Sunday, August 22, 2010

The paradox of our time

A Message from George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill ...

Remember to love and communicate it to those you love while you can. Cherish and share the precious moments.

Monday, November 09, 2009

No More Profits Over People: Demanding Government Regulation of Corporations

With the ongoing economic crisis and the much debated health care reform, I have been part of and overheard numerous arguments regarding the merits and evils s of government involvement. I have noticed that many Americans fear government regulation. In fact, they fear the government as a whole. They often refer to government as “in bed with corporations,” “trying to limit our freedoms,” “taking over,” etc. Considering the countless cases of war, dictatorships, genocide, and other cases of abuse of political power, I can understand why citizens the world over are to be cautious of government control. However, being that the U.S. practices and promotes democracy, and claims to have a “government of and for the people” these phobic attitudes seem pretty ironic to me.

I believe that part of the problem lies in the fact that the U.S. government has left behind the government of and for the people myth that was once so central to our identity, to become a government for corporations by corporations in which capitalism takes the central role. A la WTO, the U.S. government increasingly stands to protect commerce and profit-making at any cost, rather than to serve and represent the people. What should we call it? Corporacracy? There is no denying that money grants immense political power in capitalist, campaign-sponsoring, lobbying America. I argue that we should start demanding a separation of corporations and state as much as we demand a separation of church and state.

I have to acknowledge that Americans are often poorly informed about issues that affect them and demand very little of their government in terms of action or protective regulations. However, even when considerable numbers of people demand fair trade, mandatory recycling, higher mileage cars, labeling of genetically modified food, or, I don't know, say, accessible health care, initiatives are stifled over and over by powerful capital holders and corporations who would lose profits to such regulations. Furthermore, it seems many Americans, although they may agree with such needs, chose to trust the not-so-almighty market to eventually make their preferences prevail, rather than putting regulations in place themselves to protect people's health, lives, and freedom. Notice that I said putting regulations in place “themselves,” because although they are government regulations, government officials are supposed to be there representing each one of us.

If the people’s will supposedly rules in a democracy, then there should be no such fraction between the concepts of “government’s regulations” and “the interest and wellbeing of citizens”. Nonetheless, Americans seem to have regulation-phobia and a panic of government involvement, even when the goal is to protect themselves. Why are we so afraid of the government overstepping what we consider acceptable boundaries? We are supposed to be able to set those boundaries ourselves every time we vote, every time we write to our representatives, every time we sign a petition. Sadly, countless Americans have done none of those things in their lives. That is, they have never engaged in democracy, and therefore feel powerless “against” a government to which they have no relationship and in which they have no involvement. (Funny they still root for foreign invasions aimed at bringing democracy to others.)
I have come to believe that regulating corporations is a matter of national security. After reading books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the work of Vandana Shiva, I feel immensely more threatened by the pesticides, hormones, and modified genes in my food and water; by the depletion of our current energy sources; and by the imminent pollution and destruction of the entire biosphere and its precariously balanced ecosystems; than by potential terrorist attacks.

We must remain aware of the fact that corporations are fictional entities created to care only about the bottom line. They have no morals and seek profits without even contemplating their consumer’s health (as long as potential health damages are rare enough or long term enough not to affect their sales), people’s wellbeing (underpaid employees who can barely make a living, displaced populations, families deprived of their livelihoods, etc.), the continuity of life in this planet, or even their own long term sustainability (since often they simply go on for as long as they can until they deplete the natural resources on which they base their own capital making). Because of the for-profit-at-any-cost nature of our market economy, it is imperative that the government regulate corporations, get involved with public health, become more proactive at regulating products (how come asbestos, CFCs, and countless medicines were aloud in the market for so long before their harmful effects rendered them illegal?), require longer term safety studies, limit pollution, make corporations responsible for clean-up and safety, and, among many other things, protect citizens’ freedom. That is, our freedom from being sued for unauthorized used by companies whose patented genetically modified seeds infested our fields without our knowledge (as in the case of Monsanto vs Schmeiser) – as well as our freedom to choose.

In my opinion, perhaps the most important regulation to advocate for is labeling. If we are unaware of what is in the products we purchase, or the processes by which they have been produced, we have no true freedom to choose, even if there are a variety of brands to pick from. Certainly, I wish corporations were not allowed to poison us or the environment (or even take the risk of poisoning if not enough long term research has been conducted). However, I expect that, at least, we should be able to choose which dangerous or even potentially risky substances we ingest or use in our houses or land. Whenever there is a risk involve, no matter how small, we have the right to choose whether to take it or not. In fact, we should be able to do choose by simple personal preference, even if the official claim is that no risks are involved. Therefore, foods containing genetically modified products; as well as meat, milk, and other products from animals that have been administered hormones, should be clearly labeled – so that consumers can opt to be free of them, if they so choose.

We need to pressure the government to protect our interests over the interests of corporations, to protect life over profits. Pressuring for government regulations to safeguard our health and freedom is not allowing government too much control. It is limiting corporations’ freedom if and when it endangers people or other life forms, or limits individual’s freedoms – just like we do with people who do the same to other people. As far as these and many other issues go, a political awakening that brings back empowerment to the people by fostering political engagement and the understanding that we are our government, rather than fearing our government as if it was a dictatorship, is the only way in which we can take action to protect ourselves, the generations to come, and the world we live in.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Round 1: First Wold rips Third World of raw materials. Round 2: First World buries Third World in trash.

Someone brought up the issue of garbage shipped internationally in my Gender, Justice, and Sustainability class. I didn't have a clue of anything related to the topic, so I did a quick online research and here is what I have found.

There are apparently some situations of legal shipping of trash from Europe to developing countries to be recycled by authorized companies that are capable and accountable. However, there are also millions of tons of trash shipped illegally, to non-authorized recipient companies that just burn it or put it on landfills. This stuff has been going on for a while, as developed countries run out of space and options for the immense amounts of trash they produce. However, it became a huge industry when Europe passed regulations that all trash must be recycled or disposes of in a safe way, most dumping in landfills has been prohibited, and safe incineration is expensive and heavily taxed. That became an expensive responsibility for European companies, so they have opted to ship it abroad instead. Thus, in Europe, paper, plastic, metal, and electronics can be exported for recycling abroad. The U.S. has no such laws, so trash can be exported anywhere to whomever regardless of what they will do with it, since we have no regulations within our borders that mandate recycling and safe disposal anyway.

However, there are also international regulations outlawing the exportation of toxic wastes. According to a NY times article on the topic , titled "Smuggling Europe Wastes to Poor Countries" by Elisabeth Rosental (very interseting by the way: ports are constantly stopping such illegal cargos. In the case of legal exporting-recycling, I found an example of a woman who founded a company based on creating packaging material in China by recycling U.S. cardboard from Los Angeles. ( It has made her very rich. It's a good example of capitalism. I guess some money and jobs are flowing back to China because of this. However, there is also the matter of the energy spent in transporting the cardboard, which monetarily speaking is obviously low enough to still allow for a profit. Nonetheless, I have been reading Vandana Shiva’s work, and learnt to look at the bigger picture and include costs that our market economy does not take into account (such as soil depletion, air and water pollution, sustainability, and the energy spent in creating input materials or substance). Thus, I must point out that we should also acknowledge that long distance transportation would be one less environmental cost if the waste was recycled in situ.

A good example to look at for the transportation issue is the fact that trash is currently shipped from Hawaii (where they have apparently run out of space for landfills) to Washington State, to a Seattle based company ( So, instead of trying to produce less trash to start with, to package less, to use biodegradable materials, to use, and to find viable ways of recycling and incinerating locally, Hawaii ships trash to the U.S. West Coast, and the U.S. West Coast ships trash to China. It would seem to me the only ones that truly benefit from that are the cargo companies and the oil giants who fuel them up. Oh, and the shareholders of the companies involved! That is after all much of the way in which economic “capital” has been created in the past centuries: by moving goods around the world. Raw materials were retrieved from developing countries, shipped to industrialized countries where they were transformed into products, which were shipped by to the original country and other regions of the world for a profit. Money was the fictional profit created by this processes. However, it doesn’t take much to see that it is not sustainable, especially when it depends on irreplaceable natural resources. “Growth” will continue and some will become richer and richer at the expense of others’ poverty only for long enough for us to drawn in our trash and man-made contaminating non0degradable chemicals, and deplete the natural resource upon which humanity and all other living beings depend on.

Going back to the cases in which Third World individuals and companies find an opportunity to capitalize on other countries’ trash, the truth is for every case of legal somewhat positive trash entrepreneurship, there seems to be many more cases of unregulated dumping of millions of tons of trash from U.S. and Europe into landfills in other countries, from dirty pipes to old computers to household trash. Construction debris and other wastes containing asbestos, mercury, and other toxic agents are dismantled by people, sometimes children, at high risk for their help, in Third World countries, where it is often burnt or left to rot, polluting air, soil, and water (Rosental’s article in the NY Times cited above). If that is not imperialism, I don’t what you’d call it.

European and American companies are tempted to export their waste, legally or illegally, because it is “cheaper” than dispensing of it appropriately according to their own regulations. Also, Third World countries may see an opportunity for profit by buying waste and recycling it into new material to be sold, or by charging fees for “taking care” of other countries’ wastes – even if that means contaminating and putting the health of their people at risk. This is a perfect example of what Vandana Shiva repeats over and over in her books: the potential or real economic benefits of these situations are fictional, they only exist from the point of view of a capitalist system, they only hold true if we choose to look exclusively at the monetary income and costs. The truth is, if we, as humans and citizens of the planet, allow for waste to be disposed of in polluting ways in Third World countries, then the regulations against it in Europe have done nothing to help the overall health of our planet. Furthermore, Third World countries continue to carry the heaviest responsibility for the wrongdoing of developed countries, to be abused and exploited, to carry with the consequences of the trash produced by the few who are well off. Ultimately humanity and planet Earth are paying a much higher cost by exporting trash than by recycling it and safely disposing of it locally. While the latter option might be more expensive money wise, exporting trash adds the pollution of long-distance transportation, furthers the disproportions of developed vs developing world relations – and ultimately pollutes the air, the water, and the soil we all share just as much, or worse.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Species Suicide: Poisoning Ourselves

“Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation.”
Albert Schweizer

One of the many unexpected consequences of World War II was the start of the agricultural synthetic chemical industry, in particular pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides). For example, although DDT was first synthesized in 1874, its insecticidal properties were not discovered until WWII, when it was used to control mosquitoes and lice among civilians and troops. After the war, it became available to farmers and its use spread like a fire.[1] Pesticide use has increased more than fifty-fold since 1950![2]
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has defined the term pesticide as:
"any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs, or substances which may be administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids or other pests in or on their bodies. The term includes substances intended for use as a plant growth regulator, defoliant, desiccant or agent for thinning fruit or preventing the premature fall of fruit, and substances applied to crops either before or after harvest to protect the commodity from deterioration during storage and transport."[3]

As clearly stated by that definition, pesticides are intended to kill organisms that have become harmful to humans in one way or another. Nevertheless, they are ultimately poisonous to all life, including our own. In fact, pesticide self-poisoning is the method of choice in one third of suicides worldwide.[4] However, those extreme situations are not the only examples of the harm humans are inflicting upon themselves by using pesticides. Everyday people all over the world consume these toxic substances without being aware of the dangers they pose to their health.
Although government agencies (the Environmental Protection Agency, in the case of the U.S.) conduct research to determine acceptable levels for the use of pesticides to avoid harm to humans, a number of complications must be considered. First of all, many of these chemicals tend to persist in the body (that is, it takes a very long time for them to be broken down). Many also bioaccumulate (that is, build up as residues in the body, especially on fatty tissue)[5]. This means that, for example, even though a certain level of a particular pesticide on a particular fruit may be deemed safe for human consumption, that particular chemical will accumulate in our bodies along with those chemicals present in other foods we consume and the water we drink, not to mention those pesticides we might breathe in or absorb through our skins. We have no real idea of what this accumulation entails to our health. Over time, chronic poisoning might result. Furthermore, we do not know what will happen on the long term as these chemicals interact with each other and degrade over time.
According to Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals that Are Destroying Your Health,” mixing synthetic chemicals in our bodies has become tantamount to playing with a chemistry set without an instruction manual.” He points out that toxicology experts predict that a third to half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime as a result of the chemical experimentation we are conducting on ourselves.[6]
Just to put an example of how many layers of “safe” amounts of pesticides and other chemicals we might be ingesting daily, let’s follow a particular wheat product from the seed to our table. First of all, the soil in which it is to be planed will have likely already accumulated vast amounts of pesticides from many spraying cycles, as well as through underground and rain water which may bring along chemicals from near and far. Second, the actually seeds will have likely been processed with a number of chemicals even before the farmer buys them. Through the growing processes the plant will more than likely be sprayed with insecticides multiple times, as well as with other chemicals such as defoliants. Once the wheat is gathered, it will be treated to look better and to be preserved longer. It will then be processed into a generic food product, such as flour, a process that will add more chemicals, from preservatives to bleaches (or colorants). On its way to the supermarket, and once it’s stored there, it will likely be near pesticides used to control rodents. We will then consume the accumulation of chemicals along with the food we prepare with this flour, and store it with the chemicals from all our other food sources that day, and from every day of our lives – even before birth, since the placenta is no barrier to any of these chemicals and therefore unable to prevent unborn children from exposure to the chemicals present in their mothers’ diets.
But what exactly does this mean? How exactly do these chemicals threaten our health? The World Health Organization and the United Nation’s Environment Programme estimate that 3 million agricultural workers in agriculture in the developing world experience severe poisoning from exposure to pesticides every year. They estimate that 18,000 of those poisoned die.[7] Many more millions suffer mild poisoning, which may include nausea, vision problems, skin reactions, dizziness, vomit, headaches, and many other symptoms. Additionally, many studies have indicated that pesticide exposure is associated with long-term health problems such as respiratory problems, memory disorders,[8] dermatologic conditions[9], anxiety, depression,[10] birth defects, and neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s. In fact, a Harvard School of Public Health study showed that people exposed to even low levels of pesticides had a 70% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.[11]
It’s been decades already since pesticides were first suspected to cause cancer. In fact, they have been labeled “carcinogens” for decades. However, the general assumption has been, until very recently, that the relationship between pesticides and cancer was no more than an improvable assumption. That dubious connection is no longer the scientific conclusion. Pesticides are known to cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, and many other forms of cancer. Breast cancer, for example, has been linked to exposure to DDT prior to puberty. All these cases are documented in a document titled Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer: New Evidence, 2005-2007 which was prepared for the Cancer Working Group of the Collaborative for Health and the Environment. This report chronicled recent epidemiological evidence linking occupational and environmental exposures with cancer through peer-reviewed scientific studies published from January 2005 through June 2007, supplementing their state-of-the-evidence report published in September 2005. The authors argue that the substantial evidence justifies demanding urgent action that would limit exposure to avoidable environmental and occupational carcinogens.[12]
This recommendation is echoed by the American Medical Association:
"Particular uncertainty exists regarding the long-term effects of low-dose pesticide exposures. Current surveillance systems are inadequate to characterize potential exposure problems related either to pesticide usage or pesticide-related illnesses…Considering these data gaps, it is prudent…to limit pesticide exposures…and to use the least toxic chemical pesticide or non-chemical alternative."[13]

Perhaps, a good example to follow is that of Europe, where legislation has recently banned all use of highly toxic pesticides. The ban includes pesticides that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction, disruptive of the endocrine system, as well as all of those which are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.[14]
Frightening as all these facts may be, the grim picture that pesticides and other types of synthetic chemicals paint for the future of our species is even more complex than the image conjured up by the scope of this paper. I have limited myself to exploring only superficially the direct effects that exposure to pesticides can have on human health – not considering other issues, such as reduction of reproductive ability, environmental pollution, destruction of habitats, and damage to other species. If the reader is as aware as we should all be of the fact that all life in this planet is interdependent, it will be obvious to him or her that, in the long term, these other devastating consequences of the use of pesticides are as threatening to the survival of the human species as direct damage to individuals’ health – or more. As we try to limit our personal exposure to these chemicals by eating organic, avoiding the use of domestic pesticides, and supporting appropriate policy, we are still left to wonder: how much time is there left for humanity as a whole to realize the suicidal qualities of its actions before it’s too late?
[1] International Program on Chemical Safety, DDT and Its Derivates.
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[2] Miller, GT (2002). Living in the Environment (12th Ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, p. 294
[3] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2002), International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides.
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[4] Gunnell D, Eddleston M, Phillips MR, Konradsen F (2007). "The global distribution of fatal pesticide self-poisoning: systematic review". BMC Public Health 7: 357.
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[5] U.S. Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, Bioaccumulation Definition
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.

[6] Fitzgerald, Randall. “The Hundred-year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals that Are Destroying Your Health”. Penguin Books: London. 2007, p 30.
[7] Miller GT (2004), Sustaining the Earth, 6th edition. Thompson Learning, Inc. Pacific Grove, California. Chapter 9, Pages 211-216.
[8] Arcury TA, Quandt SA, Mellen BG (August 2003). "An exploratory analysis of occupational skin disease among Latino migrant and seasonal farmworkers in North Carolina". J Agric Saf Health 9 (3): 221–32.
[9] O'Malley MA (1997). "Skin reactions to pesticides". Occup Med 12 (2): 327–45.
[10] Beseler CL, Stallones L, Hoppin JA, et al. (December 2008). "Depression and pesticide exposures among private pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study". Environ. Health Perspect. 116 (12): 1713–9.
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[11] Pesticide exposure raises risk of Parkinson’sAscherio A, Chen H, Weisskopf MG, O'Reilly E, McCullough ML, Calle EE, Schwarzschild MA, Thun MJ (2006). "Pesticide exposure and risk for Parkinson's disease". Annals of Neurology 60 (2): 197–203.
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[12] The report can be downloaded from:
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[13] Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association. (1997). Educational and Informational Strategies to Reduce Pesticide Risks. Preventive Medicine, Volume 26, Number 2
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.
[14] Pesticide Legislation Approved last retrieved 13 January 2009
Retrieved on September 20th, 2009.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I grabbed that butcher's knife
from the kitchen counter top
and as you stood there in disbelief
I cut my chest open.
I felt the blade
cut through my flesh,
and ripped my heart out
with my bare hands.
I placed it in front of you
throbbing, still beating,
bleeding away.
You stayed still,
looked away.
I interpreted your silence,
so I took it back
and ate it.
I felt the pain
as my teeth ripped it apart
the blood dripping down my throat
mixing with the mute tears.
I swallowed and threw up,
threw up and swallowed.
I didn't want it back.
Somehow it seemed more appropriate
to have a hole now
where my heart once was.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A sol y sombra

Mi sol y mi sombra
mi cielo y mi esquina.
Mi casa, mi tierra, mi patria,
mis ganas de ser.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
feliz sin querer.

Mi manantial y mi estuario,
mi verdad absoluta.
Mi paz en las noches,
mi angustia en el pecho.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
mío mi lecho.

Mi todo, mi nada,
mi siempre estaré.
Mi paso seguro,
mi antes después.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
cálida tanta ultima vez.

Mi cómplice y mi verdugo,
mi libre albedrío.
Mi presente en diferido,
mi volvamos a empezar.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
un principio cada final.

Mi música de fondo,
mi mutua intuición,
Mi fluir por tantos caminos,
mi brújula en cada cruce.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
tu ausencia tan dulce.

Mi pasión incontrolable,
mi cariño sincero.
Mis ansias, mi apego,
mi flor con espinas.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
tan cierta la vida.

Mi viento en popa y mi ancla,
mi muelle, mi marea y mi playa.
Mis días de calor,
mi lluvia secando al sol.
Si fuese sin ti no sería
enteramente yo.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I have

I have
blisters on my feet,
credit card debt and student loans,
scars on my wrists,
hope tattooed on my skin,
and a many times patched-up heart.
I’ve got
secrets and traumas,
stretch marks.
I’ve been
abused, alone, homeless.
I’ve traveled, nested, escaped.
I’ve felt
I’ve achieved and started over,
I have done what needed to be done,
I endured, survived.
I have danced till my feet bled.
I have held on
until I could no longer feel my hands.
And I've learned to let go.
I have loved to death.
I've relocated and adapted,
I've moved on and I have returned.
I have claimed mine,
I've imagined ours.
I have refused and rejected.
In loving arms, I've capitulated.
I've argued when necessary,
and made a point when possible.
I've stared and smelled the ocean,
and kept going,
step by step, always reaching,
so I could get to those roses.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Generational Manifesto

I saw the best minds of my generation fueled by madness,
dieting, obese, hysterical, naked,
dragging themselves through the streets at sunset
looking for an angry fix,
red-eyed searching for
cheap breakfast at dawn*,
refusing to wear time handcuffed to their wrists,
maintaining it instead at a safe distance
in their pocketed connection to anybody, any time,
from anywhere they pleased,
feeling a panic rush of disconnectedness
without their daily doses of real-time communication and texts,
expressing themselves through icons,
mixing, borrowing, concocting languages,
programming websites, constantly checking their emails,
typing, recording, interacting screen to screen,
dragging, clicking, scrolling, copy-pasting,
designing logos, loops, ergonomic-mouse-pads,
marketing products, jingles, addictions,
engineering environmentally friendly great-mileage gasoline cars,
regularly publishing their ranting thoughts to the world,
instantaneously sharing still images and video images,
eager to fill the void,
connecting and reconnecting to each other,
redefining network, kinship, relationships,
loving indiscriminately open, possessively closed,
fucking the hell out of each other drenched in canned whipped cream,
sweating, drinking instant peach-flavored iced tea lemonade,
breaking gender boundaries, flirting with pain and pleasure,
teasing death, spreading AIDS,
digesting and throwing up easy-access porn,
buying vibrating dildos at the corner sex shop,
accusing each other of frigidity, promiscuity,
fear of commitment, playing hard to get,
making statements with their t-shirts,
recycling, donating, giving blood,
grouping up, joining together, and
labeling, unlabeling and relabeling each other
in an eternal quest to define themselves,
refusing to think about yesterday or tomorrow,
stretching today,
rebelling, non-conforming, protesting,
throwing rocks,
writing poetry and history,
reading science fiction, magical realism, manuals,
imagining Middle-Earth and Mordor,
and "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....",
taking their chances, rolling dice,
roleplaying, videogaming, watching the World Cup,
laughing out loud, screaming at the top of their lungs,
exploring alternative lifestyles and altered states of consciousness,
with or without drugs,
making music, coming up with options, giving birth,
choosing, defending, condoning,
abortion, marriage, bombs,
migrating, tasting, beginning,
ending, cleansing, renewing,
backpacking through this shrunken globalized world,
reclaiming Madrid, Buenos Aires, New York,
running away from and searching for home,
shrugging, risking, jumping without a safety net,
gambling with their life Russian-roulette style,
betting on their chances that life will smile at them
through unexpected karmic outcomes if they just flow,
recreating post-new age modern versions of ancient spirituality,
skinny-dipping, rejecting dogma,
fiddling with yoga, evolution, quantum physics, thealogy and the gaia hypothesis,
fighting Babylon ideology dreadlocked, tattooed, pierced,
going to work from 8 to 5 stoned, daydreaming about being their own boss,
drinking warmed down foreign beer,
listening to watered down world music,
consuming Walmart bought organic food,
dealing, buying, selling, legal and illegal drugs
in the hidden backway alleys and at the sky-scraping glass-windowed offices,
having to shave every morning to conform to the conventional work policies,
moonlighting as dragqueens, denying it,
alternating shortcuts with pleasure walks,
fighting through a digital reality saturated in dualities,
claiming and indulging in their right to be gods.

* Italics from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mabon - El equinoccio de otoño

Es otra vez la época el año en que el día y la noche son exactamente iguales. Alrededor del 21 de septiembre, ocurre el equinoccio de otoño. De ahora en adelante, en este lado del ecuador, las noches comenzaran a alargarse. El equinoccio es un momento de equilibrio, pero es también el instante del año en el que la balanza se ladea y la oscuridad triunfa sobre la luz.

Mabon es uno de los ocho Sabbats, o festivales religiosos neo-paganos, que siguen el ciclo de las estaciones a lo largo del año. Marca la mitad de la época de la cosecha. Es un tiempo de abundancia y de dar gracias. Para aquéllos que no cultivamos la tierra, también es un momento de contemplar los frutos de nuestros esfuerzos ya sea en el trabajo, en la vida personal, etc. y sentirnos orgullosos y agradecidos.

Este festival deriva su nombre de un Dios galés. El mito relata que
Mabon, hijo de Modron, la madre tierra, nace la noche del equinoccio y desaparece tres noches después. La pena de Modron es equivalente a aquélla de la diosa griega Demeter, cuando desaparece su hija Kore, quien había ido a recoger flores y nunca regresó. Demeter se lamenta y la busca por doquier durante días. Finalmente, Helios, el sol, que lo ve todo, le informa que Kore fue raptada por Hades y llevada al mundo subterráneo de los muertos para ser su reina. De ahí en adelante Kore será conocida como Persephone. Furiosa, Demeter, la diosa de las cosechas, detiene la fertilidad de todo aquello que vive en la tierra, los sembradíos se secan, se pierde la vida y el verde. Desesperado, Zeus logra finalmente llegar a un acuerdo entre Demeter y Hades en el cual Persephone pasa la mitad del año sobre la tierra con su madre y la otra mitad como reina del inframundo junto a su esposo – dando lugar a las estaciones. Cuando Persephone está ausente, la tierra palidece con la tristeza de Demeter da lugar al invierno. Cuando Persephone regresa a la tierra para alegría de su madre, la vida vuelve a resplandecer. Mabon es también el comienzo del otoño y marca el momento en que Persephone vuelve a descender al inframundo. El comienzo del otoño es la época del año en que se celebraban los Misterios Eleusinos Mayores.

Mabon es también afín al festival de la cosecha, de origen céltico y esparcido por toda la Europa rural antigua, celebrado el 25 de Septiembre. Este festival está relacionado con el mito gales en el que el dios
Goronwy (oscuridad) da muerte a su hermano gemelo Lugh (luz). Se trata de un sacrificio a través del cual la energía vital del sol se guarda en los granos cosechados, en preparación para el invierno, y parte de la tradición es la quema representativa de un muñeco hecho de granos. El 21 de septiembre es también la fecha astrológica en el que el sol entra en el signo de Libra, cuyo símbolo es casualmente la balanza. También es la fecha de uno de los festivales de Dionisio, por ser la época en la que se hace y se almacena el nuevo el vino, se salan las carnes, y otras preparaciones para el invierno que llega.

Las costumbres neopaganas para Mabon se centran alrededor de la familia y de un banquete suntuoso en el que se celebra la abundancia de la cosecha y se dan gracias por los frutos de nuestros esfuerzos. Son típicas las comidas relacionadas con los granos, el maíz, las nueces, las manzanas, el vino y la cidra, y los elementos decorativos que celebran el comienzo del otoño, así como la cornucopia - símbolo de la abundancia.

Los equinoccios son los momentos de equilibrio perfecto. Hagamos un esfuerzo por hallar el equilibrio en nuestras vidas, al igual que nuestros cuerpos buscan eterna y sabiamente la homeostasis. Date un segundo para pensar, qué esta desequilibrado en tu vida y necesita un reajuste: el trabajo y la vida personal, lo que das versus lo que recibes en cierta relación, el tiempo que le dedicas a ciertas cosas? El equinoccio de otoño es también un día de acción de gracias, y hay muchas maneras de celebrarlo. Puedes, por ejemplo, prender una vela y pensar en todos los esfuerzos que te han sido fructíferos últimamente, o rezar una oración de gracias, o escribir en tu blog una lista de diez cosas por las cuales estás agradecido con la vida, o diez logros de los que estás orgulloso. Te llenará de energía positiva. Mabon es uno de esos buenos momentos para ponernos a pensar no en todo lo que queremos y nos hace falta, sino en todo lo que tenemos para estar agradecidos, y de darnos palmaditas en la espalda para animarnos a seguir sudando con esos proyectos y aspectos de nuestra vida de cuyos resultados nos sentimos francamente orgullosos.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pablo Neruda

A quién dejo tanta alegría
que pululó por mis venas
y este ser y no ser fecundo
que me dio la naturaleza?
He sido un largo río lleno
de piedras duras que sonaban
con sonidos claros de noche,
con cantos oscuros de día
y a quién puedo dejarle tanto,
tanto qué dejar y tan poco,
una alegría sin objeto,
un caballo solo en el mar,
un telar que tejía viento?

Mis tristezas se las destino
a los que me hicieron sufrir,
pero me olvidé cuáles fueron,
y no sé dónde las dejé,
si las ven en medio del bosque
son como las enredaderas
suben del suelo con sus hojas
y terminan donde terminas,
en tu cabeza o en el aire,
y para que no suban más
hay que cambiar de primavera.

Al odio le dejaré
mis herraduras de caballo,
mi camiseta de navío,
mis zapatos de caminante,
mi corazón de carpintero,
todo lo que supe hacer
y lo que me ayudó a sufrir,
lo que tuve de duro y puro,
de indisoluble y emigrante,
para que se aprenda en el mundo
que los que tienen bosque y agua
pueden cortar y navegar,
pueden ir y pueden volver,
pueden padecer y amar,
pueden temer y trabajar,
pueden ser y pueden seguir,
pueden florecer y morir,
pueden ser sencillos y oscuros,
pueden no tener orejas,
pueden aguantar la desdicha,
pueden esperar una flor,
en fin, podemos existir,
aunque no acepten nuestras vidas
unos cuantos hijos de puta.

Fragmentos de Testamento de Otoño del poeta comunista chileno y premio nobel de literatura, Pablo Neruda, cuyo aniversario de muerte se celebra hoy Septiembre 23.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Manual para marchar en paz y llegar feliz

"Varias palmeras solitarias esperaban su fin. Aparecieron unos trabajadores sudorosos y, como diligentes hormigas, cavaron trincheras alrededor de cada árbol hasta desprenderlo del suelo. Los esbeltos árboles aferraban puñados de tierra seca con sus delgadas raíces. Se llevaron las palmeras heridas hasta unos hoyos preparados en otro lugar, y allí las plantaron. Los troncos gimieron sordamente, las hojas se cayeron en hilachas amarillas y por un tiempo parecía que nada podría sacarlas de tanta agonía, pero son criaturas tenaces. Una lenta rebelión subterránea fue extendiendo vida, mezclando los restos de su antigua tierra con el nuevo suelo. En una primavera inevitable amanecieron las palmeras agitando sus pelucas y contorneando la cintura, vivas y renovadas, a pesar de todo." (fragmento - Isabel Allende)

Esos puñados de tierra que llevamos los des-terrados enredados en las raíces son el tipo de cosas de las que hablé en otro post titulado "Identity Care". Mis puñados de tierra son la costumbre de tomar mate por las tardes (y de ahí la necesidad de alguien con quien compartirlo), la manía de tocar 4-40 cuando lavo platos o limpio la casa, la habilidad para hacer el repulgue de las empanadas argentinas, la debilidad por el plátano en tentación y el arroz con guandú y coco panameño, entre muchos otros pedacitos de identidad-tierra, de "cosas bellas", de patria móvil, de hogar portátil.

