[Last parenthesis, this time because of New Year’s Eve]
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
Another year is gone. Twelve moons passed through me, through my house, through my things... A time that brought me back a handful of successes and a big sack of falls and failures as well, from which I will have a lot to be learnt in the future, if I do not want to stumble upon them again.
Another year is gone. I remember that when it started, twelve months ago, I just asked for paths to be walked and the strength and resolution to do it. I found them. My steps have took me through lands of temples in Korea, of mayan pyramids, of old african ghettos, of malayan mosques and incan fortresses. My steps event took me to meet my (for a long time waited) mate, the person who has become my companion in life and travels (inner and outer self) and has allowed me be hers... My eyes have filled with images, with sounds my ears, with different tastes my mouth, with more opinions and experiences my head, and each of them with old pains that appeared again when I saw that poverty touched my life once more.
Today, on the table where I write the posts of this weblog, a couple of wooden cranes look at me with curiosity. They are the ones I brought with me from Korea, the ones I was given as a present in a small children library of a very popular neighbourhood in Seoul. By tradition, you have to write down a pair of dreams under their legs, for them to move through the air, fly high in the sky and give wings to your desires.
On the same table, inside a small bag made of mayan cloth, there are a few small figures “quitapesares” (sorrow-removers) that I took with me from Guatemala. Again, by tradition, it is said that you have to whisper your worries in their ears and leave them under your pillow for the whole night.
I think that under my wooden cranes’ legs I will write down the same as I will whisper in my guatemalan “quitapesares” cloth ears. Because the thing I desire the most –and the only one that worries me-, is that nobody fastens my hands with a chain, that nobody puts a gag in my mouth to stop me speaking, that nobody ties my feet, that nobody kills my conscience... If I can continue dreaming and being free, if I can continue thinking by myself, if I can continue working on my own, then I will have everything I need to be happy. And all the rest I will get by myself, with my own effort, with my own will, with my own determination to go on and reach my way, the way you find walking, which is “sowed” with falls and troubles, but also with smiles and holding hands...
I wish that the coming year –that arbitrary but very important time split, which we make for understanding and apprehending it- brings to you the strenght and enthusiasm needed to start moving in the direction you want to follow, whatever it be. The remaining things will depend on you, on the courage you have to take advantage of any opportunity you might come accross; on your good intentions and your clear conscience; on your desire to make true what you dare dream...
I am not a religious man. I neither believe in destiny, nor in superior will powers that control everything that happens to us. I do not think that luck has the power to smile or punish us (maybe there is something mysterious behind our lives that we do not manage to understand yet... I do not know if I want to know it, though). I believe that our life is in our hands, that we are the makers of our own destiny, that we have the power to do what we want provided that we believe in it, that the word “impossible” should not exist in our dreams...
I really would like that in 2007 many more people start believing in themselves, and that confidence in myself, in my feet, in my hands and in my ideas can never be broken.
From the city of Cordoba, from a small house full of books and music placed in a narrow street surrounded by trees and sun, from the heart of Argentina, I send to you a huge hug and my best wishes...
You will read more in this pages next year...
[Just a few words from the person who is trying to translate into English Edgardo’s thoughts, feelings and dreams. Sorry about mistakes, I am not a translator, I am children teacher who likes this language very much, because it gave me the opportunity to visit new countries and meet other realities, other cultures, other faces, other tears and other smiles, a bit of my past and a lot of my present... My name is Sara, and I also want to wish you something. Victor Frankl wrote: “Who has a reason to live, will most of the time find the way”, and last night I came across very similar words by Henry Giroux: “When you chose life, you have to understand first the previous conditions needed to fight for it”. Well, my wish is for you to chose life and discover how you want to fight and defend it from any type of discouragement.
See you next year at this very same place...]
Travel diary (09 out of 28): “Mazamorra” taste...
By Edgardo Civallero
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
We got up in a populated Lima, absolutely packed, busy, noisy... We were embraced by this hum, this sort of confusion, while we were still a bit slept and quite tired after that 52 hours’ journey along the latinamerican Pacific coast. For a couple of minutes, we were not able to react to this burst of activity... The streets were flooded with taxis that stopped next to us and invited us to get in, forming a queue. In fact, the first thing you have to do before opening any taxi door in Lima is to bargain the price with the driver (there are no taximeters, no fixed price, so you have to haggle over it). That is the reason for such a long line of taxis waiting for us: they know that if you do not agree with the first taxi driver, you will try with the following one (and Sara haggled over the price as many times as it was necessary to reach an agreement). Public means of transport added colour and sound to the urban traffic: in each bus, van or lorry, there was a man literally hung up on a kind of handle (or just grabbing firmly the frame of the bus/van/lorry door) shouting with all the strenght of his lungs, the names of the following stops. In additon, this man is the one you have to pay for the ticket, and the one you have to say “next stop goes down, please” if you want to get off. He also finds a seat for you (if there is any free, of course) and argues with other men like him in the middle of the road, in order to “defend” a space for his bus in such a chaotic stream of vehicles. In this jungle of smoke, shouts and hoots we got up, in the middle of a strong current of people making their way to their working places. The sky was grey and will be grey the rest of our stay in the city. A friend of us described Lima weather as “melancholic”... and he was not far from the truth: the light rain and the cloudy sky made you feel a sort of sadness, though it might have been the lack of sun rays over our heads what most affected us.
In the streets you could see the typical restaurant illuminated signs (offering the tradional “ceviche” made of fish, and many other peruvian cook delights) and the famous “chifas” or chinese restaurants, which because of its brimful of food dishes and its economical prices were very popular in the entire andean world, and we did try one of then the previous night.
We were not very far from the New National Libray, which was placed in Prado Avenue, so we made our way to it since this would be the seat of the Congress.
The II International Congress on Librarianship and Information (CiBi 2006) was to take place between the 13th and the 15th of November, under the motto “Information: challenges and new tasks in the knowledge age.” It was organized by the Peruvian Librarians Association, and there would be conference tables, lectures, posters sessions and services and information tools’ exhibition. Definitely, everything betokened a considerable dimensions event, in which a good number of colleagues would take part. Most of the lecturers came from different parts of Latinamerica, but there were also two or three guests from Europe.
