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!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

grounded: enraizado

while I'm revising past translations, here's another option for grounded, that I've posted about before as arraigado.

Sasana, an alternative therapy center in Bogota, just sent me an email using this version, citing Alexander Lowen: "Algunos podrán argumentar que las personas no tienen raíces como los árboles. Sin embargo, como criaturas de la tierra estamos conectados al suelo a través de las piernas y los pies. Si la conexión es vital, decimos que la persona está enraizada en la tierra. Cuando decimos que un individuo está enraizado o que tiene los pies en la tierra, eso significa que sabe quién es y dónde está parado. También significa estar conectado con las realidades básicas de la vida: el cuerpo de uno, su sexualidad, las personas con las que mantiene relaciones. Uno está conectado con esas realidades en la medida en que está conectado con la tierra."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

token woman: mujer simbólica

I've posted before about the term token, and tokenism, but recently ran across this version of it in a text in Spanish that I think I like better than the other options.  What do you think?



Monday, July 14, 2014

caldo de cultivo: breeding ground

Reviewed an academic article for a journal today that offered this fabulous translation in reference to the factors that create a 'caldo de cultivo del miedo' (breeding ground for fear) in Guatemala today.

Sadly I can't properly credit the author since it was a blind review. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

pisar callos: step on toes

A couple weeks ago I had the strange and fabulous experience (in a beauty salon in Bogota no less) of having someone I didn't know recognize me from this blog and ask if I blogged at spanishforsocialchange! Woo hoo! It was a great small world moment - and particularly great because Katie runs a similar and wonderful vocabulary blog that I highly recommend: vocabat. To give you a sense of it I'm reposting below her entry on the term pisar callos (and levantar ampolla).

Not-so-happy feet

To further my goal of helping to stamp out Spanish-language ignorance, here are two common phrases that just happen to have to do with feet. And not just feet, but feet woes. Not to fear–sprinkling metaphoric mentions of blisters and calluses into your speech puts you at no risk of coming down with either of these podiatric ailments yourself.

When you talk about stepping on someone’s toes in Spanish (as in offending them), the equivalent is to step on someone’s calluses or corns. Pisar callos. As unpleasant as it is for someone to step on your toes, it has to be ten times worse for them to stomp on your corns.

Cuando se trata de innovar, no vale el consenso: hay que pisar callos.
When it comes to innovation, you won’t get anywhere with consensus: you have to step on some toes.

Llegó la hora de pisar callos y de poner al descubierto intereses oscuros.
It’s time to step on some toes and expose shady business interests.

No era mi intención pisar callos, tan solo quise serte sincera.
I never meant to step on any toes; I just wanted to be honest with you.
Feet drawings
Video de Zuluaga y el ‘hacker’ levanta ampolla
That’s a local newspaper headline from this weekend here in Colombia. Literal translation: Video of Zuluaga and the “hacker” raises a blister. Accurate translation: Uproar over video of Zuluaga and “hacker.” Or even outrage. To give you an idea, much of the country has basically been calling out, “Off with his head!” Short of that, that this miserable, mendacious, conniving toad at least recall his candidacy for the presidential elections that are next Sunday. More than just a blister, Zuluaga raised a festering, pus-filled boil.

Something that causes problems causes friction, and with enough friction you’ll get a painful blister. My experience with the phrase levantar ampolla is that it indicates an uproar, outrage, or indignation. But a quick glance around the Internet makes it seem like it can also be used for milder reactions such as annoyance, controversy, or raising people’s hackles. It also looks like it’s more typical to say levantar ampollas in many countries. To me, this phrase sounds like newspaperese: I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before in speech.

Aprovecha para recordar las ampollas que está levantando la reforma de la ley del aborto en nuestro país. 
He took advantage of the opportunity to recall the outrage that the abortion reform law is producing in our country.

Beso de dos mujeres en Mentiras perfectas levantó ampolla
Kiss between two women on Mentiras perfectas draws fire

Can you think of any other feet phrases? One day I’m probably going to learn that in Spanish it’s don’t burn your bunions, not your bridges, and I really hope there’s no disgusting phrase revolving around athlete’s foot or ingrown toenails. I’ve shared before that a foul foot odor is called pecueca in Colombian and Venezuelan Spanish. (Pecueco/a can also mean something that’s bad or lousy.)
Both Spanish and English have an endless amount of foot/pie phrases, but I can’t think of any English phrases dealing with foot problems except for foot-in-mouth disease. There’s also the litany of problems you’d be stuck with the rest of your life if you were to actually shoot yourself in the foot.

Monday, June 16, 2014

El voto de ayer marca un antes y un despues en la lucha por la paz: a turning point


Yesterday's vote (in Colombia) marks a turning point in the struggle for peace.


I'm full of sighs of relief today! Great map of the results here.


Monday, June 2, 2014

electorera: electorally-driven

This was the translation offered by Ginny Bouvier in her fabulous analysis of the Colombian presidential election, reposted below. (pic is of Santos on the left, Zuluaga on the right - both looking rather creepy)

Colombia Prepares for Run-off Elections

May 31, 2014
In the presidential elections last Sunday, Democratic Center candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga garnered 29.25 % of the vote against the incumbent President and National Unity candidate Juan Manuel Santos.  The latter pulled 25.69% of the 13.2 million votes cast. Since neither candidate secured more than half of the votes, the two top candidates will face off in a second round on June 15.  (To see the electoral breakdown, click here.)  The Organization of American States’s Electoral Mission congratulated the Colombian citizenry for “the most peaceful election day in decades.” (See its report here.)

Low levels of conflict violence were largely due to the electoral ceasefire carried out by the FARC and the ELN from May 20-28.  According to the Colombian conflict resolution and analysis center CERAC, there were no reported incidents of conflict-related violence by the ELN, four reported incidents of violations by the FARC, and threats reported in the Catatumbo region by an armed dissident faction of the Army of Popular Liberation (EPL).  (See the CERAC report here.)  CERAC concluded that the ceasefire demonstrated the clear command-and-control of the FARC Secretariat and the Central Command of the ELN over their troops, and the ability of the two organizations to coordinate for common purpose.  This augurs well for the insurgents’ ability to deliver on fulfillment of a peace agreement and confirms the ELN’s readiness to engage in talks, which have been on hold during this electoral period.

A Critical Three Weeks: Re-Defining Alliances and Strategies
In the aftermath of Sunday’s elections, everyone is re-calibrating their strategies and alliances.  Santos and Zuluaga have been courting the losing candidates from the first round, particularly the female candidates, who each pulled in close to 2 million votes.  Conservative Party candidate Marta Lucía Ramírez garnered 15.52 % of the vote, despite not having the full support of her party.  Clara López Obregón of the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) brought in a respectable 15.23 % for that leftist coalition.  Enrique Peñalosa of the Green Alliance, who earlier polls predicted could win the elections but who lacked the political machinery of the other parties, garnered 8.28 % of the votes.
All of the parties have been meeting this week to debate their options.  The Conservative Party has split its support between the candidates, with Ramírez and Zuluaga forging a programmatic pact signed by some 40 Conservative legislators (more on this later).  The PDA coalition led by Clara López affirmed its role as an opposition force that stands for social, economic and political reforms; a deepening of democracy; national sovereignty and regional integration; and support for a negotiated settlement with the insurgents that includes the representation of the victims and a ceasefire.  PDA coalition leaders unanimously called on their members to vote for the candidate of their choosing, cast blank votes or abstain in the second round.  Finally, Enrique Peñalosa called on his Green Alliance followers to vote their conscience, noting that “the majority of my voters won’t do what I tell them.” (See “Las fuerzas para segunda vuelta.”)

The left is divided between those who are casting their lot with Santos to defend the peace process and those who seek to maintain an independent opposition role.  This week the Patriotic Union leadership, led by Aída Avello, called on its members to re-elect President Santos, “given that in the current circumstances he represents peace through dialogue.” (See article here.) Other major leaders of the left, including PDA Senator and Chair of the Senate Peace Commission Iván Cepeda and Patriotic March leader Piedad Córdoba, have announced their backing of President Santos and the peace process.  (See “Piedad Córdoba confirma que votará por Santos.”)  Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro announced that his Progressive party would work for Santos’s reelection but maintain its independence outside of Santos’s National Unity coalition.

