Part IV: “Good Juju and Bad” (912 words)
Our haunted government and the MNCs, unfortunately, have built a ton of bad juju in Latino America, I’m sorry to say. The Federal “client states” and their peoples, trapped by imperious thumbs, remember this painful economic pressure a tad more than our more philosophical—though no less important--gifts to the health of their psyches. Even though we’ve gifted them the tools to build self-esteem, peons need reasonable pay for their work, too.
I hear the Giants try to palm off this outrage, these allegations of collusion with the overseers, as the rhetoric of communist rebels. Hoo-Hah! Scratch a campesina and a highly-functional capitalista appears, even if she hides her coin under the mattress with garlic. She’d never trade food slavery for Lenin, just another form of tyranny. It’s not about turning “Red”; it’s about shaking the vine enough for beans to fall to the ground, opening up the cash flow downward, spreading the dollars’ manure to the roots of this ailing beanstalk. How? Eliminate, as the Free Traders do, a few tiers, between the peasants and the American market, of key-stoning middlemen. These freeloaders in the distribution channels who’ve never seen a campesino or a tobacco field could stand to sweat a little harder, while the campesinos certainly deserve to feel as valued, monetarily, for their labor as we do in the States.
I’m not suggesting that they be paid at American minimum wage: even a raise, at first, to $1 an hour from $.67 would do wonders here, promoting waves of pure American capitalism--of the dream kind--since they could and certainly would plan their futures with some cash sequestered in their wallets. A little extra discretionary income—an unheard of concept here, would also allow their children uniforms and shoes for school, spreading education, and would improve children’s health with fuller nutrition. Mark my words: if we want the world marching to the drums of globalization, we must enrich the soil, however slightly, at the bottom. Cash would also do more to spread democracy than all the military aid and surplus food we slip into the pockets of families topping each branch of the beanstalk, aid sent from our taxes that the campesinos never see. If we wish the world to flourish with democracy and fresh capital spending, we need to grease, instead, the palms of the peasants where they live, work, eat, and, someday soon, even save for their children’s future. Now, that’s a real Jimmy Carter dream, for all the Americas.
We could also exert pressure for the poor of Latino America at the grocery stores where we buy our staples. “Any Fair Trade coffee, today? And, oh, who actually grows this sugar? Anything produced stateside for at least minimum wage?” are great questions that could really make an intelligent difference. It’s our dollars spent here that fuel the whole teetering vineyard. I might as well choose a banana in health food stores supporting organic humanitarians, getting dolares to the campo or to North American farmer’s markets, hurt almost as much as the peons by the Giants.
Anyway, taking without giving in return is abysmal juju hanging like a sullen cloud over the Beltway Bubble, prime Giant territory. H-m-m-m? We’d each better play it safe and buy a ton of garlic cloves, as well, blessed by the local priest!
Now, though, mi hermanos and I, locos Betanco, total, place our hope and passion for justice in our kids, some headed one day to the States. Let’s hope the new Chief Giant at the top, with his or her ultra-chic, Nieman-Marcus goose, chooses generosity and compassion, this time, in place of massive people-squashing. This election is very important: we need cosmic justice change, up there, right quick.
In Nicaragua, now, gracias, out here beyond the Pale, it’s quiet, noisy only with perros barking en la noche, with roosters’ crow, early in the mañanita. Sandinistas turn capitalistas, building safer, cheap retirement—Surprise!--for us gringos pensionados, a third and growing source of dollars for Nicaragua’s peasants on the ground, where dolares rarely go, where it’s possible to quintuple the reach of our incomes, in comfortable quarters. The jet to Managua’s full of U.S. viejitos, us new-aged-rainbow-baby-booming-pension-stretching-hippies. We’re legion soon. Our Judy Garland gold dust twinkles lightly at our feet, flying south to warm adobes out of cold February, full of gracias, and closing the migratory circle.
At least this new migration south is mutually beneficial, equal, eye-to-eye, without exploitation, neither up nor down the beanstalk, and, since we older ones give back in gratitude at least as much as we take, the very best balanced juju, verdad?
So, really, amigos, por favor? Who’s using whom, and, really, who cares, on this crazy-swinging vine, gyring in Katrina’s tragic wind?
We’re holding on, here in the Americas, for our own-dear-precious-lives and, maybe, for others, bending with the tumult when we can, straightening when we must, and praying esta planta gigantisima won’t come crashing down. It’s been around, es verdad, at least since Campesino Jack planted his heat-seeking bean, gained by bartering his worthless, dried-up cow for food, multi-many magic legumbres ago. Gratitude, mutuality and clearest light, the best fertilizers, might make its stems twine even higher, past that McMansion we’re all seeking, and up to even friendlier skies. At least, that’s as it appears in a world of frijoles, to me, one grateful viejito master gardener, sort-of-quasi-permanently-planted, deep in the heart of Nicaragua.