It feels quite emotional to write this. To those who follow my blog will know that for the past few months I’ve been writing about my favourite books and others that have wildly inspired me but didn’t quite make it on to the favourites list. I started it in late September in a Espreso Americano coffeehouses near my now former work at Laureate International Universities. They were happy days, and they still are, although a lot has happened with work (which I wrote about in my post Positivity) and in Honduras (such as the Rosenthal family, one of the richest families in Central America, who had members of the family arrested in New York and a whole load of assets frozen such as Banco Continental, the El Tiempo newspaper and a zoo which has left crocodiles and lions dying from starvation, and more than 10,000 unemployed. It seems to be for alleged money laundering and narco offences, investigated and caught by the DEA. All of this I’ve not written about in former posts, anyway, due to one of my favourite subjects: BOOKS!!)
I wrote many of these updates just before work in El Hogar and the canteen on the ground floor at Ceutec and I enjoyed every second of it. The thoughts and memories that these works of art in literature provoked. Rants and chuckles. I must have looked like a madman frowning and laughing hysterically to myself.
My last book of honorable mentions is one of Latin America’s most famous works in literature, history books and journalistic pieces. I have mentioned it before and even created a bulletin board in my former job at Dowal School in memory of the author who died earlier this year. You will see the name and title below.
Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
Of all days, there has probably never a better one than today to write about this book. Read the letters in red just below the title. “Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”. If you know anything about football, the real sort (not American rugby with helmets and padding), you will have seen a great hoohaa about corruption scandals that is finally forcing Sepp Blatter’s mafia-type FIFA organisation to its knees. Yes, those big old Swiss FIFA buildings, which looked strong enough withstand atomic bombs of ridicious allegations, is now being raided more than what Pablo Escobar ever experience. The Swiss police have almost taken up residence there; taking them away from their Toberlone scoffing and clock synchronsing rituals. We humble mortals have always smelt that unpleasant fishy scent coming from that little demon’s mouth (Sepp Blatter’s), which makes Penzance harbour smell a bowl of roses. Yesterday, as it happens, 16 members of FIFA were arrested, pretty much all of them are Latin American, and two in particular are Honduran. They are:
1. Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero – former President of Honduras and of its football association
2. Alfredo Hawit Banegas – Fifa vice-president and Concacaf president
I don’t think there is bearly a wink of surprise about the corrupt deeds of these two men, especially the former where there have been a whole colourful array of corrupt allegations about him and his cronies during their time in power (a lawyer told me that Callejas had 14 corruption cases brought against him after his term in power in the early 90s, but each one was thrown out of court at the first stage in the process because judges found insufficient evidence. Not only that, when asked why family had suddenly come into so much money, he claimed he’d won two lotteries in Egypt and Germany, which makes him extremely lucky or a ridiculous liar; make your own judgement. Furthermore, Callejas is used as an example of corruption at Harvard University). There is surprise, however, that they’ve been caught, especially Callejas, who as it seems is something of a slippery Artful Dodger when it comes to escaping the clutches of the law, right out of Sepp Blatter’s ol’ book. Well now they’ve been so, and the two it seems will be extradited today to the USA for questioning over racketeering, accepting bribes and wiring money accusations. They look like mobsters so there shouldn’t be too much surprise. There are a few bets on Callejas riddling out of it somehow, though.
How does this tie in with this book? Well, quite neatly and ironically as a matter of fact. Galeano was very direct in his blaming in the pillaging of his beautiful continent, with a lot of the fingers pointed at the gringos (not to forget the British (which made me very embarrassed in places), Portuguese and Spaniards). Now, through all the CIA’s, FBI’s and DEA’s meddling in politics throughout these splendid countries, Honduras (I’m not sure about the neighbouring countries) is strongly applauding the yankees this time around. There is a feeling of “enjoying the discomfort” of these very rich crooks. Justice is being served. I’m not sure it makes up for five centuries of pillaging, however.