It is too soon to tell how the numbers will stack up.  The polls show the candidates neck and neck, and are inconclusive.  A poll carried out days after the first round of elections by the firm Cifras & Conceptos for Caracol Radio and Red + Noticias showed Santos ahead with 38% to Zuluaga’s 37%; 15% of those questioned said they would cast blank ballots, and 10% remained undecided.  (See poll conclusions here.) A National Consulting Center poll last night showed Zuluaga ahead with 47% of the vote to Santos’s 45% and some 8% casting blank votes.  (See conclusions here.)  Considering the margins of error, the candidates appear to be tied.  Nonetheless, much can happen in the coming weeks as leaders of other political forces and civil society weigh in and the candidates seek ways to gain their votes.

Addressing Abstentionism
Both of the lead candidates and their teams are also eyeing the large pool of voters who abstained or cast blank ballots.  An unprecedented 59.93% of the eligible voters  boycotted the polls and an additional 5.99% of the voters cast blank ballots in the first round of the elections.  The OAS electoral mission report expressed concern over the increase in the abstention rate, an increase since the last presidential elections in 2010 and called it “a sign of citizens’ serious disenchantment with the political system.”  The mission urged “political leaders, parties, and electoral authorities to launch a national effort to strengthen civic awareness and promote voting.” (See the report here.)

This week key strategists and supporters of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro announced their intent to resign their positions in the district to join the last weeks of the presidential campaigns.  On Monday, secretary of health Aldo Cadena, secretary of social integration Jorge Rojas, and director of the District Institute for the Protection of Children and Youth José Miguel Sánchez announced they would leave their district posts to launch a “National Broad Front for Peace” to accompany the reelection campaign of President Santos.  Liberal party leader and Labor Minister Rafael Pardo tendered his resignation to work on the Santos campaign as well.  On the other side, Transmilenio transportation chief Fernando Sanclemente and tourism institute director Luis Fernando Rosas also stepped down from their positions in the Bogota administration, but they will be working for the Zuluaga campaign, arguing that “Peace is not only with Santos.”  (Read more here.)

Positioning on Peace
It is not clear yet whether the peace issue will determine the electorate’s voting positions for the run-off elections on June 15th.  Pre-electoral polls had suggested that voters were not giving much weight to the issue of peace in relation to other issues in the run-up to the first round. (See my earlier blogposts on the subject.)  Since Sunday’s elections, however, the candidates have been jockeying to play the peace issue to their best advantage.

Zuluaga, ex-President Alvaro Uribe’s hand-picked successor, is considered a hard-liner when it comes to peace.  On the morning after the election results were in, Zuluaga announced that as soon as he was inaugurated on August 7, he would decree a “provisional suspension of the talks in Havana so that the FARC would decide if they want to continue with a negotiated peace.”  Zuluaga noted that the FARC would have to “cease all criminal actions” and agree to a “verifiable and permanent ceasefire.” He pledged to seek mechanisms to reduce sentences for crimes committed, but insisted that the FARC would have to serve jail time, a condition that FARC has refused and that could be a deal breaker for the peace talks.

Forty-eight hours later, on Thursday, May 28, Zuluaga modified his position in a move that President Juan Manuel Santos called “cynical” and “electorally-driven” (“electorera”).  The shift came as part of Zuluaga’s effort to woo Ramírez and the Conservative Party and was laid out in a pact between Zuluaga and Ramírez that was signed by 40 Conservative Party legislators and guaranteed by the vice presidential candidates of both parties. (See “Pact for Colombia” here.)  The 14 programmatic areas of the pact include Zuluaga’s new position on peace.  There Zuluaga pledges that his government would “continue talking with the FARC in Havana, without agreements behind the country’s back, with conditions and deadlines that guarantee tangible, definitive, verifiable advances, with international accompaniment.”  The pact calls for a public evaluation of the first three agreements that have already been reached in Havana, and, within Zuluaga’s first month in office, a series of “gestures for peace” from the FARC, including the immediate cessation of child recruitment, the cessation of further use of land mines and provision of maps that would allow the government to begin immediately de-mining the affected zones, an end to “terrorist attacks against the population,” a cessation of war crimes, and a suspension of attacks against infrastructure.  Furthermore, the agreement stipulates that the government would set a deadline with the FARC for completing the negotiations and would require the FARC to cease kidnapping, extortion, and any activities related to drug trafficking.

