Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Mestiza mans The Chilean Winter. Children’s Lit Conference.

We norteamericanos seem to worship the cult personality; it is all about individualism, every [wo]man for itself, and nurturing the voyeur in us by watching someone else succeed or fail at the Superbowl, on an irreality show, or America's Funniest Videos. Give us our X-Box, IPodTouch and 3D-plasma TV so we can happily retreat to our condos where we will be led to believe that the Occupy "fad" won't survive the winter and that politics is really about Republican primaries. We'll then vote by mail or online. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy and our unfair share of it wither.

That's why people here maybe would have chosen Tim Tebow as person of the year 2011, instead of The Protestor, as did Time Magazine. To check this, the British newspaper The Guardian asked its readers for their nominations. The result: 78% chose Camila Vallejo--former vice president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile, and the face of student-led Chilean protests. Most of us here never heard of her, since she didn't make it to the American Idol finals.

In many exciting parts of the world, politics has lost its electoral politics emphasis. The streets, a la 60s, has toppled presidents, dictators, and led to the kind of changes we starve for. There is protest and street action taking place here, but they receive little press, reinforcing our only-the-vote myopia. But at least in Chile, a mestiza has been showing that something else is possible.

Here's excerpts from The Guardian article:
"The 23-year-old Ms. Vallejo has gained rock-star status among the global activist class. Since June she has led regular street marches of up to 200,000 people through Santiago’s broad avenues—the largest demonstrations since the waning days of the Pinochet regime in the late 1980s. Under her leadership, the mobilization, known as the Chilean Winter, has gained nationwide support.

“ 'Commander Camila,' as her followers call her, has become a personality in her own regard. She skewers senators in prime-time TV debates and stays on message with daytime talk-show hosts hungry for lurid details about her personal life, while her eloquence gives her a preternatural ability to connect with an audience far beyond her left-wing base.

"In perhaps the most poignant set piece in the year of the protester, Ms. Vallejo addressed a dense ring of photographers and reporters in August while kneeling within a peace sign made of spent tear-gas shells, where she calmly mused about how many educational improvements could have been bought with the $100,000 worth of munitions at her feet.

"The movement is upending Chilean society. True, it is centered on a policy question, namely reforming an educational system that disproportionally favors the children of wealthy families. [It is] a nonviolent social revolution in which disaffected, politically savvy youth are trying to overthrow the mores of an older generation, one they feel is still tainted by the legacy of Pinochet. It is not just about policy reform, but also about changing the underlying timbers of Chilean society.

"The liberalization of higher education has led to improvements in access, [while] tuition has consistently outpaced inflation and now represents 40 percent of the average household’s income.

"At the same time, protesters say that wealthy students from private and expensive, co-pay charter schools have unfair access to elite universities, while the rest struggle to meet entrance standards at under-financed public institutions.

"The Chilean Winter dabbled in the absurd, but with a high-tech, social-media twist. Thousands gathered in front of the presidential palace in June dressed as zombies, then broke into a choreographed dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In July, students again gathered in front of the palace for a huge “kiss-in.”

"It has used Ms. Vallejo’s 300,000-plus Twitter followers to quickly initiate huge “cacerolazos,” a form of dictatorship-era protest where people walk the streets banging on pots and pans.

"Ms. Vallejo said, 'People are not tolerating the way a small number of economic groups benefit from the system. Having a market economy is really different from having a market society.' "

If anyone wants to accuse me of encouraging cult personality, I have no problem with that because Cesar Chavez, Gandhi, Che, and La Pasionaria happen in history; they're not made by me, the mainstream press or anyone else. If anything, the Occupy's focus on communal, community decisions--while noteable--seem to preclude the possibility that historic personalities can naturally arise. Not so in The Chilean Winter, which may account for some of its success. For me, there's nothing to debate.

Here, we don't seemingly have a Chicana or Chicano like Camila Vallejo receiving the same following or coverage in the U.S., yet--although if we did, it might be months before we learned of it from the mainstream press--but young and old activist gente can take inspiration from her. Then maybe next year's Guardian poll will feature one of our Spanish surnamed.

To read the entire Guardian article, click here.

More words from Camila Vallejo:

"Vallejo said on the subject of her looks: 'You have to recognise that beauty can be a hook. It can be a compliment, they come to listen to me because of my appearance, but then I explain the ideas. A movement as historical as this cannot be summarised in such superficial terms.

" 'We do not want to improve the actual system; we want a profound change – to stop seeing education as a consumer good, to see education as a right where the state provides a guarantee.

" 'Why do we need education? To make profits. To make a business? Or to develop the country and have social integration and development? Those are the issues in dispute.' "

[Taken from here.]


National Latino Children’s Literature Conference

Courtesy of Alma Flor Ada, comes this:

Conference Description
On March 29th and 30th, 2012 celebrate the rich traditions and diversity within the Latino cultures at the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference. Discover how to meet the informational and literacy needs of Latino children via high quality, culturally relevant literature and the latest educational strategies.

Engage in unique networking opportunities with librarians, teachers, educators, and researchers from across the nation as we explore how to make intercultural connections and serve this rapidly growing, uniquely diverse population.

As the number of Latino children and their families continues to increase, so does the need for understanding these diverse cultures. This exclusive conference provides a forum for sharing current research and practice addressing the cultural, educational, and informational needs of Latino children and their families. At the same time, the conference also examines the many social influences that Latino children’s and young adult literature have upon the developing child and adolescent.

Beginning Thursday March 29th at 9 a.m. on the historical University of Alabama campus, nationally-recognized, award-winning Latina author and professor Dr. Monica Brown will launch the recurring conference theme “Connecting Cultures and Celebrating Cuentos” with a powerful keynote address.

Participants will then have the opportunity to attend breakout sessions related to Latino children’s and young adult literature, library services to Latinos, and literacy education for Spanish-speaking and Latino children. Following these small group sessions, award-winning Latino author René Colato Laínez and award-winning Latino artist Joe Cepeda will discuss the collaborative synergy behind their work. Latina author Meg Medina will then present a rousing keynote about the milagros found in her books.

Thursday evening, all the Latino children's book creators will celebrate El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day), Latino children’s literature, and cultural literacy with a free community event at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. This Noche de Cuentos (Evening of Stories) begins at 6:30 p.m. and includes storytelling and story readings, refreshments, and free books for the niños.

On Friday March 30th, award-winning, internationally renown authors Dr. Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy will energize participants and open the day’s events with a keynote address about transformative multicultural education. Breakout sessions for both practitioners and researchers as well as graduate and undergraduate students will follow and include a variety of topics related to Latino children’s literature and literacy. Research posters will also be on display throughout the conference.

A buffet lunch will be served in the beautiful Gorgas Library and followed by an engaging collaborative keynote by award-winning Latino artist Joe Cepeda and Latina author Monica Brown. Afterwards breakout sessions will include topics related to education, literacy, storytelling, and library services for Latino children. The day will end with small group sessions with all the authors and illustrators.

By attending the National Latino Children's Literature Conference, participants have the chance to meet award-winning Latino authors and illustrators, attend exciting break-out sessions, engage in exclusive networking opportunities, and celebrate cultural literacy in a Día community event. Come deepen your understanding of the Latino cultures and celebrate their rich diversity within our classrooms and libraries.

For more info, go here.

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