Saturday, October 31, 2009

Honduran crisis over?

An agreement has been made to allow the Honduran Congress to vote whether or not to reenstate President Zelaya to office.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Quinceañeras in America

In America we love lavish celebrations. In fact, there is an entire TV show dedicated to spoiled kid's 16th birthday party's. In Mexico, however, the lavish parties thrown for 15 year old females are more than just a party. They are a tradition and a right of passage into adulthood. I personally think of them in the same way as a BatMitzvah is for a coming of age Jewish female. You can check out the article here. Also, notice their growing popularity in America. In my hometown mall there is actually a whole store devoted to Quinceañera dresses.

Day of the Dead

I found an article from the Tulane New Wave on the celebration of the Day of the Dead in New Orleans. There is also a video in which a PhD candidate at Tulane discusses the characteristics of the festival and the role of Mestizaje in its development.

Argintina and Same-Sex Marriage

According to this article, Argentina may become the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage.  I thought this was interesting considering the debate going on in the US as well.

Combatting Drug Gangs in Colombia

I watched these two videos about cocaine production and transport.
I find all the ways drug gangs cover up their tracks very interesting. The war on drugs really is such a never-ending battle because there are always new ways to cover up the trade. The technology put into the drug coffin is truly impressive. I cannot imagine being in that submarine thing for two weeks!

Venezuela captures Colombian spies

Since the readings this week used Hugo Chavez as an example, I thought this current event would be an interesting tie-in. According to the article, Venezuela has captured a pair of Colombian spies, and Hugo Chavez is accusing the U.S. of backing efforts to destabilize his government.

Pact-signing in Honduras

Seeing as our class is currently discussing military coups throughout Latin American history, I thought it would be appropriate to post an article concerning a present-day coup in Honduras:

(AP)Representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya finally reached an agreement with the interim government that could help end the monthslong dispute over Honduras' June 28 coup, and possibly pave the way for Zelaya's reinstatement. The Organization of American States announced the deal late Thursday but did not release a text of the accord, in which Zelaya appears to have agreed to throw his fate into the hands of a congress that has largely supported interim President Roberto Micheletti. "We are optimistic because Hondurans can reach agreements that are fulfilled," Zelaya told Radio Globo, an opposition station. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras." The agreement, if it holds, could represent a much-needed foreign policy victory for the United States, which dispatched a senior team of diplomats to coax both sides back to the table. Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "an historic agreement," noting "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system." The agreement appears to soften Micheletti's previous stance that the Supreme Court — which has already rejected Zelaya's reinstatement — decide the issue. Instead, the high court would make a recommendation, but the final decision would apparently be left to a vote in Congress. The agreement would create a power-sharing government and bind both sides to recognize the Nov. 29 presidential elections. The international community had threatened to not recognize the vote if Zelaya is not reinstated, but on Thursday, OAS Political Affairs Secretary Victor Rico told reporters that "the United States and the OAS will accompany Honduras in the elections" as a result of the accord. Clinton said the elections would go forward and the U.S. will work with Honduras to ensure the election is legitimate. The deal was greeted by all sides as a victory in the long-running dispute that has polarized the country and mired it in diplomatic isolation. "Tonight I am pleased to announce that ... I authorized my negotiating team to sign a final accord that marks the beginning of the end to the political situation in the country," Micheletti said in a televised address. The team of U.S. diplomats had worked over the last two days to coax both sides back to the table. "This is a great moment for Honduras, and its people should be proud that Hondurans have achieved this accord," said Tom Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who arrived with the U.S. delegation Wednesday. Rico said "they (the negotiators) are the heroes of Honduran democracy ... and this is a great moment for Honduras." The OAS had tried for months to bring the two sides together. Micheletti called the pact a "significant concession" on his part, and said that one point would require foreign powers to drop sanctions or aid cutoffs imposed after the coup, and send observers to the elections. The Supreme Court has already rejected Zelaya's return, saying he was replaced as president on June 28 because he violated the Constitution by pressing for a vote on potential constitutional reforms. Zelaya's opponents accuse him of attempting to end a ban on presidential term limits — something the leftist leader denies. Zelaya, who is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital, has said Congress should make the decision on his reinsatement, even though he currently enjoys the support of only about a fifth of the legislators. Zelaya was flown out of the country by soldiers on June 28, but slipped back in Sept. 21. It was unclear if he would be allowed to leave the Brazilian Embassy under the deal. The interim government has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he leaves the diplomatic mission, and filed a complaint Thursday at the U.N.'s highest court accusing Brazil of meddling in Honduran affairs by giving Zelaya refuge. The International Court of Justice declined to comment on whether it would hear the case, and Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the government was evaluating the complaint. Brazil supports Zelaya's fight to return to power and has not pressured him or his supporters to leave. Earlier on Thursday, police fired tear gas to disperse a march of about 1,000 Zelaya supporters as they neared the hotel where the talks were taking place.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Three Caballeros

