Issue - July 2008



July 2008
Editorial

In this month's issue Hanna Redknap interview a volunteer teaching Children rights at school as well she visited Inti Wara Yassi Community; Perry King put in the picture Eva Biard's work at Ciudadela SEDEGES; finally Walter Sánchez with Family Portrait...read more...

July 2008

Family Portraits - Retratos de Familia

Tiempo atrás en Bolivia los retratos de familia tenían mayor importancia, nos permitían ver la dimensión de la vida familiar.

Long ago and now in Bolivia, family portraits were important to see the magnitude of the family life.

Walter Sánchez

English version

La documentación escrita no es particularmente bondadosa con aquellas esferas que hacen al conocimiento de la vida cotidiana de una sociedad. Cosa contraria sucede con la fotografía que, al guardar momentos especiales de la vida de la gente, permite acceder a aspectos desconocidos y cotidianos de los individuos o de una colectividad. El retrato de familia es, en este sentido, una fuente importante ya que permite ver dimensiones de la vida privada de una familia. Así mismo, puede ayudarnos a comprender no sólo la estructura familiar, las representaciones que la gente tiene de la familia, las jerarquizaciones que se establecen dentro de ella, sino también, cómo se estructura una sociedad.

Tres retratos tomado por fotógrafos profesionales pueden ejemplificar la concepción de familia de la sociedad mestizo-criolla de Cochabamba de fines del siglo XIX y principios del siglo XX. Dos fotografías retratan a familias extendidas y, una tercera, a una familia nuclear.

Un rasgo importante en la narrativa de las tres fotografías, es el escenario elegido para su registro. En la primera foto, es el patio central. La casa no parece ser grande, tampoco con mucha luz. Por tal motivo, es posible que el fotógrafo eligiera este sector que destaca, además, por la presencia de plantas. A fin de dar mayor prestancia, en el piso se han puesto frazadas a modo de alfombra. La segunda foto ha sido registrada en el interior de la casa, que parece grande e iluminada. No existe ningún tipo de decoración en las paredes. La tercera foto es, sin ninguna duda, dentro de en un estudio fotográfico donde se ha re-creado un escenario distinto al de la casa familiar a través del “telón de fondo”.

Destaca en él, un paisaje arquitectónico europeo. La ubicación de las personas para el registro fotográfico no es aleatoria. Todos los miembros “conocen” el espacio que les corresponde dentro de la estructura familiar -y fotográfica. La misma se organiza a partir de la figura central del hombre-padre/patriarca. En las dos fotografías en las que se registra a la familia extendida, la estructura familiar se organiza en tres niveles. Los niños/niñas, son sentados en el piso; pertenecen al nivel más bajo. El nivel intermedio está dominado por el padre -que resalta por su ubicación central- y donde se hallan también la esposa, los abuelos/abuelas y, en muchos casos, alguna de las hijas.

Todos se hallan cómodamente sentados. Detrás, de pie, aparecen generalmente los esposos de las hijas, las hijas mayores, los/las sobrinas y las nueras. La fotografía que registra a la familia nuclear muestra una disposición similar a pesar de las diferencias. El hombre-padre/patriarca se halla sentado al centro. La esposa, parada, se ubica a lado suyo, tocando al marido. Los dos hijos se hallan junto a sus padres: la niña, sentada en las piernas del padre y el niño, apoyado en la madre. De manera relevante, el piso se halla reservado para una niña indígena -posiblemente una empleada dedicada al cuidado de los niños- que, sugerentemente, se halla integrada dentro de la familia nuclear.

Estas representaciones, puestas en evidencia por la fotografía, no sólo muestran el papel del hombre, padre, o patriarca dentro de la vida privada de la familia sino su centralidad en la sociedad, destacando gráficamente que mujeres, yernos, niños, indios e indias se hallaban sometidos a su autoridad. Tal hecho puede ser fácilmente corroborado si vemos que todos los cargos de poder, civil, militar y/o religioso en Cochabamba a fines del siglo XX y principios del siglo XX se hallan en manos de los hombres, patriarcas reconocidos por toda la sociedad.

La fotografía, con todas sus limitaciones -debido a que su registro capta sólo un instante de lo real, es una fuente documental de primera mano que permite conocer las construcciones sociales que hacen al espacio privado de ciertos sectores de la sociedad. Por analogía o por extensión, es un documento que nos ayuda a comprender los sistemas de representaciones dentro de una sociedad; en este caso, de la sociedad cochabambina.

Written material is not particularly kind with those spheres which make the knowledge of the daily life of a society . On the contrary, photography saves special moments in people’s lives, which allows to access to the unknown and daily aspects as individual as community. In this way, family portraits are important resources since it allows us to see dimensions of the private life of a family. Likewise, it can help us to understand not only the family’s structure (the representations that people have of the family and the hierarchy that are established within it), but also how a society is structured.

Three portraits taken by professional photographers illustrate the family’s conception of the mixed-creole society of Cochabamba at the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century. Two photographs portray large families and a third a family’s nuclei. A very important characteristic in the narrative of the three photographs is the setting chosen for its register. The first picture is located in a central yard. The house does not appear to be large, neither with a lot of light. For this reason, it is possible that the photographer would choose this area because the plants stand out. With the purpose of highlight, they put blankets on the floor as a carpet.The second photograph was registered inside a house that looks big and bright. Any kind of decoration does not exist on the walls. The third picture is, without a doubt, inside a photo studio where a scenario was re-created different to the family’s house through the backdrop. It emphasizes in it a European architectural landscape.

The location of the people, into photograph registration, is not random. All members of the family “know” their rightful space as the family structure as in the photo. It is organized starting from central figure, that is the man, father or patriarch. In both photographs in which the whole family is recorded, the family structure is organized in three levels. The children take a seat on the floor; they belong at the lower class. The mid level is dominated by the father that highlights his central location. Also the wife, the grandfather, grandmother and, in many cases, one of the daughters are found there. They are sitting down comfortably. Behind, standing up, the daughter’s husbands, the olderdaughter, the nephews and nieces, and the daughter in law generally appear. The photography that records the family’s nuclei shows a similar provision despite of the differences. The patriarch is sitting down at the centre. The wife, standing up, is situated next to him, touching her husband. The two children are next to their parents. The little girl, possibly dedicated to care for the children, is incorporated into the family’s nucleo.

These representations, shown by evidence by the photograph, not only show the play of man-father/patriarch within the privacy of the family but its centrality in the society, stressing that women, sons in law, children and Indian men who are under his authority. That fact can be easily confirmed if we see that all power – civilian, military and religious ranks in Cochabamba at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century – were in the hands of men, patriarchs recognized by the whole society.
The photography, with all its limitations and because of its record, picks up only a moment of the reality. But it is a first hand documentary source that shows the social constructions that made the deprived space of certain sectors of the society. By analogy or extension the document that helps us to understand the systems of representations within Cochabamba society. Long ago and now in Bolivia, family portraits are important to see magnitude of the individual family life.

Claudia Malfatti

Coming to Bolivia to work as a volunteer, and staying in Cochabamba, she has worked at the Defensoría de la Niñez y Adolecencia, and teaching children about their rights in a school in Tiquipaya. The project helped her write her thesis for her studies in psychology in Italy, in which she is focusing on children’s development and the impact that children’s rights and self-awareness has on development...

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