Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Here are some of the pictures of my time in Tayrona Columbia with my friends Helene, Michael and Micha. Helene and Michael are from Liverpool England. Micha lives in Canada not far from some of my family near Kamloops and the Mighty Fraser river. We had an extordinary time in this idylic setting that was home to the Pre-Columbian Tayrona indians that are said to have numbered one million. Its great that many have written about this jewel. Check out the beautiful beach and surrounding area from this video of Micha emerging from the sand. It is said that the Tayrona built the massive ocean break that makes for the protected swimming area Called "La Piscina" (swimming pool) to make fishing easier. Michael and I hiked up a chalenging trail from the cape to a Tayrona village in the mountains. It is easy to see why these advanced people settled here. The picture of the decaying old cinder block home built on top of what used to be the foundation for a Tayrona home, perfectly illustrates the impermanence of our societies. Things are changing and what will come next?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Empire´s Workshop Book Review

Today I finished "Empire´s Workshop" by Greg Grandin. While in New Orleans in December I attended a presentation at Tulane University by Grandin and bought his book Empire´s Workshop. Like my friend who suggested that many people in the United States and Europe should go to Haiti to change their consciousness to become better human beings, I also suggest that many people should read this book for the same reason. The book is a great read, very informative and well documented with ample references.

I found it highly interesting that there was actually a time when the United States, with the policy of the "New Deal" under the the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930´s and the 1940´s treated Latin American countries with a measure of respect and cooperation that led to an unprecedented level of development and economic prosperity throughout Latin America. That this shining example of economic prosperity was used by the United States as a model in the post World War II reconstruction of Europe and Asia. That this very real and tangible economic co-prosperity in the America´s had many hopeful Latin American voices present at the formation of the United Nations agreeing with this this notion of co-prosperity based on respect for national sovereignty. That sadly, with the rise of Communism used as the excuse, all this advancement under the policies the New Deal were thrown out the window in favor of supporting dictators and governments that rolled back the progress made during these hopeful years.

What became clear to me after reading this book is that the world was actually plunged into World War III during the presidency of Reagan. This is the time when the gloves came off and American reverted to the use "Hard Power" and we truly started living in Orwellian times where as Grandin puts it, "the use of this incredibly violent and brutal explicit use of it, unapologetic use of violence and allying with the paramilitaries and death squads, but then justifying it in idealistic terms. In El Salvador, the U.S. supported an anti-communist regime in order to contain an insurgency that resulted in the deaths of something between 60,000 and 70,000 civilians. In Nicaragua, we supported an anti-communist insurgency, which resulted in the murder of 30,000 to 40,000 civilians. And in Guatemala, we provided moral justification for a regime that was committing genocide, murdering somewhat around 200,000 civilians, mostly Mayan Indians. And that was throughout the 1980s. So when somebody like Margaret Thatcher says that Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot, there’s a certain kind of historical amnesia with those kind of pronouncements which get circulated in the mainstream press".

This time of the Reagan Revolution, was when the top third of the America population was able to win control of the government and amass enormous wealth, much to the detriment of the rest of the population. Reagan´s use of violence cloaked in altruistic language and his economic policy that if the rich got richer, the wealth would "Trickle Down" to benefit everyone, paved the way for the mess that the United States is in right now.

At the close of the book, Grandin talks about the independpendence movements that have been gaining ground throughout Latin America and how they relate to the upcoming 2008 elections.

Grandin says, "What, then will be Washington´s long-term response to this independence movement? One could hope that the Democrats would seize the moment to assert thier commitment to nonintervention and to work with economic nationalist to promote a fair and sustainable economic policy. Depending on the country, such a policy would include land reform, government regulation of foreign investment and currency speculation, more equitable contracts with multinationals, debt relief, increased spending on welfare, education, health care, and public works, and in the U.S., a just Immigration policy.

Don´t count on it. Unlike after WWII, when a confident corporate class threw it´s backing behind the New Deal political liberalism at home and at least some reform capitalism abroad, the financiers of today´s Democratic Party are too deeply invested in war production and speculative captial and too intensely committted to keeping the third world open. They will not brook any sustained attemp to restructure the global economy in a more equitable direction."

Further on Grandin says, "If there is a change in American diplomacy, it will come from the citizens who mobilized to oppose the occupation of Iraq and who in 2006 gave back the Congress to the Democratic Party".

Latin America is, finding it now possible to emerge from being under the boot of foreign domination for the first time in 500 years. Mercosur is proving to be a viable organization of South American member countries representing a very real challenge to U. S. hegemony. It is an exciting time to be here.

To listen or read about the book through an interview on "Democracy Now" with Greg Grandin click on this Democracy Now link.
Go to thislink at Amazon to read a review or order the book..
Click on the American Empire Project to read more about the project that this book is part of.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Many and the Few!

