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The Cupolog

The northwest passage : Live without dead time

Toy Soldiers
La Paz, Bolivia - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Toy Soldiers

La Paz, Bolivia - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Institutionalized RapeAnia and I stood coldly in front of these four images in a photo gallery as Wayrary explained the practices of Sendero Luminoso, a Maoist guerrilla organization in Peru’s highlands.The guerrillas were known to imprison women in secluded villages and force them to produce large numbers of children to supplement the group’s military forces. Those who resisted were starved.
Lima, Peru - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Institutionalized Rape

Ania and I stood coldly in front of these four images in a photo gallery as Wayrary explained the practices of Sendero Luminoso, a Maoist guerrilla organization in Peru’s highlands.

The guerrillas were known to imprison women in secluded villages and force them to produce large numbers of children to supplement the group’s military forces.

Those who resisted were starved.

Lima, Peru - © Diego Cupolo 2012

A Farewell to Arms
Adios Colombia. Adios Guerras.
¿Qué vas a ser cuando bajes las armas?
On the road, Colombia - © Diego Cupolo 2012

A Farewell to Arms

Adios Colombia. Adios Guerras.

¿Qué vas a ser cuando bajes las armas?

On the road, Colombia - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Jungle Platoon
It is not uncommon to find a group of heavily armed soldiers while walking on nature trails in Colombia.
Valle de Cocora, Colombia - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Jungle Platoon

It is not uncommon to find a group of heavily armed soldiers while walking on nature trails in Colombia.

Valle de Cocora, Colombia - © Diego Cupolo 2012

They called him “Pineapple face” He worked for the CIA and Pablo Escobar at the same time.He studied at Georgia’s infamous School of Americas and, like many of his classmates, became a violent dictator after graduating.Manuel Noriega - he created the need for a new term in politics: The Narcokleptocracy. Regardless of his reputation, people in his native Panama called him “Pineapple Face” for his acne-scarred complexion … and still do.Noriega was Panama’s de facto military leader from 1983-1989. Though he had absolute rule, he never had absolute respect. He was forced out of power by a one-day United States invasion codenamed “Operation Just Cause.” Warplanes, helicopters, and ground troops attacked military targets and high-density residential neighborhoods in Panama City, causing thousands of civilian casualties in the process, but it was called “Operation Just Cause” …
… so it had to be done.Shortly after the invasion, Noriega was arrested for various human rights violations and drug trafficking charges. Most Panamanians were happy to see him go. His National Guard was known for widespread abuse. Military officials would show up at people’s houses and ask for the keys to their cars. Why? Because they had guns, that’s why.Now, after serving more than 20 years in U.S./French prisons, Noriega will be extradited back to Panama where he will face new trials for his human rights violations and serve even more prison time.I asked the newspaper salesman what he thought about the whole thing.“They should’ve killed the bastard a long time ago,” he said.What a shame, he was such a nice boy before college.[Headline translation: Noriega to return in three weeks]
Panama City, Panama - © Diego Cupolo 2011

They called him “Pineapple face”

He worked for the CIA and Pablo Escobar at the same time.

He studied at Georgia’s infamous School of Americas and, like many of his classmates, became a violent dictator after graduating.

Manuel Noriega - he created the need for a new term in politics: The Narcokleptocracy.

Regardless of his reputation, people in his native Panama called him “Pineapple Face” for his acne-scarred complexion … and still do.

Noriega was Panama’s de facto military leader from 1983-1989. Though he had absolute rule, he never had absolute respect. He was forced out of power by a one-day United States invasion codenamed “Operation Just Cause.”

Warplanes, helicopters, and ground troops attacked military targets and high-density residential neighborhoods in Panama City, causing thousands of civilian casualties in the process, but it was called “Operation Just Cause” …

… so it had to be done.

Shortly after the invasion, Noriega was arrested for various human rights violations and drug trafficking charges. Most Panamanians were happy to see him go. His National Guard was known for widespread abuse. Military officials would show up at people’s houses and ask for the keys to their cars.

Why? Because they had guns, that’s why.

Now, after serving more than 20 years in U.S./French prisons, Noriega will be extradited back to Panama where he will face new trials for his human rights violations and serve even more prison time.

I asked the newspaper salesman what he thought about the whole thing.

“They should’ve killed the bastard a long time ago,” he said.

What a shame, he was such a nice boy before college.

