Friday, February 29, 2008

El Mojado (The Wetback)

Whether its Shakira or Celia Cruz or Antonio Carlos Jobim, Latin America offers a rich and unique catalog of musical styles that are popular in many parts of the globe. Additionally, many Hispanic artists are talented and popular within the region but are perhaps not as known internationally because of the nature of the themes they address in their music or their reluctance to be part of multi-national record labels. These artists are often more interested in using their popularity as a means of addressing social issues and not simply limiting the scope of their talents to catchy tunes. Ricardo Arjona, a famous Guatemalan singer, certainly used his music as a social tool in his song “El Mojado,” or “the Wetback.” It is a song with brilliant lyrics that attempt to show the dehumanizing effects of the illegal immigrants' plight and the senselessness behind the sometimes hostile stances taken by the US government and some Americans against them. You can read the lyrics here and see what I mean by his use of lyricism to address a real, complex issue, and you can also see the excellent music video below:

When I was a Puerto Rican

I was cleaning my room the other day and I stumbled across a book that I had to read my senior year of high school in my spanish class. For those you who like Breath, Eyes, Memory, you will love this book. The book When I was a Puerto Rican is written by Esmeralda Santiago and tells the story of a young girl who moves from Puerto Rico to New York City and struggles to keep her culture as well as fit in to American society. It deals with some of the same issues discussed in Breathe, Eyes, Memory such as keeping the culture of your native country and trying to fit into this new American society. If you are looking for a good book and a quick read this is a book for you.

The New Cuba

When one asks many Cubans about their new president and where they see the country going in the future, there will probably be much talk about the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S. In an earlier post, Alex focused on the certainly unique approach that Barack Obama would take in diplomatic relations with Cuba (Obama would initiate talks with Raul Castro.) It is interesting to read about the strong opinions that many Cubans have about American politics because policies like the embargo affect all of their lives on a daily basis. When asked about Obama's chances of winning the election, one Cuban man said that he can't win "because he was black." Fidel Castro has written extensively on the issue, arguing that an "Obama/Clinton" ticket would be "invincible." Despite the Cubans' many opinions on the 2008 election, most agree that nothing significant will change in the country until the embargo is lifted. The article has many interesting quotes from Cuban citizens who feel that they have a lot to gain from the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. Read the article to get a feel for the political climate in Cuba and how U.S. policies can and certainly do have great effect on many Latin American nations.;_ylt=Am2vnqlv_W_fKjicdFciYYe3IxIF

Post War Dirt

After reading about the "Dirty War" in the global studies book, I found this article on one of the military suspects. The Lt. Col. Paul Alberto Navone's body was found in Argentina just two days ago. A gun was next to him that suggested suicide, but rights advocates are suggesting that it was murder. This was the second in three months. If these are truly murders, the corruption in the Argentinean government still strongly exists. I hope that it was suicide because the other possibility is a much scarier prospect.

Speaking of Women politicians...

I found this article that talks about the NAFTA and talks about NAFTA with the two Democratic candidates for the presidency, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but namely the latter, since her husband was the one, 16 years ago, who pushed hard for NAFTA. At the moment, both candidates seem to be against NAFTA, but their positions waver depending on who they are addressing. Also, both candidates voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA could become a very serious deciding factor in this presidency, as John McCain claims to be a staunch supporter of the agreement. We will see . . . .

READ MORE AT :,0,4910713.story

Double Standards

When the notion of Latin American immigrants comes to mind one might not hesitate to think of Latin American citizens crossing the Mexican border to the United States. But the fact is that Latin American nations such as Mexico deal with their own problems concerning immigration. Mexico estimates that 400,000 illegal immigrants cross borders not between the U.S. and Mexico but from Central America and Mexico. Most of these immigrants are attempting to make it to the United States but less than half do. As a consequence of their journey these people suffer harsh conditions ranging from violence, threats, extortion, most of which are carried out by gangs and police, and deadly train rides. Many believe that Mexico does not practice what they preach in terms of immigrant rights, but Mexican president says that he plans to legalize thousands of Guatemalan immigrants who can show that they are working. This video can be viewed at the PRI/Yahoo! News report on Mexico's illegal immigration problem

This Post May Not Be Approiate for Our Younger Viewers...

I found this article on about a young actress-turned-lawmaker from Veracruz, Mexico. Dalia Perez, a representative in the state legislator, is under fire for a video she appeared in during her acting days. This clip, was broadcasted on Mexico's most watched morning show this week. Though it seems unrelated, I think it ties into our discussion in class about the role of women in Latin American societies, and especially as politicians and lawmakers.

