Tlaxcala, Anti-Imperialist Translators celebrate our 3rd Anniversary!

Posted: 02/21/2009 by editormary in Counter-terrorism, No thanks!, Features, Grassroots Activism, Ideas and Projects, Newswire, Opinions and Letters, Resistance
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Over three years ago, an idea took shape. That idea was to create a network of activists that would share their material, translating things they considered important from one language, and in exchange, they would be able to circulate things translated by others. We hoped that we could contribute to a more active, involved discourse in our own milieus that would not limited by language. We believed that a good article was like a painting or a song, if it had something to communicate, it could be appreciated in a different context, and we wanted to spread the ideas around as much as we could. We already liked some of the same authors, some of the same sources, and had a common view of the major issues, not less important, we shared a bond of friendship and trust. It was intended to be “for private use”, for our mailing lists, newsgroups, blogs and personal research. We didn’t create it with the intention of making it become a site. Yet, after four months of collaboration, that group of people decided it would be a good idea to share the material we were quickly compiling in great quantity with others. There was no other solution but to open a site, which we launched officially on this day. www.tlaxcala.es

Tlaxcala at the time was a loose assembly of about 25 translator-activists who decided to pool their resources and work in a coalition by agreeing to a common ideal. There have been translation collectives before, and many sites have staff that translates, and most of us had been translating for one site or another as volunteers for a few years, so we weren’t inventing anything new when we started, but there was indeed something “different” about Tlaxcala. The difference of Tlaxcala with other groups is still quite obvious to those of us who answered that first calling to “form a group of anti-imperialist translators”. We have maintained that focus, translating a staggering quantity of material, broadening our vision as a group, but also as individuals. We are trying to keep awareness on what the struggle against “Empire” really is. Together we have discovered how the only way to support liberation from the domination of Empire (be it military, economic, cultural, social, religious, political) is to actively participate, reclaiming the miracle and the mystery of diversity, exalting it even, while making the connection between every struggle, finding their commonalities as well as discovering their unique aspects, and discovering that there are more than a few rays of hope filtering in, and the mainstream media doesn’t seem to want to let people know.

Hegemonic thinking exists in every society, anywhere there is a need for consensus. It is not necessarily damaging to the causes of liberation, and indeed, there are corners of the world where “the people” are influencing “the power elite”, and this too is important news to share. An example among many, for three days the Italian media was hounding about the “mania of dictatorship of Chavez”. The mainstream must have been convinced it was enough to paint him as a megalomaniac and dangerous demagogue, after all, they use the same “Rogue State” menu that they are taught to use by the US. Apparently, it’s easy to call someone a dictator when there is a belief that “the people would not let this happen” and it was basically a given that the Venezuelan referendum would not pass. When it actually did pass, all of a sudden there was silence, this kind of consensus doesn’t seem to find any air time between one fluff story and another. More than that, it would have created a difficult situation to handle: either implying that Venezuelans do not know what democracy is, or that our mass media was busy using a propagandistic element with the Italian public. Either way, they took the easy way out and simply made that story disappear.

Tlaxcala is a group that exists in the realm of language, one that places the struggle for freedom, peace and justice in that sphere. Language is the basis of human existence. We came into a world that was already loaded with meaning, and we learn its codes, its mores and its limits through words. Indeed, our own existence is moulded by the language that we discover, each one of us on our own. It should not be surprising that activists are not expected only to vote or march when called to do so, they are aware of the important position that discourse always has had, of how it evolves, of the way it becomes an action itself, and for an activist-translator, action and language merge their boundaries, they unite into a single instrument.

Since the founding of Tlaxcala, we have grown in number and in dedication. We have obviously fulfilled our purpose of translating material (we now also subtitle videos and have an audio-visual section on our site, in addition to coordinating or supporting international campaigns and petitions), but more than that, we have grown into “Tlaxcala”: an international group with a distinctive character. Not only that, Tlaxcala this month, due to exponential increase in its user base, is upgrading the site, which will be easier to navigate, and will integrate more language pages and with improved features. But the site is only the aspect of Tlaxcala that others see. Tlaxcala is very much more than that.

