Inti Raymi and the Performance of Created Memory

We only ever hear one question asked in the academic decathlon central to the plot of The Day After Tomorrow: “Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro defeated this Incan emperor at the Peruvian highland town of Cajamarca. What is his name?” “Atahualpa,” Sam answers, and he’s correct. Beth suggested to us that we might consider writing on this topic, and looking for examples of how memory might be performed in the context of Peru, I thought the Inti Raymi fit the concept well. Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, was celebrated by the Inca on the winter solstice from 1412 until 1535, when it was banned by the Catholic church. In 1944, the Inti Raymi was reenacted in Cusco for the first time in 400 years by Faustino Espinoza Navarro, a Peruvian actor and the founder of the Academy of the Quechua Language. The reenactment was based primarily on writings left by Garcilaso de la Vega, a half-Spanish, half-Inca chronicler who came of age in the years following the Spanish invasion of Peru and wrote about the Inca based on the recollections of his maternal family — a memory, in short, recreated from memories handed down to a man writing about a world that had already largely passed out of existence by the time he was writing about it. Inti Raymi has been celebrated every year since 1944 on June 24th. Though in the time of the Inca it was celebrated in the center of Cusco, it is now reenacted at the fortress of Saqsayhuaman, above the city, with an actor playing the role of the divine Inca emperor, and the animal sacrifices simulated instead of truly performed.

Inti Raymi strikes me as exactly the kind of echo in the bone Roach describes as “a history of forgetting [as well as] a history of empowering the living through the performance of memory.” The elements that would have lent the festival its weight during the height of the Inca — religious devotion, sacrifice towards ensuring a good harvest, loyalty to the Inca state — are absent in a time when the Inca religion is no longer practiced, tourism is the region’s economic backbone, and an entirely different system of government oversees people’s lives. The event has been duly criticized as catering more towards tourists than to locals: a blogger writing about the subject laments (perhaps patronizingly) the lack of access of indigenous Peruvians to a festival “regenerated for them, not by them, by an intellectual middle-class of European or mixed-blood descent, who saw in its practice a chance to romanticize and mythologize their own history and identity.” Still, I think it would be hard to entirely write off the reenactment of any violently suppressed indigenous tradition, no matter how long after its disappearance it resurfaces.

As a last thought, it would be hard to consider Inti Raymi in the context of “Echoes in the Bone” without dwelling on Roach’s comparison between Western tragic drama’s presentation of catastrophe as a “singular fate yet to be endured,” and the spirit-world ceremony’s pacing of catastrophe “in the past, as a grief to be expiated.” Which of these does the festival of the sun do, if either? Explicitly, it is a celebration and not an expiation, but it isn’t possible to conceive of the present-day festival without remembering the catastrophes of European invasion and epidemic that set the stage for the celebration’s 400-year absence. Having never seen a performance of Inti Raymi, I don’t know whether this history is addressed within the festival itself, but it seems to me that the act of revival is itself an act of expiation.

The Murphy Oil “Conspiracy”

          I was putting off writing this blog post (great start, I know) when I came across the Reddit post, “What conspiracy theory do you 100% buy into and why?” Two users replied that their relatives experienced a double-whammy during Hurricane Katrina. Soon after the storm, Murphy Oil Refinery reported that one of their oil containers had ruptured and leaked onto the surrounding area, namely in the neighborhood St. Bernard Parish (located just outside of New Orleans). Ghost510 comments: “After the clean up the land was deemed uninhabitable and the oil company was able to purchase all the land for very, very cheap. Many people that were affected and in the area believe that the oil company did it on purpose, and I tend to believe them.” 2EdgedDeath also says: “The whole thing was shady as hell.”

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Cultural Remembering and Forgetting: A Response to the “Tot Tanic” Bouncy Castle

“There are certain topics that are off-limits to comedians: JFK, AIDS, the Holocaust. The Lincoln Assassination just recently became funny. ‘I need to see this play like I need a hole in the head.’ And I hope to someday live in a world where a person could tell a hilarious AIDS joke. It’s one of my dreams.” -Michael Scott, “The Office”

This quote from one of my favorite television shows popped into my head during today’s discussion on memory versus forgetting. Michael’s reference to not being able to make jokes about “JFK, AIDS, and the Holocaust” relates to the immense tragedies involving the topics, but also to the timeliness of the issues. Compared to those three things, the Lincoln Assassination occurred very long ago. The problem with timeliness of the commercialization of or jokes about topics from history is apparent in this quote, as well as in our discussion of the “Tot Tanic” image Beth showed us in class.

Continue reading “Cultural Remembering and Forgetting: A Response to the “Tot Tanic” Bouncy Castle”

Autochthony and the Imagined Community

Our class discussion about allochthony and autochthony reminded me of something we talked about in the Civil War Historical Novel class I took last semester with Dr. Rutkowski. In the class, we focused heavily on the divide between Union and Confederate, North and South. The border that separated the two and divided America was a contrived boundary that grouped together two groups: “Americans” and “other Americans.” These communities that did not exist in name before the advent of the American Civil War were fabrications. Though geography and stance on slavery linked a majority of people in these communities, to say that the two were dichotomous is an exaggeration. Continue reading “Autochthony and the Imagined Community”

Ramble on, Rose

Ever since our discussion at the beginning of class regarding the UK’s “right to roam”, I’ve been fascinated by the idea and decided to look into it further. As of this moment, the countries with a “right to roam” law or something approaching those lines, are Ireland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, and of course the UK. A few honorable mentions are Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I researched the United States’ stance on this law as well, after remembering Beth talking about the “Stand your ground” policy in Florida; what other states have “Stand your ground”, and why is it just so hard to be a wanderer in today’s day and age?

