Friday, January 29, 2010

Haitians Start Rebuilding On Their Own

Ignoring the call from the government to hold off on reconstruction for the time being, many Haitians have begun to either rebuild their homes damaged by the earthquake or have begun collecting materials to build new homes on their plots of land in and around Port-au-Prince. The Haitian people are angry at the government which has largely been disabled for the past 2 weeks and its plan to delay reconstruction efforts until proper building codes can be applied and to relocate some families who live on unsafe plots of land. Haitians are jealously protective of their land plots as many have been passed down from generation to generation and many also contain vegetable gardens which are a critical component of many Haitians diet. Here's an article for more information.

Venezuela's Chavez Devalues the Bolivar

Hugo Chavez devalued the bolivar, Venezuela's currency, on January 8th. He has created two exchange rates: one will be for the public sector, at VEB 2.60 (previously at 2.15), while the other "oil dollar", associated more with industry, will be at VEB 4.30. Specifically, the first exchange rate will be applied to food, health, science and technology, retirees, pensioners, family remitences, and the general public sector, among other things. The "oil dollar" will be used for the many industries in Venezuela, as well as telecommunications, electronic services, computers, tobacco and alcohol, as well as many other similar areas.

Chavez says that this is an effort to reduce Venezuela's dependence on oil and to focus on exports instead.

However, the devaluation has been met with great hostility, and the US humanitarian aid has undermined Chavez's accusations of the US as an evil and greedy country.

Chavez has received much critism for his actions and his rule, which has only prompted more censorship -- he closed down several TV stations this past Sunday, with obvious lack of due process. Protests have turned violent, as students came to speak out in the streets.

Here is an article about Chavez devaluing the bolivar: Link.

And here is one discussing the public's recent reaction to Chavez: Link

A Dessert from Latin America

Since we discussed a possible meal together in class this week, I thought I'd share a recipe for flan. It is a very popular Latin American dessert. It is rich and generally made with a caramel sauce. It has become a world-wide favorite and is now popular in places as far as the Philippines and Japan. This is an example of the exchange between cultures we are discussing in class.

Venezuelan Students Clash With Soldiers Over Chavez 'Reforms'

In light of the coup in Honduras several months ago in which President Zelaya was ousted for trying, against the will of the legislature, to extend the power of his presidency by extending the number of terms he could serve, I found this article about Venezuela rather interesting. It would appear that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is trying to follow a similar path. He is trying to implement several changes to the constitution, including an amendment allowing him to serve an indefinite number of terms. While many protesters argue that these new executive powers would give Chavez authoritarian rule, it would seem that, unlike in Honduras, Chavez has the support of most Venezuelans in this attempt to extend executive power.

Honduras Gets A New President

After recently reading about Manuel Zelaya's presidential victory in Honduras in 2005, I found an article about the new president's being sworn in. Zelaya was ousted by the military in June of '09. Aparently people thought he was trying to extend his presidency (among many other issues.) On the 27th, new president Porfirio Lobo was sworn in. Zelaya flew to the Dominican Republic, although he said he would return. President Lobo signed amnesty for Zelaya and the orchestraters of the coup. Hopefully President Lobo can lift the nation from political turmoil.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

La Virgen de Guadalupe

I attended a lecture this evening entitled "Guadalupe's Others: Rethinking Marian Devotion in Colonial Mexico" given by Luisa Elena Alcalá of La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and I learned a few things about Our Lady of Guadalupe that I found interesting and thought I'd share.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, the iconic image of the Virgin Mary that is so admired in Mexico was popularized in large part because of the way in which she appeared. Unlike many other virgins which were highly esteemed by Catholics, the Virgin of Guadalupe was [as legend has it] not a work of man, but rather appeared on the cloak of a peasant, Juan Diego - that is, a divine and miraculous creation.

