Friday, March 31, 2006

Travel between Cuba and the U.S.

Here's an interesting article about American university students visiting Cuba

It talks about the stricter limits on visits to Cuba. Individuals visiting relatives has dropped by 50%. Furthermore, academic trips must be longer than 10 weeks. Cuban academics are also being denied visas to the U.S. I find this article interesting for what it does not say. Many Americans visit Cuba all the time, but do so illegally. Here's an example of a website that caters to Americans looking to go to Cuba illegally: USA Cuba Travel Their website brags that they have sent over 100,000 Americans to Cuba. I would love to see the statistics on how many Americans REALLY go to Cuba.

Latin America and Africa

This article entitled "Africa Should Learn From Latin America" was interesting to me because of the view of American involvement by a South African Communist. It was definitely harsh, but it reminded me of the attitude of some Latin Americans.

He stresses the need for mass movements in Africa like there have been in Latin America.

Chile v. Peru (again)

Chile and Peru have a historical rivalry, dating back to the War of the Pacific (Chile ended up with what had formerly been the nitrate fields of southern Peru). When I was in Chile, an anthropologist had just come out saying that the grapes that make pisco (a clear liquor that Peru and Chile both claim came originally from their country) had originally started out in Chile, and it was the topic of almost all the talk radio programs for weeks.

Now they are arguing about potatos.... yes, potatos.

Article here.

Brazilian Finance Minister Resigns

How embarrassing - the finance minister of Brazil had to resign yesterday because he was faced with impeachment due to his role in the latest corruption scandal that has further tainted da Silva's presidency and his government for over a year.

If you're interested in reading more about it... click here.

Corruption in Venezuela

As a continuation of my presentation in class last Tuesday, I found an article in the Economist hitting on another facet of the Chavez government - corruption. Coming into office on an anti-corruption platform, Chavez now rules over one of the lucky twelve countries in which perceptions of corruption have "greatly" increased, according to Transparency International. In the article there is an anecdote about the intense corruption involved in the construction of a sugar mill in Chavez's hometown. Although he may proclaim that he is leading a republic for the people, corruption only benefits the select few on top where all those kick-backs float up to eventually.

Article here.

An Interactive Map

An extremely interesting summary of the leftward shift in Latin American politics is demonstrated in an interactive map titled the Leftward Tilt. If anyone needs quick information on the political landscape in a few Latin American countries or if you like interactive maps then you should check out this link:

Papaya Punch!

Has anyone else ever been exposed to the wonder of Very Fine's Papaya Punch? If you haven't, consider yourself lucky because I have been missing it ever since I got here. In case you were curious, here is some information about this very healthy and delicious fruit.

Fun Fact: Christopher Columbus reputably called the papaya the "fruit of the angels"

Really cool opportunity!!!

I just found out about this really interesting opportunity that I wanted to pass on to you all. It's an opportunity to travel with a New York Times reporter, Nick Kristof, to a destination in the developing world. You would get to not only travel with him, but also do your own reporting through a weblog or video log on the NYT website! Definitely check this out:

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cuba and U.S. again

Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba from 1939-1960.
Recently his house and more importantly his boat (the same one that inspired his nobel prize wining novel The Old Man and the Sea) have been listed as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation endangered sites, it is also the first one outside of the United States.
Interestingly enough it lies in Cuba.
Bush has conveniently denied any financial backing raised in the U.S. to be used on its restoration because that would "helping" Cuba. Because of U.S. lack of funding Cuba will be taking care of monetary costs, while instruments will be brought in from the U.S.

I can't help, but think how Bush is helping his case when he denies money that would essentially benefit the U.S. such as this case, and in the case of Cuba's winning money from the WBC that would have been donated to victims of Katrina.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Coca website

To follow up on my presentation today of my paper on coca in Bolivia, I thought I would post the website of the coca museum in La Paz. This site has some interesting pictures and information if anyone's interested.

Tickets home courtesy of Homeland Security?

This article discusses the decision of returning home that some Argentines living illegally in this country are making. What is most interesting is the brief mention made regarding those that purposely use the deportation process as an inexpensive way back home (flights to Buenos Aires probably average 5 or 6 hundred each way with seasonal variations). The article doesn't elaborate much on this point. I am guessing this occurs mostly with Mexican migrants. If anyone knows more about this loophole of sorts, let me know.

"Gift from the Past"

I have a friend taking a class about South American indigenous peoples and she told me something interesting today...

The Amazon soil is well-known for its infertility. However, there are dark splotches all over that are extremely fertile. Archeologists think that the Ancient Indians may have found a method with which they transformed the nutrient-poor soil into extremely productive soil. I wanted to find out more about it, so I googled it and found an article from the San Francisco Chronicle that covers the news well...

The dangers of tourism

Last Wednesday, 12 Americans were killed in northern Chile when the bus they were riding flew off a mountain road and fell 300 feet. The people had been on a cruise, and were on their way back to the cruise ship from a trip to Lauca National Park.
Here's the story.
This story is a bit scary, since I've definitely been on some scary bus rides in Latin America...

Curitiba, Brazil hosts UN's Convention on Biodiversity

Last week, Curitiba, Brazil hosted the UN's 8th Annual Convention on Biological Diversity. The city was chosen because it is one of the most environmentally conscious cities in Brazil, which as a country, contains 1/5 of the world's biodiversity. Curibita has over 4,200 acres of public gardens and parks and a city bus system so efficient, it is nicknamed "speedy". Last week, governor Roberto Requiao signed a bill for his state requiring warning labels on GMO crops. This is the first bill of its kind in the entire nation of Brazil, which is often criticized for its large production of GMO soybeans. See the article here.

Anniversary of the Dirty War

In Argentina the 20th anniversary Dirty War, which we read about for this week's class, was celebrated this week. This article from the New York Times discusses the history of the conflict and the ramifications and continued strife today.

The Iguanas

As you all know, jazz fest is coming up soon, and I encourage you to check out a New Orleans based band, The Iguanas. Their style has been described as "Chicano R&B with a voodoo twist". The Iguanas are in the same league as Los Lobos, in that they have successfully translated their Mexican culture into US based RocknRoll. "With Spanish rythmn and lyrics mixed with heaty, honking saxaphone rifts, there's plenty to dance to." (Ketner, Houston Press, 2004)

Check out their site at, and their gig on Saturday April 29th at the 2006 Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Spring Break in Mexico

It was an amazing experience. For those curious about some of the Mayan Temples around the Yucatan Peninsula, Olmec Heads and other stuff, I got some pictures up on this website.

Also I have a video of a church from a Mayan town we went to, it was crazy. We weren't supposed to take a video but my friend has a video phone and manage to grab some footage. They have interesting rituals, its a mix of catholicism and santeria. Anyway here are the links, you will need to use realplayer for the videos:


Video 1

Video 2

Haiti's new president asks for aid

Preval is asking for aid to spur development in Haiti - he insists that the recent election and large voter turnout demonstrates the countries determination to build a democratic state. The US has committed to give the Haitians 500 million dollars.

article can be found at

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nunca Más

Nestor Kirchner challenges the pardons for ex-junta leaders, read the full story here

Mexican Druglords

In an interview, Mexican President, Vincente Fox, has decided to allow druglords in Mexico to be extradited to the United States for trial. He fears that this extradition will cause much violence in both Mexico and the United States.

Immigration Bill

Students in California today arrested for protesting the immigration bill in the senate. Headline News this morning said the nonviolent protest resulted in arrests due to the location of the walkout in which the students were on a busy street. Should be interesting to see what the meantime watch the movie walk out, currently showing on HBO to see how such protests were reacted to decades ago.

Immigration Reform Bill

An immigration reform bill, mostly concerned with Latino immigrants (I think), was introduced to the Senate today. The bill, proposed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would implement a guest worker program and a way for illegal immigrants to continue work in the US and eventually become permanent residents. It would also tighten up on the border with more Border Patrol agents, unmanned vehicles, cameras, and sensors.

To me, this sounds like a good idea, but according to CNN, it may get highly contested in debate, and may not get passed or may get watered down. I realize that this may cut down on the ease of immigrants getting into the US, but the US also can’t allow just anyone to come into the US either. So, it sounds like to me a fair proposal for immigration reform.

Click here for the full article.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Cable, the comic book

I saw V for Vendetta this weekend. It is based on a graphic novel, and that got me thinking. Over Mardi Gras break, I went to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. In their comic book store, I bought a series called Cable. For all those comic book people, it is #97-100 by David Tischman and Igor Kordey. The entire series is about the Shining Path and is set mostly in Lima, Peru and surrounding areas. While it is very much a comic book, I was also surprised at the facts and insights that were also written in. It is interesting to read...much more than just a comic book.

