Letters to the Compass

Further Journeys with Ala Plástica

Junco“Junco” (all photos by Claire Pentecost)

First Letter

Dear friends -

Greets from Argentina! Buenos Aires is far behind and Claire and I are relaxing in a quirky countryside house near the town of Victoria, on the far side of the Paraná river delta from the grain-exporting ports of Rosario. We had a meeting here today, talking about how to make a journal that could be used for community work up and down the Delta. It could have recipes, interviews with locals, articles about ecological or political issues, some drawings or other artwork, stories drawn from workshops or other encounters. A possible name was “Atención Flotante” – a reference to the water, to the mixed character of a little notebook that Delta people might actually read, and also a kind of hidden homage to “evenly suspended attention” that goes along with free association in psychoanalysis. I thought it was good, especially when someone pointed out that it could also be read as “watch out, debris in the water!”

Yesterday we took a boat from the port of San Lorenzo out into the huge muddy brown river, which is wide like I imagine the Mississippi. Some members of a group called Floating Workshops had arranged an afternoon trip for us on a big bright-orange Zodiac piloted by two employees of the local prefecture, with official insignias and everything. We passed the loading docks and the grain chutes that slope down from riverside elevators toward ocean-going freighters. On the far side we got off at the home of the Dominguez family, who are “isleños,” or delta islanders. They are a couple living in a ramshackle compound with half a dozen kids, a few dogs, some chickens and a bright green parrot. It was fascinating to converse with these people, who seemed to be squatters on that land, though it wasn’t really clear (there are traditional land tenure rights which are neither property owning, nor exactly squatting either). Dominguez told us about working for big soy farmers in the region, driving GPS-guided combines where you just have to sit back, push a button and then watch while it takes in the harvest. After some more questions we realized that even inside the driver’s cabin you also have to wear a gas mask against the toxic emanations of the grain, which has been doused in glyphosate….

Later we went up an inland waterway, through one of the endless channels that crisscross the delta. We docked first at the local police station (!) where the father of one the people with us had worked fifteen years before. He too was with us, so we were very well received and got to hear about the cattle rustling that motivated the existence of this curious outpost. Then we cast off again, returned to the main river and went up another side channel past beautiful forested banks before stopping for a long afternoon chat at Escuela 41, the islanders’ schoolhouse where the Dominguez children go. The women of the Floating Workshop give ceramics lessons and do various other things at these schools, so they are well known by everyone. It was great hanging out, hearing stories, drinking maté and watching the kids play ball. A lot of the talk had to do with the many changes that have come over the years since these islands are no longer served by the ferry boat that used to run from Rosario to Victoria. That boat was replaced about fifteen years ago by an enormous hyper-modern suspension bridge and a 60-kilometer long causeway over the Delta, which forms part of a giant infrastructure plan called the “Bi-Oceanic corridor.” Between the giant soy ports of Rosario and the truck traffic of the corridor, this area is a very busy place for early 21st-century capital; but when you go down a side road or up a lateral channel into the islands, you immediately find yourself in another world, the island world of the delta.

Our guide in this world is Alejandro Meitin of the group Ala Plástica. Unfortunately his wife Silvina Babich couldn’t come with us (damn, work is a drag) but we were able to hang out together with both of them at their house in Punta Lara, which is near the university town of La Plata. They told us stories about twenty years of artistic and activist work in their immediate area and throughout the delta, on an open-ended bioregional project expanding up through the Paraná river watershed. They had also prepared a digitalized archive of their experiences stretching over two decades. It was really beautiful to go with Alejandro out to see the place on the edge of the Rio de la Plata estuary where they began this bioregional project by planting bullrushes at the water’s edge, on a kind of decayed and unmaintained beach in front of a swimming club. That decay was a sign of the times: it was 1995 and neoliberalism was in full swing, gradually bleeding the country dry of all its basic natural and social resources, while profit was siphoned to the top end of the pyramid.

