October 2009

       Raices do Brasil/Roots of Brazil Capoeira Madison is one of several schools in the United States that is spreading the popularity of this rythmic and active Afro-Brazilian art form. Capoeira is sprung from the sugar cane plantations and culture of African slaves in Brazil. One reason for its popularity today in Brazil and other terminals of the African diaspora is the fact that it was an illicit practice only practiced in secret during the slave era.

         Director/Instructor Dominic Stryker — also known as Professor Sabidinha — and four students of the school explained and demonstrated capoeira at an appearance on the UW-Whitewater campus on Oct. 26. Their visit was sponsored by a grant from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UW-Milwaukee.   

          Better than any written explanation could ever do, the demonstration displayed the complex give-and-take of the movements between the two weaving, kicking, and twirling participants in the middle of the roda, or circle. A video of the presentation is available here  as a movie download from itunesU site for UW–Whitewater. The authentic instruments, including the bowstring-and-gourd berimbao, also provided the live sensation of the rythmic heart to the action.

          Instructor and director Dominic explained that different people are attracted to capoeira for one of its many facets, such as its roots in Afro-Brazilian nationalism or the martial arts feel. But since all participants share in all the drumming, singing, and moving that involves capoeira, they eventually embrace the other aspects as well.



High priest figure

In part because of the ties linking New York City to the Caribbean, the New York Times periodically covers the influence that the African-influenced religion called Santeria wields both in New York and in the Caribbean, in particular Cuba.

This story from about a decade ago is a good example, and offers a good overview of the religion and its history:

Published: Monday, January 27, 1997

The recreation room is thick with cigar smoke by late afternoon. Three drummers frantically pound sacred drums, enticing worshipers to crowd around and step to the pulse. A singer chants insults in an African language, hoping to anger the santos, or deities, into appearing.


Suddenly, a woman draped in white shudders violently. Her eyes glaze, then roll back into her head. She reaches for her forehead as if to soothe it, all the while twirling low to the ground, round and round, massaging the intricate rhythms of the drums. Yemaya, the deity who symbolizes the sea and masquerades as the Virgin Mary, has finally come into the room. Yemaya has possessed her.

Read the entire article here.


Rev.  Rafael Rodriguez is pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Whitewater and a native of Venezuela. After obtaining a law degree in Venezuela, Rev. Rodriguez came to Milwaukee to become a priest. After his ordination he first served as associate pastor in West Bend, Wisc. before coming to Whitewater

In a presentation Oct. 21 at UW–Whitewater, Rev. Rodriguez discussed the importance in Latin America and the Catholic Church of the reforms carried out in the 1960s. The reforms were initiated by the Vatican II Conference presided over in Rome by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI from 1962 to 1965.  Figuratively, the idea of Vatican II was to “open the doors and windows of the church to let in fresh air”.  A number of reforms sought to make religious life more accessible through such things as sermons in the language of the church’s location rather than in Latin, and welcoming more work by lay members.

In Latin America at a conference of bishops in Medellin, Colombia in 1968 the ideas of  Vatican II inspired church members to focus Latin America’s Catholic Church on social problems of poverty and oppression. This was an innovation in Catholicism offered by Latin Americans that came to be called Liberation Theology. lOne outcome of this was that ay members took the initiative in a burgeoning of what are called Christian Base Communities in poor areas.

With the arrival of Pope John Paul II in 1978 the emphasis of the church shifted to liberating the world, especially those Catholics in his native Poland, from communism. Conversely, the Papacy discouraged Liberation Theology and social activism that often resembled, or openly embraced, Marxism.

Then, and now, Rev. Rodriguez said, the church exists within political movements and struggles. He cited the case of Honduras, where the current Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga supported the ouster of  left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya this past summer.


Alma Guillermoprieto


“Astounded” is the word I would use to describe my common reaction to reading the essays by Mexican native Alma Guillermoprieto in the New Yorker magazine. A single paragraph sometimes would give me pause. I’d put the magazine down and just shake my head at the talent there.

The talent with English, the honesty, the cultured manner of letting her own personality direct the topics and prose, are all in full display in the books and essays by Ms. Guillermoprieto. I look forward to seeing how she handles the genre of the “talk”, since she is visiting UW-Whitewater this evening to discuss “How to Be a Mexican” at 7 p.m. in Young Auditorium.

Here is more praise from the announcement of her visit by the sponsoring College of Letters and Sciences:

Guillermoprieto is considered an authority on how life in Mexico and South America relate culturally to the United States as she was born in Mexico and grew up in both Mexico and the U.S. She has devoted 30 years to the study of Latin American history and has related it to her own life in her two books, “Looking for History” and “The Heart That Bleeds.” In 2000, Guillermoprieto was awarded the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting, one of the most coveted awards in journalism, by Long Island University.