About her critics, Perez says,
"They want to discredit a woman who's new to the traditionally male realm of politics."
Before you watch the video think about what women have to do to overcome their traditional roles as either the pure figure of marianismo or as spicy latin seducers to be successful professionals.

Then after the video, image if Hilary had a video like this come out while she was in office as a Senator.

I hope this isn't too inappropriate...

Obama Policy toward Cuba

In a recent democratic debate, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama insisted that he would be willing to sit down and discuss issues of social justice, poverty, human rights, releasing political prisoners, and freedom of the press. Obama was slammed by his opponents, both Democrat and Republican, as naive and misguided for taking an open stance. Obama, however, countered while campaigning in Texas, saying ``the American people aren't looking for more of do-nothing Cuba policy that has failed to secure the release of dissidents, failed to bring democracy to the island and failed to advance freedom for 50 years.'' Obama's campaign has argued that U.S. policy toward Cuba has failed and that Obama, in addition to engaging Castro, would also make it easier for Cuban Americans to visit family on the island and send them cash remittances.

Full article link

Health Ministry Ad

I found this new TV ad that's playing in Brazil, sponsored by the Brazilian Health Ministry. The ad encourages people to be tolerant of people of all sexual orientations, saying at the end that "Respecting the difference is as important as wearing a condom." When I first watched the ad, I was very surprised. Can you imagine the response to an ad like this one in the states? Or even, can you imagine the government sponsoring an ad like this?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cuba signs human rights treaties at UN conference

Cuba just signed two major international human rights treaties at a UN conference today. Fidel Castro had opposed the signing of these treaties, but Cuba agreed to sign them without his consent. The treaties, however, were not signed until after he stepped down from his position of power.

I'm not really sure what kind of significance this has, whether it means anything about the long term political policies of the new Cuban regime, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. If nothing else, it presents a positive image of Cuba that certainly we Americans and others in the international community have not seen for a long time.;_ylt=AvMo9rbupngJVeBdmB1qjZm3IxIF

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yellow Fever...?

According to the Associated Press, yellow fever is back in Latin America...for the first time in six decades.

The mosquito disease spreads quickly in "suburbs and cities" and according to the World Health Organization's yellow fever expert, "vaccinations are needed to stem the outbreak." So far, there have been 9 cases in Paraguay, three of which ended fatally. Because most urban Latin Americans have no immunity to yellow fever, it heightens the potential threat.

Finally, the article concludes by reporting that the last case of yellow fever in Latin America was in Brazil during the 1940's.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Media and Steretypes

Stereotypes about all races, gender, religions etc. are constantly perpetuated by the media. Certain characters on TV shows, commercials, and comedy acts use these stereotypical images of certain groups to entertain. Latin Americans in particular become the focus of a lot of comedians' material, the surprising thing is that a lot of these comics are actually Latin American. Their material is absolutetly hilarious, but is it detrimental? Does it ingrain these stereotypes into the minds of an uninformed public, or is it just another harmless way for people to lighten the mood and not take themselves so seriously?

Check out this clip from Carlos Mencia.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Justice Disserved for Indigenous Prisoners

Having just been talking about the different classifications of the "peoples" of Latin America based on race and ethnicity, and how that relates to social relations within the continual ethnic power struggle, this article is especially prevalent. The Mapuche Indians in Chile are now in conflict with the Chilean government, who claim that the government has "criminalized" their land-rights protests. Similarly, we see indigenous peoples who do not speak national languages who are jailed because they are unable to defend themselves legally.

Full article link:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The poorest people in society are damaged the most by natural disasters and do not have the means to recover. We learned this last year in International Development, and it is a very unfortunate truth. After severe floods in Ecuador 10,000 have been left homeless and 10 are reported dead. How can the poor people of Ecuador or anywhere else for that matter rise above their current situation when society and mother nature are constantly beating them down?

Puerto Rico Teachers on strike

The Puerto Rico Teachers' Union had been negotiating with the government to get higher salaries, which now start at $19,200. However, when they reached an impasse in their negotiations with the government, many teachers went on strike. The teachers also want a cap on class size and more control over the organization of the schools. On Thursday, February 21 most public schools in PR were closed and teachers and some university students protested outside. Some teachers were arrested. It is against the law to interfere with the public education system in PR. In this video a teacher explains what the union has been trying to achieve in their negotiations.