La tierra propia entre las raíces nos ayuda a crecer nuevas hojas y ramas en un clima y latitud diferente a los que nos son autóctonos. Y los latinos somos, de por sí, eficientes constructores de invernaderos. No nos basta con adaptarnos a un país al que no podemos llamar patria, sino que hacemos lo posible y lo imposible por transformar nuestro nuevo hogar, por hacerlo nuestro, más parecido a casa. Y Miami es, probablemente, el mejor ejemplo. Allende declara que la nostalgia nos pisa los talones y Blades insiste en que todos, tarde o temprano, volvemos a la tierra en que nacimos.

En Miami, convivimos más inmigrantes, desterrados, exiliados, asilados, fugitivos, inconformes, desesperados, aventureros y curiosos hispano-hablantes que gringos que están aquí no por elección, sino por que aquí nacieron. En el año que llevo viviendo en este "melting-pot" de ciudad, he conocido una sola persona que haya nacido aquí. Lo que sí he conocido han sido argentinos, colombianos, cubanos, venezolanos, puertorriqueños, dominicanos, peruanos, brasileros, hondureños, y todo lo demás. Hay algo especial en la manera en que, estando acá todos mezclados y revueltos, vamos aprendiendo a identificarnos como latinos, mas allá de las fronteras y costumbres de nuestros países particulares. Constantemente adoptamos los unos las expresiones y platos de los otros. Si hay algo que aprendí en E.U., y en especial en esta isla de forasteros, fue geografía latinoamericana! Y además, a diferenciar el acento de un Bogotano del de un Barranquillero del de un paisa; el de un hondureño del de un salvadoreño; el de un Mexicano del DF del de uno de Sinaloa de uno de Yucatán. Aprendí que el ceviche peruano no es el mismo que el panameño, y que las empanadas chilenas son de harina de trigo mientras las colombianas son de maíz.; que los Cubanos toman colada y los venezolanos tinto; que los del trópico bailan salsa y los del sur no, pero que todos jugamos fútbol.

En Mi País Inventado, Isabel Allende acierta: "Al comparar aquella experiencia de exilio con mi actual condición de inmigrante, veo cuan diferente es el estado de ánimo. En el primer caso uno sale a la fuerza, ya sea escapando o expulsado, y se siente como una victima a quien le han robado media vida; en el segundo caso uno sale a la aventura, por decisión propia, sintiéndose dueño de nuestro destino. El exiliado mira hacia el pasado, lamiéndose las heridas; el inmigrante mira hacia el futuro, dispuesto a aprovechar las oportunidades a su alcance."

Pienso yo que tanto a exiliados como a emigrantes "la tierra nos duele en medio del alma", como dice Gloria Estefan en aquella canción "Mi Tierra" que suena bailable pero trivial hasta que uno la escucha lejos y con ganas de estar en casa, y tiene que cantarla a voz en grito para no llorar. La razón, entonces, por la que cito ese párrafo es porque, quizás y hasta cierto punto, todos los que vivimos fuera de nuestro país tenemos nuestra porción de desterrados y de inmigrantes. Es cuestión, entonces, de perspectiva, de porcentajes, de puntos de vista, de vasos medio llenos en vez de medio vacíos. En mi opinión, la mejor manera de vivir el presente, aún estando lejos, es adoptar la actitud del que está donde está por decisión propia, del que hace de tripas corazón y aprovecha, del que ve la vida como una aventura. No soy, para nada, partidaria de olvidar el pasado, ni mucho menos de negar los orígenes. De hecho, y si no lo saben, pertenezco a la casta de esos latinos tremendamente orgullosos de serlo, y vivo preocupada por la confusión de identidad (y la perdida del idioma!) de los jóvenes hispanos de segunda generación en E.U. Pero, no se puede negar que, la tierra con la que uno comparte el secreto idioma de la infancia (para citar, también, a Maria Elena Walsh y a Mercedes Sosa) le tira a uno de las entrañas. León Gieco tilda de desahuciado a todo el que tiene que marchar a vivir una cultura diferente, y no se equivoca. Sin embargo, hay que cultivar las raíces, con amor y con lealtad, no con desdicha. Hay que contemplar el pasado más como oportunista que como victima, para que el futuro no se nos venga encima "sin haber hecho lo suficiente."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

All of a sudden, us.

I have this sudden urge
to invade your privacy,
to fill up your days,
to warm up your nights,
de sacarte de quicio,
de que me arranques la ropa,
de verte reír y llorar,
de acompañar tu camino.

I can’t stand not having
your hands on my back
holding me tight
against your body.
No me aguanto las ganas
de mojarme contigo
en la lluvia, en el mar,
en la ducha, en la cama.

Quiero besarte en las noches,
despertarte en las mañanas,
fastidiarte en la madrugada,
hastiarte de tardes soleadas.
I want you to promise,
to build my hopes up,
to disappoint me,
to constantly start all over.

Tengo ganas
de ser la que celas,
la que proteges,
la que mimas.
I’m suddenly craving
to be blindfolded,
to know no other
existence but our own.

Monday, April 23, 2007

No Birds in Cages

Infinite abudance of love.
There is always enough,
and yet there never will.

A boomerang of happiness,
only your beloved's joy
will bring you ease.

Open, clear, peaceful truth.
No bitterness from jealousy.
No guilt from lies.

Deep acceptance and respect.
We honor each other's feelings.
We love ourselves for who we are.

Compromise and commitment,
we don't run away, we face.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

TheVirginia Tech Shootings

Goodness. What the hell is wrong with people, in this country, with Western society, with this world? What is UP with the violence?

I got to work this morning and was greeted by my boss saying "Did you hear about the shootings at Virginia Tech? It's on T.V. There's 22 dead."

You know what came to my mind first? Students protesting the war or something, and getting violent, you know breaking stuff, throwing rocks around. Then the police showing up and confronting them with tear gas and cubs. Then, the logically consecutive man to man fight and agression between students and police, which would, very probably, end up in a dead students.

So I asked: "What? How? Why?" My boss had no answer.

So the second thing that popped in my head was students fighting, you know how that kind of conflict can escalate, and you never know who has a gun and is willing to use it. Maybe gangs.

So I tried to be more elocuent: "What do you mean a shooting? The police or students against students?" "I have no idea."

It wasn't until then that the memory of that documentary about the Columbine High School massacre came to my head. One student armed with a gun killing other students and then killing himself, a pattern that now seems repetitive in this country, and, it seems, no where else, did not come to my mind until the third try!

I think that says a lot about me, and therefore about my background, my culture, my country, all of us ... and about this culture, this country, and all of us here.

Really. I seem to have been in Panama mind set. If someone said in Panama there were 22 students dead at la Universidad, who wouldn't think of el Fer 29 "tirando piedras" protesting something and it getting totally out of the hands of a repressive police force (read antimotines)? So, what does that say about our country? Or about Latinoamerica, for that matter, because I think the scene applies to all of the other Latin countries too? Hell, it even applies to China.

But, then again, given that the scenario is Virgina, U.S.A., and not anywhere else, the first thing that should have come to my mind should have been Columbine, ergo the student shoots others and then kills himself situation. And, what does that say about our country? Yeah, I have, recently, started to talk about the U.S. in the first person. I have lived here for five years now. I finished growing up here. I feel certain social responsibility for what goes on inside these borders, and for what goes on outside these borders because of us. And I am not sitting around about it, by the way. I have become as much of a political/social activist as I have been able to, mind you. But that is besides the point. When will we, this country, figure out that guns are too freaking accessible even if the president supports the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which protects "the right of the people to keep and bear arms," as an individual's right, and not as the right of "el pueblo" to rise to arms to defend itself against the tyranny of an unjust government, or an exteranl invasion. Gun politics in the U.S. are ridiculously bureocratic and are not getting us anywhere despite of the huge rate of gun violence, and possibly because of gun culture, which is so ingrained in American society. When will we realize that the violence inside our borders is not only spilling out to the rest of the world, but running rampant inside?