Soy Gaucho

This is a great website (in English and Spanish) about Argentine culture. It has information relating to the Argentine gaucho culture about people, habitats, clothes, food, work, beliefs, hobbies, arts, expressions, legends, the mate, the horse, and other areas of interest. The gaucho lifestyle was one of my favorite areas to learn about when I was in Argentina. Take a few minutes and look through some of the pages. If you don't know much about Argentine culture, this is a great starting place.
Go to:

Mayan Ruins

This is a wonderful web page that has an interactive map of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras, which connects to beautiful pictures of Mayan ruins and poetic descriptions. It is a great way to visit these sometimes difficult to reach sites. The address is:

Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala

"Several decades after the fall of the Inca empire, a native Andean from the area of Huamanga in the southern Peruvian Andes wrote to king Philip III of Spain. Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala's aim was to seek the reform of Spanish colonial governance in order to save the Andean peoples from the destructive forces of colonial exploitation, disease, and miscegenation. Finding his most persuasive medium to be the visual image, he composed 398 full-page drawings which are an integral part of his 1200-page Nueva corónica y buen gobierno."

This is an interesting book to read and the pictures are wonderful. You can read more at this address:

Bank Robbery in Buenos Aires

Five weeks after one of the most audacious bank raids in Argentine history, the police arrested two suspects, Alberto Torre and Liliana Fernandez. The pair are only part of the group that robbed a bank outside Buenos Aires on January 13th, holding hostages for hours before escaping with up to $50m through a specially built tunnel. The crime, hailed as the “robbery of the century”, has earned admiration for both its technique and its nerve. The gang reportedly used only fake weapons, and some hostages even said that the criminals treated them better than the police who rescued them—one thief allegedly led a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for one hostage.
With the public still cooing over the thieves’ pluck, Buenos Aires authorities are trumpeting the arrests—and subsequent raids that turned up almost $1m in cash and eight kilos of stolen jewellery—as proof of successful investigative methods. But some credit for the arrests should go to the fury of a woman scorned: Mr Torre was reportedly turned in by his wife, whom he had jilted for Ms Fernandez. Just days later the police arrested a man who allegedly built the getaway tunnel. But they may not make much progress with the rest of the gang, who are suspected of fleeing the country.

30 Year Anniversary of Argentinan Military Coup

This is an interesting article about the 30 year anniversary of the coup that rose in Argentina and sparked the military period in which thousands of people were "disappeared." The article points out that even though it's been 3 decades, bombings and attacks from coup supporters are still occurring throughout the country. It also shows what the country is doing today to ensure that a time of terror like the 1970's never happens again.

Mexico's Elections Update

This summer Mexico will have its presidential elections and as it appears now the party of Vicente Fox, the Partido Accion Nacional, is unlikely to retain the presidency, although the PRI is not likely to regain power either. Rather, the candidate of the PRD, Lopez Obrador is the frontrunner. Part of the reason that Mexicans are stopping their support of the PAN is because voting for Fox was more of a vote for el cambio rather than his or his party's platform. Because Fox has largely been seen as ineffective, Mexicans are probably going to opt for the third of the major political parties; however, this candidate will probably face many of the same problems enacting legislation as did Fox, which begs the question of whether Mexican political culture is ready or suitable for the beuacratic and give and take nature that makes democratic politics so slow and moderating? My particular take on the issue is that as of now they probably are not because changing political culture takes time, indeed, much more than six years. I think its an interesting question, however, because it addresses issues we've talked about in class and it potentially gives an example of a nation in which democracy, or at least American style democracy, is not suitable for the particular historical and social roots of a nation, especially in Latin America. Does anyone else have a different take on the issue?

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

Here is an article about the on going violence on the Mexican border. The Mexican government has been battling drug lords for months around the town of Nuevo Laredo following the arrest of one of the cartel leaders, one of the Cardenas brothers. What is weird for me is that when I was little my family and another family would make a trip every year to Nuevo Laredo for a weekend so it is hard for me to picture the place as a warzone. Anyway, here's the link:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

More on Bush

Here's an interesting link about Bush's envolvement in current Latin America...enjoy!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

When Bush was elected to his first term, the one thing I was excited about was the possible progress to be made regarding Mexican (and Latino in general) immigrants in the US. However 9-11 put these issues on the backburner, as patrols tightened the borders to address the terrorist issue. I'm from Houston, where almost all the service jobs are held by Latinos (the majority are illegal), so I have been very interested in immigration. It appears that recently the immigration issue has been taken up again by Bush, as he has promoted a guest-worker program. Interestingly however, two main groups that have supported Bush, businesses/corporations and the conservatives, don't agree on this issue, and his own party has expressed opposition to the program. It will be interesting to see how things work out in the next few months. Read more about the issue here

World Cup 2006

For all of you soccer fans, here is a fun website in Spanish regarding the teams, players, videos, etc for the World Cup this summer in Germany!

Check it out here

The Peruvian Left

This Washington Post article comments on how hurt the Peruvian left has been by its history. Lourdes Flores, a fiscal conservative and pro business congresswoman, is running neck and neck with Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala, a tough military man in favor of old nationalism. Both candidates leave no room for a left party that is still struggling to gain a foothold after a rough history that has made the 'left' a "dirty word."

Mexican Chief of Police Quits

Not very often do you hear of someone who has dedicated their life to protecting their people and then when they see that this has become too stressful and difficult, quits. I'm talking about Omar Pimentel, the Chief of Police in a border city in Mexico (Nuevo Laredo) who resigned on Wednesday a few hours after three charred bodies were found. He stated that he was tired and the job had become too stressful. Not that I blame the guy -- he had to walk around with at least a dozen bodyguards carrying rifles anytime he went out. Nuevo Laredo is a hot spot for drug smuggling apparentlly and has been caught in a turf war between rival gangs fighting for drug routes into the U.S. So far this year, 57 people have been murdered in association with this. No wonder the Chief was stressed! Well, he did last longer than his predecessor who was assassinated seven hours after being sworn in last June. !!

Friday, March 24, 2006

U.S. denies World Baseball Classic runner-up $ to Cuba

"Cuba's prize money from the first World Baseball Classic has become collateral damage in the four-decade battle between President Fidel Castro and the United States.
Castro said he wanted to donate the money to victims of Hurricane Katrina, but U.S. officials say Cuba isn't getting any prize money....."

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

There was a segment on television today discussing the future of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The current president is up for reelection this year and while few doubt that he will be reelected, with at least eight assassination attempts thus far, many wonder if he will survive until then.

Jaguar Jungle

The Audubon Zoo has a fantastic section called the "Jaguar Jungle." The section includes not only jaguars, but many different animals indigenous to South America. The section also has an emphasis on the Mayan culture, with multiple informational kiosks. The Jaguar Jungle is my favorite part of the zoo, and I encourage everyone to go to see these Latin American animals up close and personal.

Mexican Immigration

In California Mexican immigration is often discussed as if it is extremely easy for individuals to enter the U.S. illegally. It is made out to be that anyone who wishes to come into the U.S. has the opportunity to do so. That is why it was very surprising for me during our class discussion on Tuesday to hear that people die and experience terrible hardship to enter the U.S. I decided to do some research on this. One stastic that I found intersting is that at least 4,000 people die a year while attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. Two interesting things to note is that the percentage of women who send money back to Mexico is very high. It is 60% as compared to 39% for men. Women and men migrate 50-50 out of Latin American countries. This represents a demographic split from the past. Perhaps because of this the number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. is also much higher. This is a disturbing trend that must have severe social repercutions in Mexico. Here is a link to the article if you want to view it:

Paraguay’s World Cup Prospects

With all the talk in South America centered around Argentina and Brazil as World Cup favorites, and Trinidad and Tobago as World Cup newcomers, poor Paraguay is frequently overlooked. Paraguay is going to its third straight finals, and they have made it to the second round in the previous two, however they are ranked 30th in the world. Can they make some noise in Germany this summer? Unlikely, but if they do, that means that their would be upsets paralleling the stunning defeat of the countries best college basketball team by LSU last night. Paraguay’s first round match ups include England, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago which means that they are in an unfortunate group with two European powerhouses, and a sleeper team who has given the eventual champions, the U.S., some close contested matches. The prospects for Paraguay seem dim but they are lead by a veteran central defender and captain, Carlos Gamarra, and a solid defensive unit, which could give England’s crushing offense a good game. Paraguay’s offense is much younger and a little less stable but they have amazing talent, with Roque Santa Cruz, the Italian Serie A star, who if healthy is a serious threat to any defense. Interestingly enough, Paraguay frequently plays very well against Latin American and Spanish speaking teams because, as quoted from the BBC, they speak to each other in Guarani, thereby confusing their opponents.

