Como la vida misma

Como la vida misma, the short story by Rosa Montero, puts you in the driver’s seat during a morning traffic jam in an anonymous city.  Humorous at times, the present tense, second person narration pulls you into the stress, aggression, euphoria, despair, isolation, cruelty, hope and hypocrisy of fifteen intensely lived minutes as the narrator’s car advances through a mostly hostile environment towards a hard won parking space.  Although sealed into the car for most of the story, the narrator memorably makes contact with others such as el chico en un moto:  “Su facilidad te indigna, su libertad te subleva.  Mueves el coche unos centímetros, arrimándolo una pizca al del vecino, y compruebas con alivio que el transgresor se encuentra bloqueado…”;  los otros conductores:  “Te vuelves en el asiento, te encaras con la fila de atrás, ves a los conductores a través de la capa de contaminación y polvo que cubre los cristales de tu coche.  Gesticulas desaforadamente. Los de atrás contestan con más gestos….Doscientos mil conductores solitarios encerrados en doscientos mil vehículos, todos ellos insultando gestualmente a los vecinos…”;  la peatón:  “Te abalanzas sobre la anciana, la sorteas por milímetros, la envuelves del viento de tu prisa: Cuidado abuela, gritas por la ventanilla;  estas viejas son un peligro, un peligro, te dices a ti mismo, sintiéndote cargado de razón.”  

This short story has recently been included in the revised AP Spanish Literature and Culture reading list and is now available in a number of anthologies, complete with comprehension and analysis questions.    As the title indicates, the experience of the narrator resonates on many different levels.    I won’t attempt to re-hash what has already been written, but here are some ideas for adding a sustainability dimension to class discussions.

The Asociación de Peatones de Quito, creators of Peatónman (see other posts on this blog) also produced the following video of politically-oriented cartoons depicting our relationship with cars and its impact on individuals, communities and the environment.  ¿Qué dibujo (o dibujos) te llama la atención más?  ¿Por qué?  ¿Qué dibujo (o dibujos) corresponde más a las ideas expresadas en el cuento corto Como La Vida Misma?  ¿Qué dibujo corresponde más a la realidad, según tu propia experiencia?  ¿Qué dibujo no (o menos) corresponde a la realidad?  (etc.)  ¿Cuál es lo bueno y lo malo de tener un coche?  ¿Has escuchado el lema “It’s not just a car, it’s a freedom”?  Comenta.

Trends towards urbanization have caused cities to swell.  In older cities cars often overwhelm a built environment not designed for them.  In other places neighborhoods and roads have been designed to facilitate the movement of cars to the exclusion of other factors.  Quality of life and human relationships within these communities have been prone to the same stress and degradation as the infrastructure itself.

Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, initiated a program to reduce the numbers of cars  and increase the number of pedestrians on the streets in order to improve the quality of life of the citizens.  A 2007 documentary in English, “Bogotá:  Building a Sustainable City” traces these efforts.  It’s part of PBS’ series “e2 design,” and can be purchased digitally on the internet.  Students can also research Bogotá’s Día Sin Carro, which takes place every February, and read the strong reactions–both pro and con–from ordinary participants through their commentary on the articles.

Other resources include Embarq México, a part of a network of organizations in diverse countries dedicated to sustainable public transportation and making urban spaces safe for pedestrians.  A video related to the short story can be found by searching on the above web site for the article “Por la calidad de vida de 90 millones de mexicanos.”  The video includes short interviews with commuters who report the time they spend in transit each day.  The Spanish web site Ecomovilidad supports sustainable transportation (including bicycles) in the cities of Granada, Madrid and Barcelona.

Finally, for those seeking further evidence, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-of which the U.S. and Spain are participating members) produced this report in 2011 detailing the wide-ranging benefits of walkable cities and sustainable transportation.  (I’ve attached the Spanish language version).

¿Cómo reaccionaría el narrador de Como La Vida Misma a las ideas del transporte sostenible?  ¿Por qué?  Apoya tus ideas con evidencia del cuento.  ¿Es el transporte sostenible posible o un sueño imposible?  ¿Por qué dicen que el transporte sostenible puede mejorar la calidad de vida?  ¿Tienen razón?  ¿Cuál es tu forma de movilización preferida?  ¿Por qué?  Describe un barrio ideal de una ciudad grande.  ¿Qué hay?  ¿Qué no hay?  ¿Cómo se moviliza la gente?  ¿Por qué?  ¿Cómo se comunica la gente?  ¿Por qué?

About sustainabilityandspanish

Spanish teacher and accidental environmentalist.
This entry was posted in A Sense of Place, Ecological Living, Quality of Life, Rights & Solidarity, Sustainable Economics & Consumption and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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