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)