Many of Zuluaga’s demands address the humanitarian concerns of the broader Colombian populace, and these issues are already on the agenda of the peace delegations in Havana.   The problem is really one of process and attitude.  Insisting on a series of pre-conditions that ex-President Ernesto Samper has called “unfillable” could shut down the talks.   (See “El  giro de 180 grados“).  Years of efforts to attain peace by setting pre-conditions through the “microphones”–i.e. making demands in the press–have not proven to be successful in the past.  In his effort to appear tough on the FARC, Zuluaga has not yet shown much nuance in his thinking about how to make a peace process work.  If he really hopes to pursue peace, he would do well to learn from the experiences of those at the table who have managed to nurture a common vision for the country and have modeled mutual respect in their negotiating process.  This attitude of respect is essential to the ability of either of the candidates to deliver a peace accord.

For Santos, who has defined his entire presidency around the peace talks in Havana, a Zuluaga victory would torpedo the peace talks.  “Neither history or the new generations would forgive us” if we failed to bring the peace process to fruition, Santos said this week.   He floated an innovative proposal that the negotiating teams might consider dividing into two teams to work on the remaining agenda items–terms of ending the conflict and victims–in order to accelerate their momentum.

Santos’s challenge right now is selling a highly skeptical population on his ability to deliver a peace agreement with the FARC.  Santos has recent history somewhat in his favor.  His team in Havana has shown itself to be highly adept.  It has developed a working relationship with the FARC team, a framework agreement that has proven to be an effective guide for the talks and for negotiating differences, and a methodology that has delivered agreements on agrarian reform, political participation, and, most recently, illicit crops and drug trafficking.  Finally, working in Santos’s favor is that the parties remain at the table, have made steady forward progress on their agenda, and unanimously agree that they are likely to reach a final agreement.  In comparison with other peace processes around the globe, the Colombian process stands up quite well and has many lessons to offer.


This is not to say the process has been perfect however.  Some of the public skepticism is related to the government’s decision to pursue peace in the middle of war.  In addition, the government’s exclusion of civil society from the peace table and its lack of a peace pedagogy to manage expectations and help shape public opinion about what a peace process can and can’t do has undermined perceptions of its work.

In this past week, we have seen a new push by the Santos administration to refine its approach.  Humberto de la Calle and Sergio Jaramillo, leaders of the government negotiating team, were out speaking to the media and at public forums about the peace process.  De la Calle insisted that there are many fallacies about the peace process that undermine its credibility, and the negotiators  acknowledged that there is room for improvement in communicating with the public and educating them more about the peace process.  (See “Lanzan campaña nacional“).  Hopefully, it will not be too little too late.

Monday, May 26, 2014

how to interpret traumatic testimony

In the 'interpretips' video below Marjory Bancroft, of voice of love, offers suggestions for protecting yourself as an intepreter when interpreting traumatic testimony (eg. a story of rape or torture).  Voice of love develops training and resources to support interpreting for survivors of torture, war trauma and sexual violence.  It's such important work and I'm so grateful that she's doing it, but I was really taken aback by her suggestion in this video that interpreters can protect themselves by using the third person! It seems to me that survivors of trauma are the LAST people whose words and power we want to diminish as interpreters by using 'he said, she said'.  I am also dubious that speaking FOR others in this way actually reduces the emotional impact much on the interpreter, at least enough to justify stealing their voice like this. But I'd love to hear other thoughts on this issue.  She also has other more useful suggestions for how to stay centered and grounded when doing this sort of interpreting. 

