Last week it was hot. Very hot. With temperatures rising to the skies, I took the advice of a friend: “Go to the movies, there is air conditioning!”
I have to confess that being a lover of good art films is very difficult in Brandon, where the usual offer includes mostly Hollywood “canned” movies, except of course, for times when The Evans Theatre is open. Once in a while, there is an exception. This time I was very lucky to find the new movie by Oliver Stone, “Savages.” That was a plus when all I was expecting was a place with cool air.
Although in my opinion “Savages” is not one of his best movies, it is successful in reminding us that in some countries horror is the reality and not a matter of fiction.
The movie is about the drug cartels in Mexico and the U.S., the corrupted authorities in both countries and also about how easily human lives are taken every day as part of the business. It is a history of human beings becoming savages, sick of power and wealth. The most fundamental values are lost and all that matters is power and money.
There are also characters that remind us that in poor countries such as Mexico, young honest people might not have any option other than joining the cartel to avoid extreme poverty.
Many other side topics could be analyzed from this movie or from the reality of the drug wars in Mexico: Drug consumption by middle and upper classes in North America, the lack of interest of the authorities directly related to the infiltration of drug cartels in Mexican and American governments and many other topics.
Nevertheless, what really moved me about the movie was the degree of violence in Mexico and the U.S. and the sense of having lived there in the immediate past. The next logical thought is: “I am safe here. I am safe in Brandon, Manitoba.”
To explain further, I have to say that although I am not Mexican and I have never been to Mexico, street violence is not foreign to me. I know many immigrants who think the same and I know many of their reasons. There is room for some of those immigrant reasons in this short column.
In my own case, I come from Costa Rica. It is a country known for its natural resources and the lack of an army. The truth is a little more discouraging. You can be assaulted and killed for a fancy cellphone in Costa Rica. The rule down there is not to wear anything with value on the street because if you do, you can be an object of violence.
Rich people live inside fortresses and poor people in cardboard houses, while tourists and mainly only tourists enjoy the natural enchantments of the country.
Colombia, where quite a few of Brandon immigrants come from, is a country that has suffered from a civil war since 1964, when the U.S. government pushed the Colombian military to attack peasant self-defence communities in rural Colombia.
This war has no signs of a near end, with governments encouraging violence through paramilitary groups and not addressing the popular demands that originated the conflict.
In Colombia you can be killed for being a part of an armed group, for not being a part of any group or even for being a part of a determined community targeted by the armed groups.
In El Salvador and Honduras, where a lot of my Brandon friends come from, everybody knows what the “Maras” are. They are all-powerful gangs whose activities range from drug trafficking to professional murdering, kidnapping and torturing.
What comes to my mind is an episode on Dec. 23, 2004, in Chamelecón, Honduras, an intercity bus was intercepted and sprayed with automatic gunfire, killing 28 civilian passengers, most of whom were women and children.
The gangs organized the massacre as a protest against the Honduran government for proposing a restoration of the death penalty in Honduras.
I could also continue to talk about African and Asian countries where other Canadian immigrants come from and the violence, poverty or human rights situations that made those immigrants come to Canada. That is what “Savages” reminded me of.
The movie leaves many things for reflection, one of them being the picture of North American societies and their use of “recreational drugs.” These societies are the biggest market where the product of all this bloody and insane business goes to, but that could be a topic of a different column. If you watch the movie though, pay close attention to the role of North American people in this world of “Savages.”
I feel an immense happiness to know that I and many hard-working, honest families have made it to this country, where the most elemental human right of life is not in jeopardy.
At the same time, I feel sad and worried every single day for all their relatives who have to live constantly in unsafe violent places.
There are many other reasons why one can choose to leave a home country and also, many other reasons why Canada is a good place to settle — but every time I think about those reasons, the peace of walking the streets without the fear of being violently assaulted is the reason that wins.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 21, 2012