Monday, December 10, 2007

Fujimori Has a Temper

Fujimori seems to be one of our favorite Latin American leaders to talk about. Here is a short description of his recent outburst in court. It took him 30 minutes to calm down.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Chavez and Barbara Bond

Many have labeled Hugo Chavez, "the archemeny of George Bush," but Barbara Walters has ignored such labels and decided to put him on her list of the "Most Interesting People of 2007." Barbara was one of the first American journalists to interview him since he called George Bush the devil, however Walters tried to address those issues in the interview, revealing a different side of Chavez, and some of his reasoning. At the end of the original interview, Walters asks Chavez to speak a little English and send a message to the American people, he says that Venzuela loves the American people.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

USA 1 Chavez 0

I have been thinking about Chavez's defeat in the recent Constitucional Referendum. I can't help but think that this is just a big political game that Chavez is playing in order to prove to the international community that Venezuela respects the institutions established and that Venezuela is a democratic country. I guess the main reason is because Chavez has said that he accepts the defeat for now. It seems to me if a country went through this whole process of a constitutional referendum, it basically means that it is a one time go. Instead, Chavez is esentially rejecting the outcome of the referendum - in an ambiguous manner of course - and suggesting that another one will come in the future. Imagine if Venezuela had a Constitutional referendum every year until Chavez won? I believe he won the 2006 election, meaning at least he has another 5 years to do what he wants. If you are a man like Chavez, I am sure 5 years is a pretty long time.

It seems to me that Chavez has a lot to gain internationally by taking the defeat while essentially retaining the same degree of power. Remember how there were student protests against the referendum? Those student protests probably were a result of the inadequacy of the political parties and the whole political process in general. Since the students (and the people who thought like the students) couldnt find adequate representation in the political party system, they just decided to take to the streets.

However, after the referendum, although No won, essentially nothing has changed institutionally. Does anybody imagine a figure rising that can challenge the authority and resonance of a leader like Chavez? Can the opposition really act in a manner that can actually challenge the power of Chavez? I suppose that has yet to play out. However, I would be hesitant to say that Chavez has respected democratic institutions. I would say he has respected them because it is politically convenient for him to do so. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


As we were discussing in class Parimaribo is kind of a forgotten capital of a forgotten country. Apparently someone took notice long enough to recommend it to UNESCO though, because now the historical center of the city is a World Heritage Site as showing the mix of Dutch colonial, native, and immigrant worker cultures in the architecture. With a total population of 250,000 and few major exports (as well as a river whose silt buildups do not allow large ocean-going vessels) its hard to imagine this city getting much more attention. Perhaps for the best.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Chavez Referendum Defeated

A referendum proposed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which essentially would turn Venezuela into an almost socialist state, was defeated this past weekend. This indicates that voters believe he had finally overreached in proposing constitutional changes that would have ended term limits for the president and greatly centralized his power. This referendum proposal caused many protests throughout Venezuela, and its defeat came to the surprise of many people. However Chavez did the right thing to respect the voters opinion by acknowledging the defeat, rather than taking the path of a dictator and doing something radical. This firmly established his classification as a supporter of democracy. Here is the story:

Colombian Hostage "living like the dead"

The Colombian government arrested three suspected members of the FARC and in doing so seized materials of hostages who haven't been heard from in over three years. A letter as well as a video show Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate in an extremely poor state of physical as well as emotional health. Each of the three US military contractors from Northrop Grumman Corp. are also seen in the video, indicating for the first time that they are alive. The letter and tapes were supposedly meant for Hugo Chavez to receive. Currently the FARC has 44 "high profile hostages," some of whom may be released as part of Hugo Chavez's conditional visit. The President of Colombia, Uribe, canceled Chavez's visit, saying that he had "overstepped his bounds." Hostages are still holding onto hope that the US as well as France will pressure Uribe into initiating some kind of swap to set them free. Full Article:;_ylt=Ahbm4V_FY9WkRWT_MYZfdle3IxIF

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Argentina's unemployement rate drops

After the 2001 economic crisis in Argentina, the economy has been gradually improving, especially under the leadership of President Nestor Kirchner. The unemployement rate has fallen to 8.1% . Kirchner said: "The economy is doing very well; We don't fear growth, we fear neo- liberal economic recipes.'' Bloomberg article: bloomberg

A Big Day for Chavez

There has been a lot of discussion on this blog concerning today's voting in Venezuela. As others stated, the results will determine whether or not Chavez can run for office indefinitely and 68 other proposed amendments to the Venezuelan constitution. It seems that the main concern in this election is fairness. So far in polls about 69% of Venezuelans oppose eliminating term limits. Opponents still fear that the measure may pass because people who do not support Chavez do not want to legitimize these elections by showing up at polls. I definitely understand why they are concerned given that several independent studies have shown polling equipment is susceptible to tampering. It doesn't help that since winning the presidency in 1998 Chavez hasn't really lost at anything. The ads on TV have played up the social benefits tied up in the deal, such as reducing the work week, while not mentioning the magnitude to which it would expand Chavez's powere. Read about it:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Venezuela and Colombia

This Article which explains the growing tensions between Colombia and Venezuela may be an indicator of unrest in the future. Chavez has removed his ambassador from Colombia and cutting off ties between the countries. If their hostility becomes any more significant I believe that it is something the United States will become involved in.

Coup in Venezuela?

Coups are nothing new for Latin America. The word is perhaps one of the most commonly used in their political history, but the coups usually come from within their own country, either by a citizen group or the military. Could the United States be planing a coup in Venezuela?

Constitutional Changes in Latin America

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and two of his regional proteges are rewriting their nations' constitutions, following a Latin American tradition of using the fundamental charter to attempt radical breaks from past regimes. Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are promoting constitutional reforms as ways to root out corruption, redistribute wealth to the poor, and in the case of Bolivia, reverse centuries of discrimination against an Indian majority. Here is the full story,8599,1688448,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Friday, November 30, 2007

The U.S. and Latin America: At a Critical Juncture

A few weeks back, a fairly well-known and well-respected scholar of U.S.-Latin American Relations, Riordan Roett, came to Tulane as part of the inaugural events of the new Center for Interamerican Policy and Research (CIPR) which is affiliated with my office, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

Professor Roett participated in a series of meetings, and I attended a luncheon meeting at which the small group discussed informally the nature of contemporary U.S.-Latin American Relations. One of the points that came up during this discussion which Professor Roett made was that U.S. policy makers these days, as most clearly reflected by the frontrunner candidates of each major party in the upcoming U.S. Presidential contest, have almost no substantive interest to speak of in Latin America as a world region. Of course, the one exception to this could be Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but even then our interest in Chavez is mostly reactive to his outrageous behavior and is still only sporadically on the radar screen. And when US policymakers are engaged with Latin America, it is almost always in the context of domestic issues: immigration, trade, jobs, etc. As a student of Interamerican relations, I have myself noticed this trend and basically agree with this assessment. What is interesting about this trend is that it is somewhat counterintuitive to the trend of the increasing "Latin Americanization" of the U.S., which generally everyone admits is occurring, for better or for worse, to some degree or another. One would think that as we in the U.S. become more intertwined with Latin America, the greater our interest in the region would be.

This discussion prompted me to explore more fully a hypothesis that has been brewing in my mind as of late which seeks to explain more systematically why this may be. I am now in the process of a more formal investigation of the subject which I will hopefully write up in a paper that I will present to my peers for their reactions at any one of a number of upcoming conferences.

My basic hypothesis is that the disconnect between the growing integration of the U.S. and Latin America and the relative disinterest among our policymakers in the region is nothing more than a reflection of the product of a deep-seated psychological discomfort and anxiety that Anglo-America is experiencing as it feels the waning of its cultural hegemony in the context of this inexorable integration and as it thus relinquishes its position of privilege and dominance, especially in the realm of culture, to what Nestor Garcia-Canclini might call a culture of hybridity.

In essence, what I think is happening is that the people of the United States are sensing that we are at a cultural critical juncture in our history, and that this juncture bodes a change that will radically reorient what it means to be "American" - at least how they have come to understand the meaning of an American identity. Thus, I think what we are witnessing in reaction is a kind of policy and attitudinal schizophrenia. We see policy makers ignoring the region at one level, yet obssessing over the region's impact on the domestic reality of the United States at another level. We witness no coherent foreign policy that seeks to engage the leaders and the people of Latin America all the while we see a kind of psychotic obsession with the dangers of the Latin Americanization of our culture and our society, all of which is manifested in a resurgent isolationism (withdrawal from engaged diplomacy in the region, a resurgent economic protectionism, etc.), a reactionary cultural nativism (English as the official language), and strong traces of an ugly xenophobia in the anti-illegal immigration movement the likes of which I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

In essense, we are disengaging ourselves formally from the region precisely because we are becoming ever more integrated with the region. And the more we realize that we cannot escape this process of cultural hybridization, the more we try to bury our heads in the sand in the face of it.

