The gated community motto: Come and live in a lie while ignoring life!

The papers, books and studies related to the urban development of gated communities in the Global South have provided lots of information by problematizing the history and politics behind the imaginary of these projects. Urban developers all over Latin America, Africa and Asia are building hundreds of communities and apartment buildings that imitate European and Western Styles of construction, lifestyle, norms and regulations. This morning I got my hands in one more of these advertisements for a housing project located in a recently developed dormitory city near Guatemala City, Guatemala.

The community is called “Residenciales Pasaje Español” and the development aims at replicating the lifestyle of a Spaniard ideal of a community  (while, of course, ignoring reality about Spain’s complexities).  The advertisements are all directed at the appeals of the growing middle-class market in Guatemala which is backed by a search for: affordable housing, accesible parks, gated walls around the housing project, 24/7 private police service, white houses that offer access to parking spaces for family-sized cars.  All of this providing a “theme-park” feeling that enables you to transport yourself from the violent and insecure life outside of the gates.

plano del proyecto

Guatemala City and the dormitory cities around it are inhabited by aprox. 3.5 million people with more than 1 million cars and the figures are quickly rising. Many of the gated communities are 1 or 1.5 hours away from most of the office and industrial areas and traffic jam is a constant worry for this people. Alienated from crime and lack of rule of law, these gated-communities offer an escape from public worries to taxpayers and an excuse to ignore the country’s multiple problems.

torres de luz

But as any other theme-park there are many flaws and dangers in the aim to replicate the “ideal society”.  The complex is located straight next to a line of huge power towers that represent a health menace to the people that will live in the houses. Also, the gated-community is surrounded by hundreds of new houses and dozens of new gated-communities that once completed and sold will represent an increase in the traffic jam outside of the “housing dream”.

Perhaps it is still time to Rethink the future of our cities. We still have time to further problematize our development model and think about the contradictions behind these city-building dystopias. And bring to light more information regarding how these gated-communities further weaken collaboration, cooperation and citizenship in our societies…

Advertisements

Entendiendo el racismo en Guatemala ¿Qué opinas?

Hace algunas semanas estaba leyendo un cuadernillo de investigación de la USAC titulado “El Terrateniente guatemalteco: una aproximación a su concepción ecológica y a los efectos de su práctica productiva sobre el medio ambiente” y me parece prudente mencionarlo ahora que la gente ha empezado a hablar en demasía con términos abstractos como “guatemala” “guatemaltecos” “nosotros” “ellos” y a veces abusan de los términos vacíos con los que pretenden hacer representaciones de unidad. Continue reading “Entendiendo el racismo en Guatemala ¿Qué opinas?”

February 20 1524. The Commemoration of the death and defeat of a Mayan Prince in a Critical Juncture of Globalization

Title: The Clash.<br /><br />By: Alfredo Gálvez Suárez.<br /><br />A depiction of the battle of 1524 in which the Spanish conquistadores defeated the Army leaded by Tecum Umam.
Title: The Clash.
By: Alfredo Gálvez Suárez.
A depiction of the battle of 1524 in which the Spanish conquistadores defeated the Army leaded by Tecum Umam.

The term Globalization refers to what many different historians considered a process of interrelation (or unification) of the world. It was a process of cultural, political and economic relations that for the first time in history united all mankind.  One of these critical events of unification and clash of cultural and political relations took place in  February 20 1524.  This day is commemorated by Guatemalans to remember the leaders and events of the “The battle of Llanos del Pinal  ((The Society of Geography and History of Guatemala documented that this battle actually took place on February 12 1524) which took place in the vicinity of the K’iche’ Mayan city of  Xelajú (located in today’s mountainous area of Guatemala in Central America).

tecun-uman

In this battle, the K’iche’ Rajpop Achij Tecum Umam (Guatemala’s National Hero and K’iche’ Mayan Captain of the army) commanded an army of 72,000 warriors (as narrated by the Chronicler Francisco de Fuentes y Guzmán) that fought against the invading hordes of the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his indigenous allies from the territories that are today the South of Mexico. While the invaders defeated the K’iche’ army, the chroniclers of this battle remembered Tecum Umam as the glorious warrior and miraculous hero that started to be referred in the narrations with epic roles and anthropomorphic abilities.