It actually is hard for me to describe what Tlaxcala really is. Without being a party, sect, social network or NGO, it has managed to create a strong community. There is a human bond and connection of respect, admiration, collaboration and commitment that is so rare it actually does stand out when it happens. I don’t believe a day has gone by when I haven’t learned something, from improving my language skills to learning about the situation in another country to finding out information that otherwise would have been very difficult for me to obtain. I don’t think I would exaggerate to say that many members of Tlaxcala can attest to the same thing. Additionally, I have come into contact with so many outstanding people, people with brilliant minds, generous hearts, a sense of humour, compassion, talent. Every new member brings a whole new patrimony to our group, it is like discovering a new branch on a family tree. Each new member is reason for celebration. This is not to say there are not passionate disputes, that we sit around the campfire singing Kumbayah, but the bond that unites us is strong enough to ALLOW room for debate, dispute and discussion. This is the private side of Tlaxcala, and it is a source of enrichment for those who participate.

Three questions were posed to our members, so that words could convey the relationship between the aspect as an activist and as a translator. Here are replies to these questions from some of our members: I asked them to reply in a language I understood, and I hope the readers of this can also understand the material that is not in English. Check the Tlaxcala site, who knows if it won’t be translated into other languages!?

1)    Do you believe that your participation in our collective has affected your own activism?

Adib: Collective work is always creative and stirs activism and new ideas, man is a social animal, thus always learns from others.  

Atenea: Without a doubt. I believe that activism is about putting your life experience and education at the service of political causes that you strongly support and believe in. Tlaxcala has become one of the key places where I have been able to combine both my profession and principles to contribute, and it has shown me many a times that collective activism is powerful and effective.

Carlos: Naturalmente que si. Primeramente, porque aprendo cada día un oficio que no me es propio, el de traductor, de muy buenos traductores de todo el mundo. Segundo, porque a través de Tlaxcala se produce un importante intercambio de información que es de gran utilidad en otras actividades que hago en redes y organizaciones, con lo que Tlaxcala transciende más allá del  grupo en sí. Tercero porque aporta un enfoque amplio en matices pero bastante estructurado que conforma un tapiz de lo que podríamos considerar una corriente universal de izquierdas en la que es posible y grato trabajar hasta el punto de lamentar muchas veces no disponer del tiempo suficiente para hacerlo. 

Cristina: Mi activismo está ya muy activado, pero Tlaxcala me permite estar al día y acceder a información que de otra manera, a lo mejor, no tenía y propagarla por el mundo.

Diego: Beh, non mi sento un attivista o, almeno, non ritengo paragonabile quello che faccio ad una qualsivoglia forma di attivismo. Detto questo, mi fa piacere far parte di una comunità di persone umane, serie ed intelligenti che, loro sì, hanno molto da insegnare e da cui sono orgoglioso di poter apprendere. Soprattutto, Tlaxcala è un modo per evadere dalla nostra miserabile condizione italiana, soprattutto per evadere dal mare di soprusi e bugie in cui affoghiamo. Tlaxcala, senza retorica, non è solo un modo per conoscere nuova gente e mentalità diverse ma, per me, è una via per far sapere alle persone degli altri paesi che qui in Italia siamo ancora molti a non arrendersi a questo declino morale e sociale che ci sta inghiottendo. In condizioni normali, le idee o gli articoli degli autori che spesso “traduco” circolerebbero senza troppi problemi attraverso i normali canali. Ma non viviamo in condizioni normali e quindi ritengo di dover fare qualcosa per fare sapere almeno all’estero che qui in Italia abbiamo tante persone che meritano di essere ascoltate. E d’altro canto, cercare di contribuire a diffondere le notizie di avvenimenti esteri che qui da noi vengono spudoratamente filtrati, manipolati o censurati. Cmq faccio tutto questo sempre nella consapevolezza che poter scrivere e fare queste cose è un lusso che probabilmente la maggioranza della popolazione mondiale non può permettersi avendo necessità di sopravvivere. E’ uno dei tanti sensi di colpa che mi tormentano da sempre: se ragionassi come molti, dovrei godermi di più la vita proprio per rispetto di chi è meno fortunato, proprio come quando i genitori rimproverano i figli che non consumano fino in fondo il proprio pasto “per rispetto ai bimbi africani”. E’ sbagliato, è come dire che bisogna consumare di più per rispetto di chi non ha niente. In realtà, bisognerebbe rinunciare concretamente ad una parte di quel che abbiamo affinché i bisogni di qualcun altro possano essere soddisfatti. Questa è l’unica via. E, a parte la rinuncia concreta che mi impongo su molte cose, Tlaxcala è un modo come diversi altri per sentirsi più vicini a quelle persone, nella speranza che mi trasmettano un po’ della loro dignità.

