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Panorama

Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and events from around the hemisphere with AQ's Panorama. Each issue, AQ packs its bags and offers readers travel tips on a new Americas destination.

In this issue:
A traditional Chinese gate leads into Havana's Chinatown. Photo: Seb Agudelo.

Graphicanos

View a slideshow of Graphicanos prints below.

Indiana is better known for the Indy 500 and sports teams than for a thriving art culture, so most art lovers would be surprised to stumble upon the cutting-edge exhibit of serigraphic prints—a contemporary art form that uses block-size ink stencils to print images onto canvas—on display this winter at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Charles Shepard, the museum’s executive director and curator of the groundbreaking exhibit—Graphicanos: Contemporary Latino Prints from the Serie Project—likes to point out that there is a thriving art world beyond the traditional centers of New York and San Francisco. And he believes presenting often-ignored contributions of Latino artists in the American “heartland”—not usually seen as a center of Latino culture—reflects the rich diversity of U.S. society today.

“Every part of our diverse culture is making art in some form,” Shepard says. “And as a museum, we should be looking at that.” The museum hosts an annual Día de los Muertos celebration every November, which attracts about 2,000 visitors from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The event became so popular that it inspired him to collaborate with the late Sam Coronado, a Mexican-American serigraphic print artist, for the Graphicanos exhibit.

Coronado, founder of the Austin, Texasbased Serie Project, was inspired by workshops he attended at Self Help Graphics—a nonprofit Chicano community art center in Los Angeles. He founded the Serie Project in 1992 with the intention of offering a space where, he explained, “underrepresented artists could benefit from collaboration and learn the serigraphy technique.” Coronado saw silk screen prints as a uniquely historical and culturally significant medium that could highlight Mexican-American expression.

Coronado’s vision is brought to life by vivid imagery and provocative messaging. Melding political and cultural images—such as the calavera imposed over the familiar commercial image of a Sun-Maid raisin box to protest deportations—the collection offers artists a medium to express their personal interpretations of life at the intersection of Mexican and American cultures.

View a slideshow of Graphicanos prints below.


All photos by Joslyn Elliott, courtesy of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Serie Project.


Para todo mal, mezcal; para todo bien, también

Mezcal used to be sniffed at by Mexican sophisticates as the slightly less respectable cousin of tequila—a fiery peasant’s drink consumed in dark corner bars or rural ranchos in Oaxaca, where 94 percent of Mexico’s mezcal is produced. But that is no longer the case. For many trend-setters in the capital and elsewhere, mezcal has become a symbol of the nation’s pre-Colombian roots and its artisanal culture.

Domestic tastes have only just caught up to the drink’s increasing popularity abroad. According to Mexico’s Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food), exports of mezcal grew 120 percent between 2006 and 2012. It’s now served in some of the swankiest restaurants in New York and Paris.

“Mezcal has become a mark of sophistication,” says Raúl Zamora, co-owner of Mezcal El Cortijo, one of the top-selling brands.

For connoisseurs at home and abroad, mezcal’s appeal lies in its diverse flavors and aromatics. Like wine, no two batches are the same. The liquor traces its history to metzcalli, a powerful pre-Colombian elixir imbibed by shamans and made from the syrup of the agave plant. With the arrival of the Spaniards and their knowledge of distillation and fermentation, mezcal was born.

Like champagne, it is strongly identified with specific locales. Tequila, in fact, is a type of mezcal identified with the town of Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, and made from blue agave. Under Mexican regulations, mezcal must be distilled entirely from the agave plant, but tequila can be mixed with other alcohol. While mezcal is prominently featured in cocktails, it is actually meant to be sipped, and pairs well with traditional Mexican food.


Worst of the Worst

Leani García

The U.S. holds the sad distinction of putting more people behind bars than any other country in the world—over 2.4 million people in prisons and jails. Many of the most brutal and depressing facilities—and those inside them—are tucked out of public view. A group of Connecticut film makers, however, managed to penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding one such facility.

