Erik Amézquita

PFFIE Postdoctoral Fellow

Plant Sciences and Mathematics @ University of Missouri

“Nací en un país indígena. Un país de piel oscura, pero mi piel es clara. Soy mestiza, pertenezco a una raza que no acepta su historia. Vivo al ritmo de otro calendario que marca los mismos días, fui educada para adorar otros dioses, lo cual implica que veo la vida con otros ojos. Vivo como han vivido en este país los de mi raza: ignorantes, ciegos, indiferentes a una forma de entender las cosas que se agita y palpita como corazón de esta tierra. Ajenos, enquistados en un vientre indio, tenemos (y esto en el mejor de los casos) la altanería de considerarnos "tolerantes" a esta verdad envolvente. Vivo en una tierra conquistada. ”

Carol Zardetto, from ConPasión Absoluta

This is who I am outside my PhD student costume

This is where I place things more personal rather than professional. Things that didn't fit in the previous tabs.

Cycling through Lansing

Physical activity has been crucial to keep my marbles through the PhD. I was pretty comfortable swimming 4-5 times a week at MSU’s indoor pool. Then coronavirus struck and suddenly I was stuck without my aquatic therapy. Nonetheless, this outbreak pushed me to be a much better cyclist. The state-ordered quarantine meant a sharply reduced traffic, which helped me build confidence while sharing the road. Gradually the traffic has increased, but the confidence (and the muscle) remains. I’ve come to realize that the tri-county area has actually a lot to offer to a cyclist.

Here is a rough sketch of some of the places I've biked to. My trusty Jamis Renegade Expat so far has endured the abuse.

Tell me a story

  • Just for fun, a time-travel story in Spanish. I guess I tried to emulate somewhat the style of Kurt Vonnegut. Now published in EPÉKTASI Revista de estudiantes de El Colegio de San Luis A.C 4(3) 2021. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5847723
  • Being an alien is not always easy. From time to time I have reminders that I am a true outsider. One fine February morning started with a tangentially related but powerful emotional shake. That same evening I wrote a first draft. Several drafts later, this was the final product. The style is heavily influenced by Los Compañeros by Marco Antonio Flores.
  • I've been jumping around different places and countries for a while. I wrote some of those thoughts in a short essay, Observe, Adapt, Repeat. It was part of a small contest sponsored by the International Office here at MSU. I highly encourage you to read the rest of stories by other students.
  • I also wrote a short sci-fi story (in Spanish) during my junior year, inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey tetralogy.

I'm better reading than writing

“Porque ser de aquí es una enfermedad incurable. Uno se va, y entonces, la nostalgia. Uno se va, pero las noticias lo persiguen, los ojos buscan siempre un algo de aquí, la distancia castiga. Uno se va. Pero aunque se vaya, no se va: uno anda llevando su Guatemala adentro, como un amado cáncer, como una idea fija, como un verde corazón que siempre duele al palpitar y que palpita siempre. ”

Manuel José Arce, from Yo no quisiera ser de aquí

I am much better reading than writing. I am trying to get into the habit of keeping extracts that have hit home. The list is not in any particular order. I'm still re-reading some of these books to get all the quotes I want.