The bullrush tempers the erosive force of the waves and holds sediment in its roots, from which new shoots emerge in an expansive process. It helps to purify the water and opens up an ecological succession of other species, from shrubs to trees, which is now exactly what you see on the formerly abandoned beach. The idea of planting bullrushes was to establish an expanding, rhizomatic territory in the face of the decay and destruction of the neoliberal era. The bullrush is part of an economy: it can be harvested, dried and woven. You can also make sculptures out of it, as Silvina has been doing from time to time ever since. I find it beautiful how they deliberately conceived this initial planting as both a practical and symbolic act. They had come into contact with the British artists Ian Hunter and Celia Lerner and they had participated in the foundation of the Littoral Art movement in 1994. With almost no material resources they managed to invite the two British artists to Argentina and to organize a colloquium around a founding event where they planted the bullrushes on the coast. Then they began the long process of expanding outward from their initial territory, making contacts, working with communities, engaging in struggles and gradually getting to know the whole Paraná River basin, from the estuary all the way up into Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. This vast watery territory is now cared for by an organization that has sprung up since those early days, the Alliance for the Wetlands System of the Paraguay-Paraná River – whose headquarters we are about to go visit. I will write again with some news of that meeting, and maybe other things.

Best to everyone, Brian and Claire

Second Letter

Dear friends -

Greets from Argentina! Buenos Aires is far behind and Claire and I are relaxing in a quirky countryside house near the town of Victoria, on the far side of the Paraná river delta from the grain-exporting ports of Rosario. We had a meeting here today, talking about how to make a journal that could be used for community work up and down the Delta. It could have recipes, interviews with locals, articles about ecological or political issues, some drawings or other artwork, stories drawn from workshops or other encounters. A possible name was “Atención Flotante” – a reference to the water, to the mixed character of a little notebook that Delta people might actually read, and also a kind of hidden homage to “evenly suspended attention” that goes along with free association in psychoanalysis. I thought it was good, especially when someone pointed out that it could also be read as “watch out, debris in the water!”

Yesterday we took a boat from the port of San Lorenzo out into the huge muddy brown river, which is wide like I imagine the Mississippi. Some members of a group called Floating Workshops had arranged an afternoon trip for us on a big bright-orange Zodiac piloted by two employees of the local prefecture, with official insignias and everything. We passed the loading docks and the grain chutes that slope down from riverside elevators toward ocean-going freighters. On the far side we got off at the home of the Dominguez family, who are “isleños,” or delta islanders. They are a couple living in a ramshackle compound with half a dozen kids, a few dogs, some chickens and a bright green parrot. It was fascinating to converse with these people, who seemed to be squatters on that land, though it wasn’t really clear (there are traditional land tenure rights which are neither property owning, nor exactly squatting either). Dominguez told us about working for big soy farmers in the region, driving GPS-guided combines where you just have to sit back, push a button and then watch while it takes in the harvest. After some more questions we realized that even inside the driver’s cabin you also have to wear a gas mask against the toxic emanations of the grain, which has been doused in glyphosate….

Later we went up an inland waterway, through one of the endless channels that crisscross the delta. We docked first at the local police station (!) where the father of one the people with us had worked fifteen years before. He too was with us, so we were very well received and got to hear about the cattle rustling that motivated the existence of this curious outpost. Then we cast off again, returned to the main river and went up another side channel past beautiful forested banks before stopping for a long afternoon chat at Escuela 41, the islanders’ schoolhouse where the Dominguez children go. The women of the Floating Workshop give ceramics lessons and do various other things at these schools, so they are well known by everyone. It was great hanging out, hearing stories, drinking maté and watching the kids play ball. A lot of the talk had to do with the many changes that have come over the years since these islands are no longer served by the ferry boat that used to run from Rosario to Victoria. That boat was replaced about fifteen years ago by an enormous hyper-modern suspension bridge and a 60-kilometer long causeway over the Delta, which forms part of a giant infrastructure plan called the “Bi-Oceanic corridor.” Between the giant soy ports of Rosario and the truck traffic of the corridor, this area is a very busy place for early 21st-century capital; but when you go down a side road or up a lateral channel into the islands, you immediately find yourself in another world, the island world of the delta.

Our guide in this world is Alejandro Meitin of the group Ala Plástica. Unfortunately his wife Silvina Babich couldn’t come with us (damn, work is a drag) but we were able to hang out together with both of them at their house in Punta Lara, which is near the university town of La Plata. They told us stories about twenty years of artistic and activist work in their immediate area and throughout the delta, on an open-ended bioregional project expanding up through the Paraná river watershed. They had also prepared a digitalized archive of their experiences stretching over two decades. It was really beautiful to go with Alejandro out to see the place on the edge of the Rio de la Plata estuary where they began this bioregional project by planting bullrushes at the water’s edge, on a kind of decayed and unmaintained beach in front of a swimming club. That decay was a sign of the times: it was 1995 and neoliberalism was in full swing, gradually bleeding the country dry of all its basic natural and social resources, while profit was siphoned to the top end of the pyramid.

