Thursday, October 25, 2007


cartoneros: urban salvagers

I recently saw a great documentary called Cartoneros, a short version of which is below. They used scavenger for cartonero, but I think salvager has much more dignity to it. Just saw Bryan on subtopia use the term urban salvager, and like that specificity. In Vancouver the term is binner, but that seems very Vancouver specific - other English speakers don't seem to get it. There's actually also a movie about the Vancity binners, called Traplines in Vancouver, made by a French Geographer. The Vancouver binners association has one of my favorite organization names: United We Can. The other term is dumpster diver - which some folks use with great pride, but I don't think is as widely well regarded as salvager.

(ojo que en español Colombiano es reciclador, y, como dice Raul en los comentarios, en Mexicano pepenador, que viene del nahuatl)

Monday, October 22, 2007

organización de base

organización de base: grassroots organization

I've heard the false cognate, base organization, more than once. It's a particularly unfortunate one, again because of the different connotation of the cognate. Base could easily be understood to mean unethical, immoral, or low class.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


militante: activist; fighter

On Friday Democracy Now! covered President Carter calling Cheney a militant. Webster's has a militant listed first as someone who engages in warfare, and second as someone who is combative for their cause. I assume Carter meant the first, and I think it's far and away the stronger association for that term in English, so I often flinch when I hear interps going into En render militante with its cognate - because usually in our contexts the Sp speakers are not talking about being guerilla fighters, and in fact very much do not want to be seen that way (no joke in Colombia where you can be killed for a rumor like that). Usually it seems to me that "activist" is the more appropriate cultural equivalent. And then there are those times when your speaker will say "yo era militante con el Frente" (though really, they'd usually say "yo militaba") and there you go by context. I still wouldn't use militant though. I'd say "I was a fighter with" or "I fought with".

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


walkout: huelga escolar

I like that in Spanish this tactic is more clearly related to a worker's strike - in English it makes it sound like you just leave school, but of course they usually involve a march or a picket. Really, student strike is a better term for it than walkout. The We all live in Jena walkouts a few weeks ago got me thinking about this one. Kudos to Amy Goodman for fantastic coverage of this case on Democracy Now! (you can listen/watch here - the video documentary bits are great descriptions of the case, or you can read the basics of it here. If you haven't signed the petition yet, please do. This case is turning into an important way to highlight how deeply flawed the so-called "justice" system is in the U.S.

Friday, October 5, 2007

even more Evo on the daily show

the day after Evo was on the daily show Jon Stewart made a joke about the interpreting! I can't quite decide if he's saying it was impressive or ... ?! Turns out that it was NOT the same interp he had on Democracy Now. I learned from Adam Isaacson's fantastic Plan Colombia blog that it was Charlie Roberts of the Washington-based Colombia Human Rights Committee. Ok, what other president would use a social justice organizer-interp? Usually presidential interps are, um ... well, not in the trenches of the struggle shall we say.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


animador(a): organizer

This is often mis-translated with the false cognate, and somehow when I hear it I think of that woman on the Love Boat who was trying to get everyone to be happy and social. She was an animator. In the U.S. I render organizer (as in community, or political) as organizador(a), in Colombia I would probably use animadora. Proz and wordref will tell you that animadora means cheerleader, but it will usually be obvious in our contexts that the role is equivalent to organizer. Of course, part of being a good organizer is to cheerlead.