I thought that since we talked about the movie in class, I would give a link to a musical number from The Three Caballeros. The movie was made as a good-will message to Latin America. Overall, I think that the message sent is a positive one of allies and friendship, but even this little clip contains too many stereotypes to count. It's fun to watch though!
It turns out that Fidel Castro's younger sister Juanita was a spy for the US during the Cold War. It'll be interesting to see how her brother Raul, the current president of Cuba, responds the news. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brazilian Participation in World War II

In one of the readings from the last two weeks I remembered that it mentioned how the Brazilian governmnet under Getulio Vargas actually played an active role in World War II compared to the rest of Latin America. Apparently, the Brazilian expeditionary Force saw quite a bit of action as an army division and an air force fighter squadron participated in the Italian campaign while Brazil's navy participated in the hunt for Axis submarines in the Atlantic. Considering how Vargas was an authoritarian leader and the large ethnic German communtiy in the southern part of the country, I thought it was intersting that Brazil decided to fight on the side of the Allies rather than the Axis Powers.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Latinos in America

On, there is an entire section devoted to "Latino in America." I thought it was very interesting, so if you get a chance, you should definitely check it out. Why did they decide to use an entire section talking about Latinos? According to CNN, "by 2050, the U.S. Latino population is expected to nearly triple."

Is Mexico Winning its War on Drugs?

The title of this CNN article caught me by surprise, since I have generally heard the Mexican war on drugs critiqued for its reactionary rather than preventative measures. However, there have been several key arrests made by the Mexican government this week. Despite this new development, experts are still divided on the level of success of Calderon's war on drugs.
I just found out that US National Latino AIDS Awareness Day was last Thursday. It seemed a little funny to me at first that there is a day specifically for Latinos, but then I read that AIDS rates are high among them.

Ray Nagin Travels to Cuba

I just read a really interesting article about our fine mayor, Ray Nagin, having travelled to Cuba to learn about how they handle hurricanes and what New Orleans can learn. It caught me by surprise that the mayor of New Orleans would travel to a country shrouded in so much controversy, to learn about hurricane prepardness despite the fact that Cuba has much less resources to deal with hurricance than the US does. Either way, it was a very interesting, Latino-New Orleans specific article. Read it here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

China securing oil in Latin America

I thought it would be interesting to find an article with more of a US perspective on the growing influence of China in Latin America. The New York Times article I read stressed how important oil has been in the growing relationship between China and countries like Venezuela and Argentina. China's growing sphere of influence, besides raising concerns for the US over losing such valuable trade partners, also concerns me because as the article points out, China will gain political influence in the region. In Latin America's history, foreign countries have not usually had the people's best interest in mind and instead have supported with their great economic strength, officials who did not represent the needs of the people. I doubt China is any different, especially since it has so many of its own people to worry about. In addition, I am wondering what will happen to Latin American countries, involved in oil trade with China, when those resources run out or lose some of its demand. It will probably lead to another economic hardship, similar to after the Great Export Boom.
Here's the article I read:
It seems funny to me that China, which was built on communism, has such strong and prevalent capitalist skills.

Brazilian Movie Industry

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles recently signed a deal with  Universal Pictures, and this seems to be good news for the Brazilian movie industry. This article gives a lot of information about the cinema experience in Brazil and its declining state. When I was there, most of the movies came from Hollywood while only about one or two Brazilian movies would be in the theaters at one time.