The New National Libray building –next to the National Museum- was officially open only a year ago. It is a modern building of considerable dimension. The old one, placed in a much classical building of the last century, is located downtown and you can find there the Public Library of Lima and all its secretaries.
It was early when we arrived, so it was easier to get our bags and IDs and meet some of our friends from the organization (such as Gaby Caro and Gustavo von Bischoffshausen). We discovered that the costs for participating in the Congress were high (70 dollars) and also that those in charge of the exhibition and selling of informaton services (that is to say, well-known “information traders”) played an important role in the event. Such an “introductory card” made me feel a bit worried and, why not, alarmed me.
Having a look to the programme and reading between the lines, I found, to my taste, that the Congress did not draw the peruvian librarianship reality at all, but a world that had nothing to do with the daily work of our peruvian colleagues. Certainly, I did understand that those who had organized the event, were intending to give birth to a new space where coming ideas could be exposed and discussed. I think of this to be valuable, of course, but much the same as it happens in my own country, users and professionals’ features were not taken into account, as neither were considered the needs of the communities that would be our services receivers. This opinion, that I shared with Sara as a criticism, was also put into words by many people attending the Congress, what made me think that I should not be wrong in my previous comments.
The preponderant place given to “information traders” in Congresses, has always made me feel uneasy. I know the role they play and why they occupy such an important place: the sum of money they give to the organization (and their material contribution as well) use to be a considerable ammount (I do not speak of this event in particular since I do not know its conditions). However, acting like this, we are giving those “traders” an importance that they do not deserve, and forgetting that they are the ones who take advantage of the libraries funds, selling something that do not belong to them: scientific information. That information should be available to everybody under Open Access policy, it should be free and without costs for those who need it, especially professionals, researchers and students whose work and education depends mainly on the possibility of accessing those resources.
If we give such an important role to publishers and database sellers, libraries are perpetuating an everlasting tirany that should be destroyed. And it should be wiped out precisely by librarians, because we are the one suffering it from a long, long time ago.
In my conference (that would take place that afternoon) I would present that issue under the title “Open Access in Latin America”, participating in a table about information democratization.
Having a deeper look at the programme, I found a table where would be discussed the social role of libraries in the Knowledge Society. Imagine what would not be my surprise when I took notice of the person in charge of the main lecture on the subject: the vicepresident of EBSCO. One of the principal knowledge traders in our continent was going to give as a lecture on social responsability. It would be something similar to listen to Bush talking about human rights, something that, however, many people have been doing for a long time without questioning themselves or having doubts about this contradictory fact.
My surprise was even greater when I saw that sat at my own table, speaking about Open Access, would be one of the people responsible for Creative Commons, a proposal widely questioned and, until now, with no endorsement showing any support on the part of the Open Source Initiative (current debates in the librarian blogosphere about CC are absolutely hectic; many colleagues opinion is that CC is another copyright, something like its light version, thus it cannot be named Open Access). My perspectives on the Congress were getting darker and darker, but I thought that I had a good number of friends in Lima with whom we could share a lot of the peruvian librarian “real life”. We avoided the official presentation and left the enormous building to look for a place for having lunch... a supermarket (yes, we use to visit them in every place we visit, and it is unbeliavable how extraordinary rich those areas are in fruit, vegetables when the country produced them). We discovered more than 15 different types of fruit that we had never seen before, nor heard of them in advance. Meanwhile, in the Congress, the director of the Municipal Library of Lyon (France), Patrick Bazin, was making his speech, simply named “The libraries, tomorrow”. The second inaugural conference was on the part of Joan Torrent Sellens, director of the research group belonging to the ONE (New Economy Observatory) from Catalunya, who would speak about “TIC, economic knowledge and development: a new opportunity for Latin America”. This last one laid emphasis on the fact that world economy is changing towards a new model based on the profit from information as a rough material on which the chain information-training-innovation would be based. His speech also explained the opportunities from “peripherical economies” (yes, you are right, the latinoamerican ones) in this new market.
At 14:00 did start the table “Digital resources access democratization”. Firstly there was a lecture by Luis Núñez (Academic Computing Board general coordinator at Los Andes University in Merida, Venezuela,) and in second place, another by Gabriela Ortúzar (Information System and Libraries director at Chile University). Both of them explained in deep and in a very precise manner, the Open Access phenomenon: Núñez mainly talked of institutional repositories and academic intellectual heritage preservation, while Ortúzar speaking was centred around university libraries and its role in digital information management. After they had finished and once the questions round was over, the following lecturers hardly had 15 minutes to present our papers... not taking into account that at that point of our table the matter had been long discussed already.
Then it was the turn for the person representing Creative Commons Peru (whose name I forgot not because I was predisposed to do it, but because this person left the table inmediately after reading his paper). Later came my colleague and mate Julio Santillán Aldana (E-LIS and “Biblios” journal editor, plus excellent professional and dear friend), who presented the work of E-LIS in general, and particularly in Peru. Little had been left to say, so when I was supposed to show the sleepy audience my presentation (in only 10 minutes’ time) I decided not to pay attention to my papers, and improvised a very basic dissertation on Open Access philosophy, emphasizing what it meant for latinoamericans, secularly facing divides such as the digital one. My question to the public was “Of what use is all of we had been talking about this afternoon, if we are “trenches” librarians, if we are latinoamericans, if we face thousands of problems that nobody seems to solve, if we have a lot of needs, a lot of deficiencies to be covered that librarianship gurues do not know anything about?”. My own answer was that for those who did not have access to digital networks yet (and will not have them, probably, in the near future) what we have been discussing during the last three hours was absolutely useless (and we should be aware of this when we teach in a classroom or we propose services). And for those who already had it, this was the only possible alternative, considering the databases, documents and services high costs that “knowledge traders” (sat in that conference room or reaching agreements with rich libraries in any other room) wanted to be paid.
Open Access means to have scientific articles, papers, documents and so on, with tested quality, offered free by their own authors, on condition that their authority was respected. If we, as librarians, started doing some research, learning which were the most confident open archives and how to use them; if we were able to teach our students, our researchers, our professors and users to recognize their value, we would have an inmense (and growing) source of knowledge at our disposal. An egalitarian source, level, solidarian and fair. A source which use would not feed the publishing “alligators”.
