Roma

Roma

Roma is a beautiful film that covers issues of gender, race, class and violence in Mexico. Dedicated to, and based on, writer/ director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood nanny and housekeeper “Libo” (Liboria Rodríguez), the film follows Cleo (the sublime Yalitza Aparicio), a young Mixtec woman employed by an affulent Mexican family. She has lived with them since the children’s birth, herself perhaps still in her 20s. She is beloved by the children, but is still treated like a servant.

Her woman employer, Sofia, also tells Cleo she loves her at a pivotal point in the film, even as we see how she flies into rage, diminishes Cleo and blames her for insignificant details. Sofia’s mother also lives in the household, mostly indifferent to Cleo, until tragedy strikes. At one stage, having been on her feet all day working, Cleo sits on the ground, holding the children’s hands, as the rest of the family sits comfortably on the couch watching TV. Sofia then directs Cleo to get her husband a drink after Cleo is settled.

These are women separated by race and class, but who are bound together by the men in their lives who neglect and mistreat them. The men are a wreck. Everyone, including Sofia, call the philandering husband ‘The Doctor,’ his status, vanity and whims disrupting everything around him.

Cleo is a stoic, patient but complex woman, who witnesses inequality and hardship largely silently, but when she speaks, particularly of her hometown, she is resplendant. Her final monologue shows she’s reflexive, more aware about her motives and mixed emotions than all the other characters. She is tough, making a long journey to find her listless lover. When others struggle to follow the instructions of a martial artist, Cleo quietly completes the move, at the back of the crowd.

The role that Indigenous people play in the economy, and their challenge to political life, are the backdrop of this slowburning masterpiece. While cinema continues to write women as caricatures, and erase Indigenous women in particular, this film has created a thoughtful Indigenous woman character whose language and struggles take centre stage. Her friendship with the beautiful and jovial Adela, the second houseworker, is a joy, as they joke, whisper and support one another in both Mixtec and Spanish. Go see it at the cinemas if you can, but it’s also now also streaming on Netflix.

Sociology of the Day of the Dead

Latin girl wears a painted face for Dia De Los Muertos

This video by Eddie G provides an engaging Mexican-American introduction to El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Eddie G captures how one community celebrates the dead, as just one step in the “pyramid of life.” In describing the symbolism of the colours of a symbolic altar, one woman says:

[In Spanish] “The yellow is the beginning of life. The red is the momentum of the blood. Green represents settling down, starting a family, working, and helping the community. Blue represents the sky. The elders reminiscing and talking about their memories. That’s all we have left. The top is white. That’s death. “

The Day of the Dead has grown in popularity in the United States and in other places outside Mexico. Non-Mexicans may be attracted to the colourful costumes, the skulls, face-painting and the “cool” allure of death. Yet the significance of this spiritual festival is more than just about death. It is a symbol of post-colonial struggles and a celebration of life. Continue reading Sociology of the Day of the Dead

I went to the recent Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera exhibition in Sydney, Australia which chronicled not only their art and relationship but also their sociology! Both artists were Marxists. Here they are photographed in New York City at the New Workers School in 1933.

Source: The Other Sociologist.

Sociology of the Day of the Dead

This video by Eddie G provides an engaging Mexican-American introduction to El Día de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead. Eddie G captures how one community celebrates the dead, as just one step in the “pyramid of life.” In describing the symbolism of the colours of a symbolic altar, one woman says:

[In Spanish] The yellow is the beginning of life. The red is the momentum of the blood. Green represents settling down, starting a family, working, and helping the community. Blue represents the sky. The elders reminiscing and talking about their memories. That’s all we have left. The top is white. That’s death. 

The Day of the Dead has grown in popularity in the United States and in other places outside Mexico. Non-Mexicans may be attracted to the colourful costumes, the skulls, face-painting and the “cool” allure of death. Yet the significance of this spiritual festival is more than just about death. It is a symbol of post-colonial struggles and a celebration of life. 

Education researchers Dafina Lazarus Stewart and Adele Lozano see that the Day of the Dead is an important tradition that can help introduce students to intercultural experiences. In particular, it is an opportunity to learn about Mexican culture and draw connections between cultures of resistance amongst various other Latin American traditions, as well as a way to better understand the links between various Latin youth social movements around the world. The researchers write:

The concept of resistance is an important cultural/ political aspect of Día de los Muertos. Although the Latina/o population consists of diverse groups, most share a history of colonialism and oppression. It is commonly believed that Indigenous populations in Mexico refused to back down when the Spanish colonisers tried to force them to relinquish their annual Día de los Muertos ritual (Brandes, 1998). Many Latina/o college students are aware of this spirit of resistance and may draw parallels to their own struggles to pursue higher education in the face of institutional racism, financial hardships, and marginalisation within the academy. Día de los Muertos can serve to empower students as they recognize the importance of resistance, connect with their spiritual selves, and reaffirm the value of their cultural traditions…

The researchers note that to an outsider, the Day of the Dead seems to hold a morbid fascination with death and the occult. In fact, this festival actually draws on symbols of duality and profound spirituality, both of which are central to Mexican culture: “death is viewed as a continuation of life through the open acknowledgement of the reality of a spiritual, nonmaterial existence.”

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See my other Latin posts on Tumblr and my sociology of Latin politics and culture on Pinterest.

Credits:

Video: Oh Em Gee, It’s Eddie G

longreads:

A man, brought to the U.S. as a toddler, is suddenly deported to Mexico. He’s now trying to get back:

The train had covered 10 miles through the high desert when it stopped at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint. An inspector and his canine walked by on the gravel path. Luna stifled his breath and prayed. Then he felt a sharp tug and a dog’s hot breath.

A German shepherd sank its teeth through Luna’s two shirts, locked onto his ribs and dragged him out from under the train. He clutched his side.

“Without a Country: Immigrant Tries to Get Back to the Life He Knew.” — Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times

See also: “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” — Jose Antonio Vargas, New York Times, June 22, 2011