The Solitude of Latin America – Reflection One

In his 1982 Nobel Literature Prize acceptance speech, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a renowned Colombian author, said the following: “Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own. Why is the originality so readily granted to us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions?” This questioning has become the reason for the construction of my digital humanities project. Although seemingly unrelated to my original proposal, the need to go beyond the basic understanding of Latin America as a set of developing countries without a will of their own has become so powerful a force in my mind, that it would seem like a betrayal to my own self to not reflect upon the thoughts, in the span of six weeks, that have caused them to be.

As such, my digital humanities project will center around Bogota, the capital city and economic center of Colombia, my native country. The need for research is great in Colombia and it would be a disservice to my home country to ignore the opportunities presented to myself at Lafayette and not further extend any research attempts on Colombia with said opportunities. In the somewhat unrealistic hopes of creating something to be used by the government or citizens back home, this digital humanities project will be a stepping stone in understanding and eventually combating the problems my city has faced.

Admittedly, the full content and context of my research is not yet clear, though the aim is to analyze city-building and its relation to culture. But, both these topics are extensive. To narrow these topics down, a review of the literature is in order. To fully maximize research time, understanding what research has already been conducted seems like an important first task. Furthermore, as I will be using city structures and organization as a key part of my project, an understanding of how to acquire such data- if it exists- is also relevant. This data might turn out of be the biggest challenge of the project. Unlike cities in the US, most city building data isn’t digitized or organized as efficiently in Colombia. A further challenge is the limited scope that will have to be incorporated due to the lack of time. Consequentially, there might be a moment in time in which a narrow focus on certain parts of Bogota will have to be used. There is much to be said about Bogota that cannot be described in words. With more than seven million inhabitants it seems logical that Bogota is amid many cultures and it has become almost necessary to begin to understand how this city came to be and where the city is now.

There is much to be learned in these six weeks. Truthfully, expectations might be clouded by the excitement felt with starting a new, self-guided, research project. My peers will definitely be an important part of this experience as we will struggle, learn, lead, and succeed together, or not at all. These six weeks are also weeks of self-discovery as undergraduates, researchers, and human beings capable of independent thought. My expectations lean more towards myself than the actual internship. How far will I be able to stretch the limits of my own thought to interpret a reality seen easily in cities but not so visible on paper? The answer, if there is one, will only be clear in seven weeks.

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