Lola García-Ajofrín Lola García-Ajofrín

Lola García-Ajofrín is a freelance reporter from Spain, graduated from Complutense University of Madrid, with Master Degree in Television Journalism from Rey Juan Carlos University. She is Internacional Prize of Journalism Manuel ALcantara 2015. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Portugues. She has worked from Kabul (Afghanistan), Caracas (Venezuela), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and the USA, where she has published articles for the post pretigious media in Spanish like EL PAÍS, EL CONFIDENCIAL LA INFORMACIÓN, MARIE CLAIRE, CNN IN SPANISH, 3sesenta, y ESCUELA. Specializing in international education she has worked in the both major weeklies newspaper in the field in Spain: Magisterio and Escuela. where she became editor in chief. In the last two years she has traveled the best educational systems in the world, with the project: http://gigantesdelaeducacion.com, around Cuba, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Venezuela, Brazil and USA.

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Welcome to the Metal Archipelago, Ind...
Surabaya, East Java
By Lola García-Ajofrín
05 Nov 2016

In Indonesia there are more brutal death metal bands (one of the most extreme-genres) than anywhere else in the world. Experts and musicians explain the turbulent history of the country, the belief in black magic and the cooperative culture may be some possible reasons. It is the only country in which the Prime Minister, Joko Widodo, greets at rallies by the horns hand

LOLA GARCIA-AJOFRÍN, Surabaya

Guitarist Andre Tiranda opens the door's Nada Musik studio in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, East Java, with a naked  torso and wearing underpants. Long hair, mustache, goatee and a marijuana leaf tattooed on his chest, has the air of a Jesus Christ from the outskirts. He welcomes with half a cigarette between his fingers, and grumbling by hot weather in Surabaya: "Damn, more than in Jakarta." His group, Siksakubur, brutal death metal veterans of Indonesia, prepares their eighth album.

They are Son Rudy Harijanto (singer), Andre Tiranda (guitarist), Adhitya Perkasa (drums) and Dena Prabandara (bass). The group has 20 years on stage and shared the stage with bands like Californians' Suicidal Tendencies' in the Festival Java Rockin 'Land of 2013, the English' Carcass' in the Rock in Solo 2014 or Kreator Germans in the Hammersonic 2014. His album 'Eye Cry' (2003) is a classic inside and outside Indonesia. In Facebook they are followed by half a million people and are considered some of the best Southeast Asia Metal Bands. We interviewed them in the recording studio in Surabaya.

Smoke. Cables. Cups of coffee and sweet tea on the floor. A fan standing next to a guitar. In the battery, Adhitya Perkasa, towel around his neck and shirtless, sweaty, shaking dishes and room shudders. Tiranda closes his eyes, lowers his head and makes dance the strings of his new white guitar "custom designed". Outside, on a narrow street of two-story houses, parsimonious cats and hawkers bakso (meatball soup), the city is going to bed. It purs down. In the studio, there were recording for hours and breaks drinking homemade alcohol, smoking and singing 'Hotel California'.

Among the many rankings that the largest archipelago in the world crowns: around 17,508 islands and 254 millons of people (the fourth most populous country on earth) his passion for metal music also leads the clasifications.

FULL TEXT AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH, FRENCH OR SPANISH.

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Moving by boat at Dayak Villages in M...
Mahakam River, Borneo, Indonesia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
04 Nov 2016

The rowboat is the only taxi at Dayak Villages in Mahakam river in Borneo, Indonesia. The "Dayak" is the term for over 200 riverine ethnic subgroups  in the heart of Borneo island.

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Love is love; Lesbian and Muslim in I...
Surabaya, East Java
By Lola García-Ajofrín
20 May 2016

Anita, 49, and Ukke, 54, are a couple of lesbians from Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. They have been together for the past last 11 years. This photo essay shows their daily life over the course of three months in a moment when hate speech against LGBT people increases in Indonesia. It was 1981 when Ika Yuanita - "Anita", as her friends know her, a 13 year old Indonesian girl, told her mother she thought she would not get married,  just before going to bed at home in Bendo, a green village set amidst the geometric rice paddies of East Java.

Her mother, Mrs. Alimah, who had long awaited the conversation with her daughter asked her in a friendly tone:
--Why? –And it was a silence.
--Because I do not like boys –Anita admitted, out of the blue.
--It is ok –mom said –but remember that you are our only daughter. We want to be grandparents –she stressed.
This is how this beautiful 49 years old indonesian woman, a lesbian, a mother, a grandmother of three grandchildren, a former actress, a former model and an activist looked for “a solution to love a girl,” she explains pragmatically, squatting on the second floor of her home in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, while she pats "Paris", a white and honey cat. Her partner Ukke prepares a coffee.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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A trip to Toraja, where death is a party
Rantepao
By Lola García-Ajofrín
12 May 2016

In the mountains of the south of Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, Toraja people celebrate the death of their relatives with old rituals. They keep the body of the dead person until the "tomate" (funeral). They consider the deceased to be "makula" (sick) and they bring food and drink and talk with the dead person. When the family decides to celebrate the funeral they kill nine  buffalos. (ARTICLE AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH, SPANISH AND FRENCH ON REQUEST).

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Sidoarjo Mud Flow
Sidoarjo, Java
By Lola García-Ajofrín
01 Apr 2016

10 years after the mud flow, in Sidoarjo, Indonesia, that

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Des orphelins éthiopiens éduqués grâc...
Dire Dawa, Ethiopia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
12 Feb 2016

(AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH UNDER REQUEST)

Par LOLA GARCÍA-AJOFRÍN/ Traduction: MICHEL BOURDIN

Dispersés à travers les hôpitaux d’Afrique, des milliers de médecins partagent une histoire et une langue : l’espagnol. Ce sont les enfants de l’Ile de la Jeunesse (Isla de la Juventud – Cuba). Quarante après, ils nous racontent leur histoire.

Le téléphone sonna de manière impromptu dans le coin du salon d’une humble maison de Diré Dawa, à l’Est de L’Ethiopie. Elle était assise sur le sol, prenant appui sur un mur de couleur jaune, face à un meuble supportant les portraits en noir et blanc des visages solennels d’un époux et d’un fils décédés, face à un plateau sur lequel se trouvaient la cafetière, le sucrier et les tasses, prête pour le rituel du café.

Une veuve svelte, d’une soixantaine d’année, revêtue d’une ample robe de chambre et dont la tête était recouverte d’un élégant foulard, se pencha pour répondre. A sa main droite scintillait encore l’alliance en or que son mari lui avait offerte, bien que celui-ci fût enterré plus de trente ans auparavant.

-          Maman, c’est moi – dit, à l’autre bout du fil, une voix émue depuis La Havane.

-          Qui ? –répondit la veuve, confuse.

             -          Wendesen, ton fils – ajouta cet homme, dans un amharique parfait, mais avec une mélodie des Caraïbes.

             -          Mon fils est mort – conclut la mère.

C’était en 2006. Vingt-sept années s’étaient écoulées depuis que Wendesen et Mesfen, deux des six enfants d’Asede, abandonnèrent l’Ethiopie à bord d’un bateau mettant cap sur Cuba. Ils avaient dix et quatorze ans.

Comme eux, des milliers d’orphelins du conflit qui opposa l’Ethiopie à la Somalie en 1978, étudièrent à Cuba. En pleine Guerre Froide, les Etats Unis appuyèrent la Somalie tandis que l’URSS et Cuba, supportèrent l’Ethiopie. En reconnaissance, Fidel Castro offrit une éducation gratuite aux enfants des disparus.

En 1978 et 1979, deux bateaux remplis d’enfants quittèrent le pays : “on parle au moins de 5000 enfants éthiopiens éduqués à Cuba”, estiment Asha Miró et Rediet Senbet, dans leur livre “Los rastros de sándalo” (Les traces du Santal).

Je ne savais même pas où se trouvait Cuba”

“Ils m’ont dit qu’ils m’emmenaient à Cuba, mais je ne savais même pas où ça se trouvait”, se souvient Wendesen, tout en tirant sur une cigarette dans la maison de sa mère. Le téléphone se trouve encoré dans le coin.

A quarante-six ans, c’est la seconde fois qu’il revient en Ethiopie depuis qu’il s’en est allé, alors qu’il n’en avait que dix. La première fois, ce fut en 2013. Trente-quatre années s’était écoulées sans se voir. L’enfant qui avait quitté son pays par voie de mer, était un homme maintenant, plus tout à fait Ethiopien. Il était aujourd’hui un médecin spécialisé en ophtalmologie qui parlait espagnol et qui préférait qu’on l’appelle “William”.

Les premières années, Wendesen écrivait à sa mère. Et celle-ci, qui ne savait ni lire ni écrire, se faisait lire les lettres par ses fils. Les lettres mettaient des mois à arriver. Avec le temps, elles s’amenuisèrent. L’ainé, Mesfen, revint à la fin de ses études. Lorsque Wendesen voulut revenir à son tour, c’était déjà trop tard : “Le gouvernement éthiopien chuta et il ne nous laissèrent pas revenir”. Le colonel Mengistu fut effectivement renversé en 1991.

La famille de Wendesen demeura alors sans nouvelles de lui, jusqu’à cet appel de 2006: “Gràce a une fille qui étudia avec moi à Cuba, et qui fut en visite à Diré Dawa. Ils lui dirent qu’ils étaient sans nouvelles de moi, et ce fut elle quime localisa”. Quand Wendesen appela sa mère, il dut donner beaucoup de détails. “Elle ne me croyait pas”, dit-il en souriant.

“Le seul appel que j’attendais était celui des condoléances”, assure calmement la mère, entourée de ses enfants et petits enfants. Elle est revêtue d’une robe blanche traditionnelle et d’un turban noir pour l’occasion. C’est la soirée d’adieux de Wendesen, qui s’en va de nouveau. Il vit en Suède.

Le dîner est  ponctué de souvenirs : “Pour son départ, je lui avais préparé une valise avec à l’intérieur deux chemises, deux pantalons, un peigne, des aiguilles et du fil”, se remémore Asede. La soeur de Wendesen, Sion, qui avait alors six ans, se souvient des adieux à la gare. Ce jour-là, sa mère pria Dieu de lui permettre de retrouver ces enfants ; “Enfin, c’est une chose que je lui ai demandé en maintes occasions”.

De l’Afrique aux Caraîbes

Le train quitta Diré Dawa en direction d’Addis Abeba, remplis d’enfants. Ils les emmenèrent a Tatek, un campement militaire où on leur enseigna à défiler au son de l’hymne national cubain. Ensuite, ils s’en allèrent en bateau. C’était la première fois qu’ils voyaient la mer.

