In the summer of 2010 I embarked on the journey of a lifetime to South America through the ‘World Challenge’ organisation which gives young people the chance to travel throughout the world and make a difference while they are doing so.
The idea of the trip is not only to give young people the opportunity to see amazing countries with incredible cultures, but it is also about the personal development of the people who choose to be involved. The trip to Ecuador certainly helped me gain useful life skills such as leadership and better organisational ability but most importantly for me it made me think about the way I see the world.
Ecuador like most countries in Latin America has deep inequality and the difference between the wealthy and the poor is much greater than anything I have ever encountered before or even since. I was aware before I set foot on the continent that it was recognised as part of the developing world, but you can never really prepare yourself for the reality of poverty until it stares you in the face. Latin America has many famous places such as the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest, which I had the pleasure of visiting as well as the Galapagos Islands and the Andes mountain Range. But for me the most amazing thing about the continent is its desire to claim its own identity back from the Northern invaders who have played a role which rivals the Spanish in impoverishing it and making it almost a servant to its empire. I looked upon tropical rainforest as far as the eye could see and I saw an abundance of wildlife found nowhere else on the planet in the most bio diverse place on the earth, I even saw the great South American Condor glide over the rocky cliff tops of the Andes but this is all secondary to the lessons I learned from the people.
One evening in a village on the edge of the cloud forest region of Golondrinas, I sat down with the woman who was hosting us and another 2 travellers who had been across the central belt of the continent to places such as Paraguay and Bolivia. I was expecting to hear stories of the sights they had seen and to be given recommendations for future travel on the continent, but the advice they gave me was much more valuable and I will always be grateful to them for sharing it with me. The female traveller who lived in France but was born in Chile had told me of her father’s story. He was a school teacher in Santiago and had been a great admirer of the work the then president Salvador Allende was doing in confronting social inequality throughout the country. She went on to explain how he raised the standards of living to even the poorest Chileans and how he pursued a program of mass literacy and nutrition. It was clear to me why her father would admire such a president because even in the developed world where I live problems at the bottom end of societies scale are often neglected and the most vulnerable people are forced to take the heaviest blows in times of economic hardship for the whole country. As she went on to tell me of President Allendes downfall, and how he was overthrow by a coup d’état led by General Pinochet and backed by Washington, I thought to myself why would anyone overthrow such a government? There was real hope for the people of Chile, so why did no one stop this from happening in the name of democracy and justice? She told me of how her father was forced to flee from his home in Santiago and seek refuge with his brother who lived in France. Pinochet had been rounding up Allende supporters and often this resulted in their death a fact that really hit home the brutality of what Chile had to endure after Allende was gone. I could see the anger etched across her face as she told me of her families’ traumatic experience and this anger did not result in her turning out to be a violent person or anything of the sort, instead she used it to fuel her passion for helping the people of her rightful continent. She explained how she and her companion were travelling across South America working at project after project because they felt lucky in escaping the misery inflicted upon the people by right wing despots like Pinochet. I was inspired by her story and her passion but her desire to help the poor was not a rare characteristic among the communities I had visited in my time in Ecuador.
I travelled from Glasgow to Quito with a book for company. The book was called: From Mud Hut To Perpetual Revolution; The Hugo Chavez story. I read of how Chavez had grown tired of his countries wealthy elite getting rich off of the great resources which blessed Venezuela’s land. I read of how he had emerged from the bottom of Venezuelan society to leading the country into a brighter future. He confronted the large Oil companies who had stolen Venezuelan people’s right to prosperity and he demanded that the people of Latin America wake up and take control of their own destiny, all in the name of Socialism. I decided being on the continent that Chavez had helped change that it would be a crime to leave without asking people who had first hand experience of the Bolivarian revolution what it was like and what their opinions were on Chavez and their own leader Correa. Back home people told me of how Chavez was another crazy dictator and how his people were not free while he ruled. The news also at times hammered home this message, but in reality the people whom I spoke to said we love Chavez. Chavez has given us a voice! He has given us hope! We are now proud to be Latin Americans! I was pleased to hear the people back home were wrong and that Chavez’ revolution, which had stretched beyond Venezuela to Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, was embraced by the people who were needing change most.
When I returned home from Ecuador I became desperate to find out more about how Socialism was emerging in Latin America and how it was giving hope to the kind of people I had met. In my research I had found a history of US intervention and state sponsored killing in an effort to stop socialism. The strange thing was it didn’t seem as though they were trying to stop Socialism from becoming the dominant political ideology in the region because it was wrong or causing problems. They tried to stop it because it would be a model that the world could follow in order to create a more equal and just earth. It was an ideology that questioned the injustices and corruption which always seems to follow Capitalism. My reading had left me believing that in order for, not just Latin America but for the world, to become a fairer place that we need to find a way for Democratic Socialism, in its true form with no Greedy corrupt politicians abusing it, to replace Capitalism and end the sheer injustice which is ingrained in Capitalisms bloody and corrupt history.
As a new aspiring member of the SSP, I believe that this party holds the same belief that Salvador Allende of Chile had, the same desire to end Injustice that Che Guevara had, the same desire to join together in unity to fight corruption and greed that Hugo Chavez possessed and the same altruistic and humanitarian values which I feel are important. Here in Scotland we face our own challenges, Independence and the right to control our own future, ending conservative rule and ridding our society of the values which are preached by people like David Cameron and were preached by Margaret Thatcher, and finally creating a more equal society with everyone having a voice, everyone having enough food on the table and a roof over their head. I hope that in joining the SSP I will be part of making this a reality, because in contrast to what people say about the world just being the way it is and there’s nothing you can do to change it I believe not for the first time they are wrong.
Join the Scottish Socialist Party HERE