Friday, April 17, 2015

the Ayotzinapa parents caravan terminology request

I'm going to interpret for a large public event in Toronto where parents of the massacred 43 teachers
college students will be speaking.

Since this caravan has been on tour for a while I'm hoping that compas that have been interpreting for them are reading this.  If so could you suggest some key terms that came up?

Any chance they're touring with a glossary you could share? If not could we come up with one together for me and others who will interpret for them in the next few weeks?

Gracias mi gente!

Monday, April 6, 2015

stakeholders: partes interesadas

This is sometimes mistakenly rendered as accionistas, which is actually shareholders. This is really not movement terminology, it's usually a very corporate term - but one that is sometimes is used by movements trying to get corporations to listen to them.

I was struck actually by how corporate the images are when you google image search under this term. The one here is from mind tools. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

craftivism: actiartesanismo?!?

I am totally just making this up.  Has anyone heard any other version being actually used on the ground, not in translation?

Artivism is so much easier to render as artivismo - maybe the solution is to upgrade all craftivism to artivism? But that may be a faux paux since it is of course political to reclaim and honor crafts as crafts.

update: Manuel Cedeño, in Caracas, suggests the fabulous option of artesanía militante

Saturday, March 21, 2015

work to rule: huelga de celo?

A work slowdown is an operación tortuga, but how would you translate a "work-to-rule" action? Huelga de celo? Trabajar a reglamento? Trabajar a la letra de la descripción de trabajo?  I like huelga de celo but I'm not sure how widely it would be understood outside of Spain.  This is not as common a job action in most of Latin America as it is in the US and Canada.

Labour actions are on my mind because I am being legally ordered by the administration of York University to cross the TA picket line next week.  I will not be crossing. 

I've posted more about the strike on my other blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

judicialización (take three)

I've posted twice before about this term, rendering it as first bogus/trumped up/false criminal charges and then malicious prosecution on trumped up charge.  What neither of those renditions conveys, however, is that this is a tactic used by the state against activists to discredit their activism (particularly those activists working for change in and by the state). I am now leaning towards "criminalization of activists" as a rendition.  I would love input and thoughts from those who have been translating this term regularly, particularly for the many cases of it ongoing in Colombia today. 

I went to a great talk last week by geographer Shiri Pasternak where she described how Chief Theresa Spence's fast in Ottawa, Canada for government attention to a serious humanitarian emergency in the Attawapiskat First Nation was discredited in this way by the Canadian state, who chose this time to make a big stink out of minor financial irregularities on her reserve. 

It reminded me that this strategy is actually one that has been promoted by the US army, something I failed to mention in my other two blog posts on the term.  The leaked training manuals of the US army's School of the Americas for Latin American military officers include this as one of the techniques to be used on activists, along with other lovely techniques like taking photos of and then threatening their children, as well as forms of more physical torture.  As Alfred McCoy has documented so well, those manuals were based on the CIA's Project X research at Fort Huachuca. 

As a US citizen and Canadian resident it makes me sick that we have exported these methods for crushing social movements not only South, but apparently also North.  But then, First Nations reserves are the global South inside the North. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

gremio económico (Col): trade organization

In the same  interview of a leader in the Dignidad Agropecuaria Colombiana (Colombian Agricultural Dignity) movement that I mentioned in my last post this translation is used.  It's an odd one, but I've always struggled to distinguish between gremios and gremios económicos in Colombian Spanish.  I don't love it but it seems to get the job done.  Any other options out there folks are using?

Monday, February 23, 2015

cacaotero: cacao farmer

Similarly cafetero is coffee farmer - and my life is made better by both! I was reminded of this term this great interview of a cafetero leader in the inspiring Dignidad Agropecuaria Colombiana (Colombian Agricultural Dignity) movement. If you want to read something inspiring about Colombia, I recommend it.

The photo here is of the process of picking out the fruit pods of cacao fruit in the most inspiring community of cacaoteros I know: the peace community of San José de Apartado. 