“Je m’en souviens comme si c’était hier”, nous assure Nega Aberra, pharmacien de quarante-neuf ans, qui s’en fut à Cuba à douze ans et qui en est revenu à vingt-quatre. “Les enfants, vomissant dans le bateau, qui pleuraient parce que leur maman leur manquait ; nous n’étions alors que des gamins”. De l’Etiopie au Yémen, puis en Egypte, aux îles Canaries et à travers l’Atlantique jusqu’à Cuba. “Nous n’avions connaissance ni de la distance ni de la séparation”,  se souvient Etagegn Hailu, économiste de quarante-cinq ans.

Les enfants de l’Ile de la Jeunesse

L’étape finale fut l’Ile de la Jeunesse, où étudièrent boursiers, les orphelins de conflits variés, majoritairemant africains. On estime que quelques 50 000 enfants de quarante-cinq pays. Aujourd’hui, dispersés dans les hôpitaux d’Afrique, des milliers de ces médecins partagent une histoire et une langue : l’espagnol.

Les docteures Haregeweyn et Senait, qui approchent maintenant la cinquantaine, seraient bien restées là-bas. “Mon premier amour fut un garçon cubain. C’est pourquoi je les aime tant”, plaisante Haregeweyn. “Mais ici, j’ai ma mère ; en plus, je me suis formée pour venir en aide à mon pays”, clarifie Senait. “Ils nous ont tout donné sans rien recevoir en retour : la culture du travail et l’éducation”, souligne Nega. “Que serait-on devenus si nous n’avions pas étudié à Cuba ?”, convient Wendesen.

Et les années sont passées, les enfants ont grandi et avec eux, leurs histoires, avec des dénouements distincts : certains revinrent, d’autres s’énamourèrent et demeurèrent à Cuba et d’autres encores, comme Wendesen, tardèrent plus que le nécessaire.

Le jour où Nega revint, ils fut accueillis à bras ouverts par tous, sauf sa mère, “je me suis imaginé le pire”, mais celle-ci était seulement dans sa salle de bain. Il dit qu’il les retrouva comme il les avait laissés : “Intactes”, bien qu’il revint en écoutant la musique Son de Cuba et Rocío Durcal, préférant le riz à la ‘injera’, une sorte de grande crêpe dont les éthiopiens accompagnent tous leurs plats.

 

 

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My Grandma Wore Tattoos: A Trip to th...
Lalibela
By Lola García-Ajofrín
12 Feb 2016

The Christian elder women from the village of Lalibela, in Ethiopia, do their tattoos along their necks and faces, mixing aesthetics, tradition and faith in a practice that goes back for centuries. "Because of the mixture of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, indigenous religions and traditions, Ethiopia has a great variety of modifications of the body and body decoration practices, including scarification and tattooing," says anthropologist Margo DeMello, in the book "Tinting: tattoos and body art around the world, "which argues that Coptic Christians sport tattoos since ancient times in Egypt and Ethiopia. It is also the case of Ethiopian Jews living in soil, which is tattooed to blend and "to move to Israel in the 80s and 90s, they are had to delete, since Judaism forbids", DeMello tells.

In one of the few Tattoo studios in Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia, Zelanem, a young designers says "even my grandma wore one".

(AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH AND FRENCH UPON REQUEST)

Las ancianas cristianas de la ciudad santa de Lalibela, en Etiopía, lucen tatuajes en cuello y rosto, en una mezcla de estética, tradición y fe. Hacemos repaso de los hallazgos más remotos de esta práctica con al menos 5.000 años

Zelalem tatúa crucifijos y vírgenes María, bajo la luz de un flexo en “Zola Tattoo”, uno de los pocos estudios de tatuajes de Addis Abeba, la capital de Etiopía. Bromea con su nombre encaja a la perfección con su trabajo. Zelalem significa “siempre”.

En un marco, en la pared de su estudio, cuelgan fotografías de sus últimas creaciones con la aguja: una corona de espinas sobre un Cristo afligido tiñe un hombro; unas manos con un rosario adornan un brazo; hay espaldas decoradas con crucifijos y torsos con ángeles y santos. “Todos me piden motivos religiosos o cosas sobre sus madres”, admite, sonriente. De vez en cuando, los hay que llegan con diseños de famosos que encuentran en internet, “sobre todo, los del rapero Rick Ross”, matiza sonriente. Nuevas formas de ejercer viejas prácticas.

Abuelas con tatuajes

En Etiopía, los cristianas ortodoxos han teñido sus manos y rostros con pequeños crucifijos, durante generaciones. La abuela de Zola lucía un tatuaje en la cara. Era un cruz hecha a mano, en negro azulado, que destacaba tímidamente sobre su piel tostada. Un símbolo de su enorme fe y un poco de coquetería, admite.

Aunque los tatuajes llenan los bancos de las iglesia etíopes, apenas existen ofertas profesionales para tatuarse: “No se pueden conseguir ni materiales; a mí me los envía mi hermano que está en Italia”, explica el dibujante. Y la mayoría sigue tatuándose en casa, de la forma tradicional. En Etiopía, el tatuaje es algo más que una moda.

“Debido a la mezcla de Cristianismo, Islam, religiones indígenas y tradiciones, Etiopía tiene una gran variedad de modificaciones del cuerpo y practicas de decoración corporales, incluida la escarificación y tatuaje”, explica la antropóloga Margo DeMello, en el libro “Tintado: tatuajes y arte corporal alrededor del mundo”, donde argumenta que los cristianos coptos lucen tatuajes desde tiempos inmemorables en Egipto y Etiopía. También es el caso de los judíos que residían en suelo etíope, que se tatuaron para mimetizarse y, “al mudarse a Israel, en los 80 y 90, se los tuvieron que borrar, puesto que el Judaísmo lo prohíbe”, narra DeMello.

En Lalibela, la segunda ciudad Santa de Etiopía, es casi imposible no cruzarse con ancianas con tatuajes en cuello y rosto. Suelen llevar la cruz copta dibujada, casi siempre en frente o mejilla. En la iglesia de San Jorge, a la salida de misa, tres simpáticas señoras ataviadas de blanco, que pasan el rato al sol, comentan divertidas que ellas llevan tatuajes “desde hace muchos años”. Un turista, de veintitantos, cámara al cuello, posa frente a la impresionante iglesia escavada y presume de cruz copta en el brazo, bajo la manga corta.

Tatuajes cristianos

Existen varias teorías que explican esta vetusta moda. Desde que el cristianismo llegara a la región, “los cristianos ortodoxos de Egipto, Etiopía y Eritrea, empezaron a llevar tatuajes coptos para demostrar su fe, tales como cruces en la frente”, narra DeMello. En Egipto, “los coptos se han sentido como una minoría reprimida –se cree que representan alrededor del 10% de la población del país— y sus tatuajes pueden servir como forma de identidad comunal en un país que tiene una historia de fricción sectaria”, argumenta Theodore May, en el ‘Global Post’.

Para Jennifer A. Johnson, que escribe al respecto en la web ‘Christianity Today’, aunque en el antiguo Egipto la práctica del tatuaje se remonta a 2.000 años antes de Cristo, ya en el Imperio Romano, era una práctica degradante utilizada como marca para esclavos y criminales. Y es en el siglo VII, con la llegada del Islam a Egipto “y al convertirse los cristianos en minoría perseguida, cuando la práctica copta del tatuaje emerge”. Cita al estudioso copto Otto Meinardus: “En tiempos de persecución, el tatuaje de la cruz ha dado fuerza a los fieles y ha hecho que sea imposible para ellos negar su fe.”

De un modo u otro, los pueblos de distintas partes del mundo han utilizado sus cuerpos como lienzos desde el Neolítico. “Se cree que la palabra ‘tatuaje’ se originó en la Polinesia y procede del término ‘tatau’ que significa ‘marcar”, explica Sharon Guynup, en ‘National Geographic’.

5.000 años de tatuajes

El primer tatuaje del mundo del que se tiene constancia es de hace 5.000 años y se encontró en Europa. En 1991, dos alpinistas alemanes, el matrimonio Simon, disfrutaban de una jornada deporte en los Alpes, en la frontera entre Austria e Italia, cuando se toparon con un cadáver. El cuerpo se conservaba en tan buen estado que pensaron que era reciente. La investigación determinó que correspondía al de un hombre que vivió entorno al 3.300 a. C.

Debido a su excelente conservación, el hallazgo permitió a los investigadores saber más sobre los europeos de la Edad de Cobre. Determinaron cómo vestía e incluso la última comida que ingirió aquel hombre: ciervo, salvado de trigo, raíces y fruta. Pero uno de las hechos más llamativos que revelaron los Rayos X es que Otzi o el Hombre de Hielo, como después se le denominó, lucía tatuajes. En concreto, 57 rayas paralelas repartidas por muñeca, espalda y piernas. Su cuerpo se conserva a 6º en el Museo de Arqueología del Tirol del Sur, en Italia. No es la única momia tatuada.

Momias con tatuajes, en Egipto, Perú o Siberia

Hasta que se descubrió el cuerpo de Otzi, que supone la piel tatuada más antigua del mundo, las evidencias de tatuajes más remotas se situaban en Egipto. La momia de Amunet, el cuerpo de una sacerdotisa que vivió en torno al 2.000 a.C., era, hasta entonces, la momia con tatuajes más antigua. Su cuerpo lucía líneas y puntos tatuados, alrededor de manos y brazos, como si fueran pulseras. En Egipto se han encontrado otros cuerpos decorados, todos de mujeres, varios en el abdomen, por lo que se cree que simbolizaba la fertilidad.

También conocían el arte del tatuaje los pueblos nómadas escitas de Irán y del Cáucaso. En 1993, en los montes Altái de Siberia, en Rusia, se halló la momia de la Princesa de Ukok, que vivió durante el siglo V a.C. Presentaba tatuajes en forma de animales por todo el brazo. Gracias al hielo y la altitud, habían sobrevivido casi intactos durante 2.500 años. Cerca de su cuerpo se encontraron enterrados seis caballos y otros dos hombres, también con tatuajes.

Y en 2006, se encontró una momia tatuada en Perú, en la provincia de Trujillo. Correspondía al cuerpo de la Dama de Cao, la única mujer dirigente que se conoce que tuvo el antiguo Perú. Lucía figuras de arañas, serpientes y caballitos de mar, tatuados en manos, pies y brazos.

Paradójicamente, se cree que fue con la llegada de los cristianos europeos a otras tierras cuando la práctica del tatuaje decayó. Lo que para unos era un símbolo de fe, para otros se consideró pagano.

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‘Reinmigrants’, a round trip to Europ...
Senegal
By Lola García-Ajofrín
01 Sep 2015

"Barça ou barzakh" is a word game that almost everybody knows in Senegal. It means “Barcelona” (regarding the Spanish Soccer team) or “dead” and alludes to illegal immigration. Is “living with dignity or dying trying to,” Gora, a young veterinarian surgeon says. He travels from Dakar to Saint Louis by a rundown 'seven-seater' (a shared taxi) with a box full of rabbits that he has bought to make them to breed. He earning his life purching sick animals that later he sells more expensive. His brother chose another way: "He’s a rapper and he wanted to succeed in Europe”. He traveled to Spain by canoe searching his dream two years ago. His group is called "Benation" and he lives in Pamplona. They chat by Facebook.

