Thursday, September 29, 2011

L'shana tova in the altiplano: the prologue

At sundown on September 27, the Jewish New Year begins. For the last few weeks, I have been thinking about how I will celebrate this event. Let me clarify that I am not religious; my parents and at least my maternal grandparents were atheists, but nonetheless very clear about their Jewishness as a cultural identity and a heritage. I have continued pretty much in that vein, although I think I have a stronger affinity for ritual and ceremony than they did. Most years I have celebrated Rosh Hashanah at home, with my daughter, with friends, or both. A few times I have wanted to hear the sound of the shofar, the ram's horn that is blown several times during the series of holidays that mark the New Year, and so have found a synagogue or temple that had an open service; sometimes we have gone on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which is about 10 days away. But mostly I have celebrated Rosh Hashanah by making a big round loaf of challah, sometimes with a double braid, and sharing it with Aiyana and whomever else we have decided to invite, along with some apples and honey.

The two other holidays I have always celebrated are Passover and Hanuka. But I find it hard to celebrate these holidays without other people; part of the point of most celebrations and rituals, from my point of view, is to share the joy (or the catharsis) with other people.  So, when Passover rolled around this year, I was hoping I could find someone else who was Jewish who might invite me. And I thought I had done so. At an art opening in Antigua, a long-time expat whom I'd met a few times, a woman named Dee, spotted my Star of David (which I only fished out of a jewelry box and put on just before I came here) and then introduced me to a friend of hers who was also Jewish. I commented that I had been thinking about what to do for Passover. Dee said that she sometimes did a seder but her home was very small, but that her friend did a larger seder. The woman, whose name I cannot remember, said yes, she was going to do a seder and she would invite me. I gave her my card and never heard from her again. I didn't have the energy to do something on my own.

But as the seasons rolled around and the new year approached, I thought that I wanted to do something for myself, and also to share some of who I am and what I am about with people here. The people I've met here have been very eager to invite me to their homes for Semana Santa, for example; I had more invitations than I could manage. And so I want to, in some small way, reciprocate -- although because I am on my own, and do not have an extended family I can rope into helping me out, I am wary about inviting too many people. Also, since I am only here for a year, I have not invested in huge quantities of plates and silverware, so that limits the invitees list somewhat. This is probably a very un-Guatemalan or un-Maya attitude. People here, when they make a celebration, do it on a large scale and have 40 or 50 people, and pile on copious quantities of food. They do, generally, however, have an army of relatives to help out.

My first thought was that I would like to celebrate the New Year with my friends in Xela. I don't live there; it's 2-3 hours away depending upon which route I take; and I haven't spent that much time there, all things considered. But I felt very much at home there the first time I visited, especially with the little nucleus of ex-combatants with whom I spent a few hours at the cantina. Although I haven't gotten together with all four of them at the same time again, I have seen all of them since, some more than others, and so I decided that I wanted to share this event with them. Especially as several of us had been working very hard around the elections (there, you didn't think I was going to let that many blogs go by without even mentioning the elections, did you?), and I think we all feel a need to recharge and refocus. So it seemed like a good moment and a good occasion to get together, and also to let them into some of my culture, in the same way that people here have generously invited me to participate in their culture.

The challenge was where to do it; inviting them here wouldn't have been realistic as I have no place to put them, and there are no hotels, and if there were, it would be asking too much of them to come all the way here and then have to pay for lodging. Xela is about 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours from Chinique, depending upon which route you take, traffic and road conditions.  Luckily my friend Humberto was willing to let me use his kitchen to cook and invite people to his home, so that is the plan for this weekend.  It won't be on the exact date, but that wasn't feasible. And he had an oven, which I checked out when I was in Xela last weekend (I desperately needed to see a movie so we went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes). The oven is important since I have, for most of my adult life, made a big round loaf of challah every year for Rosh Hashonah. I think I probably started doing this when I was at Oberlin, and have continued it ever since. So Rosh Hashonah without my own home-made challah would not be the same. And needless to say, it's not as though I could run out and buy a loaf here if I got stuck.

But after some thought I decided that I should do something in Chinique and invite some of my friends in town and also my colleagues at the radio. As fond as I am of my friend in Xela, I do live and work in Quiché. This was going to be a little tricky also, because I only have so much space in my house, so many pots and pans, and no oven. I have a wood burning stove which is just a stove top and a small 2-burner electric stove. Not really a stove -- a 2-burner hot plate. I also am working at the radio station nearly every day, and we have just started a new regime of clear scheduling and accountability so cooking an elaborate meal (including making bread) for several people would require a lot of advance planning and strategizing. I thought about inviting my friends from Tapesquillo but the logistics were daunting. It would be either very expensive or time consuming for them to come to town (expensive if they took cars; time consuming if they walked) and then I would have to give them rides home since there are no cars that go up there at night. That road is no picnic in the daytime; at night it would be a nightmare and then I would have to drive back down to get home. So in the end, I just invited people who are closer: my friend Caterino, who has a shop in town and lives in a caserio along the highway, and my K'iche' teacher Leonardo (who, it just so happens, has a stove with an oven in his house). Leonardo has been giving me classes in K'iche' intermittently but we spend as much time talking as we do in instruction. In addition to being a linguist and a language teacher (he teaches at a bilingual secondary school), he is also an aj'qij (a "sacerdote Maya" -- Maya priest), and we have talked some about religion and the Maya cosmovision, and so I thought he would be interested in how another culture celebrates the turn of the cycle.

I invited my two colleagues at the radio, Jeanet (also written Yanet) and Kan, and another friend who used to work for Ixmukané but no longer does. I didn't invite others from the staff of Ixmukané (those who are based out of the office in Chichicastenango) because I didn't feel that I could pick and choose; I would have felt obliged to invite everyone. And since many of them live in Chichi, they wouldn't have been able to get transportation back home: transportation, in case you hadn't picked up on this yet, plays a powerful role, at least for me, in defining social relationships.  Seeing friends in Chichi in the evening means traveling over steep winding roads in the dark. Seeing them anywhere else means that they have to figure out transportation, and none of them have cars. There is very little transportation between cities/communities in the evening.  Jenniffer and Jeanet live in Santa Cruz, and Jeanet's husband has a motorcycle, so I figured, Jeanet and her family can get home okay, and I have enough space to put up Jenny and Kan. Also, Jenniffer and Jeanet were both students of Leonardo's some years back, so I thought that would be a nice opportunity for them to see each other.  At the last moment, I called up Reyna, a friend who also used to work with Ixmukané -- she was actually my initial contact with the organization, and she had invited me to her house during Semana Santa, so I thought it would be nice to reciprocate (she is also Caterino's aunt and lives near him along the highway, so I would have been easily able to give her a life home).

Next installment will be about the cooking, the food and the "ceremony", such as it was....

Monday, September 26, 2011

A change of pace: life at the radio

One of the main foci of my activity here in Guatemala has been working with a radio station founded several months ago by the women's organization Asociación por Nosotras Ixmukané. The radio station, and my work with it, has gone through a lot of changes over these months. The organization, as the leadership now admits freely, was not really prepared to undertake running a radio station. They solicited and received funding to build the station (i.e. to purchase equipment and install the antenna) and to train some of the women in rural communities the basics of how to be a radio announcer ... but no one really understood what it would take to run the radio on a daily basis, and to maintain it over the long haul.