  • Rayuela by Julio Cortázar: I didn't fully appreciate the book until I read it the 2nd time, now in the suggested hopscotch fashion. The last two paragraphs of chapter 90 hit home: they describe me with terrifying accuracy. [HTML]
  • El Astillero by Juan Carlos Onetti: Actually very little happens through the whole novel. I was 2/3rds in the book and I still wasn't sure if I liked it at all. There's something in it, something utterly gritty that keeps you reading. Definitely not a nice book. I will read it again, though. [HTML]
  • Los Compañeros by Marco Antonio Flores: The more I grow, the better I understand this book. By far, the best Guatemalan novel I've read. One of the best books in general. Its pyrotechnique conscious flow is a delight that truly carves into you. [HTML]
  • Invisible man by Ralph Ellison: A truly wild and poignant ride. Quite relevant in the context of police brutality protests of summer 2020. [HTML]
  • El tiempo principia en Xibalbá by Luis de Lion: A Guatemalan take on Juan Rulfo. You can actually breathe the unique air of emporvished Guatemalan villages. [HTML]
  • Yo no quiero ser de aquí by Manuel José Arce: I cannot read it straight without feeling a deep knot inside me. It is too real, painfully real. [HTML]
  • The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A piece of your soul dies with every chapter. I find Solzhenitsyn one of the most intriguing figures of modern history. Look at his biography. He was the definitely the most qualified person to treat this brutal topic. Above all, he had the spiritual will and courage to push this masterpiece forward. [HTML]
  • Juntacadáveres by Juan Carlos Onetti: A quite short book that took me more than a month to get through. It proves that good literature takes its time. I read it first during Summer 2020. I thought it was OK. Then I re-read it again 6 months later. Now I am convinced it is a masterpiece. The second time was a much more powerful and enjoyable experience (a twisted definition of enjoyable.) Just like in El Astillero, nothing really happens at face value, but there are small notes, light hues, nuances that keep you engaged. I should read more Onetti. [HTML]
  • The Mayan in the Mall by J.T. Way: Nonfiction. I stumbled upon this book by sheer accident one time I got lost in the MSU library. It is an odd experience to read about Guatemala from the eyes of a foreigner. He sheds some light to some nuances that are imperceptible to most Guatemalans because we grew up surrounded by them. The book is thoroughly researched and annotated. I learned quite a bit from it. I especially loved his research on exposing the fake idea that there was a time when families were tightly knit. You hear this fallacy every. single. time. from our political actors. [HTML]
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans: I heard Evans voice first in a This American Life episode, broadcasted by WKAR. I was hooked. The first fiction book I have ever read from a black woman author. I devoured the short story collection in a week. I'll give this book 4 and a half stars out of 5. The only reason I retain half a star is because the stories are painfully short. Evans' main characters are so complex. Just as I'm getting emotionally invested with them, the story ends and I feel abandoned. So many unanswered questions.... [HTML]
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: My current book. Take The Broom of the System and crank up to 11 the absurdly original rants and situations. I am about 60 pages into the novel and I have no clue where this whole thing is going. I am not even sure if I know who is the main character. [HTML]

Making lists

“Eso nos hace sentirnos los raros, los personajes de nuestras propias historias, aunque no seamos más que estampas folclóricas o perdedores con delirios de trascendencia. Una pequeña actitud nos rescata, una dicha tan desgraciada y tan romántica de durar y de soportar ese quedarnos siempre a la espera. ”

Javier Payeras, from Días Amarillos

    I do find some joy when making lists in general. I guess that way there's a record that something actually happened. I am especially keen to make lists when there is no official compilation available.

  • Here is a self-compiled list of past winners of Premio Sotero Prieto. The prize is awarded yearly to the best math theses produced in Mexico. The prize is sponsored by the Mexican Mathematical Society. As far as I can tell, and I am secretly proud of my duckduckgoing skills, there is no official list of such winners.
  • Similarly, past winners of the Premio Mixbaal. It is awarded yearly to the best applied math thesis produced in Mexico. The prize is sponsored by the Mexican Society of Computer Science and its Applications (SMCCA).
  • Also, past winners of the Premio Francisco Aranda Ordaz. It is awarded every two years to the best statistics thesis produced in Mexico. The prize is sponsored by the Asociación Mexicana de Estadística (AME).

A stroll through Guanajuato

  • I think it is fair to say that anybody who does their bachelor degree at Guanajuato will be pretty spoiled.
  • Guanajuato city is a cultural hotspot that offers theater, world cinema, chamber music and symphonic orchestras (very) regularly. To give you an idea of the cultural offer, here's a list of different cultural events I managed to attend. Actually, the film club hosted by Universidad de Guanajuato is the oldest university-based film club in Mexico. Their work inspired me to coordinate the film club in CIMAT. Then I grew up and had to do research...

News extracts from the 19th century Guatemala

“He negado a nuestras banderías políticas la condición de partidos porque les falta, no solo la fuerza de una ideología definida, sino la acción permanente y organizada. Su actuación es ocasional y esporádica; salen únicamente a luz, como los santos de palo en las procesiones litúrgicas cada vez que ha de elegirse un presidente o prepararse una revuelta armada para derrocar a otro presidente de la República. ”

Carlos Wyld Ospina, from El autócrata

I took a gap year after finishing high school. I didn't know it at the moment, but I truly need time to think and decide exactly how my next life steps would look like. I did spent quite a bit of time in the National Archive of Guatemala. I read actual 150 year-old newspapers, just for the sake of it. I took a bunch of notes and pictures, and even transcribed some of the news articles. Below is a tiny bit of that work. I must say that some articles sound eerily similar to modern ones in the press.

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    I finally found a buddy willing to ride with me during winter

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    There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear

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    Obligatory picture of my bike over a bridge (somewhere in mid-Michigan)

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    Please stay safe and follow the appropriate sanitary measures

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    Moving ahead

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