Saturday, March 27, 2010


The city is angry. Speeches distorted by cheap amplification ring across the rooftops and echo against the neighbouring buildings. The meaning is lost but the tone makes it clear. The city is angry.

Intersections are blocked, guarded by makeshift gates and eager young men in bandannas and red t-shirts. Hundreds, thousands of people are animated by an energy not often seen this close to the equator, where heat and humidity conspire to rob you of momentum, of direction. It makes you shuffle and dawdle and crouch in the shade of trees.

Now the people seem possessed with an urgency that is at once calm and electrifying. They drive around, riding in flatbed trucks and pickups, grinning. They gather at the intersections and squares, eating and chatting and listening to fiery tirades and waving at strangers. They walk around with purpose and determination, angry and excited and happy all at the same time.

Their counterparts are the uneasy groups of young soldiers and police that seem to huddle at every street corner. They are armed and burdened under riot gear, with heavy helmets and perspex shields, formerly clear but now clouded with the scratches and insults of previous battles. They too seem alert, but less confident. There is much tension in the air, making it heavy, adding to the heat and humidity and smog that sits over the city.

Amidst all this I sit in the company of bronzed and burnt tourists. We sleep and read and laze around a rooftop pool. Occasionally the wind will shift, and the speeches and rallies are momentarily drowned out by the music from the clubs and cafes that line the streets below. We shift about, in step with the sun as it marches across the sky. Oblivious to the tension in the street, blind to the angry city.

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