I got excited about the radio the day we installed the antenna. I have some background in radio: I was a DJ at my college radio station, WOBC, and did a variety of shows over the years -- women's programming, music shows (although I didn't really have any idea what I was doing, frankly; I just kind of randomly pulled interesting looking records off the shelves and slapped them on the turntables), and also some news.  Then after moving to New York, one day in the early 1980s, Bill Tabb, a Marxist economist whom I knew through my work at the New York Marxist School (now mostly known as the Brecht Forum), invited me to sit in on a radio show at WBAI that he was producing together with another friend of mine, Joan Greenbaum. They called it "Econonews" and the idea was to provide a Marxist analysis of the economy in an enjoyable and relatively easy-to-digest way. I was at that time the director of the Marxist School, in my early 20s, and Bill invited me to come with him and talk and do whatever.  

This was during the protracted fiscal crisis in New York City -- a time when parts of the city were burning (fires often deliberately set by landlords so they could collect insurance, and then raze low-rent buildings and replace them with more upscale housing), the city was still cutting public spending, and gentrification was gathering steam.  I was listening to a lot of socially conscious punk (Clash, Gang of Four) and also early hip hop (Jazzy Jeff, Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaata) and Bill had invited me to bring some music, so I brought Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" (and yes, I still have that 12" single). I played it during a discussion of the fiscal crisis and Bill's face lit up as he heard the lyrics ("Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge/I'm trying not to lose my head."), and he invited me to come back. I worked with him off and on for some months, and then several years later, when I was active in the movement against the Columbus Quincentennial (i.e. arguing that the 500th anniversary of the so-called "discovery" was not an occasion for celebration but a moment to understand the ravages of colonialism, past and present: there wasn't really a name for this international movement that was largely inspired by indigenous activists in the Americas -- the "counter-quincentennial movement" is probably too oblique a reference), I co-produced a regular program for WBAI.

Although it had been some years since I'd worked in radio or directly in any kind of media (I was also a documentary filmmaker in the 1980s), one aspect of my research over the past several years has been how people use consumer and digital technologies (cell phones, video recordings, photographs) to create their own representations and "media worlds". So, I basically made a complete shift in my research agenda and decided to focus on the radio station and to also offer my services to help get it off the ground.

But it's been a bumpy path. I've done programs, sometimes better and sometimes kind of slapdash. But I've viewed my work as an announcer/producer as just a place-holder. Part of the point of the radio, as I saw it, was to have a radio not just for and about Maya women and young people in Quiché, but a radio that was mostly produced by them. 

The radio station is located in a kind of out-of-the-way place, and it is not a "community" station strictly speaking in that it was not founded by people in the community where it is located (a part of Santa Cruz called Chorecales), and it was not founded by grassroots women in Quiché or a local women's association but by an "institution" -- a well-established organization that functions at a regional level, although it has affiliates in many local communities.

I offered to help in whatever way the organization wanted me to help -- training people in certain skill areas (like speaking and interviewing), helping strategize the overall program, doing programs. Mostly I've done the latter, but in the last month and a half, I've been incorporated into the 3-person team that is charged with running the station, and with coming up with some longer-term plans. But the organization is, from my perspective, a bit top-down, a bit bureaucratic, and so we've not felt that we had the authority to really go ahead and do much of anything. 

The organization also had a lot of other projects going on simultaneously, and I was very involved with the elections, really up until a week afterwards, and so it was hard to get all of our energies focused on the radio. But finally Jeanet, Kan and I were authorized to propose a plan - both to develop a workable schedule for the next couple of months, and propose some ideas for how to move the radio forward.

Back when we got started, the first plan was that one person would be responsible for the radio for a month at a time. That is, each month a different person from the organization would be the "responsable" for the radio, with other staff members coming to do programs during the week. That didn't work out very well; after a while people stopped coming to do their shows (not just because they were slackers but because they had other responsibilities as well, and would get pulled off in different directions). So the responsibility fell solely on the staff person who was assigned to the radio, along with myself and Humberto, who had been hired as a consultant. This, at least, was the state of affairs in May and June. Part of the problem was that decisions were being made by people who were not directly involved in the day to day running of the radio and in fact rarely came to the radio. The organization's offices are in Chichicastenango and the radio station is in Santa Cruz del Quiché -- a solid 20-25 minute drive if you don't make any stops, if there aren't any big tractor-trailers slowly moving up the hairpins turns in the mountains, if it's not raining or foggy, if a piece of the highway hasn't fallen down (that has only happened once this year, but they still haven't repaired that segment and who knows when or if they will). Which is to say, the 20-25 minutes is mostly hypothetical. I'd put the driving time at 25-30 minutes. So the paid staff, except for those assigned to the radio, are not close enough to drop in on any kind of regular basis -- much less a daily basis.

There were some training workshops, starting in January, in which about 60 or 70 women from communities throughout the department were trained as announcers. However, this didn't seem to have been well thought-through; how would these women come to the radio station to put their knowledge to use? A culture of "assistentialism" has grown up: in general, the members will not go places unless they are fed and their transportation costs are covered. So how would the organization be able to "mobilize" the women who had been trained so that they could come and do programs? There had been no plan and there was no funding for this, so the solution was to have the staff run the radio.

In July, the organization decided to divide responsibilities for the radio between two people: one for 6 a.m. to 12, and the other for 12 to 6. More or less. But still, 6 hours is a long time for one person, and even though I came sometimes to help out, people's energy was flagging. We have a computer program that allows us to program songs using MP3 files, and also pre-program pre-recorded announcements and the station ID, so it is possible to just line up some hours' worth of music and let the station run on autopilot. Which is what often happened. I tried to encourage people to make sure that they at least got on the microphone a couple of times an hour, saying "Listeners need to know this is a radio run by people and not by machines", but usually unless I kept harping on them, which I didn't want to do, hours would often go by with little intervention by the announcers.

When we first sat down back in April to plan out the broadcast schedule, I started by saying I would alternate doing the morning show (6-8 a.m.) with Humberto, the consultant who was working with the radio project from January through early July (he and I have stayed friends even though he and Ixmukané did not part in the most pleasant way possible). The morning show is about the "energy of the day" according to the Maya calendar and about the cosmovision more generally. But I was asked to do afternoon shows on music, although I did fill in several times on the morning show, and filled in at other times when someone who was supposed to open up or lock up couldn't for one reason or another.

I had tried to foment some conversation about how to move the radio forward since it seemed to me that we were in a bit of a holding pattern. There seemed to be no specific plan to try and involve women from the communities, to give them more ownership of the radio. The organization did solicit a grant, which was not awarded, for two additional radio stations (at first I had been told off the record that the grant had been awarded, and then the organization told me it had been awarded, but apparently it was withdrawn after some further assessment and conversation).  And then there was a grant proposal that would have provided some funding to train women in communities to be "community reporters" -- this was to get around the fact that we couldn't bring women from rural communities to the radio station to do shows. The department is large; there are places that are 5 or 6 hours each way. It would make no sense whatsoever (plus it would be very expensive) to bring women from even 2 hours away to do a program. Most of the community radio stations are much more local in their scope. The station in Sumpango,  Sacatepéquez, for example, can only be heard within Sumpango, and the town (pueblo) is small enough that it is easy to get from one end to the other. Both audience and announcers are from within the town.

