Tag Archives: Race

Too Hot for Time

The doctor was beautiful, with that kind of feathery hair you just want to reach out and run your fingers through. He had this pained expression on his face, like it hurt to be so beautiful, and the slowest movements on Earth, as if he had all the time in the world. But with parasites wringing my intestines into a neat string of nothing, inducing painful spasms every 30 seconds or so for three days, I was in a bit of a rush to swallow dem pills and get the fuck better. My name was spelled wrong on all the forms. I told him, “Actually it’s Bani. B-A-N-I.” One of the nurses by his side said, “Where is that name from?”

“India.”

“And what does it mean?”

“Divine music.”

Aaaahhhh she sighs, as if That Explains Everything. When was the last time someone asked what Sarah or Michael means? No squiggly red wave underlining those names in Word. I cracked a small smile. Dr. Too Hot for Time checks the tests, diagnoses me and finally writes a prescription. I ask him about the X-Ray.

“So…what’s inside me?”

“Nothing.”

 Santa Marta

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Back to the Wackness

hey people,

i’m glad you’re all starting to get everywhere all the time zine issue one if your mailboxes across the world. if you haven’t, you can order your totally perfect, not-mis-printed copy from Boom For Real press on etsy, just keep in mind it won’t mail out until september, (only $2.50 with free shipping!) also, my shit will be published in Gag Me With a…zine #9 so order it k thanks!

Atlanta, 2009
Atlanta, 2009

on the feelings front, i’ll be undergoing surgery in quito this week so wish me luck. also, my flight is booked back for the states in september, ending over a year in ecuador. everyone here in south america (slash world) is looking at the US like WTF is even going on? and i’m not so crazy about returning to the wackness, but then i think about the stuff i miss and can’t wait. i’m looking for a work/trade/cool house sharing situation with folks in the southwest (namely santa fe) so if you hear of anything fill me in.

Medellin, 2010
Medellin, 2010

if you’re an artist and haven’t submitted your travel crap to No Hay Puntes travel zine, wtf you waitin’ for? i mean, please scan your crazy findings from the road, sketch that building across the street, look over your campfire photos, those punk flyers you picked up from mexico, photocopy that train ticket from argentina…and send it all to heyitsbani@gmail.com before september 1st. for writing pieces, keep in mind this is a complitation of stories from the road in latin american countries, and pieces from the latinx-diaspora about travel, race, place and adventure in genz. we already got a nice collection of spanish-language submissions, but english and spanglish are also def accepted so i’m lookin’ at you!

Alausi, 2012
Alausi, 2012

the everywhere all the time tumblr page is back up n beautiful, and i’m always updating facebook. follow, comment, share n all that good stuff. my writing will be published in a bunch of new places next week, so watch out for that. thanks strangers!

No Hay Puentes

hey people!

i’ve been talkin bout putting out an anthology of travel stories from latin america for a while now, and am finally beginning to collect submissions. here are the callouts in english and spanish; please send to folks of color you know who travel. also in need of ART: drawings, sketches, train maps, handwritten maps, random ephemera collected from your magic adventures. thanks and hope your weekends don’t suck! or else!

callforsubmissions.en

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The Revolution Will Not Be Industrialized

Originally published on MatadorNetwork.com Click the link and comment, mofos!

WHILE I WAS traveling north on the Ecuadorian Pacific coast last month, I met a group of local artisans in the town of Súa who work with natural materials and, through their community organization, educate youth on Afro-Ecuadorian culture. They weave, sew, carve, collect, and create traditional instruments from resources that wash onto shore or grow in the mangrove forests surrounding town.

The space they’ve been using for a decade is rustic at best, and without any help from the government, they’re struggling to make ends meet as artists. Due to a chance encounter with the in-country project director for the Heartful Giving Project, an international development organization, the group have been able to launch a crowdfunding campaign that wraps up on August 1. They’re raising money to build a sustainable community art space to work, teach classes in, and use as a showroom to promote positive tourism in Súa. Read more about the campaign at theheartfulgivingproject.com.

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When Spanish conquistadors first landed on Ecuadorian soil, they were so astonished to be greeted by indigenous leaders adorned with precious emeralds that they named the region Esmeraldas. Centuries later, the name still suits it. From its stretch of the Pacific to the dense, endangered mangroves that spread north toward Colombia, and hills feathered by palms and other flora endemic to the Chocó biogeographic region, Esmeraldas is recognized throughout Ecuador as the “Green Province.” But despite its wealth in natural resources, the area remains neglected in terms of basic infrastructure and vastly marginalized at the expense of its 70% Afro-Ecuadorian population, the greatest concentration of blacks in Ecuador.

