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Rick Steves Travel as a Political Act. NY: Nation Books, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Rick Steves Travel as a Political Act. NY: Nation Books, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rick Steves Travel as a Political Act. NY: Nation Books, 2009.

2 Resurrection in El Salvador Global education instead of a week on a beach Thomas Jefferson: “Travel makes men wiser, but less happy” (86) “Suffering that’s not covered on the nightly news is still suffering.” Minimum wage= $1/hr, $144 /month Those in the country each half that Beatriz: water and electricity take ¼ of her monthly wages Coyotes charge $6,000 to get them to the US, but there are no guarantees

3 Steves is a “round-trip revolutionary” (someone who cares enough to come and visit, but who isn’t about to stay) His trip gave him a much more in-depth sense of the statistic about half of humanity trying to live on $2/day. Globalization (in this case manufacturing goods cheaper in a foreign country) – necessary evil? How to ensure that it’s a win-win situation for all parties?

4 The locals were taught: “Don’t question authority. Heaven awaits those who suffer quietly.” 1932: indigenous culture was outlawed and a military dictatorship established Following an insurrection, thousands were slaughtered Popular saying: Feed the hungry= you’re a saint; ask why they’re poor: You’re a communist

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6 Oscar Romero Made archbishop in 1977 Known as a conservative priest Spoke out because of the violence against the poor and assassinations of church leaders. Became a charismatic spokesperson Last speech: pleaded with soldiers not to kill people 1980: Gunned down in front of his congregation Result= long, bloody Civil War Reagan gives lots of money to the right. “Death Squads” raided the poor (Today this policy is known as the ‘Salvador Option’ Peace accord reached in 1992

7 US Interests US has still been intervening In 2004, the left-wing FMLN was gaining ground… US threatened to ship all the Salvadorians home, thus cutting off many families from an important source of ex-pat money.. So the FMLN lost. 2005: 25 th anniversary of Romero’s assassination Thousands marched in commemoration University of Central America: all six of the Jesuit priests who were leaders of Liberation Theology were murdered in Steves notes: it’s one thing to read about it, but being there hits you in a different way.

8 “Right behind the bedrooms of those professors, the smell of the flowers, the hard labor of the man bent over in the garden, the quiet focus of students whose parents lost a revolution, the knowledge that my country provided those exploding bullets…. All combined to make this experience both vivid and enduring.” (110)

9 Turkey and Morocco: Sampling Secular Islam Turkey and Morocco: moderate Muslim nations Turkey: Steves used to end his European tours here Turkey= commited to connecting East and West Working on a tunnel between Istanbul and Europe, expected to open in 2013

10 Enjoying Turkey Playing backgammon at a teahouse with a stranger Visiting a remote village, in this case Gu:zelyurt Tradition of music and dance Due to inflation, rather than use banks, parents begin building structures for their offspring

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12 Turkey Today “With each election, the line between mosque and state gets a little more blurred. Turkey, like so much of today’s world, is in a tug-of-war between secular forces and right-wing fundamentalism.” (135) “Keen and caring secular observers see an ominous trend.” “Seeing this struggle play out in Turkey-- a land that first adopted a modern, secular constitution only in 1924—is dramatic. I can feel the chill sweep across a teahouse when a fundamentalist Muslim man walks by.. Followed, a few step behind, by his covered-up wife.”

13 “I find an irony in the current tensions between America and Islam. I believe we’re incurring incalculable costs (both direct and indirect, tangible and intangible) because our lack of understanding makes us needlessly fearful about Islam.” “And sadly, I fear that because we’re afraid of it, our actions create a situation where we need to be afraid.” (139)

14 Morocco: modest new affluence, lots of vision, and energy Laments encouraging people to take package tours into Morocco instead of truly exploring “I am a Christian who wants to believe we can live peacefully with Islam. One thing is clear to me: What I learn about Islam from media in the US can fill me with fear and anger. What I learn about Islam by traveling in Muslim countries fills me with hope.”

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16 Mission: Understanding Iran When he’s asked how to help build understanding between Iran and the US, he proposes a TV show “I’m convinced that people-to-people travel experiences can be a powerful force for peace.” (161) Still, he felt nervous about the prospect of filming in Iran.

17 In 12 days, they shoot in Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, and Persepolis (director, cameraman, Steves) Two guides: an Iranian-American friend… and an Iranian-appointed guide who was to follow them at all times (Steves calls him a “government minder”) They had interesting challenges—such as being given a specific time window to shoot Steves’ critics thought he would only be allowed to shoot pretty things; the Iranians thought he would only show the ugly side of Iran

18 Steves especially enjoyed simply talking to people on the street. When he said he was American, people smiled. (168) Some things he saw fit the negative stereotypes he had in his head, but he realized that wasn’t the whole story. “I simply couldn’t reconcile the fear- mongering and hate-filled billboards with the huge smiles and genuine hospitality we received on the ground.” (170)

19 Details Productivity seemed low, as if people weren’t trying to be efficient. The university scene was sadly conformist Many women had gotten nose jobs; it’s big business for the middle class. Even allowed to film in a mosque while a ceremony was going on, and the cleric spoke with them afterwards; the event was televised on local TV

20 “Leaving the mosque, our crew pondered how easily the footage we’d just shot could be cut and edited to appear either menacing or heartwarming, depending on our agenda… Instead we planned to edit it to match our actual experience: showing the guards and ‘Death to Israel’ banner, but focusing on the men with warm faces praying with their sons at their sides, and the children outside scrambling for mulberries.” (185)

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22 Persepolis Ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire built by Darius and his son Xerxes the Great around 500 BC “Sacked and burned by Alexander the Great.. Replacing Persian dominance with Greek culture”

23 Ends trip with visit to the cemetery, a brutal reminder of the war with Iraq that was 20 years earlier “For 12 days I’d been out of my comfort zone, in a land where people live under a theocracy.” (190) “I have long held that travel can be a powerful force for peace. Travel promotes understanding at the expense of fear. And understanding bridges conflicts between nations.”

24 “Granted, there’s no easy solution, but surely getting to know Iranian culture is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, even the most skeptical will appreciate the humanity of 70 million Iranian people. Our political leaders sometimes make us forget that all of us on this planet are equally precious children of God. Having been to Iran and meeting its people face-to-face, I feel this more strongly than ever.” (193)

25 Homecoming “Travel doesn’t end when you step off the plane into your familiar home airport.” (196) “Travel becomes a political act only if you actually do something with your broadened perspective once you return home.” (198) “Thoughtful travelers know that we’re all citizens of the world and members of a global family. Spinning from Scotland to Sri Lanka, from Tacoma to Tehran, travelers experience the world like whirling dervishes:

26 “We keep one foot planted in our homeland, while acknowledging the diversity of our vast world. We celebrate the abundant and good life we’ve been given and work to help those blessings shower more equitably upon all.” (205)


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