Orlando Sentinel article

Police Hostages

As I was looking for something to post this week, I was reminded of Patrick's presentation on Peru and of that article of police getting killed by some of the people that work for the drug cartel. I found another article about police violence. This article said that 30 police officials were taken hostage in Guatamala until a farm leader, Ramiro Choc who was held on charges of illegal land invasion, robbery and holding people against their will. Though has little to say on the story it is an interesting one to explore since it is odd that a farm leader would obtain such public support. For more information go to :

Mob frees 29 police in Guatemala

A mob in Guatemala that had taken 29 police officers hostage freed them today. They had been holding the officers in hopes of negotiating the release of Ramiro Choc, a man who had been convicted of illegal land invasion, robbery and illegally holding people against their will. However, Choc contacted members of the mob and convinced them to let the police go free, despite not gaining his freedom. However, the government did assure the mob that they would act to assuage their concerns which led to the formation of the mob in the first place, and will consider dropping the charges against Choc in exchange for their demonstration of good faith.;_ylt=AmhM4lNmEIKiHx_3p0Qyk6e3IxIF

Friday, February 22, 2008

Raul's Future

Castro has finally stepped down. According to the Economist, his brother Raul will most take his position after having run the control since Castro's surgery. There are indications that Raul has plan for reform and as the Economist outlines it, he has two directions in which the country will take.

The first of two possibilities is for the communist party to maintain its control while introducing capitalism. The Economist reports that this is the route that most senior officials of the party seem to support. The second option, and the one preferred by the US, is the regime collapses and "makes a swift move to liberal democracy."
But given our track record in Iraq, and the thinning of our troops due to all of our operations abroad, I think I'd prefer the second option. Much of our future involvement will involve who becomes president in '08 for I don't see Bush involving himself now with Cuba. Obama has indicated that he's looking to increase the US' involvement in Latin America - perhaps if elected he'll take advantage of the change of power.

The Six Year Hostage

In Columbia a French woman named Ingrid Betancourt is about to complete her sixth year in the captivity of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC.) Her captivity has not gone unnoticed in the world. Betancourt's mother recently had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI and many countries worldwide have been increasing the pressure on the Columbian government to negotiate a way for Betancourt and the other 44 prisoners (including three U.S. defense contractors) held by FARC to be released. The hostage issue combines many interesting elements concerning Latin America that we have talked about in class such as politics, exchange, cultures, and many others. The most interesting aspect of this is when one looks at the demands of FARC. FARC wants the international community to remove the group from several lists that designate several different terrorist organizations, a demand that is supported by Hugo Chavez among others. Read the article to get an idea of the many different emotional, political, etc. aspects of this story.;_ylt=AnIxVsz53k6Emm4AQ4glNkW3IxIF

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Viva Obama!

My friend and colleague Gray has sent me via YouTube this wonderful mariachi song and video on behalf of the Obama campaign:

If anyone knows anything about traditional Mariachi music, then he or she would know that this video is pretty darn good as far as the genre goes.

A mis amigos latinos de Tejas, les suplico que, por favor, voten por Obama!


International Mother Language Day

Yesterday was International Mother Language Day in Panama. Coincidentally, we spoke about the topic of language in class on Wednesday ad how it characterized ethnicity and its obvious impact in communication. I found out about this on Unicef's website which also mentions that 2008 has been named the "International Year of Languages" by the UN to promote retention of indigenous languages, obviously an important topic in Latin America where indigenous languages are disappearing with time.

Tourism Crisis

This article is about what I referenced yesterday in my presentation about the problems Peru is going through regarding their prized tourism site Machu Picchu. The article talks about how the people felt and reacted to the idea of allowing more tourism driven activity to take place. Their actions actually forced Peru Rail, the only train system in the country, to shut down operations for two days. I believe that this really gets down to the heart of what we have been talking about in class dealing with people and their identities. These people in Peru, most of them carrying some native blood, care a lot about their heritage, of which Machu Picchu is a monumental part. It is completely understandable that they would want to look out for its best interests and in turn make sure that some of their culture and history, and essentially who they are as people, is preserved.

