Thank you to 

Alba Navarrete

 for sharing 

this poem with me. 


I performed Lavar la palabra sucia (Washing the dirty word) during a seminar in Helsinki in the spring of 2018. Drawing on a poem by Viviane Mosé, I decided to wash a series of words using different tricks and recipes. I imagined this performance as the prelude to a glossary: How do I engage with the words I use? Does the act of cleansing do anything at all? To whom? 

One year later the glossary is yet to come, but here is a selection of terms that keep popping up in the context of my research. If I've begun to add some thoughts or references around some of them, many remain untouched. I wish to shape and expand this glossary with my working group.

If you happen to be interested in any of these words and would like to get in touch, you can find me at 

I discovered that words don't know what they say. 
Words rave. 

Words say anything.

The truth is that words, in themselves, 
On their own, say nothing.
What speaks is the established agreement between who talks
And who listens.

If there is an agreement, there is communication.
When that agreement breaks,
Nobody says a thing,
Even if using the same words.  

Words are clothes people wear... 

Excerpt from the poem Recipe to wash a dirty word by Viviane Mosé.
Translation by me.
Eu descobri que a palavra não sabe o que diz.
A palavra delira.
A palavra diz qualquer coisa.

A verdade é que a palavra, nela mesma,
Em si própria, não diz nada.
Quem diz é o acordo estabelecido entre quem fala
E quem ouve.

Se existe acordo, existe comunicação.
Quando esse acordo se quebra,
Ninguém diz mais nada,
Mesmo usando as mesmas palavras.

A palavra é uma roupa que a gente veste…


Fragmento do poema Receita para lavar palavra suja  de Viviane Mosé.











I associate touristification with "something" being removed from the everyday and becoming "exceptional". It can be a bar, a dish, a site, a whole neighbourhood, ways of being or doing. The word alludes to a process, becoming touristic, and thus to a spectrum, more or less touristic. But what makes something touristic, when are we tourists, and what kinds of tourism are there? I've previously encountered terms such as enclave tourism (beach resorts) and inclusive tourism (locals and tourists share the same activities), but that's about it. 

I also think of heritage, conservation, public policy, neoliberalism, gentrification, and a "Disneyland effect". Indeed, I speak from the experience of having lived and/or studied the transformation and rehabilitation of urban cores (centros históricos) in Mexico City, Quito, and Havana, but also from witnessing recent changes in cities like Lisboa or Madrid. My overall feeling is that of dispossessionI have the sensation that something is being torn from me, and that I'm being pulled out of somewhere, too. Non-belonging. However, if this discomfort is partly related to the realization that I'm being displaced and replaced, I also know that I've displaced and replaced others before me. I wonder what's the difference between being a foreigner and being a stranger, a tourist, a traveller, if these categories are relevant at all, and what makes one move from one to the other.  


Easter holidays, it's raining in Madrid. I go out for a walk, and everyone looks like a tourist. Suddenly, I think of them as brave warriors who defy the weather to go to sites I've never bothered to visit. I go out of my way and enter the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, in Calle San Buenaventura. I'd been a few times to Bar Pascual in Calle de Bailén, but never inside the temple. I sit and witness part of the Good Friday Service. What do I know about the places where I've lived? Why does being a tourist bother me so much? Why do I want to pretend I'm a local if I'm not? In short, a rainy day is also a viewpoint.


Yesterday I had a conversation with my friends Carlos Puentes and José Luis Toro about eco-tourism in Colombia. One of the things that came up was the ability of tourism to create still images. What does tourism do? It paints a picture that draws on tradition and stereotypes. Landscapes, habits, a culture, are portrayed as attractive; however, with little room for difference. I myself often recommend "visit x, to see y, and enjoy z" as if I had a recipe for an experience. 


Let's focus on still images: What are they like and what do they say about the place they're promoting? What happens when you go to a place and it's not what you expected? What happens when you're trapped or you're performing "a tradition" that is far from your reality or aspirations? I'm interested in the virtual realities the circulation of touristic narratives create, how they shape our imaginations, and how they impact everyday life in the places they depict, not only in terms of habits and behaviour but also in terms of building and the (re)production of space. What is it we're inhabiting? 




This is a quote I  found years ago and that I always like to revisit: 

Space is more abstract than place. What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value...If we think of space as that which allows movement, then place is pause; each pause in movement makes it possible for location to be transformed into place...When space feels thoroughly familiar to us, it has become place. Thus, abstract space, lacking significance other than strangeness, becomes concrete place when it is filled with meaning (Smith in Loimeier 2009, 176).




Loimeier, Romain. 2009. “The Baraza. A Grassroot Institution in East Africa”, in L. Fourchard, O. Goerg & M. Gómez-Pérez (dir.), Lieux de sociabilité urbaine en Afrique, Paris, L’Harmattan : 171-190. 


 Space / Place 

Inhabiting / Governing


Habitar and governar were the subjects of what I estimate to be a six-kilometre-long talk with my supervisor Amador Fernández-Savater. It will take me a while to digest, but it was the first time I made a conscious connection between a verb I often use, to inhabit, and another that's been very present in my studies, to govern. 

 Terrain vague 


One way of defining terrains vagues is to say they are obsolete spaces in cities, empty, non-productive, without any use. Undefined, they are also potential places. I find them very evocative and I've often projected onto them my expectations and desires. I'd say they are surrounded by a halo of poetry, and it's rather easy to find texts and artistic works about them (though I still need to do my research).  


When I think of terrains vagues, this game happens in my head:

vague > vago > perezoso > lazy


vague, (French): said of that which lacks precision, that can be interpreted in many ways.

vago, (Spanish): said of a person with little willingness to do things, especially work. 

perezoso (Spanish): lazy, slow. 

lazy (English): not energetic or vigorous. 


You can quickly notice that my association does not rely on an accurate translation. I will develop this on another occasion, and it has to do with how to be lazy together instead of always feeling the need to "fill up" space. 




I have not found a book or other material that deals with a history of miradores or the practice of building them, but it would be pertinent to conduct research on panoramic views in painting and how they managed to depict a landscape from above without necessarily having the technology at hand to  do so.