Why is it that a relatively small (percentage wise) group of people get to lord of the majority of the population? Bolivar clearly loved his homeland of Venezuela and wanted his dear Gran Columbia to become a great power just like the United States. It is only by luck of parentage and geography that many of us from the imperial powers of Europe, Asia and North America get to come to these former colonies to "Live like Kings". It places a responsibility on those of us who enjoy relative economic prosperity to do something to help those less fortunate, noblesse oblige. Africa, Central-South America, Asia, Middle East and anywhere else that has been under the colonial boot for an extended period of time to this day still has the great majority of it´s citizens living harsh lives with little possibility for change. The nonsense that things are getting better for more and more people is so absurd, or like anything, it depends on your ppoint of view. In China for those 200 million that have been allowed the economic freedom to exploit a billion of their fellow countrymen to produce vast quantity of merchandise that can now be found at Walmart and their ilk, certainly life has gotten better. For those 1 billion other Chineese life has gotten considerable harder than what it was under Mao, before the economic liberalization of the economy. The simple question is how do we take better care of those living harder lives? It seems to me that as long as we continue with a belief in scarcity that legitamizes the use of violence, be it military or economic, we will not get at the root of the problem. Ultimately it comes down to the individual. What each and everyone of us does is important, critical in fact, in this time of maximum everything. For it is only when enough of us have become truly human that things can really change.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Grand Chessboard-Bolivar to Bhutto

Yesterday I went with my fellow classmate to a former sugar plantation called La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. This is the place where Simon Bolivar died before setting sail for Europe after resigning from being president of Gran Columbia (which included Venezuela, Columbia and present day Panama and Ecuador) . Bolivar´s dream was a Pan American nation similar to the United states that would be strong enough to resist being exploited by more powerful nations. After a painful battle with tuberculosis on December 17, 1830, Bolivar died in Santa Marta, Colombia, a very disillusioned and disappointed man of the age of 47. History has shown that Latin America has been ruthlessly exploited after independance, primarily by the United States for it´s abundance of natural resources. Zbigniew Brzeziński in his book The Grand Chessboard talks about the "Great Game" and certainly what is happening in Latin America by the challenges to American Hegemony being posed by the economic allaince of South American nations known as Mercosur and espoused by leaders such as Hugo Chavez have the elites in America very concerned. The Great Game is always about power and how to maintain that power with the long term view always in mind. Bhutto was assasinated ending any credible challengers to Musharraf´s rule and he was able to conveniently blame it on our favorite boogey man Osama Bin Laden and his Al Queda crew. Shorlty after the killing, an announcement was made that Pakistan was going to be allowing more US military into Pakistan. Hmmm, who benefits? Let´s see Musharraf gets to stay in power and the United States get to strenthen it´s military presence in Pakistan. Read the article linked here for more about the assaination of Bhutto. Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Costco" In Columbia

A bit of a surreal experience tonight as I went out shopping for some index cards and a few other supplies. Santa Marta appears to be NOT a very big city and that is after having been here for three days. I have done a fair amount of walking and there are a few 6-10 story condominium-apartment complexes, but on the whole it appears very poor and somewhat smallish with most people living in somewhat crude shelters. According to Wikipedia there are over 400,000 people in the city of Santa Marta. As I walked down the main street which is alive with street vendors and smallish shops, I came to a store called Exito that is similar to the "look and feel" of a Costco. I clearly had feelings about giving my business to this store, just as I always do whenever I shop the big box retailers in the states. It just struck me so strongly here at first blush everything seemed to be so idylic in that I was not seeing any chains, just small local businesses that could be as simple as somebody selling ice cream from a pushcart. I wonder if the quest for the best selection at the best prices actually dehumanizes us into consumers as opposed to citizens. Walking in the part of town where the condosand apartments are there was a strange quiet to this section of town. A Dutch friend said this is because everyone stays to themselves. I wonder if the affluent West is not actually dead in a certain way. Consumed by materialism such that the distribution of wealth is so skewed in favor of relative few, that a reflection of "deadness" is the generation of ideas espoused by folks like the Chicago Boys as fronted by Milton Friedman. Where what was perpretrated in Chile under Pinochet was done again and again in other Latin America countries leading us now to the current criminality that the Bush administration calls the War on Terror. Very Orwellian thes times we live in. It seems to me that those people who justify the use of violence in the name of some greater good are fricking insane, don{t play well
with others and need a time out. They believe that the ends justify the means. Hitler was like that, he called himself Christian and a Democrat to boot.

Classes have started-Primera Dia!

Excelente! Today I had my first spanish class for two hours today with Elizabeth from Czechoslovakia. I told how I was in Prague in February of 1990 right after the Iron Curtain began to come down and had met a 19 year old East Berliner named Dorte. Dorte was not happy that the wall was coming down because she said at least under Communism everyone had a job, a place to live, food and medical attention. She admitted that it might not have been the best of everything and that maybe you woud have to wait in line for things, but at least everyone had enough. She feared that soon there would be homeless people and problems with drug and unemployment. Elizabeth said she understood this point of view but that she would not be traveling here to Columbia if the wall was still up. Hard to argue with the truth in that observation. It´s also plain to see that in Russia Putin came to power because the promise of freedom under democracy esposued by the west was not kept. Life for the majority of people under communism was better before communism fell to capitalism. Anyway´s it is great to be able to travel. It can be very educational and it´s possible to meet the most intersting people.

