I tried to take a picture of the mist, in the foolish belief that it would appear as more than just white emptiness on a camera. It was only after I looked at the picture on my computer that I saw I had caught this woman, just chillin’, as we zipped by. This was an hour drive out from Patacancha, a tiny mountain community an hour drive out from Ollantaytambo, a touristy village which is two hours driving from metropolitan Cuzco, itself two miles above sea level in the Andes. The woman standing on the side of the mountain road, just minding her business, just as I would on an big city street corner, struck me as a reminder of how remote Andean lives are. (Depending on your frame of reference for “remote”…)
A Christmas tradition in the Cuzco area is cooking a massive vat of hot chocolate and inviting kids to come with their cups to partake. This is at Kausay Wasi, an affordable and well-run health clinic in Cuzco’s Sacred Valley. They also have Quechua-speaking health professionals, a big deal in a region where many people don’t speak Spanish. The clinic was also giving out toys–many families from Andean agricultural towns have little cash income to buy them. I volunteered to take photos.
At Alternet, I wrote about the extent to which Latin America’s left-wing governments have made LGBT rights part of their agenda for “21st Century Socialism.” The short version of the scorecard:
Strong on LGBT: Uruguay (Frente Amplio), Argentina (the Kirchners), Brazil (Worker’s Party)
Weak on LGBT: Venezuela (Chavez/Maduro), Bolivia (Morales), Nicaragua (Ortega)
Mixed: Ecuador (Correa), Cuba (Castros)
Perhaps the best lesson from Latin America’s rainbow tide is this: in the countries most advanced on gay rights, activists have been able to successfully integrate LGBT issues with other social movements.
When the Argentine economy collapsed in 2001, gay rights activists took the chance to “nail themselves into this broader social justice movement that is born out of that crisis,” according to Encarnación. A resulting set of reforms in 2002 included a domestic partnership law for same-sex couples.
Uruguay has benefited from strong links between civil society and party politics. Federico Graña is himself an example, as a member of both the Black Sheep activist group and a member of the central committee of the Uruguayan Communist Party.
“It took me a lot of effort to make [LGBT rights] part of my party’s agenda,” Graña said. “We had an intense debate about how these subjects generated inequalities and how they would be related to a vision of socialism in the 21st century.”
Graña says a turning point in LGBT advocacy came around 2004, when activist groups decided they were taking too narrow an approach to their campaigns .
“In reality there exists a lot of discriminations that generate inequities and inequalities, so we believed that analyzing only sexual orientation was an error,” Graña said. “We realized that it would be impossible to analyze Uruguayan society without taking into account social class, without taking into account gender, without taking into account sexual orientation, and also racial issues.”
He credits the strong links between different civil society groups for Uruguay’s string of progressive new laws legalizing abortion in 2012, gay marriage in May 2013 and marijuana in December.
Read the whole thing here.