To the Editor:

While I appreciate the charitable sentiment behind Austin Broussard’s column “Nicaragua’s needs put student life in context,” (4/20) his adjective encumbered portrayal of the Nicaraguan countryside gave me pause. I don’t doubt that the “warm breeze,” “shadows of palms,” “temperate glow on volcanoes in the distance,” “dirt paths and dense vegetation” made this American Eli feel like he was “returning to the basics.” I just think that reaction creates a more problematic dynamic than merely acting as an impetus for Broussard and his colleagues to seek positive change for Nicaragua. Just as the developing world should not serve as a strip mine of natural resources and temporary labor for the United States, it is also inappropriate to see the bulk of our hemisphere as a kind of spiritual getaway, a place for stressed Americans to rediscover their souls when momentarily faced with staggering indigence and social injustice.

The problems faced by Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America are not simple, they are complicated, and to treat them at all otherwise is both disrespectful and disingenuous. I certainly laud Reach-Out’s efforts to connect Yale students with a foreign country whose daily struggles result in part from an intimate history with American imperialism. But if we react to the reality of our neighbor’s battles with wide eyed awe at its primitive topographical, economic, and political landscapes, we might as well call-in Captain Kurtz because as much as we may hope to ameliorate the Americas’ current predicament, we will only end up perpetuating it.

Ana Munoz ’04

April 20, 2004