So things had been at a standstill for at least a month or so.  I was frustrated, both in terms of my day-to-day involvement at the station, and in terms of my research. What was there to observe, analyze, study? Finally we had a meeting in early August at which I was made part of the team and we were charged to come up with a plan.  My role was to make sure we sat down and spent time on this, and last week we sat down and came up with a proposed schedule -- one that clarified what themes would be covered, who would be responsible for which program slots. We also made some suggestions about volunteers, since I am convinced that the radio will not survive without additional announcers/producers. I am leaving in January and two people (the two who would be left when I return to the US) cannot make a radio station. They would lose energy and interest, and both they and the audience would be bored. To do good radio you need time to plan and research programs, and if you are on the air 6 hours a day, you don't have a lot of time and energy to prepare for the next day's 6 hours.

We have been tentatively given the green light, so today (Monday September 26) we started to implement the new schedule. We were only partly successful, as we didn't have time to really prepare programs as the email came to me over the weekend. Also, tomorrow we are doing a live broadcast of an event, and two of us (Kan and myself) were SUPPOSED to go over to the location of the event this afternoon with the organizers and figure out the logistics, so we had shifted the schedule around so that Kan and I were covering more time earlier in the day than was on the schedule (we've roughly broken the day into six 2-hour time slots and we each cover 2 of them -- at least that's the general framework). Then the event organizers told us they were coming later in the afternoon, and then they said they weren't coming today at all but that we should be there tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. (the event starts at 9).

But it went fairly well. I am supposed to do news from 8 to 8:30 (interspersed with music; we don't do uninterrupted blah blah blah most of the time), and then from 8:30 to 10, the theme for Monday is the political panorama. I got Monday's and Tuesday's themes confused (Tuesday's is "justice", which encompasses everything from how to report domestic violence to international human rights conventions), and Jeanet ended her show closer to 9 than 8:30, but I did a melange of news stories and discussion of both political and justice related themes (the assassination of a Nicaraguan indigenous leader; the ongoing struggle in the Polochic Valley where hydroelectric companies are causing the dislocation of many Q'eqchi Maya families; among other stories). I ran the program longer, and then Kan did his show on the environment, but also ran it longer, so that we wouldn't be leaving Jeanet with hours and hours on her own. Since we ended up not going to do the logistical run-through, I took back the mic for the afternoon music show (which Kan and I alternate) and spun some classic hip-hop (think "Planet Rock"), and then some Brazilian music (Afro Reggae, Timbalada and some tunes from a compilation I just downloaded).

So, we'll see how the live transmission -- and the rest of the week -- goes.

Si van a leer que yo escribo? Antropología de alto, bajo o mediano riesgo?

Cada escritora se preocupa o se pregunta, si lo que él o ella escribe no es más que orinar en el viento, o si las palabras que él o ella se compromete a papel o de alguna nube electrónica en el cielo tendrá ningún impacto. Por un lado, pueden dar lugar a ningún cambio, o es posible que conducen a un peligro potencial para el escritor?
La última pregunta no me ha preocupado mucho. Guatemala es un país violento e inseguro, y si bien nadie puede estar completamente seguro, dado el clima actual, una especie de cóctel mortal en la que los elementos clave son el crimen organizado, la corrupción endémica y generalizada, y una cultura de impunidad que permea muchos ámbitos de la vida social, los extranjeros en general, y los académicos extranjeros, en particular, no son la población más vulnerable. Hay varios tipos de violencia estructural y coyuntural que ponen determinados tipos de personas en riesgo. Los campesinos y campesinas que están resistiendo las incursiones de empresas mineras transnacionales son objeto de traslado violento de sus tierras (es decir, guardias armados, la policía y el ejército en movimiento y el traslado forzado de personas de sus tierras), así como el asesinato abierto de líderes de la comunidad. Las comunidades que se resisten a los proyectos de "desarrollo" con otras grandes empresas - por ejemplo, las compañías de energía que quieren construir centrales hidroeléctricas - también están en riesgo. Los conductores de autobús (y también a los pasajeros). La lista sigue: las mujeres, por ejemplo (Guatemala tiene una de las más altas tasas de violencia doméstica y el feminicidio en el hemisferio).
Hay otras formas de violencia política: cada asesinato político (por ejemplo, lo de Monseñor Gerardi en 1998) genera amenazas contra los abogados que asumen los casos o los jueces que los escuchen. Los antropólogos forenses que están excavando fosas comunes  de la década de 1980, o recuperando los restos de los vertederos de basura y otros lugares donde los cuerpos fueron abandonados durante la guerra, regularmente reciben amenazas de muerte, al igual que los defensores de los derechos humanos y los defensores que están presionando a la policía y los militares a revelar información de sus archivos.
Sin embargo, recientemente una amiga que ha empezado a leer este blog me preguntó si alguna vez me sentí en peligro de las cosas que escribo aquí, y mi respuesta a ella era, no. En primer lugar, no estoy diciendo nada especialmente original. Aunque ha habido una escisión de la memoria histórica, la acusación de que uno de los dos candidatos a la presidencia está implicado en las atrocidades de la década de 1980 no es nueva. Esto es parte del debate público (en la medida en que lo hay) en Guatemala ahora.  Unos columnistas de opinión de los periódicos nacionales más importantes con regularidad exponen estas ideas. Otros candidatos políticos hablan de ellos. En segundo lugar, yo no soy una figura muy pública aquí. Yo soy sólo una de un par de docenas de académicos extranjeros que pasan mucho tiempo aquí y hablan con la gente y escriben. Sería agradable pensar que lo que uno escriba será leído por miles, pero tengo que contentarme que quizás unas pocas docenas de personas que prestan atención a lo que escribo en este blog o lo que publican en Facebook. Así que no creo que planteo una gran amenaza para nadie.

Will they read what I write? High-risk, low-risk, medium-risk anthropology

Every writer worries, or wonders, if what she or he writes is simply pissing in the wind, or if the words he or she commits to paper or to some electronic cloud in the sky will have any impact whatsoever. On the one hand, can they lead to any change, or might they  lead to some potential danger for the writer?

The latter question has not preoccupied me much. Guatemala is a violent and insecure country, and while no one can be entirely secure given the current climate,  a kind of fatal cocktail in which the key elements are organized crime, pervasive and endemic corruption, and a culture of impunity that permeates so many arenas of social life, foreigners in general, and foreign academics in particular, are hardly the most vulnerable populations. There are various kinds of structural and conjunctural violence that put specific kinds of people at risk. Campesinos and campesinas who are resisting the incursions of transnational mining companies are targeted for violent removals from their lands (i.e. armed guards, police and army moving in and forcibly removing people from their land), as well as outright murder of community leaders.  Communities that are resisting the "development" projects involving other large companies -- for example, energy companies that want to build hydroelectric plants -- are also at risk. Bus drivers (and also their passengers).  The list goes on: women, for example(Guatemala has one of the highest rates of domestic violence and femicide in the hemisphere).

There are other forms of political violence: each political assassination (for example, that of Monsignor Gerardi in 1998) spawns threats against the lawyers who take up the cases or the judges who hear them. The forensic anthropologists who are excavating mass graves from the 1980s, or retrieving remains from garbage dumps and other locales where bodies were dumped during the war, regularly receive death threats, as do those human rights advocates and defenders who are pushing the police and the military to reveal information from their archives.