In Senegal everyone has a direct or indirect link with immigration. Only in 2006, the year with record figures, more than 30,000 Senegalese arrived to Canary Islands, in canoes, according to Spanish Foreign Ministry. In 2007, more that 12,000 people arrived and in 2008, more than 9,000. In just over a decade (2000-2013), 23,000 humans died trying to reach European shores, according to the study 'The Migrants Files'. The sea breaks dreams and tears.

“In Senegal, the movement as a strategy to improve the conditions of life and work have been standardized to a point that it has been created a “emigration tradition,” explains Professor Jordi Garreta, at the Real Instituto Elcano. But in the last year more and more people who tried a new life in Europe comes back home. They are the “reemigants”, those are not from here nor from there or maybe those are from both countries. They try yo persuade the new generaation not to risk their lives in a canoe.

Following a dream

“Ocean, please, take care of my brothers and myself. Ocean, you are the only means that is left us, give us the luck to arrive alive and safe”. Senegalese activist Mamadou Dia wrote these verses in his book in Spanish “3052. Persiguiendo un sueño” (“3052, Following a Dream”), on his trip to Spain by canoe in 2007. He was 21 years old and he was in the University when he took a boat with his two brothers and other 81 people. A long 8 days trip to arrive to La Gomera in Canary Islands. The fifth day they realized they were lost. The sixth day, Ibu, one of the passengers, did not support. The eighth one an helicopter rescued them. When they walked on the land they realized they should row for a while.

Mamadou Dia reminds his experience eight years later, in Gandiol, his village, where he came back in 2013 with 25 volunteers from Murcia. He lives between Spain and Senegal. His wife is Spanish and they have just given birth a girl. His eyes shine when he remembers how was arriving to a place where he does not know anyone nor even he speaks a single Word in Spanish. At the beginning he even slept in the street and he spent someday without eating: “In Africa I never was starving, maybe because our way of living in community but I learnt what hunger was in Europe!”. He called avery week to his house but he didn’t tell everything: “You can’t say to your mother: Mon I sleep in the street and I didn’t eat today”.

In the 8 years that he spent in Spain, Dia worked in many things. Later he published his book and it was really successful. Everything changed. Dia is sitting down on the floor next a group of Spanish volunteers who cook a plate of Thiebou Dyenn (a rice with Palm oil, fish and vegetables) with some women from the town. This is “Hahatay, son risas de Gandiol”, the ONG that Dia created with the mony of his book. He said he always was clear about “spending in Senegal all the money that he would get with the book”. He says from there he started to think about all the things that he could do here. And he thought about coming back. Paradoxically he came back with a dream to a country that he left to dream.

The Senegalese activist admits that he decided coming back for two reasons: “Firstly because I told me if I’d want this project worked I should stay here, secondly because my current point of view on immigration like a negative thing for our country”. I told them “if finally my story is a successful story imagine the other cases”, he says.

Starting from scratch, at 35 years old
About 50 kilometers north of Saint Louis, Issa Ka, at his 35 years old, has start from scracth. Some people approve his decision of coming back to Senegal, “other people think I'm crazy: he got to go to Europe and now he comes nack”, they reproach to this young Senegalese, who after spending seven years in Bilbao, Spain, thought he was "wasting his time" and he welcomed a voluntary return program.

When Ka traveled to Spain in 2007, "as everyone I thought in Europe, money grew on trees. I wanted to improve my life, to find a jobs”, he admits. In Bilbao, he worked, but not as imagined: “I worked one day yes, another day out, occasionally anything, I did a lot of things, until the last year that I told myself: if this situation doesn’t change I will return. Hi did in 2014. Now Ka works in the land of his father, where he coordinates a group of temporary workers in a rice farm. “If you go to Europe to arn a living and you don’t get it, why to stay? you're fooling yourself", he says.

But the decision of migrating in Senegal is a complex phenomenon that goes beyond mere subsistence. Dreams of people are not an exact science. The model called 'push-pull', which includes poverty as the main reason of mass migration in Africa, "is inconsistent with the evidence that migrants who reach our shores are not, in general, the poorest, “said Professor Jose Ignacio Urquijo, in the article 'Causes of sub-Saharan migration'.
And those who leave their countries are often the most needed for domestic development. For example, between 2007 and 2008, three out four immigrants who went to Spain by boat from Senegal and Mauritania had middle education and more than 75% higher than basic education, according to Red Cross. In the world, OECD estimates that the number of university graduates that migrated increased by 70% over the past decade.

In 2014, there were more foreign people who left Spain (330 559 people) that arrived (265,757), according to the latest data from INE. And 78,785 Spaniards emigrated, of which 50,249 were born in Spain.

 

 

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The Hippie trail 40 years later: Esta...
Kabul
By Lola García-Ajofrín
26 Mar 2015

A woman in niqab carring a bag of oranges crosses a street lightly in the district of Sultanahmet in Istanbul next to tourist in jeans shorts and tank top, at the time people are called to pray. The canticles of the mosques strategically placed rastles a flock of doves. Probably Ka, the protagonist of “Snow” by Pamuk, have already written a poem.

There in Divan Yolu street, where for most of the trip ends today, in the 60s and 70s, the adventure of some long-haired young guys started. The beginning was Lale restaurants, that nobody knew for its name, only for their delicious pudding. So if somebody wanted to see the world should ask for the pudding shop.

 The “world” meant “beyond Europe”. In the Shah's Iran and Afghanistan of miniskirts. That country of “camel caravan”s that “was also a land of elephants” through Silk Road crossed and whose mountains sheltered bandits and smugglers,” describes Spanish writer Ana M. Briongos in her book 'A Winter in Kandahar '. Briongos, now 68, was one of those lon-haired Europeans who in the 60s and 70s visited Iran and Afghanistan. A trip from Europe to Asia, which usually was born in Turkey, passing through Iran and Afghanistan and sometimes even continued by Pakistan and India. They called it the 'Hippie train'.

From that tour the Lonely Planet guides were born. The first one (Across Asia on the Cheap) was published exactly 40 years ago (1975). We wonder how would be the “hippy trail” 40 years later and this is the result. These pictures were talking in three different trips to Istambul in Turkey (2014), Teheran and Isfahan in Iran (2014) and Kabul in Afghanistan (2012).

 

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The Courageous Duo Battling to Educat...
Dubai
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

“Neither the government of Cambodia nor its families care about blind children”
 
"No – absolutely not." This is what the Cambodian Minister of Education said to Benoit Duchateau-Arminjon in 1993 when he proposed to open the country’s first school for blind children. "If you want, take the money and invest it in normal schools,” he remembers being told.

“No,” other families said to Phalla Neang, a cambodian teacher, when she drove her small motorcycle from house-to-house, asking if there were blind children there. “Some people shut the door in my face,” she recalls. Now she laughs about it. At the time, blindness was considered a curse in Cambodia. But Benoît had promised a blind child, Wanna, that he would go to school. With that promise he convinced Phalla to join his organization, the Krousar Thmey Foundation.

"It was crazy," he admits. "I looked for her and I told her: I know you can help me but I’m only able to pay you $100." And she agreed. Phalla Neang, one of ten finalists under consideration for the “Nobel” of teaching at the 2015 Global Teacher Prize event held in Dubai, became the first teacher of Braille in the history of her country. Wanna, their first student, is now a professor of music.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

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The 10 best ways to teach in the world
Dubai
By Lola García-Ajofrín
18 Mar 2015

Las 10 mejores formas de enseñar del mundo

La estadounidense Nancie Atwell recibe un millón de dólares por su labor docente

Ninguno es de Finlandia; la mayoría de sus países tampoco participan en la prueba PISA; pero estos 10 profesores, de contextos tan distintos como Afganistán, India, Haití, Kenia, Camboya, Malasia, Reino Unido o el Bronx, en Nueva York, fueron seleccionados entre más de 5.000 candidatos de 127 nacionalidades como finalistas al “Global Teacher Prize”, un premio de un millón de dólares con el que la Fundación Varkey, de un filántropo indio y que preside de forma honorífica Bill Clinton, reconoce la labor del que consideran “un profesor muy especial”. La ganadora del certamen, que se anunció en el Global Education and Skills Forum de Dubái, el pasado 15 de marzo, fue Nancie Atwell, una conocida educadora norteamericana que consigue que sus alumnas lean una media de 40 libros al año.

“El premio no es solo cuestión de dinero”, aseguró el responsable de este tinglado, Sunny Varkey, fundador de la Fundación Varkey, en nota de prensa, “sino que pretende sacar a la luz miles de historias de inspiración” y “devolver a los profesores la legítima posición que le pertenece”. “Por supuesto, que hace falta más que un premio para elevar el estatus de la profesión, pero mi esperanza es que este sea el comienzo de muchas conversaciones”, matizó. El ganador del que algunos ya denominan “el Nobel de la enseñanza” se conocerá este domingo 15 marzo, en el Global Education & Skills Forum, en Dubai, ante una variopinta audiencia en la que se encontraban su Alteza Sheikh Mohammad, vicepresidente y primer ministro de los Emiratos Árabes Unidos; el expresidente de EEUU Bill Clinton y varios presidentes de gobierno y ministros de educación; figuras relevantes del ámbito educativo como Fernando Reimers de Harvard o el responsable del informe PISA. Estas son sus historias.

Librerías llenas y tiempo para leer en Maine

A finales de los 80, su libro “In the Middle” se convirtió en una especie de “manual de instrucciones” para el profesorado con adolescentes con dificultades para leer y escribir. A su autora, Nancie Atwell, de niña, una fiebre reumática que la dejó un tiempo en la cama le acercó a los libros. Y desde hace 25 años es ella la que acerca su pasión por la lectoescritura a los estudiantes desde el Center for Teaching and Learning, en Maine (EEUU), una escuela privada para chavales de octavo. “Devoran libros porque la biblioteca está llena de historias interesantes de escritores serios, porque se les aconseja y porque tienen tiempo para hacerlo”, asegura Atwell, que presume de que con este método sus alumnos leen "hasta 40 libros al año cuando la media de mi país es de entre 6 y 8 libros". En un artículo en ‘Education week’, presumía que entre sus estudiantes hay "desde chicos disléxicos a sofisticados jóvenes críticos literarios".

