Monday, December 24, 2007

a new star in the stable

The leaves turn gold,
the wind blows cold,
the sea clings to the shore.

In lands afar,
a new born star
is laid gently in the straw.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

advent 4: trusting ourselves

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1.18-20)

Today's readings are about Mary. But Matthew's version of events (the gospel set for this year) pushes Joseph, not Mary, to the foreground. We see Mary through the eyes of Joseph, confused and angry at his fiancé's pregnancy. The story focuses on the scandal of the young unmarried mother, and in the still taken from Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew, Mary stands alone, while the village whispers and condemns.

In Luke, it is Mary who acts. She grasps hold of the angel's promise; that her child will be of God. A poor young girl, living in occupied territory, does not have many choices about what happens to her body. But Mary recognizes this encounter with the angel as a moment of decision, and in this she is blessed.

The desperation of poverty, and the violence wrought by occupying soldiers, continue to undermine young girls' control over their bodies. Sexual violence accompanies conflict and poverty, through prostitution and other forms of rape. Many poor young girls who are made pregnant are further denied the option of a safe abortion. Like Mary, they can be isolated and vulnerable.

The angel blessed Mary by giving her a choice. May it be that every girl and woman has control over her own body.

Abortion Rights is one of several reproductive health campaign organization working in the UK.

Monday, December 17, 2007

advent 3: courage!

Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

"What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?
A reed shaken by the wind?

What then did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in soft robes?
Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.

What then did you go out to see?
A prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Matthew 11.7-9)

I'd never thought much about John being Jesus' cousin, maybe because I didn't grow up with cousins. But I imagine at their best cousins are somewhere between less-demanding siblings and more-familiar friends.

The gospels say little about Jesus' childhood, but it seems likely that John and Jesus would have played together, fought over one thing or another, and maybe, as they grew older, discussed ideas and shared their own hopes and fears.

I get the sense that John was the dare-devil of the family. The wild cousin, striding out into the desert sun, roughing it on locusts and bees' honey, and enthralling both the crowds and Jesus. John held his younger cousin to account, urging him on, keeping it real. A true trailblazer for Jesus.

In our lives, if we are lucky, there are people like John. People who believe in us. People who keep us up to the mark. People who don't let us become lazy. People who make us bold. Perhaps we are that person for someone we love too.

Read this week's readings online at

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the shopocalypse

See the excellent buy nothing christmas for more, including Jesus goes sandal shopping.

And for full-on no-shopping craziness, Rev Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping is online here and you can watch the trailer for his film, What Would Jesus Buy? right here:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

advent 2: keep hoping

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11.9)

This week's reading from Isaiah is one of my favourites, as Bruce Forsyth would say. I love clarity with which it describes another way of being together. This is the future, this is our aim. If it were not so, how could we have hope?

This Christmas card arrived today from Guatemala. My friend there has worked in El Salvador and Guatemala for many decades. She has lived through hunger and poverty, through bombs falling on the church, through army threats and violence from all sides, indescribable violence and horror. She has witnessed fragile peace and ongoing corruption. She has refused to let memories die, and has kept knocking on the door for justice.

All these years, she has remained faithful to the child-man of peace, the God of peace and the spirit of peace. And her hope gives me courage to hold onto Isaiah's vision.

If the lion and lamb can lie side by side to watch the stars high in the night sky, we must believe we too can stretch out next to the one we have been told is a threat to us, the one we should hate or destroy; and point out the stars as they glisten and shimmer.

All today's readings are available here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

advent 1: seek peace

In violent times, live at peace. This is one of the things we hear from the readings set for today in the Revised Common Lectionary, which include the following psalm, 122:
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

The psalmist promises to seek peace for the sake of loved ones, and because it is what God desires.

Beginning Advent once more, still at war, still not willing to acknowledge our wrongs, still not bold enough to make the first move to reconciliation; may we try again to say, 'Peace be within you' to all those we meet on the road and in the home this week.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

martin fierro

On Sunday we celebrated the Day of Tradition (officially, 10th November) in church, as well as Music Day (22nd November). These came together in a fiesta of traditional melodies and criolla stories.

At the time of sharing of bread and wine, we spoke in local dialects:
El pan hecho Dios me cambia
a otra vida santa y güena
como el soplo de una quena
se cambia en música y copla
porque es Dios mesmo que sopla
su propio aliento en mis venas.

By baked bread God transforms me
into another life, holy and good -
just as a blast on a quena*
becomes music and verse.
Because it is God, yes God, who blows
heavenly breath through my veins.**

The Day of Tradition is linked to José Hernández, the author of Martín Fierro, an epic poem about gaucho life and the founding text of modern Argentine identity (published 1872-9). So it was fitting that Eunhye and I found ourselves at the local multiplex Sunday afternoon, watching the latest animated adaptation of the work.

My motivation for seeing the film was to save myself having to read the book. Two years in Argentina, and no Martin Fierro? It's a bit like never having seen or read Shakesphere. I knew I needed catch up. Armed with some vague ideas about bar-brawls, the struggle between an emerging nation and loyalties to the old ways of el campo, and a horse-riding, guitar-swinging hero, I settled down to watch the film.
But if things go on
like they have up to now
it can be that all at once
we'll see the country side bare,
except for the bleachin'
bones of the ones who didn't make it.
(Martin Fierro, stanza 2120)

The story deals with the many conflicts over the land here. It recognises the brutality of the army against both the small land owners and gauchos, and the original peoples. Fierro participates in destruction of the original communities and denial of their rights to the land; yet at times he empathizes with them against the sterile, dislocated and violent army mentality. And in the second part of the epic, which wasn't included in the film, Fierro goes to live with a native community - although that also ends in tragedy. In another episode, distraught over the loss of his family, Fierro harasses a black woman in a bar, picking a fight with her compañero whom he then kills. But again, in part II, he encounters the man's brother, in some kind of atoning scene.

For many Argentines, Fierro represents fierce loyalty and a simpler times when every man had his farm and independence. A century later, and Argentines are unfortunately still justified in regarding with suspicion and anger: unjust landowners, judges, generals, politicians and speculators. A century later, and a clearer condemnation of the racism and violence bound up in the establishment of this nation - and many others - is need.

For a plot summary click here, and for an online version in Spanish here.

*A quena is an andean flute.
** Spanish by Pablo Sosa and others (I think), attempt at translation by me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

life is rubbish

I heard a man singing, as I walked down the dark street. Maybe it was a folk song he learnt playing as a child, or maybe it was a catchy latino-pop melody he'd caught on the radio that morning. Whatever song it was, he sang it - standing with his hands deep in the rubbish bin.

In Elsa Tamez's guide to the book of Ecclesiastes, she suggests we should translate the key Hebrew world hebel not as vanity or emptiness but as something stronger, "All is s••t." (Eccles. 1.2). Life is rubbish, suggests the writer of this small book of the Bible. Nothing changes, the rich and powerful exploit the poor and there is no justice.

