Nowhere Magazine

Expats

A series on diaspora that focuses on places foreigners form communities; stories about displacement and profiles of people who lived between identities

Martin Luther Queen

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition,” wrote James Baldwin in Giovanni’s Room. Seeking sanctuary from the burdens of life as a queer black man in 1940s Harlem, Baldwin expatriated to Paris where he was able to begin demystifying what it meant to be an American, and where he created the works that would mark him as one of the best – and most critically contested – exile writers of all time. “Exile saved my life,” he reflected 13 years later.

Babble On

“Jackson Heights began to draw in a boom of enterprising immigrants when reforms loosened New York immigration laws in the 1960s, and today represents the city’s second-largest population of foreign-born residents. One can walk through streets like Kalpana Chawla Way, where bearded vendors canvass gold bangles and spangly saris over a soundtrack of Bollywood hits beating from the nearest shop window, while the IRT # 7 “International Line” rattles overhead every few minutes. And a few blocks away on Calle Colombia, you can order a cafe con leche from a Beijing native in the neighborhood’s most beloved Chino-Latino joint.”

Neruda Abroad

“When poet Pablo Neruda fled his native Chile, over the Andes and into Argentina — “[a] trip I have taken through regions that are distant and antipodean,” he later reminisced — he had nearly died before he made it to the other side. He had been living underground for 14 months during President Videla’s crackdown on communism when, in 1948, a warrant was issued for his arrest. “There were no tracks and no paths, and I and my four companions pressed forward on our tortuous way, blindly seeking the quarter in which my own liberty lay.” Buried in his backpack was the manuscript for his epic poem,Canto General.”

Sinking States

“Riding on the invisible lasso of the equator in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, an island is quietly submerging into the sea. The Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati is a 310-square mile island nation located between Australia and Hawaii, and it’s sinking. Although the nation is predominantly and devoutly Christian, their faith is infused with belief in spirits they can appeal to in times of need – the fishing gods might bless you with a good catch, the storm gods might abate if you ask them. If the country disappears, “our spirits will have nowhere else to go,” says Tong. “We ask the spirits to change the minds of those people who are doing this.”

A Trip to Trinidad

“There are places we travel to that change us forever, but none quite like the town of Trinidad, Colorado; population: 9,096. About an hour and a half south of Denver and just a few miles shy of the New Mexican border, Trinidad came to be known as the “Sex Change Capital of The World” when Dr. Stanley Biber began performing genital procedures there in 1969. His practice was taken over in 2003 by Dr. Marci Bowers, the first transgender woman to perform the surgery. “Transitioning is like walking on lily pads,” she says, “You have to be careful with each step, or you’re going to sink.”

Venezuela’s Reluctant Jews

“At the peak of the diaspora, in the postwar years, around 45,000 Jews lived in Venezuela. Today, they number around 9,000. With the death toll rising and inflation in the double digits, this comes as no surprise, but many point to a general climate of anti-Semitism that began to materialize when Hugo Chavez took power in 1999.”

Le Tumulte Noir

“Finding a community in Paris among other black Americans, Josephine Baker felt freer in France than in the US. She remarked on her first time seeing the Eiffel Tower, “It looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what was the good of having the statue without the liberty? I preferred the Eiffel Tower, which made no promises.”

Crime and Punishment

“Gay, lesbian and trans refugees are also oftentimes challenged with the peculiar burden of having to prove their sexuality to immigration authorities. Leaked documents showed that the UK’s Home Office requested that claimants produce footage showing sexual intercourse and asked questions like, “What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?” and “Do you read Oscar Wilde?” In 2010, the Czech Republic came under scrutiny after having gay and bisexual male claimants undergo “sexual arousal tests” where they were hooked up to machines that monitor blood-flow to the penis and then shown straight porn. Applicants who became aroused were denied asylum.”

