Tuesday, December 18, 2012

vivir bien vs. el buen vivir

living well vs living the good life (or living the high life if you want the distinction to be super clear)
This is a distinction frequently made by movements in Latin America.  Today I saw it oddly translated here, in an article that says,
"Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, called for a new age to begin December 21, 2012. Speaking at the United Nations in September, Morales said the date signals an end to individualism and capitalism and a turn toward the collective good. That's a common theme for Morales, who often speaks of 'vivir bien,' a phrase that can be translated as living well. 'Vivir bien' is often defined by the Andean nation's leaders as pursuing the collective good in balance with the Earth, and contrasted with 'living better,' which is seeking to amass wealth at the expense of the planet or other people 


Teo Ballvé said...

I've translated "buen vivir" as "collective well being."

I've noted a similar thing, but have a slightly different take than the author of the piece: In speeches I've heard by Bolivian politicians "vivir bien" is referred to when making a distinction with "vivir mejor." The distinction seems aimed at replacing a developmentalist notion of marginal improvement (vivir mejor--i.e. better, but still deprived) with a more "objective" state of well being (vivir bien).

Doesn't "living the good life" or "high life" have too much of an extravagant connotation in English?

Sara Koopman said...

Teo, I think collective well-being is buen CONvivir, which also gets used in Bolivia and Ecuador - but as a rework of, and in contrast to, buen vivir. I found this bit by José María Tortosa about all this where he says, "Buen vivir, finalmente, y en las diversas lenguas de los países centrales, suele implicar el disfrute individual, material, hedonista e incesante. ...
En algún ejemplo extremo encontrado recientemente en España, “buen
vivir” casi se reduciría al “comer, beber y dormir” (sic).

But I think you're right, sometimes movement folks are using buen vivir when they seem to mean buen CONvivir. The thing is, in Spanish these are translations from various indigenous languages, so it's all a bit messy and far from standardized. But Tortosa goes on to offer the various indigenous language originals, as officially listed in the constitutions: "en la Constitución ecuatoriana de 2008 puede
leerse que “se reconoce el derecho de la población a vivir en un ambiente sano y
ecológicamente equilibrado, que garantice la sostenibilidad y el buen vivir, sumak
kawsay”. Por su parte, la Constitución boliviana de 2009 es algo más prolija
al respecto pues recoge la pluralidad lingüística del país que dicha constitución
reconoce como plurinacional, y dice que “el estado asume y promueve como
principios ético-morales de la sociedad plural: ama qhilla, ama llulla, ama suwa
(no seas flojo, no seas mentiroso ni seas ladrón), suma qamaña (vivir bien), ñanSumak dereko (vida armoniosa), teko kavi (vida buena), ivi maraei (tierra sin mal) y
qhapaj ñan (camino o vida noble)”.

PDF link to his paper at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CE4QFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fundacioncarolina.es%2Fes-ES%2Fnombrespropios%2FDocuments%2FNPTortosa0908.pdf&ei=HKDQUJ3SCajkywHzoIGAAw&usg=AFQjCNEQ5dcuRKi2EF-sMD9x7UMuFIwYWw&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.aWc&cad=rja

Sara Koopman said...

ips renders it here as "good living", which sounds odd to me


Sara Koopman said...

well Teo, Arturo Escobar agrees with you: "I prefer to translate it as collective well-being. But it’s a collective well-being of both humans and non-humans. Humans, human communities and the natural world, all living beings."


Sara Koopman said...

Asher renders it as the well being of people and nature in

Asher, K., 2013. Latin American Decolonial Thought, or Making the Subaltern Speak. Geography Compass 7, 832–842. doi:10.1111/gec3.12102