Tag Archives: sugar

Valuable documentary: Black in Latin America

Henry Louis Gates has produced a wonderful new documentary series Black in Latin America.  It is a series that looks at the historical representations of the importation of African slaves in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil.  Each episode is pretty strong standing alone, but viewing them together really helps to synthesize some of the shared dynamics — the ideas cross over episodes.

Particularly interesting to me is the impact that cane sugar has on European tastes and the relationship sugar has to plantation economies.   When Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian rebellion denied Europe this now vital commodity, Cuba is flooded with slaves to gear up sugar cane production.   This not only allows European flavor access, it also speaks to the compelling desire to never be without refined sugar.  Not to mention enabling France and the United States to isolate and embargo the newly-emancipated Haiti, crushing the economy and facilitating US military take-over.

Also fascinating are the attempts to ‘whiten’ the populations by encouraging immigration from Europe and the impact this has on racial self-identification.  As Gates notes when asked about the racial difference between the nations in the documentaries and the US he notes:

Whereas we have black and white or perhaps black, white, and mulatto as the three categories of race traditionally in America, Brazil has 136 kinds of blackness. Mexico, 16. Haiti, 98. Color categories are on steroids in Latin America. I find that fascinating. It’s very difficult for Americans, particularly African-Americans to understand or sympathize with. But these are very real categories. In America one drop of black ancestry makes you black. In Brazil, it’s almost as if one drop of white ancestry makes you white. Color and race are defined in strikingly different ways in each of these countries, more akin to each other than in the United States. We’re the only country to have the one-drop rule. The only one. And that’s because of the percentage of rape and sexual harassment of black women by white males during slavery and the white owners wanted to guarantee that the children of these liaisons were maintained as property.

via Q&A with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. | Black in Latin America | PBS.

Gates covers the history with a certain quickness.  But he get’s at the cultural impact — in each nation we find some folks whitening, changing the features on statues and in history books, shifting the representation of black leaders to affirm non-blackness.  He also maps the resistance of music, religion, language and the threads of political pan-African identity.

This is a massive topic and I would watch a 12 or 15 part series on the subjects.   It is a shame that Gates only has five episodes to get at the story.  He does an admirable job organizing the ideas and also exposing current themes in each nation that point back to their historical relationship to the slave economy.

The episodes are up for viewing on pbs.  Highly recommended.

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Filed under human rights, media, slavery

corn syrup vs sugar

Sunday morning + coffee +New York Times –> straightforward.  In the era of the interwebs I tend to read the Sunday Times online.

I’d been wondering about the difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup ever since seeing the advertisements last summer reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about .  They were clearly corn industry folks defending their product by claiming it was identical to regular sugar.  Any time an industry advocacy group spends millions to reassure you that their product is identical to something ‘natural’ suggests you should learn more.

At the same time, I think that purity politics of food fanaticism aren’t very healthy.  High fructose corn syrup is in almost everything — especially cheap accessible food stuffs.   The solid explanation of just how damaging certain things are might simply leave us paralyzed.

Information seems like the appropriate middle ground.  Actual information about how things work that can help to inform key decisions I have to make.   THAT is useful.

With these in mind, I dove into the ten-page NYT article on sugars.  To find the key distinction is in the liver. Gary Taubes writes:

“The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.”

via Is Sugar Toxic? – NYTimes.com.

As the next few pages point out, when we dump heavy sugar onto our liver it process it into fat and the body increases the development of insulin.  The correlative evidence has been observed for a couple of decades.

Knowledge we can use?  Well two of the prominent cancer researchers quoted in the article make the case to simply avoid sugar.  Here is the fairly compelling conclusion:

“But some researchers will make the case, as Cantley and Thompson do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that’s quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers. If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it.

“I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,” Thompson told me, “because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.” Cantley put it this way: “Sugar scares me.”’

via Is Sugar Toxic? – NYTimes.com.

Aw, I ain’t scared!  More beer.  Whole grains.  Chard.  That’s what I learned.  To be “free” from the illnesses which plague this society is to live in delusion.  To live in frozen amber unable to move forward isn’t much better.  So live and act with information.

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