Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Latin America: First-hand news from the real streets of the real Venezuela

Hat tip: I ran into this at
I like this site for alternative views and stories that you won't ever find in the US media.

I really enjoyed reading this post about Venezuela. Do go check it out.

off topic: Ok this might sound weird to some, but reading that made me want to visit there someday.

I went to Nicaragua a while back to help build houses for needy families. It was the most rewarding thing I've ever done my whole life. It was my first trip outside the US, and it had a tremendous impact on me.

Most everyone I met was what I would consider very poor, and the official figure on unemployment was around 75% at the time (probably the same today) but that must be because most work jobs or earn their way off the books. They have to. Take a taxi or a bus through Managua and you're swarmed at every stop by people trying to wash the windshield or sell you some fruit or water. I was brought to tears more than once wishing I could somehow help everyone, and I'm really not a tears kind of person.

It's a damn shame what reagan did to that country. US involvement in Nicaragua certainly didn't start with reagan but he circumvented the Constitution to create an opposition based on and partially funded by drug smugglers, to attack the newborn democracy after they overthrew a longstanding US puppet dictatorship, and held fair elections.

There are still blown up buildings and tanks leftover from 20 yrs ago. Our driver for the duration was a former sandinista soldier so he made sure to point it all out and tell his stories. He spoke quickly and my spanish is fairly limited so I only understood in the vaguest way what he was saying most of the time, but I understood full well the war stories from the sites and hand gestures alone. Several places we drove across a new bridge built alongside a blown up one. Not enough money to make it worth clearing the old one, they just build around it.

The people were so friendly everywhere we went. The families, especially all of the kids, and work crew who we were with everyday, treated us like family.

We stopped on the way into a small town on our first day there I went in a small store operated in what would be a living room in a home. Like every other house on the street except for the fanta sign in the window, so I went in and and bought a liter bottle. The older woman working there and I had a miscommunication and I left nodding my head with a smile after paying for it, not knowing exactly what she said. Something about the bottle of fanta I had just bought.

When we were getting off the bus an hour or so later, I was looking for a trash can to throw my empty bottle away, when our driver saw it and explained that there people return their empty bottles to where they bought them. They cost the store money, and it donned on me what the woman had been trying to say. He was surprised she let me leave the store with it. I felt bad so I made sure to return it. (Had this happened in the US, I could see myself sayin screw'em and tossing the bottle, but it was just different there.)

When I brought the bottle back two days later she was there with another woman and saw the bottle and she busted out with a smile and came around the counter and she hugged me and they all laughed and laughed. I'm fairly certain they had a bet on whether I was bringing the bottle back or not. This time I had several friends with me and we actually all wound up staying for dinner and they cooked and cooked everything they had and knew how to cook. Everything they made was delicious. We met the whole family and had a really good time there. For the life of me I can't remember any of their names today. We all got a minor case of montezuma's revenge after that, but that's another story altogether no one wants to hear.

This just wouldn't happen in the US. Not the US I know, and certainly not to foreigners who tore our country to shit in an illegal war just two decades ago.

I can't say enough good things about all of the people I met in Nicaragua.

I could go on and on, but I'll say just this much more. If the chance ever comes in your life to do something like that. I urge you to just do it.


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