Last weekend they commemorated 10 years of the massacre of Luis Eduardo, his family, and another family.  Luis Eduardo had spoken at the vigil to close the US Army's School of the Americas just two years before.  They are able to continue being a neutral zone and ask all men with guns to stay out thanks in part to their international accompaniers, one of whom is pictured here.  You can support the community by signing up for email action alerts from peace presence and/or peace brigades.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

pigmentocracy: pigmentocracia

The research project on ethnicity and race in Latin America (PERLA) has published their findings in the new book Pigmentocracies.  I haven't read it yet because of my teaching schedule, but am looking forward to it.  The cover is a copy of the controversial skin color palette card their surveyors used across the continent.  They used the palette rather than people's self-identifications because the terms for different skin colors vary widely across, and even within, countries. Interestingly though, the surveyor selected what color the respondent was, rather than allowing the respondent to choose (or including both selections in the study).

To give you a sense of their results, here is a short summary BY EDWARD TELLES AND LIZA STEELE that appeared in Americas quarterly:

Throughout Latin America, countries have long sought to claim immunity from the racial and ethnic divisions that plague the rest of the world. But that is changing as several countries—including Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru—have begun to recognize the diverse nature of their societies and constitutionally declare themselves as multicultural.

Most national censuses in Latin America, for example, now ask questions about whether respondents self-identify as Indigenous or Afro-descendant. A handful of countries, such as Brazil and Colombia, have gone as far as instituting race-based affirmative action programs, while Bolivia, in 2005, elected President Evo Morales who asserts his Indigenous (Aymara) identity. These changes have been largely in response to growing regional Afro-Latino and Indigenous social movements.

Race and ethnicity-based social and economic inequalities are also beginning to be recognized. As early as 1944, Alejandro Lipschutz, a Chilean anthropologist, coined the idea of Latin America as a “pigmentocracy”—where the region’s social hierarchies are ethnic or color-based. However, that idea was largely ignored until recently, when research using new census data on racial identification began to document racial inequalities. These studies generally show that Afro-descendant and Indigenous people occupy the lowest rungs on the income, educational and occupational ladders across Latin America.1

However, racial identification in Latin America—where the categories themselves are often situational, context-dependent and have fuzzy boundaries—is often more ambiguous and fluid than in the United States. Therefore, persons with the same color and physical appearance might choose to identify in distinct ethno-racial categories. Identifying along ethno-racial lines can also hide considerable physical variation. Another challenge is that varieties in skin tone among those who identify in the same ethno-racial category may lead to different socioeconomic opportunities and overall life outcomes. This means that ethno-racial identification may be inadequate for measuring the effects of race.

That is why actual skin color is used as a unit of measurement in a new study published by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), “Pigmentocracy in the Americas: How is Educational Attainment Related to Skin Color?”.  To measure skin color, interviewers rated the facial skin color of each respondent according to colors on a skin color palette, which interviewers had but which they did not show to the respondent. Graphically speaking, the lightest persons are near 1 and the darkest near 11.

The study asks: To what extent are years of schooling related to skin color? We then employ a statistical analysis to ask: Do color/racial inequalities, if they exist, occur independently of social class?

Our research shows that the lightest persons generally have the highest mean educational attainment with the darkest persons having the lowest. [See figure] Thus, nearly all countries in the Americas can be described as pigmentocracies.

The most pronounced pigmentocracies are Guatemala and Bolivia, which seem to reflect the low status of their especially large Indigenous populations. However, we do not find the pigmentocratic relation in five countries. In Panama, and to a lesser extent in Costa Rica and Honduras, we discover a U-shaped relation between skin color and education. Our findings also reveal the lack of a pigmentocracy in Belize and Guyana.


The statistical analysis shows that inequalities by skin color are not merely results of historical processes; rather, they occur independently of class origins (measured by parental occupation). This suggests that racial differences also are being reproduced in the current generation.

