The 2012 film “Harvest of Empire,” based on the book of the same title by journalist Juan González of Democracy Now, demonstrates how U.S. policy toward Latin America has created political, social, and economic instability in the region. Directed by Peter Getzels and Eduardo López, it discusses the cases of Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It also addresses the United States’ role in the military and corporate interventions that have triggered mass migration to the United States. Five years later, particularly given President Trump’s recent backing of the RAISE Act, the central theme of the documentary is relevant: anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States reflect a woeful ignorance of the structural forces that have caused millions in Latin America to flee their homes.
Fotografía y diseño gráfico por Andrés Ávila y Alberto Montañez/Photography and graphic design by Andrés Ávila and Alberto Montañez
El propósito de este proyecto es dar a conocer las vidas de los miembros de la economía informal en Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia y mostrar cómo cada uno contribuye a la sociedad y a la cultura; mientras los miembros de la comunidad perciben a los hombres y las mujeres que venden minutos o lustran zapatos como parte de la vida cotidiana, las fotos que tomamos y las citaciones y datos que las acompañan nos ayudan a reconocer la humanidad y el valor de cada cara, cada puesto de trabajo, y cada historia única y especial.
The purpose of this project is to illuminate the lives of members of the informal economy in Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia, showing us how each one contributes to and strengthens society as a whole. While community members see men and women selling phone minutes or shining shoes as part of quotidian life, the photos we took and the quotes and facts that accompany them help us to recognize the humanity and value in every face, every job, and every unique and special history.
Spinning Stories in the Jungle
It was pitch black save for the stars that pierced the night sky and the faint glow of bioluminescent leaves underfoot, but Manuel could see. The hum of cicadas surrounded us as we wove around the thick growth of the jungle, and I tried not to stumble over the vines that snaked up ancient trees. Pointed stick in hand, Manuel spun stories of encounters with jaguars and deceitful ex-lovers as we traipsed to the river in hopes of catching a fish to bring back to our camp, where a caiman already hung from a line alongside our hammocks.
I had just completed a U.S. State Department-sponsored Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Colombia, and two members of my cohort and I had decided to spend some of our saved stipend on a trip to the city of Leticia, which is nestled between Brazil and Peru in Amazonas, a department in the south of the country. Having already taken the obligatory boat trip down the Amazon River to see monkeys, capybaras, and birds of all hues, we tasked ourselves with planning the remainder of the trip. However, when a man stopped by our hostel advertising a jungle trek with a local Huitoto guide, we were skeptical, as we had heard horror stories of cultural tourism gone awry. Luckily for him, he was persuasive and after five minutes, we paid him a small sum to go on the trip. Luckily for us, we spent three informative days conversing with our guide, Manuel, and his grandfather and aunt about their lives in both the city and the jungle, the history of the Huitoto people, and their struggle to keep it alive.