At the exit, holding Sara’s hand, we talked to Julio Santillán, and we met the colleague and friend Rosa María Merino, who, from that very moment, would be our guide through Lima and her world. A few steps forward, we also were welcomed by Nelly Mac Kee de Maurial, organization commitee director. A bit further on I was interviewed by some students from the Librarianship career of San Marcos University (who did know this weblog and most of its contents), and I was greeted in Quechua by the colleagues of Huamanga University. This wonderful greeting was due to the fact that I always finish my presentations in PowerPoint with a slide in which you can read “Thank you” in the main original languages of the country I am visiting. In Chile it had been Mapudungu language, and it was Quechua language in Peru.
We left the Congress at a point which was the starting one for three workshops that would last for the following three days, and said to Rosa María, our dear “guide” that we wanted to go downtown as everybody else, that is: by bus. We should admit that the surprise was noticeable in our friend’s eyes, however, there we went on a small van, moving backwards and forwards and swinging from one side to the other while the vehicle made all sort of dangerous manoeuvres in the middle of the terrible traffic expected at the rush hour. For the price of 1 “sol” (the peruvian currency. One “sol” is equivalent to 1/3 USA dollar), we were almost to crash a couple of times and it only took us an hour to reach our destination. In her own travel diary Sara wrote down:
“Truly it is a whole experience to travel on those vans. They use to be packed, so once you managed to squeezed into the vehicle, you can see that some people travel sat but most of us do it grabbing the roof bar and swinging in all directions, while you listen to the directly-come-from-the-hell sound of “regaton” [popular music, mix of reggae and salsa]. The ticket costs between 0.50 and 1 “sol”, but if there are too much traffic, you look tourist or it is public holiday, they can ask you for 1.50.”
We got off near the Nation Congress Building. The pavement was overpopulated in the very centre of Lima. We walked towards the square that serves as the Nation Congress inner courtyard. There, flying in circles over our heads and sat at the top of the trees, I could see the largest quantity of “gallinazos” (“zopilotes”, a sort of vultures) that I had ever seen in my life. There were as many as doves in our squares. In fact, I thoght that the greatest amount of “vultures” would be inside the own Congress... but I did not want to be too disrespectful with the political reality that, though probably similar to that of my own country, I did not know yet. I declined the invitation from the Congress Library director to visit this unit, because I did not want to bother him and also due to the little time we had to visit the city and know its reality and the streets that were gradually getting darker.
From the National Congress, we walked along a street beautifully framed by colonial balconies and shutters made of wood, with old shops (sometimes recovered, sometimes not) opening its big doors and offering all types of things to the public. There are a lot of iron street lamps hunging up on a short of hooks fixed to the walls of those high houses with wide wood beams supporting their roofs..
After a few blocks, we arrived at the “Mayor Square”, where rose the Government Palace (that belonged to Pizarro in the old days, and was now habited by the Nation president, Alan García), the magnificent Cathedral with its patterned doors and its balconies with extemely beautiful shutters, and the bronze fountain –the only original witness of the square- that at the beginning had a clock mysteriously disappeared when was being repaired.
A bit further was the Municipality Palace, the mayor’s residence, where Mr. Castañeda –the current mayor- lived and probably would continue living; in a few days there were mayors elections in Peru, and in Lima he was the favourite candidate.
In two sides of the square there were arcades with shops and cafés, and surrounding this area were crowed streets, some of then only for pedestrians. Next we went to the Rímac River shore (in Quechua lenguage it is written Rimaq, that means “the one who can speak”), finding in our way “Santo Domingo” and “San Francisco” churches. In one of then we could see “San Martín de Porres” statue who is said to be the poorest among the saints and the poors´ saint, the little saint with the broom, that dark-skinned acolyte that swept the church door in the old days and is now the paladin of Lima, the most worshipped, the one who receives most pleadings and most offerings. Before arriving at the river we passed the Post building, with its inner arcade packed with shops where you can find many different sort of postcards, stamps, envelopes, paper... This arcade had a stain-glass windows structure on the roof, but it was destroyed by the last big earthquake in the 70s, happened on the grounds we were stepping.
[Talking of earthquakes... While I was waiting for my turn to give my conference, at the Congress table, the grounds trembled a couple of times long enough and with the strength needed to shake up the water inside the glass I had in front of me... Nobody made a single movement except me...]
Finally we were on the Rímac River shore where there are a number of selling stalls (some of them with wheels) offering meals and desserts to the walkers. A bit tired after a very long day, Rosa María invited us to try a small cup of “mazamorra morada”, a delicious dessert that is served hot. It is a very old andean dish that consists of boiled corn, which is stirred up with “camote” (sweet potato) flour to make it thicker and a touch of “quinua” ashes, and it is sweetened with some fruits (their juice and small pieces)... It is presented with a pinch of cinnamon on its jelly-like surface. This variant is very different from the bolivian and the argentinian ones, but it is delightful anyway.
Still we had time to complete our visit with a short bus tour to “San Cristobal” hill, once more invited by Rosa María. This is one of the mountainous terrains that dominate the city. The competent tour guide told us a bit of the colonial history of those places, of viceroys’ love affairs with public lovers, of monks with aristrocracy ladies... And we could see how the slopes of the hill are occupied by a human settlement that with a lot of effort climbs up the steep streets, though maybe it is not exactly a “settlement” since they have water, electricity, gas and people seem to be not that bad installed as the inhabitants of the small house each of them has built in an even smaller piece of land. Nonetheless, nobody could stop observing the poor conditions of this part of the city. Once we reached the summit of the hill, we saw Lima at our feet, inmense as it is, spreading its illuminated streets and houses to every side, making the darkness much brighter. The only absolutely black spot in the starring horizon was the enormous cementery...
We were going down when we run into the smallest church in the world, a tiny building which front wall was no more than 4 or 5 metres of width.
Our dear friend, colleague and “tour” companion, let us in the arms of the also colleagues and friends, Julio Santillán and Ada Sosa, with whom we had dinner in a corner of Villa María neighbourhood. There, while we learnt a bit more about the peculiarities of the librarian world in Lima, we tasted the traditional “anticuchos” (grilled slices of cow heart) with “yuca” (manioc), “papa” (potato) and “chicha morada” (a variant of the “mazamorra morada”, filtered and fluider).
It was late at night when our friends haggled the price with the taxi driver who took us to our hotel. That city not only had resulted exactly the opposite to“terribly dangerous”, as many had advised us. Lima and its people had wide opened their doors, showing us a world that we just started to discover: very close to our hispanic culture but deeply coloured by indigenous presence, with own and very strong tints from the old times.
Still there was a lot to be seen... But this will be the matter of the next post.
A big hug from this side of the world...
Travel diary (08 out of 28): Nazca lines
By Edgardo Civallero
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
I cannot remember if we ever slept that night, sat in those awful seats on the “Ormeño” bus that slowly took us to Lima. Should I have to believe Sara´s first statement in the morning (her words were: “How lucky you are! You slept like a log!”), I was in Morfeo’s arms the whole night. However, I am still thinking of it, I can hardly imagine myself dozing
during a journey that was really a nightmare, but I do not remember anything, so... Whatever happened, at dawn we could not identify the sensation felt in our bodies (in the part that still we recognized at that very moment), but I would assure that was similar to the one experienced by those invited to spend a night inside Torquemada´s dungeons. Something like a mixture (neither healthy nor funny) of cramp, bruising, break and cells´ disappearing... The WC of the bus and the sewers of New York during the rush hour had slight difference (if any at all) and, if anyone had had the idea of lighting a match there, Chernobyl´s disaster would have been nothing compared with the violent bursting that might have happened in that stuffy atmosphere. If by now, you have managed to imagine our physical-mental state, I can tell you then that the sun was bright that morning, and the South part of Perú we were crossing was a long area of beaches and beaches extending their shore as far as our sight could reach. Most of them were surrounded by fields of dunes whose surface was absolutely surprising... We still were in the middle of a desert, but we did not pay attention to the dust, we were fully concentrated on the beauty created by the blue and white colours of the sea, on its waves, on the sea birds touching the foam that the breaking waves left on the beach, and soaring up into the air (gulls, “pardelas”, “rabiahorcados”, cormorants). Not that far in the course of history, the excretions of those birds (the “guano”, a word that comes from quechua “wano”, animal excretion) gradually accumulated, layer after layer, on the surface of small islands and coastal cliffs during decades, had been an excellent source of rich organic compounds for improving the soil, and became very important for the wealth of the country. When phosphate mines were discovered in Northern Chile, and trade companies became aware that chemical fertilizers had a stronger power (and mines would take much more time in being exhausted than the sea birds excretion) the trade of “guano” was in decline. Nonetheless, till that very moment, a genuine “guano aristocracy” had been born, the same as in Manaos (Brasil) was the rubber one, in Argentina the one of meet and leather, in Chile the copper one and in Colombia the one of coffee.
The coast line continued having no end... Here and there, stony grounds limited large sandy bays; in some of the promontories we could see a quay and, near them, dozens of fishing boats. Sea currents (if I am not mistaken, the most important one in this area is Humboldt current, very cold and rich in nutrients) give rise to an extraordinary explosion of life that is quite unusual in other parts of the plannet. Communities on the coast depend on fishing for their livelihood. These communities group together in very small settlements that, in many cases, have only two or three huts. Here the type of house we could see was very peculiar... It had its four walls made of reed (the stems of the plant are flattened in first place and twisted later, employing a very simple technique of weaving). Those walls encircled a space not bigger than three square metres, which was covered by a corrugated iron roof. Such houses (without electricity, drains, WC or gas) rose in the middle of that brownish land. It was almost a surrealistic view when we found a woman sweeping at the entrance door of her hut, completely surrounded by sand and dust.
Many times that door was only a curtain, and the grounds where the huts were placed, though thirsty and desolated, had a few “cardones” (cactus) scattered here and there. This was another curious thing: in Argentina and Bolivia I had seen stone fences between two areas of land; however, we smiled to each other when we saw that in the north of Chile and in the south of Peru, those fences were made sometimes, with lots of “cardones” placed one next to the other in a line. Huts can be made of stone, concrete, “adobe” (mud dried in the sun, and mixed with straw) or reed, depending on the resources of they owners and the local custom to build. In whatever way, landscapes and human settlemments were so intimately weaven that shapes, colours, and materials used by human beings were only different pieces of the same natural frame, and the scenery that they drew in front of us was very attractive to look at.
We crossed Ica when the sun was very high in the sky. It is quite a big village, and possesses something very peculiar that maybe you already know: The Stones Museum, a private institution placed in the Central Square. This Museum includes a collection of hundreds of polished pebbles of diverse sizes, supposedly prehistorical, engraved with scenes very different from each other, which go from dinosaurs to very complex surgical operations, transplants, flying objects, weapons, means of transport and detailed maps of this and other plannets... Obviously, any historian´s first reaction is to talk of fake objects, fraud and forgery. However, what seem to be true is the “layer of antiquity” that lies over their surface... Anyway, this is another mistery very well hidden throughout history, which would not differ very much from the one we came across a bit further, in Nazca... There, though only from the air, you can observe a series of astonishing geoglyphs.
We went on crossing the coastal desert, a sandy brownish solitude, only broken by short and stony rivers in the middle of miracolously irrigated valleys, where one can see small cottom plantations and orchards with different fruit trees.
Nazca (or Nasca, we do not know yet which is the right spelling) welcomed us very gently with the proper calm of those big villages that turn into small towns. Maybe it had not much to show, or there was not too much to be seen in the town. However, once you pass it, a few kilometres straight to the north, a plain ground spreads over the horizon, where curious and very big silhouettes have been drawn: of a monkey, of a sea bird, of a hummingbird, of a spider, of fish and of lines pointing to the places where sun rises and goes down in different moments of the year. Archaeologists, astonished by the excellent work done by the authors of this prehispanic monument, cannot find its significance. Should it be a work of art? Who knows. In that case its meaning would not go further than the art as such. Should it be a sort of calendar? Nobody knows, but its forms would not seem to be very useful for the matter. Should it be any kind of welcome message to “the space brothers”? Well, this last theory, irrational though it may seem, has been the one keeping most people´s attention, letting their imagination run... Many are the ones visiting this place year after year. Those who have the money can see Nazca lines from the air (there are a good number of light aircrafts waiting for them at Nazca aerodrome); the ones without it can try gazing a fine brush stroke of the entire picture from the side of the road (as we did), or maybe they could find one or two whole figures climbing the small hills surrounding the coast line. Those who are not going to come near this area in the future may try using the software Google Earth. Sure they can enjoy not only their findings but also the fact of seeking such enormous glyphs, a disappeared culture´s creations that are still a great unknown...
We continued crossing more and more inhabited places as time was slowly passing. It was afternoon when we arrived in Lima, but long before we started admiring the gorgeus beaches, one after the other, that some of our peruvian friends had announced to us. There were bays, fishing grounds and coves; there were houses for spending the weekend or for holidays; there were kilometres of straight beaches, sandy shores and buildings of many different types scattered in the horizon... We were not able to see it, but someone has told us that most of those beaches are private areas. This is something that did not surprise us at all, since it happens the same in Argentina: the landowners buy thousands and thousands of hectares and the State looks to the other side and does not want to ask them for the rivers, streams, lakes and seas that belong to everybody according to the law.
Anyway, we were in Lima finally. We had left behind more than 30 km of impoverished areas surrounding downtown; sandy hills and large groups of unfinished houses covered in dust and mud. One of then really made a strong impression on both of us: there were more than a hundred “huts” (small and simple shelters) placed over a concrete plant, they could not be considered humble because they did not even have either electricity, gas or water, they were miserable and depressing buildings made of reed, calamine and less more... There were no streets, no overhead wires, no sewers. It was a human settlement with no living conditions. Though surprised, we were not strangers to this reality that shamefully is the only one for a great deal of Latinoamerican people: wherever country you visit in this land, you will find many scenes like the one described a few lines above. I always tell about this horrible situations because I want them to be listened and read by those arrogant urban colleagues who (maybe because of their ignorance, maybe because of their ingenousness) believe that THEIR reality is THE reality of everybody in every place in their city, in their province, even in the whole country. I wonder how they dare to talk me about digital libraries as THE model to be followed, when still in their own land, very near to their house, there are people (possible library services users, with more needs than anybody else) living in miserable conditions, there are people suffering... Suffering from poverty, hunger and illness, from the lack of education, from sadness, from the loss of hope... People with no illusions, without smile, almost without tears in this part of the story... I do not know how to call those regrettable attitudes of my colleagues, I do not know if they are blind by proud or by stupidity, or maybe by both of them at the same time. What I really know is that our profession feels the effects of those ignorants that do not seem to see the real state of things, those who live in their ivory towers surrounded by welfare and wealth, not even knowing that their rules and norms do not have value behind the doors they lock every day. I say this, because those unable to see what is in front of them, most of the times are the ones in charge of our teams, organizations and institutions, they are managers, directors, leaders... They are the ones making decisions and telling us how to put them into practice. Perhaps, a bit of fieldwork is exactly what they need most. However, I absolutely doubt that they want to put aside their smart suit, their comfortable chair and their fashionable laptop, and let their nails to be broken and their hands to be dirty in a depressing urban settlement or a rural area (far from their catalogues and managing positions). For all of them, I want to publicly manifest my repudiation.
Lima welcomed us with open arms. Nobody was wating for us, we did not know the city, neither we had made a hotel reservation in advance. We were exhausted and our backpacks were heavy enough to make us decide (first of all and with no delay) where to spend the following nights. We had not very good references about this city. Our peruvian friends had qualified it as “terribly dangerous”, so we did not know whether start walking or better take a taxi... Well, we did one thing after the other. First we walked a bit and asked for cheap places to sleep, not far from the “New” National Library. Then we took a taxi and in less than an hour we were in the room of a small hotel placed in San Borja district. People in the street were very kind and we did not have a single problem during our stay in Lima. The following day, Monday 13th of November, the International Congress on Librianship would start and I would have to present my conference in the afternoon. I was going to talk about Open Access, but about the Congress, the conference and the city I will let you know more in the following post.
A Xmas post
The flood of Xmas cards submerged me under several pounds of recycled paper printed by UNICEF for collecting funds for somebody who probably will never see not even a single cent of these funds (but we´ll feel better after “collaborating” with them). After I succeeded in my attempt of burning the whole mountain of cards full of good wishes (written by people who never remember me during the rest of the year), little angels and nativity scenes, I open my mail box and my heart nearly stops beating when I find my income-box almost collapsed by around 400 mails with good wishes (those mails avoiding the incoming of the important and urgent ones, of course...). Among this real “card-storm”, I am able to identify mails coming from editorials which I never saw, professional LIS associations who hate me but who write to me anyway, colleagues who think that I am a freak plus a real idiot, but who start their messages with the hypocritical words “Dear Edgardo...”, and –last but not less important- the ones from all those “friends” who never call me and who astonishingly are never at home when I visit to them.
Scared by this invasion of “Xmas love” where everybody clean their consciences and open their hearts and remember those who are always forgotten, I come out of my house to find 38º C in the street and a sun which wants to melt Cordoba in an apocaliptical way... In the pedestrian-streets of Cordoba downtown, I find a poor guy disguised as Santa Claus, trying to put a Xmas accent in the subtropical atmosphere of my city. The guy is probably swearing drops of the size of a golf ball under the pounds of fake-belly, the red cotton dress and the huge white beard hiding the face of a 21-years-old student suffering... A lot of children are walking in the street: they see Santa Claus and they ask their parents if this one is the same Santa that the one left 150 yards behind, 3 minutes ago, at the door of another shop.... The parents don´t know what to say, and they start trying some words about the advances of the techniques for clonating Santaclauses, or maybe some other sort of stupid things, just for avoiding to explain such a ridiculously unexplainable point.