And yet, we have to find ways to live in this paralyzing state. Ecclesiastes suggests finding joy and friendship in the midst of the daily grind, thus interrupting the dehumanizing rhythms of money-making, violence and control.

Costa Rican writer Fernando Contreras Castro, speaks of generations of garbage-pickers, who are called divers:
The imperceptible yawn of the flies and the fleet of vultures stretching their wings meant nothing new to the early-morning divers.

Tamez continues, 'There is nothing new, for it is what one sees every day in the underworld, where people struggle daily for the spoils of the vultures and the “divers” in a sea of garbage:
Between the persistent drizzle and the vapors rising from that endless sea, the last trucks, now empty, moved away to begin another day of collection.

In the narrated world of Contreras we find what people experience as hebel in daily life: waiting for garbage, seeing garbage arrive, choosing garbage, selling garbage, eating and wearing garbage...But incredible as it may seem, in this garbage-world it is also possible to find tender and true love, like the love of Unica, Contrera’s main character.’ (Tamez 2000: 41-2, citing Contrera 1994:85f)

Even when life is rubbish, even when justice seems far away, it is possible to share bread, to find love, and to sing an old song, or a new one.

Elsa Tamez (2000) When the Horizons Close. Rereading Ecclesiastes Maryknoll, NY: Orbis

Fernando Contreras Castro, Unica mirando al mar San José: Farben Grupo Editorial Norma, 1994

Sunday, November 11, 2007

white poppy for peace

be at peace with one another
(Mark 9.50)

peace pledge union

Friday, November 09, 2007

then comes the blossom

Giver of life, with flowers you write,
with songs you give warmth,
with songs you give shade,
to those who are to live on the earth.*

'The sacred comes to us as beauty, in warm colours and sounds; and we humans approach truth through flower and song, that is in xochitl in cuicatl.' (Irarrazaval 1996:106)

Silence my soul.
These trees are prayers.
I asked a tree,
tell me about God.
it blossomed.**

I have waited for the blossom to come. Too soon there is a flash of blue, a blaze atop the tree-green. Already it is falling, covering the ground below.

Diego Irarrazaval, "In Xochitl in Cuicatl of Women and Men in Latin American Theology." Voices from the Third World vol. XIX/ 1 June 1996, pp. 106-137.

*The words of Nezahualcoyotl, of the Nahuatl people, recorded in, Miguel Leon Portilla, Literaturas Indigenas de Mejico Mexico: FCE 1992, p.274

**In response to Irarrazaval, Chung Hyun-Kyung (1996:143) offered a poem from the Asian mystic, Tagore.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

not good enough

When I told people I was coming to Argentina to research feminist theology, a frequent response was, 'Good Luck!' Many assumed in the macho Latin culture, all women stayed at home, raised children and prayed to the Virgin.

Yet readers of this blog will know that feminism within and beyond the church has a long history in Latin America. There are no shortage of women en la lucha, in the struggle. This is the title of Ada María Isasi-Díaz's book on mujerista theology, from the perspective of Hispanic Women or Latinas, that is, women of Latin American origins living in the USA.

Ada makes a helpful observation about how macho and machismo have become common usage for sexist behaviour amongst English speaking people:
Use of machismo implies that Hispanic men are more sexist than Anglo men. Using machismo absolves somewhat the sexism of Anglo men and sets Anglo men and Anglo culture above Hispanic men and Hispanic culture. Hispanic Women do not deny the sexism of our culture or of most Hispanic men. But it is not greater than the sexism of the USA society in general and of Anglo men in particular. (Isasi-Díaz 2004: 37)

In conversations about my work in Argentina, I notice how we Brits persist in letting ourselves off the hook through comparisons with other cultures. 'It must be difficult living in such a traditional/ violent/ macho country,' they say. The implication being that we can pat ourselves on the back for our progressive, egalitarian society.

Argentina is a sexist society. I have been patronized, belittled, and ignored. I have been offered doors open, or a seat on the bus, in return for staying in my place and keeping my mouth shut. I have been the subject of shocked concern, 'Such a young girl like you? And all alone?' I live in a country where plastic surgery for women is scarily common amongst those who can afford it, and where the first elected female president was indecently quick in rejecting calls for access to safe, legal abortion.

But I also live in a city where women are often the ones who make things happen. They campaign for safer neighbourhoods. They take courses on community health care. They graffiti the walls of the cathedral calling for legal safe abortion. And they continue to seek the truth about their disappeared friends, children and grandchildren. When the Madres speak, we listen.

In Britain access to education, suitable health care, and less tolerance for domestic violence are some areas in which women have made gains. But the struggle continues. We cannot yet say that all girls and women are valued, are safe at home and on the streets, have control over their own bodies, and are free to follow their dreams. Telling ourselves we aren't as bad as somewhere else just isn't good enough.

Drawings by Jacky Fleming.

Ada María Isasi-Díaz (2004) En la Lucha/ In the Struggle Elaborating a Mujerista Theology, Tenth Anniversary Edition, Minneapolis: Fortress Press

Thursday, November 01, 2007

tod@s l@s sant@s

In holy places:
Sing for God's saints who have
travelled faith's journey before us,
who in our weariness
give us their hope to restore us;
in them we see the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.
(Katy Galloway, Common Ground)

With holy people:
It isn't the noise in the streets
that keeps us from resting, my friend,
nor it the shouts of the young people coming out drunk from St. Paul's bar…

What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!….

Because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
in bearing the courage necessary
to arrive at the goal
which lies beyond death….

Accompany us then on this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
You will then know
how marvellous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!

To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying
and to already know oneself
(Esquivel l982: 59-63)

Of holy wisdom:
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God and prophets.
(Wisdom of Solomon 7.27)

Julia Esquivel (1982) Threatened With Resurrection Elgin, IL: The Brethren Press
Elizabeth A. Johnson (1998) Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reding of the Communion of Saints London: SCM

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

la noche de las brujas

The past decades have witnessed a rediscovery of the witchcraft tradition. Feminist historians have heard, and given voice to, the cries of women whose torture and deaths are recorded in Malleus Maleficarum (1484). Elizabeth Johnson's She Who Is offers a liturgy of remembrance for the victims of these medieval witch hunts.

Feminist spiritualities, nurtured by women such as Starhawk, have reconnected with pre-Christian pagan roots: honouring goddesses, forming covenants of support, dancing peace through the earth. Feminist Christian theologies have been enriched by such developments, particularly in the development of ecofeminist theology, the rise of Celtic spirituality, and the reappraisal of judgments against independent women and witches in the Bible.

What I appreciate about this re-entrance of the witch into Christian theology is that the witch is representative of all the dominant tradition fears: bodily cycles; heresy; independent, ageing and wise women; uncontrolled spiritualities; alternative communities and commitment; "deviant" sexuality. The New York's Village Halloween Parade* is a celebration of all that breaks through our morality and norms in queer, over-the-top abundance; fairies, witches, hags, fags and queens.

Once again tonight, the Con-spirando collective in Santiago de Chile will be celebrating la noche de las brujas with remembrance, resistance and a gran fiesta.