Educación cívica para el futuro de Afganistán

Tenía que enseñar a sus alumnos a leer y escribir, pero cuando el profesor Azizullah Royesh regresó a Afganistán, tras la caída del gobierno talibán, en 2001, se dio cuenta de que, tras tres décadas de guerra, sufrimiento y violencia sectorial, “si queríamos construir una nueva nación, hacía falta reconstruir el sistema educativo afgano centrándonos en la educación cívica y el empoderamiento femenino”. Lo sabía por propia experiencia, tras una juventud agotada entre campos de refugiados y la guerra. Dejó el colegio a los 10 años para emigrar a Pakistán con su familia, tras la invasión soviética. Aprendió a ratos, por su cuenta. En la actualidad, Azizullah es autor de varios libros de texto de educación cívica y en sus clases, enseña comunicación, colaboración y liderazgo con clubes de estudiantes. En 2009, algunas de sus alumnas protestaron contra la nueva ley familiar chií y alguien intentó prender fuego a la escuela. Cuenta que a los tres días, casi todos los alumnos estaban de vuelta. Su colegio, “Marefat”, significa “conocimiento”.

La primera escuela para ciegos de Camboya

Cuando a comienzos de los 90, la profesora Phalla Neang regresó a su tierra natal, Camboya, tras pasar un tiempo trabajando con niños ciegos en un campo de refugiados, la ceguera era considerada una maldición en su país: “Tuve que lidiar con la ignorancia y las creencias de la población porque se consideraba que los ciegos eran personas que se habían portado mal en una vida pasada, eran incapaces de aprender y se merecían estar asilados”, recuerda esta profesora que, en 1993, se propuso abrir la primera escuela para niños ciegos de Camboya. “Yo misma iba a los pueblos a preguntar casa por casa si conocían a un niño ciego en el barrio”, rememora. Ese año, se convirtió en la primera maestra de Braille en la historia del país, colaboró en la apertura de las primeras escuelas para ciegos en Camboya y en la creación de la versión del Braille en jemer –camboyano—. Phalla Neang aconseja a otros profesores, estén donde estén, “que no se den por vencidos, que intenten vislumbrar la solución a los problemas” y “que no discrimen a los niños con más dificultades para comprender las lecciones”. “Es demasiado fácil centrarse en los buenos alumnos y olvidarse de los demás. Un buen maestro debe ayudar a superar los obstáculos, explicar tantas veces como sea necesario y animar a sus alumnos”, enfatiza.

Huertos urbanos en el Sur del Bronx (EEUU)

El profesor Stephen Ritz está convencido de que para vivir, aprender o conseguir una vida mejor, sus estudiantes no tienen por qué abandonar su barrio, en el Sur del Bronx, el distrito más pobre de EEUU, con 38% de ciudadanos por debajo del umbral de la pobreza, según el censo norteamericano. Donde otros ven una pared, Ritz ve –literalmente— un huerto. Con el objetivo de “combatir la inseguridad alimentaria y contribuir a la renovación urbana, mientras los estudiante aprenden competencias claves”, este profesor ha plantado el primer huerto vertical interior del distrito escolar de Nueva York, que permite alimentar con productos saludables a 450 alumnos. Además, sus alumnos de la escuela pública 55 ya han instalado un centenar de jardines por toda la ciudad.

El método para descubrir el “yo puedo” en la India

En 2001, la profesora Bir Sethi, creía que la educación que se ofertaba en su ciudad, Ahmedabad (India), descuidaba la imaginación y la inteligencia emocional de los niños. Por ello fundó su propia escuela, The Riverside, centrada en un enfoque de Pensamiento de Diseño simplificado, una metodología de resolución de problemas que persigue satisfacer las necesidades del usuario mediante empatía, creatividad y racionalidad. Para Nuri Singaporia, gerente del centro, “una de las razones por las que este colegio es tan especial es porque crea espacios para que cada individuo explore y descubra” y “porque es un espacio de sanación, que elimina la negatividad a través de un apoyo constante y donde se dan muchos abrazos”. Sinaporia asegura que “aquí, todo el equipo del centro anima a los niños a descubrir su superpotencia del ‘Yo puedo”.

Biología que se canta y se baila en Reino Unido

“Pensad en cómo podríais hacerlo, no en por qué no podéis; sed creativos; sed valientes y probad cosas”, aconseja a otros profesores el doctor en Biología Molecula del Reino Unido, Richard Spencer, que en su particular forma de enseñar Biología a jóvenes de entre 16 y 18 años, utiliza vídeos, experimentos, juegos de rol e incluso poemas, canciones y bailes. Spencer asegura que las canciones “ayudan a los alumnos a recordar procesos biológicos complejos”. En un reciente estudio sobre educación y género, la OCDE alerta de que los estereotipos y la falta de confianza, ahuyenta a las niñas de las carreras de Ciencias. Para remediarlo, este profesor propone invitar a figuras femeninas de éxito en sus carreras para que hablen a los alumnos de sus logros y, “por supuesto, de su entusiasmo”. Su principal reto como docente, reconoce, es “el papeleo”. “Soy muy creativo, amo enseñar y estar con los estudiantes pero cuando se trata de rellenar formularios… es otra cosa”.

Soluciones científicas para la comunidad en Haití

Cada año, en el segundo semestre, los estudiantes del profesor Guy Etienne de Haití aplican lo aprendido en sus clases de Ciencia con soluciones para las necesidades de su comunidad. En los 90, durante el embargo de petróleo, un grupo trabajó en soluciones ingeniosas como un vehículo sin motor para ir a clase que llamaron “pentacyle”. Otro año, un grupo diseñó robots para limpiar las calles. Los jóvenes presentan sus proyectos en una feria científica, l'ExpoSciences, que aporta visibilidad a su esfuerzo e ideas a los ciudadanos. Además, con el fin de apoyar el desarrollo de los estudiantes como agentes de cambio, introdujo un curso obligatorio de emprendimiento en el currículo del centro. Etienne aspira a transformar la nueva generación de un país, en el que solo el 15% de los maestros de primaria cuentan con un certificado básico de enseñanza y el 25% nunca asistió a Secundaria, según UNICEF.

“Waalimu Kwanza” (los profesores primero) en Kenia

La profesora Jacque Kahura, de Kenia, elegida en 2009 una de las diez mejores docentes de África oriental, explica por email, unos minutos antes de salir de viaje para la gala, que una de las muchas cosas que le gustaría hacer si consiguiese el millón dólares es crear un boletín para profesores. Lo llamará “Waalimu Kwanza”, que en swahili significa “los profesores primero”. Desde una escuela rural de Kenia, esta profesora sortea “la escasez de recursos y la rigidez de un sistema enfocado en los exámenes”, con actividades interactivas, aprendizaje en grupos pequeños, excursiones y servicio comunitario. Kahura está convencida de que ser profesor “es uno de los mayores regalos porque cargamos con la responsabilidad de transformar vidas, para mejor si así lo elegimos o para peor” y así se lo ha trasladado en los últimos años a los docentes del país, con conferencias, boletines y reuniones. “Las pequeñas cosas logran grandes cambios”, asegura.

Construir los cimientos que faltan en casa en Malasia

Para el profesor malayo Madenjit Singh, “hay dos habilidades que todo buen maestro debe desarrollar: primero, entender la asignatura y saber impartirla con eficacia y segundo, saber ayudar a los niños que no tienen unos cimientos sólidos en casa”. No se refiere solo a conocimientos. Dice que hay familias, en las que “los padres aman, alientan, ayudan y guían al niño” y otras que no. En esas, “el profesor tiene la oportunidad no solo de enseñar las lecciones, sino también de construir la actitud y habilidades del niño. Sin esto, dice, “no serán capaces de hacer frente a los estudios aunque estén en el colegio”. Él lleva centrándose en esos niños toda la vida. Su primer fue crear un curso por correspondencia para que los jóvenes de pocos recursos de las comunidades rurales de Malasia accediesen a habilidades para la vida. Después diseñó su propio sistema para enseñar a estudiante de cualquier edad a leer, escribir, hablar y comprender Inglés básico de 3 a 6 meses. Y el último paso lo dio con sus dos hijos al crear la ONG “SOLS 24/7”, que proporciona dos años de formación integral gratuita con habilidades para la vida para jóvenes desfavorecidos.

Del zoo a la planta de reciclaje, ciencia al aire libre en Massachusetts

Puede que por su formación como nutricionista y su pasión por la naturaleza, pero Naomi Volain, siempre que puede, imparte las clases de Ciencias de su colegio en Massachusetts (EEUU), al aire libre: ya sea en granjas, zoológicos, parques, en la planta de reciclaje municipal o en la de tratamiento de aguas residuales. Reconoce que “existe una tendencia por estandarizar las prácticas docentes que es desalentadora”. “Para ella, “la curiosidad, el respeto por los estudiantes, y una solida preparación académica” es el triángulo que no puede falta en un buen maestro y después, “comprobar las cosas fuera del aula”. “Los buenos profesores no caben en cajas ordenadas”, asegura esta profesora que forma parte de la red de educadores de profesores astronautas de la NASA.

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Iraqi Christians Start from Scratch i...
Lyon
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

“Why does nobody care about Iraqi Christians?"
 
“We lost everything in Iraq: our house and everything that was inside it, everything!” laments the Iraqi priest, Muhannad Altawil, who now lives in France. He is driving to meet Sliwa and Siba and their three children, who have just taken refuge in their brother’s house in a suburb on the outskirts of Lyon. He remembers the day in 2008 when his family was told to leave their homes and everything in them behind. “This house belongs to us now,” their perpetrators said. Without taking his eyes off the road for a moment, Altawil says that is why his entire family fled. The rosary beads dangling from the rear-view mirror dance as he turns the bend.
 
Faced with the brutality and indifference that Christians in Iraq were suffering, Father Altawil tells us, the dioceses of Lyon and Mosul decided to partner up in 2014. A charity dinner in honor of the refugees was held just before Christmas in Lyon. On 8 December 8, to commemorate the traditional Festival of Lights of Lyon, thousands of lamps and candles were sent to Baghdad and Erbil where dozens of people celebrated a procession that included the Cardinal of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin. The latter then celebrated mass at the Church of Saint Joseph in the Erbil neighborhood of Ankawa.
 
Altawil is a Chaldean Christian priest from Baghdad. He explains that after completing his military service in 1999, he traveled to France “to learn French and to realize my religious calling.” After a year in Rennes, in the west of France, he decided to become a priest. Since 2000, he has been a Dominican monk and since 2008, a priest. Nonetheless, he returns to Iraq every year to visit the Dominican community. He says he also returned last year, this time returning to his old neighborhood. “I could not go directly to the main door of my house because it was quite dangerous; because everyone knows everyone, and they know I'm a Christian and now – and a priest,” he explains. He tried to access his house from the back. “Then I saw the family that is now living in my house and using everything: our car, even wearing our clothes.”
 
Father Muhannad stops his car in a parking lot in front of an array of concrete buildings, an urban landscape that is vastly different to the picturesque houses that line downtown Lyon along the Saone River.
 
Were it not for the Christmas lights adorning several balconies, the night would subsume everything. We are now is Vaulx-en-Velin, the neighborhood where France’ first banlieusard riots began in 1979. Most of the residents are immigrants or children of immigrants, though some are already the grandchildren of those who came to France two generations ago.
 