A Day without Latinos

On March 23, 2006 in Milwaukee, thousands of demonstrators exposed their anger to the proposed new bills going through Congress regarding “illegal immigrants”, which could mean that immigrants in the United States who are here illegally will be considered felons. The Republican Party, specifically Wild Bill Frist is claiming that the new laws will help with the nation’s national security, and that it will help protect our borders against illegal immigration. The Milwaukee demonstrators, reminiscent of early 20th century Chile, stopped working for the entire day, forcing scores of businesses to close, and severely disrupting normal business operations. The organizers of the protest titled it “A Day without Latinos” attempting to illustrate how cities across the United States would operate without help from Latin American immigrants. It seems that the U.S. Congress has lost touch with civilization, and hopefully through the efforts of protests like the one in Wisconsin, members of Congress will educate themselves in a way favorable to the over 12 million, recently immigrated Americans living in the United States.

Link to page:

Pio Levya died Wednesday evening...

Pio Levya sang for the Buena Vista Social Club. He was 88, and is the fourth member to die in the past three years.

I'm sure many of you have heard their songs, whether you realized it at the time or not.

Politics of the Dominican Republic

A friend of mine asked me to go vacation in the Dominican Republic during Easter, but I am going home instead. This did, however, get me to thinking about the Dominican Republic, this seemingly random country that most Americans know little about other than the fact that it's a tourism-friendly island in the Carribean.

I decided to look up some information about it and found out some neat information on

Here's an excerpt on politics:

"The Dominican Republic has a long history of political instability which includes many revolutions, coups d'Ètat, barracks revolts, and insurrections, as well as social and political breakdowns. Its last revolution took place in April of 1965. Since then, governments have been systematically elected every four years, and the political climate has been at rest.

Politics in the Dominican Republic functions on a smaller and less formal scale than politics in the United States. Sometimes it seems that everyone in the Dominican Republic who counts politically knows everyone else who counts, because many in this group are also interrelated by blood or marriage. It is a small country, with only one main city. Politics are therefore more like old-fashioned United States county politics. In this context, family and clan networks, patronage systems, close friendships, the bonds of kinship, personal ties, and extended family, ethnic, or other personal connections are as important as the more formal and impersonal institutions of a larger political system.

The Dominican Republic has large-scale organizations, such as political parties, interest groups, professional associations, and bureacratic organizations, but often the informal networks are as important, and therefore, the most difficult for outsiders to penetrate and to understand.

To comprehend Dominican politics, therefore, one must understand first of all the family networks: who is related to whom, and how and what (if anything) these family ties mean. One must also understand the social and the racial hierarchies, who speaks to whom and in what tone of voice, who sees whom socially, and what these social ties imply politically. One must know about past business deals and associations, whether they were clean or "dirty," and what each family or individual knows or thinks about associates. One must understand where the different families "fit" in the Dominican system, whether they are old rich or new rich, their bloodlines, what they share politically, and what pulls them apart. Many of these family and clan associations and rivalries go back for generations.

Family and personalistic associations overlap and interact with the institutions of a more modern political system in all sorts of complex ways. For example, what goes by the name of a political party actually may turn out to be the personalistic apparatus of a single politician or family; or a certain office within the government bureaucracy may turn out to be the private preserve of a single family or clan. In order to understand Dominican politics, one must comprehend these complex overlaps of traditional and modern institutions and practices, of family and clan-based politics, and of modern political organizations. "

The family plays such a part in the politics of the Dominican Republic that they make it a point to mention that one must first understand the structure of the family. I think it's interesting that even in politics, the ties within Latin American families is conspicious and significant.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Legend of el Chupacabra

We are all familiar with the legend of Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster, but how many of you are aware of the infamous "goat sucker" - el Chupacabra. First attributed a string of goat murders in Puerto Rico, el Chupacabra's killing spree has extended across Latin America into Nicaragua, Chile and Mexico. El Chupacabra sightings have even been reported in American cities with substantial Latin American populations, like Miami. Lucky for us, el Chupacabra has only been known to strike animals -- so far.

To learn more about the legend of the Chupacabra and the elaborate theories which pertain to it here are a few websites:

Does anyone know of any other Latin American myths or legends?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Teaching English

Since there was so much interest in the possiblity of teaching english I thought I'd pass this program information along that was sent to me by the Center for Latin American Studies at Stanford where I worked last semester. This program is based in Teixeira de Freitas, Brazil in the state of Bahia (northeast) at a small language school which serves about 200 students. You would be teaching english and possibly spanish. The city is based in a rural area a bit outside Porto Seguro (I actually think my bus stopped there on my way to Trancoso another city near Porto Seguro). The academic school year is from February until December. I believe they ask you to stay for the year. You get paid 400 dollars a month which is more then enough to live, save money, and travel. Accomodations are included! and they sponsor you for a 12 month cultural visa!!! The only real qualification is having graduated, although pluses to being a Latin American Studies major, knowledge of portuguese, or TOEFL/ESL certification. Overall this is a really excellent program for anyone who is interested in teaching english, traveling, or Brazil.

The contact for this is: (Suzana) if you are interested. There is also a former participant who you can contact to ask about the program: (Tom) and he has a website of his pictures:

23 de marzo War of the Pacific

I am currently in La Paz Bolivia. March 23 is the day that Bolivia lost access to the Pacific Ocean to Chile 100 years ago. This afternoon there was a huge parade in the center of town aimed at bolstering national pride about the War of the Pacific and encouraging an initiatve to reclaim access. The military, the president (Evo), all congressmen and the Vice President were there- it was quite a spectacle and ofcourse I did not have my camera with me. Apparently Evo is appealing to the pueblo chileno and the maipuches to help Bolivia gain access to the Pacific. You could certainly read more about this topic on the La Paz newspaper website,
Come take a break & celebrate!

(New Orleans, LA) On Saturday, April 8, 2006 Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies will present the Second Annual Celebración Latina. This event is in partnership with Tulane University’s Office of Service Learning, the Hispanic Apostolate, and the New Orleans Public Library. It will be held in Laurence Square (on the corner of Magazine St and Napoleon Ave) from 11AM until 6PM. This celebration is free and open to the public.

Celebración Latina will feature food, music, and other entertainment with a Latin flavor. Notable entertainment contributors will be Curtis Pierre the Samba Man, Ovi G and the Froggies, Vivaz and Fuerza Latina. Food will be provided by Mensaje, who will be selling some of their most popular dishes. Celebración Latina will also showcase a children’s area hosted by the Pebbles Center and the New Orleans Public Library; art activities will be provided by KidsmART. Our “Community Partner” tent will promote non-profit and community organizations, many of whom work with Tulane service learning students and interns, working to make a difference in New Orleans. We would like to invite you to participate in this aspect of the event by setting up an informational table. Tables and chairs will be provided. This event is a great opportunity for you to convey your mission/services and also recruit service recipients and volunteers. We ask that you do not solicit monetary donations, but we encourage you to share your contact information for those people interested in donating. Attached is Community Partner Application. If you are interested in participating, please respond by completing the application and forwarding a copy back to us (via email). We will also be following up with a phone call and printable flyers.

This family-oriented event will be a great opportunity for all of New Orleans to come together to enjoy the beginning of the festival season, especially as we forge into a new and stronger New Orleans. We hope that you can join us for a day of celebration and community building!

For additional information contact Ashleigh DeSimone, Tulane Service Learning Intern ( or Brian Knighten of the Stone Center (

Cabo San Lucas

Located on the Pacific side of Mexico, this resort city has catered to almost every american dream with extreme sports and johnny rockets within the vicinity. The question I have is this. You travel to Mexico expecting a taste of the culture, but in a resort town are you really getting any culture at all. Petron costs more than in the US and you ask yourself, is this what the locals really eat? The question then lies, do you even have the option to choose between being a traveler or a tourist or do the economies of resort cities force you to be a tourist?

Ecuador and Indian Protests

Ecuador declared a state of emergency in 5 provinces on Tuesday to calm Indigenous protests over talks with U.S. on free trade

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Museo del Oro

In our most recent culture section in Spanish class we talked about Colombia and I learned of the Museo del Oro (which means Museum of Gold for you non-Spanish speakers) which has the world's largest collection of gold and pre-colombian artifacts. I thought this might be of onterest to some of you so I found a website that has a brief description of the Museum, some gorgeous pictures of a few of the pieces, and (of course) museum case you're ever in the area and need something to do for an afternoon! Enjoy:

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is a show that is on CBS at 9pm on Tuesday nights. If you don't know the show, it is a race around the world by teams of two. This week (tonight) is the fourth week of this group. The first episode was in São Paulo, Brazil. The second episode was in Brotas, Brazil. Last weeks episode had them leaving Brotas and traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia. At each location they have to complete tasks and challenges. There is a summary of the events, pictures, and videos online at

Chavez warns US

Hugo Chavez told the US government any plan of invasion would be deterred by "revolutionaries" across the region, even though the US denies any plans. I thought this was very appropriate considering the topic of revolutions in latin america & caudillos (many people mentioned Chavez as being a caudillo).

