A humorous exchange I witnessed recently on the bus in David, the second largest city in Panama. A newspaper vendor stepped into the bus and was trying to move his product.

Vendor: Teacher found dead in David! Teacher found dead in David!

(prolonged silence)

Passenger: A teacher?

Vendor: A teacher! And they found another man dead as well. That’s two men dead!

Passenger: Two dead?

Vendor: Two!

Passenger: Alright then, I’ll take one. How much for the paper?


Kickin’ it in the woods


Giras por la provincia

This past week I got to go along on a few trips through the province of Los Santos to scout out some old growth forests. Here are some photos from the trip.

The small town dilemma

I have always felt slightly uncomfortable because at some level, I know I am guilty of romanticizing rural life. The bucolic vision of the family farm, the little ranch in the country – I eat this stuff up. And I know I am not the only one. There are plenty of “back to nature” books out there for myself and other dissatisfied urbanites.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that it is a good thing that people are trying to break down the walls that we have set up between the city and the country, the farm and the supermarket. But it is interesting to see things from the other side.

The other day, I met a guy who works with local fishermen, and he was explaining the struggles that he faces here in the Azuero. Kids, he said, have no interest in learning how to be fishermen these days. They are not proud of their fathers’ trade – they would rather go to the city to become bankers or office workers. Why stay in Pedasí, heading out to catch tuna every day, baking in the sun, trying like hell to compete with the commercial fisheries that set the prices?

The same goes for farmers’ children, I suppose. Growing up poor on a finca in the Azuero without any material comforts, who wouldn’t want to give life in the city a shot? I damn sure would. Sure, there are people out there who really get a kick out of sustainable farming and such things, but I imagine that they are few compared to the majority of people who grew up in rural areas.

Marcel Bursztyn once wrote about homeless trash hunters in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. The grand majority of these trash hunters are migrants from the rural parts of Brazil. To collect aluminum, paper, and other recyclables, you have to be very mobile, so families not only live on the street, but also move frequently from one area to another. It’s a tough life. The interesting thing about these families is that almost all reported that their life was better in the city than it had been back home on the farms of the interior. In spite of being poor and homeless, they reported that they were better off.

Where rural life holds little promise, we quickly end up with a system like that of the United States. Big agricultural companies control huge tracts of agricultural land, and the majority of the population lives in cities, eating processed corn products.

We need better ideas not only about how to revitalize the world’s agricultural land, but also about how to valorize rural work. There is no reason that a family farmer should be struggling more than a minimum wage worker in the city.

Evictions ahead of the World Cup in Brazil

Excellent and well-made video about the struggles of indigenous people to keep the Museum of the Indian standing in Rio de Janeiro. Truly a sad irony: 500 years after Portuguese settlers killed, enslaved, and displaced Brazil’s original indigenous people, the government looks to evict a settlement of those original Indians’ few remaining descendants.

Lay some knowledge on ’em, Doc

Cornel West explains the hypocrisy that is Barack Obama taking the oath of office with Martin Luther King’s bible.

We shall return

This is an old post that, for some reason, I never got around to publishing.

In the course of performing primary research for my now-scrapped thesis, I was reading a book on photography in Brazil, and I came across this fantastic shot by Daniela Dacorso.

This photo comes from Emoções, the baile-funk dance club in Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, Rocinha.

The title is De onde viemos, para onde iremos, which loosely translates to From whence we came, we shall return.

At one point during my time abroad, I lived about 50 yards from Emoções. I made it to the baile-funk just once or twice, and suffice it to say that my ears have never hurt so much from loud music. I didn’t see any of the legendary graphic sexual dancing, though. Ho hum.