This is a very preliminary and rough outline of my hypothesis. I think, though, that there is clear evidence in support of it and I'll be developing it more thorougly over the next few months. But I wanted to share it here now, and will welcome your thoughts on the subject.

here today, gone tomorrow

In an article in the NYT - Americas section, I read that in Ecuador, in an effort to rewrite the constitution a vote was passed to dissolve congress in order to give more power to the current president. I was surprised to hear such a drastic change could occur so quickly, even after learning about several unstable governments in Latin America. I think what is surprising is that the congress actually voted to dissolve itself, as opposed to a forced dissolution from the outside.

Chavez Calls for Changes

Thousands have been rallying in Caracas, Venezuela this week because of the proposed changes to the constitution. Today, people that support the changes are rallying in response to those that are against them. These constitutional revisions include changes in presidential terms-Chavez could continue to run for president, the creation of communal property, and concentrate more power with the president. This has been raising eyebrows around the world, in that Chavez will have even greater power in national decision making, however he argues it is only helping to move Venezuela "toward a more socialist system." While each side predicts outcomes in their favor, the final decision lays in the hands of the Venezuelan people. Find out more here.

Hostages in Colombia on Video

This article is about, and includes a few snippets from, videotapes seized by the Colombian government from suspected members of the FARC. One of the hostages--the first one pictured in the video, is Colombian senator Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 while running for president. The other three are American contractors whose plane was shot down in 2003. Exactly the stuff we talked about in class this week--current news.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is Cuba Taking One for the Team with Medicine?

This article examines what Cuba's health system really costs, not in terms of money but quality of health care. It's amazing that Cuba manages to be so generous in providing pro-bono health care to people who are not even citizens and don't live there. It's an interesting contrast to the US where we have people who throw fits about illegal immigrants receiving care in our emergency rooms. As the article points out, Cuba is by no means in excellent economic shape, yet they do have certain priorities that they stick to. Doctors in Cuba are often forced to work very hard with pay that is not comparable to what doctors receive in other countries. Doctors seem to work hard anywhere, but it does seem like there is kind of a trade-off. Here is the link

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fatal Mine Blast in Ecuador

At least two miners are reported dead and at least 15 injured in a blast in a gold mine in the village of Ponce Enriquez in Azuay province in southern Ecuador. Authorities say they do not yet know what caused the blast, which was so powerful it was felt in a town 15 minutes away. for the full article, go to this website:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

new addictions in Mexico

In this article, Mexico has begun the transition from primarily a highway of drug trafficking to the United States to a country with its own growing drug problem. Since 2001, the number of addicts seeking treatment has tripled for crack cocaine and doubled for methamphetamines. Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, introduced a program in July to test all high school students for drugs. Even midsized towns in central Mexico are dealing with a recent surge of new drug addicts and drug-related crime and poverty.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More riots in Sucre

On November 24th in Sucre Bolivia, more riots took place by students protesting Bolivia's constitutional assembly, leaving two students, one by the name of Gonzalo Duran, dead and another wounded and hospitalized. The protestors want the assembly to relocate the capital from La Paz to Sucre, which has been rejected. Violence in regard to this protest has been ongoing since September where violence including clashes between students and police. The riots became so dangerous that the assembly meetings has been postponed and have no been rescheduled to resume yet.

For the full story visit this website:;_ylt=As1bkJAq0BV69jZNI1D8AxO3IxIF

Friday, November 23, 2007

Andes glaciers are melting rapidly

Cities such as La Paz, Quito, and Bogota are being and will be severely affected by the melting of Andean glaciers which provide water for the cities. There are and will continue to be water shortages in these cities, water which provides for crops, hydroelectric power plants, and drinking. In order to combat this rapid dwindling, these countries will have to take very expensive measures, with money they simply don't have. The irony of this is that these less-industrialized countries are responsible for very little carbon emission, though they are the most affected by global climate change, so far. Associated Press article

Intereting points about L.A. democracy

This is a rather hopeful article about the future of democracy in Latin America. It seems that more worker's movements are working within the political process rather that arming themselves and fighting.

Pinochet's Widow Cleared Of Charges

We just spoke in class about how Chile is taking more of an open approach to dealing with its skeletons than Argentina is. Despite the fact that the charges were thrown out, this CNN article shows that there is still concern over General Pinochet's legacy; his widow and four children were accused of embezzlement related to his multi-million dollar overseas accounts (cleared because they were never government employees).

Link also has a seemingly recent picture of Pinochet--maybe one of the last. Looks just like your grandpa, a friendly old guy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hugo and Fidel Arguing?

This a very intersting but short article about a letter published by the press that Castro supposedly sent Chavez. Fidel definitely expresses some angry, or perhaps resentful feelings. Given that Cuba needs Venzuela for oil, it seems very bold of Castro to publish such a letter.

Monday, November 19, 2007


This just occurred to me. It's interesting how some leaders in Latin America, some thinkers or what have you still talk about pan-latinamericanism when the keyboards aren't standardized from country to country (at least the ones that I am familiar with come in two types, and this is in the same country). You would think that little things like that, basic things like communicating in the same language, would have some degree of standardization, no? A unified latin america? ha.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gay Rights in Argentina

This article discusses a gay rights parade that recently took place in Argentina. This article shows how a lot of the problems that people face in the United States are common to people across the globe. People from different cultures and languages still face the same discrimination and hardships.

Large Scale Animal Slaughter in Puerto Rico

A few weeks ago, I posted about the inhumane killing of cats and dogs in Puerto Rico. It had appeared that there were 80 animals that had been killed (by being dropped off overpass bridges), but now the Associated Press has investigated, and has discovered that employees of Animal Control Solutions routinely kill strays or even family pets in this manner. Charges will be pressed, and hopefully a spay and neuter program will be implemented.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Indigen Advancement in Identity and the Church

This article is a couple days old, but it seemed to touch perfectly on two topics we have discussed recently: the identity of the indigenous population within Latin American countries and the role of the Catholic Church in Latin America. The article is about an indian from Argentina named Namuncura who died in 1905 when he was training to be a priest. He is credited to performing one miracle, and has been beautified by the Catholic church, a part of the process towards sainthood. To read the full article, go to this website:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Colombians sue Chiquita

Relatives of hundreds who died in Colombia at the hands of the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia are now suing the Chiquita banana company. Chiquita apparently was a financial supporter of the group. The company says that the group threatened employees and their families, so it had little choice in giving money (an action they admit to).

the article:


This is the site for a project I took part in this summer in Bolivia:

They've updated the site so that now you can hear the spoken language among other things. The description is interesting and shows how Kallawaya is in some ways representative of many small indigenous languages in South America, and in some ways quite unique (in that it is both mixed and secret).

Chavez and nukes

Read this article about the nucular program that Hugo Chavez is planning on creating. He says that he is planning on developing a peaceful nuke program however i don't think that we should believe it. He is relating his nuclear program to Iran's which I think that the United States should be concerned about. I think that any country, ecspecially an unstable one, that is developing a new nuclear program is something to be concerned about.

Poverty Rates Drop in Latin America

According to a U.N. commission report issued on Thursday, strong economic growth pushed the number of people living in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean below 200 million for the first time in more than 15 years. Latin America's economy has grown more than 3 percent a year since 2003, which is the greatest per person GDP growth since the 1970s. This is helping to slash unemployment and poverty levels in a majority of countries. Here is the story:

US Businesses talk food with Cuba

This past week was the Havana International Trade fair, where, surprisingly, nearly one hundred American businesses and some state officials were found trying to compete in the Cuban economy through food imports. While the ban on selling food to Cuba has lifted, the Bush administration has been making it more and more difficult for the agriculture sector to do business with Cuba. This new market has been great for farmers and farm states alike, and "the need for jobs has trumped cold-war politics." You can find out more here.
In light of the idea of Progress in our readings this week, I noticed an article in the NYT-Americas section about a lawsuit against Chiquita banana for illegally funding military groups in the civil war in columbia, making them partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. WHile the company said they were forced to make these payments to defend their own lives, I think that this is an indication of the elite and business classes ties to governmental military in many latin american countries. While this may be an isolated instance, it at least shows chiquita banana's ties, and additionally the importance and wealth attached to exports.