The entire family lives in the living room of a single house: the husband and wife, their two children (the eldest is currently on duty as a taxi-driver) and their new guests: Sliwa and Siba, the parents, and their three children, Lord, 7, Fadi, 6, and Malik, 3. It does not take a lot of imagination to guess their spiritual leanings: every corner of the room is overflowing with religious symbols of one sort or another. On one wall is a large manger with a ceramic angel that will not stop dangling from a cork roof, though the aunt insists on propping it up. Next to it is a tree with bows and white balls and, in a corner next to the main table, a golden Virgin Mary. They have prepared sweet Iraqi tea. Mr. Sliwa explains that in Iraq, “it was impossible to find a Christmas tree anywhere in the street. It's beautiful here how malls and everything else is decorated.”
 
The youngest daughter, Malik, has huge eyes and only leaves her mother's arms to take another piece of cake, for which her mother tells her off discreetly. The little girl seems oblivious to the adults’ conversation, even though her parents lower their voice and look at her askance when discussing just how the children are bearing the changes: a different house, a different country, different food, a new life amongst uncles and cousins. In Arabic, her name means “angel.”
 
They arrived in Lyon from Erbil just before Christmas. The father Mr. Sliwa reiterates that they have been very busy adapting to everything new. Nonetheless, it makes him “very angry” that nobody seems to care about their situation. “Why doesn’t anybody care about Iraqi Christians?" he demands indignantly. Our conversation took place a day after the December 2014 kidnapping of 40 hostages in a Sydney café in which three people died. “Look at the newspapers and television, how many people have died in Iraq and how many in Australia? And who ever speaks up on our behalf?” he exclaims.
 
One of various minorities scattered throughout the country, the Christian community in Iraq is one of the oldest in the world. In 2003, before the US invasion, there were more than a million Christians in Iraq, representing about 5% of the population. Today it is estimated there are less than half a million.
 
Muhannad Altawil says, “the problem is that, after the US invasion, all the terrorists came to us to seek revenge against the American army in Iraq.” Moreover, he insists, “Islamic terrorists think that all Europeans and Americans are the same.” The proclamation of the so-called ISIS in June 2014 triggered a new flight out of the country. The Lyon-Mosul organization of the Catholic Church in Lyon estimates that 400,000 Iraqi members of minorities took refugee in the Kurdish province of Iraq, including some 150,000 Christians.
 
In September, French President François Hollande traveled to Baghdad to support the new Iraqi government. There he said: “I want relations between France and Iraq to acquire a new dimension.” Visiting refugees in Erbil, he said, “Our duty is for you to be able to return to your homes.”
 
“The hardest part,” says Mr. Sliwa, “is starting from zero, finding a job without speaking the language.” Not to mention all the paperwork necessary for making administrative arrangements to get residency, Father Altawil adds. Whatever their struggles, Mrs Siba says pensively, “we are lucky.”
 

SPANISH VERSION AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Helio Gracie: The Legend of Brazilan ...
Rio de janeiro
By Lola García-Ajofrín
11 Mar 2015

The sound of effort echoes through the Gracie Humaita gym in Rio de Janeiro during a training session. "There are only two options, 'desist or insist,'" Rolker Gracie barks at his fighters. Gracie is the fourth of nine children of the creator of Brazilian jiu jitsu, Master Helio Gracie, who died in 2009 and has since become the stuff of legend.

"My father always told us, 'Train, coach, and train all day. Always be the first to arrive, and never be absent," emphasizes Rolker, 48, sitting on a sweaty mat after a defense training course. ¨If this martial art was a church, my father would have become Pope," he boasts.

FULL ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

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Helio Gracie: la leyenda del Jiu jitsu Brasileño

 

Asistimos al entrenamiento, en Río de Janeiro, de uno de los hijos de Helio Gracie, el creador del jiu-jitsu brasileño. Años de luchas, seguidores y enemigos engordan la leyenda en todo Brasil. Como en la Biblia, David derrotó a Goliat

La lección retumba en la sala del gimnasio Gracie Humaitá de Río de Janeiro con un halo de romanticismo: “Solo hay dos opciones: de-sis-tir o in-sis-tir”, espeta a sus luchadores  Rolker Gracie, el cuarto de los nueve hijos del creador del jiu-jitsu brasileño, el Maestro Helio Gracie, fallecido en 2009 y hoy convertido en leyenda.

“Mi padre siempre nos decía: entrena, entrena y entrena, todo el día, sé siempre el primero en llegar y nunca te ausentes”, enfatiza Rolker, de 48 años, sentado sobre el tatami en el que acaba de impartir una clase de defensa personal. Él prefiere decir que su progenitor y maestro “abrasileró el jiu-jitsu”. “Si este arte marcial fuese una iglesia mi padre sería el Papa”, presume.

Rolker es un grandullón con cara de buenazo que si no fuese por el cinturón rojo y negro y la firmeza con la que sostiene del cuello a su alumno nadie diría que es capaz de repartir al que se le ponga en frente. Un numeroso clan defiende el apellido Gracie en todo el mundo, entre hijos, sobrinos y nietos del gran Helio, que se jactaba de no haberse puesto un preservativo en su vida.

Irreverente, así se explayaba en 2001, a los 88 años, en una entrevista con la periodista Dalila Magarian para Playboy, el padre del jiu-jitsu: “¡Dios me libre! No existió mujer en el mundo que me hiciese usar condón. Ni si fuese la última mujer del mundo. Iba a morir sin follar. Mis hijos tampoco lo usan y tengo 28 nietos”.

Esa filosofía se tradujo en nueve hijos para Helio: tres de la primera mujer, Margarida, con la que vivió 50 años hasta que enviudó y seis con la segunda, Vera, 32 años más joven que él, con la que tuvo otros seis. Su hermano Carlos dio al mundo a 21 criaturas con cinco mujeres. Otra manía de los Gracie era que sus descendientes tenían que denominarse como lo que serían: tipos duros. Por eso, Helio bautizó a todos sus hijos con nombres que empezaban con la letra “R”. “Mi padre quería nombres fuertes para hijos fuertes y la letra “R” era la que más potente sonaba”, explica Rolker. “Así nos llamó: Rorion, Relson, Rickson, Rolker, Royler, Royce, Rhérika, Robin y Ricci”. Lo aprendió de su hermano que puso a todos nombres con “C”, “R” y “K”, las más sonoras del alfabeto en portugués.

 

David venció a Goliat

De inicial muda, ni el nombre ni la fisionomía de Helio invitaban a la lucha. Era un chico enclenque y casi siempre enfermo. El jiu-jitsu aterrizó en su vida por casualidad: “Las artes marciales entraron en casa a través de un refugiado político japonés que había viajado en 1914 con otros tantos inmigrantes de Japón”, explica Rolker que aclara que el japonés era un importante cinturón negro de judo, Mitsuyo Maeda, conocido como el Conde Koma. El padre de Helio, diplomático, ayudó al japonés a establecerse y este, como agradecimiento, enseñó sus conocimientos de defensa al primogénito, Carlos, que a su vez, instruyó a su hermano. Aunque Helio, flaco [de 1,75 m de altura y 63 kg de peso] y que se asfixiaba hasta al subir las escaleras, era demasiado debilucho para derrotar a nadie con aquella técnica. “Mi padre siempre fue un luchador. Antes de nacer, ya estaba luchando para sobrevivir”, puntualiza Rolker.

Debido a su frágil salud, Helio se las ingenió para dejar la escuela en segundo curso. Se dedicaba a asistir a clases de jiu-jitsu de su hermano Carlos aunque por indicación médica tenía prohibido participar. Así memorizó la técnica y un día que el hermano se ausentó de una de las clases, con 16 años, las puso en práctica. Pero Helio era consiente de que con su estado físico nunca podría ejecutar aquellas técnicas. “Por eso, comenzó a adaptarlas a su cuerpo débil, dando prioridad al principio de palanca y al sentido de oportunidad respecto a la velocidad y la fuerza”, aclara Rolker, didáctico. Sin darse cuenta, el joven flacucho acababa de parir lo que hoy se conoce como jiu-jitsu brasileño. “Lo más importante ya no era ser leve o pesado, delgado o gordito, si no conocer la técnica”, especifica. Como en la Biblia, David estaba preparado para enfrentarse a Goliat. Y así lo hizo.

 

La Gran lucha en Maracaná

El David brasileño puso a prueba su sistema desafiando a los principales Goliats de Brasil. Peleó 18 veces, derrotó a los mejores y se convirtió en una especie de héroe en el país. Pero aún quedaba demostrarle a los japoneses que la técnica de los Gracie no era inferior. En 1951, un periódico japonés [Asahi Shimbum] patrocinó la visita de tres campeones japoneses a Brasil: el número uno de Japón, Masahiko Kimura y otros dos importantes luchadores, Yukio Kato y Yamagushi. Tras un empate previo, Helio venció a  Kato, al que le aplicó un estrangulamiento denominado “de guardia cerrada”. “El estrangulamiento es mi especialidad, cuando se pega en el cuello, no existe valiente”, confesaría Helio Gracie a Playboy. Todavía faltaba por combatir el mejor peso pesado de la historia del judo, el gran Kimura.

El enfrentamiento fue en el estadio de fútbol Maracaná, en un combate ante 20.000 espectadores que ha pasado a la historia de Brasil y de las Artes Marciales. “Asistió hasta el presidente del gobierno”, matiza Rolker. Helio tenia entonces 42 años y pesaba 68 Kg; Kimura era un gigante de 34 años y 97 Kg. Se acordó que la lucha solo acabaría cuando uno de los dos se rindiera o quedara inconsciente. Fue en el minuto 13, cuando Kimura efectuó una llave de brazo y consiguió someter a Helio. Con el brazo partido, el brasileño se negaba a rendirse y aguantó hasta que su esquina tiró la toalla. “La llave pasó a denominarse llave de Kimura”, continúa Gracie hijo. Y pese a la derrota, los japones quedaron fascinados por el aguante de Helio.

 

La tribu de los Gracie

La dinastía Gracie ha generado tantas pasiones como odios en todo Brasil, tras años de peleas dentro y fuera del ring en los que el clan demostró su fuerza. “En Rio de Janeiro, 20 años atrás, había peleas a todas horas en la calle. Vivimos en una época en la que mis hermanos y yo, en el colegio público que estudiábamos en Botafogo [Rio de Janeiro], había peleas todos los días, en el barrio, peleas siempre... Era la ley de la selva, la ley de supervivencia. No existe más eso. Mi hermano Royson que es súper campeón de jiu-jitsu nunca peleó en la calle”, insiste.

