Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Nature bats last: The grand ruins of Antigua Guatemala

Pretty much everyone knows that America's occupation of Afghanistan has been going on since 2001, that its occupation of Iraq is now over eight years old and that its surrogate occupation of Palestine has been going on since approximately1949. Does that seem like a really long time for one country to be occupying other countries that are located clear over on the other side of the world? Does that seem like a hecka long time for America to be keeping so many over-extended and precarious supply lines open?

Not really.

There have been other occupations that have existed for a lot longer -- and which were dependent on even more precarious supply lines being stretched to the other side of the world. Spain first started occupying Guatemala back in the 16th century and kept its tenuous military supply lines going from Madrid to Central America for hundreds of years. But even after two centuries, even Spain's ongoing and grinding occupation of Guatemala finally came to an end (occupations generally tend to end badly). But I digress.

What I really want to talk about now is my recent trip to visit Antigua Guatemala. This city is lovely! And the major part of its charm derives from all the ancient, gargantuan and awesome ruins of Spanish palaces, mansions, cathedrals and monasteries that you can find here, scattered throughout the city, located on almost every block. The Spanish came here to stay and built here to stay -- just like Americans have built their huge permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and have financed the building of huge permanent settlements in Palestine. "Jane, just get back on topic."

Okay. But you've got the picture here, right? Massive and permanent Spanish structures in Guatemala like you just wouldn't believe! Mega-tons of granite or whatever everywhere you look. You've got all these mammoth monasteries and convents that are five blocks long, three blocks wide and one block tall. You've got these huge skyline-dominating edifices that seem to shout, "We're here to stay!" at the top of their lungs.

Well, we all know what happened there.

The Spanish are gone and their buildings are now all in ruins.

"What happened to cause the Spanish to abandon all this proof of conquest and occupation?" you might ask. "Did the locals mount a counter-insurgency because they were sick and tired of being tortured? Did Spain have an economic recession at home and have to withdraw because it could no longer afford the occupation? Were the supply lines stretched too thin all the way from the other side of the planet? Did the Spanish finally have a change of heart and decide that occupying other countries was not just, fair, right or democratic?" Nope. None of the above.

What happened back then was that, in 1773, Mother Nature spoke up -- and basically flattened Antigua Guatemala. An eight-point-something earthquake destroyed all of Spain's grand colonial structures. Timeless monuments to the glory of the Spanish occupation and empire were flattened within minutes -- and I have the photos and videos to prove it.

There's a moral here somewhere I suppose. Man proposes and nature disposes? Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine had better watch out for earthquakes? Spain no longer had God on its side? Never occupy a foreign country on the other side of the world? The bigger they come, the harder they fall? Those ones are nice, I am sure, but my favorite is still "Nature bats last".

PS: One of the ruins in Antigua Guatemala has been renovated (sort of) and is now a grand gourmet restaurant -- and so on a beautiful warm moonlit night recently I treated myself to dinner among the ruins. For less than half the price of dining at Chez Panisse back home in Berkeley, I got an excellent nouvelle cuisine sea bass dinner plus the priceless experience of dining in history by moonlight -- although the waiter did diplomatically raise one eyebrow when I ordered dessert first. But who could resist? It was flan!

PPS: Meanwhile, back in the US of A, two debates seem to be hogging the headlines on Yahoo News. First there's the debate over the legalization of marijuana. I'm for that. Why? Not only because of the Al Capone types who are now running our current Prohibition and have turned the American southwest, Mexico and Columbia into places resembling Chicago in the 1930s, but also because it's income tax time.

If we legalized marijuana, not only would we get rid of all those Prohibition-style mobsters and gangs, but also a lot more people would be paying income taxes instead of getting all their millions under the table -- and then perhaps the great state of California might not be as bankrupt as it is now. Tobacco companies and their customers have to pay taxes. Let's make pot growers and their customers pay taxes too.

Here's a video on the subject of legalizing marijuana that you might enjoy:

The second U.S. debate seems to be all about the new Teabagger movement. "No more government!" the Teabaggers cry. Well. As Markos Moulitsas recently pointed out,
"If they don't like having government, they should move to Somalia."

Didn't Somalia already try that "no government" thing? And how's that working for them?

A lot of Americans seem to miss the main point here -- that only dribs and drabs of government money are being doled out to social programs in America. In actuality, most of America's money -- and its credit-card bills for approximately the next thousand years as well -- is being lavishly vacuumed off into the the deep pockets of "defense" manufacturers, who are aggressively advertising the ultimate disposable consumer product -- war. And, apparently, in America war really sells well.

And if perchance these Teabaggers might also be motivated by secret hopes and dreams that they too can invade the ranks of the elite at the top, fat chance of that ever happening. There is no chance in Hell that any average American -- or even your average Teabagger -- is ever, ever going to be allowed to break into the uber-rich inner circle of weapons manufacturers and lobbyists who REALLY own America.

OMG! This just in! Apparently the phrase "teabagging" has been in common usage among American pimps and prostitutes since forever, and refers to a particular type of sleazy oral sex. So. Now I know where all those typical hypocritical Teabaggers REALLY got their name.

PPPS: Speaking of nature batting last in Guatemala, I'm thinking that Mother Nature might get hecka pissed off at America too -- because of all those Pentagon supply lines that keep stretching and snaking all over the planet, and covering every niche and corner of our world with a not-so-fine coat of radiation and smog.