a través de su gente, y siguiendo el ejemplo de mi amigo Felipe Rodríguez Cortés (U. de Málaga), quiero invitaros a participar, comentar, contribuir y hasta criticar lo que hay aquí escrito. Como he dicho antes, todo, todo, todo es cuestión de aprender. Gracias por brindarme la oportunidad de aprender con vosotr@s.
    Following the example of Felipe Rodriguez Cortes (U. of Malaga), whose fortuitous and generous friendship has reminded me of just how important these collaborations are, I throw the virtual doors open to you, to participate in, comment upon, contribute to, and critique the reflections and updates included here. All are based upon my dissertation fieldwork and will, I hope, constitute knowledge worth sharing.
    This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1061649. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
    Este material está basado en trabajo apoyado por la National Science Foundation, bajo la Bolsa No. 1061649. Las opiniones, resultados y conclusiones o recomendaciones que se expresen en este material son los del autor y no necesariamente reflejan los de la National Science Foundation (NSF).

    Update 1 (from e-mail update to dissertation committee, Oct. 24, 2010)
    Update 2 (Nov. 1, 2010)
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    7:00 am

Friday, August 26

  1. 2:48 pm

Friday, July 1

  1. page home edited ... Update 20 (May 30, 2011): Indignados Update 21 (June 9, 2011): This is going to be hard. Up…
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    Update 20 (May 30, 2011): Indignados
    Update 21 (June 9, 2011): This is going to be hard.
    Update 22 (July 1, 2011): F***ing Drama
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    5:12 am
  2. page F***ing Drama edited 1 July 2011 El Ejido I approach the cafe in the church plaza directly opposite the fountain. Bar…
    1 July 2011
    El Ejido
    I approach the cafe in the church plaza directly opposite the fountain. Bar Centro. As I turn the corner to the right and look for an open table, not too close to any other patrons, I see a kid in a black t-shirt and ball cap -- flat brimmed with the gold sticker on it, I need to ask Dana about what that means -- and I think to myself, 'Is that J.?' He doesn't look my direction, and I make a point of not doing so, either. If it's not him, I don't want him to think I'm some weirdo, staring. If it is him, I want to give him the time he needs to approach on his own or to bail. I sit down in a chair facing out towards the plaza so that he can see my face, just in case. I am half-expecting him not to show, anyway. I imagine he will be too shy to come, too shy to talk to a stranger, that it's too weird for an adult woman to contact a teenager out of the blue and ask him to talk to her about his music.
    In the meantime, I order a cafe con leche with ice and watch a couple of work men who've removed a stone tile from the plaza next to the fountain and are turning a white plastic pump around in their hands; one of them leafs through an instruction booklet while a woman standing next to them -- one with an air of church secretary about her -- seems to goad them on about the repair they seem to not be managing to do.
    My coffee comes. The waitress sits down with a patron at a table nearby. Finally, the kid on the bench gets up, approaches me, eyebrows raised, "Tú...?" he says, inquisitively. "J.?" I say, getting up to greet him, "Eres tú? Yo te vi allí pero no quería decir nada por si no eras tú. Por si acaso." "Claro," he says, "ni había mirado para acá."
    He's got a slight build and a shadow of a moustache on his upper lip, downy whiskers too soft to shave. His cheeks are bare, no hint of a beard. Thick black eyelashes and a quick smile, his black hair combed forward around his face, under his cap, curly and thick. He seems sweet.
    I ask him if he wants something to drink. "Ahora cuando viene el camarero pido algo," he says, sitting back in the chair across from me. The waitress two tables over had already glanced up when I went to meet him. A public meeting of strangers -- 'I wasn't sure it was you,' 'Nice to meet you,' and a kiss on each cheek -- is out-of-the-ordinary in a place where the townies know each other and each other's families. She got up, saying, "Si quieres algo, pídemelo," so he ordered a bombón con hielo, and she went inside to fetch it.
    A family sat down at the table immediately next to ours as we started talking, and I could feel the father staring from time to time. I chose to ignore it until I went for my pen and notebook and found myself eye to eye with him. Strange: an interview about music and politics in the middle of the church plaza. He finally turned back to his wife and kids after I sustained his gaze for a few seconds. 'Qué más da?' I thought to myself. 'This is *my* conversation, not yours.' I wondered if J. felt self-conscious, talking about rap, leftists, racism and socio-political revindication within earshot of the other customers.
    I'd gotten in touch with him after seeing him and a firend perform in the Santa Maria high school gym during their Culture Week. They performed a series of rap songs that turned out to be completely muddled in the gymnasium acoustics. What caught my attention was their introduction to one of their unfortunately indistinguishable songs: "Esta es una canción anti-inmigración." I stared at the two of them on stage. I stared at their audience of mostly Moroccan students, and I thought, 'Qué?! What are they thinking? Do they know where they are?!' A teacher standing next to me said, 'Well, at least with the acoustics no one can really understand what they're saying.'
    After that, I asked around among the teachers to see if they had contact info for the two boys, and I managed to track J. down on Tuenti, sent him a message and asked to meet with him. He attends FN in El Ejido and was finishing his first year of bachillerato, so he asked to postpone our meeting till after June 10th, after his exams were over. I wrote him again last weekend, and we managed to set up this meeting for this morning. I was happy he showed up. I'm sometimes amazed at how kids are so willing to talk, or at least entertain the notion of an interview. The shyness that surely would keep me from having given an interview at that age doesn't seem to affect a lot of them. Good for my study, of course.