Referendum on amnesty for military officials in Uruguay

Many were killed or disappeared and thousands jailed during the military regime in Uruguay of the 1970s and 80s. The military officials were granted amnesty that has gone unchallenged until now. The amnesty was ruled unconstitutional this week by the Urguayan Supreme court and on Sunday the nation will vote on repealing it in a referendum. Thousands of Uruguayans were out in the streets marching in protest of the amnesty earlier this week.

And since we have been exploring in class how Latin American artists use their art as a medium for social comentary, it is interesting to see one of Latin America's most renowned authors, Eduardo Galeano (how also happens to write in the stype of magical realism), making a statement about why the Uruguayans are suddenly ready to stand up against the legacy of the military regime. Galeano said, “We believe that our country has shown in the first years of the Frente Amplio party being in office that we are no longer that country that was paralyzed by fear.”

"Death Toll Hits 32 After Rio Gang Crackdown"

I thought that with the recent excitement about Rio de Janeiro being nominated as the host for the 2016, it would be a great opportunity to look at the darker side of the city. Despite its reputation for fun and opulence, Rio is a city dominated by the favelas or slums that surround the city which serve as hubs for organized crime, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and prostitution. Recently violence has rocked the city as 32 people have died since this weekend in fighting between Rio police and heavily-armed gangs that battle over lucrative turf within the favelas. The fact that 3 policemen were killed when gang members brazenly shot down (yes- shot down) their helicopter in Rio shows how powerful the favela gangs really are.

If you want a realistic view into the amount of crime and violence that plagues Rio de Janeiro, I would strongly suggest the movie City of God which depicts the rise of organized crime by focusing on fictional criminals, and Tropa de Elite which focuses on the BOPE, the elite military police unit assigned to battle the most dangerous gangs in Rio.

Medellin Cartel

I recently watched the 2001 film Blow starring Johnny Depp, which told the story of George Jung, one of the most famous drug traffickers to the United States during the 70s and 80s. Jung was involved with the Medellin Cartel of Colombia, and I looked up some background information on the group and posted a summary below:

The Medellín Cartel was an organized network of "Drug Suppliers and Smugglers" originating in the city of Medellín, Colombia. The Cartel operated in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Central America, United States, as well as Canada and even Europe throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was founded and run by Pablo Escobar together with the Ochoa Vázquez brothers Jorge Luis, Juan David, and Fabio.

During the height of its operations, the Cartel brought in more than $60 million per day. The total amount of money made by the Cartel was in the tens of billions, and very possibly the hundreds of billions of dollars. There were many "groups" during the Cartel's years, usually white Americans, Canadians or Europeans, organized for the sole purpose of transporting shipments of cocaine destined for the United States, Europe, and Canada While many "groups" were infiltrated and taken down by Federal agents and informers, a few were stumbled upon by authorities, usually due to some small misstep or careless behaviour by a member(s) of a particular "group".

Once authorities were made aware of "questionable activities", the group would be put under Federal Drug Task Force surveillance. Evidence would be gathered, compiled and presented to a Grand Jury, resulting in indictments, arrests, and prison sentences for those convicted. The number of Colombian Cartel Leaders actually taken into custody as a result of these operations, was very few. Mostly non-Colombians, conspiring with the Cartel, were the "fruits" of these indictments.

Most Colombians targeted, as well as those named in such indictments, lived and stayed in Colombia, or fled before indictments were unsealed. However, by 1993 most, if not all, Cartel fugitives had been imprisoned or hunted and gunned down by the Colombian National Police, trained and assisted by US Delta Force units and the CIA.

Also here is the link for the movie:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Moles of Oaxaca

My favorite part of Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquival, was reading about all of the food that Tita would prepare. The one dish that I had eaten is chicken mole. Mole is a Mexican sauce and apparently there are several types of mole, the most known being mole poblano, made with chocolate. It is especially popular in Oaxaca. The site talks about the history of mole, the different types and gives a recipe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
There has been an ongoing political crisis in Honduras since June. The crisis began when the president Manuel Zelaya was exiled. The crisis probably the largest in years. After being taken hostage by military troops the President was forced onto a plane to Costa Rica. 
The coup originated because of accusations that Zelaya was attempting to abolish the one year in office rule in order to reelect himself.  His exile came as a shock to most Hondurans and the country is split on their support of the movement. Internationally the coup is widely opposed. 
We've talked about Oscar Arias in class, and currently he is holding peace talks between the rebels and Zelaya. However, rebels have not been able to compromise with the president.
 One possible solution proposed by the international community is to let Zelaya serve his remaining 3 moths in office. Yet, it's uncertain if the rebels will agree to these terms. The current talks could lead to the return of Zelaya. This article discusses the issues that are being present in the peace talks. While the President says they are near a conclusion, the interim leader Micheletti says otherwise. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Laura Esquivel

