#8A in San José, Costa Rica

Joining the other protestors in front of the Presidential House of Costa Rica, I wore a purple bandana around my neck that featured a design of a purple orchid and a raised fist. We gathered on August 8th in solidarity with our Argentinian sisters, who wore green bandanas and fought for the legalization of abortion in the South American nation. It did not matter whether the bandanas were purple or green, they were a symbol of the movement that was echoed in multiple cities of the continent and beyond. 

The sign reads “To be able to choose so we don’t die”. Photo by Alejandra Rojas, via Aborto Legal Costa Rica: https://www.facebook.com/abortolegalcostarica

Although it is legal to have an abortion in Argentina under certain circumstances, half-a-million underground abortions take place each year. This prompted the Argentine Chamber of Deputies to approve a law to make abortions legal on request. However, with 38 votes against, 31 in favor, and 2 abstained, the Argentinian senate rejected the proposed law after sixteen hours of debate that finalized at midnight, on August 9th. 

In Costa Rica, it’s a complicated issue. Abortions are permitted when the life of the mother is at risk. However this procedure, known as a therapeutic abortion, is not regulated which makes it difficult for it to be implemented. The manifestation on August 8th focused on pushing the government of the newly-elected president Carlos Alvarado to sign the Norma Técnica de Aborto Impune, or the technical norm of therapeutic abortion, which would help medical institutions know when to implement this procedure. Regarding this issue, the president declared that the topic of abortion is used to distract from topics that need to be prioritized, while members of evangelical and conservative parties are encouraging the penalization of women. In the following audio clip, you can hear a chant that points at president Carlos Alvarado:

Us women raise our voices today
Sign it now, sign it now, sign it now now now!
The decriminalization of abortion protocol 
It is of course a priority

Hoy las mujeres la voz alzamos
Firma ya, firma ya, firma ya ya ya!
El protocolo de aborto impune
Claro que sí es prioridad

Abortion legislation in Latin America ranges from its complete banning in countries including El Salvador, to its allowance on request in Cuba and Uruguay. Singing among other women, I was surrounded by the energetic dancing and loud drumming that flooded the street on this gloomy afternoon. Regardless of the decisions made by the Argentinian senate and the politicians of Costa Rica, there was a particular chant that encouraged us as part of a transnational movement of organized women who will continue fighting for their rights:

Liiisten up!
Listen, listen, listen up because it’s moving
The feminist movement through Latin America

Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina
La lucha feminista por América Latina



Natalia Lafourcade and her Bolero Revival

Recovering from a winter that went on for to long, the cheerful audience that visited the Warner Theater exclaimed “¡Viva México!”, as Natalia Lafourcade got on stage with her now iconic milkmaid braids and a guitar. Together with her band, the Mexican singer-songwriter brought an atmosphere full of joy to the District on a warm Sunday evening, joy that goes back decades and which performs a shared Latinidad.

Natalia Lafourcade performing at the Warner Theater. Washington D.C., May 2018.

I remember watching Natalia’s videos on MTV Latin America for Mi Casa and of course, the unforgettable En el 2000. However, besides these songs from the Natalia and La Forquetina era, in more recent years, Natalia performs a repertoire that reminds her fans of Latin American artists whose careers peaked many decades ago – with traditional songs such as La Llorona or their own compositions.

For instance, in 2012, Natalia released a tribute album to Agustín Lara, under the name “Mujer Divina”. Agustín Lara (1897-1970) was a Mexican singer and composer, who is recognized as one of the most popular bolero performers. He was born in Veracruz, the same city where Natalia grew up and paid tribute to in her song Mi Tierra Veracruzana.

Agustín Lara and his (then) wife María Félix (1914-2002), a famous singer and actress from the Golden Age of Mexica cinema. Agustín composed María Bonita during their honeymoon.

Despite their popularity in Mexico with Agustín Lara, boleros originated in Cuba in the late 19th century. From there, they travelled to Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America, where they became an iconic music genre shared across borders. Arguably, the Golden Age of Mexican cinema (1933-1964) played a major role in their popularity. Music was a central aspect of the films, with artists such as Toña la Negra and Los Panchos who brought this genre to broader audiences.

It’s feasible that our generation is celebrating this nostalgia through artists such as Natalia Lafourcade. Reminding us of the afternoons spent with our grandparents, in my case, listening to Radio Sinfonola in their house, or watching Pedro Infante movies with my grandma. For some of us, the bolero in itself evokes feelings of longing and love, not only through its lyrics but also through its instrumentation. It makes me wonder, what will nostalgia sound like for Latin Americans fifty years from now?

Nicaraguan Youth and Solidarity through Song

Since last week, Nicaragua has been featured on the news because of the protests that are taking place in the Central American nation over pension reforms. The resulting movement against the government of Daniel Ortega, of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, has lead to one of the most violent protests in the country.

Although the protests were called by the private business sector, an ally of Ortega during his eleven years in power, the street protests have been lead and represented by students from the country’s public universities, who had been supporters of the president in the past. Students have promised to keep with the protests until the president and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, are out of power.

Students were also crucial for the Nicaraguan Revolution (1962–1990). Together with Carlos Fonseca, Silvio Mayorga, and Tomás Borge, student activists from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua founded this organization, which saw the victory of the Sandinista National Liberation Front against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

I found and did a little of research on a vinyl of the Nicaraguan nueva canción band, Grupo Pancasán, which had been passed down to me last summer. Also named Pancasán, their first album was recorded in Managua, Nicaragua and produced in Costa Rica in 1977, two years before the Sandinista Revolution. It includes songs such as “Se está Forjando la Patria Pueva” (“The New Homeland is Forged”), “General de Hombres Libres” (“General of Free Men”), and “Trabajadores al Poder” (“Workers to Power”). 

Grupo Pancasán (1977)

The first members of the group were Berta Rosa Guerra, Donald Aguirre, Marta Sandoval, Danny Montenegro, Laura Amanda Cuadra, Agustín Sequeira, Marlene Álvarez, Martín Fonseca and Francisco Cedeño. They were members of the Frente Estudiantil Revolucionario (Revolutionary Student Front), and as students, rehearsed on whichever classroom they found open at the Universidad Autónoma de Nicaragua located in Managua, the capital of the country. 

The relevance and involvement of the university students from the seventies and eighties compared to nowadays seems to point to a common theme, evidenced in this album. Grupo Pancasán was part of a movement that supported the Sandinista Revolution. In a way, this movement to strive for an ideal Nicaragua, is mirrored today – almost four decades later. However, this time, they are fighting to take down the Sandinismo of Daniel Ortega, who also goes back decades ago, since he was one of the nine commanders who led the Sandinista Revolution.

I present to you Compañero Estudiante, a song that encourages solidarity among students. Here’s a loose translation of the third verse of the song: “Fellow student, who is persecuted / Who has fallen while fighting / My song is for you / Your example, may it serve to grow / Ideas and thoughts, to fulfill your ideal”.