Q&A

Why novelist Alberto Fuguet likes free trade

No, and I don't think I will. I'd rather live it and see it and capture what I see in the streets.

What do you make of these meetings, culturally speaking?

The only thing I can say is that culture is much further ahead. And by culture I mean not only artistic creation but the way people dress and the way they eat. All that is free trade. I'm like Darwin: I believe that life is stronger, people's wills are stronger. I think these agreements end up putting on paper what is already on the street.

We're expecting protesters in Miami. Among their concerns is that cultures are being overrun by North American influences. Are these concerns legitimate?

Protest is a liberation of energy, and there's nothing so global as protest. It's a legit concern, but I think they're overreacting. I truly believe that American culture isn't as strong as we think it is. You think McDonald's sucks or you think maybe Hooters is horrible, but don't confuse that with the brainwashing of everybody else. Where there's liberty, I think things are always going to change. I'm more preoccupied with the extreme radicalism that's going on in Bolivia. I think that is a real danger, not that of America. If America were so strong, there would be no protests in Bolivia.

You've been called a sellout to American culture, a spoiled product of globalization, an irresponsible countryman. How do you respond?

It depends who said it. If you're talking from the far radical left, it's totally understandable. If you feel you're a weakling, America is the enemy. That's one of the things I admire about Mexico. Over there it's "fucking Americans." But I don't think they really hate Americans, because in the end they're going to be partners and they're going to live with Americans.

Is that selling out?

Selling out would mean if they gave you money. I think more than a sellout it's shaking hands. It's saying, "I'm not scared of you." Economically, I agree the U.S. can really destroy us. Militarily also. But there are ways to go around it. In the end, we're partners, and the force of Latin culture is pretty strong -- so strong that it has remade American culture.

You note that even the Yanomami Indians have VCRs. Is there such a thing today as an intact indigenous culture?

I guess there are very few. But you should ask them. Who am I to protect somebody? Do they want protection? If they want it and somebody is able to give it to them, they should. But we're talking about human beings. We're not talking about gorillas that are being shot in the jungle, or endangered species. I don't think any Indian tribe is less cultured than I am. Maybe they don't have the Internet but that doesn't necessarily prove anything. I believe all cultures have to be challenged. All this purism in Latin American countries or this provincial way of thinking was once a way of life. It was challenged, and it lost. And some people are crying, but most people are celebrating.

In Brazil McDonald's sells a McIndia chicken sandwich made with curry sauce. Have you tried one?

No. But I was in Dubayy when the McArabia was launched. It's made with pita bread, and instead of hamburger it has a sort of falafel. In Chile, McDonald's decided to put green pepper as a side order and avocado, because we really like mashed avocado.

What does this tell us?

That the locals also have something to say, and if you don't adapt, the competition is going to eat you. Chileans or Mexicans or Brazilians are not stupid. Arby's was kicked out of Chile and Eddie Murphy bombs there. Not all things American "work" in Chile or Brazil. Chile is one of the biggest Richard Linklater countries of the world. Faith No More is the biggest band in Brazil. I love those weird glitches nobody can explain.

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