Pushed by the “human wave” that crowds the streets of my city these days, I come in a bookshop, just for witnessing how the usually empty corridors and shelves are overpopulated by buyers who want to find the “perfect present”. In the street, I see legions of persons carrying huge parcels: they have spent the last hours (or the last days) looking for “a little something” for somebody in whom they probably didn´t think about during the rest of the year. The shops earn ten or twenty times more money in the last week of december than during the rest of the year; people lose more than a half of their wage due to this “custom” of presents... And presents, in reality, are forgotten before New Year´s Eve. But this doesn´t matter: the important point is to give something as a present...
I walk in front of a church where the Mass is being celebrated. Inside there, some people are remembering the original meaning of Xmas, and its history... Some of them probably know that somebody, centuries ago, decreed that in December 24th a child was born, who, when adult, would be executed because he said what he thought and defied the established authority. A lot of people died because of the same reason before and after him, and some of them died because of him, but they were never remembered. Anyway, he is always remembered; the curious point is that nobody usually remembers what he said, or why he was killed. But human memory is always incomplete and selective: we remember what we want or what we like, and we put the rest inside a chest in the bottom of our mind...
People go on buying, the sun is turning the avenues´ asphalt into melted mud, and Santa Claus is still laughing his not-very-convincing “ho-ho-ho”, disguised in the red dress that is red because of a Coca-Cola commercial broadcasted in the 20s. You see, northern customs that look ridiculous in Latin America, but that are celebrated due to habits and the effective work of mass-media.
I come back home and I sit in front of my computer in order to write something about Xmas. And I write these lines, a shapeless mass of feelings that leave a bitter taste in my mouth (despite of the almonds and all the sweet staff we eat during Xmas). I believe that there are many things that should be remembered during the whole year, that should be put in practice everyday, that should be done when they are felt and never when is said by the calendar or some multinational companies...
I consider that there are values that we should keep in mind every hour we live, and that there are things that we should remember forever and ever, and not just during the final weeks of the year: friends, family, love, dreams, projects, failures...
Those who celebrate Christmas in its religious sense should remember (and put into practice) the commands of their religion daily, and not when calendar says “now is time”. Those who celebrate Xmas as a familiar and friendly meeting should think in their families and friends everyday, just because life is really short and unpredictable, and it´s very sad to say “I love you” to a gravestone. Those who want to give a present should think that the best present is not the most expensive, but the one that reaches strongly the heart of the other person... The famous French writer Colette used to say that she always gave, as presents, her personal things. She thought that it was the only way to give her dearest peple a part of herself to be carried away...
I don´t know what you will do. I will enjoy of the things I have, those little things Life gives to me, as I do every day and every night during the whole year. And maybe I will look the fireworks at midnight while I eat something sweet with my sweetheart, Sara. In the end, “man is an animal with customs”, and I have, as an Italian descendent, a good number of customs and habits inside my heart...
I wish all of you a really nice Xmas, filled with what you desire the most: the presence of a familiar, the hug of a friend, the reconciliation with the enemies, the expected present, the oblivion of a pain or a wound... or just that delicious dish cooked by the wise hands of Grandma... When you get it, follow my advice: enjoy it. Cos´ life just touches you once and then goes on. You have things just once in front of your hands and your eyes. So, record these memories in the most valued corner of your hearts. In the end, those lovely memories will be the only thing we will really have throughout our life, the thing that nobody can take away from us.
A hug from Sara and me, and our best wishes...
Travel diary (06-07 out of 28): 52 hours’ journey on a bus...
By Edgardo Civallero
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
We decided to go through hundreds of kilometres from Santiago de Chile to the capital of Perú, Lima, by land, that is, sitting on a bus. Since we did not have too much time (we ought to arrive in time for the next Congress in Peru on Monday, 13th November), we wanted to avoid too many stopping places and checked which bus company did the most direct route. Should we be lucky or unlucky with the one we chose, “Ormeño”, only time would say it...(though we are still waiting for its answer, Sara tends to think that we were not that fortunate with our election). “Ormeño” is a bus company that has got the Guinness Award crossing the longest route: Buenos Aires-Santiago-Lima-Quito-Bogotá-Caracas. With such a presentation who is going to doubt them... They told us we would be in Lima in 52 hours and we say: “All right, then”.
What they never said to us was how they would do it. In fact, at that moment, we did not care about it either. However, we spent very little time in finding it out, and probably less in noticing that the award was not enough guarantee. They would have deserved the last place in cleaness, in kindness, in service or in mechanics. A lot of adjectives could be said in order to qualify the features (we can not talk about qualities) that feature “Ormeño” service, but we will omit that part because we do not want to make a list of bad words and insults that would make the most impudent one to become red in the face. It would be enough to say that we had not many chances and we did not drive a good bargain.
When we bought the tickets we did not measure the effects of being 52 hours with your bottom and your back literally stuck to a seat, which back could be moved into a sloping position far away from comfortable, breathing the same air (and other substances, some of them very particular) than other fifty people, using a tiny WC that is never cleaned and where many passengers think that they can throw all of their excretions (imaginable and unimaginable ones, I assure you), bearing films and more films at a volume far from normal, and at a time when anyone should be having rest, eating what you were able to, stopping to stretch your legs (or whatever was left of them) and to find a proper toilete (without success) when the driver decided that it was time to stop.
Anyway, on Friday, the 10th of November we got up with our body still complete and ourselves still fit and happy in Santiago de Chile. The Congress should be finished that day with “national lecturers” participation, whose documents can be found and examined in detail in the Congress site. Shamefully, we were not able to listen to these presentations (and we also had to cancel our visit to the National Libray, and we could not attend the posters session either, nor to conclude some other matters) because the bus was leaving at noon and was the only means of transport for us to arrive in time to our next librarian appointment, in Perú. We said goodbye to the ones that wanted to say goodbye to us, and set off for the bus station, with many things learnt and many others that we would rather forget... Neither all the organizations are perfect nor all human beings are intelligent or sensible (and we found a few examples of Homo sapiens neither Homo, nor sapiens).
“Ormeño” route, took us throughout the central chilean valley, that spreads to the north of Santiango, showing vineyards first of all, later irrigated regions and orchards, and only dry ground a bit further...
Night was coming down little by little and very fast we understood that the journey would be a hell. We would never recommend it to our friends or foes, acquaintances or not, should they try that route by bus, with the exception of being willing to make a crazy thing (as we did). The night caught us up somewhere to the north of La Serena.