I am not sure why this Columbine type of thing doesn't happen in Latin America. We are embedded in the same violent media that dehumanizes our children before they can tell right from wrong. Then, what's the differnce? What is the rest of the world doing right, or the U.S. doing so wrong that these kind of thing is becoming so common? Oh, please, if you have any theories - share them! Something's gotta be done in here. Soon.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nostalgia Egoista

Tus recuerdos me asaltan

en el momento más inesperado

del día o de la noche.

Son recuerdos

como nubes dispersas,

como manchas de tinta,

como algodón de azúcar,

como plumas volando,

como un amor incierto,

como una poesía inédita,

como un grito ahogado,

como un beso reprimido

o como una melodía

que nadie se atreve a cantar.

Son la sensación pasada

de tus besos apasionados,

de tus caricias cuidadosas,

de tus palabras enamoradas

que me hacían temblar y reír,

soñar y escribir…

Porque mis pasiones imprudentes

nuca tuvieron control

entre tus brazos,

y mi subconsciente egoísta

pensó qu estarías

siempre ahí para mí.

Written in 2000

Monday, March 26, 2007


Quiero saber qué ha cambiado detrás de tus ojos,

pero tú ya no eres capaz de sostener mi mirada,

de cualquier forma sé que sólo vería

el rostro de ella reflejado en tus ojos,

igual que exala alegría tu sonrisa

cuando ella se digna a mirarte.

Sé que la quieres como jamás me querrás,

como jamás te querré…

sé que la besas como jamás me besaste,

porque yo conozco tus besos, pero no tu amor.

Te atreviste a desearme sin amarme

y alguna vez me dolió,

pero tu temor a desearme, amándola

lastima mi orgullo y me parte el corazón.

Tu anhelo de sus ojos, verdes,

no me quita el aliento,

ni la vida ni el calor,

pero alimenta mis celos, mi orgullo

y mis deseos de posesión.

El ansia de mis besos, cálidos,

no te quita la calma,

ni la cordura, ni la razón,

pero alimenta tu miedo

de nunca alcanzar su amor.

Brillando en tus ojos el reflejo dorado de su cabello,

te imagino corriendo tras sus huellas…

yo no daré ni un paso por llegar a ti.

Así te estrelles contra el muro de su indiferencia

o te hundas en las aguas tibias de su amor…

yo no daré ni un paso por llegar a ti.

¡Grítale a los vientos que la amas!

pero no dejes que ellos soplen martirios en mi corazón

como soplan en las caracolas canciones de amor.

¡Grítale a los vientos que la amas!

pero no permitas que me susurren al oído

pesadillas de tus sueños de hacerle el amor

¡Grítale a los vientos que la amas!

pero prívame por siempre de sentir el fresco viento de verano

soplar en mi rostro anhelos de libertad

¡Grítale a los vientos que la amas!

pero el viento no me arrastrará más a la deriva

como a una hoja seca,

pero el viento no formará más en mi olas

como lo hace sobre el mar.

Con cada respiro, con cada latido,

con cada tic-tac del reloj

me siento apartada,

me siento de más.

Proyecta tu amor por ella

en la luz de la luna,

grábalo en el sonido del mar

¡Grítenle a los cuatro vientos

que se aman,

y déjenme en paz!

Written in 1999

Olor a ti

Esta noche huelo
a tu recuerdo
impregnado en mi piel.

a pasión de besos reprimidos,
a marea, a viento y a sal,
a naranja luna llena.

Esta noche huelo
a necesidad de abrazos
a sueños y a desvelo,
al perfume de tu sonrisa
que colándose en mi mirada
se filtró en mi alma.

Esta noche huelo a ti.

Written February 2001
Edited March 2006
Pictures by Eric @
Parque Omar, Summit, and El Prado,
Panama 2001.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Link to We are the Other People by Oberon Zell Ravenheart

En honor al hecho de que hoy tocaron a mi puerta a las 9:30 de la man'ana dos testigos de jehova encamisados y con sus respectivos maletines to try to shove their guilt and need for redemption down my throath ... y, obviamente, me despertaron de un placido suen'o ... en el que me estaba besando con, ni mas ni menos, que John Stamos .... he decidido hoy compartir el link to:
"We are the other people"
If you have never read this astounding, now classical pagan writing piece, do yourself a favor and give it a shot... maybe next time somebody tries to "evangelize" you, you'll have a come back.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tackling the cliche question: What would you do if you were dying soon?

If I was told that I have a limited time to live, I would live more fully the present. I would forget about all my long term plans. I would not finish college. I would not even think about graduate school, or marriage, or having children. I would not save to buy a better car. I would spend more time with my friends and family. I would go back home. I would spend my time reading, writing, and contemplating nature – the ocean, the forests, and the mountains. I would eat more of my grandmother’s delicious dishes. I would keep on dancing, if I was healthy enough to do it. I would dance and write about living and dying.

I constantly try to live my life intensely, to appreciate each and every moment. Nevertheless, it is a very different thing to try to be grateful and glad for everything you experience, as if it was your last chance, than to know it for sure. It makes you wonder why we push ourselves through so many unpleasant moments for the sake of the future, if the truth is that we could die any moment for the simple reason that we are alive.

Written July 2006

With the certainty of death would surely also come the need for transcendence. I would probably turn unto writing more than ever before in my life. I would probably feel that my words would outlive me. I would thrive in the hope that, although I might be gone, anybody could pick up my writings and still listen to my voice, still share my thoughts, still get to know me. I once read a quote, whose author I have forgotten, that went something like this: “Sharing what we know is as close as we can get to immortality.”

If I had the money to travel, I would certainly try to go to as many places, off that list we all keep of places we would like to visit one day, as possible. I would visit Morocco and the pyramids in Egypt. I would dance in India and in Cuba. I would soak in and absorb Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. I would marvel at Hawaii and Madagascar. If I had the health to do it, I would finally set onto those backpacking trips through Europe and South America I have been postponing since I graduated from high school.

It is difficult to think about what one would do in such a situation without actually feeling the need for doing all those things we are not doing, without feeling like we are wasting our time. Even as I try to imagine what I would do, I am avoiding being fully aware of the fact that, in fact, I could die tomorrow, and so could any of the people I love. Maybe we have to prepare for the long term, with all the sacrifices doing so entails, because it is the only way of pretending that our lives are not as fragile as they truly are.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Make Love not War this Season - a plea for peace

I shall not talk in this essay about any specific political circumstances. I will not argue about the rightness or wrongness of any particular war or battle. I will, instead, state my utmost reject for violence, for the slaughter of human beings by other human beings, for wars anywhere and under any circumstances. For as Erasmus said in the dawn of civilization: “War is delightful only to those who have not experienced it.”

People may think that there are moral justifications for the war on Iraq, for what happened in Vietnam, for World War II. But I believe there is simply no justification for war. Independences have been declared and accepted peacefully before. And non-violent battles, such as that of India against Britain, have also been successful. War is no way of showing who is right and who is wrong, only who is left. For nobody can convince anybody that those who win the wars are always the “good guys.” There are those who believe war is a fair punishment for those who somehow “deserve it”, or a good stratagem for revenge. I, on the other hand, agree with Thomas Jefferson: “war is as much a punishment to the punisher as it is to the sufferer” – ask the mothers of the soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

Unbelievably, at least to me, there is people who think war is, sometimes, the only way to peace. But, as A.J Muste stated, “there is no way to peace, peace is the way.” Even Albert Einstein assured us of an undeniable truth: “You cannot simultaneously prepare for and prevent war.” A poster I once saw sated: “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.” It cracked me up, but I also nodded in wholehearted agreement. War is no solution, it only brings on more trauma – hate only provokes a vicious cycle of hate. Nobody ever put it as straight forward as Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Where do our personal, religious, and moral values stand? Don’t at least most followers of the three big monotheist religions believe in “Thou shall not kill”? “Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarreled with him?”, said Blaise Pascal. Risking being morbidly radical, I will quote Abbie Hoffman: “I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed there would be no more war.”

