Latin American Studies hosts Latin American events or invites guest speakers to campus to talk about topics of general interest on Latin America. The purpose is to enhance the LAS program with a flow of outside ideology that will encourage students to learn more about
Latin America. Charlie Goff, an educator, tour leader, storyteller, translator, and interpreter of Mexican life and culture, visited IUP for two days in November 2016. During his visit, Goff gave two formal presentations and one informal Q&A session for IUP and Indiana community members.
On November 1, people poured into and packed room 126 in the Humanities and Social Sciences building as Goff presented “Contemporary Mexico: A Land of Contradictions.” Goff began his presentation by stating that the United States and Mexico are two neighbors, living side by side, yet so different that neither of them understands the other.
The United States is an approximately 200-year old country, while Mexico is 1,000 years old. According to Goff, one is a first world country, while the other is bordering on third world.
To be able to understand the Mexico of today is to understand that contemporary Mexico is ruled by its 1917 constitution, which is a result of the Mexican Revolution. The constitution hinges on socialism.
Goff had his audience’s attention as he continued explaining Mexico’s various political parties with their emblems and representative colors: PRI—the Mexican flag colors, PAN—Virgin Mary colors, PRD—black and yellow colors, and so on. He then went on to explain that every
person’s vote is of equal value; therefore, the presidential candidate who has the most votes wins.
While Goff had much to say on Mexican politics and kept his audience suspended, he encouraged all to read La Jornada, one of Mexico’s liberal newspapers, and its conservative counterpart Reforma.
Goff’s talk was a political, historical explosion, ending with the du jour Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto (2012–18).
“The Mexican Calacas (Skulls): Political Satire in the Media,” presented on November 2, was successful among the inquisitive, learning minds that filled room 126 once again.
Some of the audience attendees were repeat members from the day before, while others were new to the Goff presentations. Even the Llorona came to the presentations (pictured below).
In “The Mexican Calacas (skulls)…” Goff introduced the calaca as the skull or a skeleton to the audience. He also shared the word calavera, which means skull as well.
The calaveras or calacas in journalism are short rhyming poems. These short lyrical obituaries are comical as they satirize the living. The witty calavera poems are only published on November 1.
Journalists write these short obituaries to poke fun at politicians, elite, and the like. Goff showed a series of different cartoons of living Mexican politicians and translated each short, yet amusing, death announcement.
The last two politicians were D. Trump and H. Clinton. Goff translated all of the calaveras for the public and stated, “sadly, they don’t rhyme in English.” Below are H. Clinton and D. Trump’s calaveras as presented by Goff:
Upon reaching election day
she seemed sapped of energy
now she rests in the churchyard
with neither life nor projects.
But that doesn’t upset her much,
in the gringo cemetery
she very happily got herself elected
as first female president.
They couldn’t take his contemptuous arrogance any longer
so in hasty fury some skeletal immigrant women
smashed him against a wall.
Upon reaching “the other side”
he attempted to keep on living,
but he stopped struggling
once Hillary had
Calavera Cartoons to find some calaveras in Spanish.
The laid-back Q&A session, “Meet Charlie: An American Anthropologist Living in Mexico,” on November 2 was held in a corner sitting area in the foyer of the Humanities and Social Sciences building.
When Goff arrived at the building, people were already waiting for him on the couches. As soon as he took a seat, questions started flowing and an engaging dialog erupted. A constant stream of attendees came and went during Goff’s two-hour session. Questions and comments varied from how Goff celebrates Christmas in Mexico to NAFTA.
Among the many questions posed during the session was the safety of Mexico as a destination for U.S. students. Goff shared his perspective, saying that Mexico is as safe as anywhere else in the world today. As with any unknown new experience, common sense and caution should reign.
Charlie Goff is an educator, tour leader, storyteller, translator, and interpreter of Mexican life and culture. He is one of the founders of the Cemanahuac Educational Community, a Spanish language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He writes “Charlie’s Digs,” a column in the News,
Mexico’s largest English language newspaper. In the legal field, he is a death penalty mitigation investigation specialist focused on cases involving Spanish-speaking defendants.
Goff has spent all but five years of his life in Latin America. He was born in Colombia—where he lived until completing high school. Cuernavaca has been his home for 44 years.
Latin American Studies