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Conclusion “A Veces el Pato Nada” Educational Allies and Tools for Change Pedagogy is the type of performance that is so common, so universally and historically threaded through the human experience that its every feature has been parodied, not least of all by people who have been students. —Arthur J. Sabatini A veces el pato nada, y a veces ni agua bebe. —Popular refrain T his book is about Mexico, but it was a trip to Medellín, Colombia, that shook me from the cynical view that the social power of art is passé at best and at worst an escape valve to buttress the ever-regenerative status quo. My time in Medellín was expected to be one of those predictable trips to a theater festival: plays, street performances, and conversations with socially committed university students in their twenties and thirties, professors from a variety of countries, and committed, sometimes cynical local teatreros in their forties, fifties, and sixties. At one point we passed a bridge under which a dozen or so men, baking in the Andes sun, seemed almost dead—half-naked, marked by drug use and poverty. But minutes later we arrived at a library surrounded by working-class neighborhoods that had formerly suffered the typical blight of big-city crime and social decay. The neighborhood still appeared worn and the image of the homeless was fresh in our minds, yet the library was magnificent, in part because of its structural beauty but mostly because it was in use by dozens and dozens of poor and working-class paisas, as residents of the city are called, from teenagers to octogenarians, engaged in everything “A Veces el Pato Nada” 159 from watching movies and reading to drinking coffee and debating politics.The social regeneration of Medellín, always a complex work in progress, has been promoted through investment not only in the business sector but also in social programs, as is well known in Latin America. A Guardian article captures the spirit of this social urbanism: Once, Medellín was known for one thing and one thing only: barely two decades ago,when cocaine king Pablo Escobar had a bounty on the heads of police officers and was doing his level best to bring Colombia’s second city to its knees,it was the murder capital of the world. [. . .] Key to the city’s progress have been a number of groundbreaking urban planning and public transport initiatives. These are part of an overall plan aimed at helping to reduce crime and fight poverty by reclaiming for their residents slums that sprang up around the city to house people displaced by Colombia’s brutal, decades-long civil war. By reconnecting the city’s poorest and toughest neighbourhoods —the Comunas—with its regenerated centre, officials hoped not only to make residents safer but to give them a greater sense of pride and belonging. [. . .] Problems, including petty crime and gang violence, remain, but generally the strategy seems to be working.New schools and libraries,parks and public squares have been built around the city. There is an immaculate new metro system. And in the Comunas, often built on hillsides too steep for buses or cars, a network of lifts and cable cars now carry tens of thousands of people a day from Medellín’s mountaintop slums to the metro, cutting the journey time downtown—and particularly back home afterwards—to 45 minutes from as much as two-and-a-half hours. (Henley) The experience in Medellín helped me see Ciudad Juárez, a city I knew from growing up in New Mexico,in a new light.A few years ago,I returned to Juárez to attend the Muestra Nacional de Teatro and was duly impressed by the arts complex and the number of theatergoers who were out and about late at night. Yet despite the vibrant performance scene in the city (including antiviolence marches, artistic representations of aggression and regeneration, cross-border performance art, etc.), it was hard to see a way to social prosperity that did not involve the traditional,valid argument that this was a supply and demand problem that could be ameliorated only by focusing on labor and drug trafficking. Still, the Medellín example, exaggeratedly optimistic as it may be, serves as a 160 conclusion reminder that social interventions,both infrastructural and intellectual,can further the aspirations of the powerful but also empower the public,ideally increasing the number of people who are included...


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MARC Record
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