The bullrush tempers the erosive force of the waves and holds sediment in its roots, from which new shoots emerge in an expansive process. It helps to purify the water and opens up an ecological succession of other species, from shrubs to trees, which is now exactly what you see on the formerly abandoned beach. The idea of planting bullrushes was to establish an expanding, rhizomatic territory in the face of the decay and destruction of the neoliberal era. The bullrush is part of an economy: it can be harvested, dried and woven. You can also make sculptures out of it, as Silvina has been doing from time to time ever since. I find it beautiful how they deliberately conceived this initial planting as both a practical and symbolic act. They had come into contact with the British artists Ian Hunter and Celia Lerner and they had participated in the foundation of the Littoral Art movement in 1994. With almost no material resources they managed to invite the two British artists to Argentina and to organize a colloquium around a founding event where they planted the bullrushes on the coast. Then they began the long process of expanding outward from their initial territory, making contacts, working with communities, engaging in struggles and gradually getting to know the whole Paraná River basin, from the estuary all the way up into Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. This vast watery territory is now cared for by an organization that has sprung up since those early days, the Alliance for the Wetlands System of the Paraguay-Paraná River – whose headquarters we are about to go visit. I will write again with some news of that meeting, and maybe other things.

Best to everyone, Brian and Claire

Third Letter

Howdy friends -

We’re sitting here drinking an ice-cold beer and watching the sunset with dance music booming out of an amp and a PA system into the evening air. “From Europe, from the beaches of Ibiza, right here to San Ignacio,” says the disk jockey – and then it gets a little wilder, leaving the Brazilian longplay version of Madonna’s Spanish Lullaby far behind. Yup, now it’s time for an Argentine rendition of Pink Floyd’s The Wall…. Followed by some kind of salsa I never heard before.

While traveling one dreams of so many things. For instance, exploring the great wetlands of the Pantanal region in Paraguay and Bolivia, living off the fish you would catch, stopping in different river ports, floating with the current. Taking the time to camp on an island, following the arroyos into some bright green maze full of birds and screeching monkeys. Or doing all those same things, but totally, totally different, somewhere out in the flats of the Midwest with the farmland draining into muddy streams through underground tiles. The riverscape here is vast and on the hilltops of the distant banks the elegant, fan-like forms of the jungle trees stand out like shadow puppets gesticulating against the soft orange sky. We’re a bit chill from floating in the river after a blazing day on shore. Now there is nothing special to do, just maybe sit here and write for another fifteen minutes until the beer is done and the evening is dark and the kids stop playing volleyball with no net on the grass of the campground beneath the silver sliver of the moon. Claire has taken her camera out on the beach to photograph the deep blue water and now she’s dancing to the music, a wild one at heart.

Yesterday we ventured out on a kind of metal catwalk set up for the massive tourism of Iguazu Falls. After about half a mile through trees and over flowing water this catwalk takes you right next to a set of roaring cataracts perhaps a hundred feet across. The plunging currents surge and roil in foaming white bursts of pure energy down into a deep pool you can’t see, for all the rising clouds of vapor that break up the sunlight into a brilliant rainbow arching up into the blue sky. To the left, the cascade splinters into individual white spouts against red rocks festooned with ferns and grasses. You grip the handrail and your senses are simply possessed, carried away. It’s endlessly fascinating: the falls are like infinity in a second, every second, the ultimate fusion of air and water and wind and spray. If it weren’t for the absolute necessity of taking dozens or hundreds of pictures surely one would experience enlightenment right on the spot – I mean satori, zen-style rapture, the breakthrough into now.

Alejandro has done everything, so once he worked for the national parks, and now he’s talking up the park ranger who offers to take us in his jeep to a place where we can see other falls from inside the forest, peering over the edge into the jumble of boulders, cliffs and streams. Ale tells the series of guards who want to stop us that he’s someone official, that he knows someone important, that he’s been sent by your boss, whatever, and they open the gates they have just closed for the evening. We walk all alone over similar catwalks out through the jungle trees to the hypnotizing falls, much greener here, maybe less spectacular (though that’s pretty relative) but just as beautiful, more beautiful if possible because of the moss and the bromeliads. Earlier we had the extravagant desire to drive over the dirt roads through the countryside, and it was way too slow and way too rocky. We busted a tire just twenty feet from the pavement, and we were too damn hot, we had nothing to eat, and without incredible luck we’d have missed the last chance to even get inside this crazy park. But then you just forget everything because experience is like that, it’s overpowering, at least for a moment.