However, recently a friend who has started to read this blog asked me if I ever felt at risk from things that I write here, and my response to her was, no.  Firstly, I am not saying anything especially original. Although there has been an excision of historical memory, the charge that one of the two presidential candidates is implicated in atrocities from the 1980s is not new.  This is part of the public debate (to the extent that there is one) in Guatemala now. Op-ed columnists for the major national newspapers regularly expound these ideas.  Other political candidates talk about them. Secondly, I am not that public a figure here. I'm just one of a couple of dozen foreign academics who spend time here and talk to folks and write. It would be nice to think that what I write will be read by thousands, but I have to content myself that perhaps a few dozen people pay attention to what I write in this blog or what I post on Facebook. So I don't think that I pose much of a threat to anyone.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And now for something really different: a recipe (plus thoughts on food and markets)

A girl does have to eat, after all, and Sunday seems to be a good day for cooking, especially after a visit to the local market. Our market is small as is befitting: we are a very small town. There are larger markets in the two towns on either side of us --Chiché to the west and Zacualpa to the east. There is also a market in Santa Cruz every day, with larger market days on Sunday and Thursday. Where I shop depends upon what I am doing on which day and what I need.  I have to be strategic as there is not a wide variety of fresh produce available in my town at a decent price except on market days, and a lot of stores close early, and especially if it is raining.  Since I am in Santa Cruz several times during the week at the radio, I will sometimes stop and pick up a few things. But most of the vendors are closed up by late afternoon, and so if I leave the radio at 6, there are not that many produce vendors around. If it is raining, I don't usually stop. Chiché's main market is on Saturday, with a smaller market on Wednesday; Zacualpa's is on Sunday.  Chiché is also closer, so I rarely go to Zacualpa just for purchases, but if I am in Zacualpa for some other reason I will make some purchases. It's like Cuba, in some ways: it pays to keep a shopping bag with you, and to keep your eyes open, because you might see something you need that is not available elsewhere, or at a much better price.

I do shop at my local market on the theory that one should support local economies. Of course, all the other markets are also local economies, but this is the local economy of where I live, and then there's the convenience factor (I don't have to take out my car and deal with parking).

As I've mentioned in earlier blogs, globalized agriculture and production for export have affected even hyperlocal markets like ours, where almost no one is in export-oriented vegetable production. I'm not sure where the "farm raised" (which means large-scale farm) chickens come from; they are all over local markets and much more widely available, and also cheaper, than gallinas criollas (the leaner, more muscular ones that have been allowed to run around and are not pumped up with hormones). So some non-native vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are available pretty much year round.

I am planning to have some friends over to celebrate Rosh Hashonah on Wednesday, but I have a small and not very powerful fridge, so I didn't want to buy everything today, especially not chicken for the main dish. I'll have to get that on Tuesday somewhere. But I got some carrots and beets (I'm planning to make a carrot salad and a beet salad, or I might combine them into one) -- the beet greens will be for tonight -- cilantro, potatoes, limes, a cucumber, and then for only the second time since I've been here, a  cauliflower. I've kind of resisted this, not quite sure why. I love cauliflower, and I'm not under any illusion that I am supporting local agriculture more by not buying cauliflower.

So I bought it, without being quite sure what I would do with it. But then I thought about the wonderfully airy and light focaccia I brought back from Xela with me, and decided to make a cauliflower soup.  I don't have any vegetable stock or access to any kind of packaged broth or broth mix that is not mostly MSG and chemicals, so I made it just with water. I thought about adding some milk to make it more creamy, but I decided against it, and added a bit of cream of wheat (I had some leftover lying around). I think it's quite tasty. I use a home-made curry powder -- I use Madhur Jaffrey's recipe in World Vegetarian Cooking as a guide, although I don't measure anything. Below is a rough recipe:

Curried cauliflower soup a la chapin

1 head cauliflower, washed and broken into florets (I use the stem and cut it into chunks)
2 medium potatoes, washed and cut into coarse chunks
2-3 scallions cut into small pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 bay leaves (optional: I forgot them)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
several stalks of fresh coriander, washed and coarsely chopped
salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons, maybe more)
1 tablespoon cream of wheat (optional)
water (or good vegetable stock if you have it; I don't)

Heat oil in a decent sized pot with a lid. Saute scallions over medium heat, lower and add garlic, stir for a bit. Sprinkle dry spices and stir for about a minute, then add potatoes and cauliflower pieces, stir to blend with the spices. Then add the fresh cilantro and enough water just to cover (maybe 5 cups? I told you, I don't measure anything). Bring to the boil, then turn heat down, add about 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, cover and simmer until cauliflower and potatoes are just tender (poke with a fork or knife). Remove from heat, and then remove the bay leaves if you remember to put them in, and puree in a blender or food processor in batches (you will need a second pot to put the puree in). If it seems too thick, you can add some more water (or milk or cream if you like).
If soup is too thin (mine was): In a small bowl, blend the cream of wheat with about 2 tablespoons of water, and then add several tablespoons of the soup, blending until you have a smooth paste, and then add more soup until it is more liquid than paste. Add back into the soup, whisking lightly.
In either case, reheat the soup, taste for salt and seasonings. You can serve as is, or with some yogurt or what have you.

Curry powder (proportions are just a rough guide)
1 tablespoon whole cumin seed
2 tablespoons whole coriander seed
1-2 dried red peppers (depending upon size and heat; I'd start with 1 and add a second if it seems too bland)
1 stick cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1-1.2 teaspoons whole black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon whole cardamom (removed from pods)
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon brown mustard seed

In a small heavy skillet, roast the WHOLE spices (i.e. not the turmeric) over a low flame just until they are fragrant, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add the turmeric and stir. Let cool slightly. Grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder), or you can use a blender or a mini-processor. Store in a glass jar. Keeps for months. This is a good all purpose curry powder, much better than most of what you can buy commercially, and you can make it hotter if you like. If you only have 1 of the last three ingredients (mustard seed, fenungreek, or cardamom) you will be fine!  If you decide to add another dried pepper, you should roast it as well and then regrind the whole thing so that it is evenly mixed in.  Oh, and all of these spices are available in Guatemala, although I didn't know that when I came here and so I brought curry powder that I had made back in Brooklyn. It's still good, many months later.