The atrocities of war, especially in this nuclear era, should not even be a possibility in this time of “civilized” peoples and conscious evolution. Ever heard that slogan: War is Terrorism with a bigger budget? If you ever saw your city burst in flames under the bombing aircrafts, if you ever saw images of the Holocaust or from Hiroshima, you must agree. Plus, aren’t there so many better things we could be investing our resources in instead of waging war on each other? (How about the one that went: Buy books not bombs?) Wouldn’t it be better to try to find a cure for AIDS, or a solution for hunger and starvation? Dwight Eisenhower said it loud and clear: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed—those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone—it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

Written in July 2006

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The fucking endless politiqueria about the war in Iraq

Yesterday peace won another victory. The resolution against the escalation in Iraq was passed by the House! Today we wait to see if the Senate will take a stand on it too.

Nevertheless, I saw the transcripts and read what what my representative said. He was completely for the war. So I sent him a letter. Here's for your amusement:

I agree that we should ask ourselves what this means to us personally, our families and our neighbors, what this means to the future generations. The only way to establish a secure and lasting peace is through peace, not war. What this war is causing is precisely a much more insecure future for the next generations, it is only destabilizing Iraq more and throwing them further into a civil war, it is only creating future jihadists in the children who now resent the U.S. because of the war, and the invasion, and the friends and family who are now dead.

You must keep in mind that the 9/11 attack, and all other similar attacks around the world (madrid and london, for example) were not perpetrated by any of the nations you mentioned in your speech. They were perpretated by terrorists who hold an irrational hate for our country in their hearts. Those are the people we are emboldening through war. Islamic jihadists are currently emboldened in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the greater Middle East because of the many deaths this war causes daily. How much more hate will be brought upon us by deploying more troops to another foreign sovereign nation! We are bringing upon us further attacks, we are building "a hellish nightmare" with our intrusions, we are teasing the fire of their hate, we are condemning ourselves to untold numbers of "horrors never imagined by the most creative writers of horror fiction", by waging war in Iraq.

Precisely because I am concerned about the next generation, I ask you to please consider the possibility that this war will not bring us peace in the future, but only fuel the hate of the terrorists who attack us. Waging endless war against certain countries, only because a war against terrorism is an impossibility as it is not a nation, and has no territory, and no citizens, will not solve the problem. We must dig down deep into the roots of the issue, AND STOP GIVING THEM REASONS TO HATE US!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Before and after La Ruta Quetzal

I was a confident girl during my early teenage years, but after participating in La Ruta Quetzal, I felt like wonder woman. I lived in a tent for two months, camping through Central America and Spain with another couple hundred teenagers. We faced challenges and climbed mountains. We passed tests, kayaked down roaring rivers, and flew across the jungle’s canopy. We were left without lunch or dinner for punishment. We enjoyed fruit for rewards. We washed ourselves and our clothes in oceans and rivers. We suffered endless nights in wet sleeping bags at bellow freezing temperatures on top of mountains; and during the days, we collapsed of dehydration hiking for hours down endless trails. In a very Survivor style, cameras followed us: the ones that gave up and left crying, and the ones that held on.

When you reach the top of a mountain, after many hours of climbing and hiking, and see both views (the one you left behind and the other side), you earn your right to touch the clouds. You feel that if a mountain cannot stop you, nothing can. Before La Ruta, I used to give up before trying many things, especially those that were physically challenging. After La Ruta, I thought back to those days and said: “If I could do that, why couldn’t I do this.”

When you share treasures like a piece of bread when you have not eaten in a day (a day full of physical activities, that is,) or a chocolate bar when all you have been eating is rice and beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week, you understand the true meaning of communality. Before La Ruta, I thought I had shared a lot with my friends. But in La Ruta, I made friends to whom I will never be able to repay the favors, the hugs during chilly nights, the support when you feel like the altitude will not longer let you breath, the voices that accompanied you with songs that somehow made it possible for us to keep on walking.

When you know how much a scorpion bite hurts, when you know how fast your heart can really pound, when you know how many days you can go without bathing, you understand how trivial and unnecessary TV is. On the other hand, when you have to eat mud and bugs with your food in the dark, and constantly use latrines or take long walks away from the camp site to take a shit and then bury it, you appreciate the toilets and the refrigerators.

I was about to give up many times throughout those weeks. I did not comprehend how much I would have regretted giving up, until the months went by and I was able to look back at the experience and feel so proud of all I learned and everything i experienced during those weeks. More than changing my life, La Ruta changed the way I look at life, at challenges, at the opportunities we run into, at the blessings we often take for granted.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Legalize It! (seriously)

The current legal approach to marijuana, that is criminalization and prohibition, has proven ineffective in making it unavailable, or reducing its consumption. In fact, the overall rate of marijuana use in the U.S. has risen by roughly 4,000% since marijuana was first outlawed in 1937.* On the other hand, the illegal marijuana market has brought about many other problems. I do not support full legalization, but rather a legal regulation of its production and distribution, and a definite decriminalization of its consumption. “Decriminalization” involves the removal of criminal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use. Marijuana is presently decriminalized in 11 states: California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon. That doesn’t mean it’s legal: small fines (somewhat similarly to speeding tickets) are issued, but there is no arrest, incarceration, or criminal record. I call that a step forward! Just to start with, decriminalization saves a tremendous amount in enforcement costs. It is estimated that California saves $100 million per year since marijuana was decriminalized. (Aldrich, Michael, Ph.D., and Mikuriya, Tod, M.D., “Savings in California Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs Attributable to the Moscone Act of 1976 — A Summary,” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 0(1), Jan.–March 1988; pp. 75-81.)

Truth Be Told

A report from the Institute of Science’s Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Health, titled Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, helps clear up many of the common misbelieves regarding the use of marijuana. The first of them is the belief that it causes a dangerous addiction. Here’s a table straight from the document:

Drug Category: Proportion of users that ever became addicted
Tobacco/Nicotine: 32%
Alcohol: 15%
Marijuana (including hashish): 9%
Cocaine: 17%
Heroine: 23%

"In summary, although few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs." [p. 98]

Another common belief is that smoking marihuana can cause cancer or other health problems, such as “amotivational syndrome” (lazyness or slowness in plain English.) Here is what the report states:
"There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes cancer in humans, including cancers usually related to tobacco use."[p. 119]
"Epidemiological data indicate that in the general population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality." [p. 109]
"Earlier studies purporting to show structural changes in the brains of heavy marijuana users have not been replicated with more sophisticated techniques." [p. 106]

Now, take a look a this table and explain to me why is alcohol legal and not marijuana?

The Gateway Theory

Probably the most common misbelieve regarding marihuana is that it leads consumers to use other drugs. Who hasn’t ever heard their parents state truly concerned: You start with marijuana, and in a blink of the eye you will be involved with much harder drugs!

The truth is, in the Netherlands, where adults have been allowed to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana since 1976, the use of marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines is far lower than in the U.S.* An article titled Two New Studies Show Marijuana Is Not a 'Gateway' to Harder Drugs published in the Chicago Sun-Times on December 24, 2006, explained the results of a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in which researchers from the University of Pittsburgh tracked the drug use patterns of 224 boys, starting at age 10 to 12 and ending at age 22. Some of the boys followed the traditional gateway paradigm, starting with tobacco or alcohol and moving on to marijuana, but some reversed the pattern, starting with marijuana first. And some never progressed from one substance to another at all. When they looked at the detailed data on these kids, the researchers found that the gateway theory simply didn't hold; environmental factors such as neighborhood characteristics played a much larger role on which drug the boys happened to use first. Researchers in Brisbane, Australia, and St. Louis reached much the same conclusion in a larger and more complex study. The research involved more than 4,000 Australian twins whose use of marijuana and other drugs was followed in detail from adolescence into adulthood, allowing for both social, genetic predisposition, and gateway theories to be put to the test. The data did not show that marijuana causes use of other drugs, although it indicated that the same factors that make people likely to try marijuana also make them likely to try other substances. The researchers added that any gateway effect that does exist is "more likely to be social than pharmacological," occurring because marijuana "introduces users to an unlawful provider who eventually becomes the source for other illicit drugs.” “In other words”, Bruce Mirken, the author of the article, concludes, “the gateway isn't marijuana; it's laws that put marijuana into the same criminal underground with speed and heroin.”

