Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mahd's guide to the world, part 3: The countries of South America

Ah, South America. Just like North America, except with a lower latitude, and lots of guerilla warfare. And Spanish and Portuguese. Otherwise, exactly the same. Oh yeah, and the tropical diseases that will kill you within ten minutes of arriving. And I bet there's some kind of really venemous snakes, too.


When most people think of Argentina, they think of one thing: Nazis. It may not seem obvious at first- the language and multiculturalism seem to indicate a normal society. But look deeper at the nation and the truth comes out: it's teeming with former Nazis. For proof of this, look no further than the Falklands war. Declaring war on Britain? Seems like a very Nazi-ish thing to do to me. Fortunately, Argentina only has old Nazis these days, who are more likely to take an afternoon nap after eating too much at the senior buffet than blitzkrieg anywhere, so that's a good thing.


Every continent has to have a country that everyone picks on, and for South America, that's Bolivia. Chile, Peru, Brazil and Argentina all have taken land from the country, and have also instructed their troops to give Bolivians wedgies, but have so far have refrained from issuing orders to use Atomic Wedgies (also known as Wedgies of Mass Destruction). In spite of this, Bolivians can point to their cultural heritage and unspoiled wildernesses as points of pride. Also, they have lots of cocaine.


Going to Brazil is a little like walking down a dark alley to a really fun party. At it's best, Brazil is a hedonist's dream. Lots of beautiful people, lots of booze, lots of sand and sun. On the other hand, there's a good chance you'll be stabbed by a gang of children while sitting on a bench. In Brazil, it's common to have plastic surgery; by the age of 12, if you haven't had a boob job, you're considered a relic. This applies to both men and women, which leads to some very confused tourists, but Brazillians don't care because they're too busy enjoying their food and music and stabbings.


Chile is kind of a textbook case for South America. Native population ruthlessly conquered by Spanish conquistadors? Check. Bloody revolution against said Spanish? Check. Marxist revolution in the early 20th century to be followed by landowning oligarchy followed by another Marxist revolution and suspected-CIA-involvement in overthrowing Marxists? Check.

In other ways, Chile is very different. The llamas, for example.


What happened to Colombia? The fact of the matter was, there was something seriously wrong if you weren't immediately killed or kidnapped the second you stepped into the country. Drugs ran the place. The country's presidents would vow to stamp out drugs, and everyone would have a good laugh and then there would be a coup. It worked like clockwork.

But now- now, they're actually trying to stop the murder and drug-running and kidnappings. They're not succeeding very well, but they're making an effort, and I for one am appalled. If Colombia goes straight, where will we get the settings for our movies where the hero's plane crashes into a rainforest? It's a shame is what it is.


Ecuador is a small country, but like many countries in the region, it has had an adjustment period to get used to freedom. In Ecuador, that period has been 176 years, and it seems many inhabitants are content to let the military rule the country. Perhaps it's because they suffer no matter who's in charge, and at least with military rule they have fancy hats.

Offshore, there are the Galapagoes Islands. These islands, full of natural creatures, inspired Charles Darwin to come up with his theory of evolution. I know it sounds impressive, but I think he also named some of the birds on the islands "boobies", so maybe he wasn't as mature as we all think.

French Guiana

French Guiana is so named because the population all wears little berets and striped shirts. Okay, maybe not, but it would be funny if they did. This colony proves the French are assholes, because it's hot, sticky, raining all the time and rife with disease: therefore, they decided to make it a prison colony, which it pretty much has been up until recent years, when it was granted some independence. This means, of course, a Marxist revolution will occur in the next few months...


Guyana's real distinction is that it's the only South American country that uses English as their primary langauge. Like many of the countries here, it has lots of beautiful, breathtaking natural scenery. This is code which means that there's no infrastructure whatsoever. In fact, it's pretty much assured that your five-star resort here is going to have a mud floor, your car is going to be from some former Soviet republic, and your money can purchase entire villages.


Compared to it's neighbors, Paraguay is milquetoast. It's bland. There's no dramatic struggle between government forces and paramilitary guerrilas. There's no thriving drug trade, or obsession with plastic surgery. If you were to travel here, you would probably see some interesting things and have a nice coffee at an open air cafe without the threat of gunfire disrupting the idyllic scene. If you're going to take the trouble to go all the way to South America, you think you'd go somewhere where you could at least have the thrill of searching for diamonds in a tropical rainforest, but Parguay won't even allow that, so what's the use?


Peru is the home of the Landmark Most Likely to Make Children Giggle: Lake Titicaca. It's also the center of the once mighty Incan empire, which ruled thanks to it's great and terrible llama force which would come down the mountains to meet their enemies and gently lick their hands and faces, because they're adorable. In Peru, European style merges with native influences to create what is known as mestizo, or "Art that merges European and Native elements".


Where Guyana is English and French Guiana is, well, French, Suriname is Dutch, which makes you wonder why the country's name doesn't have more vowels and j's in it, like Sjurinjaame or something. 80% of the country is covered in rainforest, so there are lots of logging companies that want at that timber. Environmentalists are aware of this, so there are 5 people chaining themselves to trees for every native Surinamerite(erator).


Uruguay is where Brazillians go for vacation. A pleasant climate, nice beaches, political stability and safety all have brought some reknown to this charming country. Unfortunately, besides the aforementioned lake in Peru, the Second Place Finisher was Uruguay, which is laughed at when slightly mispronounced by teenagers. Uruguay is also home to gauchos, which are kind of like cowboys except that they are foreigners. Well, not in Uruguay, where cowboys are the foreigners.


Venezuela has been in the news quite a bit recently. Being "in the news" generally only means that you have internal strife and rioting if you're a South American country, but in this case it's some crazy guy who got elected President and started yelling about America. Yelling about the US tends to be a good way to take eyes off of your internal problems (I mean, who doesn't hate the US, right?). If travelling to Venezuela, be sure to get a Pina Colada and then complain about the service, because everyone likes tourists that reinforce negative images.

That's it for this installment: Next, the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps? Depends on my mood, and what I had for dinner.


At 7:58 PM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

You should be a travel agent! Selling cheap tours...So which is your favourite holiday destination?

I can't go past URgay!

At 3:44 AM, Blogger chica bonita said...

you have a hidden talent, mahd!! this is getting more interesting! funnily, when anyone mention argentina, i could only think of their football team and the legendary maradona. hehe ;-)

p.s: i have a confession. >.< i've never heard of french guiana, guyana and suriname. history and geography lessons are meant to be slept through.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Mahd said...

ChickyBabe, For winter, I'd say Lake Tahoe here in the states. For summer, I dunno: perhaps Hawaii or the Caribbean?

chica bonita, Some of these nations generally aren't mentioned unless there's trouble, so I wouldn't worry too much.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger chica bonita said...

mahd: it's either that or i'm just plain shallow, i have to admit. i'd like to go to caribbean someday. and i'd love to have pina colada there instead. chickybabe, wanna come along? :-D

At 9:08 PM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

Mahd - I meant in South America. The Caribbean is my dream destination. Choosing an island will be difficult. What would be Mahd's recommendation?

Chica - I'm packing my bags!

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Mahd said...

ChickyBabe, I'd go with Brazil for carnival. Sure, everyone will be 35% artifical pieces, but at least they'll look good!

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Mahd said...

Also, for the Caribbean, I'd recommend St. Barts, Antigua or the US Virgin Islands (more touristy, though)


Post a Comment

<< Home