Friday, July 25, 2008

From Vegetarian to Wild Boar…

It was just a taste! But yes, folks, Moira the vegetarian ate not just meat, but a piece of wild boar. Tatabra is what it’s called around here, and from time to time the men go hunting with their dogs, most often when they are in some of the more remote veredas (see my last post for an explanation of veredas). At the right is one of the hunters dressing the very same tatabra that I tried (I think I had a piece of a leg). Also popular for hunting is guagua – a Rodent of Unusual Size for Princess Bride fans. Don’t think I’ll be trying that one, though! Neither do I want to try tatabra again – the piece I had was tough and chewy, kind of like jerky I thought, and did not excite me nearly as much as it did my meat-loving teammate Chris.

I have to confess that the tatabra was not the first bite of meat I’ve eaten since arriving in the Community. I have been able to (mostly) maintain my vegetarianism because we do most of our own cooking here. However, when visiting with our neighbors we are invariably offered food, and often it involves, besides the ubiquitous rice and beans, a big hunk of meat. Preceding FOR volunteers have been vegetarians, or even vegans, so a precedent has been set for refusing the meat, but sometimes, as those of you who have traveled in meat-centered countries know, declining a plate of food is not always a viable option. I admit to you all that I have succumbed a couple times.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where threatening graffiti and mud baths are all part of a day’s work

AUC”. The letters were very clearly drawn on the wall of the house in charcoal from a cooking fire. The clear, sharp outline of the letters was a clear indication that the writer or writers just recently left their mark. Perhaps the same individuals had been the ones who scratched “AUC 14” into the cement stove of the house we had just visited. Concern was evident in the faces and voices of the community members we were with: The intention to threaten and intimidate Peace Community members was clear: “AUC” stands for Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or United Self-defense Forces of Colombia - the principal paramilitary organization in the country, and the houses, though empty at the time, belong to Peace Community members, who stay there when tending the farms some of them maintain in the area, called Las Nieves.

We were passing through the vereda of Las Nieves (a vereda is kind of like a rural township; see * below for more explanation), on our way home from the vereda of La Esperanza. Our job was to accompany a couple of Community leaders to a meeting with Peace Community members in La Esperanza, hang out while the meeting was happening, then go back with the leaders. We don’t always accompany community leaders on trips to other settlements of the community, but there had been combat recently in the area and the military was maintaining a strong presence, so leaders were worried for their safety and asked for our accompaniment. In hindsight, the graffiti we discovered was another good reason for our presence.

Friday, July 11, 2008

On the Hostage Rescue

I've been both very busy in the last week and a half and not near internet, so haven't had time to post here, but given all the questions I've been getting about the rescue of the 15 hostages from the FARC, I thought it would be good to check in and make a few comments.

First, I am fine and we are not all that worried that the rescue will have negative repercussions for us and our work. Thanks for your concern!

Second, some comments on the rescue:
It is absolutely fantastic that the 15 hostages were freed and are back at home with their families, and I am so glad that their suffering at the hands of the FARC is over. However, like I did with my last post about Uribe, I'd like to mention a few related items that aren't getting as much attention.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Uribe: I haven't seen the 80% approval

The other day my dad sent me an article about Colombian president Álvaro Uribe in the Wall Street Journal (text of article is copied below since the Journal has subscriber-only access) by Mary Anastasia O’Grady and asked for some feedback. Though the article overflowed with praise for Uribe, I could hardly contain my disgust. Granted, I didn’t like Uribe all that much before I read the article, but the uncompromising praise that the author lavished upon him motivated me to write a rebuttal last week. 

Now, given the recent hostage rescue, Uribe will surely appear frequently in US and world news in the coming days, and I bet that most mentions will be quite glowing. Here, therefore, I offer you some grains of salt to take with all the sweet words most media outlets are using in reference to the Colombian president.

Even without such Uribe tends to make regular appearances in US news, for several reasons: he’s the primary Bush administration ally in Latin America, a free trade agreement between Colombia and the US is pending, and Uribe is currently toying with the idea of changing the constitution for a second time to run for a second reelection (all other Colombian presidents have only been allowed to serve just one term). 

First, O'Grady compares Uribe to Reagan as if that's a good thing, with which I would certainly not agree. I'm guessing that most of you are with me in thinking that Reagan's policies did much more harm that good in the U.S., though correct me if I'm wrong, and we can have a little debate.