These findings on the importance of race run against much of the traditional thinking about social stratification south of the U.S. border. Race has been surprisingly ignored by many leading social scientists in the region, in favor of class-based explanations. However, because of their theoretical prisms or because of the unavailability of race data, analysts have rarely empirically tested whether race—especially skin color—is related to socioeconomic status in the region.

Not that class is unimportant. Race and class operate together to shape stratification in the Americas, though the effect of race has been underestimated. In addition, it is important to note that class origins are the result of accumulated racial privileges and disadvantages acquired in the past, including through formal institutions such as casta systems, slavery and other forced labor systems that Indigenous people, Afro-Latinos and mixed-race people were regularly subjected to, as well as through informal racial discrimination.

Most importantly, empirical evidence now shows the importance of color inequality throughout the Americas. Understanding this inequality is the first step for crafting better public policies to mitigate it in the future.
Access the full article, “Pigmentocracy in the Americas: How is Educational Attainment Related to Skin Color?”, on LAPOP’s website

Friday, January 30, 2015

colorismo: shadeism

The cognate colourism also exists in English, but shadeism (sometimes spelled shadism) seems to be more widely used and understood.

Thanks to my student Shivon for this one.  The short documentary below about shadeism was made by students in Toronto.  The opening scene with the little girl who wants to be whiter is heart breaking. There is a short article about the making of the documentary here.

Shadeism from refuge productions on Vimeo.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ya Basta! Enough is enough!

This translation jumped out at me in the chapter Occupy: prehistories and continuities by Samantha Shakur Bowden. Not sure where she got it, but I like it. I notice Ya basta! already has a wikipedia entry in English with this definition.

I have previously blogged about the Colombian Basta Ya! report being officially rendered as Enough already, but this version is much better for street chanting. No real difference in my mind between basta ya and ya basta. Of course there's a tiny difference in emphasis, but they seem to be used interchangeably.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

interpreting for peace in a conflict zone

The University of Geneva's interpreting department has a fabulous sounding program called InZone, the Center for Interpreting in Conflict Zones.

As Barbara Moser-Mercer writes, in her blog about teaching interpreters at the world's largest refugee camp (in Somalia):

"Imagine your job is to deliver humanitarian aid to a single refugee camp where your recipients speak Dinka (from South central Sudan), Moro or Tira (from the Nuba mountain region), or Tigré or Tigrinya (from Eritrea), and you don’t speak these languages…
Or, imagine you are tasked with resolving legacies of human rights abuses and implementing transitional justice mechanisms, but you do not know how to communicate with the locals speaking in Pashto or Urdu.

For many professionals and volunteers delivering aid to conflict zones, these are very real challenges that must be faced with bravery and empathy. When conflict erupts in regions whose languages few outsiders master, humanitarian aid workers must rely on local interpreters, who often have very limited training.

This is why InZone, the Center for Interpreting in Conflict Zones at the University of Geneva, exists. Our mission is to provide blended training to interpreters in conflict zones. We work on the ground in refugee camps to help interpreters enhance their skills in interpreting, managing the refugee interview process and dealing with the challenges of communication in times of distress.

We have learned that while the barriers to education can be immense (from security threats to limited internet access), there is extraordinary motivation among refugees to learn – for many victims of conflict, knowledge is their only possession and the only hope of improving their livelihoods. ...."

(Thanks to my geography colleague Virginie Mamadouh for pointing me to this.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

caudillo: strong man

I often hear people keep the term caudillo when going into English.  But many audiences will not understand this term and all of its cultural weight.  It is hard to convey all of that baggage briefly for simultaneous interpreting, but at least in some contexts this is one option that gets to what is often being emphasized. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

campaña de desprestigio: smear campaign

Another great term from the video I posted last week, which is well worth a watch. It's a pleasure to see subtitles so well done. Congrats again to my great compa Eric Schwartz on these. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

los mayores: the elders

Great rendition by compa Eric Schwartz in the great video below, also about land grabs in Colombia.  (Ojo, he also renders Proceso de Comunidades Negras as Black Communities Movement, which I like, see my previous comments about proceso as a term)

Friday, November 7, 2014

despojos: land grabs

I have previously rendered despojo as disposession, but this rendition could have more impact for political purposes if it fits the context. Despojo can actually also mean other kinds of accumulation by dispossession in the midst of war, or war plunder, but at least in the Colombian context it usually refers to some of the massive land grabbing that's been happening there which has made it the number one country for internal displacement.

The term despojo was rendered as displacement in the video below, which I think gets it a bit off, but I highly recommend the video anyways.  It has gorgeous cinematography and starts out with great footage of the peace community of San José.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

mass sick-out: baja colectiva

Collins (astounding that they would have a term like this) renders it as baja colectiva por enfermedad como forma de protesta.  It seems to me that baja, in context, implies the por enfermedad part.  Is it not also obvious that if it's being done colectively it's as a protest? Maybe not, but certainly in simultaneous I would just use baja colectiva. 

On a related note, a walk-out could refer to a wild-cat strike, but the term is also used for student walk-outs, for which I would just use huelga. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

hasta aquí no mas: draw the line

This is the translation used by the organization Mujer in Toronto for their domestic violence campaign with this title. As part of the campaign they collaboratively made videos like this fabulous one.

Thanks to Madelaine Cahuas for sharing this video and story at the Ontario geographers conference (CAGONT).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

la hez: the dregs

As in the dregs of society, la hez de la sociedad. The of 'society' part can get dropped in slang English, as in, 'look at the dregs in front of the 7-11.'  If going into Spanish I would just tack on the sociedad bit, I don't think it works without it - though I'd love to hear if folks have heard it without. 

I'm dubious that this term can be reclaimed!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

capacitar: train

ok, this is obvious, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who has heard and read the false cognate of capacitate used instead! It might sound right in the moment, but really, resist the urge. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

feminicidio: feminicide (not femicide)

femicide and feminicide are two different things

as the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission puts it:

What is femicide?
Femicide is defined as the killing of women, female homicide, or the murder of a person based on the fact that she is female. 

What is feminicide?
Feminicide is a political term. It encompasses more than femicide because it holds responsible not only the male perpetrators but also the state and judicial structures that normalize misogyny. Feminicide connotes not only the murder of women by men because they are women but also indicates state responsibility for these murders whether through the commission of the actual killing, toleration of the perpetrators’ acts of violence, or omission of state responsibility to ensure the safety of its female citizens. In Guatemala, feminicide is a crime that exists because of the absence of state guarantees to protect the rights of women. 

more from them on why this is happening in Guate is here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

sanguijuela: bloodsucker

Amazing debate in the Colombian Congress today about Uribe's paramilitary ties.  I'm in awe and deep gratitude for the courage of Ivan Cepeda and Claudia Lopez for getting this a public hearing. Please send them good energy/pray for their safety - they are taking huge risks to build peace and justice in Colombia. 

One of the great headlines about the debate today, in El Espectador, was "Claudia López comparó a Urie con "una sanguijuela huyendo por una alcantarilla." So sanguijuella could also be rendered as leech, but in this context bloodsucker fleeing down a gutter sounds so much better. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

despojo: dispossession (with fab music video)

Gorgeous music video below with some of my all time favorite committed artists: Silvio Rodriguez, calle 13, and Gael García-Bernal, with English subtitles no less.  Strangely though the subtitles render despojo as sorcery.  Well, yes, of a sort.  The accumulation through dispossession at the heart of capitalist neoliberalism requires that we all fall into a trance where things like private property become common sense and the commons are made strange.  Still, I really don't think that's what they meant in the song.  But who knows.  Check it out.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

libreta militar: military passbook

Young men in Colombia have to show their military passbook to get a job or go to university.  It serves as proof that they have done their obligatory year of military service, or somehow managed to get out of it.

