Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mas Musica

It was almost a decade ago that I made a small tour of Massachusetts college and university campuses, speaking on the cultural geography of Latin American music. The tour was sponsored by  MaCIE, and allowed me to meet a lot of interesting educators and students around the state. I am not a musicologist by any means, but I do find that music often reveals a lot about cultural geography, and my presentations consisted in discussing some examples. I carried around our Bose CD player and a suitcase of CDs at the time, and very much enjoyed myself.

I continue to find and enjoy new examples of culturally interesting music that I share with my students, though I do not attempt to update the Musica web site very often, but I occasionally add something to the blog. And today is such an occasion, as I just found a list of 11 Latina musicians who exemplify the great variety of music in the region.

I embed Fiesta from Bomba Estéreo simply because it is by far the most colorful and among the most modern of the examples collected by Marcelo Baéz on music.mic, but I encourage readers to watch all of the videos he has shared.
I found this article just as I was sharing the film Selena with my students and discussing my experience of living in South Texas during her rise and tragic fall. Both that film and the song "Sorry I Stole Your Man" by Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas reminds us that many Latin@s in the United States do not speak Spanish fluently.
Together,they are a rich lesson on the dynamic music of Latin America.

The radio program Latino USA opened 2016 with this conversation, in which we learn a bit more about the how Jessica Hernandez began her career, at first at home in Detroit and then on tour, which meant long drives to small audiences.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Oh, The Places to Go

I created the map below for students in our geography program, as a way to encourage them to explore the many fascinating places in our region. Each marker represents a convenient and rewarding destination that can be enjoyed from Bridgewater in a single day or perhaps even a few hours. 

I created it following a conversation with a colleague -- Dr. Vernon Domingo -- with whom I travel frequently. He asserted that our students should never have a boring date, because they have plenty of interesting places to take someone.

We are fortunate that Bridgewater is situated in the middle of such a diverse region, with an extraordinary variety of ways to learn about physical, human, and historical geography. We offer just a few here. When visiting any of these sites, be sure to explore the neighborhoods that surround them as well.

Details about what each of these places has to offer are in the GeoDates post on our department blog.


Dr. Domingo and I have had the privilege of getting to know many local communities -- especially in eastern Massachusetts -- through our travels with EarthView. The map below is a snapshot of visits to date. See the dynamic map for more recent visits in Massachusetts and for visits outside the region.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Three Flags, Three Colors

I post these flags for no other reason than the fact that I frequently forget which is which. I was reminded of this while watching Rosie Perez' excellent film ¡Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu lo sepas!

These three territories share the same three colors and each sports a single star, along with other design elements. All three were separated from Spain by the United States and the Spanish language remains associated with each, though to different degrees.


My favorite librarian reminds me that about 20 years ago, a court house in Texas was accidentally flying the flag of Chile. That is certainly a mistake I could have made.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Monarch Highway

When we lived in the southmost tip of Texas, one of our main environmental projects was to help improve a wildlife corridor along the Rio Grande. The idea was to connect small fragments of wildlife habitat, using carefully-chosen strips of land to facilitate movement between patches of preserved land. This would magnify the benefits of available land. For example, if four fragments of 100 acres each are connected, the resulting land might not be quite as valuable -- from a biodiversity perspective -- as a 400-acre plot would be, but it would likely support greater genetic diversity than a 100-acre fragment. In other words, the value of fragmented habitat is no greater than that of the largest fragment.
When we lived in South Texas, we neverr saw a cluster of monarchs like this, but we knew that they gathered by the billions just a hundred miles or so away in Mexico, and we would see them on their way to and fro each year, thousands at a time.
Later, they became important to me as part of the story of Rachel Carson, as recounted on The American Experience.

Creating such corridors is as difficult as it is important. Habitat fragmentation occurs because people put the land between patches to human uses -- such as housing, commerce, transportation, and agriculture -- and some of these uses are difficult to reverse, even where there is a will do so. The effort in South Texas had been underway for more than a decade when we arrived, and two decades later, US Fish & Wildlife Service presents it as an aspiration, rather than a reality.

This is all prelude to a few stories I have encountered recently, regarding the protection of migratory butterflies and of bees. One of these is the news that actor extraordinaire and all-around great human Morgan Freeman has created his own reserve for bees in Mississippi. He makes the case that setting aside space for wildlife -- especially pollinators -- is important. One a much smaller scale, we have tried to do something similar, and have greatly increased the plant, bird, and insect biodiversity at Casa Hayes-Boh, a mere one-third of an acre that is part of the WWF Habitat program.

More directly relevant to the corridor concept is the effort to create a safe passage for monarch butterflies along the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota. This is the same highway that is considered the backbone of NAFTA trade among Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and is close to the natural flyways for this important and beautiful insect. The plan is part of the Whitehouse's comprehensive (though still nascent) plans to address the frighteningly rapid collapse of pollinator populations.

At this point, it is not clear from available documents exactly what will be dong along this corridor to facilitate migrations. Some combination of making certain plants available along the entire route while reducing pesticide use will be needed for a corridor of this kind to succeed. Because the corridor is not intended directly to support terrestrial species, this corridor can work without necessarily having the spatial continuity that characteristic of most corridor plans.

It is not yet clear exactly what form pesticide restrictions will take. The EPA has proposed temporary pesticide-free zones specifically to reverse the dangerous and costly decline of honeybees. The timing of the two announcements suggests a connection, but so far it is not clear where the proposed zones would be.