Ivone Gebara notes:
Witches and sorcerers are today symbols of resistance against a hegemonic and hierarchical system that impedes the proliferation of creative alternatives beyond money and competition. (Gebara 2002: 53)

Witches, she suggests, were not agents of death but defenders of life, practitioners of traditional herbal medicine, midwives, and carers of strays. While the discourse of the patriarchal church spoke of women's weakness and thus vulnerability to evil temptations, it was actually these women's alternative strength that threated, and continues to threaten, the powers-that-be.

Gebara celebrates that today there are still women (and men) who believe in alternative spiritual forces, in other ways of relating and trading that are not violent, competitive or destructive:
They are the heirs of those witches of the past who, with force and tenacity, saved many lives...The witches and sorcerers of the past live in a certain way in each of us, and they invite us to be in communion with nature and to the necessity of changing our behaviour in order to save life itself...¡vivan las brujas y hechiceras, amantes de la vida! (Gebara 2002:59-60)

Ivone Gebara (2002) "Brujas y hechiceras" in La sed de sentido Búsquedas ecofeministas en prose poética Montevideo: Doble Clic Editoras, pp. 53-60.

*to which, I confess, I did not go while living in NYC. I was not yet aware of the creative, defiant potential of this night, distracted by the commercialized, trick or treated, orange-plastic import that has swept across Britain, suffocating more ancient rituals and recordances.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

icecream - the people's choice

So today was hot, hot, hot. So hot we took it in turns to wait at the bus stop, or stand back in the shade.

I took the number 55 bus to meet Eunhye at mi lugar favorito, Mark's in Palermo. The bus was packed ensuring we swayed as one around the (fast) corners, and in and out of the gutter. By twisting in a certain direction, I could see the lines of people chatting in line outside schools and police stations acting as voting stations.

There's not much to say about this election
. Presidente Cristina was a done deal before the election was even announced. There was no escaping her profile plastered over the city, weeks before other candidates emerged. By the way - there's a serious opportunity for marketing agents here; I spent a week thinking one of the candidates was a wanted poster!

It was encouraging to see more women candidates at all levels (president, vice president, senate, governor). But I don't feel Cristina's election is a great step forward for women here. Rather, it demonstrates the small circles power moves within, and thus the lack of real options for the voters.

That said, porteños did all choose something today; a "dry" election 24 hours, and a hot hot city meant, after voting, there was only once option - icecream.

And talking of icecream, a brand new today heladería y café has opened on the corner, making it the third within four blocks. I will do my duty and investigate further...

p.s. photo from the great icecream ireland

Thursday, October 25, 2007

getting the poor down from the cross

Despite living over here, I'm a little behind on the latest attack on liberation theology by the Vatican. Following fellow Latin American theologians, Leonardo Boff and Ivone Gebara (although each case is distinct) Jon Sobrino was officially reprimanded in March of this year.

The Notification of the Vatican focused on Sobrino's Christology as lacking in sufficient stress on the divinity of Christ. The document, Notificazione Sulle Opere Del P. Jon Sobrino, S.I.: "Jesucristo Liberador. Lectura Histórico-Teológica de Jesús de Nazaret (Madrid, 1991) e "La Fe En Jesucristo. Ensayo desde Las Víctimas" (San Salvador, 1999), 14.03.2007 suggests the process of investigation has been going on for some years, only now reaching the stage of notification.

Our understanding of God and ourselves grows through discussion and debate. However, when one conversation partner has the power to silence the other, the overwhelming emotion is fear. Fear from those who seek to drown out any dissenting voice. And courage from those who, despite all the risks, continue to call attention to God's disturbing presence in the world.

It's easy for those of us outside the Roman Catholic church, or theological circles, to see such official denouncements as little more than a joke. Yet, the reality is the Vatican has immediate power over priests and theologians. Thus, while the Vatican did not formally censure Sobrino, the decision was given over to the local bishop, Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle, archbishop of San Salvador. And it has been reported that the archdiocese has stopped Sobrino teaching at the University of Central America (El Salvador).

Support for Sobrino has come from various quarters. A month after the notification, a group of EATWOT theologians published Getting the Poor down from the Cross: a Christology of Liberation. This collection of essays on the figure of Jesus is available to download free - an encouraging sign of collaboration, solidarity and accessible theology.

Fellow "reprobate" Leonard Boff comments (with some irony) in the forward:
Every word in this digital book takes advantage of the propitious occasion provided by the Vatican notification about some points of his Christology. It is a book that pushes forward what, in our opinion, Jon Sobrino, for his part, has written with such pertinence, orthodoxy, and orthopraxis in dealing with the meaning of faith in Jesus Christ, based on the humiliated humanity of millions of brothers and sisters of our peripheral societies. He has taught us how the Churches can join forces in the resurrection of those who are crucified.

Monday, October 22, 2007

feminist theology blogs

Does anyone have any leads on blogs about feminist theology? I've just looked through the hundred theology blogs listed here, done a few other searches and nothing.

There are plenty of blogs on women's spirituality, faith journeys, emerging church, written by women ministers and lay people. But what seems to be lacking are academic blogs on feminist theologies.

Links or comments please...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

teologanda and rajab conferences

Teologanda runs courses and publishes work by a group of predominantly Roman Catholic women theologians here in Buenos Aires. I took a intensive course with them last year and loved both the set readings and the group dynamic. Many of the other women on the course where a little older and wiser than me, with years of pastoral experience to reflection on. They had traveled from all over Argentina and beyond to take the course. We talked real talk - grounded in our own and others' experiences. We were honest about the struggles facing women in the church. We listened with interest and insight to each other. We prayed together, drank coffee and mate, and watched a couple of films. It was a great course.

Teologanda are planning a major conference in March 2008 in Buenos Aires. It's not too late to come along!

Primer Congreso de Teólogas Latinoamericanas y Alemanas del 25 al 27 de marzo de 2008, en la Facultad de Teología de la Universidad del Salvador – Área San Miguel, Pcia. de Buenos Aires. La temática propuesta: “ Biografías, Instituciones y Ciudadanía. Teología y sociedad desde la perspectiva de las mujeres ”

This Saturday just gone, I went over to the other side of the city to attend a preparatory workshop for women wanting to present papers at the conference. We had a great few hours - talking through our ideas, listening to others helpful suggestions, and working in smaller interest groups. So I was able to discuss my proposal with Monica, a psychotherapist specializing in domestic violence issues and planning to present some theological reflections on the language women use to talk about domestic violence. Feminist theology at its best - working creatively and collaboratively.

Secondly, notice of a conference at the end of November on women, migration and the Bible. It looks great - as does the website, with lots of links to follow up. More information:

XII Encuentro Nacional de Lectura Popular de la Biblia desde las Mujeres, Bs.As. 30 de noviembre al 2 de diciembre.

Para este año la propuesta será dialogar desde la diversidad de culturas, identidades, memorias, sabidurias y cosmovisiones que nos atraviesan cotidianamente, tanto en lo personal como en lo social y comunitario.