The odd thing about this term is that it is still called a libreta in Colombia, but in actual practice it looks like an ID card.  But since the term used is libreta, and passbook conveys more of a sense of having, well, passed a requirement, I like this rendition - but I would love to hear what other people are using.  It often seems to be left in Spanish, but I worry that decreases the overall comprehension and ease for listeners and readers. 

Fabulously the court recently ruled that transgender persons can no longer be required to show a military passbook as a condition of employment.  Technically victims of the war are also free of the requirement, but Anna Vogt writes here about how hard that has been in practice.

Friday, August 22, 2014

casa de pique: chop house

Really hideous to have to be blogging this term, but it's being used regularly in reports on Buenaventura, Colombia, where there is a serious humanitarian emergency and terror is being sown through dismemberment in these houses in residential neighbourhoods where people can hear the screams.  It seems to be a terror technique imported from the Mexican mafia.  Great.

Well, to make up for making you read about such hideous things, here is a good news story about a brave community that got rid of their chop house:

Colombia - Hope in the Midst of a Violent Crisis: Life in Buenaventura's Urban Humanitarian Space

Written by Nikki Drake       

An alarm of lively music starts each day around 6 a.m.; the street slowly comes to life. Sweetened coffee percolates in houses, fishermen head out in their small wooden boats, and kids get shuffled off to school. Over the ocean, the houses on stilts become busy, and playing children fill the rocky dirt road and elevated walkways of wooden planks. As day turns to night, the doors and windows remain opened until late, the smell of food and sound of voices and music fill the air, and the news of the day is shared between small groups of neighbors and families gathered outside of their houses. It is a daily scene far removed from what it was just four months ago. Welcome to Puente Nayero, the first urban Humanitarian Space in Colombia.

The petition to create the Humanitarian Space came from one of the community leaders of La Playita. After exploratory visits and exchanges with rural humanitarian zones in other regions of the country, he proposed the creation of an urban space free from the presence of all illegal armed actors. He made an official petition to the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz(Inter-Ecclesiastic Commission of Justice and Peace), a Colombian human rights NGO, to help facilitate the establishment and accompaniment of the Space. The Commission accepted the petition, and in turn requested the presence of international accompaniers to help provide additional security and spread international visibility for the community.

Prior to the creation of the Humanitarian Space on April, the road in La Playita was empty by 6pm every evening. One of Buenaventura’s most dangerous neighborhoods, residents were prisoners in their homes, afraid to be out in the street after dark. At the end of the road was a ‘chop house,’ where local paramilitary groups tortured and dismembered people, tossing their remains into the ocean. As a bold move toward empowerment, during the opening week of the Humanitarian Space, the community made the decision to burn down the house.

This is violence in Buenaventura is one that continues to be complicated by the presence and involvement of the region’s powerful actors: Colombian public forces, illegal paramilitary groups and drug-traffickers, multinational corporations, and touristic megaprojects. Buenaventura contains Colombia’s largest port and has been the country’s drug-trafficking hub for decades under the control of surrounding illegal armed groups.For just as long, the city has also been a destination for families and communities forcibly displaced from throughout the Department of Valle de Cauca by these same powerful groups. As people fled to the city for safety, lack of space soon became an issue. In order to create more habitable space, communities constructed roads out of garbage, dirt, and rocks, allowing for new neighborhoods to reach out over the ocean waters like outstretched fingers.

Now these same neighborhoods have become the new urban targets of 21st Century Colombia. Their coastal location has been identified as prime real estate for tourist development and mega-projects, such as hotels and boardwalks. Great efforts have been made to free up the valuable property, including threats and violence toward residents by paramilitary and criminal groups. Since the 2005 “demobilization” of Colombia´s paramilitary groups – considered largely unsuccessful by many national and international entities – smaller, but powerful factions have continued operating throughout the department. Officially referred to as criminal or delinquent gangs by the State, these groups have had a heavy presence throughout Buenaventura’s urban neighborhoods and rural surroundings, using extortion, threats, violence, and murder as a means to control and displace the civilian population anew.

