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Letter sent on Oct 12, 2016

Jazz, The Vicario Brothers & September in Latin America

The September 2016 Letter

— the bedlam in macondo —

around this part of the world in September, 2016

In Colombia, citizens wrestled throughout the month of September over the question of whether or not to give their approval in an October referendum to President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace deal with Marxist revolutionary rebel group FARC. The idea of FARC disarming and entering into politics is rife with problems, among them peaceful political participation. Some of the most conflicted Colombians have a story that runs along the same lines of this personal reflection, written by New York Times reporter Annie Correal. “My father,” she writes, “saw the complexity of the conflict from up close: the FARC’s capacity for cruelty, but also the helplessness, if not innocence, of some young fighters. A few of his armed guards were just 13. Many fighters had been taken from their homes and forced to join as children.” The idea of a simple yes/no vote (on October 2nd Colombians voted ‘no’) on such a complex deal is leaving the country in convulsions over the right way to end a major chapter in Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict.

Relations between Venezuela and China appear strained. Latin America’s most troubled economy still has to pay off $20bn of the $60bn it borrowed from China, reports the Wall St. Journal. High oil prices during the 2000s let then president Hugo Chavez trade crude for infrastructure and other development benefits. The recent crash in oil prices is a major blow to the countries’ diplomatic ties. Even though China formally denies any rethinking of the relationship, it has advised personnel in the country to be aware of safety risks. “Security risks are growing for Chinese expatriates, a long-established merchant class here. They have become targets for kidnappers and extortion rings, prompting many to leave the country,” writes the Wall St. Journal. Chinese citizens are already starting to leave in droves.

— long reads —

Colombia’s Night Before the Dawn by Steven Cohen for The New Republic

On Indian Psychiatry by Sanjena Sathian for OZY

The Ill-Defined Plot by John Jeremiah Sullivan for The New Yorker

Pedro Ruiz

— reactions —

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

It’s the savage question, “who is to blame?” that booms throughout Gabriel García Márquez’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold. In technical terms of flesh and blood, it was the Vicario Brothers who plunged their butcher knives into Santiago Nasar’s guts and killed him. The two men set out to kill him for deflowering their sister Angela, a fact the town learns of after she gets swept off her feet by Bayardo San Roman, an outsider looking for the most beautiful girl in town. But when the entire town learns of the Vicario brothers’ plot, and fails to protect Nasar from his impending fate, it appears that the Vicarios are not the only culprits. On some level, speculates the journalistic narrator, the whole town was to blame for letting it happen. And yet, “… most of those who could have done something to prevent the crime and did not consoled themselves with the pretext that affairs of honor are sacred monopolies, giving access only to those who are part of the drama.” Sure enough, honor is what protects the Vicario brothers during their trial, when their lawyer “stood by the thesis of homicide in legitimate defense of honor, which was upheld by the court in good faith, and the twins declared at the end of the trial that they would have done it again a thousand times over for the same reason.” In this small town in Colombia, respecting the right to life gets trampled by the mission to uphold a family’s honor. You could even go so far as to say, like the narrator points out, that Santiago Nasar’s “refusal to worry could have been suicide.” García Márquez’ story is a search for what happens when prejudices invade the institutions that define and set the cost for humanity’s faults. Almost like a bottle of cheap rum, the fault is free for everyone to trade around.

— straitjackets —



She reminded me of jazz. The woman sat across from me in a booth upholstered with rose leather in a restaurant in the middle of the city. Maybe 50 years old? Older. I shot a few glances at her. Some sliver of curiosity in my side. Even now, I can’t get the image out of my head. Silver, springy hair. Black horn-rimmed glasses and a loose, low neck sweater. She was slim and held herself upright with elegance. Absorbed in herself. She had two magazines with her and read them as she ate. Careful not to get food on the pages. A smart phone rested next to her magazine. It never buzzed. She never checked it. No tiredness in her face. No fatigue. Just gentleness. I wanted her to look up at me. Just to see into her. To look straight into her soul for even just a second. The thrill of that idea got me like a headlock. Like a stuck zipper on a tight jacket. My eyes stayed on her all the way down the stairs and all the way out into the street. I disappeared. She not once lifted her head and by now the stretch between us is monster. My obsession or her oblivion? There has to be one stranger than the other.

-The Viscerealist