Rolker asegura que no siente “saudades” (nostalgia) de aquellos tiempos: “No estamos en el 73, cambió todo, hoy cualquier acto sobre otra persona es considerado una agresión”; tampoco cree que en el Vale Tudo hoy valga todo: “Es verdad que hay quien lo confunde, pero un tipo que pelea en la calle es un tipo inseguro. El gran luchador es el que tiene calma, paciencia, resuelve”, afirma pausado el luchador, que puntualiza:  “En el Vale Tudo técnicamente no valen golpes bajos: meter los dedos en los ojos, tirar del pelo, golpear los genitales... pero en la calle, muleke [chaval], la primera cosa que ocurre es eso”.

 

La tragedia fuera del tatami

Acostumbrados a ganar, fuera del tatami, la historia de la gran tribu de los Gracie es otra. Especialmente, dos extrañas muertes pesan sobre la familia. Una es la de su sobrino Rockson Gracie, hijo de Rickson, del que se encontró su cuerpo sin vida en un hotel de Nueva York, en 2000. Una década después, el padre, Rickson, se sinceró sobre el tema en una entrevista con la revista Ragga, en la que le preguntan a este, invicto, por el mayor golpe de su vida y responde: “Sin ninguna duda la pérdida de mi hijo, hace diez años”. En 2011, creó la Fundación Rockson Gracie, para “enseñar hermandad y no violencia” a través de este deporte, reza su web.

La otra es la de Ryan Gracie, de 33 años, hallado muerto en una celda de Sao Paulo, donde había sido confinado por posesión de cocaína. En la entrevista que en 2001, Helio Gracie concede a Playboy, el maestro zanja el asunto sobre los problemas de Ryan con la justicia, aclarando que una cosa es su familia y otra, la de su hermano: “Nadie ignora el hecho de que actualmente la familia Gracie está dividida en dos partes. La primera surge de Carlos Gracie, mi hermano, un hombre de grandes cualidades, valentía, tolerancia y una moral sólida. Su único error fue tener 21 hijos con cinco mujeres diferentes, produciendo un enorme clan de más de 150 personas, hoy sin un líder que pueda aconsejarles, controlarles y orientarles”.

Polémicas a un lado, Rolker habla con la misma devoción tanto de su padre como de su tío: “Gracias a Dios el jiu-jitsu en Río, se ha convertido en una fiebre, no solo en la zona sur donde el poder adquisitivo en un poco mejor sino en la ciudad entera. Mi padre y mi tío Carlos, no me puedo olvidar de él, hicieron historia”. Hasta 275 gimnasios brasileños que imparten este arte marcial están afiliados a la Confederación brasileña de Jiu-jitsu. La moda llega hasta la televisión. La primera cadena de Brasil que emitió en directo los combates de Artes Marciales Mixtas (MMA) fue la Rede TV. Debido al éxito de audiencia, Globo, la mayor cadena de América Latina y la segunda del mundo, detrás de la ABC, entró en el circuito y monopolizó las transmisiones. En la actualidad, Globo emite en directo todas las luchas que se realizan en Brasil así como desde 2012, en prime time, “The Ultimate Fighter: Brasil”, una edición del reality show norteamericano sobre MMA.

“Hoy el nombre Gracie es grande gracias a ellos dos”, enfatiza Rolker, mientras señala la imagen del gran Helio, vigilante, desde un dibujo a carboncillo tamaño folio, que cuelga en el medio de una pared del gimnasio. Una hilera de copas y premios, sobre un muro, legitiman sus palabras. Por la ventana, los 38 metros de la estatura del Cristo Redentor, símbolo de Rio de Janeiro, iluminado, lucen diminutos a su lado. Vuelve al aula y continúa la clase, ahora en grupo: “De-sis-tir o in-sis-tir”.

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Un Recorrido por el Nueva York de La ...
New York, USA
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Dec 2014

UN RECORRIDO POR EL NUEVA YORK DE LA LEY SECA

Estos son los auténticos ‘Speakeasy’: “Había muchas formas de esconder el alcohol cuando venía la pasma”

Si fuese el escenario de un libro de Gay Talase empezaría con un portero que no vio nada y terminaría con un disparo; o viceversa. Es el 102 de Norfolk Street, una calle oscura y solitaria en el Lower East Side de Nueva York. Los obreros que construyeron Manhattan dormían en estas casas.

Una valla metálica desgastada por los bordes resguarda lo que parece la entrada a un sótano. Pasan unos minutos. Nadie transita por la calle. Tampoco se escucha música o ruido, más allá de las tripas de la ciudad que gruñen bajo la alcantarilla y algún coche con prisa en la perpendicular, la calle Delancy junto al puente Manhattan. Hace no tanto, en esta zona, “si querías árboles, ibas al parque”, escribe Nina Howes, en el libro ‘Historias orales del Lower East side’. ¿Nos hemos equivocado de lugar?

Cuando el reloj marca las 9 de la noche, aparecen dos chicas de piernas largas y falda corta, que lucen impecables. Separan la valla con determinación, como si no fuese la primera vez que lo hacen, y acceden al agujero. Descienden por un pasadizo lúgubre que conduce a otra entrada de lo que igual podría ser un trastero que cualquier negocio turbio. Sigue sin escucharse ni un ruido. Las de la minifalda llaman a la puerta y alguien abre y vuelve a cerrar. Un portero sentado en un taburete mira a los recién llegados de arriba abajo, con la puerta entreabierta.

--Hola, hemos quedado con Pete.

--Soy yo, pasad, pasad –responde.

Solo falta "Nucky" Thompson para trasladarse a la serie de HBO “Boardwalk Empire”: sofás de terciopelo granate, pinturas de mujeres desnudas sobre paredes enteladas,  alfombras orientales, chimenea, suelos de madera y mucha niña mona. La banda sonora la pone un grupo de jazz con traje y sombrero de la época.

El garito de Lucky Luciano

Es el pub "The Back Room”, uno de los dos únicos auténticos ‘speakeasy’ –como se conoce a los bares clandestinos de la Era de la Ley Seca— que sobreviven en Nueva York”, presume Pete. Dice que muchos detalles de entonces se han conservado, “no solo la entrada”. En la barra, un grupo de turistas bebe cócteles de vodka en tazones que más bien podrían ser de cola-cao. “Había muchas formas de esconder el alcohol cuando venía la pasma”, apunta divertido.

La conocida como “Ley Seca”, que prohibió la venta, importación y fabricación de bebidas alcohólicas en todo el territorio norteamericano, fue establecida por la Enmienda XVIII de la Constitución en 1920 y derogada por la Enmienda XXI, en diciembre de 1933. Trece años de aparente “sequía” en las calles que dio alas a la imaginación de los granujas en los locos años 20.

Como los chicos de “The Back Room” –literalmente “la habitación de atrás”— uno de los muchos locales clandestinos que germinaron en aquella época. Se fundó en 1920 bajo el nombre de "The Back of Ratner’s,” y en él pasaban el rato los “barones de la cerveza”, como los denomina J. Anne Funderburg en su libro sobre la Era de la Prohibición. Uno de los habituales era un joven judío de origen bielorruso, delgaducho, con orejas de soplillo y raya a un lado que se convirtió en el “cerebro financiero” de la mafia y el rey de los casinos de Cuba, ‘Meyer Lansky’. También su compañero del colegio, Lucky Luciano, considerado el padre del “crimen organizado” y un amigo del barrio, Bugsy Siegel, que acabó manejando los bajos fondos de Manhattan.

En una pared del fondo de “The Back Room”, una librería discreta de madera oscura sobresale entre el terciopelo de las paredes. Pete se apoya sobre ella, se abre y aparece “la habitación de atrás”. “Todos los ‘speakeasies’ tenían este tipo de salas ocultas”, explica con una sonrisa. En su interior, otra pared, ahora tabicada, conducía al tejado, “por si había que salir corriendo”, aclara. “Y esta otra te llevaba directamente al sótano y luego a la calle”. Había cuatro formas de escaparse.

La barra que desaparecía en el club 21

Si al ‘Back Room’ asistían los “midas” de los bajos fondos, “en el Club 21 se reunían la ‘crème de la crème” de la farándula, asegura Avery Fletcher, directora del Marketing del local. Su entrada, a diferencia del anterior, no aspira a disimular. Está presidida por

enormes esculturas de jinetes a caballo y un veterano portero, Shaker, que lleva 36 años custodiando la misma puerta. Algunos ‘speakeasies’ blindaban la entrada tradicional con una palabra secreta que solo conocían sus clientes. Hoy es un restaurante de lujo, que recibe a muchas de las mismas caras, “algunas de los más ricas del mundo; también españoles”, presume Shaker, que dice que “por aquí han venido mucho los Fierro”, “los Rockefeller de España”, puntualiza.

El Club 21 lo fundaron dos primos, Jack Kreindler y Charlie Berns, con pocas pretensiones en un principio. “En 1922 habían abierto un local clandestino en el Greenwich Village, llamado “Red Head” –hoy un bar de tapas español (“Tertulia”), entre W4 y la sexta avenida— solo para sacarse un dinero y pagar sus estudios”, asevera Avery Fletcher. “Se mudaron varias veces hasta acabar en el 21 W de la calle 52”, continúa. Lo llamaron: Club 21 por el número de la calle.

“Gracias a la buena relación con la policía”, reconoce Fletcher, “todo marchaba”. Con fiestas a lo “Gran Gatsby”, con “la misma gente, o al menos, la misma clase de gente”, “la misma profusión de champaña, el mismo alboroto abigarrado y multitonal”, que describió Fitzgerald. Fue así “hasta que vetaron la entrada a un columnista cotilla, Walter Winchell, y se vengó en el ‘Daily Mirror’. La broma les costó a los primos contratar a un arquitecto, Frank Buchanan, e instalar un ingenioso sistema para ocultar el alcohol “e incluso hacerlo desaparecer”. Fletcher explica cómo lo hacían: “Empujaban una palanca y los estantes llenos de botellas de la barra caían a una rampa que conducía al alcantarillado”. “Era muy sofisticado para la época”, agrega.

La barra que desaparecía ya no está pero sí la bodega y su robusta puerta de dos palmos de ancho que solo se abría al introducir un metal en una ranura determinada. Se dirige a ella. El interior del restaurante es como uno se imagina “El museo de la Inocencia” de Pamuk pero con glamour, con todo tipo de juguetitos que cuelgan del techo. “Jack era un gran coleccionista”, apunta. Atraviesa la cocina y se detiene sobre las escaleras: “Se dice que Hemingway, que lío más de una en este bar, se vino hasta aquí con una guapa morena que había conocido en el local e hicieron más de una cosa en estos escalones. Al día siguiente supo que era la novia del mafioso Jack ‘Piernas’ Diamond y no le hizo tanta gracia”, presume de leyenda. Lo que realmente es un museo es la bodega. Entre las más de 2.000 botellas del local, algunas aún conservan los nombres de su prestigiosa clientela: “Frank Sinatra”, “Richard Nixon” o “Presidente Ford” se lee en las etiquetas desgastadas sobre el vidrio.