Local officials have tried other large-scale tactics, such as the campaign they launched in February for tsunami emergency evacuations drills. Poor neighborhoods along the coastline were urged to permanently evacuate and relocate due to the high probability for tsunamis. Coincidentally, these are the same locations that have been earmarked for new hotels and a long, extensive boardwalk. As another way to relocate residents from neighborhoods on desired land, authorities have used the promise of an opportunity for better living conditions in newly constructed housing further inland called San Antonio. According to the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, as well as residents, those who accept the offer find themselves in a completely isolated area without potable water, a health center, a school, or access to transportation. It isn´t until they attempt to return to their previous house that they realize they unknowingly signed it over to the state.

With the port expansion, entry of more multinational corporations, and increase in large-scale tourist projects, violence and displacement in Buenaventura have continued at an alarming rate. Local and regional authorities, plagued by years of corruption, have yet to develop an effective or comprehensive strategy to address the urgent situation. As part of his bid for reelection, President Santos demonstrated his dedication to curbing the extreme violence in Buenaventura by calling for additional militarization of the city during the months leading up to the May elections. Despite the massive joint effort between the marines, coast guard, and national police, neighborhoods continue to be controlled and terrorized by violent groups who identify themselves as paramilitary factions, but whose existence the State refuses to acknowledge. These groups regularly announce their connections to and support by the local authorities, an accusation residents have been making for years. Local residents have reported that not only do the marines and national police ignore the movements of paramilitary and faction groups, but often clear out of areas just before violent acts are perpetrated against civilians.

Labeled a humanitarian crisis by Human Rights Watch and featured in a report by Amnesty International earlier this year, Buenaventura and Puente Nayero have been gaining international attention. Even so, since the Humanitarian Space was established, more than fifty threats have been made toward community leaders and members, as well as toward the national and international accompaniers. It has remained a challenge to prevent illegal armed groups from moving through the Space, which can be easily accessed by water and neighboring streets. The community is also still waiting for a response from the State to its official request for the provision of additional security measures, including a request for protective measures made to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Despite all the obstacles they face, the members of Puente Nayero are continuing to organize and mobilize in their mission to maintain a space free of violence, and hope to serve as an example and inspiration for surrounding neighborhoods of the power of a non-violent social movement. To date, there have been no murders in the Humanitarian Space.

At the end of Puente Nayero, the dirt road meets the ocean and a welcome breeze cools the hot air. Between two houses there stands an empty space where just four months ago the ‘chop house’ used to be. In the time since, the community has converted their grief into a space to commemorate and celebrate life. Life. Welcome to the Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero.

Nikki Drake is part of the FOR Peace Presence team, an international accompaniment NGO in Colombia. She previously worked for Witness for Peace in Colombia, and spent the two years prior to that traveling and working throughout South America.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

paro civico: general strike

Strangely, Oxford dictionaries renders this as community protest, but it points to something much larger and wider. You could of course go literal and say civic strike, but that's a term we just don't use in English and wouldn't resonate with or mean much to your audience.  Of course, we don't have a lot of general strikes in the English speaking world these days either, but at least it will give your listeners more of a sense of it.

The region of la Guajira in Colombia just ended a paro civico where 80,000 were out in protest, all the schools, hospitals, buses, etc shut down in a demand that the national government help with the water crisis.  Totally reasonable request, especially given that one of the largest coal mines in the world (el Cerrejon) is in their region and generates all kinds of taxes for the feds and pollution for the locals (and the world).  The paro included, as they generally do in Colombia, blockades at major road crossings. 

I'm happy to report that it worked, the government sent water and promised more, and the paro was lifted yesterday.  But the Pacifico, the other region that is likewise marginalized and ignored by the very centralized government took up the flame and called their own paro civico today and 240,000 are out on strike. They are asking for better health, education, and road services.  The big drama is that in a tiny town they took a commercial plane hostage briefly as part of the strike.  Got a ton of press coverage of course. Ah Colombians, always coming up with new protest tactics!