Latin American film

Recently there has been a steady production of critically acclaimed movies from Latin America. This article explores the Latin American film industry and some unfortunate economic situations that sometimes make these films less available at home than in the rest of the world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chiquita Banana

In this article, families of victims of a Columbian paramilitary group are suing Chiquita Brands International. A subsidiary of the company, Banadex paid millions of dollars to a group responsible for some of Columbia's worst massacres. The company claims that the payments were necessary in order to protect their workers and property from the group's death squads. Families of 387 victims, however, say the company went so far as to ship rifles to the organization.
One of the recurring topics in this class is the difficulties in establishing a stable government in region where revolutions and coups often take the place of political processes. Foreign companies cannot conduct business without adequate security, but only perpetuate the violence by funding terrorist groups with "protection payments."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Earthquake in Chile

This CNN article has text, video, and pictures of a recent earthquake which affected Tocopilla in northern Chile. In it, the mayor says that people will have to sleep in the streets, they don't have water, etc. This got me thinking about disaster relief there and how it compares to here. Living in post-Katrina New Orleans, I always think it's interesting to see how other parts of the world cope and rebuild after disasters like this. You would think that major US cities would have a comparatively fast recovery rate--but I don't know if that's really the case.

Chavez is at it again..

Hugo Chavez is now threatening Spain with drastic economic action is Spain's King Juan Carlos does not apologize to Chavez for telling him to "shut up". I think this is moderately ridiculous and maybe a good example of the personalism in Latin American politics. Spain has a lot invested in Venezuela and Chavez seems to be making this about him as opposed to his country. This article also mentions some Chavez's other extreme antics, such as his proposal to eliminate term limits in Venezuela.

Latin Americans Help the U.S. Economy

We often hear opinions from politicians or citizens Joe and Mary down the street. "Latin American immigrants are taking our jobs and and sending our money back to Latin America. They're hurting our economy." This article tells why these accusations are false and goes on to discuss how Latin America is actually doing the opposite of what most believe. Latin America helps our economy more than we help theirs.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wilson (Chuck) Lucom bequeaths to and highlists starving Panamanian children.

Wilson (Chuck) Lucom a rich landowner who married into the " Prominent Panamanian Arias family" died leaving all of his riches to children starving in panama. His widow will try to reclaim the estate however.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Latin American Summit Focuses on Poverty

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Thursday opened a gathering of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal with a call for renewed efforts to fight poverty. Bachelet is called on the 22 participating governments to increase concern for social issues and poverty while much of the region is experiencing economic growth. Here is the full story

Uruguay and Laptops

This article about Laptops being made which will sell for $100 explains how it will benefit Latin America. Urugay has already placed an order for the laptops and because they are inexpensive they willbe far more accessible to schoolchildren. In todays society it is important to know how to use technology and it will be beneficial to Latin American countries if they can get more laptops for school aged children.

Chavez seizes power...again

Hugo Chavez of venezuela has began a process to alter the constitution of the country to allow him to stay in power indefinitely. In an article in the NYT, the paper reported that university students who were protesting this change were shot at by a group of hooded men.

Personally, I think it is good to see that even in countries where freedom of speech is questionable, students are fighting to uphold the constitution. It is very unfortunate that the outcome was so bad.

Brazilian Oil

This is a story about Brazil which has discovered their largest oil reserves yet. The abundance of oil in Latin America and U.S. dependence on oil produced in the region I feel tend to go overlooked by many in a time when the Middle East dominates all international thought. Chavez is significantly more threatening with one of the largest oil reserves in the world behind him as well.

Clinton's position on free trade

This article is a relatively detailed analysis of Hillary Clinton's politics regarding free trade in Latin America. It discusses the complicated political issues that have to be dealt with when forming economic policy.

Fear of Epidemics in Flooded Tabasco

After an estimated 80% of the state of Tabasco flooded last week, officials now fear for wide spread infections and even epidemics in the area. Medical teams have started giving injections to guard against the outbreak of hepatitis, influenza, tetanus, cholera, and even maybe dengue fever. Find out more here.

Coincidence? hmm

So, in the span of 4 days Sao Paulo had 4 helicopter crashes, the latest killing 6 (thats what the article above focuses on). The article states that business people often use helicopters sort-of like cars, but without having to deal with traffic. But is the high number of crashes really normal? If anything like this happened in the US everyone would be screaming "terrorist!" and going crazy but it hasn't raised much of a flag in Brazil. Although the guys in charge of the landing flat have resigned.

Brazilian Death Squads

From the article: "Extermination groups are common in major Brazilian cities, where police often are ineffective and storekeepers can hire off-duty or retired officers to 'clean up' undesirables."

The article is actually about the recent dismantling of two of these "death squads" by police, but the above sentence was the one that really jumped out at me. I usually consider New Orleans to be an exceptionally violent city--but news blips like this make me feel very sheltered.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Gunmen Open Fire on Protest in Venezuela

Since we were talking about this just the other day in class this article grabbed my attention. Students who were protesting in Caracas against president Chavez's "self-coup" were fired upon by masked gunmen who were hiding inside the university. 8 students were injured, at least one directly due to the shootings. Last week, troops used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. Was the goernment behind the shootings as well? Go to the link for the full article.

Colombian Arepas Con Huevos

This is a site that includes pictures and recipes for traditional Colombian foods such as arepas con huevos, banuelos and others. It also talks about the street food in Colombia which typically says a lot about a culture.

"Dirty War" Memorial

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner unveiled a new memorial to the victims of the Dirty War of 1976-1983, when ~13.000 people were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered: the "desaparecidos." Right, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president-elect, with one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, viewing the memorial with some of the names of the victims inscribed (8.917, though there are many more unknown)
They also took this opportunity to urge for quickening the legal process to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Mexican rooftops become islands

After devastating floods in the Tabasco region of Mexico, many families have been relegated to the roofs of their flooded houses. From there, they slaughter what livestock they have and wait for the floodwaters to recede. The scene elicits unavoidable parallels to Katrina as a residents of a flooded city must survive with or without government help. More can be found here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

UN Praises Cuba's Ability to Feed People

John Ziegler, a UN food expert recently made a trip to Cuba to examine the populations access to food. Cuba is one of only 32 nations that outline "the right to food" in their constitution. Ziegler was very pleased to announce that he did not find any signs of malnourshiment, an amazing achievement considering the precarious situation Cuba found themselves in with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ongoing US Embargo. According to Ziegler, "Cuba always invents an answer," and they appear to have made access to food a priority.

Find the full article here:;_ylt=AuoWt97Is0jTN7lA2nQedhS3IxIF

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dia de los muertos

This week was Dia de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated in Mexico. The holiday is around the same time as Halloween but it is a very different holiday. It is a day to respect the dead and celebrate their spirits. It is an example of the different perspectives on spirits and the supernatural in Latin America.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

President Bush Refuses to Alter US-Cuban Relations

President Bush delivered the first speech since 2003 to deal solely with US-Cuban relations this past Wednesday. He was adamant in his refusal to remove the sanctions imposed after the 1959 Revolution, but is in favor of developing a “freedom fund” to foster the growth of democracy in Cuba. He was immediately accused of attempting to incite violence, especially after directing his remarks towards the security forces in Cuba to make a choice to support liberty when the time comes. He also urged the international community to pressure Havana and support the US position. While I do feel democratic reform in Cuba may be inevitable, it seems that an unwillingness to change our policy after nearly fifty years seems slightly misguided at this juncture.

Follow this link for the full article:

Tabasco Floods

Tabasco, Mexico floods as a result of cold fronts. This article compares the floods to the scene of New Orleans after Katrina. How is this comparison and is this what we have to look forward to as a result of Global Warming?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Little More Than Un-P.C.

When I read this article I actually laughed out loud at how incredibly ludacris it is. In an published on interview with Dominican Republic Cardinal Jesús López Rodríguez, not only does the cardinal digress from the topic of the interview to the church's stance on abortion and contraception-- which were completely unrelated-- but he actually refers to gays as maricones, the spanish word for faggot. Read the article to see some other shocking things the cardinal has said about the gay community. It seems to me that leaders like the cardinal are an obvious reason as to why religious practice is declining in Latin American countries.

A Little More Than Un-P.C.