The article can be found at :,0005.htm

Cuban Baseball

Yesterday Cuba lost to Japan in the World Baseball Classic finals. First of all I thought it was pretty funny/ironic and exciting that Cuba made it to the finals considering the U.S. government's opposition to allowing them to play, obviously they brought good competition to the tournament. I also found it very interesting that the commentators would continue to remind viewers that no Cuban players on the team were played in the MLB.

First of all this seems kind of an obvious thing, but I also wanted to know why.
Here is a website on Cuban baseball which includes a list of all Cuban defectors that play baseball professionally in the United States. The website also states that Cuba no longer has professional sports (including baseball) since 1961 (obviously that would be against the socialism of the state) therefore the Cuban league which many of the commentators talked about is actually an amateur league. These leagues and the sports clubs are used to train athletes to participate in world competitions.

I think the controversy that occured because of Cuba's participation in the WBC shows how there is a divide between the U.S. government's sanctions on Cuba and the U.S. business and societal views on those very same sanctions.

New Orleans Students United For Workers' Justice

The Loyola students have created a club entitled New Orleans Students United For Workers' Justice that fights for the rights of immigrant workers here in New Orleans.

This weekend there will be a protest at Charity Hospital, espousing the need for Charity to reopen its doors. Charity Hospital is one of the two free hospitals that many immigrants need to attend, in the time of crisis.

Email me at if you would like to join the group, protecting the rights of illegal immigrants working in New Orleans. Or, I could just see you this weekend!

Anti-Immigrant Movement in Oregon

I am from Portland, Oregon, and last semester I attended Lewis and Clark College. While there, I learned a lot about how recently, there has been a major anti-immigrant movement growing in Oregon. Many Mexican migrants live in the state, many working on berry farms as cheap labor. I recently received the below email from the Lewis and Clark Latin American Studies Listserv about an anti-immigrant bill that passed the Oregon House of Reps in December. The email is from an activist group that is against the bill; a large pro-immigrant movement has been mobilizing against the anti-immigrant movement.

Border and Immigration Enforcement Act (H.R. 4437) “Sensenbrenner Bill”
This bill is an attack, not an answer. This is not an antiterrorism bill, not a border security bill, not an enforcement bill, and not an immigration reform bill. Worse, thisbill’s approach presents a grave threat to deeply-held American values, including due process of law, family unity, and the safety and securityof all Americans. It targets all immigrants for punishment and doesnot contribute to our security or to immigration reform.
Criminalizes millions of immigrants. Anyone in the U.S. illegally would be subject not only to deportation but imprisonment as well.
Greatly expands the definition of smuggling in a way that could severely penalize innocent acts of kindness and daily, casual contacts that many Americans have with undocumented immigrants, such asproviding transportation and so on.
Greatly expands mandatory detention and expedited removal, potentially imprisoning millions of persons and generating huge costs to the taxpayer.
Expands the definition of “aggravated felony,” rendering legal immigrants convicted of minor offenses in the past ineligible forimmigration benefits including naturalization and could be subject to deportation, permanent bar.
Deputizes local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws over the objections of many such officials, who believe that this authority undercuts their ability to protect the public safety.
Mandates a broad-reaching employment verification system that requires employers to retroactively verify the employment status of employees who have been employed for years. It also mandates that churches, NGOs, and others involved in workforce development prescreen potential job applicants before referring them to jobs.
Severely reduces due process rights for legal immigrants in a way that dramatically undercuts basic principles of American justice.
These are only parts of the proposal. If they are not passed in the Sesenbrenner Bill, they could still be introduced as provisions inother anti-immigrant propositions.

Portland Central America Solidarity Committee and Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition

It is interesting and a bit sad to see that the anti-immigrant movement is so strong in a state like Oregon that has a relatively low immigrant population compared to traditionally large immigrant states. Anti-immigration movements are growing all over the country.

Nude Art

I was reading on today about 1500 Venezuelans who bared it all on a main thoroughfare in Caracas in front of a statue of Simon Bolivar all in the name of art. They were being photographed by an American (go figure) photographer who does this sort of thing all over the place. Many of the participants called the exeperience 'liberating', which I found amusing since they were in front of a statue of the liberator. I'm not really sure why I chose to post on this, it just struck me as amusing and I suppose to an extent it signifies aspects of the cultural revolution taking place across the world in traditionally conservative societies as a result of american cultural imperialism. You can find the whole story here:

A Taste of Spain

Hey Y'all,
Since Jimmy came into my restaurant last week, I figured I should invite the rest of you to visit. I wait tables at Lola's Restaurant (3312 Esplanade) right near City Park, off Carrollton Ave. The owner/cook Angel is from Sevilla, in the South of Spain. We have delicious food (including paella, fideua, flan, and tons of fresh fish) and drinks (homemade sangria) and you can always practice your Spanish with the staff!


Oh and Happy Benito Juarez Day!!

Party it up for the birthday of the dead ex-president of Mexico!

Mar 21 - Benito Juarez Day is a national holiday honoring the renowned former president who is known as “The Lincoln of Mexico.” March 21 First Day of Spring, and the beginning of the Springbreak season. (

Benito Pablo Juárez García (March 21, 1806July 18, 1872) was a Zapotec Amerindian who served two terms as President of Mexico. For his resistance to the French occupation and his efforts to modernize the country, Juárez is often regarded as Mexico's greatest and most beloved leader. He is the only full-blooded Native American to serve as President of Mexico. (

Monday, March 20, 2006

Eco-friendly Struggle for whale survival in Mexico
Sorry for the crazy long link, but this is an interesting article that I think shows the forward thinking and ingenuity of several Mexican leaders. A lagoon in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico is one of the few gray whale mating grounds left and home to hundreds of other animal life. Instead of cashing in for a quick buck in the salt, oil and fishing industry, many Mexicans in the area are choosing a steady, long term option in fighting to preserve the lagoon and boost area tourism.

Venezuelan Renaissance

This article appeared in the New York Times today. It focuses on the Venezuelan renaissance under Hugo Chavez and the number of people who have come from elsewhere to see observe the change of Venezuela.

Immigrant Raid at Lee Circle This Weekend

This past weekend the NOPD 'raided' Lee Circle and detained forty-some illegal immigrants that have come to help rebuild New Orleans post-Katrina. As we have discussed in class, such assistance from, primarily Mexicans, has allowed this city to jump start itself in ways previously impossible.

Here is a link to a story regarding the importance of the Mexicans to the rebuilding process, written in the Washington Times.

What does this raid signify? The police force was obviously aware that illegal immigrants were waiting around Lee Circle -- is now the time when they begin sending illegal workers back to their home nations??

Cuaderno Latinoamericano

This is not directly related to Latin America beyond its relation to the Guantanamo Bay prison but regardless I think it warrants widespread attention. What it basically says is that finally a comprehensive list of the detainees held at the facility will be made public whereas for the last four years only a handful of names had been released. The rest of them were held without the chance to have a lawyer or to even know what exactly the United States had found on them that resulted in their imprisonment.

Baseball Embargo

I often look up Wikipedia to do research on unfamiliar topics I encounter in class. It is very useful in most situations, and has been growing in popularity and complexity, almost similar to Google. One aspect of their usefulness is seen by their news feature. They have current news just like any other news sites, but it is possible to broaden your knowledge of the world through links to other articles that may help explain the news.

