martes, octubre 18, 2005

En Paz Descanse

Yesterday, I was looking at the alumni pages for my lovely high school, Washington International School. Of course a lot of memories came flooding back, and I realized that most of those people, I don't really care to see anymore. True, a lot of them are doing really well, and I'm so proud that I went to school with these people who turned out so good. But that doesn't mean I want to talk to them again. I don't hate them, although I did have a very strong distaste for some of them back then. We just never had anything in common, and besides, we were all so damned fickle and all of us felt above each other at one time or another. Pretty twisted times, but I had some very good ones as well.

I went to the page for the class two years behind me, of '96, to see what this one kid was up to, but when I got to his name, there was the word "deceased" written below it. At first, I thought it was a typo, a very cruel one. Then I believed it and hoped that his death was not a violent one and that it was due to some illness he had, which is still tragic, but for me, less tragic than something violent. I very loudly said "No way!" right in the office, and one of my colleagues heard me and asked me what was up. I told him what happened, and he said "I'm very sorry to hear that", and silly me couldn't even be gracious and say thank you for the condolences, as I was still in shock with my mouth gaping open and eyes wide. I called my friend Khi to leave word to call me back to tell me what she knew about this, as she was in this kid's class, and she told me that Eliuth, my friend although we were never close, had fallen in with a bad crowd and had gotten stabbed in Silver Spring going on two years ago.

Eliuth was your typical punk. At least that's how he looked. Totally street, and not in that good of a way, like one of those kids sitting on a milk crate in front of the bodega eating bear claws and drinking 40's all day. And I guess eventually he did become a punk who got himself invovled with the American/Salvadorean gang, La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. But he was nicer and way more human than a lot of people gave him credit for, and more so than a lot of other people WERE back then. He was a hip hop head, in the truest sense of the word, and sometimes at lunch, we could be seen nodding our heads to the new joints of the day. He introduced me to Grand Puba, as well as many others, and that was what started our friendship, which ended up being too short, as he left WIS after 9th grade, my 11th grade. Khi told me that Eliuth was a WIS "lifer", just like her, and that they had grown up together, and coincidentally enough, she had just been looking at pictures of her class when they were little. Now Khi had a hard time in school. She wasn't the most beautiful motherfucker (although she sure as hell is now) and was pretty awkward for a while, and of course the other kids didn't help. She told me that once, when she was carrying a pile of books and kept dropping them and all the other kids were laughing at her, Eliuth came out and helped her, even though he was part of another, cooler crowd, and y'all know how the division lines go. That was in 4th grade, and it showed the character and the class that he eventually took with him to the grave. Anyway, I forgot exactly how I met him, but I do remember he was really a beautiful person, and one of the only people from school I actually wanted to see again.

Eliuth, I bet the sounds up there are great, my friend, please tape some of it, will you? I'll see you when I get up there. Until then, rest in peace!

miércoles, octubre 12, 2005

Guatemalan indians refuse aid

This is the type of headline you will see most if you go to Google and search for "where to give aid to Guatemala". Of course this continuous implication that Guatemalans, and all Latinos, for that matter, are dimwitted berrinchosos enfuriates me. This is most certainly not the time for the gringo media to keep pushing false ideas and rhetoric. As for aid to the victims of the storm, there are two sites to go to to offer support, and one of those seems quite questionable to me, which is why I did not post it. By the way, the UN still hasn't gotten its shit together with regard to helping Guatemala, focusing instead on Pakistan, which of course is a worthy cause, but the attitude of my employers so far is probably the most frustrating thing I've encountered here yet. If you go to the website of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, you will find the Pakistan tragedy emblazoned on the front page, while Guatemala's tragedy lies somewhere in the back pages if it is there at all. UN staff have acces to the UN "News Centre", and I did see some updates there about aid from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF and the UN Population fund being rushed to the region, but even that highllighted El Salvador instead. I had to actually go to the Americas section and scroll down about three articles before I got to that one.