Los movimientos migratorios, tanto internos como externos, los del pasado y los del presente, van poniendo en evidencia estas diversidades. En medio de conflictividades y desarraigos, sin embargo, nuestras ciudades se van transformando en un entramado de encuentros y desencuentros que nos desafían como mujeres a esclarecer la mirada para descubrir las potencialidades latentes y germinales.

La fe y la esperanza nos convocan desde nuestras propias Tradiciones y Textos Sagrados a continuar abriendo senderos de vida y plenitud. Deseamos, pues, habilitar un dialogo profundo desde esos lugares donde nutrimos las diversas espiritualidades y misticas que sostienen nuestras sabidurias de mujeres.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

leaving Jesus behind

On the occasion of my thirty-fourth birthday

All my life I’ve lived with Jesus. But today I’m leaving him behind.

He has been my pattern; fractured by two thousand years, and the as yet divisions of black and white, boy or girl. I have not walked barefoot in desert dust. He does not hear the songs that shape my days. Yet all my life I’ve looked to him.

Our lives began in tears: him in a manger on a stable floor, me in a pram rocked by winter storms. We were childhood accomplices, testing out our independence, devouring texts in our hunger for other worlds.

In the summer we made friends, the kind that last lifetimes. We dared each other to step outside lines drawn in the dust. In wooden boats adrift in the waves, we clung to each together. And in the synagogues and cathedrals, we caused a storm.

Far from home, we lay awake in the dark, fretting what lay ahead. Friends and strangers anointed our head, feet and hands with scented oils and their tears. “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly,” they urged us. We wondered whether we could keep our integrity without being judged naïve fools; until we accepted it was to this that we were called.

Lately, the days have been marked by conflict. We have struck out with hard words and upturned tables. Anger drives us beyond ourselves. We march in silence down the streets of London, and with whistles and drums in Edinburgh. And push hope to its limits.

Today I sit counting my grey hairs, worn out by this nomadic life. I am ready to put away my passport, and unpack for the last time.

But he is rest-less, and he shakes at our ordered life, and troubles those who rule. And for such things he was killed.

I lost him at thirty-three. Yet he remains my commitment and hope, my fresh eyes and clear voice, my testing friendships and dizzying loves.

Jesus, stay with me.

(Luke 3.23 records the tradition that, "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age," and from John's gospel comes the belief that Jesus' ministry lasted three years until he was killed.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

san telmo colours

Cátedra Carnahan 2007: Ivone Gebara 3

We are the last to arrive on the earth and the first to destroy it.

In her final lecture, Ivone Gebara explored the gendered connections between nature and humanity, or humanity within nature. She pointed out the wide ranging and contradictory uses of 'natural' to either justify 'natural' order or behaviour (such as when conservative Christians say "Homosexuality is unnatural") or to establish hierarchies between humans, that is those with 'culture', and 'nature' (in which women are seem as closer to nature, or as Carol J. Adams commented, women are judged 'neither man nor beast').

Like the land, women's bodies are seen as objects to be invaded and subdued. Men, she suggested, are socialized to be conquerors, to be conquistadores over and over.

Ivone highlighted the boundaries between dirt and cleanliness. Keeping the home clean is a task that has traditionally fallen to women. Women's responsibility to tidy up mess extends beyond the home, even to the requirement that they clean up emotional mess and relationship disorder. Ivone reminded us that those with power and money create mess, waste and rubbish. Those without, live within and from that rubbish. I know this because I hear it happening each night around the bins outside my window. The cartoneros continue to clean up and recycle my rubbish. I wonder whether the "plastic-bag-free towns" movement taking hold of people's imagination in England has power to spread around the world.

In their responses Heike Walz and Nancy Bedford spoke of polluting or toxic theologies. Toxic understandings of God pollute our lives, causing us to breath in dangerous harmful ideas about who we are and where God has placed us in the world. They are killing us.

We didn't talk about Al Gore and the Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness about climate change. But I wondered about all the many environmental groups and activists who have worked and worked for decades trying to protect the earth.

Blessed are we when we
sing your praises
and walk faithfully on
your earth.

Blessed are we when we
proclaim your justice
and enjoy together the fruits
of creation.

Blessed are we when we
are guided by your wisdom
and live in harmony with
your world.

from Christian Aid

Cátedra Carnahan 2007: Ivone Gebara 2

The second of Ivone Gebara's lectures focused on theology and gender. Ivone reiterated her distrust of an absolute, all powerful God. We have understood God to have the power to punish or save us, to love or reject us. We live under the gaze of this absolute being, always being judged.

Ivone asked us to risk seeing God differently: God with us. God who is our relationship between and within ourselves. God is always more than we can imagine, yet that does not mean God is set against us.

Alongside other feminist theologians, Ivone criticized those understandings of God that suggest Jesus death was a necessary sacrifice to placate an jealous, wrath-filled God. She urged us to resist such 'necrophile beliefs' and the cult of sacrifice.

With such warnings in my ears, I read online about the unveiling of the war memorial in Lichfield, England for members of the armed forces who have died in war or conflict since the second world war. Underneath the picture reproduced in this post, was this comment:
The names of 16,000 members of the armed forces are carved into the memorial. There is room for another 15,000 to be added.

Tell me, how much of a society inthralled with sacrifice have we become, that we can so easily accept that the death and despair of war will continue at the same, or greater, pace as it is now?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cátedra Carnahan 2007: Ivone Gebara 1

Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara is giving the Carnahan Lectures this year on the theme of 'From gender, a new world is possible.'

Last night she focused on the mutual construction of ideas of gender and science, philosophy and history. Gender, she noted, is intimately bound up in the development of ideas and art, and is always changing.

As usual, Ivone encouraged us to move beyond fixed identities of male and female, straight or gay, black of white. As humans in relation, we are constantly shifting and responding.

She pointed out that moves to strengthen gender identities tend to reinforce cultural beliefs about correct behaviour. Reproaches over un-ladylike actions for example, or notions of women's work, or what is acceptable for a man to wear. There is a fear of loss of some essentialist notion of maleness or femaleness.

Ivone suggested women have a more fixed identity than men, pointing out that motherhood is seen as women's natural vocation. Yet there is not corresponding 'natural' vocation for men. Men can 'naturally' be many things.

Finally she warned against arriving. We are not seeking new improved gender roles or a fixed model of God. We are seeking openness and flexibility in our relationships. Who I am, who you are, who God is. All these are constant questions and ongoing conversations.

Conference: Género Economía Violencia - day 3

A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.

Susana Chiara offered a re-reading of Revelation 12:1-6 which describes a cosmic battle between a mother seeking to protect her new-born and a great dragon. Susana asked us to read the passage alongside the struggle of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (the mothers of the disappeared). We listened to the testimony of F. whose son had been killed by the military dicatorship:
In my view, the dragon devoured him; but not completely since his memory continues. All A. did in his life is present in the lives of the people that knew him. So they didn’t devour him completely, his work is left for others to continue. In my interpretation, the dragon is the bad people who killed A. and later killed my husband as well, because all this damaged my husband and he died.