When I read this article I actually laughed out loud at how incredibly ludacris it is. In an published on interview with Dominican Republic Cardinal Jesús López Rodríguez, not only does the cardinal digress from the topic of the interview to the church's stance on abortion and contraception-- which were completely unrelated-- but he actually refers to gays as maricones, the spanish word for faggot. Read the article to see some other shocking things the cardinal has said about the gay community. It seems to me that leaders like the cardinal are an obvious reason as to why religious practice is declining in Latin American countries.

Guatemala struggles for stability

Guatemalans will elect their sixth consecutive civilian president since military rule ended in 1986 on Sunday. This article highlights some of the problems he will face in office.

23 tons of cocaine seized in Mexico

This short article in the NY Times says 23 tons of cocaine were found on a ship in Manzonillo, Mexico. The ship is Hong Kong based and came to Mexico from Colombia.
This reflects the changes that have been seen in drug trafficking in these 2 countries- things are improving in Colombia while Mexico's drug trade has expanded enourmously.


Read this article detailing the potential for even more political crisis in Haiti. The current presdident, Rene Preval, has proposed making changes to the constitution. Haiti is already a a country without any stability. It is full of violence and poverty and the president's attempt to change the constitiution may make everything temporarily (or permanently) worse.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tropical Storm Hits the Caribbean

While New Orleans has avoided many storms this hurricane season, the Caribbean faced Tropical Storm Noel. This storm has led to heavy damages, severe flooding, and deaths throughout the region including Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. More about information on the situation can be found here.

Gorgeous Guatemala

This could be one of the most beautiful landscape photo's I've ever seen. Santa Maria is an active volcano in western Guatemala. Its las eruption in 1902 was one of the three largest explotions of the 20th century. One particular vent has, throughout this century, been forming another volcano alongside called Santiaguito.

Volcanos are an integral part of much of Latin America from El Salvador to Bolivia. As much as they represent a geological reality they have integrated themselves into the culture like hurricanes in the Carribean. Interestingly in Bolivia this summer one of the guys told me a story about the tallest mountain in Bolivia, Sajama, which happens to be a volcano. He said that legend has it the mountain fought with another. They threw huge rocks at one another and bled profusely. Sajama won when the other mountain (I forget the name) sent an army of great white rats to dig it out, but Sajama darkened the skies and the rats froze to death. Their bodies rotted into the ground and made it white (which it is, because of salt). Pretty cool that an oral tradition can preserve what was probably a real event this long with no written record.

"Tens of thousands" protest Chavez' constitutional reforms

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans protested in Caracas yesterday, against constitutional reforms that they say violate rights and go against democracy. Some people feel that Chavez wants to be leader for life, and is going in the direction of dictator.
Apparently, police and soldiers fired plastic bullets, tear gas, etc.
Associated Press article

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More Argentina's New President

This article was written before de Kirchner's victory, but it brings up some interesting points of her platform. Apparently, in stark contrast to her husband's administration, de Kirchner spent much of her campaign overseas building relationships in Europe and the US. Some were concerned that this meant she was ignoring domestic issues. De Kirchner has to put extra effort into maintaining relationships outside of Latin America as Argentinia gets closer to Venezuela and Chavez. Chavez's support might scare away Western investors. I think it's interesting that part of her campaign was catering to outside interests. It seems very smart diplomatically, but given that the US is not so popular right now it seems like it should have been more damaging to her popularity. Here's the article

Flooding in Mexico

Tens of thousands of people in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco have fled their homes after heavy rains caused massive flooding. Tabasco Governor Andres Granier said that 70% of the state is covered by water (it's usually 34%). The article is here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Argentinean President to pick up policy where her spouse left off.

Cristina Fernández in her opening address implied that she will continue to uphold the last administrations economic policy. While the populace appears to be in support for the moment, clear statistics predict political trouble in the future.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fujimori in Peru

Fujimori seems to come up quite often in class, so here is an article about his return to Peru that many people may find of interest.

Abortion rates in Latin America n nations highest in the world

Despite blanket bans on abortion with few exceptions, Latin American countries have the highest rate of abortions per captia in the entire world. Could the contradiction between policy and practice reflect a simultaneous drop in public deference to and a sustained political influence from the Catholic Church?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Venezuelan bills seeks to limit baby names

Venezuelan parents have a reputation for coming up with crazy baby names, like Stalin, Tutankamen del sol, and John Wayne. A bill in the National Assembly seeks to limit bab y name choices to a list of 100 names, with exceptions for indians and foreigners. This might be the ultimat sign of an authoritarian government. While naming a child Stalin might be cruel, it is definitely a parent's right to use whatever name they want. The article can be found here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Che Guevara's Hair

My post today is purely entertaining but I read this article and couldn't believe it actually happened. I think it's crazy that someone paid 100,000 for a lock of che Guavera's hair. Ecspecially when there is some debate on whether the body it was cut off of was actually his (And when the guy was the only bidder on it)!! Anyway it's a short and very entertaining article to read..definently worth your time.

Mexican embassy bombed

What groups might benefit from this type of statement? Who would stand to gain enough to make organizing such an attack worthwhile?

the Hillary of the South

n a NYT- Americas article, reporters claim that the Argentinian candidate for presidency Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, will probably not fulfill her promises of change as made in the beginning of her candidacy. Though many people support her economic policies which are similar to her husband who she hopes to suceed, many also believe that she needs to address the changing economic problems as well as environmental problems of argentina. The article also referred to them as the clintons of the south, which i enjoyed.

Author Recommendation

I am currently enrolled in an English Course entitled Caribbean Cultural Studies. I would like to recommend an author that we have been reading in class. Her name is Maryse Conde and she has written a lot of different novels about a variety of subjects. Although Conde is from the island of Guadeloupe, she currently lectures in the United States. She has received many prestigious awards and is definitely worth reading.

Macabre Che

It seems like a lot of NY Times articles lately have been about Che Guevara. Here's another, and its pretty wierd.

Up for auction until last Thursday, when it was sold to the only guy who bid on it, was a lock of Che's hair and pictures of his dead body. A bookstore owner bought them for $100,000 (the minimum bid) to display in his store.
The, uh, memorabilia was owned by Gustavo Villoldo, a Cuban CIA opperative who aided in Che's capture and cut the hair just before Che was buried. He took the hair out of spite, thinking it was symbolic of cutting off the revolution. Villoldo decided to sell the pictures and hair at the auction house that sold Anna Nicole Smith's diaries.

The son of Gen. Barrientos, the Bolivian president who probably ordered Che's death, commented on the auction saying:
“Why anyone would want to buy this kind of stuff, I don’t know. I would find better uses for my money.”
I agree.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bush discourages continuing Cuban dictatorship

President Bush will speak about the change in power in Cuba from one Fidel brother to another. Bush will encourage the Cuban people to resist and will also continue to withhold support of a Cuban dictatorship. Bush will also reiterate to the Cuban people that they “have the power to shape their destiny and bring about change.” It seems quite ironic that Bush is stating his opinion on Cuban political affairs, while the United States is beginning to look for a new President. Check out the article here.

Condom Ban Feeds HIV Infections in Latin America

According to a United Nations official, the HIV rate in Latin America is skyrocketing. Many many believe this is in part a result of the Roman Catholic Church's ban on condom use. Reuters reports that 1.7 million people in South America have HIV or AIDS. The epidemic is quickly spreading, with 410,000 new cases reported in 2006, an increase from the 320,000 new cases in 2004. Considering the circumstances, I believe the Church needs to adapt to modern society and change this no condom rule. Here is the story:

Best Hostel in the World

First of all, Bariloche is absolutely beautiful. I was there in July, perfect time for skiing. The snow and the mountain are ok, especially for those who have been to the western U.S. but combined with the town nightlife, chocolate, natural parks, and lake(s) its really an idyllic place. For those on the younger side and not in need of absolute privacy this hostel is at the top of the tallest building and the staff are awesome.

The US Influences Abortion in Latin America?

Abortion is more common in Latin America than in Europe, depsite the fact that Latin America has very strict abortion laws. Apparently the culture of Abortion in Latin America is changing after the UN condemned some the more recent abortion cases in the region. Interestingly enough, the US is exercises some control over abortion in Latin America by not giving funding to family planning groups that discuss abortion. This seems hypocritical given that in the US a woman's right to choose is protected. Here's the link to the article

Argentina could have its Second Female President

In 1974, Juan Peron's 3rd wife took over as president for a while, but Cristina Fernandez would be the first *elected* female president of Argentina. Currently, she has 43% support in polls.
She is the wife of President Kirchner. Also, she is a senator. Still, she doesn't like being compared to Hillary Clinton.
The election is Sunday the 28th of October, so we'll see what happens!

