Pay-TV stays winning

In recent years Pay-TV has completely taken over television. Streaming/subscription services such as HBO, Showtime, Netflix, and Hulu, among others, have seen a rise in viewership. More and more people are leaving cable for streaming based Pay-TV.

Pay-TV offers flexibility. You can sign-up or cancel your subscription month-to-month. Viewers have the choice of when to watch their shows. You can stream all episodes in a one-day binge, or space it out across months.

Pay-TV is auteur driven and this makes it so that there is a strive towards not only making good television, but making television that can be considered art. On services like HBO, shows are created by folks driven by the art of storytelling. This makes all the difference.

When HBO first came out, it changed how we watch television and how television is made. It frontiered a revolution in television.

Pay-TV costs less. A person can have HBO, Netflix, and Hulu subscriptions and pay around $25 per month. In fact, if you share accounts with another person, it could be half of that. This is far more affordable than cable TV and for quality programming, too.

For college students and those just now moving out on their own, the budget friendliness of Pay-TV is very attractive. Not having to own a TV to access it, is another one. Pay-TV is portable. I can watch HBO on my phone, or TV, or laptop, or really any monitor with internet capabilities. In other words, I can take HBO (or Netflix or Hulu, etc.) anywhere I go.

On top of all of that, Pay-TV providers can put out whatever content they choose. There are fewer rules and regulations when it comes to profanity and nudity. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the viewer. HBO, specifically, is able to take risks with the content they put out. This is also both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sometimes, they really hit the mark – like with Westworld(HBO), Black Mirror(Netflix), or Good Girls Revolt(Amazon) – or completely miss the target.

With that all said, should quality television be a paid for service? A part of me wants to say no. Quality television should not be reserved for only those who can afford it. It shouldn’t be something that only affluent people have access to. At the same time, if television is art, then that art needs to be valued. The creatives who work behind the scenes need to be acknowledged for their work, both with awards and a paycheck. So, yes quality television should be paid for, but it should also be affordable enough for the general public to enjoy.

For me, quality television is television that is entertaining and thoughtful. When I watch a TV show, I want to see a story. I want to feel what it means to be human. I like to see the human experience and human condition at its very core, in front of my eyes, with beautiful cinematography. In most cases, Pay-TV is much better at doing this for the reasons stated above. A subscription based service allows shows to be made somewhat differently, with different goals in mind. HBO and Netflix can take risks or go out on a limb to try something new. Their goal is to make the next big hit, the next cultural phenomena. In other words, everyone in Pay-TV wants to make the next “Game of Thrones.”

“At some point in the past decade, cultural critics, including those in the employ of the venerable New York Times, have grown comfortable with the notion that a television series may be judged, first and foremost, as a work of art.” (Anderson)

When art becomes the motivation, innovation and creativity thrive. Television, as an art form, advances and progresses. The human imagination and capabilities venture into new worlds. This is exciting.

 


Anderson, Christopher. “Producing an Aristocracy of Culture in American Culture.” The Essential HBO Reader. (2008). Web.

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Pay-TV stays winning

FOREIGNER AT HOME

Every time I see a news headline for a crime in my local city, the first thought that comes to mind is “God, I hope the accused doesn’t belong to my ethnicity.” It’s a weird thought to have, but also one that I believe members of minority communities are familiar with.

It’s an interesting experience to be an immigrant in America. It’s funny that I even consider myself an “immigrant”, considering I’ve been an American since I was five years old and am a proud citizen. Los Angeles is the home I’ve known all of my life. Yet, I have never felt fully American. No matter how well I speak English or how many tax returns I file, there is always something about me that makes me feel like an outsider. Whether it’s my name, my looks, or my community – something always gives me away. I am perpetually, the “other.” To the world, I am an American. To most Americans, I’m a foreigner.

There is something to be said about being a minority in America. You constantly have to prove yourself. Prove that you are not “leeching off of the government”, prove that you are loyal and faithful to the country, prove that you are not a terrorist, or a criminal, or a rapist (cough cough), etc. etc.

Media biases don’t help. The only time news outlets actually cover minority communities is when someone from the community commits a crime. It’s a strong maybe that they’ll get coverage for festivals and protests and such. Other than that, the only time we hear about immigrants or ethnic minorities in the news, is when there is an accompanying mugshot.

Why does this matter?

Media representation matters for a variety of reasons. The most basic reason being the fact that we rely on news to learn about other groups of people.

If we are not immersed in a culture, we use various forms of mass media to learn about them. The news being one of the most important ones. So, when only crime stories are covered, it leaves the impression that x group is composed of only criminals. This is how the media helps establish and reinforce negative stereotypes about minorities.

In reality, criminality is not specific to any one group. It is a human phenomena. All humans have the potential to be criminals, regardless of their ethnic or religious or racial orientation.

 

FOREIGNER AT HOME

Let’s talk about racism in America.

Without mentioning Trump. Here is racism in America, at the most basic and primitive level.

Contrary to popular belief, racism is not a thing of the past. It is still alive in many aspects of society. Although America is viewed as a nation that stands for equality and freedom, the reality is a far cry from the perception. Whether or not it is blatantly expressed or hidden and subtle, most of society has a discriminatory view of minorities and non-white people. Racism is imminent in the workplace, in schools and communities, and in racial profiling. The root and base of racism is discrimination. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “discrimination” as, “treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit”. Discrimination comes from prejudice: having preconceived notions about a group of people and applying it to each individual in that group without knowing him. Whether or not someone is doing it consciously, discrimination is still evident in our world and it always leads to racism.

Racism plays a huge role in the job market. Although people of minorities now hold jobs previously dominated by whites, they are still discriminated against. When reviewing applicants for a job, most employers give preference to white people, regardless of experience or qualifications. A study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that “ applicants with ‘white-sounding’ names were 50 percent more likely to be contacted by employers than those with ‘black-sounding’ names” (Feagin 135). A person’s name alone can have an influence on the way he is treated in society. Feagin also notes that in order to get the same treatment as a white person with no experience in the field a black applicant must have had 8 years of experience (135). Whether the employers were aware of their discrimination, this proves that it is still a mindset they (and many others) hold.

With a difficulty in getting a well-paying job, many Blacks and Latinos, as well as other minorities, cannot afford to live in good neighborhoods. This explains why so many of them live in underprivileged areas. “Nationally, 86% of whites live in neighborhoods where minorities make up less than 1% of the population” (Colombo 374). This is also due to the fact that minorities are discriminated against in the housing market. “Judging from housing audit studies, perhaps half of all whites are inclined to discriminate in some fashion, whether subtly or blatantly, in situations where they have housing to rent or sell to black individuals or families (Feagin 139). Minorities cannot find decent homes and end up settling for poor neighborhoods or ghettos because of discrimination. In a sense, racism and discrimination are pushing minorities into these areas and depriving them of the many luxuries available to the majority.

The reason these ghettos exist in the first place is related to jobs. With blacks and other colored people being mostly excluded from well-paying jobs and good neighborhoods, these people have no choice but to settle for a bad neighborhood where they can at least afford the rent. The schools in these areas are also very underprivileged. In most states, schools are funded by local property taxes and thus, schools in poor areas do not get as much funding as other public schools in richer cities. Students in these bad neighborhoods are deprived of the many necessities to receive a good education. They do not have textbooks, their classrooms are old and crumbling, and many are desperate for good teachers. In his book, Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol visits many schools, like the one in East St. Louis. The school he visits has ceilings in danger of collapsing, no heat in the winter, an unpleasant odor in the halls, barely useable bathrooms, and an insufficient supply of materials in the classrooms (Kozol 28). Other public schools, like New Trier High School in Chicago, provide a lot more for their students. Not only does New Triar have a beautiful campus with up-to-date technology, but it also offers students courses in virtually any major they choose (Kozol 67). They are both considered public schools, but a child born and living in the ghetto gets a different education, or lack thereof, than a child living in a better area.

Another unpleasant reality in today’s society is the existence of racial profiling and hate crimes. Racial profiling is the act of using one’s skin color as a reason to be suspicious of him. Without even knowing a person, most people make assumptions about him and put him in a category. Some stereotypes can be good, but most are negative, such as the belief that all women are bad drivers, all Irishmen are drunks, all Muslims are terrorists, or that all Hispanics are illegal aliens. These negative stereotypes lead to discrimination, and discrimination in turn leads to racism. When racism leads a person to hurt another it becomes a hate crime. “As of 2008 there were a reported 926 active hate groups within the U.S.” (Colombo 374). Now that a black president is in office, this number went up. Americans are not as accepting of one another as many choose to believe.

Stereotyping and discrimination based on mere ethnicity is far more widespread than many choose to believe. Even in schools, children separate themselves based on their country of origin. Not only do they alienate themselves from other ethnicities but they also hold a very negative view of one another. In many cases they act out this hate with violence. Children with different skin tones make easy targets for bullies because they stand out. “A racist bully may leave racially tinged graffiti on school grounds or verbally single out a minority student’s skin color, hair texture, eye shape and other distinguishing features” (Nittle par. 4). This issue has been in America’s schools for many years and these racist views will follow these children into adulthood, during which the prejudice they learned from their parents will be passed on to their offspring.

Another instance of racial profiling is the anti-immigration law passed in Arizona. The law makes it possible for police officials to discriminate against people based on appearances. An illegal immigrant from Canada is not going to be harassed the way an illegal immigrant from Mexico is. This is simple based on the fact that a person from Mexico, or other parts of Latin America, is identified based on his skin tone. This is why people who oppose the law have called it “an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status” (Archibold par. 6). There are many legal residents and even citizens of Hispanic origin who are going to be targeted and discriminated against because of this law.

While it would be nice to think that America has moved forward and racism is a thing of the past, this is merely a misconception. Unfortunately, acting as if there is no problem does not make the problem go away. Racism is prominent and alive and still a big part of society in the workplace, schools, and communities.


Archibold, Randal C. “Arizona Inacts Stringent Law on Immigration.” New York Times. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2010. Web.

Colombo, Gary, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle, eds. Rereading America. 8th ed. Boston: Belford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

“Discrimination.” American Heritage Dictionary. 4th ed. New York: Dell, 2012.

Feagin, Joe R. “Racial Oppression Today: Everyday Pratice.” Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparation. New York: Routledge, 2010. 135+.

Nittle, Nadra K. “Racist Bullying In School.” About Race Relations. N.p., n.d. Web.

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. New York: Crown, 1991. Print.

Let’s talk about racism in America.

SHOW ME THE HONOR IN KILLING, I’LL WAIT.

Imagine a young woman, around sixteen years of age, raised in a society where her only purpose is to serve the men in her life, her father and brothers. Every day she cooks and cleans for them; she obeys their every wish and command. There are specific rules for her in this society, special rules that do not apply to the males. These rules are really just restrictions placed on her behavior and lifestyle. A male family member, such as a brother, must accompany her if she wishes to leave the house. Never mind that her brother might be a lot younger than she is. But she knows, she must be modest and obedient; that’s the only way to keep the honor of her family.

Honor is the key word here. A concept, entirely manmade, that has come to hold utmost importance in certain societies. Women and girls have been bestowed this responsibility of “keeping honor” with absolutely no input on their part. They do not get to decide how this honor is defined or even what threatens it. Women do not get to decide how to dress. There are limitations to where they are allowed to go, whom to befriends, and even the men they marry. In other words, women have little power in deciding their own fates. The men in the family arrange marriage. A woman may very well not love her groom; in fact she may not know him at all. If she refuses the marriage she is beaten up. Often times, if a woman attempts to take her own power back, if she refuses a marriage or breaks one of the many codes of conduct established for her, she may be beheaded by members of her own family. Her death is justified on the basis that, she disgraced her family and therefore, deserved to die. Her murder is what they (ironically) call an “honor killing.”

