Mike Gonzalez

A time for tragedy

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Phèdre, National Theatre, London, until 27 August

"For a writer to experience life tragically...there must be in his society a poignant, underlying sense of the times being morally and practically out of joint" (Victor Kiernan).

If that is so, then it is a perfect moment for the National Theatre to present the tragedy of Phaedra (Phèdre), with Helen Mirren in the title role.

Augusto Boal has left the stage

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Mike Gonzalez and Marianella Yanes pay homage to the founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal, who died last month

It would be wrong to describe Augusto Boal as a theatre director, a dramatist, a producer or an actor, though he was all of those things. Returning to his native Brazil in 1955 from the US with a degree in theatre arts, he was hired to work for the famous Arena Theatre, which challenged the social realism of the theatre of the time with the ideas of Bertolt Brecht.

Little Ashes

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Director: Paul Morrison; Release date: 8 May

Paul Morrison's Little Ashes explores the relationship between three young artists sharing rooms in the student halls of residence in Madrid University. Their stories would turn out very differently, but their meeting was significant.

In 1922, when the film begins, Luis Buñuel, Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali shared a Bohemian student life in the Spanish capital. It was still a heavily Catholic and repressive society, where the extravagant homosexuality and theatrical antics of these young men provoked the rage of polite society.

A victory for the left in El Salvador?

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El Salvador may be one of Latin America's smallest countries (the size of Wales with a population of around 7 million), but politically it is highly significant.

The war of national liberation that began there in 1980 came pretty close to victory in January 1981, with a massive armed mobilisation of workers. The injection of huge amounts of military aid by the US broke the back of the Salvadorean resistance. But this was only after ten years of heroic rural and urban struggle, a struggle led by a coalition of several left organisations, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Augustin Farabundo Marti was the communist leader of a failed national rising in 1932.

Latin America and the struggles to come

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For a decade global capitalism has suffered setbacks and defeats in the continent where it had been at its most aggressive. Mike Gonzalez argues it is the new forces that have led the resistance which are central to continuing the struggle for a new society.

Since the new century began, Latin America has been at the centre of resistance to capitalism. The first sounds of battle came in 1994, in Chiapas, Mexico. It was a rebellion that set in motion a chain reaction of struggles. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1999, an extraordinary coalition of forces came together to fight successfully against the privatisation of water. It was the first chapter in a story of resistance, grassroots organisation and a challenge for power by the mass movements that eventually carried Evo Morales to the presidency in 2006.

Studs Terkel - Talking America

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Studs Terkel was that rare thing - a sensitive, thoughtful and attentive listener.

For 45 years his daily Chicago radio show put flesh and feeling on the bones of history. His conversations with the famous such as Billie Holliday, James Baldwin and Bob Dylan were in many ways footnotes to a longer and more profound conversation, a dialogue with working class America.

Andy Warhol: the man who wasn't there

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It might be said that Andy Warhol's most important art work was himself, or at least himself and the circle that he created around him - The Factory.

This was a strange world of white-faced ingenues, addicts and porn stars that floated in and out of his pool of light - some to tragic ends, like Edie Sedgwick, others like Viva into an endless retelling of the same story, others still, like Lou Reed, reliving the experience of the Velvet Underground for all the decades to come.

Memories of Underdevelopment

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Director: Tomas Gutierrez Alea; Release date: 11 July

It is 1961, and the middle classes of Cuba are in flight. Tomas Gutierrez Alea's 1968 film opens with an airport crowded with people leaving for Miami. The word "Exit" stamped on their passports makes it clear they will not be back. Sergio, on the other hand, stays behind - caught between the bourgeois lifestyle he has grown weary of and a Cuba whose revolution he seems not to understand. His own dilemmas are personal and sexual. His life, living on rents from his properties after the expropriation of his family furniture store, is essentially tedious.

The Farc, Chavez and the Colombian dilemma

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The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Farc, has existed since the late 1940s. But it has rarely received the kind of worldwide attention it has today.

In part, that is the result of an international campaign for the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt, the French-born presidential candidate, who has now been a Farc hostage for a number of years. But the real reason for the new focus on the Farc is more sinister and more far reaching.

Federico Garcia Lorca: the poet at five in the afternoon

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When fascist thugs murdered the 38 year old poet Federico García Lorca in Granada in August 1936, they pinned a note to his body. It denounced the writer for his politics and for his homosexuality.

But all that they achieved was that Lorca's name would still be known and celebrated two generations later. He would not die like his bullfighter friend Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, at five in the afternoon.

"A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime already prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death and death alone
at five in the afternoon."

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