Recently, I read about the World Baseball Classics, which has picked up popularity among viewers of the world, but not without controversy. Since it is being hosted in the US, the US was not allowing, at first, the Cuban Team to play because of their current embargo status. I guess they didn't want to let Castro profit off of this event. So Castro said that profits from this event would go to victims of Katrina. I thought that was pretty brilliant on his part. I don't like Castro too much, but I think things like this are ludicrous. I mean sports are supposed to transcend politics and whatever else, and allow the international community to come together. At least that is the impression I get from things like the Olympics, World Cup, and now the World Baseball Classic. I think it just goes to tarnish the relationship between the US and Latin America. I also think it furthers US’s image as a world police. Anyway, here is the link to the article.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Santeria on Animal Planet

I was recently watching the Animal Planet cops show, which is about SPCA agents in several different cities (Detroit, Houston, San Francisco, NYC and Miami) who investigate reports of animal abuse. I was watching the one in New York City, and the agents discovered a Latino family (it didn't say from where) that was keeping undernourished goats and chickens at their house, which it turned out were for sacrificing; the family practiced Santeria. Apparently this comes up a lot for the SPCA in many U.S. cities where there's a large Latino population like NYC, Miami and Houston. I had never thought about the fact that Latino immigrants might bring with them practices that aren't considered acceptable in the U.S.-and the solution to this issue is unclear to me. Should/can these practices be allowed here in the U.S.? (In the show, they confiscated the animals but did not prosecute the family).
I never imagined I would find Latin American studies material on Animal Planet-it's everywhere!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Water Problems in Mexico City

I found an article on BBC News talking about terrible water shortages in Mexico City. How surprising that a city that used to be surrounded by lakes is now entering a very desperate situation with water. The problems of industrialization hit less wealthy countries worse because they cannot afford to take environmental precautions, and this is a good example of that. Without beginning to implement environmentally conscious policies, Latin America could begin to face severe environmental problems in the relatively near future. If Mexico City can turn a lush valley into a desert in 70 years (when the article says the five lakes in the valley were still filled), then who knows what a few more decades will do to the Amazon rainforest or other natural wonders of Latin America.

Article found at:

Mexico City Water Shortage

Mexico City and the surrounding suburbs, known as the Valley of Mexico, sit on what once used to be five interconnected lakes that formed the heartland of the Aztec Empire. However, with the Spanish conquest and the subsequent draining of these lakes, the " most drastic reordering of the natural environment that just about any city has carried out" began. Now, suffering from a water shortage, the city extracts water from its aquifers more than twice as fast as they are replenished. As a result, the spongy clay on which the city is built dries up and compresses, causing it to sink. This is yet another example of the effects on water supplies of unchecked urban growth, shortsighted management and political inertia.

Read the Article

After Hurricane Wilma Cancun Hopes to Change Image

Many resorts in Cancun, Mexico are hoping to foster a change in the area's image. Rather than the number one spring break destination for drunken college students, Cancun hopes to promote itself as a place of maturity, relaxation, and peace. Here's the article from Washington Post...

Corona Extra

Following Tanya's enlightening post, I decided to give Mexico's favorite beer a chance to compete! Corona Extra is Mexico's most exported brand and I hope everyone can see why! Here's a link to the official website so you all can learn more about what makes Corona Extra so special. Enjoy!

Very interesting US-Mexico clash over water

take a look.

Friday, March 17, 2006

New Orleans Hispanic Network on the Web!

I found this site while looking around for information on the Hispanic population of New Orleans and what they like to do and where they like to spend their time. I think it is very informative and also pretty interesting to look around on.

Other GREAT sites for learning about the New Orleans Hispanic population:

Once I found these I told Jamie I wanted to help get word about the ESL program out using the internet and these networks that are not readily obvious as places to advertise our service for the ESL classes.

Either way, have fun looking around and let me know if you find any more


Who doesn't love tequila? In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, what better to be curious about than everyone's favorite Mexican import.

Here are some websites that provide a historical analysis of North America's first distilled drink.

Water Wars in Mexico City

Can you even imagine what it would be like if you had to FIGHT just to have water. Or how about the mass panic there would be if there were a shortage and people weren't given water... it would be absolute chaos right? That's exactly what it was in Mexico City at a World Water Forum where there were 10,000 protestors fighting for their rights to have water. How many times a day do I just turn a faucet on without a second thought...

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Many people are famliar with the laid-back tunes "Girl from Ipanema," "Desafinado" and "Dindi." These songs were written by Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim, who fathered the bossa nova musical movement in the 50's and 60's. His songs are beautiful and peaceful. For more information on Jobim, including a brief biography and a link to his discography visit this VH1 site:

A current musician who sometimes employs elements of bossa nova in his works, such as "Belle," is Jack Johnson. Jack is making his Brazilian debut in April when he performs in Jobim's hometown, Rio de Janeiro, along with Sao Paolo.

Brazil's MST Strikes again...

The Landless Movement in Brazil protests the inequality of landownership in Brazil by taking advantage of a clause in the constitution that allows for un-used land to be claimed by someone who does not own the property if they have been residing there for some period.

In a recent turn of events they occupied a Swiss Biotech company's research farm as a protest against environmental regulation violations. Having recently allied with Via Campesina, an international peasant group, this particular protest represents a shift in MST's efforts from focusing strictly on land reform to expanding towards other social justice issues.

Mayan Stellaes

Earlier in the blog I had noticed that someone had posted a picture of their graffitied bathroom where they had drawn a replica of the mayan stellaes that are on display throughout the seminar room in Jones and in other places around Tulane. I thought I would elaborate a little on what they are. When I was at Stanford last semester my boss had commented to me on how many Latin American academics were jealous of Tulane as the recipients of these Mayan sketches. At first I had no idea what she was talking about and then realized that they were these images we see on a regular bases.

They were donated to Tulane by Merle Green Robertson, the artist. Who donated her entire collection of nearly 2000 rubbings of Mayan stellaes. They record in rubbings the relief sculpture on temples, stone monoliths, and structures of Mayan sites in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. They provide accurate full scale images of Mayan sculpture and hieroglyphics and are even more important today now that some of the sculptures which she has recorded have now disappeared.

They are important pieces of art and history that I think a lot of us overlook as just a piece of wall art.

Another Weird Cultural Tidbit from Mexico

You thought finding parking around campus was bad. Imagine trying to find parking in Mexico City. The Washington Post recently ran an article about "Viene, Viene" men who help you find parking... for a fee of course.

AIDS prevention in Brazil

I came across this article while reading the online edition of the Washington Post. To sum it up, Brazil has a radical stance on AIDS awareness and preventative measures. Whereas the United States requires that countries that recieve grants for the purpose of AIDS prevention and awareness promote abstinence and not contraceptives such as condoms as the major form of prevention, Brazil has taken a different route, providing condoms for anyone who needs them, and educating sex workers about the disease and how best to protect against it. Seeing as how the concept of abstinence would not be accepted by the masses, Brazil did what would best work for them. I think its a really interesting article. The link is here, but I will copy and paste for anyone who is not registered with the Washington Post.

Where Prostitutes Also Fight AIDS
Brazil's Sex Workers Hand Out Condoms, Crossing U.S. Ideological Line
By Monte Reel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 2, 2006; A14

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Paula Duran is an outreach worker with a style of her own. That style -- heavy on fishnet, tattoos and suggestive poses -- is at the heart of an ideological disagreement between Brazil and the United States over the best way to fight AIDS.

Duran, 35, is a prostitute in Villa Mimosa, a red-light district in this seaside city where an estimated 3,500 sex workers lounge in the doorways and lean out the windows of scarred, decaying buildings.

Each time she snags a customer, she fishes in her purse for a government-supplied condom. Often she repeats information on disease transmission that she learned at a state-funded workshop for prostitutes around the corner.

"I'm always telling people that they should never do anything without a condom," Duran said. "A lot of the young people who come around here don't know anything about it, so I try to teach them whatever I can."

But the U.S. government strongly disapproves of such unorthodox methods. Two weeks ago, Brazil received a letter from USAID declaring the country ineligible for a renewal of a $48 million AIDS prevention grant. The United States requires all countries receiving AIDS funding help to formally state that prostitution is dehumanizing and degrading, and Brazil last year -- alone among AIDS aid recipients -- was unwilling to do that.

A working partnership with prostitutes, health officials here say, is a key reason that the country's AIDS prevention and treatment programs are considered by the United Nations to be the most successful in the developing world. There are at least 600,000 people infected with HIV in Brazil -- but that is only half the number predicted by the World Bank a decade ago.
"When we started in the 1980s, our projected AIDS rates were exactly the same as Africa's, but now it's a completely different story," said Mariangela Simao, deputy director of Brazil's national HIV-AIDS program in Brasilia. "I'm convinced it's a result of the way the government has responded. We provide information and resources, and don't enter into moral or religious issues."

Brazil's annual Carnival, the rowdy pre-Lenten festival where clothes and inhibitions are mostly considered optional, began last weekend. At parades and block parties attended by millions throughout the country, the government's approach to AIDS and reproductive health appeared as unrestrained as the revelers themselves.

In Rio, free condoms were passed out like candy as part of a national goal to distribute 25 million of them before Carnival ended Tuesday. At a suburban bus stop, pamphlets distributed by the Health Ministry advertised a character called "Maria Without Shame," a cleavage-flaunting cartoon prostitute who reminds sex workers to take pride in their jobs and tells people that condoms should be used without guilt.

At celebrations in the northeastern city of Salvador, health officials also planned to pass out morning-after pills, according to local newspaper reports.
Brazil has more Roman Catholics than any other country, and the church at times voices mild complaints about the government's programs. But church leaders haven't pressed the issue. The idea of emphasizing abstinence as the basis of prevention efforts -- a stand the United States has officially adopted -- hasn't taken hold here.

