Schlagwort-Archive: alert

“We’re Told to Be Alert”: Pots, Pans, and the Ends of Civil Disobedience

by Eraldo Souza dos Santos

(မြန်မာလိုဖတ်ရန်ဒီလင့် ကိုနှိပ်ပါ
နူးနူးလုဆန်မှ ဘာသာပြန်ဆိုထားသည်)

(Click here for a Burmese translation. Translator: Nu Nu Lusan.)

The opening scenes of Burma Spring 21 are deafening. They show citizens and residents of Burma protesting the February 2021 coup d’état by banging pots and pans from their windows and on the streets. Since the 1830s, when opponents of Louis Philippe I of France banged pots against his regime, it has become a key form of political protest across the world. In Burma, as commentators have pointed out, it is also a “traditional ritual way” to ward off evil spirits. “Let’s bang pans and pots tomorrow to drive away the evil dictatorship,” urged the anti-coup Civil Disobedience Movement on July 3, 2021, the birthday of the Junta’s chief General Min Aung Hlaing. In the Burmese news website The Irrawaddy’s analysis, banging pots and pans in Burma has had, in this regard, “a mystical as well as a political purpose.” But there is a purpose thereof that has been largely neglected by scholars, pundits, and political commentators. The “new sound” of the Burmese protests has served to alert one’s fellow neighbors of the arrival of policemen and soldiers often in the dead of the night.

Pots and Pans, Source: Flickr.

Since February 13, 2021, activists and human rights organizations have denounced the ways in which the military has “kidnapped” and “night-dragged” those who have participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement. As a Burmese activist wrote on Twitter, the “Burmese police are starting to kidnap community leaders, fire civil servants who are in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Neighbors bang their pots and pans to scare them away. We’re told to be alert. We feel very, very unsafe.” Or as Nant, the young protagonist of the documentary feature Padauk: Myanmar Spring, says, “When they roam the streets at night searching homes and shooting into windows, we call them dogs and bang on pots in protest.”

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Trucha: what’s so “trout” about being vigilant?

guest article by Henry Kammler

(All original data collected by Catherine Whittaker unless otherwise indicated.)

“You have to stay trucha in Tijuana,” the tour guide explains while taking a group — all holders of privileged passports — South on a day tour across the border from San Diego. What if someone stole your passport and later committed a crime on US soil? You’d be in trouble for the rest of your life.

Why would the Anglophone guide say trucha, Spanish for “trout”, in his cautionary advice? Global media coverage has made one example of trucha used in this sense quite famous: the name of a multinational street gang originating in Central America, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Interpreted as a standard Spanish expression, the attribute salvatrucha may be mistaken as meaning “saving trout” (with salva meaning ‘save’ and trucha meaning ‘trout’). In Mesoamerican colloquial speech, however, the intended label “shrewd Salvadorians” is relatively clear, not least because trucha in its usage as an adjective is an everyday term in regional Spanish.

Sea trout, 1913 by Heinrich Harder, uploaded by Jan Willemsen on Flickr.

Hybrid English-Spanish expressions like “staying trucha” or “being trucha”, which are common among the Chicano/a population in the US, indicate that the meaning of the loan element trucha doesn’t have an adequate semantic counterpart in English. Loosely translatable as “alert, shrewd, sharp, vigilant, watchful, on one’s toes”, trucha operates on several levels of meaning: an individual’s momentary stance, an individual’s behavior of constant watchfulness, as well as a habitus and even a collective cultural trait. As Alberto Pulido, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego, asserts: “Being trucha is a way of life” (interview Feb 19th, 2020). A look at different contexts of the use of trucha may help shed some light on this claim.

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