Tertulia, vol. 50
Hola. This is Barbara, your curator of cultural news from and about Spanish-speaking cultures. This week I have three discoveries which I would like to share with you. All these three topics have one thing in common. We can share them and preserve their cultural heritage thanks to technology. Let us visit Colombia, Venezuela and Spain virtually to see how this works.
Vallenatos for social change
As you may know, the vallenato is a popular music genre from Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It is part of UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Gabriel García Márquez made the genre known to a larger European audience by comparing his world-famous novel «Cien años de soledad» to the musical rhythms and narrative structure of vallenato: «Cien años de soledad es un vallenato de 350 páginas» (I don’t know where and when he said/wrote it, but it is all over the internet 😉). Just like García Márquez wrote novels to spread Colombian stories, the Vallenato musicians traditionally used their voices and instruments to spread their news when moving from one place to the other. The genre originated from farmers who travelled through the region to find green pastures for their cattle or to sell them. Vallenato was often performed with three core instruments, a small drum (caja) that was brought to Colombian music by African slaves, the indigenous guacharaca, mimicking the sound of the bird of the same name, and the accordion, originating in Europe.
Singer-songwriter Carlos Vives brushed up the original songs from the countryside to make them more popular for the zonas rosas of the cities and audiences of a higher social status.
Since the vallenato was originally a music genre of the lower rural classes, it is no surprise that many vallenato stories deal with the social conflicts of the country. Recently, Jaime Bonte from Cartagena published an interesting thread on the platform formerly known as Twitter. It consists of a list of 10 important vallenatos that deal with the political and social problems of the country. The thread includes songs about poverty, discrimination or the pervasive violence interpreted by musicians like the Zuleta brothers, Diomedes Díaz, Jorge Oñate, and Shely Marín, daughter of the famous composer of vallenatos, Hernando Marín. The thread, including links to all songs on YouTube, starts with this tweet. What’s your favourite vallenato from this list?
A new Wikipedia for the Wayuu
One of the songs mentioned in Jaime Bonte’s tweet thread is called «Yo soy el Indio» (composer Romualdo Brito). Even though today the title might not seem politically correct, it is sincerely meant as a tribute to the indigenous people who live in the Guajira region, the Wayuu who have been abandoned by the state and suffer from a lack of social safety. Indeed, the social situation of the Wayuu in Colombia and Venezuela (they live on both sides of the border) remains precarious. The department of Guajira, where most Wayuu live, is the poorest in Colombia. Around 400,000 people speak the Wayuu language (Wayuunaiki). It is the most widely spoken indigenous language in Colombia. An increasing number of young Wayuu also speak Spanish and find that using their language excludes them from social life. But the Wayuu are determined to preserve their language. Wikipedia is helping them preserve it by having accepted a Wikipedia project in Wayuunaiki. The project was started by a student at the University of Zulia. The community's goal is to use the project as a repository of Wayuu knowledge and traditions.
A virtual visit to the exhibit «The Golden Age of Jewish culture of al-Andalus»
With the help of technology, we can now easily relocate in time and place: With the collaboration of the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters (Red de Juderías en España), the centre Sefarad-Israel has organised a new exhibition at its Madrid offices, which documents the daily life of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula from the 10th to the 13th centuries. The exhibition will last until March 2024. So, keep this recommendation for your next Madrid visit. Even if you don’t have a chance to go to the Spanish capital in the next months, José Martínez, professor at the University of Granada and curator of the exhibition, can virtually guide us through the different rooms of this exhibition.
This is all for this week. Please, feel free to share these cultural snippets with other interested people. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!