"Brazil's sexual culture is very different from the puritanical tradition in the United States," said Sonia Correa, an AIDS activist in Rio who is also the co-chair of the International Working Group on Sexuality and Social Policy. "Our AIDS programs have also been radically different. The denial and the stigma that you find attached to sexual health issues in so many places isn't found in Brazil."

A number of other countries, especially in Africa and the Caribbean, have experienced high levels of HIV transmission through prostitution, but no other government has taken Brazil's unorthodox approach to the problem.

Brazil has also found itself at odds with the United States on AIDS treatment, but for different reasons. Brazil has led an international fight against pharmaceutical companies to allow countries to break the patents on AIDS medications, which would let governments produce the drugs at a much lower cost. The United States, where several of the large drug companies are based, says the patent protections encourage the companies to innovate. Without the financial benefit, they argue, there is no incentive for companies to develop new medicines that could improve patients' lives.

"Brazil has been using threats of breaking patents as a bargaining tool to negotiate lower prices with drug companies," said Michael Bailey, a senior policy analyst with Oxfam, an international nonprofit development aid group, speaking from its headquarters in Britain. "A lot of other countries are watching Brazil very closely to see what it does. This is very, very big business."

About two-thirds of Brazil's AIDS program budget -- or more than $400 million annually -- goes to buy antiretroviral medications, which the government offers free to anyone infected.

The loss of U.S. funding adds more financial pressure to Brazil's AIDS programs, though health officials here say the loss isn't crippling. Some nongovernmental organizations report recent lags and shortfalls in the government's distribution of condoms, but they don't attribute it to the loss of U.S. funds.

To help manage costs and keep up with the demand for condoms, Brazil later this year expects to become the first country directly involved in the condom business. It plans to open a state-run condom factory in the western city of Acre, producing condoms made from latex tapped from the region's wealth of rubber trees.

Gabriela Leite, 54, said she hopes the project will help condom supply meet demand. A former prostitute, she now runs an advocacy group for prostitutes that serves as a link between the government and sex workers. Her last government shipment included only 11,000 condoms -- about one-fourth the usual batch. Because the prostitutes aligned with her organization handed out large numbers of condoms at street parties during Carnival, she's afraid the supply will be quickly exhausted.

When asked if she believes such an approach is a better way to battle AIDS than promoting abstinence, she said she was certain of it. She also said she has made a point of trying to persuade activists and officials in other countries to join Brazil in refusing to go along with U.S. ground rules, even if the United States is easily the biggest provider of funding help in the world.

"It's strange, this attitude of the United States that says its way is the best, even in another culture that is completely different," said Leite, who said she retired from prostitution in 1979. "If that's the way it's done in your culture, that's fine. But it's different here, and we'll do it our way."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Gustavo Santaolalla, again

This is a follow-up to my first post about this classical latin guitarist.

His work appears several times on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack, which can be viewed (and has clips you can listen to) at

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So weird...

While reserching Honduran culture for my booth at the Latin American festival I come across the strangest phenomenon that I have ever heard of and I simply had to share it on here.
A common theme in Honduran art is the "rain of fish" (literally a depiction of it raining fish in a village). The words were highlighted as a link so I clicked on them and this is what Wikipedia has to say about the "rain of fish": "Raining animals is a relatively common meteorologic phenomenon, with occurrences reported from many countries throughout history. The animals most likely to drop from the sky in a rain fall are fish and frogs, with several types of birds coming second. Sometimes the animals survive the fall, notoriously fishes, suggesting a small time gap between the extraction and the actual drop. Several witnesses of raining frogs describe the animals as startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behavior shortly after the event."
Has anyone else heard of this other than the common phrase "it's raining cats and dogs"??? I'm absolutely stunned.
Anyways, I know this doesn't solely have to do with Latin America because it happens all over the world (who knew?) but it apparently happens relatively commonly in Honduras because it's all over their artwork.

P.S. Everyone should come to the Latin American festival on Saturday, April 8. I have an interactive booth about Honduras and Greg and Yutaca have booths too. Come out and support the Latin American community in New Orleans!

Noxal 1, Mexican Oil in the Gulf

Noxal 1 is the latest miracle to occur in Mexico. Mexican President Vicente Fox announced today that a “huge” oil reserve was found off the coast of Veracruz with the potential to produce 10 billion barrels of crude oil. Mexico is the largest producer of oil in Latin America, 1/3 of their state income is derived from oil sales, half of the oil is sold to the United States, and Mexico is not in the oil cartel OPEC, which makes the United States very happy. Fox claims that the new reserves will not significantly affect output because they want to sustain their 3.4 million-barrels/day productions, and over the last two years their reserves have dropped 2%. Therefore, the reserves found will help Mexico increase their potential without significantly increasing drilling operations. Furthermore, PEMEX, the state-owned oil production company and 51st largest corporation in the world, not more than one year ago was in debt for over 42 billion dollars and was borrowing at such a high rate that a business week columnist claimed that if there were no new discoveries of crude that the company could threaten to default on their debt or it could potentially destroy Mexican finances.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Real Life "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" Fight in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican couple were recovering separately after a marital spat got out of control and saw them firing guns, throwing knives and hurling homemade bombs, Mexican daily Milenio said on Monday......

Sweet Rides

Brazil has become the world's leader in ethanol production. In Brazil, ethanol is created from sugarcane crops and serves as a renewable form of energy to fuel vehicles. In Brazil, fuel flex car sales, which run on gasoline and ethanol, made up approximately 75% of total automobile sales in Brazil. More than 30, 000 pumping stations sell ethanol, generally mixed with gasoline. Ethanol in Brazil is also a much more affordable option, as normal gas costs around $4.69 p/gallon and ethnaol, which is cheaper to porduce and has a slightly lower tax sells at around $3.59 p/gallon. However, as this article points out, recent increases in ethanol prices have hurt sales within the country because although normal gas is still more expensive, the fuel is more efficient. It seems that ethanol is here to stay and sales will only increase once Brazil's 25 year record high sugarcane costs decrease.
President Bush hopes to end "America's addiction to imported oil"' by replacing 3/4 of the oil imported from the Middle East with American made ethanol (mostly produced from corn crops within the U.S.). Although many new cars in the U.S. are now ethanol ready, few consumers actually know that their car is ethanol compatible. In addition, with only 610 ethanol fueling stations in the country, it is virtually impossible to come by the fuel. If the U.S. hopes to follow in Brazil's footsteps, it will have to drastically increase the supply of ethanol fueled vehicle and the prevelence of pumping stations throughout the country. Check out another recent article on ethanol in Brazil at Rainforest Action Network , a great resource for information about forests and a highly influential corporate agitator :).

Argentina's president foils system of checks and balances.

President Néstor Kirchner forced a bill through congress that was very controversial. The legislation makes the division of power between executive, legislative and judiciary very unclear. It takes power away from the judiciary - making it more susceptible to intervention by the executive branch of government.

Article can be found at:

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Suite Habana

Today I watched a truly amazing film. It's a documentary called Suite Habana by Fernando Perez. Basically, it follows a day in the life of ten ordinary citizens of Habana with practically no dialogue. Rather, their stories are told simply by watching what it is that they do each day and then night. What was so extraordinary was how the director was able to demonstrate the dichotomy between the lives of quiet desperation that we live and the multiplicity of our dreams. Even more, it was nice that there was a documentary about Cuba that was completely apolitical. The synopsis on the back of the dvd pretty much sums it up...cuba is a mystery to some and a dream filled with contradictions and contrasts for those who love it or criticze it. But Habana is not only a space, a sound, a light. Habana is its people...So if you're in to the documentary type movie I highly recomend Suite Habana, it truly is an inspired film. Just a note, I'm not actually sure where you can get it...I don't think they have it at Blockbusters, I borrowed it from a professor. Maybe the Stone Center has it?

First Female President in Chile

Wanted to hear more about the current surge of political advancements of women in Latin America. Came across this article about a female physician who was tortured and exiled as a young woman and has now been sworn in as the first female President of Chile. Absolutely fascinating article and story...

Colombia' Legislative Elections

Colombia's legislative elections are coming up. The amnesty deal for paramilitary groups means that even though technically their agents aren't supposed to be running for election, many are. This article in the Miami Herald discusses how President Uribe's brother has told specific legislators with suspected paramilitary ties that they cannot run on that party's ticket. So these candidates have simply changed parties and continued on.

Article link:
Here is a fairly incredible change of events in Chile, an agnostic single mother as president. Might this be a sign of change of the times?