All for now,


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Santa Marta Columbia is "Perfecto"

Yahoo for Santa Marta, I am finally settled into the perfect place for me to focus on learning Spanish. The people of Columbia are openly very friendly compared to the much more reserved Venezuelans. I seem to be making an unintended pilgrimage to Bolivar as Isla Margarita was; quote from Wikipedia, "In 1814, the islanders fought successfully for independence from the Spanish, and Isla Margarita became the first free territory in Venezuela. It was on Margarita Island that Simon Bolivar, later called the Libertador, was confirmed as Commander in Chief of the new republic, la gran Colombia. From there he started to free Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia from the Spanish Crown." Next I went to Caracas and visited the city center where the colonial heritage of Caracas is preserved with many building including Bolivars home and the church where he is entombed. Santa Marta is where Bolivar died after giving up his dream of a united South America, simialr to what had come to pass in the United States. There are a great many quotes from Bolivar, one in which he puts himself into a group with Jesus and Don Quioxte, check em out.

I start classes on Monday from 10-1 daily, Mondays through Friday. My single room at the Hotel Miramar is only a short block from the beach and costs only $5 per night. Santa Marta has everything for me: Spanish school, excellent swimming, broadband Internet and all for very little money. I will be staying here for some weeks and look forward to updating my blog with entries to get me up to present. All for now, BIG LOVE-don

Monday, January 07, 2008

Leaving for Columbia, Santa Marta

Tommorow I am takin the bus from Caracas to Santa Marta in Columbia. I have to admit I am in somewhat of a state of shock as I had planned to spend this evening at an Internet Cafe and update my blog with all the great pictures that I had taken the last four days in Caracas. I am sad to say that this is NOT going to happen as my camera was stolen today. A pair of guys, one snatching it out of my hands as I was taking a picture and the other waiting a short distance away on a motorcycle accomplished the theft in the blink of an eye. I did not even have a chance to give pursuit. I have to figure out a system for preventing this loss of data again. The camera I was not all that attached to as it was a Costco special at $133 and I was definitely dissapointed that it did not have built in image stabilization. However, it is all the photos that really mattered to me and has me feeling like I got punched in the gut, a loss that is just troubling. Anyways, I´ll figure a better system to protect my data so that I can have some sort of backup going forwards. Live and learn. Caracas is still and amazing city and I plan on coming back through here again before returning to the states.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Aye Caracas!

Used in South America as an expression of something powerful, kinda like WOW or NO WAY. The city is certainly much safer and more enjoyable than I had anticipated based on all the stories that I had heard from fellow travelers. In fact I like the place and the only time I fet unsafe was my first night when I naively was NOT carrying a copy of my passport with me and got hassled by the police on two seperate occasions. The subway here was built in the 1970´s and is excelent shape. It´s easy to use, cost very little, is clean and the trains run on time and will take you all over this very large metropolitan area. I have been staying in an area known as Sabana Grande.
I have uploaded some shots that you can look at by clicking photos. Caracas is definitely a world city that has all the big multi nationals represented here. There seems to be a McDonalds on every Corner and the mall complex called Sambir that is bigger and fancier than any mall I have ever seen in the states. There is definitely some really wealthy people here. There population is very young and opening affectionate. So many really beautiful woman.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I learned that last night from a Brazilain that you can use the word Caracas to denote either extreme of really bad or really good. Tonight I will fly to Caracas so I will get first hand experience soon enough of this much talked about city. I have started a captioned picture gallery here. I fly out tonight at 7pm and am excited. Gotta run, much to do before departure. Hasta Luego~don

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Venezuela is Rich!

Isla Margarita in Venezuela is amazing! The Spanish fought hard for this place and key battles took place here as the Venezuelans led by Bolivar, finally achieved independence from Spain in 1823. There are two other islands close to Margarita called Cubagua and Coche. These three islands compose Nueva Esparta, so named because Bolivar in a letter to the king of England after Independence, said the Venzuelan's here fought like Spartans. In fact a full one quarter of the population of Venezuela died in the fight for it's independence. The first European city in Latin America was on Cubagua because of the rich oyster beds offshore that by 1526 had the processing facility at Coche producing over 800 pounds of oysters a month. These oysters influenced fashion in Europe and more value was gained from them than any gold or silver extracted from South America. The Caribe's were one of the indian tribes in this area and they were known as great fighters. The Carribean is named after this group of fierce warriors who were instrumental in the fight for independence. Below are some captioned photo galleries that delve further into the richness of this beautiful place.
Cast of Characters
Island Life
Fish Dinner
Beach Wedding
Island Life 2
Chicken Stand Video on You Tube on the street in Maragarita