This Christmas (their summer) I was in Maputo, Mozambique. In some ways, Mozambique is what many people think of when they think of Africa: there are wild animals, the direst poverty, great wealth, jungles, and great beauty as well as people living in all sorts of circumstances. My friend's stepfather, long ago, once told me, 95% of the world goes barefoot. I had to think about that, and frankly, I didn't really believe him, this man who had grown up in a rather elite atmosphere, gone to Harvard, and who had had a chauffeur. But now, after traveling everywhere from India, Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, and Africa, I know that he knew what he was talking about. Mozambique, a country whose civil war ended in 1992 after a war for liberation from the Portuguese who had colonized the area (Angola was also a Portuguese colony) is a country that probably reflects the 95% rule closely. During the war over one million people died of starvation and conflict, and as you can imagine, there are still many problems today. Mozambique lies on the southeastern coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean. The country is naturally beautiful. The city of Maputo, in the southern tip of the country, rises up from the sea so that houses built here have a beautiful sea vista. Needless to say, most of these homes are quite nice.
The nicest hotel in Maputo is the Polana, seen in the pictures above and below.
Most of the nice houses in Maputo have high walls around them, or at least high fences. Robbery is a problem because poverty is a problem, and many people have guards outside their homes 24 hours.
The Mozambiqans are generally shy and friendly; robbery is more of a problem than violence. Mozambique imports almost all of its food and the government has to subsidize it all for anyone to be able to afford it. Protests occurred last year when the government lowered the subsidies. Although there appears to be good farmland, apparently ownership is questionable and lack of equipment and knowledge are probably also problems.
Below is the old train station in Maputo, designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame.
Below is a cathedral in Maputo which resembles a giant juicer.
Above is an apartment building working people live in.
Below, here is how the majority of the population of Maputo live. The picture directly below shows what is a community garden; other places are not as lucky.
When it rains (and there is a rainy season), the dirt turns to mud, the streets flood and are often underwater. Potholes are everywhere throughout the city.
Litter is everywhere.
I don't think there is actually a sanitation system city-wide.
What these pictures don't show is hunger, disease (malaria is very common in Mozambique and even the city of Maputo; AIDS is a big problem), and the despair that comes from poor education, lack of any work, and physical problems. On Sunday afternoons and evenings however, families will cluster along the beach and the main road that runs along the waterfront of Maputo, cooking out, visiting, laughing - the old, young -whole families all together - everyone. Traffic almost comes to a standstill and the mood is joyful and relaxed.
I showed these pictures of poverty because there are so many pictures of beautiful rooms and homes on the internet that people here in the US begin to think that their own homes need to be redecorated, that they look terrible. I am sometimes one of those people, so I wanted a reminder that just because our own homes don't look like the covers of House Beautiful, we are still some of the luckiest people in the world. And 30 years later, the majority of the world still goes barefoot.