After this battle that “tainted all the neighbouring rivers red of blood” the Spanish conquistadores continued their invasion in the following month of the city of Q’umarkaj (also known as Utatlán). This secured for them the hegemony over the other less powerful cities of IximcheMixco Viejo, and Zaculeu that were located in the Southernmost part of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

The aftermath of this battle concluded six years later with the Quauhquechollan alliance of the conquistador Jorge de Alvarado (brother of Pedro de Alvarado) and their Nahuatl allies from the city of Quauhquechollan that gave the Spanish and absolute control of large part of Mesoamerica.

By the beginning of the Spanish conquest the territory of Mesoamerica the Mayan Civilisation was already extinguished and dozens of different indigenous tribes leaded by  caciques, warriors and priests controlled weaker and less advanced forced-labor societies.  This enabled the conquest of the territories to be fast and easy.

Just a decade later, by the 1540s, the new elite that ruled this forced-labor societies had already established itself with a mixed Spanish-Indigenous head in control and started the process of acculturation, integration, evangelisation, assimilation and reeducation of a society that went from a tribalist type of life into a mercantilist economy ruled from a metropolitan and global Empire with its head 5,400 miles away in the city of Madrid.

Since 1524, Mesoamerica joined the global community of trade, commerce, acculturation and universalisation of traditions and costumes.  This is an important junction that should be remembered by all of us.

Gun control, school massacres and state-failure

The article “More Guns = More Killing” By came to my attention as a good reference of how sometimes more “global approaches” to what we could explain as “local problems” results in sophistic arguments that are of no use.

The article is astonishingly confusing and misleading because the author arguments that it is more/less guns what results in more/less deaths.  And as such, that only by decreasing the amount of available guns the deaths can be reduced.  In order to defend this position she tries to defend her position by bringing a sometimes useful comparison of explaining local problems (those of the U.S.) by comparison to more global regions (in this case, Latin America).

Rosenthal does not propose a better solution than the one she is trying to question and which was proposed by the NRA (National Rifle Association) to President Obama.  Truth, “A society that is relying on guys with guns to stop violence is a sign of a society where institutions have broken down”. Why? Because the bureaucrats and the NRA consider as she does that it are guns the ones that “kill” and as such, it are guns the ones that “give life“.  Neither of the cases can be more false.
The parallels between the Latin American countries with high homicide rates and the US Massacre of schools kids cannot be correctly understood behind the “more guns/less-more deaths” causal relationship.

Then, how? As usual in this times of miss-integration of concepts.  The events in Latin American countries with high homicide rates and the US Massacre of schools kids have no parallels.  The high homicide rates in Latin America are the result of a failed War on Drugs and the institutional decay caused by corruption, state failure in providing rule of law and the reconfiguration of power relations amongst many other causes.  In this case the guns are not a cause nor a solution.  The massacres in U.S. schools are in my opinion the result of a decay of family values and a philosophical problem of identity that can only be solved behind an urgently much needed moral revolution.  In this last case it is not guns or the state which can do much about to change things.

Future massacres in schools can only by stopped from happening when the roots of family decomposition are diminished (divorces, unemployment, family violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, among many others).  The murderers in these schools were seeking for revenge from society and saw that killing kids was the perfect way of enacting revenge on those he was angry with.   Until we understand this things I see no probable hope for future improvement of any of the cases. As well, for as long we have journalists with a philosophy of life that relies on the State as the “giver” or “healer” of society’s problems things are also going to continue going in the wrong direction…

Hayek’s Spontaneous Order Goes Global with Instagram

Instagram user diegotrial

Several months ago when I heard the news about Facebook paying $1 Billion for Instagram I thought ‘the world was going crazy’.  My first impression was to think that the ruling scale of values was mistaken.  That people was giving value to unimportant things while the rest of the world was still trying to manage to survive the day.  I couldn’t understand Why would a company pay such a huge amount of money for a software application for smartphones and iPhone that is only used for procrastination and doesn’t create any value for the world? Last week’s volcanic eruption of Fuego Volcano in Guatemala made me change my mind.

The entrepreneurs behind Instagram,  Kevin Systrom and Michel “Mike” Krieger, created an application that was not only user-friendly but that enabled users to share images from anywhere in the world immediately.  Such an application was created (maybe unintentionally) to become one of the fastest image reservoirs of instant news and global interconnection.  When Facebook bought this photo-sharing app and paid $1 Billion they had not only bought the access to an essential function in millions of smartphones around the world but also connected visually the planet as we had never seen before.  Last week’s event in Guatemala was the first time in my life when I could see through my phone in Denmark high quality images of events that were taking place in real-time more than 5,843 miles.  Indeed, Hayek’s ideas of how an spontaneous order works was going global!

