Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Colonial Style

Reading Mark Kurlansky's book Havana has somewhat reinforced my opinion that the Spanish ‘colonial’ style of architecture, which evolved in the Iberian peninsula largely with a view to shutting out the light and creating pools of cool interior shade, whilst it might work well enough in locations like the Cuban capital, here in La Antigua has become largely unfit for purpose. 

Nevertheless this fundamental error is now assiduously preserved by statute. 

My secondary school in London is older than La Antigua and is now largely housed in modern buildings, but here there there exists this obsessive requirement to preserve the superficial appearance of antiquity. 

The materials used as well tend not to be ideal for the tropics either. Wood in particular. And all those tejas which have to be curados, before use and roughly every couple of years. Nobody does, so that everyone with a house covered in these things ends up suffering from a leaky roof. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bad Hombres

This morning I overhead - there really was no alternative - your textbook American loudmouth sermonising on the situation south of the border. 

The 'whole narcos thing' is, he inisisted, just a story made up by the Federal government in order to disuade the baby boomers from taking their lifetime's hoard of loot and retiring in fun places like Mexico. 'You can't take their passports away, so they had to do SOMETHING, it was gonna cost them trillions of dollars in lost tax revenues...'

Now, I have to admit I gurgled into my espresso a bit when I heard that, but there is a grano of verdad in this particular conspiracy theory. 

Western governments and loose associations of corporations do have PR budgets set aside for making other parts of the world appear uncongenial for doing business or just generally very scary. I know this because one such brief once crossed my desk.  When was the last time you saw a story in the developed world's media about Guatemala that didn't involve some nasty shit? 

I think one reason that Trump caused such consternation in certain circles last year with his whole 'Bad Hombres' shtick was that its no-holds-barred crassness ran the risk of giving the whole game away. 

But the 'whole narcos thing' is real enough too. I have been exposed to over three decades of life in Central America and have witnessed in the more recent period how the cartels have insinuated themselves into many aspects of life in La Antigua, especially amongst what I shall call the motivated youth. They've done this with sleeper cells which reproduce and extend their influence through a vigorous process of recruitment and cultural indoctrination. (Banda music!)  No decapitated heads have turned up in the Tanque de La Union as yet, but the hold this little mafia will grow up to have over the city is indeed rather worrying. 

Meanwhile, I have been catching up with Narcos, season two, having forgotten how much I liked this series. I love the way how the criminals, the officials and the DEA team are presented in their own terms - the somewhat meatheaded voiceover gives you the ultimately false impression that this is going to be one of those America, Fuck Yeah stories with cardboard cut-out third world low-lifes getting the full law enforcement treatment, but instead anyone like myself, fluent in both languages, can see that it has at least two main registers and that it largely keeps them separate.