[Headline translation: Noriega to return in three weeks]

Panama City, Panama - © Diego Cupolo 2011

The Switzerland of Central America
It really is.
Unlike its neighbors, Costa Rica is rich, educated and has avoided the political instability and constant warfare that plagued the region over the last century.
There’s no military in Costa Rica. It’s the “greenest" country in the world. By the early 1900s, Costa Rica had free public education, guaranteed minimum wage and child protection laws. The central valley not only produces some of the best coffee in the world, but also serves as a major microchip production center.
Why is there so much contrast between Costa Rica and the rest of Latin America?
I have no idea, but it’s colonial history might have something to do with it. The Spaniards weren’t so interested in Costa Rica and left it alone … relatively, of course.
Less blood. More stability.
Zarcero, Costa Rica - © Diego Cupolo 2011

The Switzerland of Central America

It really is.

Unlike its neighbors, Costa Rica is rich, educated and has avoided the political instability and constant warfare that plagued the region over the last century.

There’s no military in Costa Rica. It’s the “greenest" country in the world. By the early 1900s, Costa Rica had free public education, guaranteed minimum wage and child protection laws. The central valley not only produces some of the best coffee in the world, but also serves as a major microchip production center.

Why is there so much contrast between Costa Rica and the rest of Latin America?

I have no idea, but it’s colonial history might have something to do with it. The Spaniards weren’t so interested in Costa Rica and left it alone … relatively, of course.

Less blood. More stability.

Zarcero, Costa Rica - © Diego Cupolo 2011

Generation Next
FSLN Office - Somoto, Nicaragua
© Diego Cupolo 2011

Generation Next

FSLN Office - Somoto, Nicaragua

© Diego Cupolo 2011

Canadian troops leave Afghanistan
Nice.
Now about that budget down south …
© Diego Cupolo 2011

Canadian troops leave Afghanistan

Nice.

Now about that budget down south …

© Diego Cupolo 2011

Day 29 - Part 2: Into the Bunkers
Though expensive ($50 for 24 hours), my reason for renting the scooter was simple: to explore the parts of Vieques I failed to reach by hitchhiking and walking. 
My first stop was the abandoned US Navy bunkers scattered throughout the island’s western half. I found hundreds. Concrete subterranean storage units. Sadly, most bunkers were locked and the ones that were open had been emptied. 
One of the open bunkers was fairly large so I rode my scooter into it. The tires skid easily on the slick concrete floor and the engine echoed loudly against the walls, waking up the bats hanging from the ceiling. I spent 30 minutes inside that bunker, riding in circles and yelling circus gibberish for no apparent reason.
The scooter was already paying off.
© Diego Cupolo 2011

Day 29 - Part 2: Into the Bunkers

Though expensive ($50 for 24 hours), my reason for renting the scooter was simple: to explore the parts of Vieques I failed to reach by hitchhiking and walking. 

My first stop was the abandoned US Navy bunkers scattered throughout the island’s western half. I found hundreds. Concrete subterranean storage units. Sadly, most bunkers were locked and the ones that were open had been emptied. 

One of the open bunkers was fairly large so I rode my scooter into it. The tires skid easily on the slick concrete floor and the engine echoed loudly against the walls, waking up the bats hanging from the ceiling. I spent 30 minutes inside that bunker, riding in circles and yelling circus gibberish for no apparent reason.

The scooter was already paying off.

