Environmental Education and Awareness Training

Environmental education as a tool for awareness.

Its history can be briefly described by the following steps:

1968 – Founded as the Club of Rome brings together scientists, economists and senior government officials from several countries to analyze the world situation and make predictions and solutions for the future (in an ecological perspective, the global system). The studies and proposals of informal association, sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation, the first report of this organization was published in 1972 under the title: “The Limits of Growth.”

They pointed out some factors that could lead a global crisis ever seen:

Exhaustion of Natural Resources, an energy crisis, population growth, food shortage, mass unemployment, environmental pollution (the industrialization of the modern world is rapidly destroying the environment with effect no return and above any estimate).

1972 – The United Nations Conference in Stockholm occurred under the theory of thought originating from the Club of Rome. Ecological politicized the issue and opened a new field in international relations: the eco diplomacy. When the United Nations (UN) was established in 1945, highlighted as priorities for peace, human rights and equitable development are not priority or concern in their first years of existence the environmental issue, much less the welfare status. Only from the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in 1972, the ecological security has become the fourth priority of the United Nations.

1987 – The World Commission on Environment and Development (CMMAD), known as Brundland Commission, recommended the creation of a letter or a universal declaration on environmental protection and sustainable development.

“Answering the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to also meet their”. Our Common Future, Report of the Commission Brundland that inspired the Rio-92.

1992 – United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, also known as Rio-92 and ECO-92, twenty years after the Stockholm Conference also felt the impact of theories of the Club of Rome , mainly in the form of approaches and proposals made by developed countries.

However, in the interval between the two conferences, significant changes occurred in both societies and the ecological and environmental thinking. The Rio-92 was also the scene of the critical theories of the Club of Rome. Eco 92 started the process and reached an initial consensus on the Declaration of Principles of the Rio, “to continue the project of the Earth Charter.

This time, it was officially the Agenda 21, as a document of international problems of today, preparing the world for the challenges of the 21st century.

1995 – International Seminar on the Earth agreement, held in The Hague, Netherlands. There were defined the needs, the main elements and the way of drafting the Earth Charter.

1996 – Conference on Climate Change held in Kyoto in Japan and known as Rio +5 was held for five years after the Eco 92. The official document of the Conference was known as the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted on 11.12.97, seeking the involvement of a reduction of about 6% of emissions of greenhouse gases in industrialized countries until the period 2008 to 2012.

1997 – During the Rio was formed a Commission of the Earth agreement. At that time it was the first draft text of reference, the discussions today that beacon in the world. The Earth agreement and the Rio Declaration which seeks to establish international respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the overall ecology and development. It is understood that environmental education is essential for the formation of the individual as citizen.

Provisions of article 2 of Law 9795/99 establishing the National Policy of Environmental Education (PNEA) should be present in articulated at all levels and modalities of the educational process in all sectors of society.

Thus it is legal instrument to the citizen is environmentally aware, it can be charged by society and political responsibility and obligation to its institutionalization. Should be worked as a transversal theme, according to the National Curricular Parameters and Guidelines, as the law prioritizes the projects of environmental education in the disciplines of basic education.

ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS AND EDUCATION

The aspirations of a community or population should be considered in environmental planning which will be subject, as it seeks to solve the problems that alarmed by the diagnosis. These characteristics show that the knowledge of the environment by people who live and understand this area, generating data from the development of business activities and relationship with nature.

The community, for being there, has the power to transform and build new landscapes, new spaces, as well as their mental images, then revealing, perceptive plans more or less clear, according to their vital needs or limitations, as his social and cultural priorities .

As proposed Lerípio (1996): The perception inevitably influences human behavior, but to maintain a quality environment, the behavior must be directed to specific acts. Moreover, the specific acts must take precedence over other possible actions which reflect a different hierarchy of values. The personal habits reflect the priority of value of an individual and treated with consideration to the environment requires a focus on environmental values. Information and education of the public are essential, especially to develop the approach known as environmental ethics.

