Magazine article New Internationalist

(Various Artists. the Spirit Cries: Music from the Rainforests of South America & the Caribbean)

Magazine article New Internationalist

(Various Artists. the Spirit Cries: Music from the Rainforests of South America & the Caribbean)

Article excerpt

CHILEANS discovered during the years of dictatorship that something had changed their lives. It wasn't only the misery, the dictatorship, the terror. It was the climate. Chile is one of the main victims of the hole in the ozone layer. Across a large swathe of Chilean territory, in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, most of the animals are now blind. You have to go out with sun glasses during the day because of the intensity of ultraviolet light. All the southern forests between Santiago and Puerto Montt -- that's 1,000 kilometres -- were disappearing. The Japanese had taken the wood for the paper industry. The desert was growing and Chileans wondered why. The Left had no answer. They just said: "First we must take power, and then we'll do this, that or the other". But many people demanded an answer.

I belong to a generation of Latin Americans that has suffered many political reverses and so has had to mature a little, to reach some new understanding. We never wanted to admit there was a problem with the environment, even though it was there in front of our eyes. We thought dogmatically, with a fundamentalist interpretation of Marxism, which prevented us from seeing anything else.

Then we came to know the experience of exile. We had the chance to visit the socialist countries and to discover that they were a complete farce, a cockup from beginning to end. The first thing you noticed was the terrible, incredible degradation of the environment -- East Germany, Czechoslovakia, even Cuba, all the same.

This made me think. I became preoccupied with what I call the recovery of ecological dignity. I began to say: "I seek, as a citizen of any country, Colombia, Chile or Peru, to establish at least a minimal harmony between the place where I live and what I am".

Now in countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Chile ecological movements are small but strong. Until the 1970s we remained completely ignorant of indigenous peoples. We assumed that the entire continent spoke Spanish. To the north was the United States, and in between... well there were a few Indians, but they didn't matter. We didn't have the faintest idea that the majority of the people of Latin America are indigenous peoples. They couldn't associate with "communism" because they lived it already, practised it every day. A view through the lens of ecologytransformed our way of seeing the world.

But my books do not carry an ecological "message". My preoccupations are literary. Here I speak not just for myself but for a current of new Latin American writers. We feel that readers around the world have become a bit tired of the so - called magic realist "boom" (with Gabriel Garcie Marquez at its head) and its offspring. …

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