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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Gringo Effect

There is a strange spot between Volcán and Paso Ancho where it seems like cars and trucks roll uphill.
Some people insist that it is an optical illusion created by the immediate surroundings, and others are quite as emphatic that it is magnetism from ore within the mountains pulling the vehicles along the incline. I do not know, myself, which it is, or if it is something else altogether. But it is an odd feeling, to say the least. A gringo friend of mine taking me somewhere demonstrated this spot, pulling to the side of the road, coming to a complete halt, and putting the car into neutral. The vehicle began to move - and the optical illusion, if that's what it is (as I think), is certainly quite convincing. I may just take a paperclip with me to that spot and see if the paperclip is drawn along.

But I'm not going to solve as easily a quiet controversy as to the effect of gringos (often called transplants, expatriates, and the like) on the village of Paso Ancho and a thousand just like it in Latin America and the world.

A respected friend of mine here, of European origin, points out persuasively that, when he first came here quite a few years ago, "There was nothing." By that he means there were no paved roads, no supermarket, no public water supply, not much electricity. The arrival of the gringoes, he insisted, meant two things: an inflow of capital, improving the collective wealth of Paso Ancho, and the opportunity to learn new, marketable skills.

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