Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sin Nombre

I saw an excellent movie tonight, but it was violent and disturbing and renews my anxiety about our safety in Ecuador. I had read excellent reviews about the movie and I also saw it because it was in Spanish and about Latin America. It was called 'Sin Nombre' and was the story about a young Mexican who is part of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. He and his homies kill and maim and abuse both the members of other gangs and each other. The bulk of the movie is about his encounter with a girl from Honduras who is traveling with her father and uncle through Mexico to the United States. It is beautifully filmed. The vistas are stunning, but the poverty and the privation of the locals and the immigrants riding the trains is devastating. The violence is unwatchable. I spent much of the movie hiding my eyes from the horror. The characters are sympathetic, particularly the young man who tries to escape from his life knowing that he is doomed.

It is the poverty and the violence that make me uncomfortable. I see that poverty in Ecuador, and of course there is poverty in Baltimore too, but our daily lives are insulated from the reality; we really do not experience it. As tourists in Ecuador, the poverty is part of the landscape. Children and elderly are begging in the streets, there appears to be so much need and want in the cities and in the jungle towns. Baltimore has a high murder rate and there are gangs and drugs and guns and violence, but once again, we are not exposed to it and feel relative safety in our daily life. Perhaps because we are foreigners and unfamiliar, I feel less secure in Quito. I am told that there are some neighbourhoods I do not want to enter, but that is the same for Baltimore. In Quito, there are security guards with guns guarding apartment buildings and bigger guards with bigger guns standing around the banks. Instead of feeling more secure, the men with the guns frighten me; if they are necessary, what does that say about the culture? When I met a defense attache from the American embassy, he gave us dire warnings about the increasing violence in the city directed toward foreigners. Maya's school has high walls all around and security personnel and more than one security check to get in.

So I am more worried today. Am I putting my family in danger? Or is it just the movie that is frightening just like 'The Wire' is about Baltimore and the culture of violence we have here? And of course statistics tell me that we have the highest rate of murder and mayhem in the western world, right here at home.

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