Check out the rest of the article here:

The Heroes of the Cuban Revolution

People may disagree over the merits of Castro’s revolution and his subsequent reshaping of Cuban society, but I believe we should remember, above all, the inspiring story behind the overthrow of Batista’s regime in 1959. Castro, Guevara, and many other guerilla leaders overcame great odds through many years of warfare and were eventually successful in freeing the Cuban people from the tyranny of Batista’s US-backed regime. I was pleased to read that Steven Soderbergh is currently directing two closely related films about Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution. The movie “The Argentine” focuses on the Cuban Revolution and “Guerrilla” focuses on Che’s activities after the Revolution. Above all, I hope that Soderbergh sets the record straight about the merits of both Che and Castro, two extraordinary heroes whose later mistakes cannot possibly erase the legacy of freedom and resistance their struggle originated.

An article on the two upcoming movies.

The End of an Era... or is it?

I think most everyone has heard the news about Castro's decision not to run for reelection. The media had some different reactions to the news. Some made it sound like Miami was going to invade Cuba or the Cuban government would collapse but it seems like nothing so radical is going to happen. And old man is leaving office and his younger but old brother is taking over a job that he has already officially had for the past year. Big deal? Not so much. Here's the article...


Saturday, February 16, 2008

NFL Donates to Nicaragua

In what we have just seen as one of the poorest nations on earth, Nicaragua may be the most mis-informed on professional football information as well. To the extent of the knowledge of about 3o0 Nicaraguans, the New England Patriots are both 19-0 and are Super Bowl Champions. After the Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, the New England Patriots who expected to be wearing "Super Bowl Champion" hats, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, and "19-0" memorabilia as well, donated clothing with both mottoes to impoverished children from two small communities in southern Nicaragua.

Quote of the event, "The Patriots may have lost, but the children won."

Link to full Article

Mara Salvatrucha

In the spirit of being critical of Latin America—for only then can we understand the region’s complex problems—I am sharing a slide show I found on youtube presenting various pictures of the Mara Salvatrucha, a Los Angeles-based gang that was started by immigrants from Central America, particularly Salvadorians. Wikipedia claims that there are over 20,000 members in the US, and over 100,000 throughout the world. These figures do not surprise me, and are indeed worrisome. The MS-13, as it is often termed, is notoriously violent and its members roam free in the inner-city regions of many American cities. Their presence in Central America is, however, much more terrorizing, and many people are murdered throughout the region on a regular basis. One of the main reasons for the rise of this gang, as well as of others, is the considerable fragmentation of families that results from immigration. Children grow up without parents and naturally seek substitutes for stability that are sometimes of a sinister type. The MS-13 is a considerable problem for the US and Central America and one which must be tackled as the Hispanic populations continues to grow.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A delicious food: Humitas

Here is a recipe from Global Gourmet. com. It says to use a food processor, but traditionally the corn is ground by hand. This is a very labor intensive process! In Ecuador I never made them because they are commonly sold 3 or 4 for a dollar and my family would buy and freeze them in large quantities. It's so good to have them with coffee. The problem with making them here is that the corn is different.

Makes about 12 humitas, depending on the size of the cornhusks
A well-prepared humita is a gourmand's delight. These humitas are generally made plain, but some cooks prefer to fill them with a piece of cheese.
6 to 8 ears corn (4 cups kernels)
1/4 cup chopped scallions (white part only)
1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup commeal, or more if needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces mozzarella, or Muenster cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon brandy
Kitchen twine, cut into twelve 15-inch lengths
2 cups water

1. Have a large pot of water boiling. To remove the husks from the corn, use a sharp, heavy knife to cut through the corncob at the stem end, where the kernels start. Carefully remove the husks. Select the largest for wrapping and blanch in the boiling water for a couple of minutes to make them more pliable. Remove from the water with tongs and set on paper towels to drain. Save the rest to cut into strips for tying or to cover the humitas before steaming.
2. With a brush, remove the silk from the corn and rinse. Use the knife to cut the kernels from the cobs (you need 4 cups). Place in a food processor or blender along with the scallions and process until finely ground. Add the butter, egg yolks, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, cheese, and brandy. Pulse until everything is well incorporated and smooth. Transfer to a large bowl; the mixture should be thick, not runny. Add more cornmeal if the batter is runny.
3. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Carefully fold just enough into the corn mixture until it mounds.
4. To assemble the humitas, dry the cornhusks and place 2 on the worktable, overlapping them a little. Place a heaping 1/2 cup corn batter on the lower half of the husks, fold the left side over the center, fold the pointed end over, and finally fold the right side over toward the center. Tie around the middle with twine or cornhusk strips.
5. Place a quarter in the bottom of a steamer, add the water, and line the steamer basket with small cornhusks. Place a few humitas standing open end up in the steamer. Cover with leftover husks and a clean kitchen towel. Place the cover on the pot, bring to a boil, and steam until the humitas feel firm to the touch, about 30 minutes if small, 45 minutes if large. Add more boiling water if needed (the quarter will stop making noise when all the water has evaporated).
6. To serve, remove the twine and place on a plate with the husks opened to expose the humita.


