Reporting in Peru has been harder than I expected. Not because the subject matter is sensitive in some places, nor because I don’t know anyone in the country, nor because it’s a large country with sometimes challenging infrastructure. No, the main problem has been Apple’s fault.
Our brand new Macbook Airs (bought for their extra portability) consistently have issues connecting to the internet even in places where there is wifi that works for everyone else. I guess that serves me right for shelling out for top-of-the-line computers for a trip to the developing world.
I called Apple’s technical support after we arrived in Iquitos this weekend and explained that we often couldn’t access the internet in the Amazonian city even when we could successfully connect to a wifi network.
The technician’s suggestion? “Can you take it to an Apple store?”
“Is there an Apple store in the Amazon?”
“Well, just take it to an Apple store as soon as possible.”
“I’m in the AMAZON!”
This has been a major reason I’ve been a little slow in reporting out some of what I’m finding in Peru. It’s made it harder to reach contacts, get transcriptions of my interviews, and, of course, update the blog. I’ve been further slowed down by the fact that I’ve been sick a few times.
I’ll share some detailed thoughts soon–unless I decide to donate my computer to promoting digital literacy among piranhas. But, preliminarily, I’ll say that the problem facing the LGBT movement in Peru is not just that religious conservatism is well organized and politically connected—it’s also that that LGBT groups have a hard time playing well with one another. There is a plethora of groups with a history of infighting reminiscent of the People’s Liberation Front of Judea.
This problem is compounded by the fact that the movement is poorly funded. This has made it difficult to develop a professional class of political strategists who know how the system works and have enduring relationships inside Peru’s political establishment.
The isolated Amazon region has a surprisingly robust movement. In 2010, activists won passage of an antidiscrimination law for the Loreto region, something that has eluded activists in Lima.
I had a marathon day of interviews here in Iquitos yesterday—a very strange process in which the leader of the local gay group called around on his cell phone to see who was free, ferried me to a meeting in a terrifying moped-taxi that would sometimes drive directly into oncoming traffic, and then dumped me into an interview without much more explanation than this is another “friend” of the group. But one thing the local activists underscored was that the social connections that come from being in a much smaller region (Iquitos only has 450,000 residents) went a long way to securing passage of the non-discrimination ordinance.
I’m off on another round of interviews today–hopefully my computer will work when I return.