Human Rights Watch defines honor killings as acts of vengeance, usually resulting in death, committed by male family members against female family members (“Violence against Women” 2001). The violence is always gender-based and usually perpetrated by a brother or a father against a female family member. What distinguishes honor killings from other crimes of the same nature is that it is justified on the basis of a woman “dishonoring” her family by engaging in what is considered immoral or unacceptable forms of behavior. These “unacceptable forms of behavior” will be discussed a bit later.

According to the BCC, it is estimated that more than 20,000 women are victims of honor killings worldwide each year (Maher 2013). This number is merely an estimate as honor killings are not usually classified as such by local authorities and are rarely prosecuted (Chesler 2010). Many deaths from honor killings are reported as suicides in order to conceal the reality. This also skews the numbers. Furthermore, some researchers, such as Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, argue in favor of using the term “femicide” instead of “honor killing.” She argues that the term “honor killing” is used by police and media in order to “culturalize” and dismiss the gravity of killing women (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2012). While I agree with her argument and believe she has a valid point, I will be using the term “honor killing” as I believe it is more descriptive. Calling it “honor killing” makes it clear that these murders are in the name of saving face. However, doing so should not take away from the seriousness of these criminal acts. Honor killings should be discussed, understood, and analyzed without being justified or being dismissed on any grounds. The act of honor killing is a clear human rights violation; it is a clear attack on women, and it shall not be excused, accepted, or left un-dealt with in the name of culture or cultural relativism.

In communities where honor killings happen, the reputation of the family is of utmost importance. Why? Because, reputation dictates social status (Awwad 2001). The family’s honor is the responsibility of female family members and they maintain it by being obedient to men and by following social norms established by men. Therefore, if a woman “dishonors” her family by somehow going against a social norm, the only way to restore the family’s honor is to kill her. In most cases, many members of a family plan the act of “honor killing” together, at times even through a formal “family council” (“Introduction” n.d.). There are two particular victim populations: one made up of very young women (average age being seventeen) and the second, women whose average age is thirty-six (Chesler 2010). In both cases, the murder is carried out by the victim’s own family members: brother, father, or husband.

Honor killings happen all over the world. They are not unique to any one place, ethnicity, or religion. They are in fact, products of patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrilocal societies centered on the family unit. Most Middle Eastern societies tend to fall into this description; therefore, honor killings are more common in that region than in others (Awwad 2001). According to the UN, honor killings have been reported in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Syrian Arabic Republic, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries, but they also take place in Western countries such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (“Working Towards”). According to Sharif Kanaana, a professor of Anthropology at Birzeit Uiveristy, honor killing emerged in the pre-Islamic era and can be traced back to Ancient Rome (Awwad 2001). The purpose of the honor killing is to put power in the hands of men. It is a cultural practice most closely associated with patriarchy. It is not associated with Islam in form, though it is common in Islamic societies. However, to link honor killings to Islam, or any religion of the Middle East, will only manage to undermine the ideological complexities of gender dynamics which are characterized by patriarchy and patrilineal orientation (Awwad 2001). Honor killings, as defined in this post, are rampant all over the world and women everywhere can be, and are, affected by it.

In 2009, a woman by the name of Hanmig Goren from North London testified against her husband in court. Her husband had killed their fifteen year old daughter for falling in love with a man twice her age and from another branch of Islam (Shafak 2012). She had disgraced her family and her father decided she must die as a result. There are many cases such as this one. Oddly enough, family’s honor is often linked to the sex organs of daughters and wives. As a result, many women are killed for “sexual impropriety” which could mean an extra-marital affair, being too promiscuous, or even being the victim of rape (Chesler 2010). If shame is brought upon the family, the women are to blame, even if this shame is a result of the wrongdoing of a man, such as rape, against a female child or teenager(Baker, et al. 1999). This victim-blaming complex is the result of the belief that a woman’s virginity belongs to her father and then should be gifted to her husband (chosen for her by her father). A woman’s body, in essence, belongs to the men around her.

