The case for South America's continued importance
The Peruvian-born novelist Daniel Alarcón has become one of the most important modern voices for the countries south of the border.
Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790 By Jonathan I. Israel (Oxford University Press, 1,066 pp., $45) I. There’s something about the Enlightenment. Today, few educated men and women spend much time debating whether Western civilization took a disastrously wrong turn in the High Middle Ages. They do not blame all manner of political ills on Romanticism, or insist that non-Western immigrants adopt Renaissance values. But the Enlightenment is different. It has been held responsible for everything from the American Constitution to the Holocaust.
As the revolt that started this past winter in Tunisia spread to Egypt, Libya, and beyond, dissidents the world over were looking to the Middle East for inspiration. In China, online activists inspired by the Arab Spring called for a “jasmine revolution.” In Singapore, one of the quietest countries in the world, opposition members called for an “orchid evolution” in the run-up to this month’s national elections. Perhaps as a result, those watching from the West have been positively triumphalist in their predictions.
--I have to admit, I’m not patriotic. It has partly to do with principle, but it is also a phobia/neurosis. When I hear people yelling, “USA, USA,” I begin to look for an exit through which I could slink away. Yet, my heart practically burst when I saw Shot Heard 'Round The World. Of course, my first thought was, “Kiss my ass, Glenn Beck.” --The Daily Show’s ‘coverage’ of the World Cup was superb! --Daniel wrote about Peru not making the tournament since 1982.
Four years ago, Mexico had a chance to make history by bringing down Argentina. I was there, in Leipzig, in that beautiful, modern stadium built literally inside the shell of the older, pre-war arena. It truly was a gorgeous sight. And when the Mexican team went up with Marquez’s goal early in the game, it became even more so. But it didn’t last. The Argentines tied soon enough and then, with a goal endlessly repeated in our nightmares, won with a kick that surprised even its modestly talented author, Maxi Rodríguez. It was sad. Once again, Argentina proved unbeatable.
Peru hasn’t won a major tournament in nearly thirty years. We last qualified for a World Cup in 1982, and didn’t make it out of the group stage. Since then, with the exception of a few instances of magic, watching the national side has been a kind of ritualized despair. We—players and fans—start each game hoping not to lose. During this last qualifying campaign, our players drew with Brazil at home and celebrated with so much booze and so many prostitutes, you’d think they’d actually won something (or that they were French).
Like most, if not all boys growing up in 1950s Arequipa, Peru, my father Renato was obsessed with fútbol; unlike many of his peers, he was as passionate about calling the game as he was about playing it. He went to the stadium every Sunday with my grandfather, and, at halftime, he would wander toward the press box, peek in, and try to overhear the commentary. The radio men impressed him; they were never at a loss for words.
If you tell a sad, woeful story in Peru, hoping to elicit sympathy, someone might just respond with the phrase, “Bueno pues, así es el fútbol.” Meaning: that’s how soccer is; soccer, in this context, standing in for life. Soccer isn’t fair. Neither is life. Stop whining. To understand winning and losing in soccer one must set aside the concept of fairness. The side that plays beautifully might be justifiably proud of its collective aesthetic achievement; but if they don’t score, they’re not likely to win many tournaments.
Jorge Castañeda’s lament ("Adios, Monroe Doctrine," December 28, 2009) about U.S. indifference towards Latin America sounds a familiar theme. His claim that “the United States doesn’t seem to care much what happens in Latin America” has been a constant refrain that has dominated analyses of U.S. regional policy since the mid-1970s. The “new passivity” is not, after all, terribly new. Though often framed in general terms of advancing national interests and values, almost everyone expressing such a lament has been motivated by some particular agenda. Some want the U.S.
Francisco Toro and Juan Nagel write the Venezuelan news blog Caracas Chronicles. The Honduran crisis surely reached its Rococo stage this week after fresh elections organized by the coupsters' regime saw the election of a conservative rancher as president—while Brazil's nearly sainted left-wing president, Lula da Silva, promptly rejected the poll as undemocratic ... a scant few days after welcoming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil with open arms. The election of President Lobo has split the international community, and in mostly predictable ways.