Monthly Archives: July 2015

My Experience in Oaxaca: Part 2

I was already winded when I arrived in Oaxaca as the altitude is considerable higher compared to Indiana. But the climb to the summit pushed me to the edge. But the view, oh my, what a view, made it all worth it. Monte Alban was worth it!

Monte Alban Surrounding CityMonte Alban is an archeological treasure located in Mexican state of Oaxaca. The archaeological site at Monte Alban contains a large pre-Columbian step pyramid and other religious and secular buildings built by the Zapotec people of Mesoamerican descent around 500 BCE. The center of Monte Alban is the Main Plaza. Surrounding the Plaza are the Ball Courts, where players played a game similar to handball but utilizing their hips with a heavy rubber ball. The losers of these games were sometimes sacrificed. By the edge of the Ball Court and near the Plaza resides a large grasshopper, which where and continues to be an important animal to the region. By Los Danzantes, which are covered with lapidas (stone monuments), is a row of human statues that have a very distinctive Olmec (1500 BCE-400 BCE) influence.

Monte Alban

Built at the summit of a large hill with the top flattened, the city structures should have been easier to defend than other areas, but this did not prevent Monte Alban from being first inhabited or ruled by the Zapotec, Mixtecs, Mexica (pronounced as ma-she-ka, but better known as the Aztecs) and eventually the Spaniards when they defeated the Mexica Empire on August 13, 1521. Due to so much conquest and movement of people, scholars do not know precisely where the name came from originally. It may have been a corruption of the indigenous name, or a Spaniard that controlled the area after the Spanish conquest. Whatever the origin of the name, the one thing that truly matters is that it is worth all the efforts in the world to see it.

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My Experience in Oaxaca: Part 1

It has been a little over a week since I arrived in Mexico with nine of the finest students that the IU system has to offer. Seven of the students on this year’s trip are from IU South Bend while the other two are from other IU satellite campuses such as IUPUI and IU Southeast. We stayed in Mexico City the first evening and on Sunday we visited The Church of Our Lady of Remedies and the archeological dig at Tlachihualtepetl, which literally means “artificial mountain.” The temple actually has several temples in the same spot, but have become buried due to erosion, deliberate rebuilding to make larger temples, and volcanic eruptions. The last temple was dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl, who some believe that the Mexica (Aztecs) considered Hernan Cortes to be him or his representative. Tlachihualtepetl is the world’s largest pyramid based on the archeological evidence gathered by its base.

Cholula

After exploring the archeological site and the Church, we went to Oaxaca and met our host families. Within Oaxaca there are seventeen distinct ethnic groups, with fifty-two language dialects spoken. Mexico is a very multi-ethnic and multi-racial society and we had a chance to see the rich and colorful indigenous cultural traditions in person in both the Plaza in El Centro Histórico in Mexico City just outside our window and in the Zócalo (The Plaza de la Constitución) in Oaxaca. Mexico has a fascinating mixture of colonial and indigenous cultures and Oaxaca in particular has a strong indigenous influence, while also containing a distinctive colonial flavor as can be seen in the picturesque colonial estate that now is the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca. Where, I might add, I get to study and grow as a student scholar. There is also a traditional colonial plaza situated near the Instituto.

Guelageutza      Instituto

Oaxaca is also the birthplace of two of Mexico’s greatest leaders, Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz. Benito Juárez (1806-1872) is Mexico’s only indigenous president, who reestablished the Republic of Mexico after he helped expel the French invasion in 1861. Porfirio Díaz (1830-1915) served as the Mexican President, essentially as a dictator, from 1876 and 1911 which was one of the main catalysts of the Mexican Revolution. This mix of indigenous and colonial influences and contributions to Mexican history makes Oaxaca the ideal place for learning about and understanding the concept of lo mexicano, the concept of what is Mexico and Mexican.