 

Dima: it restored my faith in collective activism…

Esteban: Yes, I’m more attentive with the various opinions.

Kourosh: Definitely. Tlaxcala has contributed to my progression immensely. Since I was invited to join the network by Manuel Talens and Mary Rizzo, I made the acquaintance of a number of mindful, intellectual, prosperous and inspirational people who are unassumingly ready for any kind of sacrifice and commitment.

Following my admission into the network, my interviews and articles, fortunately, achieved a broad feedback and reflection internationally, thanks to the constructive contribution and involvement of worldwide translators who work under the umbrella of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity.

 

As a journalist who pays a high priority to the circulation of his message and the wide distribution of his productions, I’m exceptionally satisfied that my articles, interviews and reports were translated into Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swedish and a couple of other languages pursuant to the precious and worthwhile endeavors of Tlaxcalains. I hope this could help the world to hear our call for peace, equality, improvement, tranquility and brotherhood.

 

Manuel: Le ha dado una visión mundial y ha eliminado cualquier resto de nacionalismo que pudiera quedar en mi.

Nadia:  No sólo ha afectado mi activismo, sino que cada día le da forma, de la mayor consistencia. Tlaxcala para mi es algo más, mucho más que un grupo de activistas procedentes de distintos lugares del mundo que comparten ciertos ideales, que persiguen ciertas metas en común, es una escuela, una escuela en la que perfeccionamos nuestras habilidades linguisticas, pero además, y más importante, trabajamos para construir un mundo mejor, un mundo sin exclusiones, sin prejuicios, un mundo en el que todos podamos ver más allá de la punta de nuestras narices. 

Susanne: I am a member of the local WDM (World Development Movement) group and I have been sharing some of the articles and videos with them. The articles I read on and translate for Tlaxcala provide me with view from those that are marginalised or completely ignored in the mainstream media and that helps to inform my own activism.

2)     What feelings and thoughts come to you when you are translating and then when you see your translations published?

Adib: The world is a global village; so you have to know what your next door neighbor and friend believes in to be able to associate with him in a civil manner so as both of you benefit from each other’s work, unless that next door neighbor is an intruding enemy who plans to expand to your living and bed rooms, then kick you out and replace you in them as we Palestinians are suffering with our intruding unwanted “guests”.. Translation helps you to know both your friend, to ally with him, and your enemy, to confront him and put an end to his atrocities. Know both your enemies and friends. Unfortunately what we learned from our enemy is that he is not willing to learn from his own mistakes… We learned that our enemy is digging its grave with its own hands.

When you see your translations published you earn satisfaction as you know that your time was not wasted, on the contrary it benefits others.

 

 

Atenea: I only choose to translate those articles and essays that resonate with my political convictions and interests, so the experience is always rewarding as every time I learn and/or open new windows to further strengthen my position in specific issues. I try to stay away from well-known authors in alternative media as I find it more urgent to lend my skills and profession to convey the ideas and thoughts of those who are not so popular but equally incisive and sharp. Publication and re-publication in other sites only means that we are achieving our goal as a group: giving a voice to those who would otherwise remain unheard, offering people a view into the other side of the (hi)story, and counteracting and counterbalancing the enormous amount of mainstream so-called information that bombards the world 24/7.

