I South America the poor man is an ignorant man, unaware of the forces that shape his destiny. The shattering truth-that he is kept poor and ignorant as the principal and unspoken component of national policy-escapes him. He cries for land reform, a system of farm loans that will carry him along between crops, unaware that the national economy in almost every country sustained by a one-crop export commodity depends for it success on an unlimited supply of cheap labor. Ecuador needs poor men to compete in the world banana market; Brazil needs poverty to sell its coffee; Chile, its tin; Colombia, it cacao and coffee, and so on. The way United States pressures shape the policies of the South American governments can make a Peace Corps Volunteer who is involved and saddened by the poverty in his village tremble to his very roots.
Death, of course, is the great release. I lay in my house on night trying to sleep, while up in the hill a fiesta went on until dawn-drums in an endless and monotonous rhythm connecting a series of increasingly complicated songs, some changed by women, some by men, some by mixed voices. It gradually became beautiful and moving, but I was puzzled because the celebration was just a week before the great Semana Santa, Holy Easter, a fiesta that everyone saves up for and that leaves everyone broke and exhausted.
"Why were they bombiendo all night on the hill?" I asked someone.
"They were celebrating the death of Crispin's first-born," I was told. "He was born dead, an angelito." There wasn't a bit of sadness in the town; it was a real celebration. Crispin's son had struck it lucky; he was one of God's angels without all of that intervening crap.