Activo Inmaterial: Women in Colombia’s Labor History

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By Leah Hutton Blumenfeld


Writing a historiography of labor in Colombia is not a simple task. The variety of topics and time periods that have been covered in the literature reveal that it is underdeveloped, since there are not a significant number on any one era or area in particular. Generally speaking, as one searches for sources on Colombia, one finds hundreds of articles and books on drugs and violence. This may be part of the explanation for the unevenness of sources on labor, and can be considered a reason to explore other aspects of Colombian history so as not to pigeonhole it any more than it already has been. A reorientation in the approach to Colombian history may, in fact, help illuminate the proclivity towards drugs and violence in Colombian history in a different and possibly clearer fashion.      

For purely normative reasons, I wanted to look at child labor in particular for this essay, but it soon became clear that the number of sources was abysmally small. Even by focusing on women instead, I have had to be creative in my approach. While there are some good historical studies on the subject, this work is supplemented by texts from anthropology and sociology. I have also included some texts for their absence of women.

“Latin America has one of the lowest formally recognized employment rates for women in the world,” due in part to the “invisible” work of home-based labor.¹ Alma T. Junsay and Tim B. Heaton note worldwide increases in the number of women working since the 1950s, yet the division of labor is still based on traditional sex roles.² This phenomenon, as well as discrepancies in pay rates for men and women, has been well-documented in developed societies. The same pattern exists in the developing world though it is less well-researched.  

As Charles Bergquist pointed out in 1993,³ gender has emerged as a tool for understanding history from a multiplicity of perspectives and that the inclusion of women resurrects a multitude of subjects previously ignored. Eugene Sofer has said that working class history is more inclusive than a traditional labor history, one known for its preoccupation with unions, and that working class history incorporates the concept that “working people should be viewed as conscious historical actors.”⁴ If we are studying all working people, then where are the women in Colombia’s history?

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Figuras de santidad y virtuosidad en el virreinato del Perú: sujetos queer y alteridades coloniales

By Pilar Espitia 

Hacia finales del siglo XVI y desde una mirada deseante del imperio español, Lima, o la Ciudad de los Reyes, era lo que podríamos considerar un modelo de la perfección católica. De acuerdo con la ideología promovida por la colonia, Lima era un jardín de virtudes donde se exhalaba el olor de santidad. A diferencia del virreinato de Nueva España, Lima se convirtió en una “máquina de santos”, [i] a la vez que en las afueras de la ciudad, se comenzaba una ardua campaña de extirpación de idolatrías. Sin embargo, el panorama era mucho más complejo y, en realidad, el virreinato del Perú, y Lima en particular, eran espacios multiétnicos y multiculturales.

Así, los grandes esfuerzos del poder español por mantener una segregación y separación de las diferentes etnias y culturas eran, en realidad, intentos fallidos frente a una sociedad plurivalente que convivía en las calles de Lima. Menciona Alejandra Osorio a través de Paul Charney, que en la Lima de 1613 había una cantidad nada despreciable de indígenas (2000 habitantes), y una población afrodescendiente mucho más amplia (13000 habitantes).[ii] De acuerdo con esto, Lima era una ciudad donde los intercambios culturales e intelectuales de todo tipo eran inevitables.

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Trinidad and Tobago: An inquiry on how a peaceful and multi-religious country became one of the largest basins for Daesh recruitment in the Western Hemisphere

By Emanuel Pietrobon

Trinidad and Tobago is an insular state of Caribbean America, a nation that, along with Suriname and Guyana, possesses a historical tradition of religious pluralism that includes a substantial Islamic community. A 2011 census of the population describes a multi-faith panorama composed of Catholics (21.6%), Hindus (18.2%), Pentecostals (12.0%), Anglicans (5.7%), Baptists (5.7), Muslims (5%), and a number of other faith groups.

Although Islam is the smallest among the majoritarian beliefs, it has played and plays an important role in society. Several celebrities, public figures, politicians, and thinkers are known to be practicing Muslims; among them are the philosopher Imran Hosein and the former president Noor Hassanali, the “first Muslim head of state in the Americas.”

Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the continent with a history of political and militant Islam. The country also represents a unique paradigm in Latin America, as it has become the largest Daesh recruitment basin in the region, presenting “one of the highest per capita rates of foreign fighters in the world” of the Western Hemisphere: 36 foreign fighters per capita and 616 foreign fighters per capita of Muslims joined Daesh.

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Announcing OA’s First Annual Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the first annual Open Americas photography contest! We received high-quality submissions from across the hemisphere, making it difficult to select winners.

Images were judged for their ability to capture the richness of the diverse landscapes and environments of the Americas. The beautiful photos below were taken in Mexico, Brazil, the U.S., Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.

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In Honduras, Labor Rights are Human Rights


By Laura Schroeder

The video begins with slow, dramatic music.

The words “Grupo Jaremar” flash against a concrete wall, followed by shots of factory equipment and signage surrounded by lush foliage and zooming cars.

A deep male voice announces in Spanish that Grupo Jaremar, a Central American palm oil conglomerate, delivers high-quality products with the customer in mind.

Then, the stories start.

A company executive announces through a megaphone, “We don’t want to be the biggest business in the world. We want to be the biggest business for the world.” A young woman in front of a freshly painted building — electric blue — beams, telling viewers that she has a new house because of Grupo Jaremar.

“Thanks to Jaremar I graduated, and now I work at this great business,” a hard hat-clad worker explains.

The film cuts to a shot of a woman in a hairnet kneading dough and flipping tortillas, who says, “Now we have stable work. We’re the owners of our own business, and we’ve been working for two years. We’ve sustained ourselves thanks to Grupo Jaremar’s donation.”

From providing affordable medical care to fighting hunger to investing in microenterprises, the business’ social responsibility claims are constructed as rapidly as the electric blue house in the video. This, however, is not the whole story.

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Open Americas Statement on Zero Tolerance Policy & Family Separation


On Friday, April 6, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a memorandum the introduction of a zero tolerance policy for migrants who enter the United States without documentation.

Although there is no specific law that mandates family separation at the US-Mexico border, the separation of parents from children has occurred as parents who cross the United States’ southern border without documentation are prosecuted in criminal court for the misdemeanor of entering the country. Meanwhile, youths are referred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which in turn sends them to shelters or places them in the custody of sponsors.

Between May 5 and June 9, 2,342 children were separated from their parents at the border, according to the Trump administration.

There has been great public condemnation of the policy, with all four living former first ladies stating their opposition to it. Republicans and Democrats alike have also been vocal in their criticism. Responding to public outcry, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen called on Congress to “fix” the policy, negating the administration’s responsibility and complicity in family separation. “You do not need to break the law of the United States to seek asylum,” she stated. “We are a country of compassion. We are a country of heart.”

Open Americas does not believe that separating children from parents is compassionate. It is heartless.

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