Upside Down Notebook

Putting the street into the notebook. By Ben Dangl

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Faces and Books

March 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

I have started a Facebook page where I will be sharing articles, writing and information about my forthcoming book:
Click here to connect on Facebook

Dancing with Dynamite

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Upside Down Notebook is Back Up and Running!

January 8th, 2010 · No Comments

Hey Folks,
Sorry I’ve been off of this blog for so long. I had some technical problems with the site. So now I’m back. Please stay tuned for more – finally!
I have been writing elsewhere and you can see the articles at this site:

– Ben

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College Course – The Government Palace and the Street: Introduction to South American History and Politics

May 12th, 2009 · No Comments

I will be teaching the following course for the 2009 fall semester at Burlington College in Burlington, Vermont. To sign up for this class email Sandy Baird:

I hope to see some of you there! If you have any questions about the class, email me at

The Government Palace and the Street: Introduction to South American History and Politics
Burlington College, Vermont

Instructor: Ben Dangl
Wednesday, 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Fall Semester, August 31 – December 11

Course Description: South America has long been a battleground for national governments, foreign corporations, Washington, and protest movements. In this course we will analyze this convergence of political, economic and social power from 19th century independence wars to recent news headlines. Militarization and state terror will be examined through the lens of dictatorships and the Andean drug wars. We will make connections between the landless farmer movements in Paraguay and Brazil and movements for public control of water in Bolivia and Uruguay. By studying free market policies in Chile and Argentina and socialism in Venezuela we will gain insights into the region’s dominant economic structures. The class will also involve daily discussions of current events in South America and US-South American relations under the Barack Obama administration. Readings and independent projects will be complemented by documentaries, indigenous hip-hop, feminist graffiti art and South American folk music.

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Bewildered Urban Insects

May 7th, 2009 · No Comments

[A building by the river in Asunción]

In the morning in one neighborhood in Asunción, Paraguay the trucks and buses take to the streets with a vengeance, making up for the night’s lost time. The smell of fresh bread mixes in the air with the heady aroma of burning garbage.

Dogs pace their yards and driveways behind fences, dreaming, going insane. Insects and butterflies hover lazily, eternally bewildered in the urban trees. A newspaper delivery man with the day’s ABC Color under one arm picks up an orange on the sidewalk and rolls it into the intersection, watches until a truck crushes it into the pavement.

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The Dragons of Asuncion, Paraguay

April 29th, 2009 · No Comments

Dawn in Paraguayan countryside
[Photo: Dawn in the Paraguayan countryside.]

When the sun bakes the Asuncion streets, shadows become part of a necessary equation, a currency, a way to get from one side of town to the other.

At the soccer game last night, the beer was ice cold, the lomitos fresh, the bird under the lights confused.

A friend points out bullet holes on a light post downtown. Some of them are from civil wars decades ago, some from successful and unsuccessful coups, police crackdowns. The size of the hole, the angle of the ricochet mark, all tell of an escape, a death, one more dictator in the palace by the river.

And the ancient buses rumble past like monsters, urban-bound dragons in the wrong century.

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New Website: Collection of Articles

April 19th, 2009 · No Comments

Please take a look at my new website which has a collection of most of the articles I’ve written in recent years, all organized by topic and theme. I felt like it would be a good idea to start this up as sometimes old articles get lost, or the websites that published them disappear, the links break, and so on. So now all the articles are here in one place, and I’ll continue to update it each time I write something. The article archive is on the right sidebar. The site also has some bio information and links to books, other websites I edit, etc.

Please check it out at

Also, after some time in Argentina, I’m back in Paraguay, where I intend to start blogging more, and write some reports on how the book presentations I’ve done in Bolivia and Argentina for the Spanish edition of The Price of Fire (published by Plural Editores in Bolivia) have gone.

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Argentina: Boomerangs in Time

April 9th, 2009 · No Comments

[Graffiti in Mendoza]

The heavy air of Buenos Aires is antique and electric. The history of this country is calloused from being run over and reconsidered so many times by the memories of millions.

In Mendoza, Argentina, the exhaust is eaten up by the city’s many trees. Here, conversations, steak and wine remind me that political ideologies should be chewed and digested, changed, altered to conform to the flux of everyday life, the view of the mountains up close.

I have visited friends in this city often over the years so that now their bookshelves represent to me a kind of mini-museum; each time I visit I end up leaving books from my backpack. Now these books represent the expectations and plans of each crossing of the equator, what story I hoped to write, history I hoped to learn, boomerangs in time.

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Swamp Air Confetti on the Road

March 24th, 2009 · No Comments

Bus ticket sellers at the station yell their destinations like prayers. The wind outside makes the Bolivian flag tight. Exhaust fills the air like confetti. We inch into the dark, dank womb of the bus with orange seats that sink with our weight. All around us the air smells like strawberry perfume at the bottom of a swamp mixing with the cold new air of the mountains.

In the morning at the market where the breakfast is still too hot, skinned cow heads are hauled from the back of a station wagon and slung onto the vendors’ shoulders for the day’s sale. The sound of shovels slicing into a pile of gravel on the street mixes with the growls of dogs in their garbage.

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New Articles: Obama, Bolivia and Utah

March 12th, 2009 · No Comments

Here are links to a few recent articles I wrote.

One was published in last week’s print edition of The Nation:

Lessons From Latin America

The other was published in Indian Country Today:

Bolivia’s new constitution empowers indigenous majority

This one on Common Dreams:

Grassroots Beer Brewers Score a Victory in Utah

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La Paz: Pachamama’s Concrete Jungle

February 28th, 2009 · No Comments

Outside the window is a wall of sound. People on the street talk through microphones to sell mangoes and religion. Trees cling like hair to the sides of old, bored mountains. Laundry flaps outside the neighborhood’s windows. Those clothes drying in the wind are the flags of a family, more relevant to what’s important in a life than any national flag.

This is Saturday’s postcard to Sunday, written with the market purchases that will be tomorrow’s picnic, with today’s traffic jams that will be tomorrow’s silence.

The city is a living beast, pumping its own blood, digesting its own food. Graffiti is the city speaking to itself, the tattoos and grocery lists of a breathing city, a city that hates forests as much as it loves its streets, the thump and skid of a soccer game on pavement, the resigned battle between pedestrians and traffic.

Some people walk on the sidewalk slowly, intently, perhaps not wanting to ever arrive. Others rush like the cars, knowing only their destination.

The house plants press against the window. knowing this, wanting to be a part of the movement and drama.

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Cumbia and Beer: La Paz Days and Nights

February 25th, 2009 · No Comments

Street scene in El Alto
[Photo: Street scene in El Alto]

A message on the window of the bus promises “Tourism, Peace, Love.” The radio sprinkles out a cumbia jingle.

At the bar the musicians pounding drums send ripples into the smoke-filled air.

Lightning hits like a strobe light, beating the night into a false day.

The hail collects in little streams in the street, rides down, turning the water white.

A choir positions itself in a park surrounded by streets congested with traffic. Exhaust hovers like a halo over the songs. Their brass horn militia combats car horns. No one listens. The park is empty. At the end, those in the choir clap from themselves.

After the soccer game that night the same park fills with fans gathering to celebrate. The dark pack of bodies moves, shakes with the rhythms of their victory chants. Celebrants ride on the tailgates of passing cars, spraying beer and fireworks into the air.

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Photos: Lake Titicaca Moments

February 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Here are a couple of photos I took on a recent trip to Lake Titicaca

Good Trip

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