After reading Like Water for Chocolate, I decided to Google Laura Esquivel just to see what her background was. I found out that she actually used to be a kindergarten teacher. She started by writing plays for her students and then began writing children's television programs. I just thought this was an interesting bit of information, especially because of the adult nature of the novel Like Water for Chocolate.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

School of the Americas protest

Thought I would post the link to the protest at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. This military training facility has been in Georgia since the 1980s and specializes in training Latin American military in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Over 60,000 soldiers have graduated from the school and returned to their country, where they use their new tactics against the people of those countries. Common targets are union organizers, student and religious leaders, and people organizing at the grassroots. Latin America has most recently felt the impact of the school in Honduras, where graduates of the SOA planned the coup.

This annual protest will take place on Novemeber 20-22 in Fort Benning.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I thought it would be interesting to find the trailer for the movie Like Water For Chocolate. I watched the movie in one of my Spanish classes, and it was exetremely interesting to see how the director depicted the scenes of magical realism, especially the one about the quail cooked with the rose petals. I think the sexuality present in Latin American art and film is also very interesting in its openness.
Here is the trailer:
cooking scene:


I found this article about a fire in one of Sao Paulo's favelas, and I realized we hadn't really talked about these that much in class.

A favela is a Brazilian slum.  In the cities, they are extremely compact and feel like a labyrinth.  The police usually have little to no control there, and usually, it is under control of one drug lord or another.  They are almost completely different cities.

Here is a group of articles about life in favelas, and it also has a few pictures. Just click on them for a different article in the group.

The White House Celebrates Latin America

On Tuesday, many Latin American artists and chefs converged upon the White House to help celebrate Latin American culture. Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, and others came to help celebrate. With such a celebration of Latin America, it was impossible not to also celebrate the food. A guest chef came to the White House to cook up an amazing array of foods from all over Latin America including Argentinian empanadas, Brazilian Arrumadinho, Honduran Enchiliadas, and many others.
I found this mini celebration quite fun and interesting, and I especially took note of the food part because of the book we are reading, Like Water for Chocolate. You can see the article here, and also the full menu of the evening.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thousands March Against Mexican Utility Closure

I stumbled upon a post from the Associated Press concerning an ongoing protest in Mexico and have posted it below:

MEXICO CITY – Tens of thousands of people have marched to protest Mexican President Felipe Calderon's decision to disband a public electricity company.

The marchers included leftist groups and many of the 44,504 people employed by Luz y Fuerza, the company that provided electricity to Mexico City and the surrounding area.

Many demanded Calderon's resignation or urged Mexicans to stop paying their electricity bills.

Calderon disbanded the company over the weekend, citing a gaping budget and operational inefficiencies. The Federal Electricity Commission, which provides service to the rest of the country, has taken over for Luz y Fuerza.

City officials estimated at least 33,000 people showed up to the march Thursday.

I watched the Costa Rica at United States World Cup qualifier last night. The US had already clinched a World Cup berth, but Costa Rica needed a win to immediately clinch. The US hadn't lost a home qualifier in 17 years. Costa Rica got two goals from the same player within 3 minutes of each other in the first half, and the US got one back in the second. Playing a man down deep into stoppage time (95th minute), the US got the tying goal off a corner kick. Costa Rica now must win a 2-match playoff with Uruguay in order to qualify for the World Cup. It was an exciting game, but a devastating loss for Costa Rica.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haitian Zombies