Lerípio (2001) proposing that complements the environment to influence the behavior group, to raise the participation of many individuals to the achievement of common targets, “A certain degree of consensus must be reached on the definition of environmental quality. The priorities within society must be established for the definition of targets. “

According to Dias (1994), it is possible to raise the public by passing the three steps: a) raise awareness, b) create attitudes that influence actions and c) gain the cooperation in solving problems. For this, you must first diagnose the real state of public opinion and trends. Research on attitudes can provide an understanding of certain aspects, and interviews with leaders of the public can develop an understanding of dimensions of attitudes and motivations. The awakening of awareness is to inform the public about the importance of a phenomenon in their lives. Inform to educate. Active participation is gained when offering an opportunity to express interest in real issues, especially when the subject indicates that participation can actually influence a result (TUAN, 1980).

Lerípio (op. cit) notes that efficient decision-making on environmental issues requires understanding of how people perceive and evaluate the likelihood of uncertain events. If the human being that makes decisions, you should consider that their behavior is a function of their real-world images and in the extensive system information, which determines the interaction of value systems of individuals and their images of the real world.

The implementation of social mobilization incurs the risk that the mutual influence of psychological factors, economic and environmental activated in the attempt to control the nature and development of laws by government in the direction of policy making, thereby undermining the effectiveness of plans.

The UNCED-United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the best way of dealing with environmental issues is with the participation of all interested citizens. And environmental education shows itself in the long term – as the best way to create critical awareness in the community, from the analysis of the problems it experienced, and, from this, actually establish their participation in solving these problems.

Education is itself a reading of nature. At the same time, the relationship with nature requires a certain relationship between individuals in society. A debate on when, how, where and why the methodology in environmental education everything leads us to believe in its success.

Environmental education can go in this direction, because that will assess not only the action on the anthropocentric nature, but also the division of interests that permeate it. Establish an environmental awareness not walk in the narrow sense, but to understand, investigate, search, so intense, in the fields of formal and informal education, the best conditions for its practice of teaching.

A key of Environmental Education is to enable individuals to engage in confrontation and resolution of environmental issues that affect them most directly, with a central point where the understanding of the complex nature of the natural environment and the environment created by man, resulting the integration of biological aspects, physical, social, economic and cultural.

Understood as any process of re – learning environment, the objective is that individuals acquire knowledge, values, behavior and practical skills to participate responsibly and effectively to the prevention and solution of environmental problems, and quality management of the environment.

This is only viable allowing it access to correct information on specific problems that require them, leaving the clear economic interdependence, political and ecological, and range of decisions and behaviors.
Therefore, the Environmental Education should contribute to the development of a spirit of responsibility and solidarity (TUAN, 1980, p. 54).

Involves educating receive information, work it, interpret it and act in consequence of the interpretation that has been reached.

There is active involvement of individuals. – Desiring to achieve a specific problem and enable people, it is necessary to know how to do it, how to pass the information, as related to life, the activities of people, so they feel affected and therefore interested in the deepen the least knowledge about.

Activities, practical demonstrations, examples of daily living, are more efficient ways of reaching the target audience. Involving people in a business practice, the scope is even greater. Most projects, environmental education does not reach their objectives, or does not obtain satisfactory results because they are not directed to the practical problems of a particular community or region, or the way work is done is at odds with reality and interests of the target population. It is important to the development and implementation of an environmental education project, which will meet the target audience, with regard to:

a) socio-economic characteristics and educational (level of education),

b) Knowledge about the environmental issue and interpretation, verified through the study of environmental perception

c) Interests and values,

d) Information on the environmental issue and e) environmental characteristics of the region in which they live.

For the satisfactory development of projects of the proposed environmental education days, which is from the profile of the group where it is established, making a full diagnosis to characterization of the group, their needs and anxieties, their values and way of seeing the environment so that added to the makers, teachers, together with the environmental characteristics to be treated then starting a real opportunity for participation by all in a draft environmental education.