My own suggestion that I would add to hers here is to wash your hands and face with cold water afterwards, and literally shake out your limbs and head (best done in the bathroom where people won't look at you funny : ) Any other tips to add?


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

net neutrality: la neutralidad de la red

citando la fabulosa Amy Goodman (traducida por el equipo de DN):

"¿Qué es la neutralidad de la red? Es el principio fundamental de que cualquier persona en la red puede acceder a cualquier otra, de que los usuarios pueden acceder con la misma facilidad a un pequeño sitio web lanzado desde un garaje que a uno de los principales portales de Internet como Google o Yahoo. La neutralidad en la red es el amparo contra la discriminación con el que cuenta Internet. Y entonces, estos grandes proveedores de servicios de Internet, ¿para qué querrán eliminar algo tan bueno? Por codicia. Los principales proveedores de servicios de Internet ya obtienen inmensas ganancias. Pero si se les permite crear una Internet de varios niveles, en la que algunos proveedores de contenido paguen más para que sus páginas o sus aplicaciones web se carguen más rápido, podrían obtener ganancias extra. Recordemos que los usuarios ya pagan para acceder a Internet. Ahora, compañías como Comcast pretenden cobrarles también a quienes se encuentran al otro lado de la conexión de Internet, con lo que recaudarían miles de millones de dólares provenientes tanto de los usuarios como de los proveedores de contenido."

For more on the hideous recent ruling by the FCC against net neutrality read the rest of her column. It's time for Obama to keep his word and step up. Sign here to tell him so.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

tercerización: third-party hiring

This was the translation offered in the following great article about cut-flower workers in the savanna around Bogotá (the vast majority of the roses sold in the US are grown in a huge labyrinth of greenhouses around the city under horrible conditions).

The Human Cost of Your Mother's Day Flowers

By Michael Zelenko
This article originally appeared on VICE.
Lorena never wanted to work in the cut-flower industry. But when she gave birth to the first of two daughters at the age of 19, she understood she needed the money. In the region of Colombia where Lorena has spent her entire life — known as the Bogotá Savanna — cut flowers are king. “There’s no other work, no other industry here,” she told me when I visited her this spring. As a single mother, Lorena had few alternatives but to enter the vast farms and factories, where she cut, trimmed, and arranged carnations, alstroemerias, and roses for export to flower-hungry US consumers.

Almost 20 years later, Lorena’s two daughters have managed to avoid working with flowers — one is a student, and the other does missionary work — but Lorena still works in the same plantations, pulling a minimum-wage salary of $333 per month. Years of difficult and dangerous work have wracked Lorena’s body, leaving debilitating injuries in their wake. Lorena traded her youth and health to support her family. “I don’t want the same for my daughters,” she told me.

The National Retail Federation estimates that this Mother’s Day weekend, Americans will purchase more than $2 billion worth of flowers. Almost 80 percent of those flowers come from Colombia, where impoverished mothers like Lorena toil long hours to produce tokens of affection for more fortunate mothers elsewhere. While the provenance of the peonies we buy last minute at gas stations, supermarkets, and corner store bodegas remains a mystery for most Americans, for the women that produce these bouquets the cut-flower industry is a harrowing reality, and Mother’s Day is a cruel joke.

The Elite Flower, a major plantation on the outskirts of Facatativá

Work in the cut-flower industry is notoriously dangerous. Flowers are fickle and sensitive to pests and disease. To protect their investments, companies pump highly toxic pesticides and fungicides into the greenhouses where flowers are grown. Twenty percent of these chemicals are so toxic and carcinogenic that they’re prohibited in North America and Europe. As a result, workers often suffer from rashes, headaches, impaired vision, and skin discoloration. Women, who make up 70 percent of the cut flower workforce in Colombia, report substantially higher instances of birth defects and miscarriages.

In the high season between Valentine’s Day and the summer wedding season, work conditions deteriorate as companies cut corners and rush to get their flowers to market. During these months, women oftentimes wake at three of four in the morning in order to finish chores and prepare meals for their families. By dawn, they are already at the plantation, where a workday can last from 16 to 20 hours. After a few hours of rest, the marathon starts over again.
 