El bar secreto de la estación

Estos dos bares son de los pocos testimonios que sobreviven intactos de la época dorada de la Prohibición. Otro de los Speakeasy famoso de la época, el “Bills Gay Nineties” cerró sus puertas. Pero la herencia coctelera de la época no acaba ahí. No muchos de los 21 millones de viajeros que cada año pasan por la estación de tren más grande del mundo, Grand Central, saben de la existencia de su bar secreto: el ‘Campell Apartment’. Se encuentra en la esquina de la monumental estación, a media vuelta con Vanderbilt Avenue. No fue un speakeasy como tal sino la espectacular sala con un techo de 7, 5 metros de altura que el magnate John W. Campbell alquiló como oficina y demás usos. Una oda a la ostentación con una enorme chimenea señorial de piedra, vidrieras, un piano de cola y una alfombra persa que dicen le costó 300.000 dólares en 1924 (unos 3 o 4 millones ahora).

Algunos cócteles también deben su receta a los apuros de la época. F. Scott Fitzgerald era un apasionado del “Gin Rickey”, un combinado de ginebra, lima y soda, que cuando apareció en el siglo XIX se preparaba con Bourbon, pero que durante la Prohibición empezó a servirse con ginebra, que no requería envejecimiento. Y dos clásicos del momento fueron el “Sidecar”, a base de hielo, brandy, Cointreau, zumo y corteza de limón y el “Manhattan”, con whisky o bourbon, Martini rosso, angostura, una guinda roja y piel de naranja.

Un cóctel a escondidas

“Nos interesa el límite peligroso de las cosas. El ladrón honesto, el asesino sensible. El ateo supersticioso”, escribió Robert Browning. En la actualidad, decenas de locales, aparentemente clandestinos, en Nueva York, recrean aquella época, en una especie de competición por preparar el mejor cóctel, en el mejor escondite. Aunque no lo fueron, parecen auténticos “Speakeasy”, como el “Apotheke”, ubicado en el 9 de Doyers, la que se conocía como “esquina sangrienta”, en China Town y su vecino “Pulquería”, un caprichoso restaurante mexicano camuflado entre carnicerías, tiendas de bolsos de imitación y restaurantes asiáticos; el “Please Don’t Tell”, entre la calle 113 y la plaza de San Marcos, al que se accede por una vieja cabina de teléfonos dentro de una tienda de perritos calientes; el “Raines Law Room”, en la calle West 17, entre la quinta y la sexta avenida, que aparece tras unas escaleras subterráneas y una puerta, a la que hay que llamar para entrar; el “Bathtub Gin”, en el 32 de la novena avenida, su nombre hace referencia al alcohol que se fabricaba en casa de manera ‘amateur’, generalmente en el baño, de lo que hace gala una enorme bañera de cobre en medio del local; el “Dutch Kills”, en el 27-24 de la avenida Jackson, en Long Island City, inimaginable desde el exterior, con su rudimentario cartel de madera en el que solo pone “bar”; el Attaboy, en antiguo “Milk and Honey”, en el 134 de la calle Elderidge, en el Lower East Side, al que para entrar también hay que tocar el timbre; “The Garret”, bajo una cochambrosa escalera en el 296 de la calle Bleecker o el “Blid Barber”, en la calle 10, entre las avenidas A y B, aparentemente una barbería.

En aquella época, “la mayoría de los neoyorquinos, desde los policías hasta las prostitutas, recibían sobornos o estaban buscando lucrarse de alguna manera”, narró Talase en “Honrarás a tu padre”. Y “parte del éxito de la lotería ilegal, que era la fuente de ingresos más lucrativa de la Mafia, era el hecho de ser ilegal.”

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From Integration to Ferguson: A Look ...
Ferguson, MO, United States
By Lola García-Ajofrín
14 Jan 2015

SPANISH TEXT AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

VERSION FRANCAISE DISPONIBLE SUR DEMANDE

 

Sixty years after the case that ended legal segregation in American schools, former students who started the protests speak of the current state of race in the US.

The 60th anniversary of the end of the “separate but equal” doctrine that allowed legal segregation in American schools, 2014 could have been a time for celebration. However, far from it, the year ended with new incidents that reopened the debate about racism in America.

In a stall on 125th Street in Harlem, New York, a merchant sells black shirts donning a slogan in white: "I Can’t Breathe," the last words of Eric Garner, a black man arrested for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island who was suffocated during his arrest by a white police officer. His case was similar to that of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who was killed by a white police in Ferguson, Missouri. In both, the policeman in question was absolved, sparking protests across the nation.

Shortly after the two separate verdicts for the cases of Brown and Garner, a 70 year-old verdict that led to the execution of a 14 year-old black man, the youngest condemned in US history, was overturned. He was innocent. The year ended with the murder of the police officers Rafael Ramos and Liu Wenjian in Brooklyn by a citizen who justified his attacks on social media networks, saying he was avenging the recent deaths of black men by killing white policemen.

2014 could have been a year to celebrate the racial history of the US. It was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, and the 60th anniversary of the end of 'separate but equal' which allowed segregation in schools, and the US’s first black president was in the middle of his second term in the White House. Far from celebrations, however, the year ended with people talking about racism.

What happened and what did not in some sixty years? We returned to the scene.

 

60 years After Topeka

"For a little girl, it didn’t make sense that blacks and whites didn’t deserve to study together," Mickie Garrington, 65, says.

She was one of the students of the Robert Russa Moton school for black children, in Farmville, Virginia who in 1951, organized a student strike. 70% of the applicants of "Brown vs. Topeka" were organizers of the protests that shook the school and the nation. Sixty years later, the school is a museum, and some of the former students who still live in the town are anonymous heros with white hair and grandchildren.

Like every Monday, they and other neighbors of Prince Edward County come to the museum to celebrate their traditional brown bag lunch, a meeting where everyone packs a lunch gathers to discuss specific topics relevant to the community. An intact blackboard in an office at the museum reminds one that the room, not so long ago, was a classroom. On the board, "This is your moment. Seize it” is written in chalk. The bathrooms, although renewed, still retain their former look and so does the auditorium. The former students talk about how they lived in the days of their youth.

“As our school was designed for 180 children, and we were 450 children, there wasn’t enough room for all of us,” Joy Speakes recalls. “The County built three chicken coops to host us. When it rained, the water seeped through the roof, and we had to hold the umbrella for the whole lesson not to get wet - nothing to do with the school for white children, just a few blocks away, with a cafeteria and a gym.”

Speakes is one of the students who participated in the protest, now a slender 71 year-old lady who wears suit pants and a ponytail and is the head of the development committee of the Moton Museum.

The classrooms were "more suitable for chickens than for children," says associate director of the museum, Justin G. Reid.

On April 23, 1951, a 16 year-old student, Barbara Rose Johns, secretly organized a student strike. Barbara died of cancer in 1991 without any acknowledgment. Her little sister, Joan Johns Cobbs, now 76 years-old, recalls this moment.

"I was thirteen then, and I remember the fear of the possible consequences of going on strike,” she said. She never told her about her sister’s plans for the strike, but says, “sometimes she talked about the differences between our school and the white children’s school.” The strike lasted for two weeks.

“Have you ever suffered from racism as an adult?” we asked Joan Johns six decades later. The answer is concise: “Yes, especially looking for work and home,” she answers.

"I was 10, so I really did not think about the consequences,” Speakes said. “I think the only thing that scared me was that my grandparents would scold me for missing class.” She remembers this detail with a half smile. "It all happened so fast. We never thought of changing history, we just wanted a better school.”

"It was a time of great fear,” Allen Edwilda Isaac adds. He was 13 years old at that time. “My mother lost her license to teach in the State of Virginia and she had to go to North Carolina to work. Our parents were very strong people.”

After the strike, Barbara Rose Johns wrote a letter to the law practice of Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill, members of the NAACP, asking them to take the case. The lawyers agreed under two conditions: that students got their parents’ support and that they should be ready to challenge the constitutionality of segregated education. The NAACP joined the case "Davis v Board of Education of Prince Edward County" to the other four cases, and they won.

There were seventeen states with mandatory segregation for schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. That day, after the ruling in "Brown v Board of Education of Topeka," school segregation became unconstitutional.

The name "Brown" referred to Oliver Brown, one of the African American parents represented by lawyers from the NAACP.

“The case was not filed on behalf of my sister, as is sometimes thought, but our father just agreed to join this group," Cheryl Brown, Oliver’s daughter says. “The NAACP organized parent groups, except for in Virginia, the only place where students organized themselves.”

 

Virginia does not integrate

Virginia's case was exceptional, not only for the protests, but because faced with the ruling in “Brown v Board of Education of Topeka” in 1956, the Virginia General Assembly empowered the governor to close some public schools rather than integrate. As the court's decision concerned only public schools, "segregationists managed to fund private schools," Reid said. In Virginia, public schools were closed for almost five years between 1959 and 1964.

Mickie Garrington, now 65, was one of the students affected by the closure.

"When my parents told me, I felt so bad because I really liked the school,” he said. “Even though it was segregated and the facilities were bad, I loved going. The decision did not make sense for a 10 year old girl. ‘You can not go to school because white people think you do not deserve to go to class with them;’ for a girl it didn’t make sense!" she exclaims.

Garrington finished high school thanks to the "free schools" which opened in 1963, however she recalls, "Some of my classmates were older when they reopened and never went to school."

Finally, in 1969, Virginia public schools opened their doors to black and white children. It had been 13 years since the Davis case.

 

Six decades later

Since the student strike, the Supreme Court ruling, and integration, some things have changed in the US. However, in numbers, racism and segregation are not over. The numbers are specifically striking in education. 43% of Latinos and 38% of African Americans attend "intensely to segregated schools," where minorities represent between 90% and 100% of students, according to a report of Human Rights Project at the University of California (2012).

African American students are suspended and expelled from class three times more than their white peers (16% vs. 5%), according to the latest report from the Office for Civil Rights of the US Department of Education. The study found racial discrimination in all areas, whether in expulsions from class or school, or transfers to other centers. It also found that black children attended schools where teachers had the least experience and are the worst-paid.  The study further revealed that at the university level, whites over 25 are more likely than blacks to complete an undergraduate degree (34% vs. 21%).

"As a kid, the only thing that black people could do with white people was work and pay, pay and work,” Rev. Samuel Williams, a former student of Robert R. Moton school, said. “We were born under a white patriarchal control. That is no longer like that, but it is not over. You see how black people are still treated by the people of this country, including how they speak about the President.”

Although African Americans represent 12.6% of the US population, they make up nearly one million of the total of 2.3 million people incarcerated in the country, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). And together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though both make up approximately one quarter of the US population.

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Gentrification in Harlem
Harlem, NYC
By Lola García-Ajofrín
05 Dec 2014

Between February and May 2014 I spent three months living in 145th street in Harlem, New york. Everyday I walked around the neighborhood, I shot and I talked with people. Everybody repeated the same word: "gentrification".