There are a variety of reasons why an honor killing might occur. At its most basic, it is an act of vengeance towards women who refuse to follow established social norms. A woman can be targeted for refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce, or committing adultery (“Violence against Women” 2001). The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient enough to trigger an attack on her life. The attacks are not in response to the dishonorable act as much as they are in response to public knowledge of the act. Meaning, violence against women will only occur if her illicit activities become publicly known (Awwad 2001). Women on whom suspicion has fallen are not even given an opportunity to defend themselves. Once the rumors and gossip start, the only way for the family to avoid losing face in the community is to seek immediate revenge and commit a killing (“Broken Bodies” 2001). In these societies, individualistic autonomy is seen as a threat to the collective family and its reputation. Therefore, if a woman is too independent, not subservient enough, refusing cultural norms, or having unapproved friends or boyfriends, she is bringing shame to the entire family. The only way to erase the shame is to immediately punish her by death.

Those in power establish and reinforce ideologies that are most beneficial to them. Hegemony and ideology further the creation of a “truth” that will benefit the segment of the society that has the most power (Johnson 1997). Keeping women subservient to men keeps men subservient to the state. Therefore, sexism as an ideology is not only condoned by the state, but reinforced by it. Sexism as an ideology has influenced, facilitated, and even given legitimacy to existing penal codes regarding honor killings. The state has often displayed an ambivalent approach to the issue. As described by Shalhoub-Kevorkian, in some places police award certain men the title of ‘honorable’ and consult them when abused women call for police help. This alliance between men and the state results in women going to the police for help only to be given back to their family by force, then killed. Furthermore, abused women described how when they tried to ask for help from the Israeli police, officers were not only uninterested in their victimization but took advantage of their vulnerability by sexually harassing them, neglecting them, or ridiculing them (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2012). Not only is the state refusing to combat honor crimes, it is also contributing to it.

In many places, such as Jordan and Syria, lenient penal codes have provided legal loopholes for perpetrators of honor killings (Awwad 2001). “It is an unholy alliance that works against women: the killers take pride in what they have done, the leaders condone the act and protect the killers, and the police connive the cover up (Culture of Discrimination n.d.). Behaviors, like extramarital sex, are often criminalized so that the kill can more easily be justified. The state encourages this violent behavior because “internal violence is an optimal way to destroy the “collective consciousness” of the group (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2012). It keeps members of the society from requesting freedom or resisting oppression. Honor killings further the interests of oppressive patriarchal regimes. If men are busy monitoring women’s behaviors and launching attacks on women, the state can get away with a lot more. Femininity and masculinity in these societies are constructed in such a way that gives men complete power and control. At the same time, women are virtually powerless and have no part in constructing or challenging social norms. Most honor killings are rarely prosecuted as such. Even in the West, many people including the police shy away from calling it an “honor killing”. This makes it so that the act is easier to repeat as it is rarely acknowledged and rarely prosecuted. Honor killings are often not condemned by the major religious and political leaders in the communities (Chesler 2010). On the contrary, they remain silent. This conspiracy of silence hinders progress in annihilating the practice.

To combat honor killings we must first break the walls of silence. Better knowledge of the crime is required and desperately needed by feminist organizations and human rights campaigns. Without this knowledge, it is difficult to best eradicate the practice. Laws should be put in place and enforced to ensure that those who commit these honor killings are prosecuted justly. States must do a better job of providing protection for all of their citizens, including women and girls. Public campaigns should be launched that ask members of these cultures to question the legitimacy of such crimes. The state, religious authorities, and activists should come together to educate, prevent, and prosecute honor killings.

