Latin America: The most dangerous place to be a woman

Nabila Riffo is a Chilean woman who barely survived after her former partner took her eyes off, battered her, and left her moribund in the pavement. Lucia was 16 years old when she died after being drugged, raped, and impaled in Mar del Plata city, Argentina. Between 2013 and 2016, in El Salvador, 90 percent of cases of rape to girls 15 years-old or under have resulted unpunished: Indeed, judges have considered the victim “seemed a grown-up woman”, have “recognized” the rapist embraced good intentions, and they have even encouraged marriage between offender and victim. Florencia was 9 years old when her step-father locked her in the woodshed, burned her up, and buried her. Yuliana was 8 years old when a wealthy architect abducted her, drove her to his apartment, and killed her by suffocating. Since the early 1990s, in in the Mexico-U.S. border close to Ciudad Juarez, hundreds and hundreds of teenagers and young women have been kidnapped and killed. Just a few of their corpses have been founded in the desert surrounding the city. Many of them have died as a result of grotesque and sexualized torture and most of the cases are still unsolved due to a pervasive impunity. There are countless likely cases of Latin American women brutally raped, battered, and killed by their partners or by other significative relatives.

All these women dead by gender-based murders suffered a post-mortem humiliation: Authorities, criminal system’s official, judges, and media have portrayed them as irresponsible, sexually provocative, or taking-risk individuals by circulating through dangerous public spaces or at night, exposing themselves instead of focusing on the actual offenders. These past femicides -the killing of women based on their gender- have motivated public outrage, massive marches across Latin America, and several public campaigns oriented to trigger social awareness, expose pervasive machismo, violence, and discrimination against women, and advocating for legal protection.

In that vein, thousands and thousands of women marched and publicly manifested last November 25th in several Latin American cities on occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Indeed, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, honor killings, girls and women sexual slavery and trafficking are global problems and an increasing number of women speaking out about their personal experiences of sexual harassment have been flooding into the U.S. media. Nonetheless, Latin America is the most dangerous continent to be a woman, as official U.N. statistics recently released demonstrate. Indeed, among the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world, 14 are from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Latin American origins of the international day

In 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Resolution 54/134 designating November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in order to raising awareness that violence against women constitutes an obstacle to reach equality, development, and peace and that its persistence dramatically damages the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. Nonetheless, the day’s history goes back in time: Assistants to the first Feminist Encounter of Latin American and the Caribbean celebrated in Bogota, Colombia, in July 1981, chose the date to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal sisters -Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa-, assassinated in 1960 by the Dominican secret police under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship. Only one of the sisters have survived, Dedé.

The full recognition of the Mirabal sisters as political and feminist activists gained momentum as the dictator was killed and the political circumstances were little by little improving in República Dominicana to build a memory of the political resistance, as this article published by The New York Times in 1997 highlights. The Mirabal sisters’ story has been portrayed by Julia Alvarez in her novel The time of the butterflies which reached global spread when it became a movie in the early 2000s starring Salma Hayek as Minerva Mirabal, Edward James Olmos as Trujillo, and the singer, Marc Anthony, as Minerva’s first boyfriend.

Awareness and outrage in Latin America

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women started in November 25th and lasted until December 10th. In these past days, thousands of women have marched in Buenos Aires and several other cities, in Argentina, a country where there have been 2,384 femicides in the last nine years, according to the NGO, Casa del Encuentro, a feminist organization specialized in registering these crimes. In Bolivia, official data show that during 2016, occurred 66 femicides and the police registered more than 30,000 reports of violence against women. Several feminists and LGTB organizations organized a march on November 24th in La Paz to demanding more safety, non-discriminatory policies, and ending the violence against women and other people suffering different sexual violence, too. Meanwhile, several public buildings and iconic, tourist, attractions, such as the Cristo Redentor, in Brazil, were especially highlighted in orange as a way of warning about the fact that the country is among the top-five countries in the world with higher rates of violence against women and 1 woman is killed every two hours. In Chile, the Red Chilena contra la Violencia Hacia las Mujeres maintains a detailed register of femicides: Indeed, just in 2017 there have been 62 of those crimes, ten more than the femicides occurred in 2016 and the year is not even over. Several organizations and thousands of women have joined protests across the country claiming for stopping the violence against women and improving the general conditions

of them, too. According to official data from the health and justice systems, in Colombia the number of cases of violence against women has increased between 2016 and 2017 and gender-based violence within the long-standing conflict in the country just makes things worse.