We walked back from the falls, again in the falling dark, exhausted from all this endless driving and discovery, and suddenly there were two furry coatis running along the handrail, their ringed tails up in the air, comical and beautiful, like raccoons but bigger, with long noses and piercing dark eyes. I looked up – for a second I saw a toucan flying through the air above the trees. Pssst, someone said, come over this way. There was an alligator in the water beneath the bridge, just lurking with eyes and nostrils above the water, waiting for a fish to come down with the current. Further on there was a big, dark green tortoise waddling rapidly through the grass beside the path. We hadn’t seen many animals up to this point, so what a pleasure! Apparently a jaguar can leap about twenty feet in one bound and finish you off in one bite for dinner, but still I wanted to see one. This was our chance, because the crowds had gone. Iguazu Park is like Disneyland, with little trains to take you here and there, so we were awfully lucky to stay past closing time. We walked back on the path and went out through the turnstiles, a bit giddy and all used up for the day.

Or over a decade Claire and I have been coming to Argentina, not for the toucans and the national parks, but because we find this society has so much to say to us, as though it held up distorting mirror to North America. From the beginning I was captivated by the social movements and the activist art, so close and yet so far from the counter-globalization movements of the north. I wrote about Argentinean in a text called “Remembering the Present.” Claire immediately understood the soy economy and we went out into the fields already in 2005, exploring the exportation and transformation of the GMO technologies that had previously been imposed on the Midwest, as you can see in her photo series Expo Chacra. On this trip we were fortunate enough to travel with Eduardo Molinari, the author of The Soy Children, and also with Graciela Carnevale, the artist, activist and educator who preserved the archive of the most radical visual art project of the Argentine 1960s, “Tucumán Arde,” which I wrote about in the text “Eventwork.” Claire and I had done a very extensive research trip with her and the rest of the El Levante group in 2011, where our aim (as nuts as this may sound) was to explore how Argentine life had reconfigured itself after the collapse of 2001, in terms of production, social solidarity and political articulation. We just wanted to find out what Argentine society was made of, here and now! As anyone here will tell you, life really has changed, in many ways for the better, despite the continuity of the export-oriented economy known here as the “soy model.” But what about political ecology? No one else could give a better answer than Ala Plástica.

The surprising thing is that it all has to do with rhizomes. Without having read Deleuze and Guattari, Ala Plástica observed that the bullrushes propagate by sending down networks of roots that catch the sediments of the river and create territory, sending up new shoots as they go along, in an expansive process that holds the riverbank together against erosion. Bullrushes make patchwork territories that filter and soften the flow, without blocking or containing it. The thing was, Argentine society, and perhaps global society, was really eroding fast in the 1990s. Here in the South, the violence of that process was irrevocably clear. While the North was fascinated with new technologies, with mobility, with deterritorialization, Ala Plástica was trying to multiply territorial experiences of solidarity and collaboration on environmental issues, which is what this trip is all about. For those of us seeking to expand the living networks of the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor, and to do cartography with your feet, there is tremendous insight to be gained from a deliberate practice of slowly building up long-term friendships and activist networks on the land, starting literally with your own home. We were pretty amazed to hear the story of the garbage campaign, which started when the entity that organizes pickup and dumping – the CEAMSE – had to close one of its four sites, which meant drastically increasing the traffic to the three remaining dumps. One of those dumps was right next to Punta Lara where Alejandro and Silvina live, and so they collaborated on a campaign of metropolitan scale which ultimately involved blocking the access of the garbage trucks to the dump and setting off a huge environmental debate. They did garbage performances on the highway during Sunday rush hour, showing the links between hyperconsumption and the local disaster they were suffering. They actually got the middle-class residents of Punta Lara to go over to the rag-pickers’ shanty towns and learn about what it means to separate waste. The two other affected sites were also radicalized, not just through Ala Plástica’s work but through the whole complex process of grassroots mobilization in Argentina. Meanwhile the trash was piling up in the streets of Buenos Aires, and other leftist sectors got on board and joined the fight. To understand all this it helps to realize that the organization of the garbage mafia in BA actually dates back to the military dictatorship, and people recognize those origins very clearly. Today the whole thing has long been settled – and they actually have trash separation now, not just in Punta Lara but increasingly, all over the country.