The filmmakers, from Yale Law School’s Visual Law Project, took their cameras to the Northern Correction Institution near Somers, Connecticut, to document the effects of prison life on inmates, corrections officers and their families. Their 30-minute documentary, The Worst of the Worst: Portrait of a Supermax Prison, paints a grim picture of the conditions faced by Northern’s inmates and, by extension, the 80,000 prisoners in solitary confinement in the United States.

Northern, opened in 1995, is a super-maximum security (supermax) institution, housing 227 inmates judged too dangerous for normal prison facilities and prohibited from any human interaction for 23 hours per day.

The film graphically explores the psychological toll solitary confinement takes on prisoners. Hallucinations and suicidal tendencies are common. At the same time, corrections officers experience their own traumas, compounded often by the guards’ unwillingness to discuss their emotions. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The prisoners, meanwhile, are not always the hardened criminals that they are made out to be. Many end up in supermax facilities after accruing disciplinary tickets for minor infractions in lower-security institutions.

Ultimately, The Worst of the Worst aims to inspire prison reform and challenge the notion that supermax facilities house the "worst of the worst."

“The full-circle approach to telling the story of Northern left us with the conclusion that the institution harms everyone it touches… this institution is the worst of the worst,” says Assem Mehta, one of the filmmakers.


10 Things to Do: Valparaíso, Chile

Richard André

The port of Valparaíso, nicknamed the "Jewel of the Pacific," draws its charm from the pastel-colored houses that line its many cerros (hills) and the breathtaking vistas that await those who climb them. The city is rich in history, boasting Latin America's oldest stock exchange, Chile's first public library and the oldest Spanish-language newspaper still in publication.

1. Ride into the past. Historic elevators will lift you from the city center to the cerrosfor breathtaking panoramic views (100 pesos).

2. Admire street art. Valparaíso is one of the graffiti capitals of South America, and no place showcases this art better than the Museo a Cielo Abierto. The 20 classic, colorful murals were created between 1969 and 1973 by students from the Universidad Católica’s Instituto de Arte. One of the elevators, Ascensor Espíritu Santo, will take you there.

3. Relax in the city’s oldest bar. Cinzano, a sailors’ haunt when it opened in 1896, is now a local favorite for porteños and tourists, who can dance or listen to live tango and boleros. Order the house special, borgoña, a jar of homemade wine with fruit (3,500 pesos).

4. Channel Pablo Neruda. La Sebastiana, one of the poet’s three houses in Chile, is now a four-story museum that offers impressive views of the city. Make sure to check out Neruda’s crow’s nest study and model ships (3,000 pesos).

5. Explore the port. Originally the naval heart of the city, Plaza Sotomayor houses the Monumento a los Héroes de Iquique, which pays homage to Chile’s naval heroes. A 20- to 30-minute ferry ride offers water-based views of Valparaíso’s cerros (1,500 pesos).

6. Taste la chorrillana A narrow alley leads to the Casino Social J. Cruz. If the vintage trinkets and antiques don’t catch your eye, the chorrillanas—a mountain of French fries, fried pork, onions, and egg, invented here—will.

7. Spend a day behind bars. After Cerro Cárcel was closed in 1999, the cellblocks and exercise yard were re-opened as the Parque Cultural Ex-Cárcel grassroots cultural center. It now features theater productions, exhibition and dance halls, and music rehearsal spaces.

8. Commune with the spirits. A night tour of the city’s cemeteries offers an introduction to Valparaíso’s history. The palace-like tombs in Cementerio 1 mark the final resting places for some of the city’s most famous residents. The adjoining Cementerio 2 houses the Cementerio de Disidentes for non-Catholic English and European immigrants. (3,500 pesos).

9. Lose yourself in a Chilean market.  The city’s entrepreneurial energies are on colorful display along the block-long Mercado Cardonal—as well as its cuisine. The ground floor houses fruit and vegetable stands that spill out on to the street, and the second-floor restaurants offer mouthwatering seafood dishes.