I was really interested in Haitian zombies after we discussed them in class, and I found a few articles about them. Apparently, zombie-ism has been prevalent for hundreds of years. Voodoo practitioners poison someone using the poison of a pufferfish. This poison causes the person to become slowly more lethargic until their pulse slows and they appear dead; however, they are fully aware the entire time. The "zombies" will continue to act like robots unless they eat meat or salt. Eventually the zombies become incoherent and actually do die. There are even rumors that many of the plantation workers in Haiti were zombies and that Papa Doc Duvallier's army,the tonton macoutes, was made up of zombies. Haitian law states that this practice of zombie-ism is considered murder.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how reliable this source is,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Miami Herald article alerted me of the fact that prostitution is legal in Costa Rica. I'd be interested to hear the effects that legalized prostitution has on other countries. "Sex tourism" is quite a foreign concept.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Women Earn Less

Latin American women, as well as ethnic workers, earn much less than do white men. This does not seem that surprising to me, but I thought it related well to the article we read in our Global Studies textbook about women in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. Also interesting was that Brazil has the largest income gap between men and women of the same age and education level. This problem is obviously not unique to Latin America as wage discrimination exists everywhere, including the US.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Honduran Economic Crisis

In Honduras, the worldwide economic slowdown is magnified by the political conflict. Up to 15 million dollars are lost daily and foreign investment in the future is likely to decrease significantly. Honduras already was the second poorest country in Latin America, and the political conflict continues to harm the majority of the population.

Here is a video clip that features interviews with Honduran citizens:

Alleged Murder-For-Ratings TV Host Jailed"

I though this article was interesting considering last week we read about how Latin American television, especially novelas, are often more outrageous and graphic than television in the United States. Wallace Souza, a former TV crime host, was arrested under charges of commisioning murders to raise the ratings for his show, Canal Livre. He also is facing drug charges and is suspected of having gang ties; amazingly enough, Souza was a policeman before he ventured into the entertainment industry.

I found this interesting article that starts out about what the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics will mean for Brazil.  However, it gets into more about the state of Brazil and its growth. It has a lot of easily digestible information about expected trends for Brazil.

Carnival Latino

There is a festival celebrating Latino culture and music this weekend. It will be at Mardigras World, the warehouse across the river. It looks like a really diverse lineup of music from all over Latin America.

Brazil 2016 Olympics

So being from Chicago, it was pretty tough to handle the news of Chicago being the first to be kicked out of the running for the 2016 Olympics. Being in Latin American Studies though, I guess I have to be supportive of Brazil's winning though. In reality I'm not really that torn up about it, but it's kind of my duty as a Chicagoan. Anyways, Brazil winning the bid is not only good for Brazil, but Latin America as a whole. Just recently the Latin American community gathered in Copenhagen to congratulate Brazil. From Venezuela, to Mexico the Latin American community is rallying around the good news, and world exposure. In essence, Latin America needed this more than the United States. Look at the article here.

How to Make Canned Refried Beans Taste Better

Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant, I always make sure to order refried beans with my meal. No matter where I go, if they're on the menu, they'll be on my plate. However, as much as I like restaurant style refried beans, whenever I try to recreate the experience at home and eat refried beans from the can the results are pretty disastrous. Instead of the restaurant style beans that I love, canned beans have the consistency of cement and often the taste of cat food. There has to be a better way to do it. Seeing as I won't be making beans from scratch in my dorm room any time soon , I searched online for ways to make canned refried beans taste better and finally found a simple yet proven recipe. So if you like refried beans like me, give it a try.

Coconut Oil.



Coconut oil is easy to find in Belize, if a little expensive. It makes your beans taste heavenly! If you can't get that, you'll have to use ordinary oil. (Click here to find out how to buy Virgin Coconut Oil.) Heat about 2 Tbsp in a heavy iron skillet and then put the beans in. If they're canned refried beans*, they're already smashed. If you have previously cooked beans, you can put them in and smash them with a potato or bean masher. (A bean masher has a flat plate with holes in it; a potato masher has a wavy bar. The bean masher works better.) Stir the beans and cook them/it in the oil for a while. You can add water and cover and cook for a little while, but mostly, you just have to get the mix into a thick consistency so you can use it to spread on tortillas.

Now, add a half cup of salsa. This can be canned salsa, like the Salsa Casera we have here in Belize, or it can be Old El Paso® or Pace® Picante Sauce. Stir it in until it disappears, cook a little more to marry the flavors, and your refried beans are ready to hold their own with the restaurant variety.