Capoeira is the bomb diggity

For those of you wanting to learn some capoeira, this site teaches you the basics:

Have fun!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Chilean Revolutionary Bernardo... O'Higgins??

Looking around the New York Times the other day I ran into an article about the transfer of the remains of a Chilean revolutionary war hero to civilian control after about 30 years of being held by the military. The paper compared it to if the remains of George Washington were finally being returned to Mount Vernon after 30 years in the Pentagon. This on its own is symbolically notable of the decreasing role the military is playing in politics in Latin America. But the part of the article that stuck out the most to me was the name of this George Washington parallel - Bernardo O'Higgins. Here we have possibly the most revered historical figure in a Latin American country with a last name that immediately betrays that he is not from Hispanic descent. It really impressed me, because it reveals a multicultural acceptance at a very early point that is shocking for the world in general in the early 19th century. At the same time the Irish were viewed by many as inferior and undesirable here in the United States, they (or at least one) were seen as revolutionary heroes in Chile. The article give the impression that he is very strongly revered to this day in Chilean society.

Article at:

Another woman leader in Latin America

I thought this article follows up on the points we discussed about women's rights and roles in Latin America this past Tuesday. Chile's new president Michelle Bachelet is an inspiration for women all over the world.

New flag for Venezuela

Just saw this article. A flag has been approved by the National Assembly that reversed the direction of the horse so that it is now running to the left. Chavez stated that the previous image of the horse running to the right with a craned neck looking backwards looked odd. So to correct it, the horse now is heading to the left, though it more appears to be heading backwards or against time than to the ideological left.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Latin American Skiing

Having missed most of this year's winter, I'm curious about skiing in Latin America. I looked some stuff up online and it looks like the biggest slopes are in Chile and Argentina. Major resorts that keep coming up in my searches are Las Leñas, La Hoya, El Colorado, Valle Nevado, and Antillaca. Some of the slopes are at higher elevations than average north american resorts. The low season is June, September, and October; the mid season is early July and August, while high season is usually the second half of July. I'd love to hear if anybody's done much skiing in the southern hemisphere and how it compares.


If you have not listened to any of Shakira's Spanish music, then you are missing out! I especially like the MTV Unplugged album... It was recorded before her English debut, so it is all in Spanish, and it's all acoustic which is awesome! I especially love "Ciega, Sordomuda" and "Donde Estan Los Ladrones." She has such amazing talent, I think everyone should listen to her! You can "taste" (or even buy) her music on Amazon or iTunes...

Lula pushes trade talks while in Britain

During a 3 day visit to Great Britain, the president of Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula met with Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss free trade. The two called for a summit of world leaders to push global trade liberalization talks in order to aid the poorest countries who are most affected by stalled negotiations.
In Argentina, the judicial committee of the Buenos Aires city council voted to sack the city's mayor, Anibal Ibarra. He was accused of complicity in the deaths of 194 people in a fire at a nightclub "Cromanon" in December 2004 because of his alleged failure to root out bribery and inefficiency. Read the article at:

Chinese Influence in Latin America

I found an interesting article about China gaining influence in Latin America. China's increasing economic ties to the region is pushing out some of America's influence. The same is also occuring in Africa. Check it out:

Informal Street Economies in the U.S.

Here's an article talking about an independent fruit vendor on the streets in Miami. I think it's interesting in regards to the discussion we were having in Thursday's seminar about informal street economies emerging even within "Americanized systems".

Latin American Television

We recently studied art and pop culture of Latin Americans in class. So, this article I found in the NY Times is very relevant to that topic and us. It talks about the future of television networks in America who cater to the Latino population. While the giant at the moment is Univision, they target mostly Mexican immigrants. The trend however, of Latinos is that there are more and more second generation Latinos then there are new immigrants. So, there are talks of incorporating more shows staged in the US and even some shows in English to appeal to these second generation Latinos. This trend is similar with Latin America’s miscegenation, in that the second generation Latinos are being incorporated into the pop culture of the US. Here is the link:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Blow-up dolls as 'sensitivity training tools'...

The BBC has an article this week about a tv campaign by the Mexican government to discourage sexual harrassment of women. Blow-up dolls were dressed up as secretaries and maids and then harrassed by male co-workers, and then there is a condemning voice over...

Aside from being amusingly bizarre, the campaign is interesting in that the blow-up dolls are only shown in positions without much authority. Also, the article points out that President Fox recently came under fire for saying that 'women were just "washing machines with two legs".'

This all seems to contrast with last week's readings on Latin American feminism.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Debate sobre el aborto en Uruguay

Hay un debate intenso ahora en Uruguay mientras el congreso se acerca pasear un ley que deslegalizaria el aborto. Vean lo siguente desde el periodico argentino:

Venezuela, training for a guerrilla war?

In more shocking news concerning Venezuela's already controversial President Hugo Chavez, he has recently set in motion an entirely new strategy of Venezuelan military thinking: military-trained civilian militias. What is their purpose for training nearly 2 million military reservists: to fight a war of resistance in the event of an invasion. Their four-month training period will encompass a half a million citizens at a time, and will teach them in the arts of guerrilla warfare, such as camouflage, tunnel building, and making home made weaponry. Yet, Chavez’s goal for this project is not just to train a territorial guard, but also, to teach the citizens a lesson in citizenship. And who does Chavez believe may invade Venezuela. Well, the United States of course. On his most recent weekly program, Chavez reiterated his belief that the U.S. was planning an invasion in order to overthrow him. Unlike many retired military officers who believe that Chavez could use the territorial guard to repress popular dissent against him, many citizens have signed up with patriotic sentiments. Government employees, housewives, and pensioners alike see it as an opportunity to give back to their country. Whether military service will become compulsory or not is up for debate in the Venezuelan parliament.

For more information on this see:

Chile's Future

This article ties to some of our discussion before Mardi Gras about the true changes that our coming as a result of progressive moves in Latin American governments. This story provides a good introduction to the new Chilean president, who we discussed, and gives a good base to compare future social changes that may come during her presidency.

CAFTA Not a Done Deal

The Nation has info on the challenges CAFTA is facing right now. While the treaty goes into effect this month with El Salvador, the other countries have not yet chosen a starting date and it looks like some countries such as Costa Rica could stall the deal. So while CAFTA has passed the house and senate here in the U.S., problems could still prevent its implementation. I found this to be surprising. You can read about it here.

Making an impact

Mothers in Ciudad Juarez speaking out, make an impact here

Paul Farmer and Mildred Aristide

If you would like to view a video that interviews Dr. Paul Farmer and the First Lady Mildred Aristide while exploring the impact of AIDS on Haiti, go here:

Latin American Art

For anyone interested in art The Philadelphia Museum of Art has been working for a few years to put together a huge show of Latin American Art. There are a large number of very important and interesting pieces being loaned from all over the world, many of which are commonly studied pieces. It will be opening around September 17th of this year, so if you can try to make it up to Philly for the show. And if you miss it in Philly you can always catch it at its second stop at the LA County Museum of Art.

The Views of Smuggling;_ylt=AlkVYGwbpOE2f7ThdI_vMAa3IxIF;_ylu=X3oDMTBjMHVqMTQ4BHNlYwN5bnN1YmNhdA--

Check out this website to truly understand yet another cultural difference and vision at present. A man whom once smuggled humans from El Salvador to the US to make a living, and is well known for it, is now running for mayor on the ticket that he brought so many people the American dream.

Latin (dance) around New Orleans

I decided to look into trying to find a place that offers salsa lessons in New Orleans and ran into this website. An interesting one to note (that was also available before Katrina) is the House of Blues' Latin Night on Friday nights at 10 pm. For about $10, you can learn a bit of salsa. There are also tango classes in Metarie for those who are interested and have the transportation!

Is the Big Easy's beat turning Latin?

Very interesting news story about the new Latin population of New Orleans

(Fiza actually posted this, not Emily)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Service Learning

Hey all you service learners! If you're unhappy with your service learning project and would like to jump ship just in time for the first reflection paper you can join the Latin American Festival group! Just come to our meeting this Thursday, March 9th at PJ's on Willow at 8:30pm. Hope to see you all there!

US Blanks Mexico

Much attention is being paid, from all parts of the world, to the World Baseball Classic. Today was the first day of action, and Mexico lost to the U.S. Check out this article here to read up about the tournament and the game!

Last Pachanga of the Year

Hey everyone! Wednesday March 15, starting at 4:30 PM, we'll have our last Pachanga en el Patio! There will be (more) delicious (and free) food, and Sunpie and the Louisiana Suns Spots will be playing. Stop by!

Cubans applly for American citizenship

A group of Cubans who were rescued off an old bridge that is missing parts to in in South Florida were recently sent back to Cuba. The American government claimed that since the bridge was no longer in use and not complete, it did not count toward the land policy in place for Cuban refugees. They are currently trying to apply for citizenship through the American Mission in Havana.