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Ten years ago, Alphonso ‘Toto’ German and a group of his friends formed Manglares de Súa, the Súa Mangrove Center, and set out to work in this bamboo, wood, and straw space gifted to them from its previous owner. “He gave it to us — not the government or municipality — under the condition that we use it for the people and for the arts. These are traditional handicrafts incorporating natural materials from our Green Province. We want to present a better space to attract positive tourism to Súa.” Their income is seasonal with the (meager) influx of tourists that overflow from the nearby surf and party city Atacames during peak months, but they also sell through the fair-trade company Adonya Imports. From left to right: Ismael, Cesar, Alphonso ‘Toto,’ Antonio, Edwin, and Martin.

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The first thing I noticed upon walking onto the uneven dirt floor of the community art studio were crafts wet from the rainfall of the night before. The roof is made of layered banana leaves punched with huge holes over time, and a slight breeze streams straight through the shelter’s walls. “I’ve made everything. This guitar, by hand. That marimba, by hand. Those maracas too. When it rains, it leaks through the holes in the roof and destroys our work.” Though it’s beautiful and relaxed, the center is clearly no longer suited to meet the artists’ needs.

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Súa is all flip flops softly smacking the dirt road or occasional concrete sidewalk laid out in the pattern of a honeycomb. Black men drive blue taximotos along the seaside promenade, and since it’s Saturday, couples stroll along its cove-like stretch of beach. The water is a translucent green stretching toward a blue band at the top, held at each end by high cliffs where mangroves grow. The trees are seriously threatened due to overproduction of the town’s #1 export: shrimp. I ask Toto what he thinks the new center will do for Súa: “We’re relaxed people, but the situation is bad for the kids. They drink a lot, work hard, then drink. The next day it’s the same. With this [he gestures to the pavilion around us] we can play music and dance. That’s what the people really want.”

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“I’ve always been buena onda with everyone in town. I’ve always wanted to better Súa, and my community in general.” Walking along the beach, it was clear that everyone knew and respected Toto. A young single father of two girls, Toto never set foot in any kind of learning institution and relies on seasonable income to support his family. Throughout our interview, he spoke softly, passionately, and only averted his gaze once. “I’ve never really told anyone that, just now, to you.” It was clear that, though I’d spent most of my life organizing for social change movements, Toto had more spine in his left pinky than most people I’ve met have in their whole bodies.

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The marimba is the xylophone’s great, great African grandmother, made of different materials in the regions it has passed through over time. Most in Ecuador look like this, thick bamboo tubes tied to strips of African palm tree trunk that resonate with a light echo when hit with mallets. Accompanied by shakers, call-and-response singing, and a traditional dance called currulao, the music creates a wandering, joyful ambience. Afro-Ecuadorians descend from the 23 slaves that escaped from a shipwreck in 1533, those who escaped via the Colombian jungle, and those who were brought over from Spain. For many Esmeraldeños, marimba music is the ultimate expression of freedom.

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This is a type of Spondylus, a sign of wealth, sacred power, and a form of currency for the pre-Columbian peoples of what are now parts of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coasts. The ancient trade route runs through some of South America’s best Pacific beaches, where you can buy shells like this from early-rising collectors.

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Walls are eroding away with the help of a devastating termite infestation.

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Ismael talks to neighbors from the inside of Manglares de Súa’s art center.

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Toto learned to weave coconut tree leaves into all sorts of forms as a kid from his elders. He taught the other members of his organization, but besides them, no one else in town knows how to create traditional dress or make marimbas. With a better space, they hope to host classes for local kids, and stir up a kind of renaissance in Afro-Ecuadorian culture.

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I grew up in a single-parent household in New York City, but as my mother is a music-obsessed Ecuadorian immigrant, the sounds of obscure Afro-Latino bands coming from our stereo and the feel of traditional, handmade instruments became the stuff of the familiar for me. There are a few famous marimberos from Esmeraldas that are known as ‘The Greats’: Papá Roncón, Remberto Escobar, and Escolástico Solís Castillo.

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In May of this year, Súa’s mayor, Freddy Saldarriaga Corral, hired foreign engineers to pave over a lot of wild land and replace it with a concrete park. They were bulldozing trees when Martin (pictured above) and other members of Manglares de Súa began assembling to halt construction, or at least express their discontent over the changes. No one in town was consulted over the park, and the destruction of tropical vegetation right in front of the cultural center came as a complete surprise. Thanks to the organization’s protest, three trees were spared, but that was after police arrested Toto for “disrupting the peace.” Behind the melodic sounds of the marimba in Súa, a concrete mixer can always be heard in the background. Here we see the site wrapped in green plastic.

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I ask Toto if there are any blacks in power in the national (or even local) government to appeal to for the needs of Esmeraldeños. “No. None. No blacks in power. They stomp on us! [He enacts this with his right foot.] We’ve always been marginalized. The government doesn’t help Esmeraldas; they’ve always neglected us. All of these places — Atacames, Muisne, Tonsupa, Esmeraldas, Súa — they’ve abandoned us all. Afro-Ecuadorians just try to survive.”

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I spent a lot of time taking macro photos at the seashell table, fascinated by the itty-bitty galaxies that seemed to gather there. These are the exoskeletons of marine mollusks that drifted onto shore, each one marked by its own exclusive history of waves, sand, and time. It was strange to visit this poor town studded by such beautiful things that just happened to be lying around.

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Toto brings it home as the sun begins to set over Súa: “I don’t do anything industrial. You see the kids selling in Atacames or Montañita — they buy those industrial materials and sell jewelry made with them for more. They’re cheap and rot. These [gesturing to the crafts above] are made by hand from natural materials only found in Súa; each is one-of-a-kind. This is natural, from here and only here. It’s made to last, and made with love.”

Read more at http://matadornetwork.com/change/the-revolution-will-not-be-industrialized-community-art-in-sua-ecuador/#hJ20mv1iyQAZP6VD.99

Boom For Real Press n’ Other Updates

hey people,

there’s a few reasons to excuse a travel writer’s lack of recent blog posts:

  1. too busy traveling
  2. too busy writing
  3. too stoned
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me and jake salt

well, who’s counting? but an extra good reason i have which was not fun while it was happening but in hindsight is a great thing – i got my double ecuadorian/american citizenship. i think of this site more as a portfolio than a blog and didn’t really clue you in on the story, but i moved to ecuador a year ago to attain nationality through my family, who are from here. i had no effing clue it would take this long and that the process would make me feel pretty miserable for a while, but i got it now and can cross the border and travel to whole other countries ’cause i got not one, but two passports. for a traveler, this news is so good it’s bad.

so now we have to talk about the zine. i just got back from mailing the first ten copies, which were ordered back in december. i’ve got to admit, this looks bad. real bad! and it hasn’t taken so long ’cause i was too busy traveling or writing or stoned, but because of TONS of formatting issues and copy machine troubles (plus that fire that melted half my typewriter.) My tiny room in Guayaquil serves as ‘the zine office’ (i sleep on the couch in the living room ’cause the office is hot as balls, and there’s no internet) where hundreds of miscopied zines are lying about in piles. there is no self-serve kind of copy shop set up in Ecuador – someone has to do it for you. everywhere all the time has been copied in student supplies shops in jungle towns, fishing villages, stationary stores in four cities, and on and on – badly. i can’t blame these folks for not understanding layout, but in the words of Gob Bluth, COME ON! i’m not going to tell you how much of my dwindling funds have been spent on bad copies.

the zine
the zine

but i’m still on a high from that time i got my ecuadorian citizenship (what i spend in copies i make up for in free healthcare!) so i’m goin’ ahead and looking for the perfect copyshop in the sky/ecuador and will print this goddam zine exactly as i want it whether it wants to be printed or not. the first ten copies that were mailed today are the best of the lot – a little out of order but otherwise quite awesome. and just to make up for all that bullshit waiting time, the first 20 orderers get the second issue free! gratis! i’ll be sending an e-mail letting you know who you is.

since this is the zine’s first copy i want it to be perfect, so the ‘miscopies’ aren’t unsightly or unreadable, they just don’t come in the order i planned it. what i’m trying to say is – they look great! so those hundreds of imperfect zines won’t go to waste; i’m selling them on etsy for $2 (plus a lil’ shipping) so you betta order that shit, ’cause those will be sent out immediately. i re-opened my old shop where i sold typewriters and named in Boom For Real Press (basquiat ref) and plan to turn it into a full-blown international travel zine distro in septemberish.

also, if you didn’t know – my last article on Matador got reprinted on Bluestockings Magazine – then now ya know. more updates on the intersection between race, place, writing and adventure are all up at facebook.com/everywhereallthetime.

The Greatest Thing We Possess As Humans!

I just contributed to the Afrolatinos: The Untaught Story indiegogo campaign; here’s why you should too.

The Writer and The Story

We have two days to make history! One of the greatest things that we possess as humans is the ability to create sustainable change in various ways! We are all capable of making difference. We are all here to do something significant. This is why we are here… to learn from one another, to share our traditions, to preserve our history and pass down all of what is learned to the generations that follow.

“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.” – Audre Lorde

During my visit to Haiti pre-earthquake, we were faced with an incredible amount of poverty and chaos. Then the earthquake of 2010 happened completely devastating the nation and killing over…

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