They'll keep about a week in a sealed Tupperware® container; we use them for lots of things, including side servings for breakfast.

* Easier to get out of the can if it has a bottom that works with a can-opener. (Many of them don't.) Open both ends and push out into the pan.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bloggers in Cuba

Ironically, while I was looking for something to post about on this blog, I found this really interesting article about bloggers in Cuba. Recently, Cuba's younger generations have been using blogs as sources of free expression. While some are still afraid to write anything too controversial, many have started demanding "structural reforms." Raul Castro is having a tough time finding and persecuting these bloggers, due to the generation gap.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Investment in Haiti

As I am giving a presentation on Haiti for our next class, I thought it would be good to find an article about Haiti. The article discusses the interest of foreign businesses and banks in investing in Haiti's economy by placing new factories in the country and giving loans to these businesses. It's a bit of a catch-22 though since businesses do not want to invest in a non-stable government but Haiti needs investment to become stabilized.

Photo from

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Honduran crisis brings economic hardship for neighbors

According to this article, countries bordering and near Honduras have suffered greatly in the economic sector because of the instability in Honduras. Border closures and curfews have made it difficult to transport goods to trade partners and for some to get to work if they work in the neighboring countries. The article just shows how interdependent the countries in Latin America are and how much one country's insecurity will cause them all hardship. The only positive outlook is that the other Central American countries will add pressure on both Micheletti and Zelaya to start negotiations, but it is sad that all of these people who have no say in the conflict cannot continue their daily lives and provide for their families.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Argentine singer exemplifies the socio-political purpose of Latin American music

I was on the CNN homepage and saw the headline that an Argentine singer had died. This popped out at me since we have been reading about the arts and culture in Latin America this week. I read the article and found it very interesting. Mercedes Sosa, known as the "voice of Latin America," exemplified what we have read about the importance and purpose of the arts in Latin America. Through her combination of contemporary music with folk song traditions, she used her lyrics to convey political messages. The plight of the poor was one of the main issues that she included in her music. I included a link to the article, and I strongly encourage everyone to take a look at it. It's very relevant to the identity of Latin America and just supports everything that we have been reading.
This weekend I was on when I came across a very interesting short film by Micheal Hemmingson covering Zona Norte, the red light district of Tijuana, Mexico. The area is notorious for its legal prostitution and illegal drug activity, but Hemmingson's film tries to highlight the commonly overlooked citizens of the neighborhood. Young children, a hard-working taco cart vendor, and a respectable shoe shiner are all seen and even interviewed in the film.
After viewing "Life in Zona Norte," I was surprised to see how well preserved the Mexican culture was preserved in the area. Tijuana is located right on the Mexican/American border, so I expected it to be extremely westernized, but the film showed that the area has been able to protect its vibrant culture. Undoubtedly, Zona Norte is very urbanized and faces many social problems, but it is remarkable to see Latin American culture survive through such issues as drug trafficking and open prostitution.

Here is the link to the video: Life in Zona Norte

Looking back at the effects of neo-colonialism

Argentina just built a memorial for soldiers who lost their lives in the Falklands War, which was between the UK and Argentina over islands off the coast. I think the fact that some of the conflicts we are studying happened very recently does not really strike me until they come back in the news. You really still get to see that the families involved are still suffering. Also, the fact that Argentina and England now have not been able to get past the wars makes it obvious that Latin America still has many issues in resolving their image in the global world.
Here's a video on the new monument:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The ongoing drug war in Mexico has been heating up recently.  On October 2nd the largest bust of chemicals used to make methamphetamine was made. The drugs were found on a ship in the Pacific and in the boarder town Neuvo Laredo. This drug has become prominent in Mexico because it can be created locally rather than imported drugs like cocaine.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fujimori sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

This article from CNN discusses the conviction of former President Fujimori of Peru to his fourth prison term. He was convicted for ordering illegal wiretaps and bribing officials. Fujimori is an example of a leader who placed economic development above social development in Latin America, and his conviction signifies the trend of a return to rule of law rather than authoritarianism in the region.


