Rambling Thoughts On Latin America

José Martí's tomb in Santiago da Cuba.
José Martí’s tomb in Santiago da Cuba.

I have recently read a little about the state of New Mexico and the Zapatista Movement, active since 1994 in Chiapas, Mexico, because of a blogger I deeply respect, Eléctrica in the Desert (see my blogroll) who lives in New Mexico and cares deeply for social justice worldwide and for the people in Mexico and NM close-up. Familiar for many years that the U.S. has trained people from Mexico, Central and South America as well as co-operating, arming and financing these trained killers, I was newly moved when I learned more personally about these particularly close areas. Huffington Post in January ranked New Mexico as the poorest of America’s 50 states. The stats are antiseptic. Eléctrica tells the individual stories of real people.

I’ll be honest: a year ago New Mexico was off my radar – so many things are these days – so much misery to choose from. And Mexico was still, for me, that blasted “newcomer” to the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement that was already a bad thing when Canadian workers with good, secure jobs only had to compete, unfairly, with  American workers. In fairness, all workers in the three NAFTA countries believe that they are losing out to the other two countries. In a way we are all right. We just haven’t really twigged on to who the real winners are. Hint: ask the Occupy Movement, but first check out what Occupy New Mexico is up to.

Now the TPP looms, but I will not ramble that far…

The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is geographically far removed from widespread suffering like that, if we don’t count (and we rarely do) the shameful plight of Canada’s indigenous.

Even working in rural Trinidad, W.I., where I taught between 1965 and 1967, I never locked my door. It was one of the more “prosperous” Caribbean islands because of its oil resources. It is crime- and drug-ridden now, a legacy of the desire to acquire some of the goodies that U.S. television, which was just becoming commonly viewed then, displayed in its popular shows. I saw considerable evidence of similar cravings among the “repressed” people of Cuba we met in our self-guided tour of that inspiring country in 2010.

But, mercifully (no… deliberately) in Cuba, there was almost no crime and no drugs due to the influence that Fidel Castro’s communist regime had over maintaining decorum there. AND…

Because Cuba could not afford to buy pesticides and fertilizer, due to the American embargo, they have led the world in moving to sustainable agriculture.

They grow their own food. What a novel, “backward” concept for today.  God help them as they allow the U.S. more and more influence over their society. They do not realize the price they will pay in disparity for these longed for goodies and “freedoms.”

And it is ironic that there is a recent surge in Cuban migration to America while literate, healthy Cubans still have an archaic, cold-war motivated, “C’mon in!” preference over Latin Americans from other places who are literally fleeing for their lives.

Oh, I’ve added a new activist magazine to my blogroll: Jacobin Magazine. Check it out!

Retro-Activism Closer to Home:

SOA Watch: Oh, yeah… In thinking about the above and my friend’s revelations about Mexico, old and NEW, I remembered this local Canadian connection to the other Americas.  A Catholic high school I taught at when I returned to teaching here in Ontario beginning in 1992 was really dedicated to social justice issues. Some staff were involved in a peaceful, American-based group, called SOA Watch.  They would go by bus to the annual November protests against the School of the Americas (the OLD euphemism for it) in Fort Benning, Georgia. I never went, but it was on my to-do-list for a while. The protestors mostly stood in protest against that despicable training school for paramilitary groups that, by terrorizing indigenous peasants, make America’s back yard safer to exploit.

Youth Corps: Toronto Diocese was a happening place from 1966-1984 due to the activism and dedication of the amazing Youth Corps, founded and shepherded by Father Tom McKillop. My family was introduced to Youth Corp’s Sharon Peace Weekends in the ’70s. Catholic GTA families would arrive at the Sharon, Ontario farm of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd on a Friday afternoon and set up tents on their grounds. The barn was the main gathering place. Led by energetic, charismatic youth ministry, we would be handed song sheets and sing secular and religious songs with a social activism connection. The most memorable song for me was a young leader named Paula leading us in Forever Young,  Joan Baez’ great hit. The song sheets changed every year. On Saturday there was always a speaker on a topic that challenged us to see the world as being in need of change. A dance on Saturday evening, a few dancing in wheelchairs, followed by a fire and candlelight ceremony after sundown. On Sunday a wonderful Mass outdoors on a gentle hillside when weather permitted. Meals cooked for everyone by involved participants. Sharon Corp weekends were inclusive from every possible aspect. Our ultra-conservative Cardinal Carter removed Tom McKillop in 1984. Pages 7 t0 26 of this article describe the heady, Youth Corps, Vatican II years.

Church: We had a pretty activist parish church in the 70’s and 80’s due to my pastor/mentor, until the local Diocesans took over from the Franciscans and started keenly recruiting the very devout, conservative types of newcomer who would ask:

Father, please come and bless my new BMW…

Peaceful civil disobedience waxes and, mostly these days, wanes… but the domination dial is set to relentless.

Nostalgia: Wistful about the hopeful signs that were much more abundant in the past, I fear for our future and hope that The Bern gathers serious momentum in the U.S. primaries

Fantasia: The front-running alternatives,  Standard Crazy or Extra-Strength Crazy, will not make the world a safer place.


What? No Birds?

A couple of species that just might outlast us...
Buzz… Buzz… Buzz… B??

Whaaattt? No birds?

Looks like the environmental Rip Van Winkles among us, after letting Monsanto, Bayer et al. poison everything that isn’t a profitable crop, are finally getting a rude awakening:

CBC’s Ontario Today asked people to call in and report what species they’re not seeing now that they used to see. The many responses were scary. Here’s one dramatic example:

Russ, a farmer from Acton, ON, has seen 50 barn swallows every year in his barn. This year: NONE. Suddenly, none.

The 23-minute podcast is here.

We snored through the Monsanto Roundup years and even the recent Bayer Neonicotinoid bee-killing years. “Health Canada” is a disgrace to its name, in recent years just a follower and a pawn of agribusiness and big pharma. And, down south, Monsanto is close to being favoured with draconian legislation that will nullify a ton of existing local American laws against GE crops!!

Maybe the accelerated vanishing of our feathered, fellow-vertebrate friends like barn swallows and (in our back yard) hummingbirds, will wake us up to the global threat to the entire food chain caused by pesticides that are hugely potent and woefully undertested. We are blind to the critical importance of the tiny, even microscopic, living things in this world, without which the bigger things like us can not continue to survive.

Gotta be a better way than snoozing our way to mass extinction…

We must learn to tread gently on our earth. We’ve been struttin’ way too long, John…

Hummingbird at feeder
Ruby-throated at our feeder in 2012

Bumblebee Forced Resettlement

Bob's Bumblebee Base - Clay Flowerpot, Tile Roof, Tube Entrance
Bob’s Bumblebee Base – Clay Flowerpot, Tile Roof, Tube Subway Entrance

Common bumblebees had set up house in a stack of firewood produced by removing a diseased ash tree and a couple of storm-damaged crab-apples. The wood, next to the house in our back yard, had been covered by a tarp to protect it as it aged. When I removed the tarp this June I noticed the nest and disturbed it. It ended up as a small, rounded pile of fuzzy, fibrous plant material on the patio stones surrounded by a bunch of scattered fireplace logs. I spread out the pieces with an eight-foot 1 x 2 to isolate the nest, and watched the bees work hard to keep it intact. The bee population is plummeting in Ontario and around the world. It was worth trying to save this little community and set them up somewhere on our long-time pesticide free property.

Scattered wood and patio after moving the nest.
Scattered wood and patio after moving the nest.

It had to be moved to a safer place far from the house and our small woodpile. I got my honey’s permission to move it, if possible, to the back border garden. Anita is allergic to stings, but these little guys seem relatively calm-tempered. Time to learn about bees. The British Bumblebee Conservation Trust website was very helpful. It showed how to build a shelter to encourage new bumblebees to inhabit your garden, and how to move a nest safely to another location. My solution, hopefully, was to combine and adapt these ideas to our situation… Continue reading “Bumblebee Forced Resettlement”

All Of The Below

Flower with pollinator
Flower with solitary pollinator
Where to begin??? With the photo, I guess. The above “slightly macro” photo was taken in “Our Woods” (see categories) with my Tamron 90 mm macro lens on Oct. 15. 1/400 sec, f 6.3, ISO 100.
‘Nuff said there.
But… the bee made me think about endangered species and then about “just about everything else that ticks me off” resulting, from time to time, in petitioning, ranting, raving, using cuss words, reading, blogging, occasionally marching and chanting, even singing à la Bob Dillon or Pete Seeger.
I have recently learned through sumofus.org (and follow-up digging) how the chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta have recently launched a lawsuit against Europe for placing a moratorium on the use of their neonicotinoid pesticides because there is evidence that they are responsible for the decline in the bee population. The site, sumofus.org, has a petition we can sign against this lawsuit.
Stephen Harper, our Prime Dictator (er, Prime Minister), who rules with temporary absolute power in our backwater, soon to be blackwater, corporate colony named Canada, recently shut down our parliament for the third time. This time to avoid criticism for his Conservative Party’s corruption, mismanagement and election fraud (sound like Guatemala or El Salvador?). Shortly after reopening our lacklustre legislative body, he buggered off last week to Europe to be the co-star in a big splash photo-op: the signing of a memorandum of understanding on a new, huge, secret “Free” Trade deal with the European Community. It’s called CETA.
Now it seems to me, after watching Canada get it’s ass gratuitously sued by foreign corporations over and over again since 1997 under the NAFTA with the US and Mexico, that we do NOT want another secret trade deal that is officially with countries but unofficially with the corporations that control the political leaders. You know it. I know it. Why do we voters let it happen? (Insert cuss word of your choice) While your petitioning appetite is whetted, why not sign this one on the secret Trans Pacific Partnership Harper is anxious to sign up for.
Before we can say “Mike Duffy” Harper will have us tied up in so many politically-paralyzing trade deals that we will become a true colony of the worldwide super-wealthy
with no control over our water, our fish, our resources, our climate, our land… Serfs subject to a plenitude of corporate lawsuits if we even try to live sustainably. To be fair, we don’t yet really try to reduce our bloody footprints, so this may not be relevant. Continue reading “All Of The Below”