Teenage Usage

Research data shows that it is a myth that making marijuana illegal for adults will keep teenagers from using it. On the contrary, regulation would reduce teen access to marijuana by taking it off the streets and putting it in the hands of licensed businesses, which would lose their licenses if they sold to kids. The reality is that 85% of U.S. high school seniors qualify marihuana as “easy to get.” (Monitoring the Future, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 2005.) Anybody who’s been a minor in the U.S. knows that cigarettes and alcohol are very difficult to obtain for teenagers, because everyone, from gas stations to bars, will ask you for an I.D. if you look the slightest bit underage. But clandestine sellers of marihuana don’t card their costumers! According to the White House, more than half of U.S. teens try marijuana before graduating from high school. In the Netherlands, where marijuana is sold in indoor establishments to adults who are carded for age, only 28% of teenagers have ever tried it.* Furthermore, in the Netherlands, only 9% of secondary school students actually use marijuana; while in the U.S., recent government estimates have ranged as high as 22% U.S. (Trimbos Institute, National Drug Monitor, Annual Report NDM 2004, p. 13.) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2003,” Table 28, May 21, 2004.)

Another issue that often concerns parents is that legally regulating marijuana would cause a surge in violence. Nevertheless, the fact is marijuana use does not stimulate violent or aggressive behavior (Peter N.S. Hoaken and Sherry H. Stewart, “Drugs of abuse and the elicitation of human aggressive behavior,” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 28, p. 1533-54, 2003.) But the prohibition of marijuana increases violence by giving criminals and gangs a monopoly on marijuana sales. The liquor trade, for example, was filled with black market violence and irregularities during Prohibition, but that violence ended as soon as alcohol was legalized.

Do It for the Economy

A report released recently by Jon Gettman, a marijuana public policy analyst, contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.* Additionally, if the marijuana trade was legalized, billions of dollars that now enrich criminals would instead go to legitimate businesses, and marijuana itself would be taxed. Each year, the government spends $7.7 billion to arrest and lock up nonviolent marijuana users. Taxing marijuana would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year, instead of generating profits for drug dealers. (Miron, Jeffrey A., The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, December 2004.)

It’s a Waste

Police officers now make more than 771,000 marijuana arrests per year, almost 90% of which are for possession, not production or distribution. In fact, there are more arrests due to marijuana than for all violent crimes combined! (Uniform Crime Reports, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2004.) Honestly, I do not think anybody should have to go to jail for lighting a joint! I also don’t think that cultivating even one marijuana plant should be considered a federal felony, or that the police should be able to give out Driving Under the Influence tickets based on urine tests that could throw positive results even weeks after the consumption of marijuana. It would be like handing out a D.I.U. to someone who is driving Thursdays and had a bottle of wine Saturday night! There are no longer effects on the person’s driving abilities. This policy needs to be rewritten.

Medicines are drugs are medicine – Prescribed Marijuana

Prior to 1937, at least 27 medicines containing marijuana were legally available in the United States. On March 17, 1999, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “there are some limited circumstances in which we recommend smoking marijuana for medical uses.” The IOM report, the result of two years of research that was funded by the White House drug policy office, analyzed all existing data on marijuana's therapeutic uses. So much for those who say that there is no real proof that marijuana has medicinal powers! Here’re some of its uses:

  • Relief from nausea and appetite loss (which is why doctor’s prescribe it to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, as well as AIDS patients)
  • Reduction of intraocular pressure (which is why it alleviates the pain and slows down the damage caused by glaucoma)
  • Reduction of muscle spasms (which is why I use it to magically heal my menstrual cramps, and why it's also a viable treatment for multiple sclerosis and epilepsy)
  • Relief from chronic pain.

Each of these applications has been deemed legitimate by at least one court, legislature, and/or government agency in the U.S. But many patients report that marijuana is also useful for treating arthritis, migraine, alcohol and opiate addiction, and depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.*

Cannabis sativa L was classifieds in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug, right there with heroin and LSD. This defines it as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. As I hope you are realizing while reading this, if you don’t already know it, this definition simply does not apply to marijuana.

In 1972, a petition was submitted to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — to move marijuana to Schedule II, which would allow doctors to prescribe it to their patients. After 16 years of court battles, the DEA's chief administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, ruled: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known… The provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance. (September 6, 1988)” Nevertheless, top DEA bureaucrats rejected Judge Young's ruling and refused to reschedule marijuana.

Since 1996, a majority of voters in 10 states have voted in favor of ballot initiatives to remove criminal penalties for seriously ill people who grow or possess medical marijuana. Polls have shown that public approval of these laws has increased since they went into effect. Nevertheless, patients in these states can and are still being federally prosecuted for consuming marijuana. Nowadays, many people are pushing for Congress to force the DEA to place marihuana in schedule II. Actually, a national poll released November 1, 2005, found that 78% of Americans support “making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering.” In fact, for over a decade, polls have consistently shown between 60% and 80% support for legal access to medical marijuana. Some of the organizations that support some form of physician supervised access to medical marijuana include the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association.* Furthermore, a 1990 scientific survey of oncologists found that 54% of those with an opinion favored the controlled medical availability of marijuana and 44% had already suggested at least once that a patient obtain marijuana illegally. (R. Doblin & M. Kleiman, “Marijuana as Antiemetic Medicine,” Journal of Clinical Oncology 9. 1991: 1314-1319.)The fact is, currently doctors can prescribe cocaine but not marijuana, and many patients would choose to be treated with medical marihuana instead of other much more addictive drugs, such as morphine, if given the legal choice.

The “Except 7 People Myth”

Did you ever hear that the federal law allows only 7 people in the U.S. to use medicinal marihuana? It’s not an urban myth. In 1975, Robert Randall, who suffered from glaucoma, was arrested for cultivating his own marijuana. He won his case by using the “medical necessity defense,” forcing the government to find a way to provide him with his medicine. As a result, the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access program was established, enabling some patients to receive marijuana from the government. The program was grossly inadequate at helping the potentially millions of people who need medical marijuana. Many patients would never consider the idea that an illegal drug might be their best medicine, and most who were fortunate enough to discover marijuana's medicinal value did not discover the IND program. Those who did often could not find doctors willing to take on the program's arduous, bureaucratic requirements. In 1992, in response to a flood of new applications from AIDS patients, the George H.W. Bush administration closed the program to new applicants, and pleas to reopen it were ignored by subsequent administrations. The IND program remains in operation only for the seven surviving, previously-approved patients.*

Stand up for your rights

So we have economic, medical, family, and community reasons, besides, of course, freedom of choice and religious liberty, to legally regulate the use of pot, weed, ganja, whatever you want to call it. Furthermore, Marijuana prohibition subjects those of us who choose to use it to added and unnecessary health hazards, such as adulterants, contaminants, and impurities. Marijuana purchased through criminal markets is not subject to the same quality control standards as are legal consumer goods. Illicit marijuana may be adulterated with much more damaging substances; contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; and/or infected with molds, fungi, or bacteria… and we would never know it! By making the laws that illegalized marijuana obsolete, we would be eliminating from the root a whole gigantic chain of social problems: from the illicit farms who employ illegal immigrants under inhuman conditions; to the unlawful import of non-regulated marijuana; including medical conditions affecting innocent people who are forced to, at best, recur to illegal marihuana sources; all the way to common underage consumption, black market violence, and waste of tax-payers money and police resources. Will you take a stand?