His Name Was Manuel

Dexter
Photo credit: Evelis Santos

Dexter , the series and the character, were based on a real person, Manuel Pardo, an ex-Miami police officer. who was executed in Florida last week. Pardo shared a lot of similarities with Dexter. Both were cops for the Miami police department, and both killed “bad guys” –though Dexter killed killers, while Pardo killed drug dealers. Both kept pictures of their victims, Dexter in his computer and Pardo kept polaroids. Both were exceptional family men and fathers.

But why make the character American with an American name? Would audiences not relate to a Hispanic name? They should, it’s about time. Hispanics are an ever-growing share of the population –they practically chose the current president– so the producers could have done America a  favor by introducing a major character in a TV show who would look like many of the people in their audience, or someone they know.

The story could have delved on the war on drugs, on the weight of power over conscience, on racial relations in South Florida. In short it could’ve explored the war on drugs, offering insight into something that is tremendously important for US domestic and foreign policy, a topic most Americans don’t know much about. So think a mix of Breaking Bad, Dexter and Cocaine Cowboys that could provide a service to its audience.

The fact that the producers anglified the main character is boring, predictable and lamentable. It makes a similar mistake as does The Impossible, the movie about the 2004 South Asian tsunami that anglifies and appropriates the stories and tragedies of hundreds of thousands of Asians.

Not only that, but how pressing is it, really, to “understand” serial killers? Aside from our gory fascination with them, what are the odds you’ll run into one in your lifetime? What are the odds that any of the often fantastical material presented in Dexter as somewhat realistic drama will be relevant to your life? Whereas, drugs and the War on them are very relevant –to some people more than others, but definitely higher up the list of priorities than “serial killers” to most of us. Drugs, the mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos, the international drug trade, are all issues worthy of discussion in the US and its neighboring countries. It’s a wasted opportunity to make entertainment that is valuable and that rises above the triteness of entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Similar to the wasted opportunity of having shows about Arab Americans that are true to life, or teaching Arab in schools. It’s the wasted opportunity of having the entertainment-news-media industry cover the Middle East in a more nuanced way so that once we hear about an Arab Spring we’re not left with no idea of what’s going on, or when Islamist extremists attack the US we are not left wondering why “they hate us for our freedom.” A similar service could be provided in regards to those Americans white America doesn’t know much or care about.

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Farm workers prepare for hurricane threat

Source: 

PIERSON, Fla. — Wednesday, November 23, 2011 — When the Atlantic hurricane season ends on Nov. 30, the farm workers of Pierson, Fla., will have more than one reason to celebrate.

Not only did the hurricanes stay away this year. Last month, farm workers opened a Community Disaster Center in Pierson to prepare for the next devastating storm, whenever it comes.

The center provides roughly 350 square feet of space to store emergency supplies such as food and medicine in a local office of the Florida Farm Workers Association. Church World Service funded the project after a series of devastating storms in 2004 and 2005.

Organizers of the project say that their biggest challenge was overcoming local opposition. Pierson is in a rural area that primarily grows ornamental ferns, and while the fern cutters are predominantly Hispanic, most of their employers and local government officials are not.

In 2004, Hurricane Frances revealed the tensions between these communities. The storm caused widespread damage to homes and power lines, and many farm workers relied on hot meals from relief agencies in the weeks that followed.

However, the town of Pierson ordered relief agencies to leave ahead of schedule to encourage fern cutters to return to work, according to newspaper accounts. This convinced the farm workers that they needed to be better prepared for disasters, according to Roberta Perry, a state organizer for the National Farm Worker Ministry.

“It was just sort of a community discussion — if we could take care of ourselves it would be better,” Perry recalls.

Perry helped the farm workers apply for funds to build the Community Disaster Center, and CWS provided them with $31,000 in 2007.

But more difficulties lay ahead. For several years, the Florida Farm Workers Association was unable to obtain a building permit from the Pierson Town Council. Although Pierson has fewer than 3,000 people, the council raised concerns that the building would create excessive traffic and demand for parking.

