Friday, August 28, 2009

cinturon de miseria

Cinturon de miseria - slum belt

This refers to the ring of slums around many (most?) cities in Latin America. Slum being rendered by Sebastian in the article I cited last week as ciudades misera was what helped me get this one. I don't like the term in either English or Spanish, as it seems to have a derogatory connotation. I prefer comunidades marginales or asentiamientos informales or something else more respectful.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the commons, commonism

the commons: el en-común
commonism: el en-comunismo

One for the lefty theory geeks. Props to my compa Sebastian (te fuiste!), who (with a collective of course) translated this article in turbulence that lays it all out. bzzzz.

To quote the author Nick Dyer-Witheford (in translation):

“Lo ‘en-común’ es una expresión que resume muchas de las aspiraciones del movimiento de movimientos. Es un término muy usado quizás porque ofrece una manera de hablar sobre la propiedad colectiva sin invocar una mala historia –es decir, evitando evocar el comunismo, convencionalmente entendido como la combinación de una economía de mando centralizado y un estado represivo–, para inmediatamente encontrarle una explicación convincente. Aunque habrá quienes no estén de acuerdo, creo que esta discusión es válida; es importante diferenciar nuestros objetivos y nuestros métodos de los de catástrofes pasadas, retomando las discusión de una sociedad más allá del capitalismo.

La primera referencia a lo ‘en-común’ corresponde a las tierras de uso colectivo cercadas por el capitalismo en un proceso de acumulación primitiva que va desde la edad media hasta el presente. Aún hoy, las tierras de cultivo comunes siguen siendo el punto principal de conflicto en muchos lugares. Pero hoy lo en-común también nombra la posibilidad de propiedad colectiva, y no privada, en otros terrenos: lo ecológico en-común (el agua, la atmósfera, la pesca y los bosques); lo social en-común (la previsión pública con respecto al bienestar, la salud, la educación, etc.); lo en-común en red (el acceso a los medios de comunicación).”

keep reading

Thursday, August 13, 2009

vereda (again)

vereda (Col): dispersed rural settlement

In my previous post I argued for rendering it as township - which led to some interesting conversation in the comments. This version is higher register, and stinks for fast simultaneous, but seems more accurate. Maybe for simul you could say this the first time, followed by “something like a U.S. township”, and from then on use township.

Friday, August 7, 2009


rancho: shack - generally not ranch!!

While on the topic, here is another dangerous false cognate. Ranch in English implies something totally different, with lots of land, and Bush chopping wood, or Reagan on his horse. Certainly not an informal self-made simple dwelling, which in my experience is what is generally meant, in a variety of Latin American countries. I don't love the word shack, since it can have negative connotations and implies a more ramshackle dwelling that rancho necessarily does. Yet the reclaiming of the term being done by shack/ slum dwellers international makes me more comfortable with it. I also haven't come up with anything better. Cabin is certainly no good as now it tends to imply something more like a second home. 'Informal housing' is a much higher register. Humble home sounds cutesy.

Wiki defines a particular way of building ranchos in the southern cone

But in my experience it could be any type of building. Could be just cardboard and tin. Could be stone walls. Could be adobe. Could even be cement and wood, but very simple, humble. An english ranch would be a finca.

Kudos to Latin Pulse for subtitling the below episode of Contravia, some of the only (and very brave) independent journalism in Colombia. I include it here with the excuse that the word rancho comes up several times, as folks are showing us their homes that have been bombed. Could you move back into your home and rebuild it (yourself) if it had been bombed? Or would it be too freaky? Could you ever feel safe there again?

(ojo: the subtitles render cabildo as town council, but it's indigenous council (in the US the term would be tribal council), which here changes the story a bit)

Monday, August 3, 2009

False cognates

False cognates are always dangerous, but there are some that can be particularly bad news for movement interpreters:

comprometido - certainly not compromised! it's committed

es preciso - not precise! At least not as generally used in Colombia, where it tends to mean appropriate, timely, etc, depending on the context.

integral - please, spare me from integral! Ok, it kind of means the same thing, kind of, but we just don't use it in English and it sounds bizarre. We usually say comprehensive.

Can you think of others that tend to come up in movement settings?