Travels Of A Gringo: Langan In Latin America

Travels with a Gringo

Travels Of A Gringo: Langan In Latin America – Channel 4 2003

Like many people, journalist and documentary film-maker Sean Langan had heard about globalisation. He’d seen the anti-globalisation riots and protests on television, but apart from some vague notion that Nike, mobile phones and a Big Mac were all somehow involved, he wasn’t really sure what globalisation meant. So he travelled from one end of Latin America to the other, to find out what it means for the people there, and, more importantly, to see for himself what impact it’s had on their lives.

Travels of a Gringo is a three part series filmed by journalist Sean Langan, which looks into the effects of globalisation on the people of Latin America. The first programme visits Argentina and Bolivia. Sean’s first stop is Argentina, a country in a state of economic crisis. Every day people demonstrate on the streets; not only the poor, who have lost their jobs and have had their benefits cut, but also the middle classes, whose savings have gone up in smoke. All seem to be blaming the same people – the government, the banks, but especially the IMF. Argentina has been following the dictates of the IMF. In the 80s and 90s it privatised much of its state industries – part of the global plan of the IMF to open up markets. But the result has been economic chaos. And now the IMF is back in town, setting new conditions for helping to bail the country out of its mess.

Sean decides to meet them but the head of their delegation, Mr Singh, proves elusive. The IMF answers to its own HQ back in Washington, and has press conferences in America and Europe, but little time for local journalists. However, Sean does manage to get an interview with someone from that other pillar of the global economic establishment, the World Bank. And we hear from the horse’s mouth that the IMF and the World Bank, who have such a stranglehold over the economies of the poor countries, are working for the benefit of the rich countries.

At one huge demonstration, Sean meets some radical young men who have come from the north of Argentina to protest in the capital. Che Guevara is their hero and his image is everywhere. Sean also meets a veteran campaigner who invites him to his town in the north and he is more than happy to jump at the chance to get out of the city. In the north, Sean sees a different side to the crisis. He visits a hospital where the staff haven’t been paid for months and where all kinds of basic materials are running out. He sees a food hall, set up to feed hungry kids and then people rummaging for food on a rubbish tip. And there is nothing normal about this poverty. This is new. For the poor, as the economics of globalisation take effect, things are getting worse.

When Che Guevara was a young man, he set off from his home in Argentina on a journey of discovery around Latin America. It was this experience which radicalised him. Sean, on his own journey of discovery, leaves Argentina in the footsteps of Che and crosses into Bolivia.

Sean’s first stop in Bolivia is a mining town, and yet again people are on the streets. They are demonstrating against the multinational company that owns the mines and are in favour of re-nationalisation. They blame the company for not investing in the mine and a worsening of working conditions. Gringos aren’t flavour of the month in this town. Sean meets a union leader who is so incensed that he says that they’ll fight like Bin Laden to liberate their country from the grip of America. Sean is then taken down a mine to get a feel for what it’s like to work there.

At the end of the programme, the miners appear to win their battle and it is announced that the mines are to be renationalised. But, as Sean notes, the actions of the miners were not the decisive factor. The re-nationalisation of the mines is only to happen because the multinational company has gone bankrupt. Yet again, international economic forces are paramount. And as usual, the needs of local people hold little sway.

Are the benefits from globalisation worth the price of such poverty?


Episode Guide

Episode 1 – Starting in Buenos Aires, film-maker Sean Langan begins his travels through Latin America as he attempts to find out the impact globalisation has had on the lives of the South Americans.

Episode 2 – Sean Langan continues his journey from one end of Latin America to the other as he reaches the Bolivian capital La Paz  – the highest city in the world.

Episode 3 – Journalist Sean Langan concludes his journey from one end of Latin America to the other in an attempt to discover the true impact of globalisation on ordinary people’s lives.

Travels Of A Gringo: Langan In Latin America – Channel 4 2003