    I asked him how he and his friend got started with rap. He said there are three of them, actually: two who do vocals, another who does rhythm. There's a fourth who acts as manager and who's helping to set up a studio at his house. They're working on recording now and want to post some songs on You Tube to get more exposure.
    I asked who his influences were, and he listed off names from Spanish rap that I did not recognize at all. He had to spell the names out for me, smirking a little, amused at my clumsiness with cool information. I laughed and finally passed my notebook over to him at one point so that he could write the names himself. He said these are people who do mostly political rap, and that's what defines his group, too, "aunque hacemos algunas canciones más melancólicas, también." They call themselves "Fucking Drama." I love the name.
    He said he's always written and done rap, for as long as he can remember. He described himself as coming from a humble family. His dad works in construction and has been without a steady job for five or six years now. He said his dad knows a lot about music, especially jazz, and that he shaped his interest in music.
    He said Spanish rap is different from American in the following ways: American rap comes primarily from the streets, and it's about "presumiendo," about revindicating that experience, showing off, being flashy and over-the-top. Spanish rap, and his rap, don't stem from the same roots. It's about their own experience, about showing life like it is. (I mention the Borges quote I have on my Facebook page: "Todos somos órganos de la Divinidad, puestos aquí para observar"... or something to that effect. He doesn't know who Borges is, but he likes the quote and he smiles broadly. "Eso es," he says, "eso es bueno.")
    He's from Santa María, and he tells me a lot of people are racist -- "Personas de mi edad, otras." He said he writes rap to speak out against those attitudes, even though he admits that in school, some immigrant students seem to make trouble. He mentions a robbery that took place at a shop in Santa María recently, "Y creo que eran moros." And then a shooting that happened in the gypsy neighborhood. But he said he writes in defense of anti-racism (it's clear by now that he and his friend slipped when they introduced their "anti-immigration" song at the school gym), of attitudes on the left, in support of th 15-M movement and against the two-party system that is not a real democracy here.
    "Con tu permiso, voy a fumarme un cigarrillo," he says. "No, no, adelante," I say, pushing the ashtray toward him. He keeps the cigarette low, below the table, so the smoke doesn't blow in my face. Flies have been buzzing around both our faces since we sat down, and the smoke helps repel them. He looks a bit inexpert smoking, tapping the cigarette against the edge of the ashtray almost more often than he takes a drag, but when he leaves, I see that was the last smoke in the empty pack he's left on the table.
    "En la aldeílla hay mucha gente que es racista. Hace unos años que hubo el asesinato de una mujer--"
    "Sí, me han contado."
    "Pues, desde entonces, y hay gente que cree así, pero lo cree porque es lo que dicen sus padres, y no se han parado a pensar. Tampoco la política es una cosa que interesa a muchos, la verdad."
    "Ya, es verdad. Pero qué es lo que te hace a ti diferente?"
    "No sólo yo, hay otros también, sólo que después de lo que pasó, se nos tacharon de racistas, y es la idea que hay. La gente piensa en El Ejido y piensa en el racismo."
    [This is an idea that will have to be discussed in my dissertation: the lingering reputation of the place itself. D. talked about this the last time I ran into him at the pool in Almerimar, too. He's just slightly older than J., and he talked bitterly about how outside of El Ejido, you mention the name of the place, and everyone automatically says, "La gente es muy racista allí." This is a discursive extension of motifs developed about the region in other ways and moments: the people are mountain bumpkins, uncultured... the south in general is "backward." I think this discourse fits neatly into that context. One more way Andalucía is not modern, not caught up with the rest of Spain, much less the rest of Europe! They are an easy scapegoat for uneasy relations with immigrant communities, an easy way to say, "Hey, at least we're not El Ejido." A variation of the unofficial Arkansas motto, "Thank God for Mississippi."]
    J. said he'd learned things from the street as well as in school, "Y creo que hacen falta las dos cosas." I asked what he'd learned outside of school. "Pue', aprendes a tener cuidado, a saber como llevarte con la gente, con quien hay que tener cuidado. Yo nunca me he peleado y no me gustan las peleas. Y no es que haya muchas drogas, pero hay muchos porros, sobre todo. Donde quieras que vayas, puedes encontrar a gente con porros. Escribimos un poco en contra de eso, también, que la gente no se deje llevar..." I asked about fear, about how so many people had told me they are afraid to walk down the "Calle de los moros" or to go out at night. "No, miedo no paso. Yo paseo por todas las calles de la aldeilla y nunca me ha pasado nada, pero nada, ni nadie me dice nada."
    He said he hadn't attended the 15-M rally in El Ejido because it coincided with the fiestas in Santa María. He laughed, maybe a little embarrassed, but he went on to say that at least the movement was an alternative to the norm. It was a way of showing that young people are not happy with the current system. "Y es la gente jóven la que tenemos que hacer cargo de esto, bueno la gente mayor también, pero sobre todo nosotros, aunque tengo muy claro que el PP va a ganar. Yo no soy del PSOE, tampoco, eh? Es que creo que son la misma cosa, y luego votar a otro partido es lo mismo que no votar; te obligan a votar al uno o al otro, que si no, es lo mismo que tirar el voto."
    I ask him to send me some of their lyrics, and he says he will. I give him a card, telling him that although it looks terribly official, I'm really still a student, I'll be writing the dissertation over the next year or so, and that I'll be in touch if I want to incorporate any lyrics from their songs into my chapters. He nods, seems pleased. We stand to say goodbye, two kisses, he moves to go inside and pay, but I stop him and he eventually relents, lets me pay, thanks me and heads across the plaza to the street running down the hill behind the church. I gather my bag and notebook, pass the family seated next to us without looking at them, and go to pay. There's A/C, and it's refreshingly cool and dry inside.

