What does it mean that my favorite beer is called Imperial?
Now that I've left that awkward question hanging up there I thought I'd do a little review of yesterday's paper, which I bought yesterday morning in one of many, many cities and towns across the country that are without a cell phone signal because they are close to a prison. This brings up several issues, the first being the total lack of any concept whatsoever of prisoner's rights in Honduras, a place where the worst prison fire ever happened two years ago Valentine's Day in which police who refused to open the cell blocks killed around 370 prisoners, and one of the most widespread public responses was that the prisoners deserved to die, because they were, you know, criminals. Yes, there are a lot of criminal activities that are carried out from prisons using cell phones. But blocking all prisoners from making all phone calls seems to me a little dramatic. The tragicomic element of this new form of collective punishment is that it punishes not just the prisoners, but everyone within a radius of several miles of the prisons. Which means just about all of Tela, Ceiba, and Trujillo here up north, as well as dozens of other urban areas around the country are without cell phone services and (in many cases) internet. One of the article's in yesterday's Tiempo dealt with the economic losses suffered in Trujillo:
The paper's front page was of course about El Chapo Guzmán, whose capture has dominated the headlines as a huge success in the U.S.-led War on Drugs. The photos show how he evolved from a handsome young square-jawed hunk in 1993 to an older mustachioed guy in 2014. Supposedly (from the report inside) it's all plastic surgery. It seemed to me that the aging process might have played a role as well, but that might not be as glamorous to report on. A series of short headlines read:
Cell phone call betrayed "El Chapo"
>He moved around in tunnels and sewers
>A U.S. drone helped to capture him [just what we need, more drone PR]
>He used an SUV with level 7 tinted windows [which kinds of reminds me of "but this one goes up to 11"]
>He made physical changes to his entire face
>He suffers from diabetes and liver problems
>pages 58, 59, 60 and 68
El Chapo's capture was perhaps more accurately analyzed in this parody, a letter circulating on the interwebs allegedly posted by the Sinaloa Cartel. The letter makes clear that all is going according to the plan elaborated by the cartel, narco-politicians and the DEA.
To be fair, one of El Tiempo's articles made a similar (but not the same) argument, stating "When one of these capos are captured, 10 more come out of the woodwork." The difference is that this is not sarcasm but rather the un-ironic rhetoric used by Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya, Chief of the Joint Command of the Honduran Armed Forces, to continue justifying the militarization of the entire national territory as necessary for the Drug War. The article below cites Ambassador Kubiske's tweets celebrating El Chapo's arrest as a great success, and provides free PR for some ridiculous local anti-violence initiative that like all of the U.S. government's efforts in that vein mask the fact that we are the primary source of military and economic violence (and thus many other manifestations of the violence continuum) in this country.
Later in the paper, an article titled "Venezuelans in Honduras ask for an end to the violence" follows the extreme right-wing Venezuelan narrative blaming the violence they're causing on the democratically-elected Venezuelan government and its supporters to the letter.
There have been a number of satirical commentaries from the Honduran left about the hypocrisy in the coverage of Venezuelan protests in Honduran mainstream media, like this one published on Anonymous Honduras's twitter account.
[For the best analysis on Venezuela right now, follow George Cicciarello-Maher, NACLA, Keane Bhatt, Mark Weisbrot & CEPR. Also check out this quick review of a presentation by Atilio Borón, laying out pretty clearly the "soft coup" strategy set up by Gene Sharp and his cronies at the ICNC being following by their extreme right-wing allies and students of "non-violence" as a tool for undermining democracy in Venezuela.]
Moving on, and on a related (to extreme right-wing Latin American politics) note, El Tiempo yesterday celebrated the fact that José María Aznar has been invited by the coup-sponsoring business group CEAL (Lanny Davis's former client) to give a conference at the new Garífuna land-usurping tourist complex Indura. Here's what Keane Bhatt and I wrote about Aznar last year, with regard to his association to the shady Washington lobbying firm DLA Piper:
Earlier this year, DLA announced that Spain’s former Prime Minister José María Aznar (who had previously paid DLA Piper's predecessor firm Piper Rudnick $2 million of Spanish taxpayer money in a failed attempt to secure the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal) had been named to the firm's board as Senior Advisor on Latin America. Aznar is also a member of the Board of Directors at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. To call Aznar a major player in Latin American politics would be an understatement. From his 2002 support as Spanish Prime Minister of the 48-hour coup against Venezuela’s Chávez to his work at the powerful, rightwing Latin American Board at Georgetown University, Aznar, now at Johns Hopkins, has used his considerable political and economic clout to promote reactionary policies throughout the hemisphere.
