Left Justified: What I did on spring break

Left Justified: What I did on spring break

By Stanley Campbell

What I did on spring break

Finally I’m going on a real vacation, but the day I landed in Peru was the day somebody set off a bomb two blocks from the American Embassy, killing nine and hurting 50. Everyone took it as a shot at our president, who was scheduled to visit three days later. It didn’t stop George W. (good!). In fact, some of the Peruvians thought it might’ve been “politics” or some conspiracy. It’s an awful way to make a statement.

Anyway, I went to Cusco (or Qosqo as the natives call it), and there are a lot of natives, outnumbering everyone else two to one. Beautiful is not a good enough word for it, and it’s twice as nice during Easter week.

So I’m sitting in a fancy cafe sipping some coca tea, and my president comes on the TV and tells the Peruvian people he wants to “eradicate” all the coca plants.

I don’t think anyone took him seriously at first, but then somebody booed the TV. The next day, there were protests all over the country, even in our little tourist Mecca. I start telling people I’m from Australia.

You see, the folks here really use coca leaf as a tea, as a medicine; they use it in their religious ceremonies, when the kids are born, married and buried. And they, the native, indigenous Peruvians, take it as a personal insult when the greatest country in the world, the richest bank to whom everyone owes money, tells them what they can and can’t drink for breakfast.

Of course, Peruvians realize many Americans are addicted to drugs. There’s a drug war being fought in their neighbor to the north (Colombia, for those of you not up to date in your geography). But the thousands of farmers and millions of people who use coca here in Peru really don’t feel responsible for our addicts. They say: “Coca is a plant, not a drug,” and “Yankees, eradicate your noses.”

So I cut my vacation short and came home early.

Besides, I know spring is right around the corner in Rockford, and I want to be here when it arrives, right after the snow.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Minsitries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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