While I was trying to get to sleep without success, I did a sort of personal evaluation of the Public Libraries Congress celebrated in Chile. The organization had been good and kind; the structure of the event had been very well designed (though, in my opinion they put too much emphasis on guests coming from abroad); workshops and conferences were mixed toghether very successfully, I believe, and conferences were always moderated in a very concious manner, taking into account not only questions but also the time available; the subjects were chosen very well (giving due prominence to social issues) and every document shown during the event was inmediately accessible online, once the Congress was over... There was a posters session and they kept information and services dealers away from the event. In a few words, it can be said that the professional meeting was very well organized. Maybe, as a criticism (apart from some personal differences) I would point out the lack of contact between the “foreign guests” and the chilean librarian reality “of trench”. I mean, we learnt a lot of this reality by words of people in charge and some colleagues that come closer to talk, but... everything was prepared to look so good, to make it more attractive... The little “reality” we managed to know was through some colleagues of Puente Alto and a group of LIS students who spoke without restrictions. However, at least personally speaking, I left undone a few things such as visiting a Librarianship School or entering a public library without having announced it before hand... I know that it is normal to show the parts that you feel more proud of to your guests, but considering our professional profile, I fail to see the logic behind this argument when it comes to improve our service as librarians... If we do not know what is surrounding us, how we are going to take part in the sort of society we would like to built.
Night had come. Sare never slept. I lost my consciousness in a place that I do not remember and I do not want to either.
At dawn we were in an unknown place of the Great North of Chile, somewhere between the regions of Atacama and Antofagasta. Outside, one of the most desolated deserts we had seen in our lives, and could we ever imagine in South America, spread slowly across the land, completely dry and absolutely divested of vegetation. The only thing that grew in those sandy grounds were stones. However, and even considering such a grief, the view was astonishing, really very surprising and difficult to believe: dunes tens of metres high, sandy mountains shaped by the wind, deep gorges of stone bitten by the elements, sun rays drawing large and surreal shadows on the ground, summits and precipices among which our coach seemed a tightrope walker
That part of Chile had been the land of the Atacamas, better known there as Lican Antai, a race that resisted with great difficulty the Inkan arrival (thanks to live in such a wild area) but was defeated by Spaniards, who distribute them in “encomiendas”, putting an end to their traditional way of life, that consisted in exchanging salt for highlands products, and highlands products for the ones from the coast, carrying them on the back of large herds of llamas. Their language, Kunza, was spoken until recently by a handful of people, but I do not know is something was rescued or everything was lost forever. If I am not wrong, there were a couple of grammars, but I believe that a book was never written in that language. Maybe its sounds are not lost but nothing is left of their old culture, except a number of mummies, perfectly preserved thanks to the environmental conditions of the region. From the same area but near the coast, come the Chonos, an antique culture that mummified its dead people and covered their faces with a clay mask, representing the decesaed traits... At the present, the whole area of the Great North of Chile (that Chile won Bolivia and Perú in each war, that costed the second one its so many times claimed “exit to the sea”) is strongly inhabited by the Aymaras coming from the “Collao”, the bolivian-peruvian highland. They have brought with them their traditions, their culture and their language, which has spread and has flourished in those solitudes... In both sides of the route I could read many names that sounded familiar to me, indicating paths to villages that were lost between the sand and the horizon: Mamiña, Lassana, and even La Tirana, the place where, year after year, the Diablada dancers honour the “Mamita”, the virgin of La Tirana. Dressed like devils, they dance jumping and performing acrobatics while women make their skirts (“polleras”) go round and round again. It is in this very place, if I am right, where the masquerades of “indios” dance... They blow in turns a sort of whistles made of reed that only produce a single tune... The final result is a cadence of two times: in one of them, fifty whistles sound one note, and in the other one, other fifty whistles sound the second one... Maybe, written in this manner, it may seem a bit boring, but it is very impressive when you hear it.
There, Aymara language was spoken, a language with a very particular andean taste, which we would listen to in the streets of La Paz later on, and that we could only guess now... Yes, there are books written in Aymara, and there are also Aymara librarians, and even an Aymara president who governs a country where, at least on paper, Aymara is an official language.. It is a very beautiful language, but it is also very difficult because one of its main features is to add suffixes. While we use a number of words to express an idea, they do the same by agglutinating, in only one word, several suffixes. What they lost in facility is what they get in specificity, as they can add a lot of “tints” to the words, “tints” that we could only get through many roundabout expressions. Something that also happens with Quechua, one of ours (I insist: ours) most pretty languages...
One of the few things that I remember in Aymara is a saying that should be useful to define the sense of the entire journey we made through the backbone of America. It said:
Uñjasaw uñjtw sañax; jan uñjasax janiw unjtw sañakiti
The more or less free translation might be something like: “Seeing, one can say ‘I´ve seen it’, without seeing, one must not say ‘I´ve seen it’”. If you apply these words to any of the many ones sounding boastful when talking (who in our professional environment, and also in the personal, speak without having had any experience at all), don’t you think that the Aymaras truly have a very wise saying?
We were crossing those solitudes with the only company of the sun in the sky, playing hide and seek with the clouds, and the small stones on the ground. I did remember that towards the West, where the Andean range rises, there are the amazing National Parks of the Great North of Chile, among which one of the most outstanding is Isluga, full of salt mines and parinas (andean flamingoes). I remembered having seen photographs of huge flocks of flamigoes colouring in rose a salt lake, and wandered why latinoamericans do not recognize the extraordinary beauty of our lands... It also came to my mind that, a bit further to the north, on the very range, are the Payachatas (“twins” in Aymara), the two volcanoes named Parinacota and Pomerape... And small lakes, and more salt mines, and thousands of small communities with lovely names such as Socoroma, Visviri or Cariquima... And the sounds of long lines (“tropas”) of pinkullos, that is to say, groups of several players that play flutes of different sizes and tunings, but similar in form, creating unique armonies, rhythms and sounds that cannot be repeated out of there... (Have you heard them anytime? Have you listened to the tarkas, the waka pinkillos, the choquelas, the mokolulos, the mohoceños...? All of these expressions are part of YOUR culture and YOUR diversity, latinoamerican colleagues...). And the rumble of enormous toyos (sikus or panpipes almost two metres long) accompanied by very big wankaras (drums), that beat like a huge heart, poom-poom, poom-poom, while the musicians overblow the tubes and make them burnt into sounding flames...