In the days since I started writing this, the intensity of our trip has gone up dramatically. But when am I gonna find the time to write about it? Hopefully soon.

Abrazos y besos, Brian & Claire

Fourth letter

Hello everyone -

One more time, with feeling.

This trip has everything to do with the discussions we’ve been having during Duskin’s residency. It’s basically about mega-infrastructures, by which I mean dams. Giant walls of concrete and steel that are much more complicated than just pipes and turbines and cables. Such projects involve tremendous national and transnational funding, they offer seemingly unlimited opportunities for graft and corruption, and for every inch the level rises there is another issue of life and depth, somewhere, affecting someone, having to do with what’s now the shore, or even more intensely, with what’s now underwater. The secret of the dam is what it covers up.

In Misiones, where the Panambí dam on the Uruguay River is being planned against the will of all those who are soon to be drenched, we were told that on the Brazilian side of the river a woman with a rifle led forty armed families to the site of the bulldozers and forced them out. Then the construction crews moved to the Argentinean side, which they had avoided at first because technically, in the province of Misiones, there should be a referendum before any dam is begun. But there is always an excuse why not to have the referendum. The obvious reason is that the majority would vote no. A woman named Angélica Alvez whom we met in the town of Santa Rita, and who runs a radio station called Union FM, said she would do the same as the Brazilians if the dam went ahead. She really sounded like she meant it. Why all this passion about a little rising water? Everybody likes free electricity, don’t they?

In Posadas, which is the capital of Misiones, the Yacyretá dam on the Paraná River is already complete since the early Nineties. In 2011, they raised the water level one last time, bringing the generating stations to full capacity. The brand-new shoreline drive around the city is an urbanist’s dream. There are bars and restaurants everywhere, people jogging with their I-pods, just like California. They rebuilt the train station, now a cultural center, on freshly graded ground. Apartment buildings tower above the coast, each glazed window with its own private view. The bridge to Paraguay gleams in the distance. There is a profusion of street lamps everywhere, like the gift that keeps on giving. Here and there, between the little jewel-boxes of gentrification, you can see the occasional leftover house, built out of wooden planks, roof line uneven, with an older garden and chipped or broken concrete steps. After lengthy public debate, the city decided it was more fitting to repaint the emblematic statue of the Virgin on the riverfront church: a brown-skinned Mary was just not right for the new coast. Further ahead, on a massive pedestal about fifteen feet out in the water, the indigenous hero Andresito has been honored with an heroic aluminum statue, almost Soviet in its futuristic sheen. He’s holding an upraised sword and striding toward the riverfront drive like a missionary.

We were taken around the city by Helena, a sociologist and communications professor, and Sebastian, an engaged journalist working with a publication called Superficie. They explained how the former population of fisherfolk and port and railroad workers used to live in self-built houses scattered throughout every nook and cranny of the sloping banks, just a short climb from the center city. The women worked in the middle-class houses or sold whatever they could in the market place, the men did odd jobs in addition to the work on the river. Society was mixed, culturally complex, and the city looked away from the river, because the view was not up to the rich folks’ taste. Maybe you’re less likely to hurt what you don’t see?

As we walked toward the central market suddenly I realized something through my feet. For the last three hours we had been moving across perfectly flat ground. Now the asphalt was buckling and sloping, and the trees were slowly pushing aside the concrete blocks of the sidewalks. In just a few steps, without any transition, we had left the urbanists’ dream. We were once again on the sloping banks of the absent river.

Posadas is stultifyingly hot in the afternoon, like maté without the jolt of caffeine. We followed Sebastian in the car, a long way out of the city, toward Barrio A4. It was supposed to be called “Barrio de la Esperanza” (Neighborhood of Hope) but it never managed to shrug off the technocratic name given by the so-called engineers. We were going to visit people who had been relocated in 1994. A middle-aged blond woman named Juanita greeted us and took us into a large, cleanly swept and dreadfully hot warehouse, which was totally empty but for the iconography of an evangelical church on the walls. This was the cultural center they had finally gotten after seventeen years, simply by occupying it. We decided that a few wooden benches could be taken into the shade outside. Gradually more and more neighbors came as the stories unfolded. Barrio A4 was a broken promise, a trap, a hell hole. Many people told us that in the end, out of desperation, with the water visibly rising just a few feet away, they had finally given the keys of their riverside houses to the agents of the state-owned dam company (“la EBY”), thus accepting relocation. “If I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have done it,” said one.