Most of the public manifestations and marches peacefully developed across the continent, except in Nicaragua, where the government restricted marches even by force, deploying the police. Indeed, the public manifestations protesting for gender-based violence in which millions of Latin American girls and women live have mushroomed in the last days. Sadly, these are not the first time: Triggered by several cases of femicides in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, or Peru, Latin American women have flooded their cities in the past years protesting for the increasing lack of security to enjoy freedom and basic human rights. They will probably do it again once the pervasive machismo and discrimination against women will trigger a man kills the next Nabila, Lucia, or Yuliana.

Further reading and resources

The Latin American & Caribbean studies library collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides a wide range of material to better understand phenomena such as gender-based violence and violence in general in Latin America, the extent and specific features of feminist activism in the continent, and the complex interplays between feminist agendas and democracy in Latin American countries.

For instance, “Silence and complicity” is a documentary providing startling testimonies of women who were mistreated and sexually abused while seeking care in Peruvian public health facilities. The film was produced by the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy and the Flora Tristan Centre for Peruvian Women and released in 2000.

The documentary Hummingbird (2004) describes the efforts of two women to try to break the cycle of domestic violence in the city of Recife, in Brazil. The film follows the story of Adriana, a girl who left home at the age of six and had a daughter at age 11. After seeing the cycle that leads kids to the street, these women began addressing family issues at the root of the problem and working with both the mind and body to overcome their trauma.

In Haiti, the documentary Poto mitan gives the global economy a human face. Each woman’s personal story explains neoliberal globalization, how it is gendered, and how it impacts Haiti by telling the compelling lives of five Haitian women workers. The documentary offers in-depth understanding of Haiti, its women’s subjugation, worker exploitation, poverty, and resistance as part of global struggles.

For more information about gender in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Library, please contact Prof. Antonio Sotomayor, Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, asotomay@illinois.edu, or visit the website at https://www.library.illinois.edu/lat/.

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Attendees Reflect on TRCCS Opening

Pop-ups and other unique books from Taiwan will be on display through December.

On November 14, 2017, the International and Area Studies Library opened the Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies (TRCCS), with support and material donations from the National Central Library (NCL) of Taiwan. The ongoing collection will include more than 800 contemporary publications from Taiwan, which are available for checkout. The exhibit, which features rare items from the NCL about the history of books and book-making, will be on display through December in the International and Area Studies Library. The opening ceremony included a signing of cooperation agreements, book donation exchange ceremonies, and a lecture from Professor Kai-Wing Chow titled “Printing Technology, Book Culture, and the World of Print in Imperial China.”

Students and faculty reflected on the opening ceremony and on the value they see in the TRCCS:

Representatives from the National Central Library of Taiwan visited IAS to open the TRCCS.

Kezhen Zhang, a student worker in the International and Area Studies Library who graduated from the iSchool in August with a concentration in special collections and archives, both attended the event and helped to coordinate it. She said:

“I was pleased to be an assistant for the TRCCS opening ceremony. During the preparing time prior to the event day, I established a TRCCS page on the Library’s website,  where I added an introduction to TRCCS and the exhibit, and information about the event as well. I also designed a poster for the hallway. When preparing this event, I not only got chance practice various tools, such as WordPress, Adobe Photoshop, and MS Publisher, but I also collaborated with other members in our division. On the event day, I played an administrative role. I loved the atmosphere of collaboration while everyone was trying to make the event great! I was also glad to meet members of the National Central Library of Taiwan, and I appreciated seeing their efforts for a partnership with our library.”

The National Central Library of Taiwan provided more than 800 books for the TRCCS.

