Latin America – Land of Optimism or Apocalypse?
Latin America can conjure up a variety of images. Maybe the first thing you think of is latin dance, or rich unique cuisine, or colombian drug lords, or poor round faced children working in the streets.
For many from the rich world who have the chance to visit Latin America they will be struck by the natural beauty of the land and the people as well as the rich history. However I feel it unfortunate that few seem to be getting the real insights the continent has to offer.
It may be the warnings scattered through the travel guide warning about where not to go and what not to do that closes peoples minds. Fear is a powerful drug that can turn almost any sane person into a quivering unreasonable imbecile. Or maybe its the rubbish in the street or those sifting through it. The better educated of the rich world may even have a version of understanding of the battle between the evils of communism and the unquestioned successful model which allows them to travel, capitalism. A bloody internal conflict which reformed countries are supposedly still paying the price for despite their obedience to free market doctrine in recent history. Foreign investment still hasn’t worked it’s magic yet.
Beyond these indoctrinated or ignorant visitors are those who have come to Latin America seeking out revolution. Admirably covered in Che Guevara tattoos and armed with political science or activist education they come to Latin America ready to classify and correct the errors of the Left in Latin America. They are less concerned about insecurity and are generally more interested in talking about failures of the left in this uneducated land.
It seems that almost everyone who comes to these parts from across the seas brings with them not just an overpacked bag of affluence but a closed mind which won’t let the truth of Latin America penetrate the thick skin of a western education.
For me it’s the continent of revolution and rebellion. Of possibilities. That has me hoping that I can be the smallest kind of support just because it’s standing up and saying “No!.” Whether it’s “No!” to privatization of an essential service like a University, electricity service or water; or a foreign mining company wanting to export the wealth of the poor to the rich; or foreign intervention, in the form of war or subversion or from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund or a “free trade” agreement, I stand with them. But the biggest “No!” that those who’ve come across the seas should be taking home is the “No!” to capitalism. This is that greatest source of hope for a world seeing ever fewer people holding the worlds wealth and power while the planets systems and resources fall apart.
From this united no it’s time to start looking for the “Yes’” that we can construct together. “Yes” to international solidarity and free movement of people. “Yes” to real participative democracy. “Yes” to the right to a place to live, free education, free healthcare, cultural diversity, sexual diversity, gender rights, the right to own land and produce, the right to safe, healthy food and water. Some of these rights have been afforded to various extents in imperial nations or europe and it’s settlements through foreign and domestic exploitation and resource exploitation. This model cannot be replicated to create a just world. Latin America is looking beyond these models.
So the real message is that we have to get beyond the fear of Latin America, get beyond the western media that misinforms us in order to maintain it’s own domination, we have to look past the regimes still dominated by the United States. Once we do that we can see a truly enlightening and inspiring continent providing thousands of small examples along with the most powerful and successful progressive movements in the world today.
We need to look through new eyes at Cuba, the Zapatistas and hundreds of other indigenous solutions being created across the continent, at the workers movements in Argentina and Venezuela, and most of all at the Bolivarian Revolution which is rapidly changing the poles of global power while demonstrating new democratic paths to integration and cooperation to achieve human outcomes.