Associated Press article "Campaigning Closes in Argentina Election"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Drugs Take Root in Mexico

Many of the drugs that reach US soil come into the country across the Mexican border. However until recent years, Mexico was mostly a place for the transport, rather than the use of drugs. Unfortunately though, as time has passed and cartels have become more ingrained in the towns and cities, drug use and abuse has become a serious problem, even in the small towns and the country side. To read more about the new and pervasive drug addictions in Mexico, go here:

Biofuel and World Famine

This article at CNN refers to an essay by Fidel Castro published in Cuban state media on Tuesday. He accuses Bush of "pushing the world to the brink of WWIII," but I was interested in a comment made about famine. From the article:

"The danger of a massive world famine is aggravated by Mr. Bush's recent initiative to transform foods into fuel," referring to his support for biofuel projects that convert foodstuffs like corn into fuel.

I consider myself pretty pro-environment, but that's a way of looking at it I hadn't thought of before.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brazil Exports Beauty

Latin American countries are known for exporting things like bananas and rubber, or products manufactured in Latin America by American corporations. In brazil, however, one of the biggest exports is beauty. With a growing worldwide concern in appearances, beauty products made from Amazonian resources are very popular.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

border security tightened

Border patrol agents are becoming more vigilant in checking entries at the US/ Mexico border. I suppose it makes it tougher on Mexicans, too.

Entertainment Style

After reading Eva's post, I was reminded of other books and movies from Hispanic and Spanish authors and directors that I enjoyed that had this same element of magical realism. The style is truly pervasive throughout Latin culture, and is unlike the productions from any other culture, as far as I know. My favorite movie in this genre is Guillermo del Torro's Pan's Labrynth. The film takes magical realism to an extreme level, mixing dreams and reality in a fantastic way. To see more on the movie, go here : And if you're looking for a very different cinematic experience, I highly suggest it.

US Relieves Debt in Exchange for Conservation

This is a form of debt relief and foreign aid that benefits the entire planet. While economic stability in Latin America certainly does affect other areas of the world, everyone should have a vested interest in environmental isssues. The US has agreed to $26 million of Costa Rica's debt in exchange for conservation of threatened tropical rainforests. This seems to be part of a recent trend of increasing American interest in the environment.

Fight Against Socialist Policies

Here's an example of the resistance to socialism often coming from wealthy areas of the country, as for the most part the poorer areas benefit from shared welfare. The citizens of Vera Cruz , Bolivia's wealthiest province, reclaimed the airport from government troops sent by the President. The people of Vera Cruz have been resisting socialist policies from the federal government, and demanded that the airport tax revenues go to the local government instead of the federal. The troops were driven out without violence and the government generally acknowledged the return to local control.

Friday, October 19, 2007

6 hour workday

Even though it seems like people would be happy and about it having the workday reduced to six hours would be a good thing as proposed in this article about Chavez' proposed constitutional amendments. The other amendments such as emiliminating the right to due process are obviously horrible for the country; however, changing the workday to only 6 hours would also be bad: It would have a large and negative effect on the economy.

Bosque Eterno de los Ninos

This is the website of a private reserve in Costa Rica across the lake from the Arenal volcano in the vecinity of Monteverde. I stayed there for 4 days doing trail work and stuff. The guest house has a stunning view of the volcano when its not cloudy and you can hear it erupt almost every day. This is just another example of how Costa Ricans are preserving they're land even without the government. The preservation instinct has caught on in the culture as well. Its also a wonderful place to stay (for easy camping, no electricity but cold water).

Colombain and Venezualan leaders tighten ties

Despite having drastically different ideologies, Álvaro Uribe of Colombia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela are apparently trying to form a positve relationship between their countries. The two men come from vastly differnt backgrounds, and while Chavez and the US don't generally get along, the article states that Bush has " no closer friend in South America" than Uribe. The two countries haven't been too friendly lately (several Colombians mysteriously dissappeared in Venezuela not too long ago for instance.) And political leaders don't say many nice things abou teach other, but recently the 2 presidents got together to inaugerate a pipeline that is shared by both countries. Politcal instability and war are stereotypes of Latin America, so its good to read that things are changing in that regard.

Magical Realism

In reading our class' most recent novel "Like Water For Chocolate" I have really enjoyed the Latin American specific style of "Magical Realism" in literature. I think it says something about their society and culture that that sort of writing and style is embraced. I think it adds a certain unique depth to the writing and also makes it more entertaining. I think it helps an important element of literature, which is to sympathize with the characters and understand their perspectives.

Glass Guevara Shot

This article discusses the destruction of a monument in Venezuela. The glass monument was in honor of Che Guevara and to remember the 40th anniversary of his death, however two weeks after the unveiling the glass statue was shot. While the culprit(s) has not been identified, these actions are unsettling for many Venezuelans. Read about it here.

"Restaveks" in Haiti

This is a 3- or 4-minute narrated slideshow at MSNBC, depicting Haitian children who are sent by their families to work for others. According to the video, "restavek" is Creole for "servant." There's are some primary source interviews, as well as a lot of striking photographs.

Pet Massacre in Puerto Rico

In the town of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, a company called "Animal Control Solutions" was hired to get rid of animals (including pets as well as strays) in a housing project. Apparently the employees hurled the cats and dogs from a highway bridge. There has been an international uproar about this, and people are petitioning the governor of Puerto Rico to ensure that the employees are punished. article
click here to sign the petition

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mattel Re-Call in Latin American Countries

This article discusses the effects of Mattel's distribution of toxic toys in Latin America. Although, the recall definiely caused problems in the US, the issues were larger in Latin America because of the lack of regulation.
It's interesting to see how global commerce affects different countries to different degrees. This is one more illustration of the way the Latin America is at a disadvantage in international commerce. Here's the link:

Chavez Proposes a Confederation joing Venezuela and Cuba

Hugo Chavez toured through Cuba this week making a series of speches. Within these speeches, he proposed a political union between Cuba and Venezuela. This came as a surprise to Cubans, and many were not welcoming the idea. In general, the Cubans favored the economic ties between the two nations, however were not interested in any political ties. Here is the story:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Published: October 12, 2007
Venezuela’s government has blocked the Spanish pop singer Alejandro Sanz from using Poliedro Stadium in Caracas for a scheduled Nov. 1 concert because he criticized President Hugo Chávez three years ago. Responding to questions about Mr. Chávez before a 2004 recall referendum, Mr. Sanz said: “I don’t like your president. I don’t like those from other places, either.” Higher Education Minister Luis Acuña, who disclosed the stadium ban, did not explain why the government had initially agreed to the concert.

This article was in the NYT Americas section. I found it really sad that even in musical and artistic expression as we have been discussing in class couldn't be a proper outlet because of a singer's outdated comments. Even if the government feared what he stated, his music wasnt directly offensive and they are taking away his personal expression, and because he's a popular artist, odds are other people related to it as well. I guess this is an indicator of the state of Venezuela's political situation currently.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Columbus Day has a different meaning in Latin America

Latin Americans celebrated last monday "Dia De la Raza" or several other names for Columbus day meant to emphasize the indigenous experience of Columbus' arrival in America.

Ex-Playmate is "Unlikely Savior"

Kind of off-the-wall article about Susie Scott Krabacher, a "former Playboy centerfold who over the last 15 years has become an unlikely patron savior for scores of abandoned Haitian babies." Didn't see that coming, did you? The article is here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Second Extraordinary World Congress of Philosophy

Globalism and it's sometimes negative effects on the regions that it encompasses had been a major topic of discussion throughout the past couple of decades. It is no secret that Latin America has been taken advantage of in many cases. A great step on the part of Latin America is them holding a world discussion in Argentina that will feature many Latin American speakers and bring to the forefront the issues they find to be of importance and open up discussions on how to mend these problems.

Controversial Free Trade Agreement in Costa Rica

Costa Rica held a national referendum on Monday to join the very controversial free trade agreement with several of their Central American neighbors, the Dominican Republic and the US. The referendum passed with a very slim margin, a fact which has prompted a mandatory recount. Despite the Presiden'ts opinion that this agreement is necessary, oppostition remains strong, and Washington has vowed not renegotiate if the referendum fails. For the full story click here:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pres to support latinamerican trade

President Bush urged congress to help set up better trade relations with Latin America
Read this article about how Taco Bell is going to open restaurants in Mexico. It is humorous to think that Americanized Mexican food is going to be in Mexico but when looking deeper in to the situation it will be interesting to see whether people will respond well to the opening of the restaurants or be offended.

