Tuesday, February 19, 2008

comunidad de base

comunidad de base: organized community

in the last post I argued that base is usually grassroots, but here is another example that occurred to me where, in context, it can refer to organizing

You may have heard of the term christian base communities - a key part of liberation theology. sometimes when people say comunidad de base they mean these, but often they are simply referring to an organized community, be it that they have a strong community council, work groups, or that they are part of some larger campesino organization of what have you.

I am posting today from Turbo, and leave soon for the peace community of San Jose, an organized community if ever there was one.

What is a peace community? In this case it is a group of campesinos who have chosen not to participate in the war in any way, and have asked all of the armed actors (paramilitaries, guerillas and the military) to stay out of their community. As a result they have been attacked by all sides. In their eleven years they have suffered over 160 violent deaths. Three years ago one of their leaders was killed in a horrific massacre with his family and another family. Luis Eduardo Guerra had only a few years earlier come to the School of the Americas vigil to denounce attacks on the peace community. (that link has more info on the massacre)

The brigade accused of killing him was led by an SOA graduate. Since his death the community has bravely continued sending community members to speak at the SOA vigil in the US about the attacks and to work in solidarity with us to end US military involvement in Colombia. I have been honored to interpret for them. Now it's my turn to go to the community in our joint struggle against militarism.

February 21st will be the third anniversary of the massacre, and I am going with the community on their "return" – a three day hike up to where Luis Eduardo and the others were killed. This is territory that is seriously disputed between the guerillas and the military and the paramilitaries. There will be a big group of folks from the community and a significant number of international accompaniers on this hike, which helps with safety, but there are no guarantees. Please send us all lots of safety wishes. I'll send a report on how it goes when I get back at the end of the month.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

trabajo de base

trabajo de base: grassroots organizing

I heard this rendered as "base work" - which has got to be one of the all time most dangerous false cognates.

in other news I found fabulous affordable housing in the funky neighborhood of la Macarena. yay!

I've (reasonably) been asked to explain why it bugs me so much that base gets mistranslated with its cognate. To me the first connotation that comes to mind with "base" is low, and in some contexts it could even be misunderstood as degrading. yikes! The next definition that would come to me for "base" would be military base - which might actually seem to make sense depending on the context, and again would be a total misunderstanding. Base is commonly mistranslated with its cognate, not just as part of this term. bad news! avoid it!

Of course "work" means something very different than organizing - but usually in movement contexts speakers are really referring specifically to organizing with this phrase, which is understood in Spanish, but needs to be specified in English.

Friday, February 1, 2008

affordable housing

affordable housing: vivienda asequible, vivienda al alcance economico, vivienda economicamente accesible

The first if the standard, and the easier and quicker term, but sometimes I wonder if low literacy listeners get it - which is when I would turn to either of the latter two, or if in a real pinch while doing simultaneous, just 'vivienda al alcance'.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines "affordable" as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household's monthly income. That includes the cost of utilities. Other public agencies sometimes define affordable housing as those units that are subsidized such that renters or owners do not pay more than that 30%. The number of units with those kinds of subsidies has been cut drastically in recent years. Sadly way way too many people, in the US and around the world, pay far more than 30%.

Right now I'm looking hard for some housing that's affordable, sunny, and in the Macarena neighborhood of Bogotá. Wish me luck!