Friday, November 02, 2012

Building Iquitos, Peru: What the fire...

The concrete bricks that comprise the majority of commercial buildings in Iquitos, Peru look so fragile that I am almost tempted to try punching holes in the walls with my bare fists just to prove that I can do it. The concrete looks crumbly, and the mortar than slops down from the joins bears a creepy resemblance to crusty porridge. I do want to punch holes in walls here. Then again, I probably can't do it; and even if I could, I'm sure I'd break my hand just for the sake of vanity. But it's tempting just for the sake of the challenge, maybe for the sake of making a statement about myself, i.e that I can do such a stupid thing to prove how strong I am and how weak is the cement in Iquitos. Such thoughts run through my mind for no particular reason, especially when I see conditions that I wouldn't tolerate at home in America, work places so dangerous to men inside that I want to shout out to them to flee before they are killed somewhat accidentally, as if such conditions could be accidental at all. But this is Peru, and though I like it here, this is still Peru.What holds it all together is something of a mystery and a temptation to test the strength of. But I live with what is and want it to be better even if I could wreck a lot of it easily simply because it's not qualitatively equal in most ways to full Modernity. Some of what I see pisses me off because it's shabby and sometimes dangerous and too often ugly. I have high standards that I don't see attained here so much. I purse my lips and pretend not to notice. Or, I sometimes look at conditions in Peru and think how lovely it is to have the freedom to make do without having to fear the wrath of minders who won't allow anything but the standard. I can sometimes even like the Blakean hellishness of a welder working in the dusty dark of a building that might well collapse on him and his mates if the timbers holding up the roof crack.

I don't know that anyone is forging a dynamic nation here. I suspect that no one thinks much about that here. I think more likely that individuals are trying to get by making do with what they have so they can make a bit of money to live another day. Day by day that might someday build a nation stronger than steel. It's enough of a thought to make me go inside someone's workplace to shoot the breeze for a few minutes with a welder. Then I find out that yes, it is strong enough, this whole place, to last till others come with another layer of effort and money to build it all up further. Welding a world two pieces at a time.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

No comments: