Sunday, October 29, 2006

Favourite Quote in Buenos Aires

Johanna:"Argentines dress so horribly Danielle...Its so bad...I wanted to be an Argentine for halloween."
(She decided not to in order not to scare the animals and the kids)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Guatemalan Hospitality--you just can't beat it

When I went to Roatan, Honduras, I decided to take a glass bottom boat tour at one of the beaches in West End. Sitting beside me, was a man from Guatemala so I introduced myself to him. His name was Jose Luis and he introduced his family to me: his wife, Luz Maria and their two children.
We spoke for a really long time and they told me to write them if I decided to go to Guatemala so they could show me around and recommended a cheap hostel where I could stay. When I got back to Nicaragua, I wrote to Jose Luis and we corresponded for about a week until I headed to Costa Rica.
After my time in Costa Rica, I was considering a trip to Guatemala for a few days and decided to take up his offer so last week I wrote the following to Jose Luis:

"Hi Jose Luis and Luz Maria, I'm heading to Guatemala on Tuesday, could you please recommend a place to stay. I look forward to seeing you and the kids again. Danielle
P.S Will send the picture I took of you all soon..."

This is the response I received two days later:
Esta es la esposa de Jose Luis no la puta de Luz Maria
que andaba con el en Roatan. Desafortunadamente no te
puede recomendar ni mierda porque al hijo de puta no
se lo permito. No vuelvas a comunicarte con el y mejor
si ni vienes a Guatemala.

Translation: "This is Jose Luis' wife and not that slut Luz Maria who was with him in Roatan. Unfortunately, he can't recommend you sh*t because I won't allow the son of a bitch to do so. Don't write to him again and at best, don't bother coming to Guatemala."

Say it with me folks: WWWOOOOWWWWWWW!
Can you believe that this guy was on a rendezvous with his lover and ..well I don't know whose kids they were in Roatan, Honduras! But can't you just hear his wife saying all that to me in a stereotypical African-American accent: This is Jose Luis wife and not that HO Luz Maria... and he can't recommend Sh******T and if you come to Guatemala I'll skin yo ass like I skinned dat catfish last night(snap, snap, head bop head bop snap).

Thank God I didn't actually attach the picture in the email.

On second thought, I'm actually grateful to her for writing because can you imagine if I had actually gone to his house and been like "here's the picture of us in Roatan and where's Luz Maria?" because well...Yep, that would've been the end of the Long-Legged-Short-Torso Diaries and I guess you'ld all be saying "Its a shame what happened to Danielle in Guatemala..."

Yes Wangechi, I know what you're thinking after reading this post:
"What is wrong with these Jamaicans, who writes snap, snap head bop snap...Is this a dance?"

Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast: The 'Other' side of Nicaragua

Political humour emerges from the specific historical and cultural nuances of any country; Nicaragua is no exception to the rule. I have decided to write about the Atlantic side to contextualise my forthcoming post which will outline my own conclusions and analysis of political humour in Nicaragua as I prepare to move on to my next country, Argentina.

A summary of the Caribbean coast, the 'other'side of Nicaragua:

So since the day I got here, everyone has asked me 'sos de Bluefields' "are you from Bluefields?" or from the "Caribbean/Atlantic side" of Nicaragua. This was initially confusing until I actually met people from the Atlantic side of Nicaragua who look, talk, eat Jamaican food and sound almost exactly like me.

Nicaragua is divided into two parts: the Pacific side and the Atlantic side: The Pacific side was colonised by the Spanish and the Atlantic side was colonised by the British. Hence, on the Pacific side, they speak Spanish and on the Atlantic side they speak English..well sort of-They speak Jamaican English to be exact and most of the time its not actually Jamaican english, its Jamaican dialect. The blacks who migrated to the Atlantic side: Bluefields, Puerto Cabeza, Ramas, Corn Island, Monkey Point etc were from Jamaica and New Orleans.
While the Pacific side is 100 percent spanish speaking, and 96% mestizo--mostly catholic, the coast is a totally different world. The coast has an interesting mix of indigenous (Miskito), Black and Spanish--6 different ethnic groups and 4 different languages-- who are living NOT so happily together. While the Spanish practically anihalated the indigenous people on the Pacific side, the British decided to use the indigenous people (the ones that escaped the massacres)to implement colonisation. They did not directly colonise the Atlantic side, instead they gave the indigenous people arms to control the territory until 1894 when the Nicaragua military-with the support of the U.S government, invaded the coast. Needless to say, the divide and conquer methodology of the British during colonisation was the starting point of the division among the people living on the Atlantic side that exists today.

The conflicts between the two colonisers set the foundation for the power struggle between the Pacific side and the Atlantic side.
It is this power struggle that explains the political, economic and social inequality that exists between the two regions. For instance, although up to 60 percent of goods produced in Nicaragua comes from the Atlantic coast and the coast comprises 57% of the National territory, it is still the poorest and least developed part of Nicaragua. There is no running water/portable water on the Atlantic side, every house has a well, they have pit toilets instead of bathrooms inside the houses, it has the highest rate of unemployment and the highest percentage of drug abuse in the country. The fact that packages of Crack and Cocaine wash up on the shores of Bluefields and Corn Island almost every day explains the rampant drug abuse on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua.