Wednesday in class, Professor Huck mentioned that many Haitians cross over into the Dominican Republic in order to work. In New York last year, a documentary entitled "The Price of Sugar" came out and talked about this very issue. The movie is very much against the system that is currently set up. It says that the people of Haiti will go over to the Dominican and basically become indentured servants on the sugar cane plantations. This is a horrible travesty, and I am glad that a movie has been made to expose these terrible acts.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

Immigration is always a big issue in this country and is also a major topic of discussion in our class. Well it seems now the U.S. has found a way to stop the influx of illegal immigrants into the country. The government has given the go ahead for the construction of a 28 mile long virtual fence. The fence, which is being built by Boeing Co., is designed to stop the influx of illegal immigrants and drug traffickers into the country. The fence is equipped with 98 unmanned towers, radar, sensor devices, and cameras that can detect a group of people from a group of cattle at 10 miles. The cameras can also distinguish group sizes and whether or not people are carrying weapons and drugs. Even though this fence has been equipped with state of the art technology, there have been some technical glitches and some people are skeptical of its abilities. For the full story go to:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is America still the land of the free?

I am doing my service learning at the Interfaith Workers' Justice center where we advocate for workers who have not been compensated for their work. Most of the workers that come in are undocumented Latin Americans. I found a pertinent article in Tuesday's edition of the New York Times titled "Arizona Seeing Signs of Flight By Immigrants," that speaks a lot about immigrant workers, both legal and undocumented. The gist of the article is that due to America's slowing economy and its crackdown on immigration laws, many of the more than 300,000 (over 11% of the workforce in Arizona) immigrant workers in Arizona are heading back home. What I found interesting was the reality pointed out in this article that America is not necessarily as "free" and opportunistic as it once might have been. This article shows a juxtaposition that is overlooked all too often: people are leaving this country as well immigrating to it. I think many people in America only see it from one side of this exchange, the side that sees the great number of Latin Americans immigrating the States, and they fail to realize that what is happening in Arizona right now is not uncommon. I would venture a guess and say that it will be become more and more common, as our economy continues to slow, and our immigration policy becomes more stringent.

Check it out!

US unionists alarmed by Colombia woes

Following up on a post I made earlier in this blog, word has come down that the U.S. Congress has decided not to approve a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia. This comes following a report from visiting U.S. union leaders that labor rights have been steadily declining in Colombia despite the fact that it was already one of, if not the, worst countries for unionists. Five unionists have been killed this year, 970 since August of 2002, and 97% of those murders are as of yet unsolved. Also, only 4% of the work force in Colombia is involved in a union.;_ylt=AqPzGcE14u9xCZ8IlmWKBB63IxIF

Hackers Attack Panama

Hackers shut down the Panamanian National Assembly's web site and briefly put an American flag up in its place.

This may be a reaction to the election of Pedro Miguel Gonzalez as the president of Panama's legislature. Gonzalez is wanted in the United States for the murder of Army Sergent Zac Hernandez in 1992.

The attack is suspected to have been launched from the U.S.

click here to see the article

Obama on Latin America

While appears as though Obama is going to clinch the Democratic nomination, it seems that he has taken a rather "strategic approach" to Latin America as Steve Clemons of the Huffington Post reports.

In his speech at high school in Virginia, Obama clarifies what his policy would be with Latin America. He says that the US has become preoccupied with the efforts in Iraq and have ignored LA. Clemons says that Obama wants to "engage" with their leaders rather than working around them. This includes collaborating with Venuezuela and Cuba.

I'm eager to see how Obama would actually take action as Presient. Although Clemons supports what Obama outlines in his speech, I find his policy of "engagement" to be rather generic political rhetoric. Either way, I do agree with Obama that more attention needs to be redirected southward to our "neighbors" in LA.

