Global Citizen: November 2008 Archives

I'm reading Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran Immigrants' Struggle For U.S. Residency, by Susan Bibler Coutin, for a class I'm taking here at Harvard with Dr. Sarah Willen.  I can't comment on the whole book, since I'm only reading the first two chapters, but I came across this powerful metaphor for mass migration to the U.S.:

Jorge Lima, a Salvadoran who had been active in opposition groups in both the United States and El Salvador, attributed [denying asylum to individuals] to the lack of responsibility regarding the consequences of U.S. policies that destroyed lives in El Salvador. 

Jorge told me that the situation of Central American immigrants "is like when a woman has been raped and is pregnant, see?  Then there's a reality! Understand? She has conceived, and however you try to exterminate that fact, it's a reality!  You can't keep it a secret.  You may not register it in your structures, as though it never existed.  But yes, it did exist!" 

In this graphic image, El Salvador is a raped woman, the United States is the rapist, Central American immigrants are the illegitimate child, and U.S. immigration law is a means of denying the child's existence.
Susan Coutin - Legalizing Moves (2000 : pp. 40-21)

It would be a fair criticism of my writing to say that I dwell too much on doom and injustice.  That's not the best way to attract converts to your cause.  Still, I believe graphic imagery like this metaphor Jorge Lima expressed in an interview is useful for putting migrant rights in perspective. 

Orishas: Desaparecidos

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a los presidentes asesinos

a los responsables
de desaparecidos
pa' los que trafican con ninos
el culpable sabe de que hablo yo


To the assassin presidents
To those responsible
for the Disappeared
For those who traffic children
The guilty knows of what I speak

This week's musical entry comes from Orishas, a hip-hop group of Cuban migrants that combines rap en Español with a traditional Cuban sound.

From the group's Wikipedia page:

Orishas is a hip-hop group whose members had emigrated from Cuba. . . . The Orishas delved into a realm of music in which they challenged "Castro's ideal of a colorless society" and created a black identity that the younger generations could relate to. They tackled important and obvious issues that dark skinned Cubans faced everyday though the government refused to recognize.

. . .

The name "Orishas" refers to the set of deities worshipped in African-based religions that were brought to the Americas by slaves of the Yoruba people in West Africa. These religions, parts of the Yoruba mythology, include Santeria in Cuba and Candomblé in Brazil. These orishas, or deities, each represent a natural element (such as the ocean or leaves) and exhibit a human characteristic (such as motherhood or love). The choice of this name for the hip hop group is a way of creating a direct link between this band and the African diaspora. This link is evident in the lyrics to "Nací Orichas" and "I Sing For Elewa and Changó".

One of my favorite Orishas songs, Desaparecidos, is about the "Disappeared," the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people kidnapped and murdered by their governments in Latin America during the Cold War, from Cuba to Guatemala to Argentina to the DR. Anyone who believes the Cold War was relatively casualty-free didn't spend much time in Latin America while it was happening.

From the NY Times today:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.

The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.
By now, this is a familiar pattern.

The outlines of a cynical strategy emerge: deny, deny, deny for the first week or two until the story recedes from the front pages, then concede in bits and pieces until the story is broken up and defused over time and new distractions materialize. 
But this strategy only works if you stop blowing up wedding parties or villages every other month.
dead Afghan babies.jpg