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    4:56 am

Thursday, June 9

  1. 1:48 am
  2. page This is going to be hard edited 09 June 2011 El Ejido 'This is going to be hard.' That's the estribillo (chorus) that keeps runn…
    09 June 2011
    El Ejido
    'This is going to be hard.' That's the estribillo (chorus) that keeps running through my head. It's going to be hard to write about people I care about in a critical and compassionate way. Doubts surface: Who am I to comment upon what they do, how they live? But from the beginning, I knew it would be this way. I knew it before I began the project, when the idea was just an idea. I knew I would have to find a way to be analytically focused but caring, and careful, when I write up the dissertation. On a side note, this is one reason I did not vote for the tongue-in-cheek "Staring without Caring" motto proposed for a School of Anthropology t-shirt. We do care. We must care. But showing that in our writing is a difficult task indeed. Showing that we respect our research participants, their daily efforts, struggles, confusions, successes, insights, but that we also see painful contradictions and opportunities for improvement... I trail off, looking for a way to justify my intervention here.
    To some extent, perhaps this depends upon what our research participants want to know about what you think of them. Are they interested in knowing, for example, that I think it would be easy to ensure that the paella at a major school-community gathering did not contain pork, and that this would be a simple but enormous gesture of goodwill toward the Moroccan population? Do they really want to hear that I think one of the most counter-productive practices within a classroom is to highlight the differences between Moroccan and Spanish cultures, using specific students as examples? Would it be helpful to hear that I believe one of the most effective changes they could make would be to start listening carefully and deeply to each other and to young people? Really listening, really observing dynamics, and responding with equanimity?
    These suggestions highlight the negative, of course -- the things I believe not to be happening right now -- but there are positives, as well: the warm, truly inclusive, but firm m.o. some teachers use in their interactions with students; an atmosphere of collegiality, professionalism, and pedagogical curiosity/experimentation. Such things point to an inherent optimism and full engagement with the practice of education.
    Let me reveal the unstated object of my concern: teachers, whose work and character are much maligned. They operate here amidst a kaleidoscope of bureaucratic and social pressures. The process of finding a teaching job -- which I must lay out in another entry! -- is itself an exercise in patience, self-abnegation, resignation to the system, embracing one's role within a system that strips you of virtually all sense of autonomy. (Ironic, in this neoliberal age of free will.) Once in the classroom, teachers have very little authority, and the students know it. There is always the chance to repeat final exams before the start of the next school year, but even if a student fails to make passing grades, they will advance to the next level after repeating a grade. By law, they can repeat a grade only twice in their secondary career. After that, they advance automatically until they turn 16 and are legally released from the system or, if local exceptions are made, until they complete their four years or get tired of showing up for class.
    How do I comment upon the work of people who must participate in this system without adding insult to injury?

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    1:47 am
  3. page home edited ... Update 19 (May 30, 2011): Represent Update 20 (May 30, 2011): Indignados Update 21 (June 9,…
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    Update 19 (May 30, 2011): Represent
    Update 20 (May 30, 2011): Indignados
    Update 21 (June 9, 2011): This is going to be hard.
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    1:43 am

Monday, May 30

  1. page home edited ... Update 16 (May 17, 2011): Cambios Sociales Update 17 (May 18, 2011): No Wonder Update 18 (M…
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    Update 16 (May 17, 2011): Cambios Sociales
    Update 17 (May 18, 2011): No Wonder
    Update 18 (May 30, 2011): Así se habla en la Aldeílla
    Update 19 (May 30, 2011): Represent
    Update 20 (May 30, 2011): Indignados

    (view changes)
    2:35 pm

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