Autobiographical testimonials. First part

Received: February 18, 2019

Acceptance: February 20, 2019

ROdolfo Stavenhagen (1932-2016) was one of the most important social scientists in Latin America in the last six decades. He had to live and participate in significant moments and scenarios in the history of Mexico and the world: of "interesting times", Eric Hobsbawm would say (alluding to the Chinese proverb: "God save us from interesting times"). On several occasions, during the second half of 2015, Rodolfo agreed to talk with me about his life and work. They were informal conversations, and for me fascinating, in which he let his memory flow spontaneously, while we enjoyed a good tequila on the terrace of his house in Cuernavaca. Not only was I interested in exploring his intellectual development in the context of the Mexican, American, French and Latin American academic world, I also wanted to understand the moral search of a human person committed to his circumstance.

I present in this issue of Encartes two snippets of these conversations. The first, entitled "A family exiled in Mexico City," opens a window on Rodolfo's childhood and youth in the 1940s. He was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1932. Two years later, Hitler was became dictator and consolidated the Nazi regime. Like other Jewish families, the Stavenhagens had to leave their country to save their lives and, after traveling through other European countries, they settled in the capital of Mexico in 1940. In the following years the Second World War unfolded. Many refugees and agents of various nationalities have already arrived in Mexico City. Kurt Stavenhagen, Rodolfo's father, was a renowned specialist and collector of ancient art; his home soon became a meeting place for leftist artists and intellectuals, both Mexican and European in exile. In this fragment Rodolfo tells us his impressions about some of these people.

In the second fragment, “A student of the ENAH in the Papaloapan Commission”, the conversation takes us to the years 1953-1955, when Rodolfo was studying at the National School of Anthropology and History. (We had previously talked about his visit to Chiapas in the company of a married couple who were friends of his parents, Frans and Trudi Blom - two great scholars and benefactors of the Lacandon people -, from which his interest in anthropology was born, and also around the biennium that happened at the University of Chicago, where he attended Robert Redfield's classes). As a student of the ENAH, in the summer of 1953, Rodolfo had the opportunity to carry out a fieldwork stay in the riverside area of the Papaloapan River, just at the time when the Mazatec people were being displaced from their communities to make room for to the construction of the Miguel Alemán dam. The National Indigenous Institute (INI) was in charge of coordinating the transfer of the Mazatecs. Two years later, Rodolfo returned to the region, as an INI fellow, to monitor agricultural work in one of the new towns. It was a shocking experience, which sowed in the new anthropologist the seeds of a critical opinion about the concepts of development and modernization, inter-ethnic relations and the indigenous enterprise in Mexico.

In the next issue of Encartes Other snippets of these conversations will be posted. My thanks go to my admired and long-awaited friend Rodolfo, and to his wife Elia for their splendid hospitality. I also thank Regina Martínez Casas, who took charge of the video recording and participated appropriately in the conversations, and Saúl Justino Prieto Mendoza, for his efficient help in editing.

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