Tag: Haiti

Muy Peligroso

I’ve written before about my family’s roots in El Salvador. I’ve also written about how I have never been there, but hope to go someday.

Well, it looks like I sure can pick lovely vacation spots. A recent report pegged my family’s homeland as the most dangerous country in the world. The homicide rate is 71 per 100,000 inhabitants — the highest rate on the planet.

For the sake of comparison, such terrifying places as Colombia (35 per 100,000), South Africa (34 per 100,000), and Haiti (22 per 100,000) all register at less than half the homicide rate of El Salvador.

I am less than thrilled to hear this, if for no other reason than Cousin #7 now lives there, and I am naturally concerned about him. But I also don’t like hearing that one of the few countries I really want to visit someday has so many murders that you have to wonder if the babies carry handguns.

The culprit, as it is in much of Latin America, is the out-of-control drug war. El Salvador had actually gotten on the right track after its gruesome civil war ended in the 1990s. But the cartels and their bloody business model have wiped out the nation’s meager improvements.

I suppose I can use this new information to create some kind of tough-guy origin myth. I mean, how many Americans can say that their family emigrated from the most dangerous country in the world? Come on, how badass are we?…

Actually, that’s not very satisfying, and nobody’s impressed anyway — so skip it.

By the way, the United States clocks in at 5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, which is a pretty good number compared with the rest of the planet. But if you really want to feel safe, go to Iceland, which has the lowest crime rate in the world and a murder rate of zero.

Think about that — nobody gets killed in Reykjavik. The same cannot be said of El Salvador.

Land of the Dead

I’ve written often about the difficulties of pinpointing exactly who is Latino and who is not. You’ll remember some of the familiar arguments (eg, Costa Ricans are Hispanic, Spaniards are not, Mexicans are Hispanic… unless they’re Chicanos who reject the label… wait…). In sum, it’s a messy process with no clear delineations.

In my most recent post, I mentioned that Sammy Sosa is Latino. Sosa is from the Dominican Republic, which is the only nation that shares a border with Haiti, one of several countries in the Caribbean that are not considered Hispanic.

When one thinks about it, this is rather arbitrary. Perhaps it is because Haiti has a French, rather than Spanish, cultural tradition. Or maybe there’s a racial element there.

In any case, the country’s non-Hispanic status was irrelevant to the cataclysmic earthquake that killed an estimated 100,000 people this week. Even before the disaster, the nation was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. At this point, Haiti is so desperately miserable that one wonders if it would just be easier and more humane to ship the survivors to other countries and abandon that part of the island.

You don’t need me to urge you to donate to relief efforts. You will if you can or want to. Here are links to a few sites where you can make donations. Let’s hope that someday the country – indeed, no country – is so synonymous with human suffering.

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