Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Postcard from Belize

After traveling on three boats and a bus, we arrived in the idyllic and largely deserted town of Plancencia, ambling out to meet the Caribbean waves here in Belize. It has been a long journey, one that has brought us face to face with many of the joys and difficulties of modern Central America, from Nicaragua's radiant towns and warm people facing down a cynical and corrupt political elite, to Guatemala continuing in the grip of hidden armed groups with links to current and former military officials, teetering on the edge of collapsing into the hands of drug traffickers.

The region remains stunning in its natural settings, with mist-shrouded hills, great mountain lakes and seductive stretches of Caribbean coastline along which Landino, Garifuna and indigenous cultures blend in an appealing potpourri. The politics, however, remain troubling.

Watching Barack Obama's stirring, emotional and intelligent speech from a hotel room in Guatemala, in the shadow of a lovely ochre-hued colonial church, and recently seeing snatches of the Republican convention on television, where an overwhelmingly white crowd saluted the stage with cowboy hats in a gesture that to this white, working-class boy was shockingly reminiscent of the fascist salutes of old, one is reminded of how much work there is left to do in the world.

Times and needs are changing and we must change with them. A sunset and the lilt of reggae tonight, and tomorrow to work once again.

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