Alcalá said that the Church allowed and encouraged the belief in this as it did not contradict any Catholic doctrines and it was a matter of number of believers and time that led to what the Virgin of Guadalupe represents today for Mexico. I think this is interesting in light of what our Global Studies book said about the importance of perception instead of reality in Latin America. It is not necessarily important whether or not the story of the appearance of the virgin on Juan Diego's cloak is true, but rather that it is believed to be true.

Mexico City defends gay marriage

Mexico City's mayor Marcelo Ebrard said today the city will continue to defend its gay marriage laws. The federal Attorney General office filed a challenge with the Supreme Court this week on the premise that the law violates constitutional stances on the family and the protection of children. However, the mayor remains adamant in his stance that the Mexican constitution does not ban gay marriage or the adoption of children by gay couples, and the first same-sex marriages are set to be carried out in early May while the Supreme Court hears the case.

While many Americans don't think to compare Mexican politics to those of the U.S., there is a clear parallel in Mexico City's struggles with gay marriage policy and the struggles occurring in the United States. This is just one example of a huge issue in the U.S. that the Mexican people also find important. What happens in Mexico City could influence future legislation in the U.S.

Extreme Suffering for Children in Haiti

Although there have been multiple posts about the tragic earthquake situation in Haiti, I can't help but add one that impacted me even further.

Haiti's children make up 45% of the country's population. They "are among the most disoriented and vulnerable survivors of the earthquake." Needless to say, their world is gone. Not only have the surviving Haitian children lost parents, family members, homes, and schools, but some are also suffering from severe injuries and trauma. Many are now stuck on the streets, struggling to survive each day. There are concerns that these children will be taken advantage of for trade or trafficking.

Haiti's first lady, Elisabeth Delatour Preval, says, "The children of Haiti, unless they get help, they will have lost their childhoods, their innocence."

Let us use this as further motivation to take action in assisting the people of Haiti.

Source: New York Times

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pray for Survivors Still Buried Under Rubble in Haiti

It amazes me how many people were affected by the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti over a week ago. Britney Gengel was an American college student volunteering in Haiti feeding the poor when disaster struck. Eight of the students on her trip were found but she, along with four others, are still missing. She was someone from a privileged society who traveled to a poor developing country to help other people and now her family is grieving but hoping for her return on her 20th birthday. Searchers don't give up hope! More people are still alive and buried in Haiti and we hope for all of their immediate rescue and help. Healthy humans can live under rubble for 12 or 13 days in most extreme cases. Today is day 10, let's keep hoping and trying.

Source: CNN

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lack of Organization in Haiti

Anderson Cooper reported about the conditions following the earthquake in Haiti on Larry King Live. His report shows that due to a lack of structure and the proper medical staff and equipment many more lives have been lost and continue to be lost.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The long-suffering people of Haiti are facing yet another unimaginable natural disaster and the ensuing human crises.

I haven't written anything about this yet because I am so saddened and feel so helpless that writing about it almost seems fruitless. That, and I'm not quite recovered yet from the paralysis I felt upon hearing the news and seeing the massive destruction to the infrastructure of Port-au-Prince and the loss of so many innocent lives.

Haiti is a country that has had a significant presence in my line of work. I have met and befriended numerous Haitians over the years. I have studied Haiti's people and culture. I have had my students study and learn about Haitian life and culture. In fact, this semester my students in one class will be reading Edwige Danticat's first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and will be watching Jonathan Demme's documentary film titled The Agronomist about the great Haitian radio figure, Jean Dominique. In another class, we'll be reading Paul Farmer's Pathology of Power, which features Haiti as an important case study of his thesis of structural violence.

May God bless and be with the Haitian people in this sad, terrible tragedy.

Port-au-Prince Lies in Ruins

Just before 5pm on Tuesday, January 12, Haiti was hit was a massive earthquake. Centered about ten miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, it completely destroyed several government buildings, including the presidential palace. More information can be read in CNN's report: Link

For more information about how you can get involved in the relief effort, go to: Link

To anyone out there who has family or friends in Haiti, my heart goes out to you. Stay strong and know there is at least one stranger who is doing what she can to help.