Latin American Marxist writers

Sam Pawlett rsp at
Sun May 14 13:32:00 MDT 2000

Chris Brady wrote:
> Most nortes who have the wherewithal to visit Argentina or Chile are not
> likely to connect with the masses either physically or politically.

This is unfair. In a political context, being a foreigner is much
different from being a local and requires great care and
sensitivity.First, it is illegal for all foreigners to engage in
political activity on a tourist visa. If caught you will be deported and
when you go through checkpoints the first person the authorities
question will be you. I was pulled off buses at least 25 times in
Colombia and questioned. I spent 3 hours in a police checkpoint in the
outskirts of LIma during the MRTA siege of the Japanese ambassador's
residence trying to explain the existence of books by Karl Marx in my
bag. The local army-police-esquadrone nexis is all to happy to make
examples of foreigners, for it is the foreigners they say who bring
"subversive" ideas into their country. I always wanted to say "the
masses here aren't rebelling because of ideas! Many of them are
illiterate. Open your fuckin eyes!)

Of course, just because it is illegal does not make it wrong to
participate in political action. The Mexican gov't has now said that
merely being in the state of Chiapas is a political act. You will have
great difficulty getting into the province on a tourist card. The last
time I was there in '95, it was only the roads leading to EZLN camps
that were off limits to tourists. I was repeatedly turned away by
Mexican paramilitary police. The EZLN always welcomes the extranjeros
knowing that it is the presence of foreign supporters that stops the
army from massacres. Same with FSLN, FMLN, FARC etc.If
there had been even one foreigner,even an apolitical one, in Acteal,
that massacre would never
have happened. This is the reason Chiapas is closed to travellers.
Friends tell me that even groups like Hezb Allah in S.Lebanon meet
foreign travellers for good publicity (provided you wear a scarf or a
veil and observe Sharia law.)

  I've always felt uncomfortable at political events in other countries
unless I was asked if I wanted to come along. Going to rallies where
there are banners saying "Fuera Gringo, Fuera Extranjero" " is
unsettling. Just _who_ are they talking about? I remember going to hear
Hugo Chavez and others speak at a rally in Caracas over 5 years ago  and
being sneered at for having white skin and being called "imperialist"
and worse by people I had never seen before in my life. I felt like
saying, "I'm living in the worst part of the city where even you middle
class students have never been". Hostility to foreigners  is
understandable in some contexts but it depends on the foreigners. I
guess my mistake was going there alone. But if you go with other gringos
it's a conspiracy, if you go with a local person then its "gringos
stealing our women".

Needless to say, many native people do not like foreigners showing up at
their events and
actions and they certainly have an excellent point in saying that the
best thing foreigners can do is work against capitalism&imperialism in
their own country.

  Most visitors from El Norte to Latin America are working class. If you
haunt the poor areas of the cities where the  $5-a-night hotels are, you
will find many expat transient north americans and europeans living side
by side with Paraguayan immigrants and refugees. Most like to put down
tourists staying at the expensive international hotels unaware that the
FX they bring in is important to the local economy.Some travellers are
very aware of the political realities, other aren't. I remember meeting
a couple from Brixton in Huancayo, Peru. "The Communist Party of Peru?
What's that? 20,000 people have died up here in the last ten years?
Really? She-it." Even in the remotest regions you will find,say, a Swiss
couple drinking beer with the local campesinos. And it is the Swiss
couple ,just by being present, that will often stop the local gendarmies
from turning their guns on the

Sam Pawlett

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