"RATEGAN DOES PERU" PITCHING SENDERO
The priest has sent him there, with Carlos and Kawasaki boy, to a community meeting of Sendero, to make his case.
It is late evening and the light from the meeting hall falls out into the street, where babies, young kids, cats and dogs play and sniffle.Rategan walks past, and looking in, sees a small man in mid-speech looking out above the heads of about twenty villagers.He is waved in, expected.He waits.The leader finishes, the crowd shouts -
“Viva la revolucion.Viva Commandante Guzman.”
A numbers of girls and kids and women scream the slogans, so it’s high, ear-piercing, incantatory.
When his turn comes it is an exercise in polite democratic discourse.He introduces himself, thanks them, acknowledges their courtesy, always showing respect.Everyone knows their history.The Indians of Andean and Amazonian America have been treated like non-people for centuries.Less than fully human.Nobody has ever cared what they think, as long as they don’t think.Beasts of Labour.He acknowledges the difficulties they face.Poverty, racism, exclusion.He acknowledges the brutality of Imperialism and Colonialism.Carlos softly translates.In the low electrical light, their attention grows, staring at him, the intensity palpable, their reaction unreadable.
He describes Canada as a different place, a more prosperous place, a safe and fair nation where workers have rights and farmers’ free organizations with recourse to laws that protect their livelihoods.He loves doing this sort of thing for the country that took him in from apartheid South Africa, a place so twisted and violent.He speaks about free media, how Canadians are interested in far-off places and their stories.He talks about how some young Canadians inhale cocaine and how much damage it does.He talks about how they have a right to grow what they can to feed themselves on their own lands.Their attention is now absolute, and while the atmosphere warms, this crowd is still not for moving.In other similar situations pitching for access around the world, the people believe that they can have this: that something like the Canadian dream is accessible to them.And they let you in.But here, these folks have been torn from connection, severed by lethal oppression.
Nonetheless he concludes by explaining his project with the camera crew, how he wants to get the opinion of the local people and tell the truth about Coca.The truth, for them.Sitting behind him are three of them, community representatives, who, he has been advised, are Sendero commanders, though it is forbidden to say so.And then he is done.A youth leader, a young woman in khakis who is tiny and fervent thanks him.
“Viva la Revoluçion.Vive Commandante Guzman.”, and everyone dissolves into the night, down an alley lit by a single spluttering lamp.
As they walk back to the priest’s house, the moon reflects off rain puddles on the dirt track, shining.Sendero.Luminoso.He loves the sound of it.And the idea.A shining, moonlit path in the darkness, the only road to salvation.Back to Homepage