Queen of the Pacific

This article is really interesting- it gives the story of Sandra Ávila Beltrán, arrested last month in Mexico, who is a big player in Mexico's cocaine trafficing world. She's been known as the Queen of the Pacific since she was in charge of shipping cocaine between different Mexican port cities. She has led a very interesting life; sleeping with men to climb higher in the world, and marrying the director of an anti-drug campaign. When she was arrested, she asked to be allowed to freshen her makeup for her mug shot. And she thinks its against her rights not to be allowed to have restaurant food in jail. Crazy.

Silver Lining

It seems that every new article about Latin America involves the jailing and trial of a former political figure for corruption, human rights violations, and murders. This article is no exception. However, as depressing as it may seem to always have articles of this nature, perhaps we are failing to look on the bright side-- the fact that all these people are being tried and jailed is a good thing. If someone commits a crime, they should be punished accordingly, and now that so many ex-leaders are being punished, it seems that justice is finally eing restored. As the son of the victim said in the article, "the verdict had reaffirmed people's belief in the justice system." Go to this link to read the rest of the article:


The name refers to the set of Yoruban gods now accepted in the Santeria religion in Cuba, but the music group is a modern hip-hop group. Ruzzo, Yotuel, and Roldan are all Cuban emigrants and tend to sing about the problems of the barrios on the edge of Havana. Besides having ubelievably fun beats (especially in El Kilo), they have won a number of Latin Grammies and other awards for their quality lyrics which often make deeper statements about Cuban society. Definitely one of my favorite music groups.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hugo Chavez promotes "morality"

This is an interesting article called "Venezuela's Chavez on Moral Crusade." The president Hugo Chavez has a new idea which he calls the "New Man." The main points are: less alcohol consumption, less materialism. It appears that he is trying to change the culture, which is difficult. He proposes to go about doing this by raising cigarette taxes, importing less beer, etc. He also is against breast implants for teenage girls, which apparently is not unheard of in Venezuela. He says: "Now some say, 'When my daughter turns fifteen years old, we're going to give her phony breasts.' What a horrible thing! It's the latest degeneration," What an interesting gift for a quinceañera! And I thought it was strange when my 14-year-old host sister in Ecuador was given a nose job as a gift from her brother. article

A fence will fix it?

This article discusses the Homeland Security Secretary's, Michael Chertoff, statements about building a 670 mile long fence between Mexico and the United States. He uses the degradation of the environment as one of the important reasons for the construction of the fence. While this excuse may appease some, Oppenheimer points out that Americans are the ones who do the majority of destroying the environment. In the end, I agree with Oppenheimer in that instead of the US building fences, Mexico should build bridges and participate in the Latin American economy more, which will in turn help the entire region. The article can be found here.

History Goes on Trial

Suriname dictator Désiré Bouterse is going to stand trial for the "December murders," in which 13 opponents to his regime were marched into a dungeon and machine gunned to death. This is a monumental decision by the country to put him on trial because they are essentially throwing out the "self amnesty" granted by his regime during the time period. Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Chile are all taking similar action by punishing human rights abusers regardless of the amnesty in place. Chile stated the reason for this action: "Amnesty cannot supersede international obligations that CHile signed which obligated the country to prosecute the gravest war crimes." This is an interesting trend in Latin America as the countries are beginning to take action against past oppressors. Here is the story:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Che Guevarra: Hero, Villian, Communist which one?

Everyone by now is highly familiar with the image of Che by now because of the siginificant popularity of Che logo wear, (T-shirts, stickers, soccer balls, etc.) It's interesting to hear about different views about him. The older people I've talked to about him seem to think he was a Communist, but I have a lot of friends my age who really look up to him. At some point you kind of wonder how much people actually know about him. Do the a people who wear Che shirts actually like him or do they just need a little extra revolution in their lives? This link contains an opinions piece and then some responses, there's definitely a lot of division on this issue.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Missionaries in Latin America

After watching the first half of "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," I decided to look up some real mission groups in Latin America. I am not going to say whether I am for or against what they do, but if you are also interested in taking a look at these groups, here is a link to one of the mail Evangelical mission groups, "Latin America Mission."

Che, A Revolutionary Icon, and Now, a Bikini

A recent article in the Times Americas investigates the image of Che Guevara.
Is he more symbol or marking tool now?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

US and Costa Rica in free trade decision

The united states has made a statement about the future of trade by telling the Costa Rican government that if they do not agree to the agreement proposed with the united states for free trade, they might reconsider trade preferences with the country or negotiate a deal for trade. What i find most interesting about this situation is that depsite the United States' efforts to push Costa Rica to free trade, the US itself is negotiating deals and holding preferences with trade that indicate a limitation on free trade in the first place.
I found this article in the NYT americas section


Between talking about Latino music in class several times and this week's discussion topic being about art music and culture in Latin America, I thought some of you might be interested to hear a more contemporary Latino musician. Juanes is one of the best-selling colombian musicians, having sold more than 10 million albums and having won twelve Latin Grammys. Additionally, he is one of my favorite Latin artists. Here is a link to his site:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Indigenous Amazon tribe bans logging and mining

The Wai Wai, a 200-member indigenous group in southern Guyana, has banned loggers and miners from working in their section of the Amazon jungle. As this article at MSNBC says, they are supported by a decree from Guyana's government and a U.S. conservation organization.

I'm glad to see that indigenous groups are being given power to make decisions about their homelands--it's just sad that it's such a rare occasion that it makes international news (and that it hasn't happened much in the past 600 years).
Check out this website of Latin American Recipies. It has recipies from many different countries in it which is interesting because you can see differences in their cultures based on their cuisines. I would like to make "Mango Delight" a recipie from Colombian cuisine sometime this week for dessert.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Julio Jaramillo, the pasillo, and Ecuador

Julio Jaramillo (1935-1978) was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and was a very famous singer of Ecuador, especially for the type of song called the "pasillo," which tends to be in a minor key, with guitar, and of a sad subject matter. Julio Jaramillo, also known as "JJ," is still well-loved by Ecuadorians, especially the older generations. His songs are well-known throughout the region. You can listen to his songs here (scroll down): Songs Not all of them are pasillos; some of the other styles here include the bolero and waltzes.

Drug Use in Mexico

In the past, Mexico has not had a huge drug problem- drugs on their way to the US from other Latin American countries would pass through, but Mexico itself didn't have a large number of users. In the past few years however, the situation has changed. The above article, from the New York Times, has stories of towns in Mexico where crack houses are operating alongside small grocery stores and the like and people sell drugs on every corner. There are rehab centers everywhere- and usually they're small houses with one bathroom that about 30 users are locked into for 3 or so months.
I also read that Colombia's drug use has gone down (a country stereotyped by its drug use). Will Mexico take over that stereotype and become "the new Colombia" in the years to come? Hopefully not....

Brazilian Soccer Star names FIFpro Player of the Year

Brazilians seem to turn out soccer phenoms year after year. Twenty-five year old Kaka, who currently plays for AC Milan, joined the ranks of many Brazilians before him after being named the FIFpro player of the year. He is amazing to watch, I highly recommend trying to catch and AC Milan match. For more information visit ESPN soccernet.

UN approves Declaration on Indigenous Rights

Nearly a month ago, the United Nations approved the "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which will help protect some 370 million indigenous people in the world." This declaration recognizes the rights of indigenous people, such as the ownership of traditional lands and self-rule. It is seen as "a great step in the indigenous peoples’ struggle,” according to Bolivian President Evo Morales, plus the article seemed appropriate after the reading for class this week.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hangliding in Rio

This is purely a fun post. Hangliding in Rio was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. We had to wait probably five or six hours before the clouds finally parted. It was literally the very end of the day and the sun had already gone behind the mountains so we were in the half light when the city was just beginning to glow beneath us, including Latin America's most populous favela, Rocinha. Here's a site about it. In case anyone goes to Rio soon, its definitely worth it.