I just want to make clear in this posting that Guatemalan indians are refusing aid from the country's military because they very understandably have no confidence and/or trust in them, for it was that establishment that routinely massacred indians during the civil war, and it is the government that has for decades pushed policies that perpetually subjugate them. Honestly, would YOU readily accept assistance from the very people who traditionally have been violently opposed to your existence and that of your people?

martes, octubre 11, 2005

Columbus Day

This is a post that I should have written yesterday, but I was all bent out of shape about what all is happening in Guatemala and the sheer lack of any mention of it at the United fucking Nations. The UN is, however, giving $60,000 to El Salvador for the victims of some volcano that erupted there (as if the whole of Central America is not riddled with active volcanoes that blow smoke and erupt almost daily) and $30,000 to Costa Rica for God only knows what. Small potatoes, I know, but talk about misappropriation of funds.

Columbus Day is a disappointment. First of all, I want you all to know that I came in to work yesterday quite proudly, whereas some of my "Latino" co-workers whined about not getting the day off, and I wasn't about to school them. As Latinos, they really should recognize already that Columbus Day is a "celebration" of the decimation of a culture whose only fault was that it surpassed that of its conquerors and stood as an obstacle to their need for world domination.

I feel bad for Italians who take so much pride in the holiday and the little parade that comes with it, which of course is the bane of my existence not only for the premise but for all the traffic patterns it disrupts (I don't drive, but hell, I am a commuter and able to sympathize with the plight of my comrades). If Italians are so keen on destroying the myth that they are all Mafioso murderers, why not stop playing themselves celebrating death and destruction? Not only that, but Columbus was a traitor to Italy by going over to Spain and letting the Catholic kings get credit for his work, which was really getting hopelessly lost and then founding an empire by default. Why can't Italians instead celebrate Marco Polo or something? Marco Polo did a lot less harm, as far as I know. He just stole the noodle idea from the Chinese and brought it over to Italy and called it pasta. Everyone loves pasta, so why not celebrate that? Even though I'm on a no-carb diet, I could definetly get behind that.

lunes, octubre 10, 2005

Just a note.....

.....on one of the things wrong with Guatemalans and Guatemalan-Americans.

I went back to, which I consider to be a sort of an alma mater which I dropped out of for the sheer frustration that was in it. Well, two of the three reasons for my departure are still at it, fussing and fighting and dancing around the subject at hand, choosing instead to ridicule others surely to impress themselves and their audience, which is quite captive on that site as most Guatemalans are chismosos anyway and love a good dog fight. Anyway, the very same guys are the ones at it, and they are saying the very same things, about freedom of speech and other freedoms that they avail themselves of while refusing to let others do the same lest it make them look bad. I saw some discussion of serious topics going on that had just degenerated into an "I'm entitled and you're not" scenario. That is not only counterproductive to discussion, but it makes Guatemalans look like a bunch of disorganized and argumentative heathens, which of course feeds into the existing stereotype. Speaking of the stereotype, it has also come out in the news that the survivors of the floods and mudslides are fighting each other for food supplies, as they haven't had any for close to a week. I can find no problem with that since it is in human nature to try like hell to guarantee yourself and your people survival. But those of us who live the high life, comparatively speaking, have no reason to step all over each other just so we can outshine everyone else.

But what bothered me most, and I mean no offense to the gentleman who runs the site for he cannot possibly tell his forists what to discuss, nor should he, is the lack of real discussion of the flood/mudslides. There are two discussion threads on that topic. One has one response to it and the other has maybe five or six, and four of the posts are to report problems in posting. I saw much more discussion about who gets to say what when and where, and about the lastest Guatemalan singer-songwriter. Of course it's OK to discuss frivolities like the latter subject, but I'm sorry to say we have bigger fish to fry these days. That's something that always disappointed me about the site. Some of those people are flojos, lax. They don't have anything relevant to say.

I started the day upset at the lack of coverage in the United States of the tragedies going on as I write in my country. Now I am upset at the lack of coverage the tragedy has gotten among Guatemalans themselves.

A weekend of disasters

This past weekend has been full of rain, flooding, mudslides and other tragedies.

I'm sure everyone has heard about the huge earthquake in Pakistan. About 18,000 people are presumed dead. This has gotten a lot of coverage on CNN and other news channels, so much so that by saturday night they already had some slogan and stills attached to the coverage, which made up the better part of every hour. Poorer villages were the most affected, as always, and the headline on the BBC worldwide web page about Pakistan reads "'Whole generation'" lost in quake". I cannot imagine that type of devastation and I have been thanking God for keeping me safe for going on 30 years. I think I have talked to God more this weekend than I have in the past few months.