La drama de las elecciones sigue en mi pueblito

Por lo tanto, no está claro lo que está sucediendo con la elección de Chinique - la elección de alcalde, lo que es. Hace unos días Caterino me había dicho que iban a repetir las elecciones. Unos días más tarde, cuando estaba en la estación de radio, mi colega Jeanet, estaba revisando su Facebook (utilizando mi módem), y leyó una nota publicada por un grupo denominado Orgullosamente del Quiché, diciendo que el alcalde de Chinique había declarado que no iba a tener una segunda vuelta en su ciudad. Le pedí que me la leyó, y luego encontré el aviso y lo leí en el aire (tratamos de hacer un poco de noticias).
Eso fue el miércoles. Al día siguiente, jueves, vino un conocido mío que es miembro del Patriota. Él vive en Tapesquillo, una buena 20-25 minutos en coche del centro del pueblo, y no suelen venir al pueblo mucho durante el mitad de la semana. Se oyó un golpe en la puerta cuando yo estaba tratando de terminar de escribir algo y limpiar un poco la casa, y cuando abrí, había Don L. Lo saludé y le invité a entrar, expresé mi sorpresa y placer de verlo en el pueblo. Nos saludamos, le pregunté por su esposa y familia, y luego le pregunté qué le trajo al pueblo. "Oh, tenemos unos  problemas aquí en el pueblo", dijo. "¿Qué tipo de problemas?" le pregunté (a pesar de que tenía una idea bastante buena de lo que estaba insinuando.) "Bueno, es un problema con el alcalde, quien dice que él sigue siendo el alcalde, que ganó las elecciones", respondió. "Ah", dije . "Primero pensé que no iban a repetir las elecciones. Entonces dijeron que iban a repetir las elecciones. Luego, ayer me enteré de que el alcalde dijo que no iba a ser una segunda vuelta. Así que yo no sé lo que va a suceder." " Sí, bueno," dijo Don L.  "Así que la gente no es feliz y que vamos a tener una reunión y luego ir a la municipalidad" (la palabra" municipalidad ", que significa literalmente "municipio" se utiliza aquí para significar "el edificio municipal" o "ayuntamiento"). El edificio municipal de Chinique es apenas un edificio: es solamente un piso de altura, en la esquina de la plaza donde se encuentra la iglesia, y justo al lado de la la escuela. Contiene no sólo la oficina del alcalde y los funcionarios municipales lo demás que hay, pero también los demás organismos públicos.
Charlamos durante unos minutos acerca de otras cosas. Le he dicho a Don L, sin entrar en mucho detalle, que si bien somos amigos - me quedé en su casa la primera vez que estuve en Guatemala en 2009 - que, si bien todos los puntos de vista que respeto, y yo no soy de Guatemala y por eso mi opiniones probablemente en realidad no cuentan mucho, yo apoyo a un partido político diferente. Yo no he dicho cual partido, y él no me ha pedido. Esto es un poco de una zona gris para mí. Yo no voy a pretender que no tengo preferencias y opiniones fuertes acerca de la política guatemalteca. Al mismo tiempo, yo no los tiro en los rostros de la gente, sobre todo, no en mi pequeño pueblo. Sólo he dicho a algunos amigos cercanos muy pocos aquí que mis simpatías están con Winaq. No veo ninguna razón para llamar la atención de mis opiniones políticas, especialmente en lo que reconozco plenamente que la política de Guatemala debe ser definido por los guatemaltecos, ha habido siglos suficiente de la participación externa en los asuntos políticos del país, y especialmente en el pasado reciente, de nuestra Gobierno y empresas basados en los EEUU. Al mismo tiempo, tengo que ser honesta (y respetuosa). No voy a mentir y decir que no me importa, o que todas las partes son las mismas para mí. A mi si me importa, y no son todos iguales. Como Edna St. Vincent Millay escribió (aunque en un contexto muy diferente que estaba escribiendo sobre la muerte), "Lo sé. Pero no estoy de acuerdo. Y no estoy resignado." Y, como resultado, la mayoría de las personas con las que estoy trabajando muy de cerca (es decir, los activistas del movimiento de radios comunitarias, y pensadores críticos en general) tienen similares tendencias políticas. Pero eso no quiere decir que no tengo conocidos y amigos que apoyan a otros partidos políticos, o que no voy a hablar con la gente de diferentes puntos de vista. Para mí, es importante saber dónde se encuentra el apoyo de la derecha, sobre todo aquí en el Quiché, donde los cerros están llenos de huesos y cenizas, donde casi todas las familias mayas sufrieron de alguna manera.
Como estudiosa (sí, tengo que poner en el sombrero de vez en cuando) no creo que esto me impide tener una evaluación con ojos claros de la escena política. De hecho, algunas de las críticas más fuertes que he visto de Winaq y el Frente Amplio viene de dentro de las filas de la dirigencia. Por lo que soy capaz, creo, para analizar el proceso político y el panorama político sin ser cegados por mis simpatías.
Volviendo a la narración (y había uno, verdad que si?), después de que Don L. y yo intercambiamos bromas, se dirigió fuera y me di la vuelta para mis preparaciones para salir. Mientras conducía fuera de la ciudad, he decidido no ir por mi ruta normal, pero a conducir a la "calle principal", tal como es, y ver si podía echar un vistazo a lo que estaba pasando. Mi calle está a dos cuadras de la calle principal, y dependiendo de la dirección de mi coche se enfrenta, que ya sea en coche por mi calle a dos cuadras de donde se trata de una T, y luego gire a la derecha para salir de la ciudad, o hacer que dos giros a la izquierda de modo que estoy en la calle paralela al lado, y seguir ese uno a dos cuadras de la T, y luego a la derecha y fuera de la ciudad.Rara vez la unidad de los dos bloques hasta la calle principal, ya que (a) existen grandes túmulos y baches grandes, y (b) casi siempre hay más tráfico. Pero yo quería ver lo que estaba pasando así que me fui de esa manera. Había un montón de gente en la calle, y al pasar la calle transversal que va más allá de la muni  (pronunciada como "Moonie", pero la "u" es un poco más corta que la "oo" - esto es la abreviatura de "municipalidad"), miré a mi derecha y vi un montón de policías de pie alrededor, y varias decenas de personas se reunieron en la terraza y en la acera y el césped en frente de la muni. Yo conducía, y luego decidió bucle (no hay otro camino a la ciudad que pasa por la estación de bomberos voluntarios y te pone en la calle en frente de la muni). Así que fui a la orilla del pueblo y crucé en un derecho muy fuerte y vuelta a la colina y me estacioné justo en frente de la ambulancia de los bomberos voluntarios. En la mayoría de las comunidades, el voluntariado o el equipo de bomberos municipales son efectivamente el equipo médico de emergencia, y son los primeros en responder para la mayoría de los accidentes e incidentes violentos.
Me bajé y vi algunas caras familiares en la multitud. Saqué el más pequeño de mis dos cámaras (me refiero, no hay manera no se me va a llamar la atención sobre mí mismo, pero me imaginé que sería algo menos intrusivo con la cámara más pequeña) y tomé algunas fotografías que ilustran este blog La policía no me parece que pagar tanto la mente, sino que eran en su mayoría de pie en la plaza por la calle y observar la multitud. Parecía que algunas personas habían entrado en el edificio, pero como era tarde, no se quedó mucho tiempo, y sólo saltó de nuevo en mi coche y fuimos a Santa Cruz.
Después vi un informe que había 300 personas presentes, no vi a 300 personas. Yo calculo alrededor de 60 personas en el edificio municipal adecuado, y otro par de docenas en las calles cercanas. Pero no podría haber sido más temprano ...
Por lo tanto, vamos a ver qué pasa. Es domingo, día de mercado, así que cuando salgo a hacer mis compras veré lo que los amigos tienen que decir sobre esto.

The election drama in town continues

So, it's not clear what is happening with the election in Chinique -- the mayoral election, that is. A few days ago Caterino had told me they were going to repeat the election. Then a few days later, when I was at the radio station, my colleague Jeanet, was checking her Facebook (using my modem), and read a notice posted by a group called Orgullosamente del Quiché, saying that the mayor of Chinique had declared that there was not going to be a second round in his town.  I asked her to read it to me, and then later I found the notice and read it out over the air (we do try to do a little bit of news).