Washington Warming Up to Evo

The Bush administration seems to be softening its stance towards leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales. Similarly, Evo has toned down his anti-US rhetoric in favor of a more conciliatory approach. Washington is probably hoping to avoid the creation of another Hugo Chavez in the region.

Washington Post article link: here.

New Bolivian Constitution

Bolivia is focused on creating a new constitution that will grant more rights to indigenous people. The constitution also has the aim of granting large state involvement in the economy and reversing economic reforms of neoliberalism in the 1990's. Will a reversion to statist economics bring about the same problems created through the ISI model of economic development or is the statist model the less of the two evils? the bbc ran a small article addressing this topic.

Pablo Picasso, influential artist

I posted previously about Velazquez, one of my favorite artists from Latin America. Pablo Picasso is, of course, a widely recognized name and artist. As an art student, I am aware of just how important Picasso's art has been in art history, but for those of you who feel you'd like to learn more about him, I have included here a link to his "official website." Enjoy!

Runoff Elections in Haiti

A top election official who fled Haiti under threat has returned to help organize a legislative runoff needed to form a new government.

Jacques Bernard, director general of the embattled electoral council, arrived in the capital of Port-au-Prince on Sunday to resume his duties, two weeks after he left for the United States, the council's secretary-general, Rosemand Pradel, told reporters.

Bernard fled after opponents ransacked his farm and diplomats warned that gang members planned to ambush his car as he left the vote tabulation center.

The threats came amid complaints about the tabulation of results from the February 7 elections won by President-elect Rene Preval, a former president.

Bernard will help prepare for a legislative runoff that had been scheduled for March 19 until officials said it would be delayed because of street protests that have slowed planning.

Officials will announce a new election date shortly, Pradel said.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Domestic Abuse

Article here.

This week's discussion about Latin American feminism and last week's Costa Rica presentation mentioning high levels of domestic abuse got me interested in the topic of abuse in general in Latin America. For some reason I assumed that it wasn't a huge issue in the region; however, this article (even though it's from 1998) brings to light how bad the situation is for many women. Domestic violence is actually a huge problem in many Latin American countries and the article sites the widening wealth inequality as a contributor. Physical abuse is more common among the lower classes while psychological abuse is rampant in the upper classes.

Long periods of civil war and social unrest teach children violence from a very young age, so Latin American youths, much like US adolescents, are somewhat desensitized to the horrific acts surrounding them.

I suppose all of these causes are rather universal, but I found the focus on Latin America interesting.

Cuban Cigars

So this week was the annual Cuban Cigar Festival in Havana drawing in aficionados from all over the world, although (presumably), not from the United States. During the festival participants are able to tour cigar factories, smoke the finest cigars in the world, and mingle/network with other businessmen and connoisseurs. If you're interested in reading more go here. While this is all great and good, if you like cigars at least, what it made me think of is the fact that if I wanted to smoke a nice Cuban cigar here in the States, I techinically wouldn't be allowed. This is because of a U.S. embargo with Cuba held over from the Cold War days. While pretty much every other country in the world has economic ties with Cuba, we do not. I just wanted to say that I think this pretty much sucks. It seems to me that it is a matter of U.S. pride and recalcitrance. We simply won't admit that we were or could have been wrong in our policy toward Cuba and that it has been fairly ineffective in dealing with communism in the Western Hemisphere. So instead we are willing to hold on to antiquated and ineffective policies that deprive U.S. businessmen from economic possibilities in Cuba and me from smoking a nice cigar in the comfort of my own dorm room.

Homeland Security - US influence in Latin America

The US is urging lawmakers in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina to look at security issues around their common border. According to reports there is Arab communities around the area that are using money laundering to support radical Islamic groups. Patrick O'Brien, assistant U.S. Treasury secretary for terrorist financing will meet officials of all three countries next week.

Article can be found here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Guatemala's "Social Cleansing" Squads

Yet another reason why militias aren't such a good idea.

Female suffrage in Latin America

Ok, so I'm not sure whether or not all sections are reviewing the same thing or not, but I thought this might be interesting to know anyway:

Chronology of women's suffrage:

1788 - United States of America (to stand for election) ---- put it here more for reference than anything else
1929 - Ecuador*
1931 - Chile*
1932 - Uruguay
1934 - Brazil, Cuba
1938 - Bolivia*
1939 - El Salvador (to vote)
1941 - Panama*
1942 - Dominican Republic
1944 - Jamaica
1945 - Guyana (to stand for election),
1946 - Guatemala, Panama**, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela
1947 - Argentina, Mexico (to vote)
1948 - Suriname
1949 - Chile**, Costa Rica
1950 - Barbados, Haiti
1951 - Antigua and Barbuda
1952 - Bolivia**
1953 - Guyana (to vote), Mexico (to stand for election)
1954 - Belize, Colombia
1955 - Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru
1961 - Bahamas*, El Salvador (to stand for election), Paraguay
1964 - Bahamas**
1967 - Ecuador**

* Right subject to conditions or restrictions
** Restrictions or conditions lifted

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hablando en la calle

I liked posting a poem last week. So, here's another. This one is called "Hablando en la calle" by Pablo Neruda.

Voy a contarte en secreto
quién soy yo,
así, en voz alta,
me dirás quien eres,
quiero saber quién eres,
cuánto ganas,
en qué taller trabajas,
en qué mina,
en qué farmacia,
tengo una obligación terrible
y es saberlo,
saberlo todo,
día y noche saber
cómo te llamas,
ése es mi oficio,
conocer una vida
no es bastante
ni conocer todas las vidas
es necesario,
hay que desentrañar,
rascar a fondo
y como en una tela
las líneas ocultaron,
con el color, la trama
del tejido,
yo borro los colores
y busco hasta encontrar
el tejido profundo,
así también encuentro
la unidad de los hombres,
y en el pan busco
más allá de la forma:
me gusta el pan, lo muerdo,
y entonces
veo el trigo,
los trigales tempranos,
la verde forma de la primavera,
las raíces, el agua,
por eso
más allá, del pan,
veo la tierra,
la unidad de la tierra,
el agua,
el hombre,
y así todo lo pruebo.

I really like this poem. I think it's beautiful. If you don't speak Spanish, it's still beautiful or use an online translator or ask a friend to translate!

Peru to sue Yale University

I've heard of the Greeks and Italians suing for artifacts currently held in the British Museum, but on our side of the Atlantic Peru is suing Yale over Incan artifacts in one of its collections.

It's an interesting debate, and ties in pretty strongly to what creates a cultural identity. These artifacts have the potential to be deeply significant to the Peruvians, but they cannot have much contact with them while they are in Connecticut. Which has more priority--the cultural identity of "humankind" or the cultural identity of a specific culture?

Building on the food theme

Just a little addition to the food theme. If yall are too lazy to cook your own mexican food, go to Taqueria Corona on Magazine because it is probably some of the best in the area. IT is not all old tex-mex but has real mexican food like cebollitas and good fish dishes. Also, their margaritas are pretty good.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mexican Recipes

I've been craving some good Mexican food lately, espiecally with the class reading for this week. Being from California I think we get spoiled with it. Here's some dessert recipes I found interesting.

I especially liked the Mexican Wedding Cake recipe as that is a big tradition in my family.

Strikers in Mexico Start Returning to Mines

The miners and steelwork strikers in Mexico are starting to return to work. They included workers from the country's biggest silver mine. This cooperative effort between the union and the "big businesses" indicates a step forward for the unskilled labor force of Mexico. This could be progress for unskilled labor in all of Latin America.

The entire article is here.

U.S. pushes for legislation in Latin American nations to fight terrorism

The U.S. is hopefull that new governments will be more likely to pass anti-money laundering laws to prevent the Arab community in the Tri-Border region (of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil) from generating funds for militant Islamic groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

"Historically, there's been some problems with a lack of governance in the area, illicit activity of various kinds, fraudulent trade," said Patrick O'Brien, assistant U.S. Treasury secretary for terrorist financing.

The goal of the United States is to influence legislation in Ltain America to fight terrorism. This is consistent with the theme of U.S. involvement in Latin American affairs that we've been studying. However, while the goals of the U.S. may be motivated partially by self-interest, this seems to be something that would benefit the entire world.

Puerto Rican Smoking Ban

I'll get in trouble with my colleagues for saying this, but here is further proof that the "tiny" Caribbean countries are quite notable for their forward-thinking, of-the-people approach. Puerto Rico has just issued the toughest anti-smoking ban in the Caribbean, which sounds like a much tougher one than in the United States -- no smoking in casinos, even!

Here's the link.