Chavez to Set Time Back Half Hour

Hugo Chavez has decided to set the time back in Venezeula one half hour. Chavez insists the time change isn't arbitrary. He stated that government officials have been studying it since 1999 and the new measure will be a compromise for a country wide enough for two time zones. Skeptics insist that "Chavez wants to get out of Washington's "imperialist" time zone." I suppose we will never know his real reasoning, but the half hour change is certainly unconventional. Here is the story:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fujimori in prison

Today we talked about Fujimori in class and his extradition to Peru. He's currently being held in conditions much better than he allowed his political opposition. Apparently, he even gets conjugal visits.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Here is the link to the homepage of a documentary we watched in my cultural anthropology class. The documentary was made by two female workers in border factories for multinational corporations. The documentary examines their lives, the working conditions in the factories, and the effect the factories have had on the environment (and therefore health dangers) in Tijuana. Go to this link for more information:

Video of Noam Chomsky...this explains why Chavez likes him

This video of a chat with Noam Chomsky goes a long way in explaining why Hugo Chavez admires him. Chomsky seems very much opposed to the Monroe doctrine in Latin America. He also offers some insight as to why people in the United States think ( or don't think) about Latin America.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Iran Allies with South America

After the President of Iran spoke In New York he continued his trip on this side of the Atlantic into South America. After being highly criticized here in the States, he moved onto a region that embraces him personally and many of his policies. I think the reality of Iran is that it isn't quite as bad the US and particularly this administration try to claim, nor is he as wonderful as Chavez and his South American neighbors would like to believe. Check out the full article here:,,2179722,00.html

Gutsy Mayor Takes on Chavez

Very interesting article about Venezuelan politics and the difficulty of opposing a dictatorship, especially a popular one.

Iranian president to "multiply powers"

During his American tour Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "courts Latina American leftists." Hopefully that won't make anyone too nervous.

Friday, September 28, 2007


2 weeks ago when giving my presentation on El Salvador, I mentioned Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador in 1980 who was shot during mass resulting in the collective mourning of an entire nation and the world (minus, you know, the Salvadoran government who had him killed). And I mentioned a movie about it, that I'm sure no one remembers me saying anything about, so I'm going to bring it up again. The movie's called Romero and it stars Raul Julia (he's also in the Addams Family and Tequila Sunrise). This movie is really moving and illustrates the atrocities of the Salvadoran Civil War with whats said to be great accuracy. I would suggest everyone watch it- its an incredible movie that gets much too little attention. Its not new (it was actually released the day I was born) but don't let that stop you!

Here's the Internet Movie Database page on it:

"Hispanic" in America

CNN's website has a feature called The Hispanic Experience Today, which has lots of articles about the Hispanic and Latino population in the United States.

This one is about those very terms, "Hispanic" and "Latino," and how poorly they actually describe the very diverse Spanish-speaking and Latin American demographic.

Land Mines in Colombia

I was looking around for something to post and was shocked when I heard about how many people are killed or injured from anti-personnel land mines in Colombia. Just from January to August 15th of this year there have already been 557 victims! It is hard to imagine that even today people have to live everyday with the threat that they could step on a landmine. Read the article and think about how many lives this affects and ways to start getting rid of all of the landmines left before they create more victims.

Latin America and Globalization

I am currently taking a sociology class called Global Social Change. One of the main books that we use is Paula S. Rothenberg's "Beyond Borders," which goes into detail on the issue of Globalization, which is definitely a key issue in Latin America. Just today I was reading about the Maquilas in Guatemala, which are essentially sweat shops. These Maquilas are foreign owned, contributing positively to those that own them, but not connecting at all with the rest of the economy of Guatemala, leaving only a mass scattering of ugly factories and trapping Guatemalans in a life of poor working conditions for next to no pay. If you are interested in how Globalization is affecting Latin America, I would reccomend this book.


I just want everyone to be aware of the city of Guayaquil ( wah- yah- Keel ) , which is the largest city (2.5 million) in Ecuador. It has beautiful churches, zoos, theatres, clubs, universities, a great public transportation system, and several malls. On the "Malecon 2000", which is like a long promenade, artists display their paintings and there is a park and an IMAC. Guayaquil is a port city on the Pacific Ocean. Above is a view of the Malecon.

New Options for Mexican Women

The Mexican military is now allowing women to join the ranks, while they will not be allowed to participate in combat, it "is the the first expansion of military opportunities for women in 31 years." This is a very important moment for many women in Mexico, because many feel that the military as one of the only options to "get ahead of the poor." Many people see this decision as part of an important movement towards greater equality of the sexes. You can check the article out here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Latin America: The World's Slowest Reforming Region

According to the World Bank's annual "Doing Business" report, Latin America is the world's slowest reforming region. The report's rankings are based on the level of friendliness to business of each country in the region. Some speculate that this poor progress is a result of changes in government by 13 countries in the region, however Latin America is falling further behind the rest of the world. This is not the case with all countries, as Columbia has made significant progress in facilitating trade. However, the World Bank did indicated in the report that progress may pick up within the next 15 months as the newly elected governments of those countries settle in. Here is the story:

Hugo Chavez dishes on his world views...

Two years ago when Hugo Chavez came to the United States for the U.N. summit, he sat for an interview with democracy now! a notoriously leftist radio show. During this interview, Chavez shared all about what he was doing in Venezuela as part of their democratic reform. He also denied allegations that freedom of speech was a problem in Venezuela, saying that few countries in the world have a greater respect for freedom of speech than Venezuela. Chavez also spoke a little about some of the people he really admired, among them JFK and Noam Chomsky.
I found it really interesting that he picked a former US President as someone whose viewpoints he looked up to; he said that when Kennedy said to look to the Southern Hemisphere way back in the 60's he was right on. The interview was kind of biased as Chavez seems to have some very leftist views and was being interviewed by democracy now!. read all about it...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Guantanamo Bay

While Guantanamo Bay has existed for almost a century, I never really did research on it or understood exactly what the terms of the prison were. Though I was aware of the human rights issues involved with the base, after thinking about it, I can't understand how the United States has the nerve to continue to use that space in Cuba when we maintain such poor relations with the country otherwise. I feel as though not only is that illogical, and detrimental to our image, but it is also asking for trouble. I am surprised there hasn't been more danger for the military personnel there already. I did my research in the NYT - Americas section, they have a pretty nice concise history.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bolivia, Aymara, and hip-hop: Wayna Tambo

Wayna Tambo is a principally an Aymara hip-hop station run out of El Alto, in La Paz. I visited and was a translator for the two linguists as the station interviewed them both live and recorded on why they were in Bolivia and what they thought of the Aymara language movement. Its important to note that the linguists I was with didn't even want to do this interview because they focus almost solely on languages that have fewer than 5,000 speakers (Aymara has I think around 1.5 million). The film crew we were with thought it would be good footage for the storyline.

The Bolivian hip-hop scene is, as one might expect, pretty small, but I think this station speaks a lot to the nature of the Aymara movement and how it has been picked up in recent years by a younger crowd. Unfortunately this younger crowd has made it more of a militant, anti-establishment movement as opposed to a cultural fight (necessary? i dont know). They tend to blame government policy and the white, spanish-speaking oligarchy instead of teaching the language to their children which is what really keeps a language alive. The decision to speak a language is made by childre ages 5-7 when they first start going to school. If the parents are insistent at that age that they continue to speak the language even if just at home, the child will remain bilingual even when schools are only in spanish (or any other dominant language) Anyways, the site is interesting to look at.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ronaldinho's troubles

The Brazilian soccer star has taken heat recently for possibly being out of shape. read what his coach and teammates have to say about his benching in a match this week here.

Latin American Music

Look here ( to find, not only a description of some Latin American music and dances, but the history as well. The site goes into the influences behind the music, Amerindian, Iberian, and African. Also included is the impact of Latin American music on the world as a whole. Very interesting site.


There is a currently a divide among Costa Ricans regarding the proposal of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Members of the opposition gathered to form a human "NO" to express their view on the topic. Supporters claim it will allow farmers much greater access to huge consumer markets, while the opposition feels their market will be flooded by US products. Find out more here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

sorry, im still trying to figure out this web blog thing. i cant figure out the hyper link, but heres the web address:

Financial Incentive?

In Mexico last week the leftist government announced that it will set aside millions of dollars to give to the top students in its school systems ages four to twelve. Each child that is qualified will receive about 300 dollars a year, 180 in savings bonds and 15 a week for transportation to and from after school extended learning programs. I thought it was interesting 1) that the government is trying so hard to increase the educational standards of mexican youth and 2) that they found monetary incentives to be the best way to go about incouraging it, especially in young children and pre-teens. Click for the full article.

Fujimori Extradited

Alberto Fujimori, former President of Peru, is being extradited from Chile. According to the article, his government was "allegedly responsible for killing civilians in the fight against Shining Path Maoist guerrillas" (that's Guzman, right?).

