All in Latin America

Some of the snapshots from Chile’s ongoing student movement depict a lighthearted mobilization. Led by the charismatic Camila Vallejo, the students have used Twitter and Facebook to stage kiss-a-thons and superhero-themed costume protests. But other images have been more violent.

Picture a world where the whistle of bullets drowns out the chirping of birds. Where army units patrol violent, poverty-stricken streets. Where farmers walk among fields of poppy, hoping a successful harvest will provide for their families. Where mothers of lost sons gather and pray that each new day may bring a resurrection of peace. This is not a distant snapshot, but a reality close to home. Welcome to the world of narcocultura. Welcome to Mexico.

“Indian peasants live in such a primitive way that communication is practically impossible… The price they must pay for integration is high-renunciation of their culture, their language; their beliefs, their traditions and customs, and the adoption of the culture of their ancient masters… Perhaps there is no realistic way to integrate our societies other than asking the Indians to pay that price…”

This passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude could be read as another example of the Nobel Prize-winner’s genius ability to use fantasy as a metaphor for everyday life. It could be an imagined story that references the violent history of Colombia and the country’s seeming inability to learn from its experiences. Yet as those who visit Colombia will realize, Marquez describes Colombian reality much more often than one would think, and this case is no exception: in Colombia, banana companies help pile people like bananas.