“Spontaneous order is what happens when you leave people alone—when entrepreneurs… see the desires of people… and then provide for them. They respond to market signals, to prices. Prices tell them what’s needed and how urgently and where. And it’s infinitely better and more productive than relying on a handful of elites in some distant bureaucracy.” Leonard Reed

To say that the world is interconnected and interdependent means to say that we are able now able of bypassing normal newsbroadcasters around the world.  No longer will be that easy for anyone to control what  the world would see and what the world wouldn’t see (as critized when News corporations around the world have been used to show a biased reservoir of images and videos during the Gulf War, or in the war in Iraq to mention some examples).  Now, with access to photo-sharing applications such as Instagram the world not only has access to interconnection of real-time events but also has what Hayek explained as “a more efficient allocation of societal resources than any design could achieve.”  Instagram is one more societal tool that enables us to achieve the best of humanity if used for the right purposes.  Because of this reasons the founders of Instagram earned  that billion dollars and the world is wealthier today.

Drugs: A Legal Market is not a Free Market

English: Flower of a Opium Poppy
Image via Wikipedia

A couple days ago, Otto Perez Molina, recently elected as President of Guatemala; announced that he was willing to decriminalize the commercialization of drugs. According to U.S. authorities, Guatemala has became the transshipment point for more than 75 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States since 2005.  Along with this, the Opium poppy cultivation is already done in large parts of the countryside making the production of Guatemalan heroin a greater and the newest worry for the United States. The country’s elites are already part of this business and the paranoia of crimes that used be a remembrance from Colombia‘s 1990s history seems to be repeating in these Central American countries.

What impresses me the most now is how this news has started spreading around my Facebook contacts (mostly libertarians and liberals). Both groups seem to be happy to hear this announcement by Guatemala’s President.  However, both groups applaud the news for different reasons.  The legalization/decriminalization of drugs will not be the panacea we all are hoping for.  Specially not if started by any of the Central American governments.  The reasons are many and I will begin by listing some of them to open the discussion,

  • Corruption, lax enforcement, and judicial impunity levels in Central America are among the highest of the world.
  • Drug lords and their new and powerful money have been mentioned by many analysts to be already part of the politic and economic elites of these countries.
  • The Central American countries in which this drugs are produced and transported are inhabited by a large majority of people living in the lowest leves of Human Development.
  • If legalized, the trade, production and commercialization of drugs (cocaine and heroine mainly) will be regulated by these governments.
  • Without any doubt, this regulations will enable and create legalized monopolies ruled with the partnership of previous drug lords and government officials.
  • It has not been advocated by any of the political leaders which road would take the legalization of drugs. This is important, because under current legalization procedures it is not the same to get the approval for a new medicine in the market as to get the approval for a new liquor, a new energizing drink or of a new edible product.

The history of the legalization (production, trade and commercialization) of items considered by many as drugs and for others as commodities has shown that for as long as a government elite hold the power to legalize it; it was in their power to take the first steps into the acquisition of a monopoly of its trade and production.

If legalized, the emergence of a coercive monopoly would be inevitable. As noted by Ayn Rand, the governments and their partners in these coercive monopolies “will be able of setting the initial prices and production policies independently of the market, with immunity from competition, from the law of supply and demand. An economy dominated by such monopolies would be rigid and stagnant.”

If we support the complete and absolute free trade of all commodities it is necessary that we do not grant to government an intrinsic right to regulate it.  No compromise should ever be done with a government that requires regulation in order to give us legalization.  Legalization should result in freedom and not in regulation.  The drug trade should be opened to businessmen and entrepreneurs in the freest way possible. The freest way is that of requiring the traders to inform their buyers about all the necessary information about the products they are offering.

We may be taking part in a historical moment in which the most important thing are principles.  Let us remember that one of the most valuable principles of trade is Freedom; and that one of the most valuable principles of government is to seek that i will Protect Individual Rights and not to regulate their lives.

Note: To understand more which are the principles that really matter in this discussion, I invite you to take a look to the video titled: The Drug War in Guatemala: A Conversation with Giancarlo Ibarguen.

Darwin Day. February 12, 2012.

Darwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin and the anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species”.

I invite you to watch this video with a musical celebration of the wonders of biology, including evolution, natural selection, DNA, and more. Featuring David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is the 13th video in the Symphony of Science music videos series. All of which are now studied because of the questions that Charles Darwin dare to ask.

Symphony of Science – The Greatest Show on Earth! A music video about Evolution