But beyond all of that, societal consciousness as a whole needs to be shifted. Honor killings are proof that in many parts of the world the feminine is oppressed. It is not just the woman that is attacked but also her femininity. Feminine energy, whether it be in a woman or a man, is under attack by patriarchal societies. Vandana Shiva’s feminine principle comes to mind as she recognized that until there is a balance between masculine and feminine energies in the world, women (and their oppressors) will not be free. Men must be taught to respect and value women as equal individuals and not as machines to masterbate and reproduce with.

The ideologies that give way to crimes such as honor killings need to be addressed. Patriarchal, patrilocal, patrilineal societies put the man above the woman. Men are more important; therefore, women are less than human. If women are less than human, then their deaths do not matter. Manufactured notions of purity are placed above human life. Disgustingly, women are punished for the crimes of men in instances of rape and abuse.

The very same misogynistic/anti-woman values, beliefs, and ideologies that give way to the murder of women elsewhere, give way to the murder of women at home. “In the US, 1,500 women are killed by their spouses, boyfriends, or intimate partners every year in what are called crimes of passion” (Kumar 2015). These are honor killings by definition and this is an alarming number. Furthermore, it illustrates that femicide, including honor killing, is not exclusive of any one region or religion.

It happens right here, too.

At the heart of these heinous crimes is a type of moral policing that is reserved only for women. Women are expected to be subservient to men and the patriarchal order. Toxic misogynistic views of what it means to be a woman and made-up notions of purity and chastity are forced upon women, who are then punished by death should they rebel or refuse.

For women who have been victims of honor killings and honor crimes, society has failed. It is society itself that has allowed for harmful sexist beliefs to pass. It is society that polices women’s behavior, then punishes them should they choose not to follow it. It is society that allows for lenient penal codes to allow for men to get away with rape, assault, and even murder. It is society that needs to change. Both laws and ideologies are in need of revising. The role of the woman in society and in the family needs to be acknowledged and valued. A woman’s right to life, and a right to determine how to live that life, need to be acknowledged and valued. Furthermore, it needs to be protected to the fullest extent of the law. After all, women are people, too, and there is absolutely no honor in killing.


Awwad, A. M. (2001). Gossip, Scandal, Shame and Honor Killing: A Case for Social Constructionism and hegemonic Discourse. Social Thought and Research, Vol. 24 (No. ½), pp. 39-52.

Baker, N.V., Gregware, P.R. & Cassidy, M.A. (1999). Family killing fields: Honor rationales in the murder of women. Violence Against Women, 5(2), 164-184.

“Broken bodies, shattered minds: Torture and ill-treatment of women”. Amnesty International.

Chesler, P. (2010). Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings. Retrieved from meforum.org

“Culture of Discrimination: A Fact Sheet on “Honor” Killings”. Amnesty International. Amnestyusa.org

“Introduction – Preliminary Examinatino of so-called honour Killings in Canada”. Justice.gc.ca

Johnson, A.G. (1997). The gender knot: Unraveling our patriarchal legacy. Temple University Press.

Kumar, Deepa. (2015). Liberation at Gunpoint: The Politics of Feminist Imperialism. Retrieved from wearemany.org.

Maher, Ahmed. (2013). Many Jordan teenagers ‘support honour killings’. Bbc.co.uk

Shafak,E. (2012). Honour killings’: murder by any other name. Retrieved from thegaurdian.com

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, N. (2012). The Politics of Killing Women in Colonized Contexts.

“Violence Against Women and “Honor” Crimes”. Human Rights watch.

“Working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour” (PDF). Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

 

SHOW ME THE HONOR IN KILLING, I’LL WAIT.

CURANDERISMO & THE MAGIC OF HEALING

Los Angeles is a diverse city, everyone knows. It’s also a very big city. Almost so big, discovering it seems like an endless journey.

In Central Los Angeles, near Echo Park and Silver Lake, the streets are lined and stacked with all sorts of shops. Some sell clothes, some sell toys, others sell insurance or provide legal services. In between these shops, adorned with paintings of spirits and gods, are botanicas. In fact, botanicas exist in most Mexican-American communities in the US. In botanicas one will find amulets, talismans, religious candles, jewelry, incense and many other magical products for sale. Within these shops, one may also find a curandero (male) or curandera (female).