Travel to the Atlantic side of the country is incredibly difficult (at least a day by bus and the highway is broken down) and expensive (about 100 U.S dollars roundtrip by plane from Managua to the coast). Perhaps the complete rejection of Caribbean roots and cultures as part of the Nicaraguan identity is personified by the fact that while bilingual education has been introduced on the Atlantic side so they all speak spanish, people on the pacific side don't learn english. Nicaragua does not officially recognise itself as a multilingual country. While it does seek to integrate the Atlantic side and it has granted the region a certain level of autonomy (which exists in theory but not in practice) the absolute neglect and lack of investment in the region that accompany the indiscriminate exploitation of the region's resources reflects an institutionalisation of the Nicaraguan identity as the Pacific identity. The power struggle plays out in all levels of society including the government with few people from the Atlantic coast in power. It is our hope that with some more time, and maybe a change in government that this will change.

For information of the Atlantic coast in english see the following links:

Afterthought: Doesn't this sound like the U.S relationship with Puerto Rico and Mexico? hmmmm...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What does political humour mean in a political campaign

Una campaña electoral es un guión y el candidato es el personaje principal. Una campaña es como una obra de teatro y el candidato es como un producto entonces el humor es pues…una estrategia.
An electoral campaign is a script and the candidate is the main character. A campaign is like a theatre production and the candidate is like a product so I guess, humor is well...a strategy.
Giovanni Bulgarelli--Costa Rican advertiser

Political Humour: friend or foe in Costa Rica and Nicaragua

The use of political humour in political campaigns in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica is testimony as to how political humor functions as a means of connecting with the people. Cristian and Giovanni Bulgarelli are Costa Rican brothers who work in advertising and for the last few years have used humour in political campaigns both in Costa Rica and in Nicaragua. Their most memorable work is their work with the Otton Solís of PAC (Partido Acción Ciudadana) campaign against the popular presidential candidate and winner of a noble peace prize, Oscar Arias. Initially, there was no doubt that Arias would win as he had been in power for many years and had 80 percent of the country's support three months before the election. The first thing that Cristian and Giovanni did was to challenge the perception that Arias would be sure victor and there was no competition. So they presented a boxing match between Oscar and Otton (yes I'm on a first name basis with them) with Otton pummeling Oscar and ending each advertisement with: Are you sure Oscar is going to win? (Then the symbol of Otton Solis) Vote/Rock the vote! Soon after this they presented cartoons of Oscar reading the publication of Otton's party in his bedroom or in the shower or in his kitchen. Their campaign became popular in only a matter of days and soon the polls were listing Otton Solis as an equally popular candidate.

Perhaps the most compelling advertisements in the Otton Solis campaign were those that dealt with gender and race. Costa Rica was shocked when Otton Solis listed Epsy Campbell, a dark-skinned, woman from Limon (the African Atlantic side of Costa Rica) as his would be vice-president. The party was of the view that given that women make up over half of the population and that there is a distinct need to connect with the people of Jamaican and African descent living on the Atlantic/Caribbean coast, the party and the electoral campaign must cater to their needs and their voices must be heard. They therefore referred to their party in the campaign as the "gobierno de las madres" (government of the mothers) to demonstrate the importance of the female vote and that the party had poor, single mother's interest at heart. To demonstrate this, the Bulgarelli brothers had urban and rural women wearing a cartoon mask of Otton Solis and removing it saying that this is the government of the mothers. Women, your vote counts too---Otton Solis--Rock the vote!”

Use of language has probably been the best way of using humour in electoral campaigns. Two days before the election between Solis and Arias, they had two ads of two puppets of a famous Costa Rican ventriloquist using a popular phrase among rural Costa Ricans: "El domingo es por la madre"” This phrase is a pun and translates to something like: sunday is the day of the throw down, its the day for the mothers." The two puppets were a rural young boy dressed as a hip hop artist and the second was a grandmother saying the slang and then saying "Did I say it right? Are we gonna win YIPPEE!!" Rock the vote! This advertisement was equally popular two days before the election and although Oscar Arias won 41 percent of the vote with Solis with 39 percent of the vote, the campaign allowed for both afro-Costa Ricans and women to be represented in congress. (Below is a photo of Epsy Cambell, for more information in spanishplease see:ttp://®istrar=1