Eduardo Galeano was a bit of a lefty from Uruguay with a great habit for telling it how it is, especially in politics. While this maybe very commendable, it was also extremely dangerous while growing up in South America in the 1960s and 70s when violent right-wing dictatorships went around murdering dissidents almost like it were a past time. He was forced to leave Uruguay, then Argentina, and then ended up in Franco’s Spain (one might ask if he had a deathwish). In my years in Honduras, I have heard much resentment regarding the Spanish rule, saying they brought murder and rape, took the natural resources, and left the people with a culture and the genetics for being corrupt and tardiness. The latter part is hard to judge. I’m not sure the Mayans or Lenca indians were always innocent. For many, celebrating Independence Day from the Spanish doesn’t mean much because very soon after the gringos moved in with the Banana Republic and became the unofficial rulers of Honduras and many other countries through Latin America, with military bases and CIA crawling all over the place. Nearly all the Latin American countries are in debt to the gringos, who keep known corrupt politicians and in many cases murderous dictators in power, and do their best to rid of anyone they dislike. Salvador Allende and General Pinochet in Chile, for example. These are American politicians, may I add; not the American people.
As stated above, Galeano’s fingers are also pointed at the Brits, astute businessmen and gentlemen to some but also crooks to many, who paid next to nothing for paying for rescources, fooling and forcing innocent and naive village people to continue living in poverty while they made millions. Some people have told me they wish Honduras had been colonised by the Brits, but what good would that have done? Look at Uganda and Zimbabwe and Pakistan and the poverty in India. Colonists did some God awful things in every part of the globe, but the Brits continue to do so, especially when looking at how they meddle in the Middle East (it’s most embarrassing that we sent Tony Blair there, of all people, as a peace consultant).
The book awoke my curiosity about many things political across Latin America. The reason it didn’t make my top ten was I thought it could rant on a little (unlike my blog!!). He was obviously a well-read man and a great story-teller, but his voice was angry and he spat facts at you at a rapid rate that you had to put the book down for a while and catch your breath. This hasn’t stopped me admiring him and wanting to read more though. Going back to football, a friend and former colleague of mine, Guillermo Varela, recommended another book by Galeano, which you can see below, and no doubt talks about corruption in football. I have been tempted to buy it in Spanish but it costs nearly £30 which is out of my price range while I’ve not got a job. If anyone in Honduras has a copy, please let me borrow it. Pretty please.
Callejas gone, but this of books series not quite out. I have just one more.
Rum Diaries by Hunter S. Thompson
This has been a long-term favourite since my university days. Hunter S. Thompson is/was labelled a gonzo journalist, a kind of sensationalist take on reality through the medium of journalism. I loved it and craved to live something based on Thompson’s life, hedonistic, writing and in Latin America. I’ve certainly fulfilled the latter two but calmed on the former. My old mate, housemate and journalistic hack, Dutch Matt (he carries the name Dutch not because he’s stingy with money (he’s actually one of the most generous) but because he hails from Leiden in Holland and there was no other way differentiating him from all the other English Matts on the course but referring to his nationality. Yes baby, that’s how we roll in England; positive xenophobia!) used to try and make every Oxdown Gazette article (the old fictional newspaper about the old fictional town that NCTJ used to train journos how to research and write articles; all trained journos remember it) that little bit more interesting. We would take a press release about a chippy that had burned down or a controversial building plans from the city council and we would transform it into a news story. However, Matt and I would always find a steamy orgy or scandalous edge in there somewhere which turned a fictional harmless story into a ball of sleeze and almost pornographic. We always called it the Hunter S. Thompson affect. Some of it remains in my own writing. Much fictional writing is based on a true story anyway, as Martin Amis says, but it’s the writer’s job to make reality less boring and spice it up. The Sun and The Daily newspaper does it everyday, but they spin it into yarns of bullshit and racism.
I can’t remember the book too well but I know its set in Puerto Rico and based on Thompson’s life as a journalist. There was a movie based on it but I’ve not seen it, nor do I want to after hearing the reviews. The book, however, contains sex, jealousy, violence and mayhem while being hilariously satirical and profound and not forget horrific; everything to inspire a twenty-something year old journalism student. He reminds me of the down and outs I’ve read in Bukowski books, but less sombre, more high life and definitely more stoned. He’s still something of a pioneer in journalism and I’m still inspired, but as I said above, not to live out the hedonism.
Why didn’t it reach my favourite ten? I guess other books overtook it for their substance which could be described as being more profound. It would have been in my top ten at one point, but don’t underestimate the impact that this book had on me, on journalism, and on culture. I’ve not read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Maybe one day. Rum, sex and the Carribbean. Themes for quite a sinful read.