That was Wednesday. Then the next day, Thursday, one of my acquaintances who is a member of the Patriota, dropped in. He lives up in Tapesquillo, a good 20-25 minute drive from the center of town, and does not usually come into town during the middle of the week.  There was a knock at the door as I was trying finish up writing something and clean the house a little, and when I opened there was Don L. I greeted him and invited him in, expressed my surprise and pleasure to see him in town. We exchanged greetings, I asked after his wife and family, and then asked what brought him to town. "Oh, we have a little bit of trouble going on here in the town," he said. "What kind of trouble?" I asked (although I had a pretty good idea of what he was hinting at. "Well, it's a problem with the mayor, who says that he's still mayor, that he won the election," he replied. "Ah," I said. "First I thought that they were not going to repeat the election. Then they said that they were going to repeat the election. Then yesterday I heard that the mayor said there wasn't going to be a second round. So I don't know what's going to happen." "Yes, well," Don L said. "So people are not happy and we are going to have a meeting and then go over to the municipality" (the word "municipalidad" which literally means "municipality" is used here to mean"the municipal building" or "town hall"). The municipal building in Chinique is barely a building: it's one story, on the corner of the plaza where the church is located, and right next to the school. It's one story, and houses not only the mayor's office and whatever other municipal officials there are, but also some other public agencies.

We chatted for a few minutes about other things. I have told Don L, without going into much detail, that while we are friends - I stayed at his house the first time I was in Guatemala in 2009 -- that while I respect everyone's views, and I am not a Guatemalan and so my opinions probably don't really count for much, I support a different political party. I didn't say which one, and he hasn't asked me. This is a bit of a gray area for me.  I am not about to pretend that I do not have preferences and strong views about Guatemalan politics. At the same time, I do not throw those in people's faces, especially not in my small town. I have only told a very few close friends here that my sympathies are with Winaq. I see no reason to call attention to my political views, especially as I fully recognize that Guatemalan politics need to be defined by Guatemalans; there have been enough centuries of outside involvement in the country's political affairs, and especially in the recent past, from our government and also U.S.-based corporations. At the same time, I have to be honest (while respectful). I am not going to lie and say I don't care, or that all the parties are the same to me.  I do care, and they are not all the same. As Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote (although in a very different context she was writing about death), "I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."  And, as it turns out, most of the people with whom I am working closely (that is, activists in the community radio movement, and critical thinkers in general) have similar political leanings. But that doesn't mean that I don't have acquaintances and friends who support other political parties, or that I will not talk to people of differing views. For me, it is important to understand where the support lies for the right wing, especially here in Quiché where the hills are littered with bones and ash, where nearly every Maya family suffered in some way.

As a scholar (yeah, I do have to put on that hat every so often) I do not think that this prevents me from having a clear-eyed assessment of the political scene.  In fact, some of the sharpest criticism that I have seen of Winaq and the Frente Amplio comes from within the ranks of the leadership. So I am able, I think, to  analyze the political process and the political landscape without being blinded by my sympathies.

Returning to the narrative (there was one, wasn't there), after Don L. and I exchanged pleasantries, he headed off and I turned back to getting ready to leave. As I drove out of town, I decided to not go by my normal route but instead to drive up to the "main street", such as it is, and see if I could catch a glimpse of what was going on.  My street is two blocks away from the main street, and depending upon which direction my car is facing, I either drive down my street two blocks to where it comes to a T, and then turn right to get out of town, or I make two left turns so that I am on the next parallel street, and go down THAT one two blocks to the T, and then right and out of town. I rarely drive the two blocks up to the main street since (a) there are big speed bumps and big potholes, and (b) there is nearly always more traffic.  But I wanted to see what was happening so I went that way. There were a lot of people in the street, and as I passed the cross-street that goes past the muni (pronounced sort of like "moonie", but the "u" is a little shorter than the "oo" -- this is short for "municipalidad"), I looked to my right and saw a bunch of cops standing around, and several dozen people gathered on the veranda and on the sidewalk and grass in front of the muni. I drove on, and then decided to loop back (there's another way into town that goes past the volunteer fire station and puts you on the street in front of the muni). So I went to the edge of town and made a very sharp right and back up the hill and parked just in front of the ambulance of the volunteer firemen. In most communities, the volunteer or municipal fire squad are effectively the emergency medical squad, and are the first responders for most accidents and violent occurrences.

I hopped out, and saw a few familiar faces in the crowd. I pulled out the smaller of my two cameras (I mean, no way was I not going to call attention to myself, but I figured I'd be somewhat less intrusive with the smaller camera) and took a few photographs which are illustrating this blog. The police didn't seem to pay me much mind; they were mostly standing on the plaza across the street and observing the crowd. It looked like some people had entered the building, but as I was late, I didn't stay long, and just hopped back into my car and drove to Santa Cruz.

I later saw a report that there were 300 people present; I didn't see 300 people. I would estimate about 60 people at the municipal building proper, and another couple of dozen in the nearby streets. But there could have been more earlier...

So, we will see what happens. It's Sunday, market day, and so when I head out to do my shopping I will see what friends have to say about this.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Los politólogos de la cantina

Por lo tanto, la campaña electoral está de regreso en pleno apogeo. Anuncios cada cinco minutos en los camiones de sonido de la radio, haciendo las rondas. Baldizón (él es el único que no es un criminal de guerra, y el que viene de una familia muy rica) está promoviendo como parte de su éxito personal provenía de trabajo (¿qué? La riqueza heredada no tenía nada que hacer con él? Por favoooor!), y cómo él cree en una Guatemala para todos. Se reitera también su apoyo a la pena de muerte, comprometiéndose a hacer más seguras todas las familias mediante la institución de la pena capital. Estas palabras tienen una resonancia particular en el marco de la ejecución de Troy Davis, y el debate sobre la pena capital en Estados Unidos. Supongo que no ha leído ninguno de los numerosos estudios que evidencian que la pena capital no es un disuasivo al crimen.
Y luego en la otra esquina tenemos el ex general que creó y autorizó las atrocidades y el genocidio contra la población maya, que obtiene su ropa interior en un giro inesperado cuando la gente hace que un tema de campaña y cargar con las campañas negativas y las tácticas de desprestigio.
No es un conjunto muy atractivo de opciones.
En el último par de días he empezado a preguntar a los amigos de Guatemala lo que ellos piensan son los posibles resultados de la elección. Mis preguntas no tanto sobre quién pensaban que iba a ganar, pero lo que ellos pensaban que ocurriría si Baldizón ganó o si Pérez Molina ganó. El título de esta entrada proviene de un amigo que es un agudo observador de la escena política aquí, quien recientemente se describió como un "politólogo de la cantina" (básicamente una taberna, cantinas suelen servir licor y comida, pero uno no es tan amplio menú de un restaurante), ya que él y un grupo de amigos se reúnen casi todos los sábados en la cantina para hablar de política, entre otras cosas.
Hasta ahora, la mayoría piensa que es una visión bastante sombría en ambos casos. Nadie espera que ningún de los dos hombres iba poner mucho esfuerzo en la promoción de programas sociales.Un amigo dijo que pensaba que sería muy estrecha, no importa quién ganó. Pero si Baldizón ganó, pensó que Pérez Molina se aseguraría de que el país se hiciera más violento y más inseguro.Mucha de la violencia está vinculada a bandas organizadas que están vinculados a los traficantes de diversa índole, principalmente narcotraficantes, y los militares, él me recordó, son profundamente, profundamente invertidos en el narcotráfico. Muchos sostienen que el narcotráfico es básicamente una operación militar: que cuando tuvo que parar la guerra en 1996, los ex y actuales militares  concentraron sus energías en otras empresas. Así, Pérez Molina y sus compinches en el campo de la delincuencia organizada harán todo lo posible para asegurarse de que el país sería ingobernable.
Por otro lado, mi amigo pensó que, si Pérez Molina ganó, podría haber una disminución de la violencia debido a la delincuencia organizada ya que Pérez Molina "encontrará otras formas de sacar dinero de nuestros bolsillos y ponerlo en el suyo."

The pundits of the cantina//Los politólogos de la cantina

So, the election campaign is back in full swing. Ads every five minutes on the radio, sound trucks making the rounds. Baldizón (he's the one who is not a war criminal, and the one who comes from a very rich family) is touting how much of his personal success came from hard work (what? inherited wealth had nothing to do with it? Puh-leese!), and how he believes in a Guatemala for everyone. He is also reiterating his support for the death penalty, pledging to make everyone's family safer by instituting capital punishment. These words have a particular resonance in the way of the Troy Davis execution, and the debate about capital punishment in the United States. I guess he hasn't read any of the many studies that provide evidence that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime.

And then in the other corner we have the former general who authored and authorized atrocities and genocide against the Maya population, who gets his knickers in a twist when people make that a campaign issue and charge them with negative campaigning and smear tactics.

Not a very appealing set of choices. 

In the last couple of days I've started to ask Guatemalan friends what they think are possible outcomes of the election. My questions were not so much about who they thought would win, but what they thought would happen if Baldizón won or if Pérez Molina won. The title of this entry comes from a friend who is a keen observer of the political scene here, who recently described himself as a "political analyst of the cantina" (basically a tavern; cantinas usually serve liquor and food, but not as extensive a menu as a restaurant), since he and a group of friends meet most Saturdays in a cantina to discuss politics, among other things.

So far, most think that it is a pretty grim outlook in either case. No one expects either man to put much effort into promoting social programs. One friend said he thought that it would be extremely close, no matter who won. But if Baldizón won, he thought that Pérez Molina would ensure that the country became more violent and more insecure. Much of the violence is tied to organized gangs who are tied to traffickers of various sorts, predominantly narcotraffickers, and the military, he reminded me, is deeply, deeply invested in narcotrafficking. Many argue that narcotrafficking is basically a military operation: that when they had to stop the war in 1996, the military (former and current) turned their energies to other enterprises.  So, Pérez Molina and his cronies in the organized crime arena would do their best to ensure that the country would be ungovernable.

On the other hand, my friend thought, if Pérez Molina won, there might be a drop in violence due to organize crime since Pérez Molina "would find other ways of taking money out of our pockets and putting it in his."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Desastres naturales (NO)