Bonnie Mak is an associate professor, with joint appointments in the School of Information Sciences and the Program in Medieval Studies. She teaches courses in the history and future of the book, reading practices, and knowledge production. Her first book, How the Page Matters (2011), examines the interface of the page as it is developed across time, geographies, and technologies. Mak said of the TRCCS event:

“By examining the history of printing from a global perspective, Prof. Chow immediately exposes assumptions around the so-called ‘print revolution’ of the West that is said to have precipitated major social and political change in the 15th century. He usefully reminds us that moveable type was being used in Asia by at least the 12th century — 300 years before its adoption in Europe — and operated in conjunction with the traditions of woodblock printing and handwriting as means of graphic communication. The continued co-existence of all these techniques is worthy of further investigation, and Prof. Chow invites us to consider under what circumstances one might have been preferred over another.”

The TRCCS will be ongoing in the International and Area Studies Library, room 309, but the rare book exhibit will only be available until the end of December. This includes an interactive stamping display, where you can create a layered stamp card to take home. Stop by the IASL to see the exhibit while you can!

Room 309 of the Main Library is now the Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies.

Visit the IAS Facebook page for more photos from the event.

 

LAURA ROCCO

GRADUATE ASSISTANT | INTERNATIONAL AND AREA STUDIES LIBRARY

MSLIS CANDIDATE | SCHOOL OF INFORMATION SCIENCES

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN

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Using Personal Connections to Motivate Language Learning

Me standing in wooden shoes at the Keukenhof, a flower park in the Netherlands, March 2015.

Learning a new language can be motivated by many factors and developed in different environments. While I have taken language courses in classroom settings, my most recent foray into a new language has been less structured, and more personal.

In April 2015, I visited the Netherlands at the end of a semester abroad in England. Much of my mother’s extended family still lives in the Netherlands, and she and I spent about five days meeting relatives and exploring areas like Amsterdam, Heerhugowaard, Volendam, and The Hague.

My relative and I took a canal boat tour in Amsterdam, March 2015.

While not universal, we were surprised by how many Dutch people spoke English, and spoke it well. Our family explained that English language is a required subject for most students, beginning at a young age. The proliferation of English media also helps them to learn not only the formal English of the classroom, but also the common phrases and expressions used in everyday conversation. My mother and I do not speak Dutch, so we relied heavily on our family when traveling, shopping, and communicating in general. The language barrier was not a significant challenge on our trip, however, as so many of the people we interacted with could speak at least some level of English, and many written texts were also available in English as well.

My relatives and I (center) in Chicago, October 2017.

In October this year, a few of these relatives had the opportunity to visit America for several weeks. They spent a weekend with my immediate family in Illinois before visiting other cousins in Indiana and then flying to Tampa, Florida, where a mini-reunion took place. My mother and I took them to Chicago for several days to see the city sights: the Shedd Aquarium, Millenium Park, Michigan Avenue, Chicago 360, and an architectural boat tour. While my mother and I still acted as guides, they could have functioned independently due to their fluency in English; they were able to read parking machines, store signs, menus, and ticket information on their own. Their language abilities afforded them comfort and agency even in a new place, and it allowed them to interact fully with their environment without needing much help outside help.

They later told me that they were not only fluent in English, but also had working knowledge in German, French, and Spanish as well. While this kind of language variety is impressive, it is not uncommon for the world at large. A European Commission report from 2012 found that 77% of people in the Netherlands have practical skills in at least two foreign languages (p. 13), and English is the foreign language most Europeans are able to speak at 38% (p. 19). In other regions of the world, such as those in Asia, Africa, India, and the Middle East, it can be common to speak or learn more than one language. These additional languages are not always taught exclusively in a classroom environment – as is common in English-speaking countries – but instead learned more organically through exposure and everyday use.

A Pew Research Center article from 2015 details that only 25% of American adults reported speaking a language other than English in a 2006 survey, and only 43% of this group said they could speak the language very well. While these numbers may be changing, and these statistics are never exact, it is clear that Americans spend less time and effort learning foreign languages. A 2015 article from The Atlantic quoted Richard Brecht, head of the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, as saying, “It isn’t that people don’t think language education is important. It’s that they don’t think it’s possible.”

Language learning, especially later in life, is not easy. I studied Spanish in high school and Latin in undergrad, but I retain almost no functional or conversational skills in these languages. However, many online resources make language learning possible – and fun – after people have left the formal classroom environment. I am currently using Duolingo – an interactive phone app – to learn Dutch, in the hopes of one day being able to speak to my relatives in their native language.

If you are interested in learning a foreign language, there are many resources that are available to you, whether you are at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or not:

Rosetta Stone – for University of Illinois students and faculty, look under Quick Links on the Literatures and Languages Library homepage and login with your netID and password

Mango Languages – through the Urbana Free Library with your library barcode and Champaign Public Library with your library barcode. Many public libraries have Mango Languages subscriptions; check the online resources page.

Duolingo – freely available on iOS, android, and Windows devices

Ethnologue – This is not a language-learning tool, but it includes updated statistics about languages worldwide. Use a University of Illinois netID and password to log in.

Happy language learning!

Laura Rocco

Graduate Assistant | International and Area Studies Library

MSLIS Candidate | School of Information Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sources

Devlin, K. (2015, July 13). Learning a foreign language a ‘must’ in Europe, not so in America. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/13/learning-a-foreign-language-a-must-in-europe-not-so-in-america/.

Friedman, A. (2015, May 10). America’s lacking language skills. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/05/filling-americas-language-education-potholes/392876/.

TNS Opinoin & Social, European Commission. (2012). Europeans and their languages. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/archives/eb_special_399_380_en.htm.

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Welcome to IAS: Striving for a Global Perspective

As this academic year begins, the University of Illinois community, the nation, and the world continue to strive toward diversity, respect, and inclusivity. Recent events like the January travel ban and the discontinuation of DACA have motivated the University to reaffirm its commitment to serving a diverse population of students. The various departments across the University Library support our school’s mission to “be proactive in supporting all of our students, faculty, staff and visiting scholars, whether domestic or international” and to “build a campus culture of inclusion,” as stated in a campus-wide email from Chancellor Robert Jones on September 9.

As a student, these events and topics can sometimes feel overwhelming. With so much information and media available, how do we begin to understand these complex issues? How can we find reliable information and context on these topics? How can we celebrate and respect diverse perspectives and experiences?

In addition to participating in a variety of campus initiatives, individuals on campus can make an effort to learn about changing policies and social climates, cultural histories, national identities, and individual experiences. The commitment to value and support diversity enlightens us about people and places different from ourselves, while simultaneously creating safe, creative, and respectful environments.

Campus Resources and Support

The University of Illinois offers many resources for students wanting to learn more about these topics or who are looking for help navigating these experiences. These include, among others:

Open Illinois: http://open.illinois.edu/support-daca-students/

Illinois International: http://international.illinois.edu/students/support.html

International Student and Scholar Services: http://www.isss.illinois.edu/

Counseling Center: https://counselingcenter.illinois.edu/

International and Area Studies Library

The subject librarians and the collections at the International and Area Studies Library are fantastic resources for insight and primary sources on global topics.

The International and Area Studies Library serves the campus community by providing information about specific regions across the world. As detailed on the about page, IAS is committed to “connecting students and scholars to the knowledge crucial to developing global competencies through the study of distinct nations and regions, as well as transnational issues and global concerns.” IAS strives to increase awareness of international histories and current events through its collections, staff, and activities.

Contact IAS

Visit the International and Area Studies Library: Room 321, Main library; 1408 W. Gregory Dr.; Urbana IL, (217) 333-1501; Email: internationalref@library.illinois.edu

IAS Event Calendar – Keep an eye on the calendar; we will be adding more events, such as lectures and exhibits, as the semester continues.

International Reference Services – Contact regional librarians for research assistance. Subject librarians can provide expertise on certain topics and suggestions for research tools and materials. You can also complete the Reference Information Request Form to ask a specific question.

How to use the library – guides on the IAS homepage provide library guidance in a variety of languages.

We at the International and Area Studies Library hope to see you this year!

 

Laura Rocco

Graduate Assistant | International and Area Studies Library

MSLIS Candidate | School of Information Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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