The forgotten continent

The Independent newspaper is a fine publication. I read it every day, including online in Argentina. As well as keeping up with UK news, it is useful for monitoring progress of the “UK perspective on the rest of the world”. For a more accurate majority UK perspective I know I should be reading a paper with a wider circulation… but I scrapped that idea on realising that it meant The Sun, or The Mail.
Thus we have been able to follow debates on wheelie bin taxes, and hospital super-viruses. And thus we have also discovered that South America is truly a “forgotten continent”. In his book “Notes from a Small Island”, Bill Bryson says;
“If your concept of world geography was shaped entirely by what you read in the papers and saw on television, you would have no choice but to conclude that America must be about where Ireland is, that France and Germany lie roughly alongside the Azores, that Australia occupies a hot zone somewhere in the region of the Middle East, and that pretty much all the other sovereign states are either mythical, or can only be reached by spaceship”. Bryson, (1995) p32.
And of course even Bryson where he lists “America” actually only means “the USA”, along with every BBC newsreader who insists on referring to “the American president…”

In the month that we have been back in the UK however, there have been a couple of South American news stories actually made it to the UK press. The first, a bus crash in Ecuador involved British kids on a gap year project, otherwise it probably wouldn’t have featured. The Independent travel editor, one Simon Calder, described the country’s infrastructure as “basic”, and said:
“This is a third world country with all the problems that come with that.” There’s nothing like an insightful piece of analysis to enable the reader to understand the story… and that is nothing like an insightful piece of analysis, but it was quoted by the BBC, so presumably it was the best elucidation available and at least Mr Calder was able to identify correctly the country he was writing about, which is probably all it takes to put a journalist into the “elite” class when reporting on South America. This leads us on to the South American news story covered last week, i.e. the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz voting for economic autonomy. The story was interpreted in The Independent as “Santa Cruz voting on distancing themselves from Lima“. I rest my case.

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