The following interview was conducted in July 2020 with Erika Quinteros, author and illustrator of TOMASA TITO CONDEMAYTA: Una historia de valor y coraje. Erika Quinteros is an industrial engineer with a Master’s degree in Political Communication and Governance from the George Washington University. She has worked as a consultant in the design and evaluation of community development projects. She has a particular interest in issues of gender, the rights of indigenous people, and environmental protection.
What inspired you to write the story of Tomasa Tito Condemayta?
It was Tomasa herself and her powerful story. She was an indigenous woman leading a battalion of women to fight against the Spanish. This happened during a period when many Peruvians believe that women had no military or political role.
I think, having grown up reading so many different books and being inspired by people overseas, I just couldn’t believe that no one had told me Tomasa’s story. She was Peruvian, like me. She was a woman, like me. And even though I am not indigenous, my grandmother was indigenous, part of me is indigenous. In Peru, our national heroes are mostly wealthy white men. I think every child should be able to learn about heroes that she or he can identify with, and I am sure many will be fascinated and inspired by Tomasa and her courage.
Imagine waking up one day to the news that your land, which you and your tribe have subsisted on for generations, has been sold by the government to someone else. In return, you will be moved to a small plot of land without the same kinds of resources as before. This loss of land creates a domino effect of loss in other areas such as income, traditional environmental knowledge, and general stability. Through green grabbing, government entities or private investors use their power over Indigenous and Afro-descendant groups to confiscate land under the guise of environmental conservation.
Across Latin America, the centuries-old issue of land conflict is gaining new dimensions as nations are increasingly bound into globalised supply chains of resources, food and energy (Peluso & Lund, 2011). The growing influence of corporate actors has transformed struggles over who has the right to inhabit and work the land, as states respond to competing claims from powerful enterprises and rural residents, who are often poor and indigenous. This essay will examine how the authorities in Chile and Honduras have repressed the protests of communities against the appropriation or contamination of their lands by these commercial interests. Despite the many differences between these countries – Chile being one of the most peaceful and prosperous nations in the Americas, Honduras one of the poorest and most violent – they share many similarities in this respect. Via a process that Bessant (2016) calls the ‘criminalisation of dissent’, their governments have prohibited rural activism through authoritarian legislation and violence in order to serve the interests of powerful national and multinational corporations.
If you’ve been to Cartagena de Indias you’ve seen the women who are icons of the city: las palenqueras. These beautiful Afro-Latinas, dressed in colorful traditional garb and often pictured selling fruit or candy, are the pride of Colombia and on much of the country’s promotional material, especially that of the city of Cartagena. Tourists line up to get that Cartagena picture with the woman whose bright smiles and deep eyes often hold the story of Colombia that many of these same tourists might not care to know: the story of the black Colombia.
Stay-at-home orders during the COVID‑19 pandemic have had a devastating impact on women in Latin America and brought mass protests against gender violence to a screeching, and troubling, halt. Since the foundational march of NiUnaMenos in June 2015 in Buenos Aires, Latin American activists have revolutionized protest against gender violence in a spectacularly public way, bringing together hundreds of thousands of women and allies on the streets of major cities to denounce gender violence and demand protection of gender, sexuality, and reproductive rights. Since its debut last November, the flashmob Un violador en tu camino (A Rapist in Your Path), created by the Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis, has been performed in more than 200 cities around the world, decrying the role of the state and police in perpetuating gender violence.
Néstor, que antes tartamudeaba, proviene de Guatemala y encontró su voz después de migrar a Chicago, entrar al bachillerato, y aprender a moverse dentro de una nueva cultura. Actualmente usa su plataforma para animar a otros a contar sus historias.
“Cada lugar, cada persona y cada cosa me inspira una historia o poema distinto,” dice.
Nada me hace bailar tanto como el bajo palpitante y el seductor ritmo del popular reggaetón, y no hay nada como una canción clásica de Daddy Yankee o de Don Omar para llenar la pista de baile de caderas danzantes y pies que se mueven. A lo mejor tiene que ver con los gratos recuerdos de mis viajes a República Dominicana y Perú, y mi año como becaria Fulbright en Colombia, lo que alimentó mi afinidad con el dembow de este género musical y sus letras dichas con frenetismo. A lo mejor, simplemente, el reggaetón es propicio para el baile.