Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together – Video

Here is 5 minutes of the work in progress film, Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together, which I talked about in my previous post tonight. After the film, some thoughts and re-watch suggestions to learn more about both the issue at hand, and everyday sights and sounds of Uruguay. Including our very weird Spanish.

Pamela Harris & Carolina De Robertis | Iris Films present a “work in progress” five minute preview of “Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together”

As you watch it, please think about the culture and history that was suppressed. Lisa and I are gratified that Candombe is becoming a vehicle for recovering the rich Afro-Uruguayo culture, and in making Uruguayans and those like us new to our adopted land understand and confront past-times and current day racism and discrimination.

Then, perhaps, watch it again, and listen closely too, for some fascinating details of everyday life in Uruguay, apart from the specific issues Harris & De Robertis present. The opening montage is of everyday life in Montevideo, giving a good look at the mix of modern and old, shiny and crumbling, that make this country charming and unique.

A few minutes into the film clip, while one of the activists is interviewed, they cut to shots of her daughter sitting on the floor with a bright green-white laptop. That is the One Laptop Per Child OLPC, the original version which is given free to every elementary schoolchild in Uruguay. The secondary school kids get a less Fisher-Price Toys-looking version with more capability. Again, free. We’re the first country with 100% elementary schoolchild coverage for the OLPC project. Plus efforts that get them on the net free or at low cost. Every home in Uruguay can get free low-speed DSL, for a one-time installation charge, from Antel, the government monopoly landline and competitive mobile carrier. The competing, foreign-owed mobile internet/cell companies Claro (Mexico) and Movistar (Spain) provide discounted mobile broadband plans for “Ceibalitos” (“little onions”), as the free laptops are known. Every one of these Cebalitos not only has Wi-Fi, it creates a “mesh network” of its own local, full infrastructure mode, WiFi access point for its neighborhood when on. I often see free internet with name “Ceibal” or similar many places around town, including in residential neighborhoods.

Finally, listen to the words of the people interviewed. Of course, listen to the very important statements they make about the resurgence of Afro-Uruguayo culture and the present-day resistance and racism they still confront. But also listen to the language. They are speaking typical modern Uruguayan Rioplatenese Spanish, and it’s not exactly the español you learned in the US as “Latin American Spanish”, nor what you speak in México. It’s really not what is spoken in Spain or what you learn in the UK as proper Castillian Spanish, castellano. In fact, we’d say that word as cah-steshano or cahstejano. Not as cah-stelyano in Spain or cah-ste-yano in most of Latin American including US Spanish. One person mentions “taking it to the streets” but says what to English-speaking ears is “cah-shuh“. Yes, that’s how we say the word for street, calle. My Guatemalan neighbor laughed out loud when I used that back in Colorado.

Their film is thus eye-opening in many ways. You can see that Harris and De Robertis do love Uruguay, despite some of the racism Pamela Harris personally faced here and what they are exploring in their film. And you get an eyeful and earful of what Uruguay is really like.

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Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at

One thought on “Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together – Video”

  1. Have you noticed that our beloved Ruben Rada is parading, beating the drums in the middle of the Comparsa shown in the Doc?Beautiful!! Do you know who he is?

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