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Response to Article about Paraguay

pennykalae

Thorn Tree Refugee
 
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Joined: August 9th, 2003

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Tags: paraguay
  • Added on: August 10th, 2003
I'd like to clear up some misperceptions about Paraguay as seen through the eyes of Mr. Neeson and written about in his apparent series of travelogues, number 5 being insensitively titled "Para Why?" But really, having read the article, the title is certainly not the most insensitive, nor misleading, thing Mr N has to say about Paraguay, San Juan Bautista, or its participation in development initiatives. I do not usually waste time rebutting drivel, but it seems as though this web site acts for some as a defining word on a particular country, and I'm not sure who of your readers will come to Paraguay's rescue. Not that it needs rescuing. It's survived worse than the likes of Mr. N and his band of "Tres Leones," which for those of you who don't know is a brand of gut-rot grain alcohol nicknamed "Tres Bichos" (three vermin) by Paraguayans'so actually it came to be a rather apt description for the trio.

First, those pesky facts that seem to get in Mr N's way: San Juan Bautista is the capital of the department (not province) of Misiones, where I lived for two years, and not just some "tiny town." It is nowhere near the Chaco, as he states, but in the southern lowlands near the Rio Parana. The Chaco is a vast and geographically unique expanse that takes up roughly half the country and begins above Asuncion (6 hours to the north of Misiones by car) and extends into Bolivia and east, to one of the most beautiful and ecologically fragile areas of the world, known as the Chaco-Pantanal, where I also lived, and I pray the likes of Mr N never visits. He also did not mention that the governor of Misiones, Santiago Gonzales, has brought his departamento together within the past two years by using a combination of national pride, civic education, and reliance on assistance from agencies like USAID which, in some countries (but not all, I admit) have remarkable relationships with grassroots development and health organizations. Odd that Mr N's friend, currently a Peace Corps volunteer, did not introduce him to Sr Gonzalez, who has been a longtime supporter of Peace Corps and was instrumental in assisting volunteers in Misiones help villages including Isla Tobati complete a variety of projects including the public library, running water systems, infrastructure improvement, and summer camps for kids. Mr N seems to enjoy calling these activities "colonialist," but I defy him to use this argument in front of a group of women who would like enough clean water to prevent their babies dying from dehydration due to diarrhea.

Mr N did not mention his friend's project name. If he is doing nothing in it, it is his own fault - the Peace Corps project directors for health and municipal services are Paraguayos and have the trust and love of the entire departamento. Indeed, the volunteer in question didn't seem all that eager to accomplish anything - a fault on the part of Peace Corps only insofar as they should have booted him out before he left training.

No one in San Juan Bautusta would say "muy duro" to describe anyone - that means "difficult." Or hard, as in wood. Perhaps they were referring to the vermins' skulls? They'd say (for someone worthy) "que guapo" (in Paraguay this means "hard-working" or someone who's expended a lot of energy) or "ipora" (beautiful, in Guarani) but I doubt it happened anyway. Speaking of Guarani, the greeting is spelled Mba'eishapa, which means how are you. Mr N did not care to check the spelling of the word before he reported it; strange, for someone so quick to revile all "development" and "colonizing" attempts while proclaiming to his readers that he wanted to "figure out the reality" of Paraguayans. Apparently he didn't get too far; one of the most important aspects of Paraguayn hertiage is their indigenous language, especially Guarani, and their attempts to codify and preserve it as a written language in which their own history may be written seem to be too bothersome for Mr. N, in his zeal to make fun of absolutely everyone and everything that crosses his path. A fine ambassador for the United States he is. I'm swelling with pride just thinking of all the Paraguayans who get to now believe that he is the embodiment of my culture.

I think what truly offended me the most about Mr N's smug, infantile, faux-politically correct commentary on Paraguay, the Peace Corps, and the inability of developing countries to participate in their own destinies, was his apparent belief in the sophomoric drivel he wrote. Some people go over the top to invite retaliatory invective. Some giggle away at the keyboard, thinking, "Oh, I can't wait to see what a poor tree-hugger will do with this." What made me wanna puke is that those 15 brain cells that actually did orbit around each other actually believed, as much as they could believe anything, that what he was writing was a) accurate, b) funny, and c) sympathetic to Paraguay while being critical of globalization and development.

I can't begin to tell him how many years he will need before could even begin to understand the complexity that is Paraguay's relationship to the rest of the world. His is a vogueish, comfortable, middle-class cynicism that passed for intelligence at a cut-rate prep school, and now this creature is unleashed on the world to roam it, representing the United States. Ugh. I need an aspirin. If I wasn't so loathe to foist him onto an unsuspecting developing nation I'd tell him to live in a post-conflict country for a couple of years before he even opens his mouth on this subject again. There is nothing glamorous or quaint about a country like Paraguay whose former subservience to the Stroessner regime still leaves gaping scars, rampant corruption and widespread poverty even 14 years after he was overthrown. I'm no fan of the US's prior involvement in keeping dictators in power, but it is downright infantile to just bang the most convenient drum ("Colonization is bad! Development is wrong! Tradition is good!") for the sole purpose of hearing yourself type. Nada mas.

LiveNomadic

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Began Gap Year Trip Six Years Ago
 
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Joined: January 18th, 2003

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  • Added on: August 10th, 2003
excellent post. I had not read Para Why, but after reading that I really agree with you.

Being a strong supporter and future-recuit for the peace corp myself I was appalled by him refering to the peace corp as part of the military. Yes, the funding does come out of the military funds, but peace corp volunteers are not under the direction or supervision of anyone in the military structure and thus it is not only misleading, it is destructive to call them that.

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Sam Salmon

Holds PhD in Packing
 
Posts: 195
Joined: July 7th, 2003

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  • Added on: August 10th, 2003
Thanks for the comments info and insight Penny.
I'm somewhat uninformed about Paraguay but I have travelled enough to know that mocking one's hosts shows the hollowness in the mockers soul.
Que le Vaya Bien!

livin' la vida pesca!

[This message was edited by Sam Salmon on 10 August 2003 at 22:47.]
[i]livin' la vida pesca![/i]

skobb

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Extra Pages in Passport
 
Posts: 3021
Joined: April 28th, 2003
Location: Nassau, The Bahamas

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  • Added on: August 10th, 2003
Pennykalae,

Thank you for the "insider's view" to Paraguay.
It's always nice to have locals give their perspective on their homeland, both the good and the bad.

I wouldn't worry too much about Mr. Neeson's article though (which I admit I have not read yet.) I think most of the BootsnAll readers know to take everything written here with a grain of salt and understand that it is only one person's perspective of a subject. Thanks to the forums, people such as yourself are always able to make a counterpoint.



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