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Exploitation, Smelly Cheese and Mexicans

Gavatha, Lesvos, GreeceYou hear a lot of stories when you live in a small Greek village, mainly because there is nothing to do but drink and listen to stories. One of my favorites is the story of the small town of Gavatha just down the road. It's actually a big valley called Kampo Antissa which is split in two by a rocky headland or small mountain so the right side is Campo Antissa and the left is Gavatha which has a small village. It is really one of the most unspoiled areas of Lesvos, or it was anyway, with Campo Antissa having a long beach that goes for about a mile with a beach population that peaks in August at about a dozen people. More people go to Gavatha which is a little more sheltered from the north winds and has a meager number of beach chairs and umbrellas and a couple restaurants including a small mobile cantina on the beach that plays Santana. The headland to the right of Kampo Antissa is the site of Ancient Antissa, yet to be exploited, I mean excavated. The area is supposed to be protected but in Greece where if you have money you can do anything, nothing protected is safe. In this case there is a man, or by the time you read this was a man, who owned a quarry at the entrance to the valley who didn't want to have to drive his trucks all the way to Sigri to load the rocks or whatever he is digging up onto the ships. He wanted to build his own dock and harbor right at the site of Ancient Antissa. Despite the entire population being against it he had the political connections not only to push this through but to also get EU funding for it. At the same time he began building a large hotel complex right in the small town of Gavatha. Then he had a stroke and he lies in a coma in some hospital somewhere. Supposedly the whole venture is for sale so some other wealthy connected person can buy it and continue to push through the harbor that nobody wants or needs.

The next story is not related but it may be. It was kind of unclear whether this was the same guy or not but he had a factory or a quarry or was building something and had lots of Albanians working for him who he not only paid very low wages, but he actually stopped paying them. Probably he was getting EU funds too because that's what people do here, they get EU funds to build, for example a hotel, then they finish it and move in and it is their house because there is no need for hotels, at least in these mountain villages. So anyway what does the guy do about the Albanian workers complaining about not getting paid? He turned them in for being illegal immigrants. They are arrested and sent back to Albania. Of course any money he saved on their wages he has to spend on bodyguards and security but in Greece that's a status symbol. Having people who want to kill you means you are successful in Greece.

Those of you who have been reading my websites may remember the story of the smelly cheese factory just beyond the village of Vatousa. They were dumping the cheese waste into the creek next to the factory, killing the platanos trees and polluting the valley all the way down to Kampo Antissa. I went to complain to the Dimarchos who was like the Governor of the island and he sat at his desk and made a 45 minute speech about his responsibilities under the Kapodistrias plan, thanked me for coming and showed me the door assuring me that he would take care of the problem that I had not even been given the opportunity to tell him of. Of course the factory continued to dump their waste until they got an EU grant to make a new factory up the road using the latest technology to purify the cheese waste so as not to pollute and stink up the new neighborhood. Well of course you can't believe everything you hear in a village cafeneon but they say that the company never bothered to install the new purification system and is dumping the cheese waste into the creek above the village. But they did solve the problem of the smell which tourists who made the journey from Kalloni to Eressos were complaining about. They built a new road which goes along the coast through Agra and Mesotopos instead. Problem solved. Of course that also means that fewer tourists see the beautiful churches of Vatousa, the Gogo Museum, the Methymnaos Winery, the Iakovidis Museum, the beaches of Gavatha and Kampo Antissa, Perivolos  Monastery or the beautiful square and tavernas of Antissa. But at least they won't complain about the smell.

But before you get on your high horse and think that this is an uncivilized law of the jungle kind of country let me tell you about my little town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When they were completing Interstate I-40 from Greensboro to Wilmington back in the seventies they gave the contract to some company from Texas who rented an entire apartment complex for their Mexican migrant workers. But what the company lawyers had probably noted was that it took 6 months to legally evict someone from an apartment. So they bounced the big rent check, completed the project in 6 months and left several hundred Mexicans behind which is why we now have lots of authentic Mexican restaurants, grocery stores, and social services has everything written in English and Spanish. I am not complaining because I happen to like Mexicans, Mexican food and the cultural diversity they brought to my town. But what brought them was the same selfish, cold-hearted greed that I hear about in the village cafeneons of Lesvos and the same greed that has brought on the mortgage crisis, wall street bubbles and the impending economic collapse of western society.

But here in Lesvos it does not make the papers and the people who suffer are on a first name basis with their oppressors who might even buy them an ouzo in the local cafeneon.

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