June 26, 2009

The Peasants Arrived!

I don't pretend to understand all the things going on here politically, but there's always something in the air. We've gotten used to scandals involving scantilly-clad women and politicians (plastered on front pages with or without their clothing), jokes about the former-priest turned president who appears to have fathered a lot of children, and demonstrations/strikes near government buildings. We even had a run of bombs every day for a few weeks or so. Most of this has remained at a distance.

Today, however, we drove into town and found that the campesinos sin techos ("country people/peasants without roofs") have camped out here in Carapegua. These families move into a public place, on the side of the road, or on someone's private property, to just camp out in a large group and make a statement. They remind me of a gypsy village--little fires with food cooking, folks sitting around under tarps, rolled up blankets.... If I'm understanding correctly, they ask for the government to give them land because they are poor and need it. However, we're told that most of these people already have their own land, and when the government gives in and "gifts" them with more, they sell the new land and keep the cash. Pretty smart, huh? In the pictures that follow, you'll see a sign that says "Paraguari (that's our district) National Peasant Federation, The fight continues, we will conquer!" Ken thinks it's funny that squatters are organized enough to have a federation.

PS--A local friend here translated the word campesino more as "redneck." So the sign would more aptly read, "National Redneck Federation." I'm feeling right at home!

1 comment:

  1. President Lugo ran for president in part because he was drafted by the composinos. He was called the bishop of the poor. I like Lugo, my family lived in San Pedro where he was bishop. He baptized my boy and let me use his laptop a few times. He seemed like a caring person. The fact that he has fathered some children is not surprising when you understand Paraguay as it is. I am sure he would like to help their plot but his hands are tied by the law. He can't just take land away from other land owners and give it to them. Forever the true indio composinos without land (people of more or less pure Guarani Indian blood) have moved on to private land, mostly large ranches, cleared the land and lived there with legal rights. When Lugo became president there was this big expectations that he would somehow provide a piece of land for everyone. The violence and protests continue - it is a very unfortunate situation. Britt


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