Carlos: Si la conciencia colectiva de una comunidad es su idioma, el esfuerzo de traducir a otra lengua diferente de la tuya, la materna, es adentrarse en un horizonte nuevo y abrirse a una nueva mentalidad, y así es como acometo un texto, que escojo en función de varias consideraciones y no sólo de mis preferencias personales puesto que influye la actualidad, la relevancia de lo tratado, los hechos que rodean el texto, su autor, etc..

Cuando un trabajo se ve después publicado pienso en la utilidad que pueda tener y para quién puede tenerla. Busco vestigios de errores y trato de tenerlos en cuenta para la siguiente traducción y también para escoger un nuevo texto. De unos trabajos te sientes más satisfecho que de otros pero, como los temporales en la mar, el peor siempre es el último.

Cristina: Hay veces (me acaba de pasar con un tema de Venezuela) en que me apasiono e implico de tal modo que me sale una traducción con mucha vida y yo llego a emocionarme. ¡Ésas son las mejores! 
No he visto aún ninguna traducción mía publicada porque soy una novata entre vosotros.

Diego: Nell’ordine: camuffare in qualche modo la mia limitata conoscenza della lingua straniera; evitare fraintendimenti e possibili querele (che da noi sono molto di moda) sperare di non commettere troppi errori, visto che tu ed altri dovete sobbarcarvi le revisioni. Quanto alle pubblicazioni fanno piacere ma più che altro implicano la possibilità che ancor più persone possano leggerle.

Dima: I recognise the importance of what we’re doing as translators, seeing the translations on the web affirms my commitment. it’s only a shame I can’t contribute as frequently as i would like to..

Esteban: Je n’en tire aucune gratification personnelle, le seul fait de savoir que le texte d’un auteur engagé pour les mêmes idées que moi sera certainement lu par des personnes qui n’auraient jamais pu le lire et par conséquent n’auraient pas pu avoir une information parallèle ou un avis en dehors du cadre de la pensée unique m’incite à catalyser les deux parties. Tous les textes de Tlaxcala (et d’autres sites également) ne seront jamais imprimés dans la presse impérialiste, et pourtant avec Tlaxcala ils sont à la portée de tout un chacun afin qu’il s’interroge et s’aperçoivent comment les médias manipulent les consciences. Le niveau des textes étant élevé, Tlaxcala est un excellent vecteur d’information, d’apprentissage, de formation et de stimulateur à la lutte.

Kourosh: At the time of writing and translating, I just try to set focus on the job which is assigned to me; a genuine concentration. Due to the overwhelming clutter of works which usually entangle me, sometimes I can not manage to draw the projects to a close and finish up the works timely, for which I should apologize to all of the Tlaxcalains; however, that’s a source of honor and pride for me to see an abundant trust and confidence which the people bestow upon me.

Manuel: Como cualquier otro traductor implicado en un trabajo político colectivo y voluntario, escojo los textos en función de mis propias preferencias. En el proceso de traducción procuro plasmar las ideas del autor original de la manera más clara posible y con la mayor corrección estilística de la que soy capaz. El lector se merece siempre un buen texto. Cuando veo mis traducciones publicadas suelo estar ya haciendo alguna nueva, así que nunca vuelvo la vista atrás.

Nadia: Una traducción publicada es un nuevo cohete qassam lanzado en contra de la ocupación de la que somos objeto, es un acto de protesta y por ende de resistencia. Tal como los combatientes que en algún rincón del mundo elaboran rudimentarias armas para defenderse de aquellos que los oprimen, nosotros, con nuestras traducciones también reivindicamos nuestro derecho a luchar elaborando cada una de nuestras traducciones. En el proceso dejamos el alma, no hay traducción que no cuente, que no aporte, cada una de ellas representa nuestro grito de protesta, ese grito que, como decía el subcomandante marcos, se sumará al de otros en distintos rincones del mundo hasta finalmente ser escuchado por aquellos que resisten y luchan con las armas en nuestro nombre, porque todos somos combatientes, todos somos palestinos, subsaharianos, iraquíes, tibetanos, todos empuñamos la misma arma.

Susanne: Some of the articles in particular made me think about how the things are connected and how the response in the Western corporate media just doesn’t reflect the severity of some conflicts and the suffering in the world because of some powerful interests, it’s like a script being followed. I have noticed how my translations appear on a number of blogs after publication on Tlaxcala, for all those readers who want to get beyond the scripted reporting in the corporate media. It makes me happy.