Below is Obama's speech at the high school in Virginia.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pink Buses

We spoke about male dominance today in reference to the characters in the book Breath, Eyes, Memory. This article in the New York Times discusses the prominence of this machismo sentiment found in Mexico where women-only buses have been implemented recently in the capital. The buses are meant to be a solution to the common occurance of men getting a little too forward on over crowed public transportation systems. What I found most interesting was the fact that many men agreed that this new bus system was necessary, acknowledging the fact that their attention toward women can often be inappropriate. The article says that the system is very new and expansions will be made in the future to incorporate more bus routes.
You can read about it here:


A recent story that has garnered national media attention has been the recent threats by Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, to cut off oil shipments to the U.S. Chavez has been steadily increasing the harshness of his comments in regard to American/ Venezuelan relations (specifically President Bush.) In a recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Chavez referred to Bush as the devil, and in the past week while giving his warnings about his plans to halt oil exports, he called President Bush "Mr. Danger." Chavez is doing this because he sees the intrusion of the U.S. "empire" and other foreign nations in the nationalization of Venezeula's oil industry as a breach of his country's national sovereignty. I personally do not think that Chavez's actions are helping his nation, but it is not unreasonable for him to be angry with the uneccesary involvement of other nations in Venezuela's affairs. However, I believe he loses credibility when he calls people names and uses rhetoric that makes him look like an insane power-hungry dictator (indeed he very well may be such a person.) I am only arguing that the way in which Chavez speaks does not help to portray his country as a stable area. Read the article to get an idea of how the international community has reacted to Chavez's recent threats. This is certainly an interesting type of exchange that will have an effect not only on Latin America but also the world markets.;_ylt=AgSfdxzgdBV.IbcfonxLPty3IxIF
Is it any wonder that Latin American governments might be leary of the controlling "colossus of the north"? The Bolivian government has made allegations that the U.S. is trying to get foriegn diplomats to report any suspiscious activity. The U.S. denies spying, and honestly it could be true, or it could not. But, it really makes me wonder how much spying really does go on and how much the U.S. does invest in covert operations. Sometimes I feel like the U.S. government is trying to be like Big Brother from Orwell's 1984.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Colombia and Venezuela: The Winds of War

After having just spent a week reading about international relations within Latin America, we see that the content is not merely just a chapter in a textbook. Tensions are on the rise between Presidents Chavez and Uribe, and the countries of Venezuela and Colombia are coming closer and closer into conflict. These tensions seem based in the more recent oil boom of the last five or six years. Within that same time, both countries have been on militarizing programs, improving their armed forces. A violent conflict would be a major setback for the region, and although Chavez appears as an aggressor, he does have support from various Latin American governments.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Zapatistas lose support in Mexico

Recently, many families, previously loyal to the Zapatista movement, have turned to the government for support in areas such as medical care and education. This and many other similar desertions by families from the movement have served crippling blows to the power of the movement. In the past decade or so, 600 or more families have shifted their trust from the Zapatistas to the Mexican government. I would argue that because of the recent improvement in social, political, and economic conditions in Mexico the people who had previously felt a lot of anti-government sentiment are now comfortable enough to place their trust in the government. This trend of more trust in their governments by the people of Mexico is a good sign of the country's development. In many cases, this same trend can be seen in other Latin American countries which all bodes well for the development of the region as a whole.;_ylt=ArY3osmFB64ATcqTGmxasxS3IxIF

"Work two or three days to buy a toothbrush"

CNN published an article last night (Febuary 7th) about a rare video they acquired showing students "grilling a top official baout low wages and why Cubans are barred from tourist hotels and from traveling abroad." The video was significant because it reveals the discontent amongst a lot of students who are opposed to the the Cuban government but are only able to voice themselves in private.

In addition, the video shows the students inquiring about their internet restrictions and why they're paid in pesos which aren't the currency of many basic necessities. CNN quotes a student saying, "a worker has to work two or three days to buy a toothbrush."
For the full article, click here.

Belize gets new leader

Belize elected Dean Barrow, the leader of the United Democratic Party today, to replace former Prime Minister Said Musa. Musa had problems during his adminstration, such as enormous debt, cronyism, and rioting. The UDP was running on a platform of cracking down on crime and corruption.;_ylt=Aq77EmKXzrayJla9R1_G6LG3IxIF
In Colombia, millions of people marched recently to get a rebel group to release hostages they had taken. I did not know that the group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, even existed. This is a great tragedy. Anytime hostages are taken in any situation, I feel for the people. Apparently, the rallies worked and FARC, as they are called, will release some of the hostages. Hopefully this whole situation will be resolved soon.

