The bicentennial commemorations of the starting of the movements that led to the national independence in Latin America, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela in 2010; Uruguay, El Salvador and Paraguay in 2011, and several other countries in the next 15 years, offer an excellent opportunity for comparative and multidisciplinary action-research on how governments and civil society in these countries are constructing their bicentennial commemorations and how they use this historical moment to address urgent issues of social inclusion and institutional reform.
The Latin America Bicentennials Program produces articles, papers, books, and audiovisual materials prepared by prestigious activists, thinkers, scholars and public figures in Latin America in order to fuel the discussion and debate about new approaches to addressing the compelling problems faced by countries in the region.
The OLA and the Bicentennial Program of the FADU-UBA, together with research teams in Chile, Ecuador, México and Uruguay, embarked in 2008 on a four-year project to document and interpret the: ways in which countries constructed their national centennial and bicentennial commemorations through public, private and civil society initiatives; ways in which these commemorations left their mark on their respective cities; processes, outcomes and tangible and intangible footprints of the commemorations, including projects for the future relationship between the bicentennial commemorations and the effect of the current global economic crisis on local economies; and relationship between the bicentennial commemorations and local political mobilizations. To achieve these objectives, the Bicentennial Program of the OLA with its partner Latin American institutions has held two International Calls for Papers and Audiovisual Presentations as well as conferences and discussions in New York, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. The First Call (2008-2009) culminated with a conference held at The New School in February 2009, and the Second Call with a Bicentennial Summit Research Conference at UNAM, Mexico in May 2011. Those conferences, where the 5 awardees of each call presented their work, brought together regional and national policy-makers and researchers from government, universities, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The results of those 2 calls and conferences has been published in two books: Construir Bicentenarios Latinoamericanos en la Era de la Globalización (2011), and Bicentenarios en Acción: Conmemoración, Crisis Económica y Movilización Política en América Latina (forthcoming in 2012).
In 2004, the Latin American Bicentennial Project (LABP) team of the New School created an initial database on bicentennial activities and published an edited volume in 2005 titled "Construir Bicentenarios: Argentina". The publication focused on the meaning of commemoration and specific proposals for discussion during the Argentine Bicentennial. Some 10,000 copies of this book were printed in collaboration with Caras y Caretas, and thousands have been sold in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America. An important message of this book is that the Bicentennial should be a process and not a one time event.
This work has been further extended by the Bicentennial Project (BP) of School of Architecture, Design, and Urban Planning of the University of Buenos Aires (FADU-UBA), which has developed a directory of 90 bicentennial activities in Argentina and elsewhere in the region. The BP consists of 18 Argentine staff, most working as volunteers, under the supervision of Professor Margarita Gutman and Associate Professor Rita Molinos, and they are also working with the City and Provincial Governments of Buenos Aires.
Building on the work already underway at the New School and at FADU-UBA, the BP is carrying out a joint action-research effort to collaborate with researchers throughout the region. This effort includes strengthening capacity and creating tools for the region as a whole to best discuss and continue to work on the process of "re-founding". Tools for this include: web site, an on-line publication (The Bicentennial Observer), and a Bicentennial database, as well as an International Call for Submissions of Papers and Visual Digital Presentations on the above subjects which would include papers and participants from the other countries as well. Discussion of these papers in regional conferences with policy-makers and representatives of civil society organizations in 2009 and 2010 would will itself also be part of the Bicentennial process. In addition, throughout the period of regional commemorations, the LABP will support publications in the form of books, articles, and a web -site.
The Observatory on Latin America (OLA) of the New School and the Bicentennial Program of the FADU-UBA, together with research teams in Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay, have embarked on a three-year action and research project to document and interpret:
1) the different modes by which Latin American countries constructed their national centennial commemorations and how they left their mark on their respective cities, and how they are preparing their bicentennials;
2) the different ways in which Latin American countries commemorate their national bicentennial through public, private and civil society initiatives;
3) the processes and outcomes, in terms of current plans and their links to projects for the future;
4) the relationship between the bicentennial commemorations and the effect of the current global economic crisis on local economies; and
5) the relationship between the bicentennial commemorations and local political mobilizations.
To achieve this goal, the OLA Bicentennial Program has organized two International Calls for Papers and Audiovisual Presentations. The project will culminate in a Bicentennial Summit Research Conference in Mexico in 2011 bringing together regional and national policy-makers and researchers from government, universities, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations.