Joined: Sep 2008
Parral, Durango, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Morelia, Mexico, Puebla, and Oaxaca.
So many UNESCO world heritage cities joined by hours of riding on perfect tarmac laid out among breathtaking scenery.
We are winding down this amazing historical tour of colonial Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors and their religious zealots left this grandiose heritage of religious architecture, and maze of quaint and cobbled streets, and other sumptuous Catholic artifacts. So much so that on numerous occasions you feel yourself transported into ancient Spain. Countless of the UNESCO accredited buildings we saw, had their foundations laid barely a few decades after Columbus landed in “La Española”. The Island now split between Domican Republic, and the ever-rebuilding Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, where 80% of the population lives on less than $2.00 per day, some 900 miles from the glitzy beaches of Miami.
I guess that brings us, me full circle. I spent some time in Haiti in the early 80’s, I was 16 going on 17, and it first opened my eyes to poverty, oppression, and exploitation. It was there amidst the last years of the Duvalier regime that I first witnessed, in Cité Soleil, kids running half naked in muddy alleyways bordered by gutters overflowing with raw sewage.
The rhetoric employed in the first sentence used in the CIA fact book to describe the economy of “La perle des Antilles” is laughable:
“Haiti is a free market economy that enjoys the advantages of low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports”
I cannot help but smile at the use of the words “enjoy”, “free” (twice) and “low labor” in the same sentence.
I have been lucky to travel the world, India is deeply troubling, unsettling, its colors, odors, sounds, and humanity, it’s oppressive heat, and its beautiful dancing people. India teaches you to see beyond the poverty, beyond the ubiquitous slums, and find the humanity that bonds all of us, the ones that possess and the ones that do not.
Last year I completed a postgraduate degree in intercultural and international communication. An emphasis was placed on learning about “Development communication” or “Communication for development”, throughout the completion of the degree, among professors, students, and readings, I sought the answer to the same question again and again:
Is development without oppression and exploitation possible?
Think about it for a minute or ten. If you have an idea on the topic I would love to hear it…
Of course one needs to define development prior to even attempt to propose an answer to this age-old question.
If you are interested; read this, a noteworthy paper on the taxonomy of development written by Lynge Nielsen.
Or for something more interactive do this test; you might be surprised by your results:
What is my footprint
It had been many years since I last read Paulo Freire’s foundational work “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”,
Paulo Freire Wiki
So this summer, to understand more where I was heading I read Eduardo Gaeleano’s iconic book “Venas abiertas de America Latina”
You can find an open source English copy prefaced by Isabelle Allende here:
Open veins of Latin America
For anyone riding the length of the Americas, before you even think about picking up a copy of the latest Lonely Planet, map, or other guide type literature, I suggest you read Gaeleano, no matter how young or old, or how much you think you know.
Riding through the incredible landscape of central Mexico, a stranger in a strange land, I felt as I had so many times before. I think it is possible at any moment for any common woman or man to perform acts that will have a resounding positive and tangible impact on the life of another human being, or very small group of people. But before doing so, before any act of kindness, or other altruistic intention, your, mine, our task is to listen. Listen to someone’s needs and wants, listen to their complaints without other intention or judgment, simply by committing an act of self abstraction, by heeding and learning, then and only then may we attempt to make the world a better place.
Hopefully this will not be construed as misplaced intellectual vanity, for this humble dissertation is not meant to propose anything new, but merely to trigger a reflection.
Thank you valiant Parral, festive Durango, studious Zacatecas, romantic Guanajuato, colourful San Miguel de Allende, arrogant Morelia, surprising Puebla, stinky Mexico City, and untidy Oaxaca.
On you roads all I did was leave traces of ductile rubber… Your cities and their shades touched my senses, and your people have touched my heart.
V@lentino screwed with this post 06-28-2014 at 10:07 PM