In early March, I traveled to Facatativá, Colombia, to meet Lorena and others workers responsible for our Mother’s Day bouquets. Located an hour and a half outside Bogotá, Facatativá is a sprawling, dusty city that sits in the heart of the Savanna. Thousands of acres of flower farms, blanketed under gray plastic tarps, stretch from the city’s borders like spider webs.

Discarded bouquets in the Facatativá cemetery

When I met Lorena in front of her home, she was visibly nervous. If her employer found out that she’d spoken out against the industry, she said, there could be serious consequences. Just over five feet tall, Lorena has the petite build of a young girl. But her body, she laments, has been broken by countless hours of huddling over flower beds, trimming stem after stem. Years of cutting, bunching, and arranging bouquets in massive factories. She rattles off a list of injuries: tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, a spinal column disability, a torn rotator cuff. Though the company provides minimal health care, Lorena has to fight to see a doctor. “Every time I go they say there are people with more serious problems, and they push me to the back of the line.”

Does the company where she works offer any precautions to protect her and her colleagues from the dangerous pesticides sprayed on the flowers? “Yes, they give us masks and gloves,” she told me as we sat in the living room of her cinder-block home. “But you can still feel it on you when you come home. Whenever anyone falls sick, the company investigates it thoroughly, attempting to shift the responsibility from the company to the workers.” Lorena recounted the story of a co-worker who’d recently collapsed in the middle of his shift, his face turning purple. “The company says that it was just a heart attack. But there’s a rumor that he’d succumbed to the chemical sprays.”

Carlos, Alejandra, and their daughter at home

Given the arduous conditions I asked why she continued to work in the industry. Lorena nodded toward her daughter, flitting between other parts of the house. “The most important thing,” she said, “is to have a home for my family.”A week later, I attended a meeting to discuss the role of women and labor rights within the industry. “What we’re looking for is to form and organize the flower workers' sector,” Beatriz Fuentes, one of the event’s organizers, told me afterward. Fuentes worked for years in the cut-rose plantations before becoming a union leader.

Workers listen to speakers during a meeting to discuss the rights and roles of women in the cut-flower industry.

“Women are chosen to work in the flower industry because they have agile hands — they can go through the motions smoother and more efficiently,” Fuentes explained. “Their hands aren't as heavy, and so they can manage the flowers and arrange the bouquets faster.”

But in exchange, they’re often taken advantage of. “Women are regularly paid less than men for the same jobs,” Fuentes said. Because of limited alternative employment — Colombia regularly has the highest unemployment rate in Latin America — female workers are hesitant to assert their rights. Companies commonly require female employees to take pregnancy tests in order to weed out workers who might be eligible for maternity leave. A 2008 International Labor Rights Forum report suggested that more than half of all women in the industry have suffered from sexual harassment.
 
As the meeting wound down, I struck up a conversation with Alejandra and her husband, Carlos. Between the two of them, they’ve spent almost 50 years on the plantations. Like Lorena, both Carlos and Alejandra have torn rotator cuffs—Carlos in both arms. Because of her injury, Alejandra can no longer work. Carlos, only 53, walks with a cane. He can only work sitting down.

Carlos, Alejandra, and their daughter at home

The next day, I came to their home for a cup of coffee. The couple have two daughters — Camila, who’s just a child, and Mariana, who’s of high school age. Mariana wants to escape the industry and go to college in Bogotá, but the family can’t afford the $5 it costs for her to travel to the capital and back each day. Now she’s picking up spare shifts on the plantation.

Carlos and Alejandra are involved in an effort to unionize flower workers for better conditions. It’s an uphill battle, they say. Increasingly, companies are veering away from permanent employees in favor of temporary, three-month contracts brokered by employment agencies. Known as tercerización (or third-party hiring), the practice is illegal but rampant.

“With an indefinite contract, you have much more security — I can plan on taking care of my family,” Carlos said. Unlike the younger generation of hires, he still has a permanent contract. “If my job wants to get rid of me, they need to do it for a just cause, like showing up to work drunk. But with these temporary contracts, they can work you to the bone and toss you aside.”