I figured that since our readings touched on Carnaval in Brazil, it would be fitting to put in a post on the subject. However, I was disappointed when it only mentioned Carnaval as done in Rio de Janeiro. In Rio, the Samba schools and parades take a huge emphasis in the celebration. However, this is not how most of the country celebrates the festival. Much of the country takes influences from the Carnaval in Salvador. Instead of watching parades, it is a huge festival with large masses of people and lots of music. There are lots of different kinds of music, but the main kind during this kind of Carnaval is Axe (pronounced Ah-shay). Salvador has the largest Carnaval in Brazil. The Brazilians flock there while most of the tourists go to Rio. Any Carnaval from this style is a sight to behold.

Here is a website with a lot of pictures and a few videos about Carnaval in Salvador. Just beware that the Axe music will play in the background (It really startled me when I opened the website, and my speakers started blaring the music at me). I have not found a way to turn it off while looking at the website.

Rio de Janeiro Announced as Host of 2016 Summer Olympics

After much debate and discussion over the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, Chicago being one of the candidates, it was announced within the past hour that Rio de Janeiro would be the host of the 2016 summer games. This marks not only a great sucess for Brazil, but also for Latin America as a whole, since this will be the first Olympics hosted in South America. Below I have transferred the article which broke the good news.

-- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee announced Friday. The announcement brought tears to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief several times in a news conference afterward. "Our hour has arrived," he said. "It has arrived." In Rio, jubilation erupted at the world-famous Copacabana beach, where thousands of people gathered to hear the announcement. Rio organizers promised to start working immediately to make the games a success. "Maybe some of the people tomorrow can rest," said Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman. "I'm not [resting]." Rio beat Madrid, Spain, in the final round. Chicago, Illinois, and Tokyo, Japan, were eliminated in earlier rounds. For Rio, a major appeal was bringing the Olympics to South America for the first time. IOC President Jacques Rogge said in the news conference afterward that in addition to its excellent bid, Rio had the "extra added value of going for the first time to a continent that's never had the games." He also noted that Brazil helped its chances this year when it did not get the 2012 games awarded four years ago. "Rio remained humble," he said. "They wanted to listen, to repair their shortcomings."

More than half of Rio's Olympic venues are built, including state-of-the-art facilities constructed for the 2007 Pan and Parapan American Games: the magnificent Joao Havelange Stadium (the proposed 2016 venue for athletics), the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, the Rio Olympic Arena (which will host gymnastics and wheelchair basketball), the Rio Olympic Velodrome, the National Equestrian Center and its close neighbor, the National Shooting Center. Rio will hold the games from August 5-21 and its theme will be "Live your passion." According to Rio's bid, the games will be held in four zones with varying socioeconomic characteristics:

• Barra, the heart of the games, is an expanding area of Rio that will require "considerable infrastructure and accommodation development." It will house the Olympic and media villages and some venues.

• Copacabana, a world-famous beach and major tourist attraction, will host outdoor sports in temporary venues.

• Maracana, the most densely populated of the zones, will contain an athletic stadium and the Maracana Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies. Major redevelopment is planned for the zone.• Deodoro has little infrastructure, but the highest proportion of young people. It will require construction of Olympic venues. The city's bid was helped by a strong economy and guaranteed funding. Brazil's economy is the 10th largest in the world and predicted to be fifth by 2016.

Brazil told the IOC its commitment to the Olympics could be seen in the investment already under way in Rio. Maracana Stadium will close next year for two years of refurbishment. The areas around it will be renovated, with improved access and transportation links. The entire neighborhood will be reborn, the Rio committee said, to host the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Work is already under way on the ongoing development of the Olympic Training Center, which includes many of the state-of-the-art venues built for the 2007 Pan and Parapan American Games. This was Madrid's third attempt at hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games. Madrid presented a "very capable" bid, with good transportation infrastructure and a number of venues already in place, said Ed Hula, editor of the Olympics Web site Around the Rings. Madrid's chances might have been hampered, however, by a recent tradition that consecutive Summer Olympics aren't staged on the same continent. The London, England, 2012 Olympics will have happened just four years before 2016. "Although there's no rule against it, the IOC has yet to award consecutive summer games to the same continent since 1952 in Helsinki," Hula said. Brazilian President Lula da Silva was joined by soccer legend and Brazilian native Pelé as they advertised the benefits of a Rio games. An animated Lula da Silva, surrounded by Rio supporters, said at a news conference after the announcement, "Among the 10 major economies of the world, Brazil was the only country that had not received the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For us, it will hardly be our last Olympics. For us, it will be an opportunity to be equal. It will increase self-esteem for Brazilians, will consolidate recent conquests and stimulate new advances."

