I am sharing here a few remembrances of Tom that are very meaningful to me.
The first is a small video clip from a party celebrating my dissertation defense in late summer 2007. It shows a brief speech in Spanish and a ch'alla andina that Tom offered at our house. The word ch'allar in Aymara means to “sprinkle.” It is the human ritual action of casting or watering, on earth or material goods, symbolic elements as a gesture of reciprocity and gratitude towards Mother Earth (Pachamama). This pre-hispanic ritual, typical of the time of abundance of the harvest, represents the act of return that the person makes to the Pachamama for the received goods. It cements the social relationship between the person and Pachamama. Tom was a man of few but precise words. In many ways, a done dissertation is like a harvest and must be celebrated with a ch'alla. On this occasion, Tom had prepared a delicious pernil and carried it all the way on the subway from Washington Square to East Harlem to share with me, my family, and friends. In his speech he thanked me for the years I had spent studying at NYU and for my presence – a classic gesture from a selfless brilliant scholar whose generosity, investment, and care for his students knew no boundaries. I will be eternally grateful for his mentorship and friendship and only hope that I can return it forward to those who come after me.