10. Get out of the way! Since 2003, Valparaíso has played host to one of the largest urban bike races, Cerro Abajo. Starting at Cerro Cárcel, the 2-kilometer (1.24-mile) race shuts down the entire city center. Last year, 15,000 spectators cheered on 60 daredevils as they sped down Valpo’s narrow streets.

View a slideshow of photos from Valparaíso, Chile.


All photos courtesy of Anusha Mehar.


Chinese New Year with Cuban Flavor

View a slideshow of Havana's Chinatown below.

Havana’s Chinatown was once the largest and most economically significant Chinese community in Latin America. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, more than 150,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in Cuba to work in the sugar fields. Their descendants opened restaurants, cafeterias, theaters, banks, and newspapers, and propelled the district’s economic development. Some of the old bustle of Barrio Chino returns once a year, when hundreds of people gather between Dragones, Rayos, Lealtad, and Zanja streets to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Celebrations begin on the first day of the first month of the traditional Chinese calendar. The actual date of the festivities varies every year, and each New Year is represented by a different animal of the Chinese zodiac. This year, the Year of the Horse, celebrations took place on January 31.

In Havana, residents celebrate the New Year with traditional dragon dances and martial arts performances at the large pagoda-style Chinese portico that stands at the entrance to the historic district. Chinese descendants and locals mix together in the audience just like Chinese and Cuban flavors blend in the arroz frito, pork chops and black bean sauce served in the district’s traditional restaurants. The festivities also have an air of nostalgia. Only about 150 ethnic Chinese live in the neighborhood now—a population so small that many refer to Barrio Chino as “a Chinatown without Chinese.”

The ban on private business and other restrictions imposed by the Communist regime led many Chinese-Cubans to flee the island. But in 1990, the government-sponsored Group for the Advancement of Chinatown began the area’s revitalization in an effort to promote tourism and attract foreign investment. Some of the area’s shops and restaurants were restored—along with customs and traditions like the Chinese New Year. The area now has some of its former distinctiveness, with traditional Chinese associations, restaurants, martial arts schools, opera, cinema, and even a Chinese-language newspaper, the weekly Kwong Wah Po.

Among the district’s latest acquisitions is a statue of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, inaugurated in December 2012 by Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler. Located on the former site of the old Shanghai Theater, the statue is a testament to the profound mark that Chinese-Cubans have left on Cuban culture.

View a slideshow of Havana's Chinatown below.


All photos courtesy of Seb Agudelo.


From the Think Tanks

SEDEREC

Mexico City has seen a surge of external and internal migration since the late 1990s. In the report, Ley y reglamento de interculturalidad, atención a migrantes y movilidad humana en el Distrito Federal: Reflexiones, SEDEREC sums up the proposals made by the public and private sectors to the Mexican government over the past 15 years to implement a human rights-based policy on migration and multiculturalism. According to the report, xenophobic and discriminatory policies have affected immigrants' ability to move and integrate. The SEDEREC report highlights the value of preserving Indigenous traditions and is available in Náhuatl as well as Spanish, English and French.

Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists and transparency advocates are concerned by the White House's efforts to control information disclosure and scrutinize the press. In its report, The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America, the Committee to Protect Journalists examines how the U.S. government has stepped up its investigation and surveillance of media sources and journalists, and limited access to government information. It documents the cases of whistleblowers since 2009 who have faced felony criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act. The report calls on the Obama administration to honor its promise of a transparent administration and accountable government.

Plataforma Democratica

Brazil’s relations with other countries in South America have grown and diversified in recent years. Resources on the Internet: Brazil–South America Relations: Infrastructure, Energy Integration, Security and Defense, published by Plataforma Democrática, has compiled Internet resources and tools to facilitate research on infrastructure, energy integration, security, and defense relations in the region. The report provides a thorough list of online academic papers in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French, in addition to websites, blogs, and social networks studying Brazil’s relations with the rest of South America.




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