If you kept watching CNN for a couple of hours on end, you would have found that Guatemala also had its share of tragedy with the aftermath of hurricane Stan, which was not a particularly strong storm, but left behind many days of rain which eventually became torrential. Stan made landfall around Veracruz, Mexico, last week, but its effects have been felt as far south as El Salvador and as far west as Tapachula, Mexico, near the border with Guatemala, and Retalhuleu, one of the Guatemalan departments on the Pacific cost. Keep in mind that in this region, it is already the rainy season, and the ground is already wet with rain and humidity, making it easier for soil to break down and erode away. There is widespread flooding and mudslides and whole villages, like Panabaj and other small, Mayan towns near lake Atitlan have been completely swept away and people buried alive. Picture it, a town of 800 people just gone, to be dug up one day like pieces of ancient pottery. Houses have simply fallen into rivers, precariously built to begin with and unable to withstand the torrential rainfall, so here again, it is the poor who are suffering the most. They say the death toll is 650, but I think it is more into the low 1000's. There are places rescue workers can't even get to, and people are stuck where they are because bridges have been washed out and roads are blocked with debris or are just impassable. My family are all okay, thanks be to God, and are all tucked away in the capital, where it has not been so bad. When I was there in July, as most of you know, I took weaving classes in Santiago de Atitlan, which has been badly affected. We made some friends there at the Asociacion Cojolya weaving cooperative, mostly Tzutuhil indians, but we can't get through to any of them as the lines are out. I can only hope they are alive and well, and wonder about their houses and what this has done to their crops. This tragedy merited about a minute or two every hour on CNN International. The American version, I don't think they even touched it except on the ticker at the bottom of the screen, but the lack of coverage of anything about Latin America in the States does not surprise me. it hurts me everytime, but it does not surprise me. The US has pretty much turned its back on my country, AGAIN, offering just some blankets and that helicopter stationed in Honduras that flew in to try and rescue victims, while Colombia, which had its own mudslides in and around Medellin in the northwest of the country, killing about 25 people, has put up more aid than the richest country in the free world. I never expect the US to do much for Guatemala or any other Latin American country, but they could at least help out a bit more in times of extreme need than they're doing considering they've been gang-raping the whole region for hundreds of years. Then again, the US government can't even get their shit together in their own country. In any case, if you want to see a little more coverage of Stan in Guatemala and environs, here's a link to the BBC stories, in which they also give links to more coverage ( and an article about Panabaj from today's NY Times, in the International section behind articles about Germany's upcoming election and the bird flu.

For its part, New York City and its metropolitan areas got a lot of rain on saturday. I know we haven't had rain in a couple of months, but damn! It seemed like God just wanted to get through all the rain backlog in one night! I went out to Brooklyn to visit Jessica and see her new place, which is across the street from the Brooklyn library and museum. It's really nice, and she could even get away with saying she lives in Park Slope so as to impress the neighborhood snobs, if she so wanted. It must be even nicer on a decent day. Anyway, in some spots, the water was ankle deep, and that's not even taking into account the huge puddles that had formed since most streets and sidewalks are painfully uneven and devoid of proper drainage. As I was walking back to the Eastern Parkway subway station, there were rivers of water coming down the steps from the park, and the stations at Nevins street and Atlantic avenue were about to flood, there was so much rain coming through the ceiling, I had to open up my umbrella! There were of course several delays on the trains which were, the authorities said, related to "switch problems" (the most used excuse for MTA apathy) and not to the rain. But at one point, I had to ask one of the workers on the platform at the Nevins street station "What are you people waiting around for? For the whole system to flood so you can throw us all out onto the street and not have to do any work?" Well, the guy went off to speak to another worker on the platform, and I was cursing my big mouth, when a train came and whisked me and other very annoyed people off to Manhattan and all ended well, eventually. I got home less than an hour later, which was surprising.

The forecast says it will rain all week, and I'll have to remember to wear my wellies and bundle up as the temperature has fallen pretty dramatically, finally. I hated the hot and humid weather and welcome the cool air, but not the rain. I hope you are all safe and warm and happy.