In simple terms, curanderos are traditional healers who provide cures for both mental and physical ailments. The art of healing performed by a curandero is called curanderismo. The curandero works on three levels, the material, the spiritual, and the mental. The curanderismo traditional healing system includes various techniques such as prayer, manipulation of body parts, herbal medicine, rituals, spiritualism, massage, and psychic healing (“Curanderismo”, 2008). It is believed that the curandero receives the ability to heal as a divine gift from God. All curanderos work through this divine energy.

“Healers may differ in technique but the basic foundation of curanderismo – a holistic approach to the world and the body, and its purpose – to reconstruct the individual as a whole being and reintegrate them into their community, remains constant” (Portilla, n.d.).

In the Mexican world- view, the body, the mind, and the spirit are connected and the belief is that there must be a balance within the body to have good health. The aim is not simply to heal physically, but also spiritually. Various remedies, either spiritual or as an herbal supplement, may be offered as treatments.

The practice is widely noted to combine aspects of both indigenous Mexican and Spanish healing practices. “The healing rituals of the curanderos illustrate close linkages between the knowledge of herbs and the Catholic belief system” (Hurlong, 2000).  Curanderismo developed from native healers choosing certain elements from Spanish medicine to combine with elements of indigenous healing.

CURANDERISMO & THE MAGIC OF HEALING

Tribal Peoples, Globalization, and the Right to Life

The Yanomami, also referred to as the Yanomamo or Yanomam, are a

group of indigenous people living in the rainforests and mountains of Northern

Brazil and Southern Venezuela. They are the largest relatively isolated tribe in

existence today, with a population of about 32,000. They occupy the largest

forested territory in the world out of all indigenous groups. The Yanomami are an

interesting group with a rich culture. Unfortunately, the forces of globalization

threaten their existence and their way of life.

The Yanomami live in “Shobonas” or communal houses described as

being large and circular (Chagnon, 2012). The central area is used for activities

such as rituals, feasts, and games. Among the Yanomami, tasks are dived

between the sexes. The men hunt (using curare to poison their weapons) and the

women tend gardens (Chagnon, 2012). Meat only makes about 10% of the

Yanomami diet, while crops grown in the gardens make up about 80%. Both men

and women fish. The most prized food for the Yanomami is wild honey. The

Yanomami also have huge botanical knowledge and immerse heavily in

shamanism. They believe in equality among people and have no official “chiefs.”

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The Yanomami first came into sustained contact with outsiders in the

1940s (“The Yanomami” 2015). At that time, the Brazilian government had sent

teams to delimit the frontier with Venezuela. However, soon after that, the

government’s Indian Protection Service and religious missionary groups

established themselves there, in Yanomami territory. This influx of foreigners,

unsurprisingly, led to outbreaks of measles and the flu. Having never had contact

with these diseases, the Yanomami immune system had not built up protection.

Sadly, many Yanomami died.

In the 1970s, the military government of Brazil decided to build a road

through the Amazon. Out of nowhere, with no warning, bulldozers drove through

the Yanomami community of Opiktheri (“The Yanomami” 2015). The road

brought a number of problems to the Yanomami, including but not limited to:

diseases, deforestation, and alcohol. In fact, two villages were entirely wiped out

from diseases brought over through this road (“Gold Rush” 2013). Today, the

road is still causing harm to the Yanomami. Cattle ranchers and colonists use it

as an access point to invade and deforest the Yanomami territories.

The 1980s brought with them a new set of terror for the Yanomami.