 

Legends

A series profiling personalities and places that have left a mark on our social landscape but are on the verge of lore, as in communities at risk of endangerment, people with obsolete skills and explorers whose stories ended in mystery

Muttnik

“It wasn’t until 2002 that Dimitri Malashenkov, one of the scientists behind the original mission, came forth and revealed that Laika had died by the fourth circuit of flight from overheating, just a few hours after launching. Her last hours were spent watching the earth spin before her, and herself spin even faster about the earth, weightlessly navigating the space between celestial bodies and eventually, becoming one of them. Sputnik 2 burned up five months later, along with Laika’s remains, during reentry on April 14, 1958.”

The Flying Circus

“Balancing a reed flute in one hand and beating out an ancient rhythmic prayer on a small drum with the other, El Caporal stands 150 feet above the ground atop an erect pole, overseeing the flight of four young dancers gliding counterclockwise around him, like a human pinwheel. The acrobats, known as “bird men” among the Totonac of Veracruz, Mexico, are connected to the pole by a cord of rope wrapped around their waists, and slowly uncoiled from the top, the acrobats descending upside down, with arms outstretched, to the High Priest’s unrelenting tune.”

The Body of Jean-Michel Basquiat

“Much of what we know about Jean-Michel’s life surrounds his death, and his body — the pigment of it, the sex he had with it, the drugs he put into it. But the body of his work was incorporeal, moving freely about the world.”

Promised Lands

“Named by Portuguese settlers for the perennial palm trees that foliate the state of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil, Palmares was a massive self-sustaining settlement of escaped slaves that survived for the entirety of the 17th century. With strong roots in Central African sociopolitical models, the society functioned like a kingdom made up of smaller consolidated entities, all overseen by a ganga zumba. Though Palmares was made up of a majority black Portuguese-Angolan population, it also provided shelter for other marginalized groups in colonial times like native Brazilians, Jews, Arabs and poor whites. At the height of the kingdom, Palmares was home to around 30,000 people.”

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

“Zipping through the sun-stained folds of northwestern Mexico’s Copper Canyons are the Tarahumara – the tribe of those who run fast. Here, where both barefoot 90-year-old men and sandal-clad four-year-olds chase birds to death by out-flying them, the tribe, also known as the Rarámuri, can race non-stop for up to 200 miles at a time, at breakneck-speed. They have a saying: children run before they can walk. In other words, they were born to run.”

Reservoir Noir

“In Minoan times, the Greek city-state Olous was settled by some 40,000 inhabitants on coastal sands overlooking the cerulean waters of the Cretan sea. The democratic Oloudians worshipped Zeus, Apollo, and the mermaid goddess Britomartis, whose scaly body and whimsical hair was depicted on the city’s official coinage. But the remains of Olous, a collection of ancient walls, remain submerged in Poros Bay, at the present-day town of Elounda.”

Ecuador’s Last Ice Man

“Today, 70-year-old Baltazar Ushca struggles as the lone upholder of a bygone profession. Due to global warming, he must travel higher and higher on each sojourn to reach the glaciers, stab them loose with his pick, form them into cubes, wrap them in strawgrass and load them onto his steeds. He goes through all this trouble to use the ice in a traditional delicacy known as helado de paila: ice cream.”

Siberian High

“Chilled by Siberian air masses that accumulate during winter, the steel-colored eastern shoulder of Kholat Syakhl (“Dead Mountain” in local tribal language) in Russia’s northern Ural mountains seems like the kind of place an unexplained mystery would take place. And it was.”

Life Aquatic

“Legend has it that when a princess from Johor was carried adrift by the hands of a heavy swell and lost in the depths of the Sulu Sea, her aggrieved father ordered his subordinates to comb the ocean and not return until they’d found her. Out of the murk of this myth emerged the Bajau people, an assemblage of seafaring indigenous groups of Southeast Asia’s Moro ethnicity. Today they’re celebrated underwater hunters. The Bajau can free-dive up to a hundred feet below water, walk squarely across the seafloor as if they were crossing the street, hunt their catch, and calmly float back up to the surface — all in one breath.”

Searching for Peng Jiamu

“The road — which shifted from marsh to moving dune to jagged gravel — was difficult to cover, and the team’s water was running out. When some colleagues suggested they turn around, Peng brought them together and lectured, “Science is to walk a road not travelled by other people!” So they continued.”

 

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decolonizing travel culture

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