Their work in Nicaragua has also received equal attention due to their use of humour. They started out working with Herty an opposition candidate of the MRS party. Herty's campaign was a controversial one because his catch line as an anti-corruption statement was: "vamos a acabar con toda esta mierda...We're going to end all this sh*t! This slogan was a direct criticism of the other candidates who had made a pact with the governing party to prohibit the formation of new political parties so that power would remain among the traditional established ones. He represented these parties as a big fat fly coming out of a limosine being interviewed by the press. Soon after, Herty died/was assasinated (please see footnote) and the Bulgarelli brothers had ten days to come up with a whole new campaign for the new candidate. Edmundo Jarquin had worked outside of Nicaragua for almost 15 years and only 11 percent of the population had ever heard of him. So three months before the election, the Bulgarelli brothers needed a catchy line to make the new candidate as popular as Herty and even more popular than Ortega, the Sandinista candidate. Hence, the beginning of the campaign of el Feo que quiere una Nicaragua Linda...the ugly dude who wants a pretty Nicaragua. The first advertisement was a breaking news report with interviews of ordinary people asking whether or not the new candidate Edmundo Jarquin was ugly, the overwhelming response was "affirmative." In ten days 93 percent of the country was talking about the ugly dude and now he does indeed have a shot at winning the election scheduled in early November.

This story is important because there is a huge debate in the political humourist circle as to whether or not institutions of power should use humour. The criticism by many cartoonists and comedians is that these campaigns disallow the people from engaging in real issues and that humour is simply an escape mechanism. A second criticism is that it is an absolute and total insult to the people to have a candidate run as the ugly dude and it delegimitises the authority of the candidate himself. Thirdly, in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, there was real resistance to the use of language which they thought was too vulgar or just too ‘common folk.’

Political humour as any other tool, is in danger of commercialisation and cooptation by institutions of power. However, both the PAC and MRS as political parties have the most progressive social views in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua in regards to women's rights, race and poverty. They are both centro-izquierda, left wing parties, unlike the right-wing conservative parties in Honduras who pay cartoonists to silence them. This does not mean that they would never misuse political humour; rather, given their connection to the people and the progressive policies that both propose and implement to the benefit of people of African descent, women and poor people, the use of political humour is a positive way of reaching and representing these different groups of people. For instance, el gobierno de las madres campaign in Costa Rica, the "Vamos a acabar con toda esa mierda" campaign in Nicaragua and "El domingo es por la Madre" lines are only funny because the use of language is that of the 'common folk.' Both parties have also been radically criticised by religious and conservative groups because of their incorporation of women in leadership positions and their views on abortion, gay rights, as well as housing and education in rural areas. To place the image and the talk of the common folk in the mouth of those in power as they appear in the campaigns allow ordinary people to be visible in such a way that their identity and culture are reclaimed as part of the nation.
At any rate, the people most upset by the use of language both in Costa Rica and Nicaragua were people of the upper and middle interesting is that? Well here are a couple theories: some say they just couldn't relate to the El domingo es por la madre while others say they didn't feel comfortable with politicians speaking like common folk. Their rejection or reaction to these campaigns are really reactions to and rejections of what they believe their national identity ought to be; and that identity is not rural, nor urban lower class, not african and not the single mother with five children. Campaigns like those of MRS and PAC force us to rethink who is the ordinary Costa Rican/ Nicaraguan and leave the people to decide whether the cartoon character on t.v is me/us or him/them.

Sali a Votar
...Rock the Vote!

Herty died when he went for a minor ten minute operation. The doctor who performed the operation is the doctor of the head of the Sandinista movement Daniel Ortega. This doctor did not close the wound properly after the operation and Herty bled to death. There is still a controversy as to whether or not his death was just tragic or if it was indeed murder.
©Danielle Roper

Monday, October 16, 2006

Favourite Story in Costa Rica: Bungee Jump

So while I was in Costa Rica I decided to go bungee jumping. I stayed in San Jose with a Columbian friend of mine who reluctantly accompanied me to take the picture. I said to him: Edinson, don't worry, I'm not asking you to jump with me, I just need for you to take the picture of me when I'm in the air. Okay?"
So he said sure and came along with me. Bungee jumping is one of those things that you can't think about, you just have to get on the bridge and jump. They count down from 5 to 1 and if you don't jump by the time they say 1, you're not gonna jump. When they got to 3...I jumped and it has to be the craziest thing I have ever done.
When I came back up, I found Edinson drinking water so I said: "Edinson, are you okay? why are you shaking? Where's the camera"
Response: Cuando usted se tiró me dió tanto susto, no pude sacar la foto. Y cuando pegó el grito yo dije AYY, se mató, que le voy a decir a su mama! No pude..ayyy Me tenian que traer agua por el susto...casi no sobrevivi.
When you jumped I was so scared I couldn’t take the picture. And when you screamed, I said “AYY, She’s killed herself, What am I gonna tell her mother…I just couldn’t take it. They had to bring me water because I was so scared. I almost didn't make it.
Me: Edinson, you didn't jump.
-- lo se, pero fue tan dificil verlo...dios mio..I know, but it was just so hard to watch, good god..

So although, I have no picture of me actually jumping off the bridge, I don’t know about you but I am just glad Edinson made it out alive.
Below are the pictures of the jump. Just click on the photo to make it bigger.

Photographer: Edinson Ruiz