3)     Have you gained in a personal way from participation in our collective, or have you lost something?

 

Adib: Definitely both in a personal and collective way. How could anybody lose in collective work. Collective efforts is like yeast that matures dough that becomes good bread when baked thus you have your fill that is consumed with pleasure.

Atenea: No original answer here: I have gained a solid network of compañeros whom I share a world and life view with, a really big thing when you actually think about it. I have lost some free time, but have become a more creative time manager!

Carlos: Aparte de algunas clases de saxofón he perdido poca cosa comparado con lo mucho que he ganado, lo más importante de todo: estar en contacto con un creciente grupo de personas extraordinarias, lo cual sería imposible de otra forma. He ganado también  aprendizaje y  posibilidades de expresión. Desde cualquier punto de vista personal la experiencia es enormemente positiva.

Cristina: He ganado el participar en un proyecto como Tlaxcala del que soy admiradora hace años.
Me enorgullece formar parte de un grupo de gente tan luchador, generoso, valiente con cuyas metas y puntos de vista coincido al cien por cien.
No pierdo nada, porque el tiempo empleado me parece un granito más de arena en la montaña que pare la injusticia.

 

Diego: Mi pare di aver risposto in parte già nella prima. Cmq, più che altro, mi pare di star “rincretinendomi”. Ma forse dipende dal fatto che è Tlaxcala stessa ad essere probabilmente qualcosa di un po’ “folle”.

 

Dima: I like being in a world-wide collective and I intend to plan some trips to countries when some Tlaxcala members have a spare bed for me to lie on (watch out everyone!)

 

Esteban: Comme j’ai dit dans la phrase en rouge ci-dessus, elle est pour moi EN PREMIER. Et donc j’ai gagné sur mon chemin personnel et j’espère encore gagner dans mon apprentissage sur les couleurs du monde, dans ma façon de penser et de réagir. Il faut dire que l’activité intense de beaucoup de militants au sein de l’association incite à aller de l’avant.

 

Je profite de ce questionnaire pour dire que : il est vrai que j’ai des préférences pour des textes et des auteurs, mais je n’ai AUCUNE retenue pour les luttes et les combats des peuples, ethnies, communautés ou individu contre l’impérialisme aliénateur. De même, il y a quelquefois des textes auxquels je n’adhère pas entièrement, alors, je m’abstiens de traduire ou de commenter ; pour autant si une majorité des membres actifs pense que ce texte peut être positif pour les luttes (même s’il n’a pas la radicalité qui me convient), alors je m’investis dans cette optique, ET JE L’ASSUME (« Je l’assume » c’est la seule raison qui me fait signer à la fin, sinon je signerais « le collectif »).

 

it’s a part of me…

Kourosh: Undisputedly, working in Tlaxcala added some new values to me. A beneficial sort of communal cooperation with a group of admirable people who are enthusiastic about their works, making new contacts with people who understand the reality of pure dedication, commitment and pledge, fueling the process of advantageous movements to help the oppressed, needy and impoverished worldwide and finally, acting upon the responsibilities which I believe are allocated to me.

Manuel: He ganado un horizonte sin fronteras y he perdido tiempo libre.

Nadia: No he perdido nada, cómo podría? He ganado mucho, he ganado un espacio de lucha y me siento privilegiada por ello, he ganado el martillo y el cincel con los que estoy contribuyendo a modelar el mundo en el que quiero vivir. 

Susanne: It’s only a short time since I have been a member, but in this time I have been very impressed and inspired by the dedication and courage of Tlaxcala’s members and friends. It is very life affirming and gives me hope that the world can be improved. 

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Comments
  1. Congrats to Mary and to the rest of the Tlaxcala membership .This effort is greatly needed and appreciated .Thank you for keeping our eyes and minds open.

  2. Mary Rizzo says:

    Thanks Yousef! It is rare that a lot of hard work can also be gratifying, useful and appreciated by others, but Tlaxcala really is. If you’d ever like to join, we would love to have you!

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