Latin America embracing Haiti

I just was doing my normal morning news reading, and I started reading an article that I didn't expect had anything to do with Latin America but I was quickly corrected. The article is titled "Clinton Cheers Investor Turnout at Haiti Meeting." As per our earlier discussions of what exactly the term "Latin America" encompasses, this article notes the importance of Latin American countries' support of Haiti since it is "their neighbor." Bill Clinton said, "We have more people from Latin America and the Caribbean here than we do from the U.S., Canada and Europe combined," Clinton said of the conference. "That was always going to be essential for Haiti's success: having your neighbors embrace you."

Essentially, Latin America is showing a united interest in not only helping a fellow neighbor, but also in investing. This meeting showed the enormous potential of Latin America if it unites a a common force. This idea that Latin Americans far outnumbered the people that had been trying to conquer them for years, shows that Latin America is making great strides in getting noticed within the international community.

You can read the article here

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Political scheme turns Mexican into odd celebrity"

AP article
I found an article about Latin American politics that's on a much lighter note than usual. The "celebrity", Rafael Acosta, ran for a Congress position for another person. When he won the election, he changed his mind about giving up the position, only to change his mind again a few days ago. He was sworn in today and gave the position away within hours as originally agreed upon.

A Shift in Religion for the Brazilian Youth

Would you be more likely to attend church if you could see a fighting match or play video games before you heard the sermon? Or what if your church had a tattoo parlor and played reggae music?

In Brazil, there has been a new growth in evangelical churches using these techniques and more to connect with the younger generation in hopes of sparking a revival in faith and giving adolescents "the flexibility of religious expression."

Despite Brazil's deep connection to Catholicism, younger people are becoming more willing to experiment with their religion and between 1950 and 2000, the number of proclaimed evangelicals is five times greater, reaching 15% in 2000.

This article in the New York Times provides interesting details about the religiously backed fight night events and interesting perspectives of the pastors that are reaching out to the Brazilian youth: "Fight Nights and Reggae Pack Brazilian Churches"

Storytelling: An act of revolution

Because we just read about a the power of the story (and the carrier of those stories) in The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa, I thought I'd share an excerpt from a piece I wrote last spring about the Zapatistas that captures how they have used storytelling to both share their movement with the world and to inspire a visionary politics that is able to see beyond hegemonic ideas and structures. You can find all of their communicados here:

"The Zapatistas have crafted a revolutionary political discourse – a vernacular dialogue fashioned out of poetry. Over the last fifteen years they have released hundred of communiqués that condemn repression in the Zapatista territories and around the world, that present alternatives and tell stories that are rich with allegory and wit. These stories are clever yet simple, using characters like Old Antonio, a wise old Zapatista who supposedly died in the 1994 uprising, and a proud beetle named Don Durito to mock the empty rhetoric of the politicians and dismantle the machinery of the dominators into a simple language accessible across class, race, and language. And thanks to the internet and a few translators, the number of people these stories reach around the world has been unbelievable.

In one story, Don Durito gives his two cents about the trap of freedom presented by the Powers. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the author of the majority of the Zapatista communiqués, writes, “Durito puts a vase with water on the little table, which is made of sticks, tied together with liana, and he says,
‘The Powers tell us, for example, that we have to choose between being optimists or pessimists. The pessimist sees the glass as being half empty, the optimist sees the glass as half full. But the rebel realizes that neither the vase, nor the water which it contains, belong to them, and it is someone else, the powerful, who fills it and empties it at his whim. The rebel, on the other hand, sees the trap. But he also sees the spring from which the water issues forth. (Subcomandante Marcos. “Durito and One About False Options.” Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion, Documents, Communiqués and Images from 1994 to 2004/5. March 2003. )