Portrait: Manlio Argueta

Manlio Argueta is El Salvador's best known living writer and ranks amongst the best known in Latin America. I first met him walking in downtown San Salvador. We started talking about traffic lights. I had no idea who he was, though I knew his work. Yesterday I went to the public library , where he is the director, and photographed him for about 10 minutes, making maybe twice as many frames. Taking Argueta's portrait was a long-term goal and I am very happy to have been given the chance to do it. Also, I like Manlio, which is reason enough for me to take his picture. More about his work and life here.


Play to win! ... and some bitter, proud freewriting

Funny how thoughts connect dots that we didn't know were there. A certain cocky-ass guy who has always called me "dude" once said the phrase to me: "Play to win, dude."

The implication at the time was that I was playing to lose, which I can assure you, I am not, was not, and will not. That said, winning only counts if you are happy and not crushing people in your path to success. If you descend into alcoholism and doing business with the mob, you have lost. And the alpha male, American Psycho, money-grubbing, self-congratulating attitude amongst some true bastards with whom I am unfortunate enough to be associated, if only by accidents of birth, nature, and at times, geography, is, as we say in the trade, a real bitch.

"Ah, it's the pause that refreshes in the corridors of power," ain't it?

Do you still know those guys in the mafia in Jersey, dog?

Rally the troops. Chop up a big-ass fucking line, yo. Let's hit the streets, take Manhattan and make somebody cry. I know some bitches uptown who are fucking wild, Pablo.

Oops. If I said something to offend, I take it all back. Love you to death, eh?




And so begins what may be the final act in the Ferguson tragedy. 

Just as the salivating media and a million closet racists had hoped, people branded thugs have taken to the streets to torch cars, buildings, and anything else that will burn. Some say, look at those fools destroying their own neighborhoods. I say, that now and as always, people do these things when they have nothing left to lose.

Because they can be killed by police who will never face any consequences. Because no matter how far they run into the deepest, poorest neighborhoods on earth, they can't get away from stray bullets, dogs, water hoses, tear gas, and endless, ignorant, cancerous racism. Because they are followed through stores by security guards who believe they are thieves. Because even their liberal co-workers are lightning quick to blame them - not face to face, of course - when something goes missing at the office. because one stop-and-frisk too many can make you literally

It is late where I am. There are voices in the air, and I hear them, even a thousand-plus miles south of the southern edge of America. Voices of floating, soft, vicious memory that will not be silenced. A man says to another, "The blacks have a violent streak that will never be tamed." Another says, "Those people have murder in their DNA." Another whispers, "Look at how well they box, Of course they're gonna go out of control from time to time." Yet another, historically minded, declares, "Segretation ended 50 years ago and these people still can't stop blaming their problems on the white man." And a man from Argentina says to me, "Of course they're genetically inferior. They've fucked up every country they've ever been given."

A working-class Mexican man in Monterrey tells me, "I love the United States except for all the blacks. They're so aggressive." I want to tell him that if I felt the way he did about African Americans, my feelings toward Mexicans wouldn't be much kinder. But I don't bother. We live in a world with too little common ground to make it worth a deeper discussion.  

And a relative from the supposedly progressive Northeast says, with no contrition, "I'm not a bigot, John, but I don't want to live near blacks or hispanics."

I share the anger of good-minded people all over the world, who blame police officers and endlessly retweet NWA's Fuck the Police. 

On a deeper level, the villains in this unwanted drama are the little people we all know, with tiny voices and tiny minds, who repeat these one-line acts of violence until deel within the collective reptile brain of the the United States, these poisonous thoughts become an acceptable world view - a view of a nation through hate-colored glasses. A philosophy, if that's not too lofty of a description, that makes it OK to shoot certain people in the back but not others.