A GAP store looks defiant in front of the legendary Apollo Theater as a metaphor of gentrification in Harlem.

"Gentrification" (as it is known the profoundly transformation of a low-income neighborhoods which causes the increase in value of property and the displacement of the original residents by other middle or upper class) is a double-edged sword.

Frapuccinos for $ 4 at Starbucks on 125th street and cognacs up to $ 50 at the Red Rooster, with live music in a neighborhood that until recently (1981), one third of the families lived in government subsidies are an evidence that something is happening in the neighborhood.

"They have forgotten about the people who were already here because we made Harlem", Linda Chaplin, 62, complains. Her voice trembles like the hand that she rests on her stick. This African American woman wearing a leopard-turban, a leather jacket and some purple lips, walks by the arm of a childhood friend on Lenox Avenue, just minutes from the famous Apollo theater in New York. The two of them grew up in the projects at the time it was almost as hard to go into as to go out of the neighborhood. !They have forgotten people who were here”, she insists.

"We say it loud and clear," her friend, Edleena, interrupts blunt "Because we were here when nobody else stayed; we were when the buildings were burning and nobody not even the owners care; we protected Harlem of vandals and bandits and now that the job is done, they are ready –she shokes the hand like if she were shooing away a fly— to cast us out. She says this is why they put such high prices, "It's simple, as there is no more room below, all are moving up". Linda nods and pulls the stick.

"No Longer Majority Black, Harlem Is in Transition”, titled 'The New York Times, in 2010. One change that, it said: “A shift that actually occurred a decade ago, but was largely overlooked”. In the neighborhood where Jazz grew, that hosted famous moments for civil rights and where Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King have their own street, in 2008, only 4 of 10 people were already black, the lowest figure since the 20s despite since 2000, the population of Central Harlem had grown more than in any other decade since 1940.

"Somebody thinks gentrification is mainly about race but its main color is green", Andrew J. Padilla, says, director of 'The Neighborhood Tours: Gentrification USA', a documentary that denounces the consequences of the transformation of the East Harlem area –so called "El Barrio"- where most of the Hispanic community in New York lives.

“Sure it is good the area improves", Padilla says," but the residents of Harlem are not benefiting from these improvements, “he adds. “For those who are coming, they are not part of the change, they are part of the problem”.

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A Trip to the Heart of Polygamy in th...
Centennial Park, Arizona
By Lola García-Ajofrín
25 Feb 2014

Text, Photos and Video by: Lola García-Ajofrín
(Available in Spanish upon Request)

VIDEO AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Some weeks after a judge struck down parts of the polygamy law in Utah, we traveled to the heart of “Plural Culture" as some locals call polygamy. There are an estimated 38,000 Mormons who practice polygamy in the U.S, according to the advocacy group Principle Voices.

In the Cawley house, the dad, Michael, plays with his two-year-old daughter, asking her to guess who is who in front of a family portrait.

"Who is Momma Teresa?" he asks. "She is...", the girl in her father's arms babbles. "And Mama Rose? Do you find her?" "Mmm ...", she stammers, moving her finger in circles around the 18 faces in the image. She points to one of the three wives and Michael applauds.

It is an outdated but recent picture. At present there are 24 members in the family: Michael, his three wives Rose, Connie and Teresa, and their 19 children, 20 if you count one expected to be born next month. They belong to the polygamous community of Centennial Park, Arizona, on the border with Utah. The town is home to 1,500 fundamentalist Mormons.

The size of the families in this U.S. town can be guessed by the size of the houses and the number of bikes stacked next to the door. Seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, two laundry rooms and two living-rooms are spread over 300 square meters of the Cawley residence. Each room belongs to one of the wives, one for to the husband, and the rest to the children. At the entrance, there are at least eight bikes and a tricycle.

There are an estimated 38,000 Mormons who practice polygamy in U.S, mostly in Utah and the Western U.S., according to the advocacy group Principle Voices. At the pace of births by Centennial Park's residents, the figures will multiply in a matter of months.

“Something interesting about our lifestyle,” Michael muses, “is that the family continues to grow. Now I'm 45, and I hope to continue having children for the next 15 or 20 years." He smiles. He is following in the footsteps of his father, who currently has eleven wives and who gave Michael 36 siblings. Utah has the youngest population nationwide with an average of 29.2 years old according to the 2010 census. This is 22% younger than the national average of 37.2 years.

The Utah Case

On 14 December, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled in a historic decision to strike down parts of Utah’s Polygamy Law. The case was brought to court after a Utah ruling in favor of the Browns – one husband, four wives and 17 children who starred in TLC’s reality show, "Sister Wives" on their daily life in a polygamous family. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups upheld the court’s decision that the section of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws prohibiting the “cohabitation" violated the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

The Utah ruling comprises a 91-pages document where the term “private” is used 37 times and “freedom” on 14 occasions.

“This decision is fraught with both religious and historical significance for the State of Utah, because it deals with the question of polygamy, an issue that played a central role in the State’s development and that of its dominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons),” the ruling states.

About 79% of Utah’s population identifies as religious, compared to the national average of 49%. Out of this 79%, about 69% identify as Mormons, according to the 2013 state census.

The judgment only refers to the “cohabitation.” Polygamy, in the literal sense of the term – if the husband acquired several marriage licenses at a time - is still illegal in Utah and the rest of the U.S. As these husbands usually only officially get married to their first wife and “spiritually united" with the others, the judgment is a gesture to polygamous families, who have been persecuted recently.

Priscilla Hammon, a resident of Centennial Park, considers the judgment to appeal to her right "to live the way we believe that we have to live.” Since meeting her husband, this 56 year-old polygamous wife knew she wanted to “bring other ladies home.”

“We had both grown up in polygamous families and we felt that this was the way we wanted to raise our children,” she explains.

She has been married for 40 years and jokes about the fact of living with other wives.

“The difference in the style of monogamous life is that here things are magnified,” she said. “We have larger birthday parties, huge laundries, and when we make a salad, we use 14 dishes.” She acknowledges that jealousy exists. “Of course, we are human,” she adds, “but we must deal with [eachther]. If not, we would not be here."

A Divine Command

These families continue the teachings of Joseph Smith, who wrote in 1843 that plural marriage was a command from God. In 1890, the mainstream of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned polygamy, but some sects continued this practice, including the great-grandfather of Republican Mitt Romney, who left the U.S. to circumvent the laws against polygamy. Romney 's father was born in Mexico because of this.

Currently, three sects of fundamentalist Mormons embrace plural marriages in the U.S., specifically the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) and the Independent Polygamous and Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). The FLDS is the best known and most hermetic sect. It rose to fame with the scandals of its leader, Warren Jeffs, accused in 2006 of incest, rape, emotional and psychological abuse.

At the time of his verdict, Jeffs had about 90 wives, some of them his stepmothers before his father died. The evidence presented at trial included an audio recording he made while raping a 12 year-old girl. Between groans heard in the recording, he recites prayers. “A good woman is ready to welcome her husband and follows the spirit of peace,” he implores, and ends with, “In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Several followers of Warren Jeffs live in Colorado City and Hildale, adjacent communities to Centennial Park, right on the border between Utah and Arizona. The two groups were separated in 1980 after a leadership dispute, and one of them left Colorado City, Arizona, to settle in Centennial Park, Utah. Crossing the meters dividing both municipalities is like stepping back in time several decades. If in Centennial Park, polygamous families talk openly about their lifestyle, in Colorado City, silence reigns.

In the Land of the Prophet with 80 Wives

A truck with a woman driving and seven kids inside stops at one of the few establishments in Colorado City, a balloon store. She wears her long blonde hair tied in an elegant braid and sports a dark blue ankle-length dress with long sleeves. Some minutes later, the same scene is repeated: half a dozen kids get out of the vehicle with long braids and long dresses. NThey walk to "Craigo's," a takeaway shop in which several women in flowered shirts and bow ties prepare lemon cakes in the shape of a flower. FLDS women do not cut their hair because they believe that they will use it to wash the feet of Christ. In their dress code, the color red is prohibited. All of them refuse to talk. The tour ends with the goodbye of a Sheriff who patrols the area saying "I hope you do not break the law.”

"I'd like to let people know that not everyone in plural cultures belongs to FLDS,” laments Hammon. “It makes me very sad that today his face (Warren Jeffs ) is polygamy's face, because we know we (polygamists) have done things that are not right and neither believe nor support it.” She raises her voice to point out, “I'm not a victim, and I don't need to be rescued! I'm here because I chose to be here.”

"I Chose Heaven"

"Do you know what are the only choices that these girls have?” Kristyn Decker, 61, anti-polygamy activist and former polygamous wife asks. “Between heaven and hell. I go to heaven if I do and to hell if do not.”

Decker is the author of the book50 ‘Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies,’ in which she speaks of the abuses and humiliations she experienced within a polygamous family. She is the niece of Rullon Allred, a former leader of the polygamous AUB sect, imprisoned several times for practicing bigamy, and she is the daughter of his successor.

She was five or six years-old when his half-brother Rick asked her, in the bathroom to play a game where she had to be very still. “Be a good girl and let me do it,” he told the child. “I'll buy you a candy bar when I go to the store.” Another day, an older cousin, Craig, cornered her in the kitchen and put his hands under her blouse “and up to [her] newly developing breasts,” as she recounts in her book.

She was disgusted, but she felt compelled to respect her elders. He abused her for years, but she never told anyone. “I felt it was a kind of lesson,” she says. “It was God’s will. We had to suffer and be helpful," she recalls in her bright home in New Harmony, where she has rebuilt her life with a new husband.

"When I encouraged my husband to bring another woman home, I also thought it was my choice,” says Decker. She emphasizes, “I was 25 years old. Now I know it was not, because I had nothing else in my life to choose between.”

In her book she recalls the first day she shared her husband. "I trembled inside with nausea and anger while I imagined his and Diana's bodies intertwined ( ... ), not just tonight, in her romantic honeymoon, but in the morning, again and again for the rest of our lives.” She remembers waking up at midnight and seeming to hear the panting in her hotel room, while her mother's words pounded her head: “This is God will."

Her life became a constant struggle between “divine will” and the daily face of polygamy. At first, when it was "Diana's night" –they took turns- she heard noises in the house and asked God if they were not gasps. When the doctor diagnosed her with a vaginal infection, after the second wife arrived, she realized that they would have to share everything. She became very sick to her stomach and thought about suicide several times.

“But I had to do as my mother did,” she said, “‘stretch up, put a smile on your face and behave yourself.’”

From the porch of her current home hangs a sign that reads “Decker Paradise" and a wind chime hanging from the door plays its music in the wind. Her new monogamous husband, LeRoy, makes coffee. Kristyn looks at the horizon and says, “Now I have many wonderful friends who come to my house and hang out together; but I know they are guests, and I will not have to share my husband with them in any sexual relationship.” Kristyn Decker abandoned polygamy 11 years ago. She says that this time, she chose heaven.

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