Letter from Boston
My old college classmates have been very busy this summer! You've already heard from multi-talented media activist Daniel del Solar, organizing film festivals in Managua, and Renato Rosaldo, previously famous as an anthropologist, triumphing in a new career as a poet. Here's Ivan Light, well-known UCLA sociologist and my old college roommate, working to make the world a better place through practical politics. I assume he won't mind my sharing this letter. 


Dear Claremont/Pomona Democrats

I am in Boston, attending the Democratic National Convention as a John Kerry delegate. If you are reading the newspapers, you are getting the basic story. What you may not have acquired from the newsmedia is the unity, the optimism, and the determination that animates and pervades thisconvention.

There is no controversy about the platform under debate, and no one seems to care about the platform. (I have copies).   This is quite unusual as platforms matter. The reason, I suppose, is the unanimous determination of the 5000 delegates to dump Bush. Complete focus on this issue, a negative pole, has eclipsed interest in exactly what the Democrats areoffering as an alternative. We may be sorry later.

Terry McAuliffe, DNC Chair, reported some very encouraging news. The Democratic  Party has raised more money than the Republicans for the first time ever! The Gore campaign raised $40 million by November; as of now the Kerry campaign has raised $60million, and there are three months left! The DNC has paid off its debt, and is awash with money. This is the best financial condition the DNC has ever enjoyed. It shows the extent of public interest in andawareness of this election. It also shows the effectiveness of the inter-net as a fund-raising tool. We can thank Howard Dean for this too.

Incumbent Presidents are hard to beat. Nonetheless, polls show Kerry leading Bush by 5% in the country. No previous Democratic candidate has ever led an incumbent President by this much in July. Implication: we can win it.

All the speakers say, and everyone listening agrees, that this is the most important presidential campaign in three generations. The stakes are high, and the Democrats know it.

It's very easy to tell the professional politicians from the delegates as only the former wear suits and ties.

Barack Obama made an electrifying speech yesterday Tuesday. This is an orator to watch. The lady next to me, watching him in awe said, "a star is born." I agreed. Our first mixed-race President? Diane Feinstein will nominate John Kerry tonight at 5:45pm Eastern time. Feinstein was the first Senator or, at least, one of the first to back Kerry; I sense that this is pay-back.

There are 97 days left to work for victory. Let's make every one count. See you all July 30.

Ivan Light, Program Vice-President Claremont Democratic Club


Why Spain matters
Apologies for not updating this blog more frequently. Susana & I have had to delay our return to New York from Spain, due to unforeseen complications in the work we're doing in Spain, and these have taken up most of our time. Fortunately, Spain is a wonderful place to be stuck, and great things are happening here now that most Americans may not be aware of. I hope to write in the next few days notes on each of the following themes, three ways in which Spain matters to all of us:

I. Spain in the world balance of power: This country has finally recovered from the gross underdevelopment fostered by the Franco regime and is now the 3rd or 4th power in Europe, after Germany, France and (if it considers itself part of Europe) the UK. Since the elections of March 14, its shift from the pro-Bush side of the scale to the Franco-German side strengthens Europe as a potential counterpower to the world's only superpower. This I regard as a very good thing. Under Aznar, as an unconditional ally of the US, Spain had no independent voice and was simply begging for crumbs, because Spain's power is negligible as seen from Washington. In Europe Spain is more nearly equal to its allies and will have a real voice.

II. Spain as a linchpin in the Hispanic world, and that world's main link to Europe: For practical as well as sentimental reasons, Spain is connected to all those countries where colonists, conquistadores and frailes have carried her language. Now, with the Spanish economy stable and growing, and its rule of law more firmly established than anywhere in the Americas (especially the U.S., currently the great international scofflaw), Spain plays an important role in the consolidation of the entire tricontinental Spanish'speaking world, economically, juricially and culturally. I hope to tell you more about this relationship, which is growing and strengthening all of Hispanolandia.

III. Spain as a laboratory for remaking a democracy for the 21st century: This is really the most fascinating new phenomenon. The PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the men and women he's brought into the central government (for the first time ever, Spain has as many women as men among government ministers) is seriously rethinking and remaking what "socialism" means today. Zapatero is particularly taken with the theories of Philip Pettit, the Irish political theorist of "republicanism" (which is not at all what U.S. Republicans stand for), ideas of liberty that are also congruent with the economics of liberation of Amartya Sen. More on this soon.

I hope to hear from some of you about these (or other) issues. Let me know your doubts, questions, quibbles or tirades. Just punch the contact link at left.
Renato Rosaldo wins Before Columbus Book Award
This just in about another old friend. Renato Rosaldo and Daniel del Solar (see note below) were both college classmates of mine, so we go WAY back. This is great news about Renato, forwarded from the good folks at the bilingual literary journal, Terra Incognita.

Dear amigos/amigas,

Please join us in congratulating Renato Rosaldo for being selected as a winner of
the twenty-fifth annual Before Columbus Foundation American Book Awards for 2004 for his book of poetry Prayer to Spider Woman / Rezo a la mujer araña. Other recent winners have included Sherman Alexie, Miguel Algarin, Don DeLillo, Martín Espada, William Gass, Sandra M. Gilbert, Kimiko Hahn, Bob Holman, Li-Young Lee, Luis Alberto Urrea and Al Young.

If you happened to catch Renato during our spring reading series at Cornelia Street
Cafe, you'll remember his beautiful and powerful work from the book, as well as
other oringal poems and his exceptional translation of San Juan de la Cruz's "Dark
night of the soul."

And, of course... his amazing jacket!

If you weren't able to hear Renato that night, he will be reading again on Friday,
September 23 at Patrias, Paulina Pérez Bemporad's wonderful Latin American Folk Art
shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The event is part of Hispanic Heritage Month and will
probably start around 7. We'll give you all the info as the time draws near.

You can read Juan Felipe Herrera's review of Prayer to Spider Woman / Rezo a la
mujer araña

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book - and we definitely recommend doing
so! - please let me know. I don't think it's available online yet. We may try to
offer it through the Terra Incognita web site, using Pay Pal. But for now, we'll
take orders for Renato and pass them along to him.

Congratulations again to Renato.

Un abrazo fuerte,

William y Alexandra
My good friend Daniel del Solar writes:
First Ever Retrospective of Film and Video Opens in Managua
By Daniel del Solar

The opening of "Ten Years that Changed the World," a film festival lasting a week in four different venues around Managua and featuring films by and about Nicaragua, opened last night at Managua´s, and Nicaragua´s, most modern commercial film venue, the Alhambra. Largely composed of films and video´s that were made in the ten years following the demise of Nicaraguas Somoza dictatorship that had lasted 45 years, even the aisles were filled by those wishing to attend the Latin American premiere of Canadian filmmaker Peter Raymont´s film "The World Stopped Watching."

More detail of the Raymont film can be found at his website.

The standing room only audience on opening night consisted of a Nicaraguan film makers, representatives of the Spanish and Italian embassies, and regular Managua film buffs both young and old.

The opening night featured a second film produced by xyz describing the literacy campaign initiated in the early 1980´s by the new revolutionary government that had dedicated considerable portion of its meager post-revolutionary resources to counter the more than 50% illiteracy rate tolerated by the previous government. The campaign had literate people from the cities traveling to rural areas to teach people how to read.

Shot in Nicaragua in late 2002 and early 2003, THE WORLD STOPPED WATCHING is a sequel to the award winning documentary film "The World Is Watching" (1987) - a cinema verité examination of foreign news coverage of a climactic moment in the US-financed Contra war against Nicaragua’s revolutionary government

Afterwards, at a modest reception following the film showins, I ran into Susan Meiselas, Kay Stubbs, a hollywood actress who was in town visiting Giaconda Belli, and many other individuals. A good time was had by all. I will catch up with Kay, who had married Enoc, a Nicaraguan who had lived in exile in Washington DC. Enoc was killed on the last day of the conflict and I wrote a poem for him, and her, which Kay still has. I also was introduced to a number of nicaraguan film makers. I will be at the movie theater tomorrow mornng for the early showing at 10•30 am. and for the rest
of this week through next Thursday.

The exhibition of films is composed of works that will help the Nicaraguan people recover their history as many of the films have not been shown in NICARAGUA. 70% of the nicaraguans are younger than 30 years of age and so many do not have any clear idea of what happened in Nicaragua during or after the dictatorship.

More than 50 films will be shown in four different locations in the coming week and there will also be discussions about the role of film in the development and maintainace of Nicaraguan film industry.

Fundacion Lucierniga, the organizer of this major international film and video retrospective, was organized ten years ago. See cinenica.net >for all of the information about the film festival, including brief descriptions of the films and videos that will be shown.

Nicaragua, in addition to being a nation of young people, is also extremely poor so that of the one million children of school age in Nicaragua, only half can attend schools as there are no schools for them to attend. The current government that is ruling Nicaragua in a coalition with the Sandinistas, have no current viable plans to remedy this situation. As a result, illiteracy in Nicaragua, which had fallen to 25 percent in the years following the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, is currently above 50%.

A week from this coming Sunday is the big party for Managua, the fiesta of San Antonio, Saint Anthony, where there will be a number of home-made floats, the appearance of many mounted Nicaraguan cowboys on horses decorated with fine saddles, and much music and carrying on.

Water has been missing for five days from one of Nicaraguas principal cities, Granada situated at shoreline of Nicaragua´s largest lake, lake Nicaragua. The reason most of the city has had to make do with no water from the city supplies is that a pump has broken and it technicians have thus far been unable to repair it.

In other news of Nicaragua, the government has announced the planned
destruction of 333 SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles as part of its aim to maintain good relations with Washington. The missiles have been assigned a cost of $20,000 each while informed sources say that such missiles can bring more than $200,000 each on the world market.

A previous consignment of SAM-7´s were also destroyed within the past year as part of a deal to sell several thousand AK-47´s to an arms dealer in Panama. The ship onto which these weapons had been loaded never landed in Panama but was found to have delivered the shipment of AK-47´s to a United Fruit Company dock in Colombia and the weapons were delivered to para-military forces in that country. These same forces have been accused of serious human rights violations, and the news of the final landing of the Nicaraguan arms in Colombia has not been explained by the Nicaraguans.

Considerable money exchanged hands, but the exact identity of the parties involved, other than the Nicaraguan military, has not been clarified.

Managua, Nicaragua, remains a key element of United States Government interest.

Daniel del Solar,Solarmedia