A dumpster's worth of discarded flowers and wreaths in the Facatativá cemetery

Carlos called his 25-year-old neighbor, Sofía, to come over and testify to life as a temporary contractor. “In the farm where I work,” Sofía said, “no one works for the company — everyone works on contract. The companies keep track of whether we’re good or bad workers. If you’re bad, they won’t hire you. And if you’re part of a union, they won’t hire you either.”
Without stronger labor rights and greater visibility, Carlos and Alejandra believe the conditions in the cut-flower industry are unlikely to improve. Meanwhile, the backbreaking work and long hours are having a destructive ripple effect throughout the community.

Flower beds in the Elite Flower plantation

“There are so many mothers in this industry who have to work all day and can’t take care of their children,” Alejandra told me, her young daughter cradled on her lap. “Kids go to school and get out at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and their parents don’t come home until 1 in the morning. So what do these kids do during that time? How can our kids grow up and be cared for when their parents are gone?”
“In the United States,” Carlos added, “people love flowers. But they have no idea what goes on here. A husband might give his wife a bouquet of flowers, and it’s a beautiful gesture. But he doesn’t know about the pain it took to get it there. People in the United States just don’t think about all this.”
Follow Michael Zelenko on Twitter: @mvzelenks

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

los Rastrojos: the undergrowth (not leftovers)

Caught a bad mistranslation in the New York Times today.  In an article about the latest twist in the Colombian election they say that Santos' campaign manager is accused of accepting bribes from "a criminal gang known as "Los Rastrojos," or The Leftovers."  Well let's start with the more serious misrepresentation.  Los rastrojos are not just any old criminal gang, but rather one of the two most vicious neo-paramilitaries to emerge in Colombia after the so called peace agreement, ie, restructuring, with the former paramilitaries (the other being the Urabeños).  So really, are a group that attacks unionists and others working for justice in Colombia, and that engages in what they hideously call 'social cleansing' of street kids and queer folks, going to call themselves the leftovers? Highly unlikely. 

A better translation, in the Colombian context, would be the weeds or the undergrowth.  In other countries the term gets used to mean the stubble left in the fields after harvest. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

the national interpreter action network

I'm on the road so just a brief note this week to say that if you are (or want to be) an interpreter in the US please join, or at the least sign up for emails from, the national interpreter action network.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

asistencialismo: welfarism (but ...)


I've blogged asistencialismo before as charity, which works in some contexts and I think is clearer that welfarism, which is listed in many Sp-En dictionaries and sounds like it might be right, but the wikipedia definition of welfarism in English is something totally different than the wikipedia definition for asistencialismo. I noticed that Austin, in the fabulous article here about Bogotá, uses the Spanish version and then adds "(a pejorative neologism akin to “welfarism”)". What do folks think, does this work? Of course hard to add all that when you're doing simul - and I wonder if listeners would get that it's pejorative without that being pointed out? 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

yet another option for campesino

I have blogged repeatedly about the various options for translating the term campesino. Rural poor, which is one that does not get used often, jumped out at me in the article below, reposted from new matilda.

Whose Revolution Gets Televised?

While anti-government protests rage in Venezuela, across the border in Colombia a genuine uprising of the rural campesinos has gone almost unreported, writes Christian Tym
Not all revolutions are created equal. In fact, often the media elevates a protest movement to the status of a revolution, while a mass uprising of the poor and dispossessed receives no attention at all.

It all depends, naturally, on who the target of protest is. Neighbouring Latin American countries, Colombia and Venezuela, have both recently been in turmoil.

After five weeks of protests against Venezuela’s socialist President, Nicolás Maduro, the death toll in Venezuela has reached 30. The Guardian described the situation as one of “brutal repression” and supposed “free-fire zones.”

But just five of the 30 deaths occurred at the hands of state security forces, and only two of those were carried out by the National Guard, the forces under the direct command of the socialist federal government. Most of the violence has been carried out by armed radicals on either side of the political divide.
Despite this, the Venezuelan protests have received uncritical praise in the media. On 13 March, the SMH ran a feel-good profile of Juan Requesens, one of the student leaders. The Independent raised the prospect that the protests represented the seeds of “A Venezuelan Spring.”

