MAPUTO AVENIDAS: Overcast today, so I was able to go for a nice long walk this morning after the going-to-church plans fell through. I walked over to the lovely broad esplanade that runs along the east (Indian Ocean) side of the old city center, suspended some 80 feet or so up a steep but verdant cliff above the beach-side road below.
The esplanade is now called Avenida Friedrich Engels. I imagine it was once called Avenida Salazar or something like that– back when the city itself was called Lourenco Marques.
It was very quiet. I saw several people out walking, but only one jogger: male, black, in bike shorts. I wonder what people would think if tomorrow morning they saw a female, white jogger out there in regular running shorts. Maybe I could jog in long pants?
Okay, call me a sentamentalist, but I think it’s rather poignant to walk along streets named after the icons of Mozambique’s liberation era. There are Avenidas named after Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung, as well as Engels.
So here’s Mozambique, a country that is gamely trying to go along with all the World Bank and IMF plans for nassive “structural adjustment” that basically involves dismantling many social programs and the nationalized industries and opening the econ/IMF have NOT yet forced them to rename their streets after Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek. Thank goodness!
(It may yet come.)
And another thing. here in Maputo, as in Dar s-Salaam, I’ve noticed many main streets named after non-native heroes of the African liberation era. Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Albert Luthuli, etc etc. But how come you never seem to see that same relaxed but generous mak of inter-country respect being offered in Arab capital cities?
I think the answer has to do with the inter-twined nature of Arab politics, and the still unformed, or at any rate potentially precarious, state of the Arab “state system”. That’s why, if the mayor of Damascus, say, chose to name a big street after Nasser or Gadhafi or Ibn Saud, this act would immediately be seen as having suspect political motives…. Better to stick to long-gone heroes of the Arab past!
I think it’s rather nice that so many African countries’ elites feel able to celebrate each other’s national heroes and (by inference) each other’s liberation narratives.
And talking about celebrating other people’s narratives, when do you think we’ll get a Nelson Mandela Street or an Olaf palme Street or whatever in Washington DC. The only streets I recall there named after furrners are Raoul Wallenberg Place (a small street that was was thus renamed mainly to annoy the Soviets whose embassy is right there), and of course L’Enfant Plaza. Neither of those really celebrates another country’s national narrative… All we seem to be getting in DC and the rest of the USA these days, in the renaming of public spaces department, is endless Ronald reagan this’s and thats.

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