40,000 Brazilian gold-miners invaded their land (“Gold Rush” 2013) in an event

that has been described as genocide. The miners shot the Yanomami, destroyed

many villages, and exposed them to all kinds of diseases. As mentioned before,

the Yanomami had no immunity to foreign diseases. Due to all these factors,

about 20% of Yanomamo died in just 7 years (“The Yanomami” 2015). Following

these events, in 1992 Yanomami land was finally demarcated and miners were

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expelled. However, the days of murder and invasion were not over. In 1993, a

group of miners entered the village of Haximu and murdered 16 Yanomami,

including a baby (“Gold Rush” 2013). Even though, the five miners were found

guilty of genocide by the Brazilian court, only two are serving sentences.

Furthermore, the gold mining invasion continues. The situation is dire as the

Yanomami have had their lives and culture be attacked for many years.

Authorities have done little to help.

Over 1,000 gold miners are working on Yanomami land, all the while

transmitting deadly diseases like malaria and polluting the rivers and forests with

mercury (“The Yanomami” 2015). Similar to other indigenous populations, the

Yanomami are also facing a threat from cattle ranchers who are invading and

deforesting their lands. Currently, Yanomami health is in bad shape – they are

suffering. Critical care is not reaching them, especially in Venezuela (“The

Yanomami” 2015). The Brazilian government has taken over health care but

medicine and equipment doesn’t make it to the communities, leaving indigenous

people, including the Yanomami, dying.

The biggest problem of all is that Indians in Brazil still do not have proper

ownership over their lands. The government has failed in recognizing tribal land

ownership (despite having signed the International Law ILO Convention 169)

guaranteeing it (“The Yanomami” 2015). Many people within the Brazilian

establishment would like to use the Yanomami land for their own selfish gains –

such as mining, ranching, and colonization. In fact, the Brazilian government has

built barracks in the Yanomami lands (“The Yanomami” 2015). Obviously, this

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has increased tensions and brought in a new set of issues for the Yanomami.

There are reports of soldiers prostituting Yanomami women, some of whom

having been infected with sexually transmitted diseases (“The Yanomami” 2015).

The Yanomami are currently facing many issues, all of which are

byproducts of globalization. Miners, cattle ranchers, and even the government,

are invading Yanomami lands, killing them off, and using the tribal territories for

their own selfish reasons. The Yanomami have not even properly been consulted

about their views on mining. Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami shaman, believes

mining will destroy their nature (which is sadly, very true). “It will kill us.” he says

(“Davi” 2009). The Yanomami, much like other indigenous peoples, have a

strong tie to their lands. “Our land has to be respected. Our land is our heritage,

a heritage which protects us” (“Davi” 2009). Sadly, that protection is very much

needed as the very existence of the Yanomami people is under attack.

Even while facing all these of nightmares, the Yanomami have not given

up. In both Brazil and Venezuela they have established organizations, “Hutukara”

and “Horonami,” respectively. The purpose of these organizations is to increase

awareness among the Yanomami to their rights. Many members of the tribe

aren’t even aware that they have rights. The organizations aim to teach them

their rights with hopes of salvaging their future.

Reading and writing about yet another group of people who are exposed

to all kinds of human rights violations is simply, heartbreaking. These are people

who have for centuries created and established societies and rich cultures. Their

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way of life and their very existences are under attack – for what? The answer is:

for profit. The sad reality of our world is that gaining wealth is often put before

human rights. The Yanomami and thousands of other indigenous groups are

treated incredibly unfairly. We all have a duty to call on the Brazilian or

Venezuelan government to create laws and policies that will keep the Yanomami

from being exploited or pushed off their lands. As human beings we have a duty

to be compassionate towards each other. We have a duty to speak out against

any and all human rights violations. It is easier now than ever before and if

enough of us get on board, we may be able to make a real change in the lives of

the Yanomami and other indigenous populations.

 


Chagnon, N. (2013). Yanomamo (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage

Learning.

Davi Kopenawa – Yanomami. (2009, April 1). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Gold Rush:The Yanomami Massacre. (2013, January 4). Retrieved December 1,

2015, from https://dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/gold-
rushthe-yanomami-massacre/

The Yanomami. (2015). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/yanomami

Tribal Peoples, Globalization, and the Right to Life