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Carnal Desire in New Orleans: How Allochthonous Tourists Sully New Orleans

Throughout Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, Solnit and Snedeker present various color maps which simultaneously reveal details about both New Orleans geography and culture, many of which contradict each other in subtle ways. Whether it be map 11 showing the locations of seafood shacks contrasted with nightclub and brothel locations, or map 16 showing key locations of music development juxtaposed with types of sediment, both maps paint New Orleans as dirty, but also as a hotbed of cultural development. The map from chapter 11 also gives locations of where Judeo-Christian televangelists were caught with prostitutes, which paints a more accurate picture of where these money making preachers’ morality often times truly lies. Esteemed members of the church getting caught with prostitutes dirties the church’s reputation which is the only counterbalance for New Orleans’ moral sanctity against prostitution and political corruption.

In chapter 11, readers learn that “one out of every seventy jobs in the Pelican State is seafood related” (Solnit and Snedeker, p. 84). As a result of the BP oil disaster, seafood prices rose as much as $3 in some instances. While this is not a problem for the allochthonous tourists, who are able to spend their outside money on both seafood and prostitution/nightlife(alcohol consumption) at higher rates when on vacation, the everyday, working class New Orleans citizens have to pay these absorbent prices regularly. BP, a company not even based in the US, nevermind New Orleans, reap the economic benefits of New Orleans natural resources (oil) while burdening the city’s everyday citizens with the dirty, polluted aftermath. The Atlas mentions people having to eat shrimp that have tumors, while paying more for them.

Prostitution and corruption represent New Orleans’ lack of moral cleanliness, while the marshy swamps, increasing sea level and results of both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill left literal dirt. Whether it be the influence global climate change has on New Orleans, or the allochthonous industry titans like BP which ravaged the Gulf of Mexico, it is outside activity that has devastated New Orleans’ fragile ecosystems which the locals rely on for life, and leisure. Tourists bolster New Orleans illegal prostitution industry which exploits its sex workers (disproportionately black and transgendered workers report the most abuse). Out of this muck however, a multicultural society with a thriving nightlife, food industry, and music scene has blossomed. This pursuit of leisure, in concert with the prevalence of crucial natural resources, is what ironically attracts the allochthonous people in the first place. Shutting down these cultural and literal borders would preserve New Orleans’ longevity, however, this would simultaneously trap them, which seems to be a trope which will be revisited throughout the semester.

The Boundary Between Light and Darkness

One important aspect I found when reading Solnit and Snedeker’s Unfathomable City was the apparent racial tension in the city after Katrina. There was an obvious boundary that law enforcement, government officials, and the media put between African American citizens and white citizens resulting in murder, hysteria, and moral ambiguity in a time when altruism was as valuable as currency. This boundary produced armed stand-offs between police and African Americans, botched autopsies, and the outright murder of African Americans who were only trying to help their families, such as Donnell Herrington.

After discussing Steve Prince’s “Katrina’s Veil: Stand at the Gretna Bridge” and Francisco Goya’s “Third of May 1808” in class, the boundary between light and dark, black and white, again, stood out to me.

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The Danger in Prosthetic Memory

Upon reading Nyong’o’s “Black Survival in the Uchromatic Dark”, I find myself returning to a notion that was introduced to me in Dr. Cooper’s American Literature course at the start of this semester–a notion that George Mason University Professor Alison Landsberg calls “prosthetic memory”. Continue reading “The Danger in Prosthetic Memory”

Snakes and Ladders – The Place of Water

In Solnit and Snedeker’s Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, “Snakes and Ladders” is a New Orleans map which geographically locates and symbolically categorizes acts by civilians and law enforcement into ladders – “acts of rescue and solidarity” – and snakes – acts of “sabotage of survival” – in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (128-129). Discussing this map, Solnit points to the gross abuse of power by law enforcement, and their attempts to maintain control of a dismantled city through horrifying and unethical acts of harm ranging from police shootings of unarmed citizens to the abandonment of prisoners in a flooded prison.  Continue reading “Snakes and Ladders – The Place of Water”

Autonomy. Is it achievable? Part two.

Hello again everyone. Before I continue with part two of, “Autonomy. Is it achievable?”, here is a link to part one.

Before we begin with the second part of this post, I would like to acknowledge that I may be going into unnecessary depths as to the topic discussed in class. I acknowledged that I have not sufficiently linked this to the course aside from what we discussed during that one class time. The reason that I am writing this post regardless is that it is a topic that greatly intrigues me. I find that I am not only able to write about this topic in quantity, but in depth as well. Therefore, despite this post not being sufficiently linked to the course texts, I am posting my thoughts with the knowledge that my upcoming posts will make up for this deficiency.

Getting back to the post at hand, I would like to re-discuss and add onto the hypothetical of a a person kicking a chair. I like to expand upon this with a new hypothetical in which the blame is not as close in time with the end result. Imagine a situation in which a company releases a dangerous product, knowing that it can cause potential harm. To further explain, if a product has a faulty piece that could lead to a person being harmed, do we blame the user for buying the product, or do we blame the company for their negligence? Continue reading “Autonomy. Is it achievable? Part two.”