At the same latitude but towards the coast, is placed the harbour of Iquique. Maybe any lover of the music and the history remembers the story of the Santa María de Iquique slaughtering, collected in a few books and by the chilean group Inti-Illimani, who immortalized this dark piece of the chilean history in a very beautiful cantata. It happened at the beginning of the last century, when northern Chile was still the “Salt Empire” and the local communities were terribly exploited –under inhuman regimes- by the multinational companies settled there. A high-numbered group of salt-miners (and their families) went to the “Big Harbour” of Iquique to ask for some improvement to their work conditions and wages, and they were killed by the gun-machines of the chilean army in front of the church of Santa María de Iquique. Hundreds died... but nobody spoke about them anymore; usually, the corpses of poor and disadvantaged people never have a noticeable presence on the conscience and the memory of wealthy societies. Neither the dead bodies of the rebels, those who struggle against the unfair conditions and claim for a little piece of justice.
Most of those killed workers were Aymaras. It is another reason –one more- for forgetting them, in a continent where the copperish colour of the skin is a synonim of shame and discrimination.
Just some miles behind, we left the beaches of Pisagua, where some years ago were found the bodies of a lot of people executed during the horror and dictatorship years of Pinochet government, the man whose death provocated so much happiness in a part of Chile and –as incredible as it may sound- so many tears in the rest of the country.
Little by little appeared the first bushes of yareta, shrub-sized and flattened little trees that are normally used as combustible in the highlands. Curiously, these plants take years and years to grow up: I remember having read some botanical reports stating that some big yaretas have probably lived a century, for they grow only a few centimeters a year. To burn them looks like a mortal sin against Mother Earth, but it is actually the only available material.
Further on, after noon, we crossed the Pampa del Tamarugal, a place populated (supposedly in a natural way, even though the geometric disposition of the plants looked too regular to me) by tamarugos, trees that survive in these dry deserts and which provides the only little shadow you can find in these areas.
I remembered (after the Archaeology courses I took when I studied History) that the human settlements living in the coastal deserts of northern Chile and southern Peru were located in the valleys that came down perpendiculary to the Andean range, fed by the ice-melting waters. There, real oasis were created, where people cultivated their crops and bred their flocks. Today is still possible to see some of those little valleys, irrigated by the almost invisible waters of a river running through a stony and thristy riverbed.
We crossed through the Quebrada de Codta (Codta´s Gorge), a lunar landscape that astonished us with its shapes, its sizes, its shades and its impressive majesty... We had lunch in Arica around four in the afternoon, after a couple of short stops (one of them in Coquimbo, a coastal city without attractives but placed in a quite interesting natural scenary). When we came down of the bus and we sat in front of our meals, we already did not recognize the lowest part of our bodies. The extremely-highly-terribly-obbligated visit to the WCs provocated Sara´s exasperation (she preferred to wash herself with the water of a street-tap, as the bus-drivers did) and my nauseas (even if I am really used to bad higienic conditions due to my field work in difficul places). Anyway... around five in the afternoon we crossed the chilean-peruvian border without problem, excepting some peruvian citizens who had “forgotten” their visas or who carried prohibited devices in their baggage and who had to stay there, in the middle of this nothingness, with the only companionship of the soldiers.
We had dinner in Tacna, a huge city that, in the middle of the night, extended its lights until where our eyes could reach. From this point onwards, the “Ormeño” company did not pay either lunchs or dinners. With a lot of luck, the drivers would stop somewhere in order to allow the passengers to give some rest to their almost destroyed legs. Dawn found us watching the amazing southern coast of Peru, a really unforgettable spectacle. But this will be the subject of our next post.
So... see you tomorrow... We send you xoxoxoxoxox (hugs & kisses)
Travel diary (02 of 28): "broad streets with fists and flags"
By Edgardo Civallero
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
“It won’t be the tears for Víctor Díaz,
it will be a fly of birds when the sun rises,
wide streets with fists and flags,
It was the courage of those people who have overcome the pain and the injustice that institutional oppressors and murders had spread. They had continued living and defending life as we did on the other side of the Andean range, as many others did –Uruguayans, Paraguayans, Bolivians- here and there, in this land crossed by scars, but, at the same time, covered with smiles.
Travel diary (03 of 28): a high, high bridge... (part 01)
By Edgardo Civallero
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
The driver of DIBAM picked up Sara and me in the neighbourhood of Providencia for carrying us to the municipality of Puente Alto (“High Bridge”), one of the biggest in Chile, with around 2 millions inhabitants, placed in SE Santiago... The vehicle crossed the city, some peri-urban areas crowded by little markets invading the sidewalks, and totally rural regions, where the vineyards extended under a clear sky and the unavoidable silhouette of the Andean range, whose heights were stained by early snows. The driver made some sparse commentaries on a little altar built by the side of the road, near the vineyards, surrounded by a lot of bottles of water... Popular devotion left those presents as offerings to “Difunta Correa” (Defunct Correa, this last word being a surname), a mother who died of thirst and whose newborn child miracolously survived sucking at her breasts after her death. This myth can be found also in Argentina, where it´s a historical reality with full validity and strong popular support (spcially in San Juan province, where “la Difunta” has a really big “temple” covered by votes and offerings). This popular belief made us feel that, despite of the high mountains separating us, the different accents, the old political disputes and the everlasting rivalries, argentinians and chileans are not, at least, so different...
Travel diary (03 of 28): a high, high bridge... (part 02)
By Edgardo Civallero
Translated and commented by Sara Plaza
Once the workshop was over (you can read about it in the first part) we joined the rest of the group (“foreign guests”= lecturers from abroad) and we visited together Puente Alto Librarian Centre. First, we listened a few welcome words from the municipality political representatives and DIBAM members, and shortly after we went to see the Public Lybrary and came to know about one of its programmes in the development of school libraries belonging to the municipality. According to this, they have put into practice a plan to encourage reading, called “To grow reading” (that we could appreciate in the folder we were given) which main goals are: