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Sunday, May 31, 2009

High over the Andes

Ok, I hate flying, but I have to admit that flying high over the Andes today on a bright, cloudless day was pretty cool. I lucked out by being on the right side of the plane, and I could even see Lake Titcaca (where I just came from this morning) in the background. We saw the high snowcapped peaks around La Paz, and stretching along the Andes. I always wish I had a GPS with me so I could identify exactly where we are, and which mountains I'm seeing. Pretty cool.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lake Titicaca

I arrived in the Lima airport early Monday morning on an overnight flight from Miami. In the Lima airport I ran into some friend from Ecuador who were also going to the Indigenous Summit in Puno. They were on an earlier flight than me, and I managed to skip ahead to their flight, avoiding what otherwise would have been a very long layover in Lima. We had a beautiful flight high up over the Andes, passing through Cuzco before ending in Juliaca. In Juliaca, we caught a shuttle for the 45-minute trip to Puno.

I was now in Puno 4 hrs earlier than planned, and 2 days before the summit was to start. I’m not sure why I’m here so early. I swear that they must have pushed the summit back one day. I’m exhausted from the overnight flight and really feeling the effects of the altitude, but it seems wrong to waste this extra time in Puno.

I find an afternoon tour to Sillustani, an archaeological site with pre-Inka funerary towers that I’ve visited before. But it is close to Puno, interesting, and something interesting to do for the afternoon. I wonder if it is a mistake, as I can hardly drag my travel fatigued body and head throbbing with altitude sickness up the hill to the site. But it is a beautiful afternoon, and after a long plane ride it is nice to be outside. I ask our tour guide to take a picture of me at the site with the idea that I can use it for facebook, but I never get around to uploading it.

On the way back to Puno we stop at a house to view this “authentic Indigenous culture.” This type of cultural tourism seems so exploitative, but the families along the road seem willing to play along as it brings in some need revenue.

I get back to the hotel about 6pm and go straight to bed. The hotel has WiFi, but my room is right on the edge of the signal so it keeps dropping in & out. Annoying.

The next morning (what is this, Tues? I lose track) I go out on an all-day excursion on Lake Titicaca. The first stop is the floating islands of the Uros people. I’ve been to these islands before, but it seems to be a good way to pass the day while waiting for the summit to start.

We pull up to a very small island, and a row of smiling people are waiting and waving at us. Again, it feels like a very exploitative type of cultural tourism, but I guess this is a better way than some other alternatives to survive. I wonder how much of this tourist trade the local people control, and whether this is a fake island that they set up just to deal with the tourists. They give us a demonstration on how they build the island. A woman has a very beautiful tapestry that I’m tempted to buy. They have a Thor Hyderdahl type reed boat that they take us on a short ride around the island. Two nearby islands also have tourist boats docked there, and these islanders rush us off as yet another tourist boat arrives as they line up to wave as if they are welcoming long lost friends.

We continue on to Taquile, a larger natural island, where the tour drops us off on one side, lets us walk across to the other side, and then picks us up again. I’m still trying to adjust to this altitude of 3800 meters, so it is a bit of a strenuous hike for me up the island. We come to the central square, and the town leaders shuffle all of the tour groups off to different restaurants where the menu (fish or omelet) and price (15 soles) is exactly the same.

Then it is back to the boat, back to Puno, and back to bed. The summit is starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer travels

I have just returned from a quick trip to Panama to set up a study abroad program that we are running there next spring.

On Sunday, I am leaving for Puno, Peru for the Fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala. I think I'll try to blog about that event on our new Abya Yala Net website.

A week later I then continue on to Paraguay for a delegation with the Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas to explore the challenges facing their new president Fernando Lugo. Although I have seen Paraguay, I have never stepped foot in the country. It is one of a few Latin American countries that I have not visited.

Finally, I travel to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for the Latin American Studies Association conference where I am presenting the paper "Indigenous Struggle and the Ambiguities of State Power in Ecuador" on the panel "New Social Movements and Latin America Foreign Policies," commenting on the panel "Nuevos Movimientos y Actores Sociales: Desafíos en el Internacionalismo y el Interculturalismo," and participating in the roundtable discussion "Radical Democracy in the Andes."

Most of this is funded with a Truman Faculty Summer Research Fellowship for a study of International Indigenous Movements and State Power in South America.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Martyr's Day

In 1964, clashes between Panamanians and U.S. citizens over the raising of a flag led to riots which eventually led to the return of the canal to Panama in 1999. On our way to STRI we crossed the Avenue of the Martyrs that separates the old canal zone from Panama city where this monument is located.

This spring, students in my Latin American History at the Movies made this movie about Martyr's Day.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Panama notes

Coming into town from the airport I see campaign signs for Balbina Herrera claiming that if elected she would rule with a “mano dura con justicia.” If the leftist candidate campaigns like that, why do you even need a conservative candidate? I meet with Kungiler who I have helped for years with his website and I ask him about this. He says yes, this was a problem. She comes from a military background and had close links with Noriega. But Martinelli, the conservative candidate who won represents the oligarchy and was much worse.

On the way to Cope we stop at the 99 Supermarket that Ricardo Martinelli owns to buy groceries for our time here. He had a big campaign billboard in front of the store.

We went to STRI to try to set up arrangements for our study abroad program. Afterwards I take a quick spin thru Casco Viejo to see what I could use for my class. I find the Eloy Alfaro street that goes in front of the Presidential Palace. I'm in a hurry, it's hot, and I do a nice job of giving myself a heat migraine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Transito Amaguaña

Ecuadorian Indian Rights Activist Dies at 100
EFE. May 12, 2009

QUITO - Transito Amaguaña, a well-known defender of Indian rights in Ecuador, died in her native village of Pesillo, the Kichwa Ecuarunari Confederation said Monday. She was 100.

Amaguaña fought for the human rights of Indians throughout her life.

She participated in the creation of the Andean country's first agricultural unions and joined other human rights activists in founding the Ecuadorian Federation of Indians in 1944.

Amaguaña later organized and promoted agricultural cooperatives as an instrument for bringing social and political pressure to bear on the government in the struggle to get land for Indians.

She started schools for peasants on her own and without government support in 1945, founding four schools where classes were taught in both Spanish and Quechua.

Amaguaña spent time behind bars on several occasions. Returning to Ecuador in 1963 from a gathering in the Soviet Union, she was accused of taking Russian money and arms to start a revolution in the Andean nation, a charge she denied.

"The loss of this leader at the age of 100 leaves a legacy to her people of the unyielding fight for the land, water, education for her sons and daughters," the Kichwa Ecuarunari Confederation said.

The online daily Ecuadorinmediato noted that "because of her militant leftist ideology (Amanguaña) was persecuted for many years in the country and banned because of her way of thinking." EFE


Arrived in Panama. Everyone in airport is wearing face masks. Apparently there is little evidence that face masks prevent swine flu, and apparently there have been no cases here. Quite a reception.

Reading thru Lonely Planet guidebook and a couple history books on plane. Everything seems to revolve around canal and relations w/ US. Desperately grasping for something interesting to hold on to.

Hotel Marparaiso has a couple newspapers in lobby--one on real estate w/ weird English translations, another apparently a conservative rag from Venezuelans in Panama, and a third in Russian. What's w/ that?

The guide book says that Panama City is just like Miami--except they speak more English here.

Typing on this little green laptop is a real pain.

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