Cuba Supports a New Leader

Since in Wednesday's class we were talking about Cuba and how Fidel is no longer technically running the country, I found an article on that says that his brother Raul actually obtained more votes in the Cuban parliamentary elections. Even though they were both re-elected to the National Assembly of Popular Power, Raul got a full percentage point more than his brother. Raul is seen as the less charasmatic brother, but he as appeal in eastern Cuba because of his rural roots and down home sense of humor. Fidel is still the leader of the supreme governing body, Council of State but the new parliament convenes on February 24th to pick a new council from its membership, and there has been no word on whether Fidel will wish to remain the ruler of Cuba or retire. For the full story the link is:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Politics of Disunity

The idea of a more united Latin America is difficult to entertain given the eternal squabbles between countries and the corresponding reluctance exhibited by leaders in accepting that small countries are more successful when they form strong ties between each other. One example, among several, is the current border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The two countries are separated by the San Juan River, but, recently, tensions have flared up over control of the waterway. The issue is of such importance to the two countries that they have presented their dispute before the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations. Leaders insist that they wish to resolve the disagreement peacefully; however, it is important to point out that this border dispute is merely a symptom of a general animosity that taints the relationship between many Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans. The last few years have witnessed an increase in illegal immigration from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, and, as a result, many Costa Ricans feel that the wave of immigrants has led to a decrease in job opportunities and an increase in crime. Immigration is certainly an issue, but leaders must take the necessary steps to reduce tensions and thus lay the foundations for future economic cooperation. Latin American countries need to understand that unity is a requirement if they wish to be competitive in the larger, global market.

An interesting article by a leading Costa Rican newspaper on the subject.

An Unforseen Benefit of NAFTA?

We've been talking a lot about NAFTA and Mexico lately in our exchange unit of the semester, its benefits and drawbacks for the country and what it means for the future of Mexico. I know that this is a little old (last October), but I found a really funny clip from The Daily Show about the topic. In the clip Jon Stewart discusses the recent opening of the first Taco Bell in Mexico and questions its repercussions. Enjoy.

Don't forget about Aruba!

As I'm sure we all know, but sometimes forget...Aruba is part of Latin America as well. Aruba is considered a member state of the Netherlands and is located about 17 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Although it is now under Dutch it was colonized by Spain for over a century, and it now has a rather diverse population for such a small area. The main language spoken amongst the common folk is called papiamento which is a crazy mixture of Dutch, English, some African dialects, but mostly Spanish and Portuguese. The reason I am writing about Aruba is because it has recently become a topic of discussion with the news regarding the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in May of 2005. This article mentions a recording involving Joran van der Sloot (one of the previously main suspects in the disappearance) and a man, where van der Sloot apparently tells the man, "' he was with the Alabama teen on an Aruban beach when she apparently died and that a friend of his with a boat disposed of Holloway's body.'"

Pretty scary stuff.

Here's the link :

More Carnival... Why I Love Brazil

Viviane Castro, drum queen for another samba school, set a record by dancing with a 1.6-inch “sex cover” — the smallest ever used in a samba parade. The “sex cover” is a G-string affixed by glue instead of a string.

I know the last post was also about Carnival in Trindad and Brazil, and someone had posted earlier about the Hitler float that was banned in Rio. I am posting links to two articles. One that follows up on the Hitler float group, Viradouro, and the other that talks about this years winner, Beija-Flor, and more about the event itself. The first link is particularly ridiculous and I laughed out loud just reading it because of the way it portrays Brazil. Can you say stereotypes?

Show goes on for criticized Rio Carnival float

Beija Flor made Brazil carnival champion

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Here in New Orleans we just got finished with our mardi gras season, I thought it would be a good idea to post some websites that have information and pictures of Carnival 2008 in Latin American countries. Brazil and Trinidad have some of the biggest Carnivals in the world. New Orlean's mardi gras has been largely influenced by their traditions.

The Latin American Vote

I remeber reading in the Latin American Global Studies text that family is the central support system in Latin American communities, apparently someone told the 2008 Presidential candidates, because many of them have some kind of family element or image in them. mitt romney barack obama - hilary clinton

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Latin America Seeks Trade Alternatives

I found this article, and it is a really interesting and relevant article from Forbes about the trade relations in Latin America. It ties in nicely to what we have been discussing in class. Here is the link:

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Dirt Cookies

I was shocked when a friend recently told me about how some Haitians are resorting to eating cookies made from dried yellow dirt. They are just that hungry. Food costs are rising, and some of the poorest Haitians cannot even afford to buy rice. Prices of rice, beans, fruit, milk, and even the dirt itself have risen. These cookies are simply dirt with salt and shortening. People who eat these for all three meals are at high risk for malnutrition. One problem is that the nation depends on importation to obtain its food.