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The History of the CIA and its Role in Pop Culture: New class for Fall 2015

Have you ever noticed that there is plethora of popular media detailing the CIA? The CIA is mentioned in books, TV Shows, Movies and songs.

With a variety of information, it is hard to decipher fact from fiction.

Fortunately for IU South Bend, there is Dr. Jonathan Nashel to help students and faculty alike to assist in deciding what is true and false. at

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According to Dr. Nashel, this course asks and answers: “What is the CIA?  This straightforward question has no easy answer.  We will work to answer this question by first familiarizing you with the history of the CIA.  Once we have examined its history, the more fanciful, crazed, and conspiratorial visions of the CIA will be considered.  We will then explore why there is such a disjunction between the historical record and the world of fantasy regarding the CIA.  We will be reading histories, novels, and watching a bunch of films where the CIA is a prominent character.  Hold onto your hats…it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

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The CIA (left) portrayed in the comedy The Interview from 2014

For more information about Dr. Nashel’s class, HIST-T 390 “Literary and Intellectual Traditions”, please contact him at jnashel@iusb.edu.

HIST-T 390 “Literary and Intellectual Traditions” meets Monday and Wednesday from 4 P.M. to 5:15 P.M.

Popular Culture, Cyber Revolution and Social Change in the Islamic World: New class for Fall 2015

Many Westerners struggle to understand the Middle East and Islamic culture. These misunderstandings often lead to criticism. To many people in the West, Islam, ISIL, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may seem confusing.

In reality, there is a lot of history behind these social, political and economic changes that many do not care to explore or understand.

A great way for students to understand more about these complex topics is to register for a new class being offered at IU South Bend in Fall 2015 called Popular Culture, Cyber Revolution and Social Change in the Islamic World (ANTH-A 385).

This anthropology class explores unique topics including: protest music on the Palestinian- Israeli border, fashion as a form of protest, Islamic comedy and veiled Barbies.

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Exploring these topics will help students understand more about the complex and diverse composition of the Islamic world and help eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions.

This class is perfect for the internationally minded or curious student looking to learn more about the current political issues in the Middle.

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Please email Aynur Onur (aonur@indiana.edu) for more information or with any questions you may have.

Country Profile: the Central African Republic (CAR)

The ideas of a Global Village and the convergence of cultures across the world are becoming more popular. Unfortunately, many more people do not know about the isolated and under-known places around the world. This lack of awareness can be attributed to the popular culture focus of society in the West.

In addition to the focus on the West, larger hurtles such as poverty, literacy, and war do not allow a phenomena such as the Global Village to occur. This is mainly due to theological, cultural, and socioeconomically statuses within the different divisions around the world.  These statues are a result of many years of different events and sets of experiences that defined these cultures, which reluctantly play a role in terms of their development. This can be said about many regions across the globe, but especially a small African country called the Central African Republic (CAR).

The tropical climate of the Central African Republic allows the country to be rich in vegetative soil and a magnificent amount of mineral deposits and other resources, such as uranium reserves, crude oil, gold, and diamonds. Despite this richness, the CAR, this richness the Human Development Index (HDI), a system that ranks countries based on qualities like life expectancy, rates the CAR a sorry 185 out of 187. Like many African countries, the CAR suffers from tribal, theological, and cultural warfare that leads the nation to extreme levels of poverty and diseases.

Ashima Falls  In Central African Republic

Ashima Falls In Central African Republic

As a former French colony gained its independence in 1960, various autocrats ruled the Central African Republic and a few semi-democratic attempts often suffered letdown before it even started.  Today, its estimated population is about 5 million and its religious groups consist of 80% Christians, 15% Muslims, and other indigenous groups.

Despite the growing idea of Global Village, many people around the world have never heard of the Central African Republic. I have found that only geography enthusiasts know that the Central African Republic is an independent country with in Africa and not simply a location. Thank you for letting me tell you a brief overview of the country that I was born in, I hope you enjoyed it.

Location of Central African Republic

Location of Central African Republic