Could you tell us how the idea of Banador came to you in the writing of Pandemic of Lies: the Exile?
During my sixteen years of living in South America, I’ve had the chance to visit several South American countries. These include Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. There was one year during which, on account of a national rice surplus which was driving prices in a precipitously downward direction in Ecuador and had to be evacuated in a massive exportation effort on the double, I made six consecutive trips to Colombia in representation of the Ecuadorian rice sector. On another occasion I had to spend two months in Brazil in order to solve a commercial problem suffered by my Ecuadorian relatives at the hands of a couple of dishonest Brazilian citizens. Besides all these trips taken around South America, since 1994 I’ve been living continuously in Ecuador. Thus, modesty aside, I think I had a good grasp on what was happening south of the Border when I started composing Pandemic of Lies. So to get back to your initial question, I would say Banador is a composite picture of all my experiences in various countries in South America. That’s why I decided to create a mythical nation and to call it Banador. In short, Banador is ubiquitous.
Could you give us some concrete details about Banador?
Banador is not really a poor country, but most of its citizens consider themselves poor. The poor Banadorians blame their poverty on a) the native oligarchs, b) the United States, or c) fate. The Banadorian radicals, mostly or almost exclusively from the left wing of the political spectrum, tend to lash out at both the rich Banadorians and the United States for the socio-economic situation of their country. They see native wealth and American interests conspiring together behind the scenes to maintain the status quo and keep the people below in check. On the other hand, the least educated of the needy people hardly ever chastise the U.S. for their situation but frequently do express their resentment against their bosses or the owners of the companies they work for—if they are so lucky as to have a job. Fate receives most of the finger-pointing and blame from most sectors. With this respect, though, the one common thing all Banadorians share is that they never blame themselves for their seemingly endless plight.
As I stated at the beginning, Banador is not poor. In fact, it’s actually a rich country—rich in oil, gas, minerals, water, and land resources. What’s dearly lacking is the courage and sincerity on the part of its citizens, with very few exceptions, to face the issues without the use of scapegoats.
Is this why so many Banadorians are poor?
Precisely. Banadorians are always projecting out their guilt and responsibility. The wealthy and successful members of Banadorian society call the poor people lazy, and the poor call the wealthy citizens exploiters. That kind of tense argument never allows for consensus, harmony, and progress. However, it does create a fertile ground for demagogues, who use the seeds of popular resentment to plant the Banadorian political fields with hatred and chaos, from which they will eventually reap major benefits, but primarily for themselves and their sycophants. Populism, authoritarianism, and corruption plague the political scenery in Banador. Under the constant attacks of such pests, it is almost impossible for Banador ever to reach the status of a developed nation.
Is there racism in Banador?
There’s definitely plenty of that. Indeed, Banador is far from being a racial paradise. Nonetheless, racial tensions seem to irradiate mostly from the top of the economic pyramid toward the base. As you climb the economic ladder, you immediately perceive that the skin tone of people lightens up. Eventually, you reach an apex where the faces you perceive don’t differ much from those you might encounter in Europe. The demagogic populist politicians utilize this situation to instill even more hatred into the darker-skinned classes toward the dominant economic groups and to perpetuate a class struggle that leads only to more political chaos and instability. While by blood, sweat, and tears, the Banadorian nation now and again might accomplish taking two steps forward, the opportunistic politicians, with one simple push and in a flash, make the whole country recede three steps. They do this by pouring gasoline into an already existent fire that cries out for justice and equality. What these corrupt politicians don’t tell the people is that such lofty goals are best attained through evolutionary and not revolutionary processes. More importantly, these Machiavellian scoundrels avoid informing the nation that globalization is irreversible, that everybody out there around the globe is watching Banador, and that nobody will want to come to and invest in Banador if the country’s social, political, and economic state of things has fallen into an uncontrollable spin and, in particular, if, because of this turbulence, there even looms the possibility of the Balkanization of the Banadorian nation state.
Are you referring to regionalist forces?
Exactly. In Banador there are basically two regions: mountain and coast. The Banadorians who live in mountainous areas are called serranos, a word that comes from the Spanish word sierra, which in English means “mountain range”. Those who reside in the coastal region are addressed as costeños, whose etymological root is costa, equivalent to “coast” in English. Although both groups consider themselves Banadorian through and through, the serranos and the costeños have different customs. For example, the serranos love bull-fighting, while the costeños love horse-riding events. With respect to the subject of cuisine, while the serranos include in their menu practically every part of the cow, including the innards, the costeños’ culinary preferences gravitate toward seafood. The serranos use a good number of Kichwa words because they have mixed Spanish and indigenous (of Incan origin) blood, with the exception of the economic elite. The costeños have Spanish, African, and indigenous (of non-Incan origin) ancestors. These cultural and racial differences between the two groups engender animosity, which is especially evident at soccer games, where gross insults and offensive names are traded between serranos and costeños as they root for their favorite teams from their home areas. This long-standing enmity between sierra and costa becomes another trouble spot which demagogic politicians exploit to their advantage, further dividing the Banadorian nation.
So what’s one possible solution to all these Banadorian problems?
The solution is the same for Banador as for any Latin American country just about, I think. Cooperation, consensus, harmonized thinking, meeting of minds, less navel-staring and more peering into the future, less ideology and more creativity, fewer words and more action, and, last but not least, the creation of a common national goal that’s at the same time pro-progress and pro-freedom.