Associated Press article

How New Year is celebrated in Ecuador

For the end of the year in Ecuador it is common for people to buy or make large figures, which are then burned after midnight. These are called "viejos". They can be disliked political figures (as you can see to the left, a representation of the president), superheroes, cartoons, etc. Over the winter break I helped to make two "viejos" with my Guayaquil friends. After making them, we asked people passing in their cars for "charity" for the "viejos". After several days of ~20 people participating, we collected $360. This money is used to buy alcohol and fireworks/explosives to burn the "viejos". Many people gave money and told us to "burn him good", referring to the effigy of the president. The other viejo we made was a Dragonball Z character, 3 meters tall, as you can see in the background.
Other New Year's traditions in Ecuador include eating 12 grapes at midnight, walking around the block with suitcases (in order to travel in the new year), wearing yellow underwear (for luck), and several other superstitions.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cuba Libre?

Although revolutions seldom achieve their objectives, I hope that the people of Cuba soon realize that Fidel Castro is done for and that they overthrow the despotic, communist regime which has for so long kept the island from developing politically and economically. Since July 2006, following emergency surgery, Fidel has not resumed his full duties as head of state. Instead, his brother Raul Castro is in charge of the government. I find it very difficult to believe that Cubans will withstand another tyrant; they must simply be waiting for Fidel’s death. However, I am surprised that neither the Cubans in Miami nor those in Havana have seized the opportunity to restore the government to the people and call for democratic elections. Raul is not nearly as charismatic as his brother and Cubans feel less obligated to him. Fidel’s brilliant moment in history has been long gone; in fact, he tainted his name the minute that he overthrew the equally infamous Batista only to take his place as dictator. Dictatorships of the right and of the left have only betrayed the Cuban people. Democracy’s reign is long overdue.

This article is quite interesting, and shows Cuba's undemocratic political process.

US Losing Popularity in its own Neighborhood?

According to the Boston Herald, America may not be as welcome on the block as they might like to think.

Latinoamericanos "accuse Uncle Sam of neglecting their needs at the same time they chastise us for unwelcome meddling." Latin America feels like America isn't working on their side. Given Castro's reign in Cuba (now turned over to his brother Raul) and Chavez's popularity in Venezuela, other LA countries are likely to join their anti-american alliance. These countries include Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, and Dominica who are considering becoming "a unified military force."

Their support extends beyond Latin America, however. The article describes Chavez as being "chummy" with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another enemy of American politics. In addition, China is pledging $100 billion to Latin America and the Caribbean region over the next decade. It seems as if America is becoming out-numbered in their own side of the world.

Losing support in our own neighborhood?

According to the Boston Herald, America may not be as welcome on the block as they might like to think.

Latinoamericanos "accuse Uncle Sam of neglecting their needs at the same time they chastise us for unwelcome meddling." Latin America feels like America isn't working on their side. Given Castro's reign in Cuba (now turned over to his brother Raul) and Chavez's popularity in Venezuela, other LA countries are likely to join their anti-american alliance. These countries include Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, and Dominica who are considering becoming "a unified military force."

Their support extends beyond Latin America, however. The article describes Chavez as being "chummy" with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another enemy of American politics. In addition, China is pledging $100 billion to Latin America and the Caribbean region over the next decade. It seems as if America is becoming out-numbered in their own side of the world.

Illegal Housing Market Booms in Cuba

While our housing market is experiencing major crisis, the Cuban real estate business is booming, illegally. Nearly all property in Cuba is owned by the state, however illegal black market real estate trades are becoming more prosperous and more common with their own illegal real estate agencies to facilitate them. These agents are known as runners and help the buyers and sellers navigate the complexities of residence trading in Cuba. Simple house trading is allowed, however trading up is illegal and sometimes requires the paying off of government officials. Furthermore, instead of house listings, those wishing to sell stand on the street carrying cardboard signs listing the descriptions (however false they may be) of the dwellings. I found it interesting that the sudden boom in this long standing black-market was spurred by the increasingly popular belief that change is coming soon to the country. One woman said: “It’s a good time to invest [. . .] If change comes, and we all expect it, then you’re set.”