The council was often unable to vote on the issue because not enough members showed up for a meeting, Perry recalls. Church groups and representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union began attending council meetings to support the building permit application.

Marcos Crisanto, a local coordinator for the Florida Farm Workers Association, says he found the town’s reluctance to issue a permit perplexing.

“It could be because of discrimination, it could be because of racism, I don’t know,” he said.

In 2010, the association finally obtained a permit to build the disaster center as an addition to their existing office, instead of as a separate building. It was a partial victory — but a victory nonetheless.

On Oct. 23, 2011, the association celebrated the completion of the Community Disaster Center with food, children’s dances and a blessing of dedication.

Joann Hale, a CWS Emergency Response Specialist, attended the event. She says that the project is a great example of how CWS helps communities prepare for emergencies.

“We give our money to communities so they can empower themselves and stand on their own two feet and take care of themselves after a disaster,” Hale says.

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Contact:

Jan Dragin, jdragin@gis.net

El Tren al Tibet

Las montañas peladas, los trozos de troncos, el trance barato reventando los celulares. Estos son los paisajes que definen ahora las areas tibetanas, gracias al famoso tren de Beijing a Lhasa.

Pero esta no es la única versión de los hechos. El gobierno chino le encanta esparcir la narrativa de que está llevando la “civilización” a las minorías (y ni que fuera nuevo el concepto).

Esta, por ejemplo, es una de las imagenes de una presentación de Power Point que recibí hace poco, junto con su pie de foto.

Yaks pastando pacíficamente mientras el tren pasa a toda velocidad.

“De acuerdo con mi guía tibetano de turismo, cuando estuve en Lhasa, me dijo que la economía del Tíbet nunca había sido suficiente para proporcionar un nivel razonablemente suficiente. Cada año, el Tíbet sufría de una insuficiencia presupuestal grave y por ello solicitaba un fuerte subsidio con fondos federales. Gracias al proyecto, el desarrollo y la prosperidad han llegado finalmente a estas lejanas tierras. Ya se pueden ver kilómetros y kilómetros de impresionantes carreteras, puentes, ferrocarriles y otras obras de infraestructura.”

En junio del 2011, viajé con unos amigos por la provincia de Sichuan, donde se encuentran muchas tribus tibetanas. Conocimos muchos tibetanos a los que no les gusta para nada ese tren porque ellos vivian muy bien y muy tranquilos sin que se les metiera la “civilización” y el desarrollo a la casa. “Desarrollo” en este caso significa tienduchas llenas de cachivaches estilo San Andresito donde antes había monasterios. Significa basura, gasto empedernido e innecesario, música electrónica basura en bares baratos, prostitución y alcoholismo donde antes había sociedades nomadas, su estilo de vida desde hace miles de años.

De cierta manera, y esto ni siquiera es mío, el gobierno chino instaló estos trenes para llevar chinos de la etnia Han — que son la mayoria, los del gobierno y las ciudades grandes como Beijing o Shanghai — a estos lugares donde viven las minorías, y así después poder reclamar que son mayoría en esas areas, y poder cambiar las leyes y las costumbres y las tradiciones unilateralmente y virtualmente sin oposición.

De todas maneras China sigue siendo un sistema de un solo partido, y esta hegemonía Han amante de lo occidental y del “progreso” no tiene chance de ser detenida a tiempo.

Las vistas son hermosas pero no lo serán por mucho tiempo, ya que el tren también está para transportar madera, materiales de construcción y agua desde el Tibet hasta las costas del este, donde está la “civilización”, donde los recursos ya son escasos y la demanda no cesa.

Homeless Without Healthcare

 

Homeless people suffer illnesses and accidents at a rate far higher than the rest of the population. This is not only another of their challenges — it can be a contributing factor in putting them into homelessness in the first place.

This photo story was taken in Gainesville, Fla., for an Advanced Photojournalism class at the University of Florida.