Conference: Género Economía Violencia - day 2

Day 2 of the Conference began with worship during which we listened to the following story, before being invited to select and consider just one word of the passage:
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go, the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark7.24-30)

We talked about how Jesus and the woman meet on the borders between man and woman, Judea and Tyre, insider and outsider. And how even Jesus seems trapped within the boxes and roles assigned to him. But, the passage tells us, the woman answered him. She resists, refusing to be 'kept in her place.' With one word, 'even' she announces the possibility of change. Her transgressive action enables Jesus to meet her on new ground.

In the afternoon, members of the Toba community, an indigenous group from the Chaco that spans the boundaries of Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, talked about their relationship with the land and the gospel. At times, Margarita fell silent as she struggled to tell us of the destruction of her people through violence and economic marginalization, through cultural oppression and the taking of land. Early missionaries has used the Bible's promises of land and heaven as a means to persuade the Toba to give up their land to European settlers. Yet, Margarita was able to tell us of new readings of the Bible through the monthly ecumenical Bible School that ISEDET supports. The Toba people had been able to identify with Abraham and the promises made to him - promises of land, of descendants and of God's presence. The promise that there will descendants, Margarita told us, gives the Toba people courage that they will not disappear. The same book, the same community but two different readings. How can we ensure our readings of the Bible are life giving for all, particularly those marginalized?

We ended the day with a photo exhibition on women traders at Asuncion's fruit and vegetable markets. Mabel Avila, a Columbian photographer based in Asunción, Paraguay, told us about the long tiring days of the women she had photographed. Too poor to rent a permanent stand at the market, they walked from early morning to late at night, using their bodies as a stall for the fruit and vegetables they sold. Despite this, the women looked into the camera with strength and smiles, determined to survive in the heat and dust of their daily lives.

Image of Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth at Tate Modern.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Conference: Género Economía Violencia - day 1

It's a busy week at ISEDET. Wednesday to Friday we have Ivone Gebara giving the Carnahan Lectures. And this evening the 2nd Conference on Gender and Economics began, focusing on violence and how it relates to economic and gender inequalities.

The conference began with a presentation on the World Council of Church's Decade to Overcome Violence, and details from the World Health Organization's campaign against violence - which they see as the primary threat to global health. The World Health Organization launched the first World report on violence and health on October 3rd, 2002.

In the group discussions, I noticed two words over and over: Justice and Dignity. My tendency is to be suspicious of the church and it's record on women and our wellbeing. So it's good to be reminded that sometimes the church is the space where women find the support and encouragement to say "Enough." Several women who had experienced violent home situations recalled how Christian teaching on the dignity of every person as children of God had helped them challenge abuse. It was good to hear that the church can and does offer hope and healing. It would be even better if this was always so.

Within the description of the "good wife" in Proverbs (a text feminist biblical scholars have tussled with) it is heartening to read:
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. (Proverbs 31.25)

Amen, May it be so!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

a handful of theology blogs

With so many blogs, sometimes a few recommendations help.

New Testament Gateway blog

Who: Mark Goodacre, formerly of University of Birmingham, now at Duke University in the States. The New Testament Gateway is one of the best resources for biblical studies on the web.
When: several posts per week-day
What: New Testaments studies and teaching: links to current hot topics on other blogs and elsewhere; quick, clear information about journals, conferences, new books; work in progress entries on his own research;
Why I like it: up to the minute; generous in his critique of other's opinions (there's nothing worse than vicious bloggers!!); interesting reflections on his own teaching methods and classes - a true reflective practitioner!

Faith and Theology
Who: Ben Myers from the University of Queensland, with regular guest posts from others, including Kim Fabricius, minister at Bethel United Reformed Church, Swansea, Wales.
When: several posts per week-day
What: reformed theology, especially Barth and other nineteenth century German theologians; contemporary theologians, mainly from Europe, USA and Australia; book reviews; hymns, jokes, and short reflections and quotes; clear summaries and introductions to mayor theologians and theological works
Why I like it: a real love of theological study shines through the posts; the summaries and series on e.g. Barth's Church Dogmatics are fresh and helpful; Kim Fabricius's "ten propositions” series.

One Hand Clapping
Who: Julie Clawson, Illinois.
When: daily. Julie also occasionally blogs on the Christian Century blog, Theolog
What: emerging church, with a focus on theology rather than liturgy; social justice and living ethically
Why I like it: again, well written posts that draw you into her theological questioning of books, church or daily routine; reflections on the journey from a more conservative faith to a feminist and justice commitment.

The Faith Between Us
Who:Peter Bebergal and Scott Korb, a conversation between friends, one Jew, one Roman Catholic about belief and unbelief. Based on the East coast of USA. Scott was at Union at the same time as me.
When: a new blog, accompanying the book of the same name, currently every few days.
What: faith, doubts and life in between; religion in the media, book world and academia; faith in daily life.
Why I like it: well written; the sense of listening in on a long standing conversation; windows into the wider literary world of the states.

Worship at Union
Who: Troy Messenger! Union's worship convener
When: a new blog, but currently weekly posts
What: critical reflection on Union's weekday worship, including mini-video summaries.
Why I like it: creativity, diversity and passion; inspiration and resources for inclusive committed worship.

A brief observation: The popular academic theology blogs seem to be dominated by male bloggers. In contrast, spirituality and emerging church focused blogs are more of a mix. Do the academic theology blogs reflect the academic theology scene?

Monday, October 01, 2007

theology and literature

Theology and literature go way back: books and the Book, stories - our's and God's, narrative theology, novels that sound the depths of the divine, new canons of belief, Hebrew poetry, genres, literary criticism...

Feminists too have historically used novels and poetry to express their ideas, often finding a space in literature that was closed to them in the formal arenas of philosophy or politics. Think Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Kate Chopin's The Awakening, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook... Plus Gloria Anzaldúa's efforts to expand the shape of feminist discourse.

It should not come as a shock then, that literature is one of the themes of my thesis, specifically novels by contemporary Latin American women writers.

The surprise for me was the discovery of a particular conversation between novelists of the 1960s and 1970s and the emerging liberation theology movement. The best introduction to this interaction is Luis N. Rivera-Pagán (2002) Essays from the Diaspora Mexico: El Faro, particularly his essay, "Myth, Utopia, and Faith: Theology and Culture in Latin America.” pp.9-36.

Love and death, solidarity and violence, are all expressed in the Latin American ‘imaginary recreation of reality that is our literature’ (Rivera-Pagán 2002:31), he notes, referring to the development of magical realism in Latin America novels.

I was particularly interested in the discovery of Peruvian novelist José María Arguedas' impact on the young Gustavo Gutiérrez. A Theology of Liberation (spanish version) begins with a quote from Arguedas' Todas las sangres and is dedicated to him. Rivera-Pagán comments, "Arguedas faced like maybe no other Latin American writer, the labyrinthine and conflictive relations between the different ethnias, cultures, languages and spiritual traditions in the Andes" (19). Both books illustrated the tear between violent reality and the hope of peace. Like Gutierrez, Arguedas saw a conflict between the God of the landowners and God of the poor.

Their conversation in print actually began ten years earlier in Arguedas novel El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo (1969)
In the summer of 1969, Arguedas recognizes with horror that his novel goes nowhere. This means that his aspiration to bring justice and peace, to overcome centuries of tragic violence and oppression, by a literary reconstruction of reality flounders into catastrophic failure. (21)

Within the novel-diary, the writer shifts from hope and solidarity to hate and fear. In that moment another character, ‘Gustavo,’ emerges and is challenged by the despairing novelist to proclaim a God of liberation. With that, Arguedas killed himself. "This is a book that begins with a discussion of suicide, ends with a suicide note, and is signed with the author's own dead body." comments Jon at Post-hegemony.

Latin America feminist theologians have also bent their ear to the insights of other writers. Elsa Tamez draws on ancient mythological stories. Marcella Althaus-Reid (2003) engages with works by Latin America writers such as Alejandra Pizarnik and Federico Andahazi. Ivone Gebara (2002) draws insights from the diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus and the work of Juana Inés de la Cruz.

My theme of violence against women is present in a number of Latin American novels. Isabel Allende deals directly with the violence of the Pinochet years in Chile, as well as violence against women in the home and in situations of migration. Ana Castillo from Mexico considers women’s spirituality of survival in violent contexts, including death and madness. Julia Alvarez records women’s resistance to the Dominican Republic military dictatorship. Laura Esquivel’s most recent novel, Malinche, explores the conquest of Latin America. Regina Rheda writes about economic marginalization in Brazil. And Marcela Serrano considers shelter spaces for women.

Such novels give voice to women's lives. They expose the violence struggled against. They pass on subtle tips, hints and strategies for survival. And they celebrate and recreate women’s resistance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

imago Dei

God steps back
to give us room;
room to breathe,
fail and flourish.

We are toes, wrinkles,
passion and hurt.
We are in and out of ourselves.

Friday, September 21, 2007

feliz primavera

Doña Primavera
de manos gloriosas,
haz que por la vida
derramemos rosas:
Rosas de alegría,
rosas de perdón,
rosas de cariño,
y de exultación.

Lady Spring
from glorious hands
brings life
scattering roses:
roses of joy
roses of pardon
roses of kindness
and of exultation.

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) Chile.
photo by Caz

p.s. any improvement on translation welcome!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the way home (2002)

The Way Home (Jibeuro), is a simple portrayal of the relationship between a young boy and his grandmother.

Seven year old Sang-woo is left in the care of Grandmother while his mother looks for work in Seoul. Transplanted from his modern city life to a tiny rural village, Sang-woo spends most of the film in a strop. Screaming and crying, he steals his grandmother's treasured hair-pin to buy batteries for his video-game player, and berates her and her way of life on every occasion. He shows no awareness of her struggle to care for him, the harshness of her daily life, nor of her love for him.

Grandmother - old as the lush green hills, bent double, her face wrinkled and dry - is mute. She communicates with the slightest of signs, the gentlest touch on the shoulder. Her neighbours have learned her signs but her grandson lacks the care or patience to try. Yet her patient, unobtrusive care is enough, and eventually the boy sees her, and loves her.

She reminded, once again, me of Margaret Moers Wenig's sermon, God is a Woman and She is Growing Older.
God is a woman and she is growing older. She moves more slowly now. She cannot stand erect. Her face is lined. Her voice is scratchy. Sometimes she has to strain to hear. God is a woman and she is growing older; yet, she remembers everything.

On Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the day on which she gave us birth, God sits down at her kitchen table, opens the Book of Memories, and begins turning the pages; and God remembers.

"There, there is the world when it was new and my children when they were young." As she turns each page she smiles, seeing before her, like so many dolls in a department store window, all the beautiful colors of our skin, all the varied shapes and sizes of our bodies. She marvels at our accomplishments: the music we have written, the gardens we have planted, the stories we have told, the ideas we have spun.

"They now can fly faster than the winds I send," she says to herself, "and they sail across the waters which I gathered into seas. They even visit the moon which I set in the sky. But they rarely visit me."There pasted into the pages of her book are all the cards we have ever sent to her when we did not bother to visit. She notices our signatures3 scrawled beneath the printed words someone else has composed.

In the film, it is the boy who leaves cards for his illiterate grandmother to send to him on his return to Seoul. The night before he leaves, he draws pictures on the back of card after card: "I miss you" say some; and others, "I am ill." Then he will know when she needs him to take care of her.

Click below for the trailer of The Way Home, which highlights the comical aspects of the film:

More on The Way Home here and here.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

el fulgor argentino

Last night, a bunch of us from ISEDET went to La Boca to see El Fulgor Argentino. The play was at the community theatre venue El Galpon de Catalinas - an old warehouse bought by the theatre group and transformed into a massive piece of street art.

The play traced the history of Argentina from 1930 to an imagined 2030. With a cast of one hundred, costumes, dancing and music spanning the decades, and a good number of jokes and cultural references the play offered one version of Argentina's political story.

At times the small venue was a swirl of bodies and colours. Other moments were stark and painful.

Without words, an actor tied a white headscarf over her hair, identifying herself as a mother whose child had been kidnapped or killed by the military dictatorship.

The end of military was greeted by cheers from the stage, and a rush of emotional clapping and shouting from many of the audience.

Around the performance, which began with the proud claim, 'We are a nation of immigrants!' I had a few conversations about Argentina's identity as an immigrant community.

I'm making a generalization here, but it seems the popular story of Argentina is a truncated one. It begins and ends with the Italian, German and Spanish immigrants of the 19th and 20th century. Again and again I wait for acknowledgment of the people before (and still here - in the far south and north), and recognition of the blood soaked pages of Argentina's history. Why is it that, in popular thinking, Argentina is a white European country? This transition happened in a particular way. There were others here before and their removal from the land can be called many things, including genocide.

It makes even less sense that many (not all but many) European Argentines see no contradiction in complaining about the 'immigrants' pushing the 'original' communities out of various barrios. By immigrants they usually mean Bolivians and Paraguayans, and sometimes Koreans too.

This truncated identity is certainly not just an Argentine problem. British people also tell ourselves similarly limited stories about who are. It takes courage to confess the whole story, to acknowledge the parts in which we play the villain not the hero. But we have to keep trying.

Friday, September 07, 2007

in a shock development...

..recycling bins appear on the streets of Buenos Aires.

Now don't get too excited - a quick inspection this morning suggests that the good citizens of Bs As have not yet caught onto the concept of separating rubbish.
Bin 1 - orange lid and (somewhat faded) instructions to place glass, plastic, cardboard etc. = any kind of rubbish.
Bin 2 - black lid and no instructions = any kind of rubbish.

Still, it's a step. Now we just need a major cultural shift in peoples' attitudes - which is going to take time and effort. Will Bs As government and residents be up to it?

And will the new bins make things easier for the cartoneros? Or is this the latest attempt to cut them out of the equation?

A little searching on the Bs As government website later, and via this report in Clarin, it would seem that the bins are linked to the opening of six new recycling centres across the city. This is part of a series of laws working towards 'zero rubbish.' There's some education in schools, but little with the adult population.

Interestingly, a further aim of the new recycling centres according to Clarin, is to help the 6000 cartoneros stop working on the streets and move to a more secure and hygienic mode of operating. Only 1000 of the cartoneros are members of cooperatives; the majority work independently and are at the mercy of the large recycling firms.

The article ends by commenting:
The majority of residents are not, and do not wish to, separate their rubbish.

So how are they going to be persuaded?

Monday, September 03, 2007

barrio coreano

Eunhye, my friend from la UBA Spanish classes when I first arrived, is back in Buenos Aires for six months and to celebrate we went for lunch in Barrio Coreano. I discovered the Korean area of the city is a mere ten blocks from my house, so I'll be able to pop back easily when I need more supplys of noodles, chocolate covered sunflower seeds, and garlic chives.

Korean Argentines call the neighbourhood, Baek–Ku from the Korean for 109. Koreans arriving in Buenos Aires in the 1960s, without any Spanish, would be told to take the number 109 bus to the area. Ironically, today the 109 doesn't go through the barrio!

In comparison to Barrio Chino, the area is quiet and it's only the Korean language signs that suggest a Korean presence. But on ringing a few bells we found traditional restaurants, and hidden stores secured behind gates and doors. And there we feasted on rice, kimchi and tofu vegetable soup.

update from Peru - responses to the earthquake

From Christian Aid:
Like a bomb had dropped on the town
September 03 2007

Edith Montero is the Christian Aid Programme Officer for Peru. In the wake of the earthquake she shares her experience of visiting the city if Ica to see how our partners are responding.

I went with our partners to deliver food and blankets to communities affected by the earthquake in Ica. I arrived at nightfall and, although I know Ica very well, I couldn’t work out where I was. The roads didn’t exist anymore and there were the remains of walls but you couldn’t see where one street finished and another began. I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the destruction - from Lima I hadn’t even been able to imagine it. It was as if a bomb had dropped on the town.

The roads didn’t exist anymore and there were the remains of walls but you couldn’t see where one street finished and another began. People had been forced out of collapsed buildings onto the pavement. I couldn’t get through the roads because they were so jammed with rubble and families

Yesterday I went with our partner Health Houses to an area outside the city where the mud brick houses had been destroyed by the earthquake.

There I saw a man sitting on the roadside with one of his children. His wife was in their house with their two children when the earthquake struck. She had grabbed her young son and daughter and covered them with her body. She died and her children survived unharmed.

With help from Health Houses, the community had already set up communal kitchens and drawn up comprehensive lists naming the people affected by the earthquake and what they needed. We brought tents, cooking kits and blankets and Health Houses immediately began distributing these vital items to those in need.

Health Houses was also providing emergency medical help, treating people with throat and eye complaints caused by the sand and those whose cuts and injuries had become infected.

It was hard to see how isolated these people were. State aid hadn’t arrived to some of the worst affected on the outskirts of town and rural areas.

The organisational capacity of the people in the face of such tragedy has been the most positive thing I’ve seen. They hadn’t just sat down crying, though I’m sure they cried at first, instead they became organised. Their ability to work together in the midst of tragedy is amazing and their willingness to share the few resources they had was wonderful to see.

It is important for us, Christian Aid, to support these partners because in places like Peru, the state is not strong enough to respond quickly. But Christian Aid can respond quickly through its local partners. These partners have worked with the community for 15 years and at the end of the day they knew the people affected by the earthquake and the best way of working with them.

An update from Oxfam here and Peru Support Group


A few photos from my week with Julie and family in Temuco, Chile.

and the way home over the Andes..

Saturday, August 25, 2007

more busy

Apologies for lack of posts - I've been working on my thesis proposal, entertaining the builders again, and I'm just about to set off for Chile. So no posts for a week or so. bye for now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

peruvian earthquake

The earthquake in Peru was brought into focus today when I saw this photo of a fire caused by the tremors in the barrio of Rimac. Rimac was my home when I lived in Lima and although Lima escaped the worst of the quake, Ica and Pisco suffering much more, the destruction still hit hard. My friends live in Rimac, another friend was due to fly to Lima yesterday. I'm emailing them and holding all those affected in my thoughts and prayers.

Limeños live with the threat of earthquakes; the shifting Nazca Plate is part of their daily reality. Early one morning while living in Rimac, I lay stiff with fear as my rooftop room swayed around me during a minor quake. Over breakfast the rest of the household dismissed the tremors. 'We get worse than that,' they told me. Much worse, as yesterday's pictures showed. I was encouraged to read that new houses in Lima are build to withstand most quakes, but worry that as usual it is the poor who will suffer most, their rudimentary dwellings offering little resistance to the earth's movement.

The Peru Support Group is likely to have updates over the next few days as well as ways you can support those affected.

Oxfam and Christian Aid are working with local partner organizations in the affected region. More information and ways to donate via the links above.

Friends from Lima emailed this morning:
In Lima, fortunately, things are ok...The real problems have been in the south. Ica is devastated, Pisco, Nazca and Paracas are 70% destroyed. The whole country is mobilized and helping in whatever ways are possible. The lack of water, electricity and food, plus the poverty of those affected is worsening the situation. It is a terrible situation but it has reminded us of the importance of prevention, and also demonstrated the solidarity and strength of our country and its friends. We have seen in the past how Peruvians can overcome our sorrows and reach out to those in need. This time, I'm sure, will be no exception.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

tales from Salta, and the road.

A joint post by Caz, Elaine and Rachel.

"Monica's" rapidly became shorthand for perfection following our stay at Capricho in Salta. Monica welcomed us with a pot of tea and selection of cookies. Our room spread over three levels, the middle being a comfy reading area. We feasted on the freshest salads and tangy lemonade. Or curled up in the corner of the courtyard, surrounded by flowering plants and twinkling lights as the night drew in. The website has contact details, for pictures and details see here. When we did leave the courtyard, we popped down the road to pink and yellow crazy Iglesia San Francisco, and up the cable car too.

We thought we'd beat the coach parties, but they too were staying at the hotel in the ruins too! So many people, and only one Pedro to check us in, give directions, mop the floor, run the bar... Climbing high above the ruins, from the lookout we could trace our journey in, the night before.

On the road, by San Rafael's chapel, high high above the clouds. El Golfo coped very well with the terrain, including the diversion along a dry river bed...

Another fabulous stay at Hotel El Cortijo in the well kept village of Cachi, high up in the mountains. After a long drive on the ripio unpaved road from Cafayate, we fell into the sofas, mugs of coffee and chocolate in hand. Caz and I had a quick game of Trivial Pursuits in español and sampled some coca leaves and organic wine!

Home of the seven coloured mountain, vast salt plains, and location for recent Argentine film, Una Estrella and Dos Cafes. This resulted in much excitement from Rachel as she snapped location spots and tried to identify actors in the film, even embarrassingly asking the boy minding the corner shop while having her photo taken by a poster of the film!

