<= 2003.11.01

2003.11.08 =>

no maltrate los señales

I get tired, I miss ice cream and potable water. Going home tomorrow.

Bowing to heavy pressure from just about everyone in the country, the outgoing president yesterday vetoed the proposed three-day shutdown surrounding the elections. So in theory I could have stayed longer, but the riots and roadblocks and Molotov cocktails and cops tear-gassing protesters in the central market have started, so it's probably just as well that I get back. The subtle strain of negotiating everything in a foreign language has started to take its toll, too; I feel very tired and nonverbal just now. And the sun at this latitude (15 degrees north) is malign.

Last week they announced the results of a poll where the Latin American population was asked their opinion of democracy. Not their opinion of how democracy was working in their country, mind you—just whether they thought that it was viable, conceptually, as a political system. Uruguay registered the highest index of support, at 78%; with 33%, Guatemala was the lowest. In theory, this country has been democratically governed since the late eighties; in practice, the political and military elite run everything. Somehow, all the civic improvements seem to happen in the wealthy neighborhoods of Guatemala City. Someone keeps paying the paramilitary civil patrols that were supposed to be disbanded by the early nineties. Vinicio Cerezo, the first civilian president, managed to finish out his six-year term only by giving the army a wide berth and avoiding any serious restructuring; and even so, he was the object of several coup attempts. At the end of his term he admitted that his greatest achievement had been simply to survive.

Things are better now in some respects. The press is plenty outspoken, and the Maya cultural revival is in full swing after decades when the indigenous languages were outlawed. The socialist URNG, formerly a guerrilla army, is now a legitimate political party. If the FRG doesn't instigate some kind of massive armed revolt after these elections, I think the situation will continue to improve, albeit slowly. There's Latin America, and then there's Latin America; and Mexico is utopia compared to this country.

Bolivia's worse off, of course.

Almost without exception, everyone here has been friendly; and if I start to talk about all the beautiful things I've seen, I'll just end up gushing. It's an alien, convoluted, lush and bloody land. I have some understanding of it. We'll see if it suffices.

 

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2003.11.08 =>

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