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January 03, 2003

heading out tonight, but first about the zapatista´s protest

so i´m going to Roberto Barrios, in the northern zone of chiapas. i was a little relieved that i didn´t get assigned to the selva or jungle region, that´s where the forced removal of indigenous communities is gonna start going down bigtime, in the montes azules area.
i have to take the overnight bus to palenque, a busride i´ll have done three times now, and the bus looks full and i have this sneaky suspicion that a small child will find a way to sit next to me and poke my ribs all night long. after that i catch the community´s truck out to the community, a 2 hour drive. i´m hoping it doesn´t start to rain, if it does the river that the truck has to drive across can get so high that we won´t be able to cross.

Robero Barrios is one of the 5 aguas calientes. each community designated as an aguas calientes is a place where group decision making for the zapatistas takes place, so it should be a really interesting place to be. the name aguas calientes come from the mexican revolution, when zapata and some of the leaders fighting against the corrupt as hell government met in the city of aguas calientes, which i believe is north of mexico city. it´s a good use of symbolism.
the town is not entirely zapatista, there are also pri supporters there, pri being the institutional revolutionary party, the party that was the only party in charge of mexico up until recently. now the pan is in charge, but as far as the zapatistas are concerned the pan is equal to the pri, both of them pretty much tell lies and offer false promises to the indigenous communities.

the protest that i mentioned yesterday was amazing, here´s a story that my friend jenka helped write for it. she also did a radio segment for the pacifica network, which aired yesterday. i helped do the translation for the piece, it was really fun for me,
we waited nearly all day to watch the protest, finally at 9 at night the zapatistas started marching into the square, answering calls such as ¨viva mexico!¨ with a thundering ¨VIVA!¨ the comandantes talked about how the mexican government wasn´t gonna displace anyone from montes azules without a fight. they talked about how their struggle was the worldwide struggle against corrupt and evil governments and against corportations that valued profits over the lives of people. it was very inspiring, and although we stood stomping out feet because of the cold, there was an electricity in the air and in the words and ideas being stated that kept everyone there, shouting along and singing the zapatista hymn till 1130 at night.

during the protest i helped translate for my new friend genevive from sidney australia, but i´m not so good yet and when somene is speaking rapid fire and you have to try and keep up you can´t, or at least i can´t, relay the eloquence of their spanish into english. with the radio piece i had more time to craft the words and ideas so that they sounded as intelligent in english as they did in spanish. it was good for me.

also got to do some translating last night for this lady from holland who wanted to talk about her form of alternative medicine. her daughter did the first part, where she told us how she started as a dentist but moved on to homeopathic and acupuncture and other forms of alternative medicine. eventually she got an enthusiastic volunteer, this mexican lady who lives next to the hostel. then she whipped out this flexible magic wand thingy with a metal ring at the end, she said she had trained herself to detect from the aura or energy field (cue me laughing) what it was that was causing someone to be sick. apparently she found it easier to make herself neutral when she was carrying (cue me stifling laughter while sitting in a group of semi interested people) cristals and other weirdo talismans. i took over translating then, and first thing off the bat the mexican woman makes some comment about her lungs being bad, and wouldn´t you know, 5 minutes later the lady passes her hang across the woman´s back over her lungs and, lo and behold, the magic wand waggled back and forth in the negative formation. hallelujah!!! it´s a miracle! i looked over at rosita and saw a glint in her eye, like she wasn´t buying this crap either. about that time genevive and anna the dirty joke and story telling new zealander motioned that they´d had enough of this talk about vibrations and cristals and that they were going for food. we went and got some food, then came back just in time to see everyone filing out of the living room of the hostel like they´d seen a mediocre film. i asked what we´d missed, and my spaniard friends said ¨more of the same.¨ we went inside and rosita was looking at the magic wand, wait sorry the bio sensor, and she had a little grin. this is very interesting she said, making the wand waggle. ¨so if it bobs up and down it means ¨yes,¨ if it bobs side to side it means ¨no,¨ and if it does this (she waggles it in a circle) it means ¨i have no idea.¨ she motioned me over, and started to pass her hand across my face, then my chest. she looks at the magic wand, waggling it side to side in the ¨no¨ motion, and said ¨it´s telling me that something is wrong with your foot.¨ she laughed, as did all of us. then she put her own hand behind her head, and holding the wand still. ¨it´s telling me that i have a problem with...indecision.¨ we were all rolling around laughing, and rosita said if she had a wand like this she would sleep with it every night. very funny i must say.
i´ll be out of email contact till the 18th i believe, should have some good things to say when i get back.

about how i´ve never written about cuba, in the extended entry section i´ve included the first part of what i´ve written, it isn´t completed but feel free to check out it.

on cuba

first of all i have finally arrived back in san cristobal, a 17 hour busride seated right next to an admittedly kind mexican woman and her your daughter. the child was a bit squirmy, but i gave her some of my mandarine orange and she smiled so it was ok, plus i was exhausted and managed to actually get some bus sleep. just got some food with anthony, he´s doing good, we´re gonna have some tequila this evening after i eat dinner at the hostel with rosita who owns the hostel and all the spaniards that are there who i just met this morning. good old spain, i get to say hostia.

so i was sitting in the airport in cancun, which on a side note i have declared first city to get bombed out of existance once someone i know gets their hands on the presidency, which will be never, but i must say that it corrupts the rest of the yucatan peninsula and i hope to never set foot there again, stong sentiments but it´s true, all i can say is what a shithole. anyways, in the airport i spotted a couple speaking spanish, i approached them and met ańa and keez, pronounced case, her being from barcelona and him from holland. he´d been travelling a record two years straight, started at the tip of south america, it was inspiring to hear of his travels. on the plane we exchanged glances as the floor of the yaklov 42, a russian jet, had a weird smoky but not smoke mist rising between the seats and down the aisle. the flight was fine, and when we landed at jose marti international airport in havana everyone clapped.
i got through customs after getting 10 minutes of questions about myself, since my passport says new mexico they thought i was lying about being from the u.s., then they searched my entire backpack, the lady was very nice about it, and i had to repack the whole thing. we bargained the taxi driver down to 12 bucks for the ride, one thing i´ve learned on this trip is that i can bargain pretty well, whenever they tell me the price i look at them like they´re crazy and walk away, when the follow you you know you can work them.
driving into town, we marvelled at the classic 1950´s cars, the semi´s pulling bus trailers that must have held 100+ people, the carts being pulled by mules, the people on bicycles, everyone hitchhiking and only the women getting picked up, and the complete lack of exhaust protection enforced. the driver spoke rapid fire cuban spanish, i adjusted fairly well, i started cutting all s´s out of my spanish and mumbling and he understood me just fine. as you drive along there is propaganda all over, the best is a wide painting on a wall that shows fidel castro yelling across an expanse of water at an evil looking uncle sam ¨dear imperialist, we have not the slightest fear of you!¨
the driver dropped us off in the old part of havana, la habana vieja, near our street on aguacate. we found the house of elvia, the lady who´s email i had obtained a while back, and she sorted us out with rooms in casas particulares, which means staying in a bedroom with a family. that´s the best way to do it there, the hotels are government run and uniformally crappy. cuba is very much geared towards package tourism, we would have had to lie at the customs agent that we were staying at a government hotel if they´d have asked.
I sat in the room waiting, and 10 minutes later my brother steven showed up. it was a good reunion, hadn´t seen him since august when he dropped me at a truckstop so i could hitch to idaho. we dumped our bags and headed out to eat. we ate at a dollar restaurant with slow service but ok beans and rice. we spent time catching up and had some beers, it was good to see him, he´s gotten quite good at the spanish, i was stoked for him.
someone had told me that in cuba there are always people on the street. this i found to be true, swarms of life walking in different directions. what i hadn´t heard was that many are standing in line for bread. i guess i´ll get into my rant/thoughts on the whole political situation, not that everyone cares, but i´m really glad i got to see it before it all starts to change, as it´s sure to. i spent a good amount of time talking to cubans, from the owners of the casas particulares to taxi drivers to people on the street. i would say that maybe half the people seemed pretty happy with how the country is, that they felt they had enough to eat, that they supported fidel and the government. these were usually the folks who were letting us stay in their houses. the rest, particularly one cab driver and a guy we met while sitting on the dock at cienfuegos, were very unhappy to be in that country and not able to leave. these people generally had family in miama, and it must have weighed on them that their relatives had more freedom and options because they lived in the united states. i asked them who was to blame, thinking that they would say the cuban government, which they usually did. i would ask if they thought that my government had something to do with it, and they´d acknowledge it, but they seemed to feel that the cuban government should change as to better deal with the u.s, if only so they had it easier on the island. the desenters tended to be catholics i also noticed, not very devoted to marxism and the ¨revolution.¨

Posted by bendan at January 3, 2003 02:46 PM

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you can always start a post and save it as a draft, it won't become visible until you change it to publish.

Posted by: andrew at January 3, 2003 08:51 PM

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