So tonight I met a pork knocker. In case you were wondering (I certainly was the first time I heard the term), a pork knocker is a gold miner who works in the interior of the country (referred to as the regions). I guess traditionally they would carry dried pork with them to eat… and as miners, they like to knock things.
Anyways, he was a really interesting guy. He has been doing it for ten years (since he was 17) but he has decided to find something else to do because the exposure to malaria is so high. He is torn because he knows that he can make good money that way but he no longer wants to risk his health. It is frustrating for many people in this profession (and many others) that health is often the tradeoff for making a living.
The reason that he is in the city, though, is because it is Amerindian Heritage month (the native people of Guyana). The Guyanese have done a pretty decent job of legislating Amerindian rights (the implementation of these policies is always less than the ideal but they certainly have a better track record than Canada). This is partially because of international pressure of NGOs and the UN, a Guyanese awareness of the struggles that can be associated with a multi-ethnic state, a sense of goodwill and because the Amerindian population have the swing vote between the two dominant political parties.
Putting politics aside, I was able to see some interesting dances tonight, eat some good food and, of course, meet a pork knocker. Tomorrow I am going to see the traditional craft show.
Drew Badgley is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, studying International Development Studies, currently on Co-op placement in Guyana.