Upon returning to Europe I notice how little actually has changed here. It seems as if the whole continent just took a break while I was gone and started right back up with me. Here in Norway I witnessed a pre-seminar for this years national convention of the teacher’s union’s student group and as always, it was an (overly) consensus-driven milieu. Although the average member probably has opinions spread, but somewhat left of the center, it is hard to make out much of any exact political differences.
So finally my time ran out, and I would have to return to Douglas for about 5 days to log off from the Americas before taking the plane back to Europe. So I flew from Panama city to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico and took a night bus up to the border.
When going Douglas, one enters a kind of time less zone. And so also this time. I first met Blue at the Gadsden. “Oh so we’re you staying at now?” he asked. He had not noticed that I had left Douglas, just that I was no longer staying at the Lerman any more. I spoke Spanish with him, and he spoke Spanish with the waitress at the Gadsden in whose cafeteria we were sitting. But to me he constantly answered back in English. The status of Spanish is not the same n Douglas. A little while later Angel entered. He only speaks Spanish and so he had to use it with me. “I’m staying at no. 7,” he remarked. He expected that I would claim no. 8 now that I was in town. However, Mr. Fernandez had been run to the hospital with a heart attack and had stopped working at the hotel, so I would now have to go and trick me in through the office of some housing office. Therefore I stayed with the head librarian instead.
Some in Douglas had actually followed what was going on in Mexico, and the political allegiances were as I have grown to expect them: The pensioned, educated, white, US American, non Spanish speaking husband of the librarian had followed the Obrador campaign and what had happened all fall through his minimal understanding of the Mexican TV news. But in Sonora he had not fund anyone who would support Obrador.
Panama is my last destination before heading back to Douglas and from there to Europe. Although I have not had time enough to really get to know a lot of Central America, I guess it is time to go and get rid of my two backpacks — at least for a while.
The experience I want to share from Panama is for the first time more travel than politics related. I have experienced the same sort of things in other places, and I talking to some not so political friends and family, I know that it is somewhat out of the ordinary.
So here we go: Almost anywhere on the planet you as an activist might go, there is always and everywhere some kind of activist “community” that not only invites you and shows you around, but also one that has a number of reference points very similar to those you have yourself. Because of that, it is quite hard for me to say something like “the Panamanians are so and so” or “I really liked the warm culture of people in country X” — simply because I know that there are people with a world view quite similar to that which I hold, which generally puts them, but also me, at the fringes of society. Obviously, there are some exceptions — such as Douglas and most other areas far away from capitals and organized left wing politics. But those are very seldom regions that I see anything of anyway.
How does one effectively a national campaign to change how one’s country’s deputies vote on a certain issue when there seems to be a clear parliamentary majority established already? How radical does one have to be in order to actually change the outcome of the vote? How broad does one need to be in order to have any impact?
Such considerations, people active in social movements, need to make everywhere — and the different positions in the question seem to be awfully similar as well. Or at least those activists active in CAFTA protests I met here in Costa Rica had to discuss things very similar to what we activists in Europe often do.
Let me try to exemplify with the activists Grace García and Marcela Aguilar. Grace from Friends of the Earth Central America, has worked in the national coordination committee against CAFTA for the past year, but also the two preceding years she has been working against CAFTA. The ecologist movement is something I personally do not know very much from the Norwegian activist scene. Marcela is from the Socialist Party of the Workers (PST), and was one of the three I talked to last time. The PST is considered one of the more radical groups that also tend to be quite small. But they do get noticed, “like the black block in Germany” a German journalist Torge Loeding from the media group Voces Nuestras tells me.