Communicating Your Political Message With Trade Show Booths

Trade show booths are typically envisioned sitting at a convention, being used as a backdrop to promote a company and drive sales. This traditional view is certainly a correct one, but today’s trade show exhibits are much more than just a vehicle for sales. They are increasingly being used as communication and information aids, regardless of the subject matter. Politicians and organizations of all stripes are now turning to these units as an effective way to help promote their message and spread enthusiasm for their causes.

From Trade Show Exhibits To Grassroots

Everyone who promotes a cause longs for real, strong grassroots support. This is the kind of support that can sweep virtually any political movement or candidate onward to success, without concerns about funding. Although there is no magical formula for developing a political groundswell, two of the biggest components are solid education and emotional public interest. Trade show booths can be a strong component of education, and can help the public become invested in the cause. These units were originally designed to communicate information as effectively as possible, minimizing misunderstandings and promoting a highly targeted message. With a well-designed stand to support you, your staff is free to have the kind of one-on-one interactions that form grassroots movements, confirm your base, and bring lasting change.

Trade Show Booths Are A Strong Platform For Literature

Handing out leaflets is a good way to promote your campaign or further your cause. While the piece of paper itself is a strong factor in your marketing, adding in trade show exhibits can increase your presence dramatically. People naturally gravitate toward large displays with clear text, so you’ll get more visitors to browse your information. In addition, even people who don’t stop to pick up your flyer will see your name or your cause.

This added exposure may be even more valuable than the increased attendance. Political scientists have proven that people are more likely to vote for a candidate whose name they recognize, even vaguely, than to vote for a candidate that they have never heard of. The same theory holds true with causes: if they know nothing of the cause, they are more likely to support it if they have simply heard of it. You can use this to your advantage by promoting clear, targeted messages or broadcasting your name through trade show booths.

Make Your Unit An Integrated Part Of Your Campaign

Your trade show exhibits should be readily identifiable as an element of your campaign. They should tie in with your other advertising endeavors and should also feature organizational logos if appropriate. The more visible you are, the easier it will be for people who already support you to find your trade show booths and help build up further support.

Be Ready To Accept Donations

Convention stands have a tendency to attract donations. They may be small and come from passersby who want to help and support you, but you should ideally be prepared to accept them in as many forms as possible. Just be sure that you are legally permitted to fundraise in your current area, as there are some places that will limit, regulate, or even prohibit fundraising activity on premises.

These tips will help you get the most out of booths for your campaign. Whether you are promoting a new initiative or running for office, these units can be a powerful way to broadcast your message and get results.

The Sociologic Of Political Silence: Explaining A Discourse In Jamaica’s Society

The hegemonic categorization of the Jamaican landscape is primarily the justifiable reason for the sophisticated demonstrations and social hemorrhaging. Many of those happenings are caused from the lack of monologue of the business constituents. This group of elitists has exponentially benefited from playing the proletariat class. They have not offered their clientele the respect of voice on matters of social concerns or political mismanagement. The present government’s socio-economic policies are chiefly responsible for the erosion of much of the social fibre and economic livelihood of the Jamaican people. The poor are not only suffering but they are also hemorrhaging while the business class offers the society stillness as a tool of needed social change. PIOJ (2004) report, Economic and Social Survey Jamaica, report confirms that the national poverty stood at 16 per cent. Of the 2, 650,900 inhabitants, there are 424,144 poor people, which absolute valuation seems not to perturb the hegemony of this society. In order to attain that social society that we all desire, justice through actions and deems must be a hallmark of the leadership.

The categorization of Jamaicans as poor has been declining (Henry-Lee, 2001) but the economic indicators of growth are not impressive as our Caricom counterparts. Looking at the absolute figures, the social realities of the peoples are not marginally measured or understood. Despite the fluctuations in economic growth valuations, rural poverty continues to be higher than the national figures and of those for other towns and cities. Coupled with the economic hardship of poverty, rural Jamaica over the last six months is seeing a dwindling of economic activities. As a social scientist, I believe that the current tidal waves of price increases are eroding the economic livelihood of many of the poor. This situation means that the economic hardship of the people within the context of the hegemony – silence, is destroying the moral and other social fibre of the poor. “What are poor to do?”

‘Once economic growth was taking place, it was that poverty would be reduced’ (Henry-Lee, 2001, p.202) but this orthodox phenomenology may be changing in Jamaican as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant prices have been increasing (PIOJ, 2004, p.3.1) with a simultaneous change in economic hardship of the poor while the hegemonic class expand their physical surroundings and amass European amenities. To date, the constant salary, the MTTP (Ministers Tricking the Poor), the minimal bus fare increases (only 67 % – what!), the huge increases in prices of basic foods and increase in political leadership are making the ‘poor’ poorer. Those hurdles are not the challenges of the poor as they wrestle with ‘prince’ and ‘guards’ for sanity. The electricity increases, instructional materials increases, the last blatant disdain by the Prime Minister, ‘Rt’ honourable Percival James Patterson, for the intellectual mindset of the ‘black’ academic is frightening and speaks volume of the private sector’s silence.

The private sector, despite ‘recognizing’ the challenges of governance and policies formulation of the government, continue to hemorrhage in silence, which, I construe, indicates the tenants of the PNP over the economy. I realize that there is no longer a unified Jamaica but a PNP, a JLP group and a business class. This situation was unfolded to me over time as there is not core concern that may create unison in order that Jamaicans can forge around with the interest of all. Instead, we are ‘Ps’ and a ‘B’. The socio-political arena has changed globally and nationally for the JLP but the reality is, the average citizenry of this society are still clamouring for hegemony and social transformation though development.

It is the business class that is the engine of growth in all societies and not the public sectors. This group dictates the terms of economic activities and stipulates the atmosphere of governance but the Jamaican group is hemorrhaging from fear and political conformity. Hence, the present proletariat class, the underclass, is left to view the heavens for a haven. When the business class fails to provide that leadership for the society, the ‘labourer’ class will gradually venture in deviant acts as a medium of grappling with political mismanagement. ‘Too many people are comfortable with the present affairs (Bourne, 2005) and silence of the ‘underclass’ is becoming increasingly deafening. If the business class continues with this dialectic silence, the poor may resort to revolution in an effort to understand and come to a rationale of their social space.

The old philosophical construct of poverty is primarily food consumption of the poorest quintile but this definition fails to recognize that poor people are social beings with children. One researcher (Henry-Lee) forwarded a slant that; the poor spend the largest proportion of their earnings on food, which means that the business class must begin to offer a position against any erosion of their economic base. If there are presently 424, 100 absolutely poor people any increase in food prices will see them living how?

According to Rapley (1996, p.7), “state interventions to relieve poverty would inhibit initiative, and would stifle investment because they would rely on increased taxes.” Dr. Rapley’s cited perspective is a clear indication of the stance taken by all traditional economists. This stance sees development as solely an economic growth phenomenon that is driven by the free market but many post World War II economists differ on a theorizing for this construct. Lewis concurred with classicalists like Smith and Keynes that development is primarily economic. Rapley (1996, p.16) stated that, “Lewis argued that in a Third World economy, the wage rate was set at a constant level as determined by minimum levels of existence in traditional family farming.” This ensured a virtually unlimited supply of cheap labour, which has an advantageous factor in industrial development (Rapley, 1996 p.16). As a social scientist who is concerned with development and its determinants, the researcher is cognizant of the different discourse on the issue but will analyze both schools of thought before coming to a consensus.

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS, 2002) wrote, “while material poverty affect a large number of households, the Report points to the impending dangers of more widespread and subtle forms of poverty that include poor health, inadequate levels of educational attainment; lack of economic assets or access to markets or jobs that could create the unsafe physical environment; and various forms of social exclusion.” This report forwards the core of the post-1950 scholars’ viewpoints on development that is broader than the Classicalists theorizing that was once the epistemological framework on development thoughts. The article points to other non-economic growth theorizing such as health care, education and other psychosocial conditions. Hence, the author will not seek to continue in the pre-1950s epistemological mindset as it is a one sided theorizing but will seek to quantify any validity of the contemporary developmentalists’ perspective on the issue as this include social, political and economic factors. This paper surrounds the social aspect to development in the form of expenditure on health care and expenditure on education with the intention of using those two (2) determinants of contemporary development in order to ascertain any causal and/or associational relationship between expenditure on social programmes and their influence on levels of development.

Spikes (2002) posits: “poverty can be regarded as the inability to obtain the essentials of life; for others it is a matter of low income; for others a problem of social inequality”. He goes on to say that “poverty can be explained in terms of material conditions, that is basic needs, food, clothing, and shelter; however limited resource interfere with the ability to acquire the essentials. Poverty can be seen as exclusion; the European Union defines the poor as persons whose resources (material culture and social) are so limited as to exclude them from the minimum acceptable way of life in the member state in which they live depending on benefits as equivalents as claiming social assistance”.

It is frightening to say the least that despite efforts within the technological age people are living in abject poverty that retards the process in which many of these issues should have been addressed. Haralambus (1995)”poverty implies an undesirable social problem that a solution should be found. Basic amenities, for examples, shelter health and nutrition: the latter according to Drewnowski and Scott in Haralambus “is measured by factors in relation to the amount of calories and protein consumed by the individual. Shelter is measured by the quality of living arrangements (dwelling etc.) and health is measured by factors such as infant mortality and the quality of medical treatments available.

When individuals are malnourished, the health of these individuals would affect them in terms of their physical and mental states. A medical practitioner, Dalzell-Ward (1974: 23), commented that “The deprivation of energy foods’ will result in excessive fatigue which will in turn diminish social and work performances and interfere with well-being.” There is however, the indication of a level of development, where as if an individual is not in the best of health, this will contribute to fewer hours worked and reduced production. The economist Adam Smith states that this would be an indication of reduced economic growth. Professor Todaro (Todaro, 2000) from his perspective, that development envelope social, political and economic changes in peoples lives. Another medical practitioner concurred with Dalzell–Ward (1974) when she said:

In fact many of today’s problems with students are actually health related. Kids are not able to learn sufficiently if they are hungry, tired, hung-over from alcohol, or worried about violence. We need to eliminate barriers that affect students’ readiness to learn. A variety of physical and mental conditions impact students’ attendance and their ability to pay attention in class anger, and restrain from self-destructive impulses.

Eurocentric beliefs have so conquered the epistemology of world ideology that it becomes difficult even for the ‘honest’ advocate to be effective. Individualism-profiteerism drives the engine of social existence that humans only protect themselves, even if it appears that another is being helped in the process. Christianity is a by-product of the Eurocentric system and so helps to explain its true tenet. Europe in an effort to corner all epistemologies of the ontology of man’s existence and creation offered spiritualism. Christianity operates as though it has the sole authority to the ontology of creation. Despite its stance, the ideological phenomenology of Christianity subsumes individualism. Unlike the other traditional epistemological construct of man, humanitarianism is a tenet of their doctrine but they are not the iconic thought because they were fashioned prior to Europe’s delineation of world ideology. The social reality is such that we cannot afford to mute a position, the people are being ‘Saddomized’ by the political structure, and it is in the hegemony’s best interest to ensure that the poor and less fortunate are protected as they have nothing to lose in the event of a revolution.

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Waroop, Vinaya S. 1997. Education and Health Care in the Caribbean. Retrieved on February 20, 2007 from http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd

Politics and Religion – Mexico City

Travellers are generally warned to steer well clear of crowds and political gatherings. Such places provide many opportunities for the pickpocket or bag-slasher to make off with your belongings. Worse, if a protest of rally turns really nasty, you are caught up in the midst of an angry mob. The South American riot police are not known for their subtle handling of such situations or their ability to distinguish the innocent bystander from the rabble rouser or trouble-maker.

It appears to be a peculiarity of mine that I will continually ignore such advice. And I am more likely to cross the street to find out exactly why people are standing there waving flags and banging drums, than I am to take steps to avoid the situation.

In my travels to date, I have encountered numerous forms of protest and political activism as a result of this habit. A group of workers laid off from a chocolate factory following a merger with Cadbury´s, a union of insurance workers demanding job protection during the credit crunch, families demanding justice for their children who disappeared during the times of dictatorships; plus a variety of political parties campaigning vigorously in the street – from neo Peronists in Buenos Aires to a crowd of female supporters of Evo Morales in Bolivia.

I even attended an impromptu kerbside meeting in a Washington DC neighbourhood held by a militant African American separatist church loosely associated with the Black Panthers who were asserting that Barack Obama was not black, while attributing all of their community´s troubles to the fact that people had turned their backs on Jehovah.

But in Mexico City, I was given no choice whether I became involved in the public gatherings or not. As I slowly emerged into the bright sunlight of the main square in Zocalo from the stuffy and overcrowded darkness of the subway, I heard the dull and repetitive sound of bells from above me. Not the clear and joyous clarion call of a wedding or celebration, but the over-powering heavy note that fell half way between a medieval funeral march and the deafening primeval drum beats in Tolkein´s Mines of Moria.

I immediately found myself almost at the foot of the cathedral bell tower, so that I had to turn my neck almost fully back to see the source of the sound. Narrowing my eyes against the glaring mid-day sun which flashed between the towers of the cathedral, I could make out several figures striking the bells with large hammers. All were wearing giant ear plugs to protect themselves from the noise they were inflicting on the populace beneath.

The crowd was pressed tightly together between the high wrought iron railings in front of the church on one side, and a large wooden hoarding board on the other, fencing off an area where a stage was being constructed in the square. Progress was slow, as people were trying to proceed in both directions. Usually in Latin America I was able to see well ahead of me over the crowds, but here my view was obstructed by several small flags and various multi-coloured parasols.

A few moments later, however, I could make out a golden cross standing out above the people in front of me. It was about 8 feet tall and further raised from the ground since it was sitting in the back of a large black pick up truck. The cross was enclosed between 4 white pillars and covered by a roof, giving the impression of a simple temple. This construction was also encircled at its base with white and yellow flowers.

My first thought was that perhaps this was another Don Bosco event – the famous Italian Catholic educator, whose corpse had been on a grand tour of the Americas for the last several months, whom I had caught up with twice while in Bolivia. Bit the absence of children at the event persuaded me that this was unlikely.

There were a couple of men standing in the back of the truck next to the cross. They both appeared to priests, dressed almost entirely in white, reciting a liturgy and placing their hands on the cross at various points in the ceremony. After a few minutes, the recitation stopped, the men bowed their heads in humility and the assembled crowd cheered.

The two men then made their way into the cathedral, flanked on either side by the crowd, while the vehicle carrying the cross was driven away and parked in a nearby side street so that the flowers could be removed.

As the mass of people began to disperse, I noticed several nuns and monks among them. I also saw a group of around 10 men and women dressed in the most striking costumes and headdressed. Most of these appeared to be brightly coloured birds or beasts, though one man had a mask and costume making him look very much like a skeleton. Despite the lack of familiar Christian symbolism, these people seemed to be an integral part of the celebration.

Though the ceremony had finished, I was unable to evade the crowds. Walking down the narrow Calle Brasil which ran past the left hand side of the cathedral square, I came upon a group of stalls half blocking the pavement, and numerous colourful posters laid out on the ground. These were mostly associated with workers and communist parties of Mexico. A man was also standing by the roadside with a megaphone addressing a small group that had gathered around him.

Turning back to the main square again, I realised that there were more political protest banners erected there, having been able to see them due to the crowd outside the cathedral earlier. The whole square seemed to be filled with wooden stalls and small tents, all covered in flags proclaimed some social injustice in the country. Largest of all was a giant white inflatable mushroom shaped object almost in the centre of the square, declaring that there must be a solution to world hunger.