Es difícil vivir y, sobre todo para conducir en Guatemala durante la estación lluviosa, que es efectivamente la mitad de los años, y no ser sorprendido, si no se alarmado, a veces, por la frecuencia de deslizamientos de tierra (deslaves o derrumbes) e inundaciones. Es decir, si uno no es de aquí. El otro día, conducía de regreso a Quiché de Antigua, cuando era detenida en la carretera durante una media hora alrededor del kilómetro 105  (que está a medio camino entre Tecpán y Los Encuentros, donde la carretera que conduce a través de Quiché se inicia). Quedemos parados completamente y luego  los coches de nuestro lado comenzaron a caminar a pulgadas hacia delante lentamente. A una media milla más adelante, vi lo que estaba causando el paro. Parecía como si una parte sustancial de la montaña en el lado opuesto de la carretera (más o menos el lado occidental, a lo largo de la parte derecha de los carriles en dirección a la ciudad de Guatemala y el sur) se habían caído como resultado de las constantes lluvias de la noche anterior. He visto una gran cantidad de deslizamientos de tierra (aunque no es hasta el verano pasado a lo largo de la CA-1 entre Guatemala y Los Encuentros), pero no he visto  rocas tan grandes en ningún lugar aquí. Habían grandes trozos de roca que eran casi del tamaño de automóviles. Tres carriles de la carretera fueron bloqueados efectivamente - los dos carriles en dirección sur y un carril en dirección norte. Hubieron algunos tractores y grúas, y ellos habían logrado despejar un carril, y la policía dirigiendo el tráfico para que algunos automóviles que se dirigen hacia el sur podría pasar, y luego algunos que van hacia el norte. Me he acostumbrado a ver las carreteras bloqueadas, árboles caídos en la carretera, las grandes acumulaciones de lodo bloqueando un carril más o menos, pero esto fue bastante aterrador, porque parecía como si la mayor cantidad de la ladera por encima estaba en el suelo mientras se mantuvo de pie.Esto me puso a pensar en por qué hay tantos deslizamientos de tierra a lo largo de las carreteras, y, más en general sobre la serie de desastres que hemos tenido la semana pasada en Guatemala. Lunes por la tarde, hubo 4 terremotos, que oscilan entre 4.7 y 5.8, se concentró en el departamento de Santa Rosa, al este de la capital. Y luego hubo una avalancha o alud en Santa Cruz Barillas en Huehuetenango. Al mismo tiempo, apareció un artículo en la prensa que el gobierno de respuesta a desastres agencia, CONRED (Consejo Nartional para la Reducción de Desastres) se había quedado sin financiación. Había un montón de personas desplazadas en Santa Rosa, y en Huehuetenango personas fueron enterradas en la avalancha. Al menos una persona murió en el acto, y unos 15 desaparecidos. Un total de 11 personas habían muerto, a partir del viernes 23 de septiembre.Claramente, los terremotos van a suceder en un país donde hay muchas fallas sísmicas. Sin embargo, el impacto humano de estos acontecimientos es cualquier cosa menos natural. Al llamar a los "desastres naturales", esconde o máscara de las causas muy sociales y los impactos extremadamente desiguales. No debe escapar a la atención de nadie que la gran mayoría de las personas que se desplazan, que quedan sin hogar, heridos o muertos en las inundaciones, deslizamientos, avalanchas y terremotos son los pobres de color. Entendiste eso, ¿verdad? Recuerde Katrina, todo el mundo? Las inundaciones podrían haber sido ciegos al color y neutral con respeto a clase social, pero las comunidades que fueron construidos en las zonas más vulnerables eran en su mayoría pobres y comunidades de clase trabajadora y las comunidades de color (aunque, como muchos comentaristas han señalado, el "Ninth Ward" o sea, "Noveno Distrito"  que recibió la mayor parte de la atención de los medios durante la inundación y sus consecuencias, contaba con mucha gente de la clases obrera y media, también propietarias de sus propias casas).Muchos años atrás, en algún momento a finales de 1970 o principios de 1980, escuché una charla de un geógrafo marxista llamado Phil O'Keefe que cambió para siempre la forma en que yo miraba a este tipo de catástrofes, creo que el título era "lo natural es un desastre natural ? " Puntos centrales de Phil eran básicamente lo que he dicho anteriormente: que llamar a tales hechos "naturales" es una forma de evitar (o esconder) los orígenes sociales y sus impactos. Que si no se fijan en base desigualdades sociales y económicas, tales como los patrones de tenencia de la tierra muy desigual, o la limitada disponibilidad de puestos de trabajo, que llevan a los pobres construyen sus viviendas en las laderas de los volcanes o en las llanuras de inundación, entonces nos perdemos gran parte de de la historia. Y por continuamente referir a estos como desastres "naturales" negamos el papel del capitalismo - y las opciones muy conscientes por el poder - que han llevado a y exacerbado las grandes desigualdades.Por lo tanto, esto ayuda a entender lo que son, por desgracia, las apariciones del todos los días en Guatemala. Yo no soy un experto en ingeniería civil o la construcción de carreteras, así que no sé por qué las rutas se construyeron carreteras, precisamente, en la forma en que han sido. Es un país montañoso y probablemente no hay un montón de maneras de trazar una línea desde la capital hasta el altiplano que no implicaría que divide un par de docenas de montañas. Yo sé lo suficiente sobre cómo funcionan las cosas en Guatemala, para saber que los contratos para cosas como la construcción de carreteras y reparación de carreteras van a los socios de los políticos están en el poder en este momento. Y probablemente también para el diseño de carreteras. No he estudiado nada de esto en Guatemala, que cuenta, pero he estudiado las causas sociales de los desastres, y también los procesos de "modernización" y "desarrollo" en los países en desarrollo en general, y cómo las élites modernizadoras y los estados agarran proyectos de "desarrollo" por fines políticos (y económicos). El amigüismo y la corrupción son una parte tan arraigada de la forma en que funciona el Estado de Guatemala que parece del todo irrelevante. Por supuesto, los caminos estaban probablemente mal planificadas en el primer lugar. Algunos gobiernos, enamorado de la ideología de la modernidad, ha promovido la idea de que la construcción de carreteras podría integrar las áreas rurales de Guatemala en el moderno Estado-nación (cuando en realidad es probable que en su mayoría sirven para facilitar el transporte de los productos del capitalismo internacional en las áreas rurales, interrumpir la subsistencia economías, y promover el consumismo. Quiero decir, realmente no creemos que Coca Cola está por crear  puestos de trabajo en Quiché, verdad? Solamente probando. Bien, ahora podemos pasar a otro punto).Las carreteras fueron planeados probablemente sin tomar en cuenta lo que podría pasar a las montañas que se están reduciendo a largo plazo. Sin duda, las carreteras fueron construidas de una manera de mala calidad - un amigo de un político consiguió el contrato y quería estar seguro de que había contratado de nuevo para hacer las reparaciones. Falta de interés en la construcción de carreteras que iba a durar, que va en contra del capitalismo rapaz. Y así, los caminos son casi diseñado para ser vulnerable, y necesita reparaciones. Y así, cuando las rocas caen, cuando la superficie del camino está cubierto de lodo y grava, cuando vemos grandes agujeros en la superficie de la ladera de la montaña, los conductores más que nada suspiro, reducir la marcha, nuestra forma de trabajo alrededor de la obstrucción, se quejan, la maldición, y van sobre.Todos se quejan de esto, pero nadie espera nada muy diferente de la del Estado y sus compinches en el capital privado.El estado de las carreteras en las zonas rurales son igualmente peligrosas, aunque no hay deslizamientos de tierra, como muchos en mi parte del Quiché. Hasta aquí, el camino que viajo casi todos los días de Chinique de Santa Cruz, RD-2, se ha deteriorado de forma constante durante los últimos meses de la temporada de lluvias. Cada pocos días aparece un bache nuevo, hay secciones que están tan profundamente marcada y salpicada de baches que es imposible encontrar un estiramiento suave (por lo general cuando hay baches, usted puede encontrar un espacio entre y alrededor de ellos), y de conducción lo está llena de baches, incómodos y potencialmente peligrosos - sin duda uno de los neumáticos y el chasis, sino también a la vida y la integridad física, como los coches desviarse y girar para tratar de encontrar la manera menos desigual en todo.También podemos utilizar el análisis de la geografía social de ver el gran número de accidentes de tráfico y la demografía de las muertes. La semana pasada hubo un camión que se salió de la carretera en San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos. Que transportaba a unos 50 jornaleros (laborerers día), y varias decenas de personas resultaron heridas como consecuencia del accidente, y murió a los tres o cuatro (uno de inmediato y los otros dentro de un día o dos de sus lesiones). A primera vista parece trágico, pero, de nuevo, por desgracia, bastante insignificante en un país con una alta tasa de asesinatos y un gran número de asaltos a mano armada diariamente. Pero si miramos más de cerca, tenemos que preguntar por qué estaban allí 50 personas hacinadas en un camión que cayó por un barranco? Lo que nos lleva a otras preguntas: ¿por qué la gente que usa un camión como medio de transporte? ¿Y por qué hay tantos jornaleros de viaje? Las respuestas tienen que ver con la pobreza, la falta de transporte seguro y confiable, y los patrones de tenencia de la tierra y la falta de oportunidades de empleo.Las personas que tienen suficiente tierra para mantener a sus familias no van a trabajar como jornaleros. Las personas que tienen trabajos que pagan salarios decentes no ir a trabajar como jornaleros. Un camión no es un medio muy seguro para desplazarse. Sin embargo, hay pocas alternativas en las zonas rurales. Conducir a lo largo de las carreteras, veo docenas de camionetas pick-up que las camas se llenan de gente de 10, 15 o más, incluyendo a las mujeres con bebés atados a la espalda.No creo que la mayoría de las personas en las zonas rurales pasan mucho tiempo pensando en la seguridad. Hay pocos medios para desplazarse, y si la alternativa de subir en la cama de un camión que podría ser viejo, chirriante, han despojado a los neumáticos de un eje o corroídos, está esperando en la orilla de una carretera de un autobús que no podría venir (y cuya mecánica podría ser tan malo o peor que la de la pick up), o caminando, o no llegar a donde necesita ir, el pick up se ve muy bien.Y si tiene que ir a trabajar, y usted no tiene suficiente dinero para comprar una bicicleta, o es demasiado lejos para andar en bicicleta, entonces el cálculo es más sencillo. Es necesario el Q30 o lo que se les paga por su trabajo de jornalero, ya que la compra de maíz y los frijoles y el arroz y la sal para alimentarse a sí mismo ya su familia. Si no se llega a ese agotador, trabajo mal pagado, sin frijolitos de la familia. Por eso, cuando el camión llega eructos diesel, no piensan dos veces saltar en la parte de atrás con 49 o 50 personas. Está de pie, tal vez, o si hay espacio te sientas, apretando las caderas y las piernas en los pequeños espacios que puedes encontrar. Que tirar de su gorra de béisbol hacia abajo, y se amontonan en la sudadera Hollister que compró en una Paca, o tal vez una camiseta con el nombre de un equipo de EE.UU. deportes que compró cuando estaba trabajando en los ESTADOS, o que un familiar emigrado a traerse o enviarse espalda. Tal vez picar un elote (mazorca de maíz) o calentarte con un Chuchito (un tamal pequeño lleno con una salsa picante y pequeño pedazo de pollo o de carne), chatear con tus amigos, mirar por la carretera, o tratar de tomar una siesta. En realidad, no pueden darse el lujo de pensar acerca de si el conductor va a conducir con seguridad, si se va a iniciar una conversación en su teléfono celular, si es capaz de maniobrar el vehículo en las curvas y las pendientes, en torno a los baches y deslizamientos de tierra. Usted tiene menos de lujo de considerar si es demasiado lluvioso o las carreteras son tan malas que en la carretera en este o cualquier otro día. Los caminos son horribles, lo que es la temporada de lluvias, que vive donde vive y el trabajo está donde está, el camión es lo que está disponible, y así te vas.