Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town has to be one of the oddest places I’ve ever been. It’s like the Traverse City of Africa, but with four million people. White people here to white people things like jog around the pristine parks, walk their well behaved dogs, and drive around in really expensive cars.

I’m not quite sure what everyone does for a living. Perhaps the cars are rentals and none of these people are from here.

Nearly 50% of Cape Town can call itself mixed. Europeans have been here so long, and apartheid wasn’t a formal policy until nearly three centuries after when Europeans started coming here. That makes plenty of time to mix. This is, of course, in contrast to a lot of the rest of Africa (and even the US until very recently), where the lines are drawn much more clearly.

I’m not sure how apartheid really worked here, but it probably did what it was suppose to do by protecting the interests of those who controlled the economy. Of course, it was reprehensible and it’s good that it’s over.

South Africa has to be one of the most complicated countries on the planets (though countries are all complicated when you start digging).

Cape Town is oddly safe compared to other places. Fences are low, streets are well organized, but there are still bars on the windows. Cape Town is so organized, that even the slums are well put together. The building materials are of a higher quality than other slums in Africa. Every one has satellite TV, and the City of Cape Town provides power infrastructure and water.

It’s not a paradise, but it’s definitely a different place than the Africa I know. More later.

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About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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