We made full use of the shopping opportunities at the craft market, and sat in the sun listening to a local choir sing outside the village church. And finally, a restaurant to recommend after several days of limited vegetarian options, the highlight being six carrot-and-lettuce-on-a-cocktail-stick that we were presented with in Cachi! We made up for it with the hot empanadas, pumpkin soup and quinoa risotto, followed by turron icecream, or rich rice pudding.
Los Morteros, Calle Salta, Purmamarca (0388) 490 8002

Bye from Claudio of the dazzling white teeth, busy Monica, and Pedro of the curly black hair.

Monday, August 06, 2007

colours of salta

on the dust-dry plain,
low lying plants
capture the light
in yellow-green baubles.

under the fierce sky
we stop at a chapel
for San Rafael:
"You who accompanied Tobias
on his journey,
keep us safe on ours."

at the edge
of a cloud-filled valley
we stand like angels
gaze in wonder, awe and peace.

in a haze of luminous green
a flock of parakeets
call out the day's end.

drinking frieda's tea
in a white and gold china cup,
a purple hummingbird
shares the courtyard sun.

three candles flicker low
green, red and gold;
one more welcomes us
at our door.

sky star-spangled
as far below
we fall
into layers of milky white.

two slate-blue ponies
watch us speed by
from under their green tree.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Elsa Tamez - Through Her Eyes

Originally published as Las Mujeres Toman la Palabra, this collection of interviews with Latin American women theologians is a response to Elsa Tamez' earlier interviews with the heavy-weights of the liberation theology movement, published in Against Machism.

For each of the interviews in Through Her Eyes, carried out 1987-8, the scene is set: 'we met in the kitchen while the children slept and José watched TV next door; we spoke over sips of coffee and breakfast rolls; we talked late into the night in our room at the conference.' On many occasions, Tamez notes the struggle to find time to meet, the hectic schedule and passionate commitment of each women.

This collection was one of the earliest published record of the Latin American feminist theology movement. Twenty years on, the arguments are more complex, and the sources more diverse. But re-reading this book, I noted critical insights and connections that continue to be central to the debate. Primarily, and in direct contrast to early liberation theology, that ‘the category of class is necessary but insufficient for an analysis of women's situations.'(10)

The women remained cautious of the male theologians' vocal support, asking instead for practical support at conferences, seminaries and in the parishes. They would not be satisfied by talk of complimentary roles or equal partnership in a male system. On women's ordination, for example, many commented that while important, it alone will not be enough to heal the church. Many challenged the male theologians talk of woman as mystery, noting that all life is mystery, most of all, God is mystery. Woman is no more other, strange or unfathomable.

Alongside the wider feminist theology movement, the interviewees challenged the private/ public division of the world. Julia Esquivel called theology that relates only to public life a 'mutilated theology.' Women's roles in church and society should not be limited to motherhood and domestic tasks. Nancy Cardoso Pereira and Tania Mara Vieira Sampaio commented on the failure of liberation theologians to challenge the institution of the family. The sanctity of the family had, 'displaced the discussion towards a prioritizing of economic liberation, that is said to be most urgent, without being detained in the demands of the revolution of daily life.'(102)

Continuing this critique, Maria José Rosado Nuñez highlighted the importance of the fiesta in the midst of daily realities. All our struggles are connected, she commented:
All this about 'priorities' and 'basic necessities,'...the parties of the poor make me think beyond this. A family spends all its money for the son's baptism party, for example. They know that they won't have money for the kids' milk in the morning, but they will not give up their right to joy, to party, to escape, to gratitude. Isn't this also a basic need? (42)

Elsa Tamez Against machismo: Rubem Alves, Leonardo Boff, Gustavo Gutiérrez, José Miguez Bonino, Juan Luis Segundo…and others talk about the struggle of women: interviews.Yorktown Heights, NY: Meyer-Stone Books, 1987.
Elsa Tamez (1989) Las Mujeres Toman La Palabra San José, Costa Rica: Editorial DEI
Through her eyes: women’s theology from Latin America. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1989.

A final note: Off to Salta, so unlikely to post this week.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cristina Garcia - Dreaming in Cuban

January 11, 1959
My dearest Gustavo,
The revolution is eleven days old. My granddaughter, Pilar Puente del Pin, was born today. It is also my birthday. I am fifty years old. I will no longer write to you, mi amor. She will remember everything,
My love always,

So ends Cristina Garcia's novel, Dreaming in Cuban. Like many contemporary Cuban-America novels, at the heart of the
story is separation, the resultant confusions and misunderstandings, and the remarkable efforts taken to reconnect lives and loved ones. The distances created by the embargo, forbidden love, and even death, are overcome through secret letters, visions and apparitions, prayers and trances. Many are the mediators and go-betweens. Garcia suggests it is our dreams and desires that we speak freely. And that we draw strength from those who give it, who are not always the ones expected to protect us.

Religions and spiritualities are part of these coping mechanisms. The women in the book commit themselves to Catholicism, Santeria, and the revolution. Often faith of one is rejected by another, while certain beliefs must always be expressed in secret, amongst the poor.

The violence of loss and separation is evident, as is that of the Cuban exiles loss of identity. The intrinsic violence of the revolution (and pre-revolution dictatorship) receives little mention. But the fear of attack haunts the lives of the Cuban islanders, and even those exiled, who see communism in every shadow. And in lives marked by restriction and frustration, violence is enacted to punish, revenge, and escape.

I read this book accompanied by memories of Cuba and my own mixed emotions about the revolution. Can a forty year revolution remain revolutionary, or has the daily struggle for physical and ideological survival trampled down creativity and individual freedoms?
"The leaders forget what they looked like themselves fifteen years ago," the only young man in the group pronounces. "Today, they'd be thrown in a Social Disgrace Unit with drug addicts and maricones. Look at me. They say I'm rebellious, but it was rebels who made the revolution!" (108-9)

I thought about the scarcity of food (even with my privileged tourist status), the shells of once grand buildings along the Malecon, cheap seats at the ballet, black hens ready for sacrifice, an old woman's kiss goodbye, sunset through the banana leaves, the dancers of the gods, fresh orange juice and coconut palms. Most of all I thought about the blue of the sea. And how we all paint Cuba in our own colours, illustrating our ideologies and utopias.

"I can paint you any way you like," Pilar tells her grandmother (232). So she paints the elderly Celia, 'dancing flamenco with whirling red skirts and castanets and a tight satin bodice'(233). But mostly, she paints her as she sees her, in blue.

Until I returned to Cuba, I never realized how many blues exist. The aquamarines near the shoreline, the azures of deeper waters, the eggshell blues beneath by grandmother's eyes, the fragile indigos tracking her hands. There's a blue, too, in the curves of the palms, and the edges of the words we speak, a blue tinge to the sand and the seashells and the plump gulls on the beach. (233)
Cristina Garcia (1992) Dreaming in Cuban New York; Ballentine Books. Photo: Varadero beach, by Alison Mann.