Friday, April 30, 2010
Two of my officemates were kind of enough to accompany me to the game and watch over me. We got there about an hour and half early and the crowd was already pretty riled up. I quickly learned that the crowd was not just composed of crazy fans, but also thieves who were shameless in their attempts to rob people. While my friend, Miguel was holding me and protecting me from the crowd, which seemed to take pleasure in pushing people down the steps, a group of four or five thieves grabbed him from behind. I desperately tried to keep a hold of him, but let go, and they pulled him to the ground and started trying to grab things from him, while others had him pinned down. This was happening while the other men in our group held on to me to ensure that I wouldn’t be pulled down as well. We looked on helplessly as our friend was being robbed. Except that, there was nothing to rob because he had carried anything with him, no phone, no money, nothing. Luckily, the crowd doesn’t react so kindly to thieves, so the they started to fight the thieves, and they finally let him go.
It was the beginning to a night of pushing and shoving, but also to a pretty entertaining time. At times, I wondered if the crowd was supporting the same team, because they kept fighting with one another. There seems to be a culture of paternalism in that the older men keep watch to make sure that the entire crowd continued to sing and chant the entire game. If they saw that some people were not singing, they take it upon themselves to push then down the steps. A few times my friends were saved from this fate because they would not dare shove a woman. At least the chivalrous culture comes in handy sometimes!
Despite the pushing and shoving, the game was a lot of fun. The emotion and excitement of the fans in South American is unmatched. When the team enters the field, the streamers, confetti, songs, yelling, and fire is truly a site. And the singing and jumping never ends, no for a second. Not when the other team scores a goal, not when the team misses a goal, its ongoing; a ritual. Going to such a game is definitely an experience that I would gladly repeat with one exception, next time it would be better if Alianza won.
Monday, April 26, 2010
You know it is election season in Peru when the number of public works projects (obras) increases so much that traffic comes to a virtual standstill. That’s how Lima is today ahead of the municipal and regional elections that will be held in October 2010. Much is at stake as the outcomes are a telltale sign for what may happen in next year’s presidential election
The massive display of obras during an election year is not uncommon. In fact, they are strategic. Visible projects—like the construction of an electric train and bus system in Lima—are displays of what the government has done for its people, and are often used as a form of propaganda by candidates running in incumbent seats. Closely following the Latin American tradition of populismo, incumbent candidates appeal to the masses through these obras. Yet, the use of public works projects as propaganda can pose risks too. Publicly displayed accomplishments might also expose the corruption associated with their construction.
Lima has a history of failed public works projects. During President Alan García’s first term (1985—1990) he invested in a national project to construct a Tren Electrico—a train system that would run through the city. However, the project was abandoned and some parts of the construction turned into artwork. At the same time President García was accused of rampant corruption and mismanagement of the project. Then after winning the presidency again in 2006, he promised to complete the project by the end of his term in 2011.
Now the ghost of the Tren Electrico appears to be haunting the city of Lima again. Another visible obra is marred by scandal: the construction of a bus system, the Metropolitano, by the municipal government of Lima. Mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio intends to construct a bus corridor that would serve the entire city but the cost of the project has doubled, the distance of the line shortened and the date of its inauguration is likely to be pushed back. Castañeda’s inability to explain these changes has caused his approval rating to drop seven percentage points this past week.
These setbacks have implications for the municipal race this year. At present, there are two potential front runners for the mayor’s seat: Lourdes Flores and Alex Kouri. The controversy over the Metropolitano has given political fodder to both candidates. Nobody wants to be associated with another failed project, and all have criticized Castañeda’s handling of the situation.While Castañeda has yet to officially support either mayoral candidate, successful completion of this obra could shift the political tide in the other direction. The candidates could then find themselves vying for Castañeda’s support, especially given his status as the front-runner for the presidential election in 2011. Either way, it seems as if Castañeda’s political success may hinge on the success of the
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yet, I was constantly reminded how lucky I was to have this experience. In commemoration of that feeling, I would like to take a minute to trace the roots of my privilege and think about how I was able to spend this past week Ecuador. Its something I think we should all do every now and then as a mental exercise.
Receiving a Fulbright Grant to Peru is a direct result of being able to graduate from Oxford University and by working at Young Lives while at Oxford. Going to Oxford was only possible because of the mentors I had while at Georgetown University. Going to Georgetown was only possible because of the resources that my family was able to provide me to not only attend the school, but also to build up my life accomplishments to allow me to get accepted into the school. The resources that my family accumulated was only possible because of the value placed on education by my grandparents because this allowed both my father and mother to attend higher education and pursue a Master’s degree/PhD. This value that my grandparents placed on education was also passed down to my parents and on to my sister and I. My parents’ hard work and dedication to education instilled a culture of learning from early childhood. In Bangladesh, my grandfather was able to get an education because he was male, while his sisters were not able to get an education. My other Grandfather was the first Bengali to get a Master’s degree from a British University. Thus, a culture of education was passed down to me through three generations. All I can do is continue that tradition and hopefully make my ancestors proud.
Monday, April 5, 2010
There is a place in the rolling hills of Ayacucho where the green fertility of the land meets the sky. Each celestial cloud is incandescent with the golden rays of the sun and the serpentine rivers flow to an endless rhythm. The lush vegetation speckled with yellow and indigo petals. Water springs from the earth as if nature were trying to flood the fields with its nourishment encouraging the fecundity of life to produce more. This place is home to the indigenous population of Peru. Its people forgotten by many of Peru's leaders, but its history tainted and well known. History has been both kind and menacing to this place. Independence and terrorism color the lens through which it is remembered. The battlefields of Quinua often overshadowed by the more recent resistance movement, born a long time ago from the minds of intellectuals in Ayacucho. If you ask the people about their pride for "Quechua" they dont speak of it. But, you see it in their eyes. Their faces do not hide the stark reality of living a life of symbiosis with the land. Thus, there is a place that from its core and from the core of its people resonates such beauty that the only things an outsider can do is capture the memory, turn around, and walk away.