© Diego Cupolo 2011

Day 24: The House is Alright and The Bees of Monte Carmelo
Both doors were still locked when I got back to the house and I was relieved to find my laptop in its proper hiding place under the futon. The cowboy bandits must have robbed someone else while I was away.
In the morning, I realized one of the banana trees was toppled over. I assumed it was the horses. I watched them eat the tree’s leaves in the past and they probably got greedy when they realized I wasn’t home.
I hung up the premature bananas to ripen.  Just looking at them made me nauseas.
It was the third day of the new year and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The recent week had been more rainy than usual so I decided to go to the beach and take advantage of the good weather.
I hitched a ride with Maria, a charming, spunky old lady that sings while she drives and talks politics like a late sixties activists. She was the widow of Señor Carmelo, the man who built the first house on the mountain where I was staying. Hence the name, Monte Carmelo.
She told me the whole story. Monte Carmelo lies in a “buffer zone” between US Navy land and civilian Vieques. There were no signs or fences to mark the Navy’s territory so Señor Carmelo claimed the top of the mountain for his family. They built a white, castle-style house and a road to the island’s main thruway. The Carmelo family lived a peaceful life in the mountain. Word got around and other squatters moved to Monte Carmelo to claim their own plots of land. The community bloomed in a sort of wild, wild west fashion.
In the late 1980s, the US Navy informed the Carmelo family their house was built on restricted land and asked them to leave. They refused. The story became big news on the island. Imagine, one Puerto Rican family against the US Navy.
Eventually, the Navy tried to force them out. They sent a few men into the Carmelo house to begin moving their furniture. The entire community surrounded the house and taunted the men as they loaded pick up trucks with Señor Carmelo’s belongings.
Then, while no one was looking, someone snuck in the house and left two wooden boxes that contained live beehives. When the movers picked up the boxes they agitated the bees. Within seconds, the men were chased out of the house by a swarm of 70,000 bees. The community rejoiced in victory.
Señor Carmelo has since passed on, but Maria keeps the spirit of rebellion alive.
Before getting out of the car I asked her what she thought about the large number of Americans moving to Vieques.
“I don’t mind them, they can do what they want, but it’d be nice if they could learn some Spanish. Even if they tried just a little bit, it’d make me happy. But no, most of them come here, to a country that isn’t theirs and expect us to all know English,” Maria said.
“Show a little respect, that’s all I want,” she added.
It was true. Most Americans that I met on the island never attempted to speak Spanish. Even worse, some of them had been Vieques residents for decades.
I thanked Maria for the ride and walked towards Navio beach.
In my opinion, Navio has the best water in Vieques. It’s clean, crisp and wavy. Best of all, access to the beach ain’t easy. The road is rugged and floods often so annoying families shy away from Navio.
Ah, relief.
I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and rock climbing while thinking over the Monte Carmelo story. 

© Diego Cupolo 2011

Day 24: The House is Alright and The Bees of Monte Carmelo

Both doors were still locked when I got back to the house and I was relieved to find my laptop in its proper hiding place under the futon. The cowboy bandits must have robbed someone else while I was away.

In the morning, I realized one of the banana trees was toppled over. I assumed it was the horses. I watched them eat the tree’s leaves in the past and they probably got greedy when they realized I wasn’t home.

I hung up the premature bananas to ripen.  Just looking at them made me nauseas.

It was the third day of the new year and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The recent week had been more rainy than usual so I decided to go to the beach and take advantage of the good weather.

I hitched a ride with Maria, a charming, spunky old lady that sings while she drives and talks politics like a late sixties activists. She was the widow of Señor Carmelo, the man who built the first house on the mountain where I was staying. Hence the name, Monte Carmelo.

She told me the whole story. Monte Carmelo lies in a “buffer zone” between US Navy land and civilian Vieques. There were no signs or fences to mark the Navy’s territory so Señor Carmelo claimed the top of the mountain for his family. They built a white, castle-style house and a road to the island’s main thruway. The Carmelo family lived a peaceful life in the mountain. Word got around and other squatters moved to Monte Carmelo to claim their own plots of land. The community bloomed in a sort of wild, wild west fashion.

In the late 1980s, the US Navy informed the Carmelo family their house was built on restricted land and asked them to leave. They refused. The story became big news on the island. Imagine, one Puerto Rican family against the US Navy.

Eventually, the Navy tried to force them out. They sent a few men into the Carmelo house to begin moving their furniture. The entire community surrounded the house and taunted the men as they loaded pick up trucks with Señor Carmelo’s belongings.

Then, while no one was looking, someone snuck in the house and left two wooden boxes that contained live beehives. When the movers picked up the boxes they agitated the bees. Within seconds, the men were chased out of the house by a swarm of 70,000 bees. The community rejoiced in victory.

Señor Carmelo has since passed on, but Maria keeps the spirit of rebellion alive.

Before getting out of the car I asked her what she thought about the large number of Americans moving to Vieques.

“I don’t mind them, they can do what they want, but it’d be nice if they could learn some Spanish. Even if they tried just a little bit, it’d make me happy. But no, most of them come here, to a country that isn’t theirs and expect us to all know English,” Maria said.

“Show a little respect, that’s all I want,” she added.

It was true. Most Americans that I met on the island never attempted to speak Spanish. Even worse, some of them had been Vieques residents for decades.

I thanked Maria for the ride and walked towards Navio beach.

In my opinion, Navio has the best water in Vieques. It’s clean, crisp and wavy. Best of all, access to the beach ain’t easy. The road is rugged and floods often so annoying families shy away from Navio.

Ah, relief.

I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and rock climbing while thinking over the Monte Carmelo story. 

© Diego Cupolo 2011