I don't know enough about Fujimori or the Sindero Luminoso to really comment on the situation, but is it a problem that people suspected of things like this can avoid even having a trial for seven years?

Real ID Act

Read this Article about a new driver's id system which would keep illegal immigrants for being able to get driver's licenses. The "Real Id Act" is controversial and needs to have some issues worked out, but as a whole I support the idea. I think that it would give more incentive for people to only enter this country legally if they are not able fake their identification or recieve a driver's license.

Good Food

I love to cook and it is always fun to try new things. At they have a great food section with some really simple, and some not so simple recipes. Here is something I plan to try tomorrow night:

Chiles Rellenos


3 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus additional for frying, to depth of about 1 inch
2 white onions, chopped
2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes, undrained and puréed with 1/3 cup water
1 tsp. pepper
2 cups vegetable broth (for a different flavor, use beef or chicken broth)
8 fresh poblano chiles, roasted, steamed in a plastic bag for 4 minutes, peeled, seeded and slit on 1 side
1 lb. shredded cheddar, Mexican Chihuahua, or Monterey Jack cheese
6 large eggs
2 tbsp. flour, plus 1 cup, divided
Preparation: In saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil at medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until lightly browned. Raise heat to medium-high, add tomatoes and pepper. Stir frequently as it boils, until mixture is reduced by half. Add vegetable broth and stir until blended. Cover and simmer over low heat, 45 minutes. While sauce is reducing, fill chiles with cheese. Close each incision with toothpicks. In large pan, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, in dish wide enough for dipping, combine eggs and 2 tablespoons flour, folding in flour a little at a time, and beat until well blended. Pour remaining cup of flour onto platter. Roll cheese-filled chiles in remaining flour one at a time, shake excess, and dip into egg batter. Fry 4 at a time, gently turning them over, 4 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Cool slightly. Heat oven to 400° F. Line chiles on baking sheet, remove toothpicks, and bake 15 minutes. Pour sauce onto dishes, add chiles, and drizzle sauce over top. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vincente Fox and Bush, cowboy friends?

Vincente Fox is writing a autobiography and talks about his relationship with President Bush- saying Bush never struck him as one who'd become president. Apparently they've been friendly for years. As recent posts have been saying, it'd be interesting to see who world leaders would back in US elections. Obviously Fox wouldn't have voted for GW.

I thought another really interesting part of the article was at the bottom- Vincente Fox has recently come under fire for having, in essence, too extravagent of a house. People think he might have gotten the money for it using slightly underhanded means.

Mexico City's Similar Troubles

A title article in the NYT- Americas section highlighted a new tower proposed for Mexico City. It will be the tallest tower in latin america reaching 300 meters. Many people in the area surrounding the site for this tower are outraged that this building, for lack of better words, would tower over the entire area, and be an eyesore. Additionally the buildign would cause immense parking and crowding problems. The architects and founders of this building believe that the tower will be a beacon for Mexico's advancement and progress. It is supposed to be finished in 2010, the bicentennial of Mexico's independence from Spain.
I think that this situation is kind of funny only because of its similarity to everyday situations in New York or other big cities. It shows how much we have in common with other countries

"Creating a culture of giving"

An article by Andres Oppenheimer discusses just how much the wealthy throughout the world, and especially in Latin America, give back. In Latin America, it seems that charitable gifts from the wealthy in regard to their earnings are relatively small. Oppenheimer mentions that a lack of giving could be a result of fear of gaining attention, less incentive in the tax laws, and protection of people's estates from the government. Wojtek Sokolowski, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins' Center for Civil Society Studies, cites the donation deficit as a result of a culture where giving is not a sign of social status. In my opinion, those who can give should, regardless of the culture or situation, people should not be afraid or not need to be enticed to help those that are less fortunate See the rest of the article here.

The Divine Comedy: High School Musical is revived

While a televised version is being prepared in Mexico, Ecuador’s is in the theatre.

New talented youth will give life to High School Musical ¡En escena en Guayaquil! It’s an adaptation of the Disney Channel movie, which will have its theatre version, under the direction of José Miguel Salem and his school Danzas Jazz. This newspaper conversed with the six protagonists who were chosen by a process of 700 youth auditioning.

They are Nicole Rubira, Cristian Illingworth, Fanny Manner, Israel Maridueña, José Acosta, and Martin Guerrero, who interpret Troy Bolton, Gabriella Montez, Ryan Evans, Sharpay Evans, Chad Danforth y Taylor McKessie. The kids commented that they felt comfortable with their characters; in the case of Cristina Illingworth, who interprets Sharpay Evans, she identifies with her character because she likes to sing and act. On the other hand, Israel Maridueña, who plays Chad, comments that his character “is a tough athlete, like him”.

The musical will debut September 7th in the Centro de Arte with 22 young artists on stage; in addition there will be eight principal dancers and 30 extras who will act in Spanish, with the exception of the songs, which will be interpreted in English.

For a link to the original article in Spanish:
And for photos of the cast members:

School of the Americas turns out more exemplary graduates modeled after their professors.

No less than five graduates and two former professors from the school of the Americas are now under investigation for "collaborating with the drug cartels in Colombia they were trained to fight against." Hows that for pedagogy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

US Presidential Candidates and Cuba

This article was published in the Flordia Sun Sentiniel, but it's an interesting insight into to relations between immigrants from Cuba and their attitudes towards the country and how that relates to their life in the US.

Apparently, traditionally Cuban Americans favor Republican candidates so both Obama and Hillary are trying hard to win the Cuban American vote. Hillary so far is the favorite because she supports Bush's 2004 policy to limit travel to Cuba. Of course, this claim of favor is disputed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chavez Threatens to Take Over Schools

President Hugo Chavez threatened to take over any Venezuelan private schools that do not submit to the oversight of his socialist government. All public and private schools will now be subject to inspections enforcing a new educational system and curriculum. The new curriculum is intended to help students develop values of "cooperation and solidarity" while learning critical reflection, dialogue and volunteer work. However, what exactly this curriculum will include remains unclear. The Associated Press did obtain a copy of a medical school syllabus that included writings from Karl Marx, speeches by Fidel Castro, and information on Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Columbian rebel chief Manuel Marulanda, alongside the traditional subjects like biology and chemistry. Any schools that do not submit to the new policy will be taken over by Chavez and nationalized. Here is the story.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fox honors Hispanic heritage month

Today Fox's show This Week in Baseball celebrated the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month with an episode exclusively devoted to Hispanic players, particularly from the Carribean, which has always been a fertile source of talent. It is good to see the contributions of this group of players recognized.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Latin Americans in the MLB Hall of Fame

I watch baseball very regularly...sometimes two or three major league games each day. It is obvious to any baseball fan that Latin Americans play a huge role in the success of the game. They are present in both leagues and on all teams. I thought it was interesting to look at Hall of Fame statistics to see how many have been inducted. According to, thirteen Latin Americans have been inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. This includes players, announcers, and managers. Enjoy.

National Assembly leader of panama wanted for murder in the U.S.

VOA News reports that a free trade deal between the U.S. and Panama is now in jeopardy after the national assembly names man with a U.S. warrant for murder as president.

Castro would vote Clinton-Obama

Well, probably not, but Fidel Castro did say that a Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pairing would be "invincible" (though he apparently doesn't support their ideas for Cuba). The CNN article is here.

That's one thing I haven't thought about in past elections--how will such and such candidate impact the lives of people outside the U.S.? Might seem strange to vote for a candidate based on the needs of people outside your country--but hey, the world is smaller than ever, right?

Endangered Languages

This is an institute run by my cousin for the recording, study, and preservation of endangered languages. They've also developed the 'language hotspot' model (name borrowed from the common 'biodiversity hotspot' model). A language hotspot is an area that includes 3 factors:

1. High level of linguistic diversity
2. High rate of langauage extinction
3. Low level of previous study/recording

Interestingly, one of the most grave areas in the world in terms of all these factors is in Bolivia, which can then be split into three sections. One encompasses the high Andean region northwest of La Paz, one the southern altiplano, and planes extending into northern Argentina and Paraguay, and one the tropical lowlands of the amazon basin. Anyways, this and much more on their website here.


Cuba becomes a refuge for tired revolutionaries

In this article, members of Colombia's National Liberation Army are finding peace and quiet in Cuba. The former guerrillas went from hijacking airplanes and blowing up oil pipelines to dinners in Cuba. The group leaders are negotiating cease-fire talks with the Colombian government. I guess that's what aging rebels do when they decide to settle down.