Monday, June 08, 2009

Radio Silence and the Tragedy in Bagua

Tomorrow I head off to the Colca valley at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. I feel like I've spent a couple of days too many in Arequipa and haven't advanced as much as I'd like with the main purposes of my trip. But it's probably been worth it to get over the various niggling problems and soak up some comfortable living before venturing into harsher conditions. Surely four essentially sleepless journeys of more than 15 hours within two weeks justify some recharging of batteries, especially when combined with jet lag, a cold, mild diarrhea, and a smattering of bites from both bed bugs and mosquitos?

I'll be in the Colca region for anything from 5 or 6 days, to 2 weeks, depending on how much progress I make with my studies, how nice people are to me, and whether I come back to Arequipa between my time in Cabanaconde and my intended visit to the village of Ichupampa. There is internet in Cabanaconde, but it is likely to be slow, and in any case I should be busy with other things than sitting in an internet café. There is therefore likely to be radio silence on this blog for a while, and the posts will continue to come in fits and starts.

In the absence of blog posts, I nevertheless hope to maintain my 'scratch notes', 'field notes proper', log, and transcipts< / obscure academic reference>. Ironically, most of the latter are so far stored, not in my dog-eared notebook, but in an unpublished 'in draft' entry on this website. Google's servers are the new poste restante.


Ironically, being in Peru I find myself almost less in touch with current events than when I'm in New Zealand. We didn't have any internet at Hugo's Lodge, with the nearest access 4km away in Santa Teresa (although now Hugo has installed a satellite service), and in Santa Teresa it was hard to come by any newspapers, let alone something serious like La Republica. For this reason, I had been rather ignorant of the gathering tension in the northern jungle, in which native communities were blocking major roads and demanding the derogation of legislative decree 1090, which they claim opens their communal lands to easier exploitation by mining and petroleum companies.

I'm therefore just piecing together information about the terrible tragedies that have occurred around the town of Bagua, near the main route to Chachapoyas and Tarapoto, where confrontations between police and native communities have resulted in the death of at least 23 policemen and an unknown number of local community members.

As conflicting reports filter in from the TV and radio, and different groups try to put their side of the story forward in the media, the only thing certain is that there terrible things have occurred, and there is bitter agony all around. It's somewhat reminiscent of the events in Pando in Boliva last September, although worse, in that most of the violence there occurred in a single confused clash, which doesn't seem to have been the case here.

The political drama brushed by obliquely last week, when, as we drove in Hugo's 4WD on the way to Santa Teresa, we passed numerous minivans and trucks laden with "natives" who were returning from having blocked the way to Machu Picchu as part of a national protest. However, Cuzco's ceja de selva is not really a focus of the conflict, and as far as I can tell , almost all of the residents are recent immigrants from elsewhere in Peru, mostly the sierra.

For those who have picked up some news through the international media, they might like to set these shocking occurrences against any impressions I might have given of a warm glow of material development in Peru's main urban centres. They might also note that a number of commentators have quickly made the connection with the wider context set by president Alan Garcia's "Dog in the Manger" discourse, which I criticised a while back. Regardless of the details of exactly what happened and how, when a whole class of people are treated as mere obstacles in the path of progress, outbreaks of conflict and violence are hardly unexpected.

1 comment:

Paola said...

The next is about the tragedy in Bagua. I suggest to read this interview that has been published on El Pais website...