Across the border in Colombia, an unreported uprising continues to simmer. On 17 March, in the capital Bogotá, campesino (rural poor) organisations announced a two-week deadline for the government to implement the agreements that resulted from protests in 2013.

“We are tired of the invisible gag put on us by our beloved country, which is now no longer our own,” said Óscar Salazar, spokesperson for the negotiating committee of campesino organisations.

The massive Colombian uprising of August-September 2013 was scarcely covered in the English-language media and its rumblings this year haven’t yet been mentioned.

On 12 August last year an estimated 250,000 campesinos went on strike and set up road blockades across the country. For weeks, the principal highways were blocked in the provinces surrounding the capital, Bogotá, and blockades were also set up around the major cities Cali and Medellín.

All transport with Ecuador to the south was blocked by barricades in the provinces of Cauca and Nariño. Indigenous Amazonians shut down Putumayo province in the far south and blockades in Barranquilla in the far north stopped commerce with Caribbean ports.

The central demand of the Colombian campesinos was for guarantees of fair prices for agricultural products and in particular, the cancellation of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with USA and the EU. The FTAs removed import tariffs but placed no restrictions on subsidies in rich countries, thereby allowing agribusiness to sell commodities in Colombia at obscenely low prices.
FTA provisions also included the compulsory registration of seeds nation-wide, a move that paves the way for US agribusiness to corner the market with patented seed varieties. In Huila, 70 tonnes of rice harvested from unregistered seeds was seized from campesinos and dumped — this in a country with a poverty rate of 32 per cent.

Following the initial blockades, the uprising became a lightning rod for dissent, spreading in urban areas to unions of teachers, health workers, students, transport sector workers and miners.

At the height of the uprising, on 29 August, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos militarised Bogotá and mobilised 50,000 troops across the country. During the month-long uprising, organisers say 19 people were killed by government security forces and over 600 were injured.

More ominously, the left-wing opposition has since suffered targeted attacks. Marcha Patriótica, a central protagonist of the uprising, has lost 29 of its organisers to assassinations since the 2013 uprising ended. Unlike in Venezuela, the protestors are receiving the full brunt of the violence.

Colombia’s campesinos are attempting to change a system of entrenched privilege. For example, the Minister of Agriculture, with whom campesino leaders are expected to negotiate, was until 2013 general manager of a company with some of the largest holdings of palm-oil and rubber plantations in the Colombian Amazon.

By contrast, the Venezuelan protests are backed primarily by the Chamber of Commerce and students of private universities. Over the past 15 years, the socialist government they are targeting has eroded entrenched privileges and given black and mixed-race Venezuelans a role in deciding the future of their country.

The English-language press rarely tells this story of Venezuela, instead painting a picture of economic collapse with no mention of the dramatic reduction in poverty and the establishment of universal education and healthcare.
By contrast, the Colombian uprising, still far from over, presents a systematic alternative to the pro-corporate policies being forced onto vast stretches of the planet via Washington’s Trans-Pacific Partnership and its Latin American correlate, the Alliance of the Pacific.

“It should be the people and communities who order territory and lay out the different ways to make use of it,” agreed campesino organisations at the national summit on 17 March. They call for “the exercise of sovereignty” in place of the dictates of the international market.

Comparing Colombia and Venezuela shows whose side our major media outlets are on. We need to be careful whose revolution we are cheerleading.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

degrowth: decrecimiento

thanks to @dualectico on twitter for pointing me to this great explanation of it en un minutico


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

affirmative action: afirmación positiva (Col)

Acción afirmativa does get used in Colombia, but afirmación positiva is much more common.  It has much higher googlage along with the word Colombia - though I wonder if some of that is people talking about saying nice things to yourself (ie, positive affirmations), but it IS the term that government agencies use for what we would call affirmative action in the US. I think in other countries discriminación positiva might be the more commonly used term.  Thoughts?

Friday, March 7, 2014

trueque: barter

What goods and services do you/ could you barter in your community?

Que vivan las economias alternativas!