The article states that former president (and coup leader) Ricardo Maduro will provide commentary to Aznar's remarks. The Orwellian theme of the conference, promoted by one of the primary architects and beneficiaries of the coup, CEAL-Honduras president Camilo Atala, is "Desarollo con Equidad: la Base de la Paz Social"; "Development with Fairness/Equity: the Basis for Social Peace."
A PR article for the opening of Indura (which, as its developers note on the website, is Garífuna for Honduras) also shows up on the top of the Google News feed for Honduras this week. The real estate brochure engages in some pretty spectacular (yet ordinary) feats of cultural appropriation. All this as the new ZEDE law, promoting the ongoing push for "Charter Cities" begun under Pape Lobo's regime, threatens to violently wrest the majority of traditional Garífuna territories from the communities that have historically held that—land that Garífuna people view as the basis for their cultural survival.
In sports news, "There was beauty in the Stadium." Really, this is mainstream news: pretty girls in the bleachers.
...but beyond the obvious ridiculousness of it, which brings to mind the incredibly sexist coverage in the Tribuna in January of the presence of new Congresswomen, there was an interesting element (from a U.S. perspective).
[Side note: as you may have heard, my daughter ate once in front of some adults and it became an international scandal in which my employer publicly denounced me because some [...] journalists harassed me about it, forcing me to defend my actions publicly. So I'm particularly interested in how breastfeeding is dealt with in less idiotic contexts than the U.S.]
The picture that caught my attention was this one:
Just one in another of a series of attractive women watching the game, this one was subtitled: "While she breastfed her son, she watched the match." That's all. Totally normal, no judgment. The one difference between this picture and the more common Honduran mother breastfeeding in public is that usually everything's just hanging out. Whole boob, nipple, all out there. And no one gives a shit. Like this poster I posted earlier, from the First Garífuna Hospital in Ciriboya:
To be clear, it's no paradise for breastfeeding moms, especially breastfeeding moms working outside the home. Most mothers have to go back to work pretty quickly after giving birth (out of necessity), and many rely on expensive formula for their babies starting at just a month or two. One of the saddest ways that this is manifested, as my colleague and friend Camille Collins has pointed out to me, is in the "Wall of shame" section on supermarket windows. Pictures of shamefaced thieves, mostly women, are displayed as a warning to would-be thieves. The most commonly-stolen item is infant formula. In many stores today, formula is kept under lock and key, or within special extra-large plastic containers that the cashier opens upon purchase, to prevent theft.
As to ideas about breastfeeding toddlers, there are a variety of opinions and practices. I've mostly encountered negative views of feeding kids over a year or a year and a half, but it's not that uncommon to see much older toddlers having a go. One good friend told me, laughing, that she had breastfed until she was six, and another friend told me of a cousin who breastfed until eight. Keep in mind, these are not people who are immersed in the intensive motherhood ideology affiliated with certain branches of La Leche League (to learn more about that, read Charlotte Faircloth's excellent new Ethnography Militant Lactivism?). I haven't worked closely with Honduran long-term breastfeeding mothers (and would be curious to do so), but that much I know.
So in sum, material protections and support for infant feeding are not sufficient here, which reflects a lack of support for mothers and a totally inadequate health care system (a misnomer) more generally (just like in the U.S.). Moral support for toddler breastfeeding is weaker than that which exists for infant breastfeeding. There's an assumption that all "advanced" mothers formula feed, which was reflected in a conversation I had countless times when my daughter was in the 3-6 month range here. I wrote about this in an as-yet unpublished manuscript, which (what the heck) I'll quote from here:
Puro pepe verdad?—You only feed her formula, right?
No, le doy pecho.—I breastfeed her.
My statement was invariably followed by an exclamation of shock and approval, and a moral assertion that it was the right thing to do for the baby's health. It was an uncomfortable conversation, because it felt that somehow my identification as a powerful and presumably fabulously wealthy breastfeeding gringa legitimated Hondurans' decisions to breastfeed as being not backward. My Honduran interlocutors' initial assumption—always stated matter-of-factly—that I would not breastfeed, seemed a sort of rhetorical bulwark against my judging them.
So while material support is insufficient and there is an association of formula with modernity, it's an ambivalent association—one that does not automatically equate modernity with superiority. And breastfeeding mothers, especially in the first year of their child's life, pretty much never have to deal with the puritanical bullshit that characterizes breastfeeding in the U.S. Meanwhile, militant lactivist responses to puritanism, which are unnecessary at least in the cultural sense, are similarly absent here.
Anyway, Hondurans have more important things on their minds than breastfeeding. Like paramilitaries in the police (here, from a newspaper cover from a few days ago):
And I have to get back to writing this book review, translating that cover letter, developing that précis, writing that student recommendation, editing that article MS and that other article MS, and planning Thursday's chicken soup. Of all those, it's the last one that I'm most looking forward to.