The issues, causes and messages being promoted were numerous – though all on the left of the political spectrum. Freedom for the presses from state censorship, justice for imprisoned comrades, the need to take a stand against indifference, calls for everyone to join up in the struggle, the return of Mexico´s borders to those of 1847 before the war with the USA, the rights of the Apaches to own their own territory in Arizona, demands for general human rights to be respected, the need to go on hunger strikes to obtain fair pay for work, appeals to patriotic socialism to uphold the memories of those who had fought in the past, a just immigration system which did not treat asylum seekers as criminals or terrorists.

The groups represented were just as diverse: the Mexican communist and people´s workers party, the Garibaldi Movement, an electricians union, the Emilio Zapata Brigade, an umbrella group representing diverse associations across the barrios of Mexico City and a group called Committee 68.

A favourite target for all demonstrators was President Calderon. There were two life sized effigies of him on display. One showing him carrying a bottle in one hand and a fistful of dollars in the other. While the other depicted him in the khaki combat uniform of the USA, a bottle in his pocket and a swastika on his head. There could be no mistaking the message that he was seen as a drunkard, in league with the US and large commercial interests, and suspected of warlike and fascist tendencies.

Later in the evening, a small stage appeared at the back of the square where a small group sang and played guitars. Once the music had finished the remaining supporters marched through the streets around the centre of City, chanting, singing and handling out pamphlets outlining their grievances as they did so.

Although the protest was only schedules for one day, it was several days more before all the tents in stalls were removed. The weather was hot and progress was slow. However, the remaining demonstrators were all gathered together in a much smaller corner of the square. The central area was being prepared for the forthcoming football World Cup, where it seemed as though a giant screen was being erected for the populace to watch the game.

If I was mistaken in thinking that the protestors would only be in town for the day, I was also mistaken in thinking that the religious activities were also over. While touring the city, I discovered that the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadaloupe is in fact the most important religious site of pilgrimage for the Catholic Church in the Americas, and second only to the Vatican City in the world. Around 10 million people visit the site each year – approximately 2,800 per day.

The bus towards the basilica took us past a large group of pilgrims on their way to the site. The group was made up of men, women and children who marched purposefully and sang as they did so. Many of the women wore traditional red and black costumes, decorated with white braid across the front. They also wore golden crowns. Each separate group of pilgrims also carried a banner showing the crest of their local church.

The importance of the site is due to a miracle which is meant to have occurred in 1521, a few years after the Spanish Conquest. Over the course of several nights in December, a local Indian man claimed that he had seen a vision of the Virgin come to him. The Spaniards had refused to believe that one of the Indians could have been favoured by the Virgin in this way so they ignored him. On the following night, the Virgin appeared again and told the man to appear in the church on the next day and walk up to the front in front of all the priests.

The man did as he was instructed, and to the surprise of the priests and congregation, when he arrived there, an elaborate full length colour image of the Virgin appeared on the clothing he was wearing. The miracle was confirmed and churches and shrines were built on the sites where the other visions had appeared.

The original garment still survives with the image of the Virgin still intact upon it. Sceptical materials scientists from NASA recently came to investigate the clothing to ascertain how the coloration and design had got there. Their conclusion was that they were unable to say what had caused image to appear. But they could say for certain that the colours were not part of the original material, and that they had not been applied by any other material. The design hovered between somewhere between the two.

Such subtleties and scepticism were clearly far from the minds of the hundreds of visitors to the old and new churches on the site. Large parties of pilgrims arrived every few minutes – all under the watchful eyes of the police and armed guards at the entrance to the basilica site.

The complex was filled with people of all ages – including children and the very elderly. A couple were getting married on the day I was there – and a large congregation stood outside in the main courtyard. Souvenirs of the Virgin and Jesus of all kinds were for sale – and it was possible to view the original garment in the new church. To keep visitors moving swiftly by, a moving platform had been set up – and pilgrims did not so much walk past the relic as glide smoothly by.