There were no schools, no hospital, no services. The houses had just one room, even if you had five kids. They were poorly built. The sewers didn’t work. And there wasn’t any work for the people either. A child was killed when a sink fell of the wall and struck him in the chest. There was no food. Women began setting up soup kitchens, gathering whatever food that charity could bring. This was the height of neoliberalism in the late Nineties. People died from hunger and lack of care. They protested and did everything they could, many different things, but all had come to nothing. Juanita and some of the others were crying by this point in the story. But the group was big and we kept on talking, the moment passed. It was hard to believe that we were here in the full light of day, hearing these things.

They had taken their case all the way to the United Nations Court of Human Rights (how, I am not exactly sure – the case involved 80,000 displaced people from both sides of the border). Tomorrow there would be a public assembly with the lawyer, to hear what the visit of the experts from the World Bank had concluded. Could we come? Yes, for sure. Already we had apologized for being there so powerlessly, just listening. We felt ashamed. They told us it was important that we had come, it was important that we even cared to listen. They seemed to really mean it. Sebastian proposed to return, to make videos of their testimonies in order that the people on the other side of the province could know what the dam might do to them.

We arrived at the lawyer’s door at 9 AM the next morning. A hand-written sign said the meeting was cancelled. All of us had really wanted to see those neighbors again. We hit the road.

Hot, like steam in the dust, then you shiver from the air conditioning. We’re on a platform, surround by a circular array of screens. The projectors beam, the images whirl: it’s the corporate PR of the dam company, the Entidad Bi-Nacional de Yacyretá, or EBY. The first cataract of images condenses into pulses of light and the slogan hits you like the blade of a turbine: “We are absolutely dependent on electricity.” It’s the basic message of the developmental state, in six glowing words on the screen. Mega-infrastructure comes down to power over you.

We roll out in the official bus toward the dam, show our passports to the border police (this is a binational zone), admire the locks that the soy barges move through, snap pictures of the huge metal flood gates, gasp in the great hall with the twenty turbines, each sunk into a circular shaft covered on top with a bright red technicolor disk. Long and high and narrow, the turbine hall recedes into perspective like a gigantic time machine. It’s 2001, A Space Odyssey. Or Antonioni, The Red Desert. Political discussion in the bus on the way back: our fellow tourist, the average Argentinean man, rightfully distrusts all governments. But the dam just had to be built, he says. $180,000 indemnity for each of the displaced families? Impossible! We insist that the relocalizations are a crime. The driver weighs in: “The company delivers bags of food every week.” Like you would for a dog, we think. Our local representative of the average Argentinean man basically agrees with us: he’s been through it all, he saw the state disappear the young people who went out to help the poor in the countryside, back in the Seventies. He agrees with it all, but still he says it was necessary. Society – or electricity – speaks through him.

Later on, the next day, we are wandering through a fishing village on the edge of a city called Resistencia. Light rain is falling. Here, with the help of our friend and guide, the hydrologist Ramon Vargas, the fisherfolk successfully pushed back the installation of a shoreline casino, proposed by the billionnaire Correntini who also runs the biggest modern art museum in Buenos Aires. Part of the resistance strategy involved getting artists to come and paint the houses, mostly with religious murals as it turned out, according to what the inhabitants desired. Lovely faded murals. We talk at length with one of the neighborhood leaders (their word), then he starts showing us the latest catch, huge fish from the freezer. I looked around at where I was. Suddenly I began to have that feeling you get at sunset, when the experiences of the day rise up and begin washing over you in waves of completion. This village was another version of what had been flattened, erased, destroyed, banished to the far suburbs in Posadas. Here the people were doing what they had always done, fishing, cooking, raising children, drinking wine in the afternoon (though now they are threatened by the emerging narcotrafico). So far, they were still here. We spoke with other leaders, whom Ramon knew quite well. The short, energetic local man was talking about how he fishes, how he hunts, showing us how to tie a knot, how to repair a net, cutting off damaged pieces with a large, extremely sharp machete. Alejandro engaged him with the details, Ramon was talking with his wife about other matters in the village. I was struck, not only by the long unspoken historical love of intellectuals for workers, but also by the fact that it can be reciprocal. The whole struggle against the dams, with its mixed results, seemed to hang suspended in the afternoon air, on a rainy day in the fisherfolk’s neighborhood of San Pedro.

See you very soon, Brian and Claire

 

 

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