Friday, October 17, 2008

Today’s Video: Angioplasty not included

Two years ago when I traveled to Colombia I was amazed to nosh on hot dogs with toppings like scrambled eggs and bacon as well as burgers from fast food chain El Corral. Yet that was rabbit food compared to the below video of a carnivorous gut-busting mega-burger served by a Venezuelan street vendor:

Here are the contents of the burger, appropriately named "La Diabla," or The Devilish (sic): ketchup, mayo, mustard, onions, cabbage, shoestring potatoes, more ketchup, mayo and mustard, avocado, tomato, burger patty, chorizo, chicken, eggs and bacon, and a mountain of shredded Roquefort cheese.
Admittedly it may be hypocritical to publish this post a day after talking about global hunger. Yet as the cameraman said in the video, “F**k McDonald’s”!

With that said, hope you all have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday.

(Hat tip: A Hamburger Today).
Sources- A Hamburger Today, El Corral, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

White House proposes cutting Bolivia aid

President George W. Bush signed a law yesterday extending trade preferences to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. “It’s in the interests of the United States that prosperity spreads throughout our neighborhood," said Bush at the White House signing ceremony for the Andean Trade Preference Act Extension though he also took the time to blast one of those “neighbors”:
“Bolivia has failed to cooperate with the United States on important efforts to fight drug trafficking''…So, sadly, I have proposed to suspend Bolivia's trade preferences until it fulfills its obligations.''
The president cited Bolivia’s inclusion on a counternarcotics blacklist that critiqued Bolivian president Evo Morales for his stance on coca. White House officials at the time claimed that they would not cut off aid to Bolivia despite its inclusion on the list.

According to the CIA Bolivia is the world's third-largest cultivator of coca behind their Andean neighbors of Colombia and Peru.

Image- current (Coca harvesting)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, CIA World Factbook, AFP, Voice of America, Bloomberg

First Lady chats with Cuba’s Ladies in White

First Lady Laura Bush spoke with members of Cuban human rights group the Ladies in White yesterday. Little has been revealed over the substance of their discussion, though in a press release Bush highlighted the “courage and determination” shown by the women.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez (who was born in Havana) was with Bush during the meeting and in a recent editorial he (naturally) blasted the Chavez regime:
The crisis in Cuba is far from over. We know the Cuban people are still hurting and in need. The American people are generous and we will continue to explore other ways to provide aid to the citizens of Cuba…Until these prisoners of conscience are released, every Sunday the Ladies in White will continue silently to voice their protests. And the people of the United States will stand by their side.
The "Ladies in White" have held weekly protests in Cuba calling for the liberation of 75 jailed dissidents. The Cuban government has been highly critical of the group and they have faced arrest several times.

According to BBC News the group issued months ago an open letter backing presidential candidate Barack Obama’s call for having talks with Raul Castro.

Image- (“Members of the Cuban group 'Ladies in White' walk down Fifth Avenue in Havana, Sunday, May 13, 2007, on Mother's Day.”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Christian Science Monitor,,

”Braceros” to get back pay

One of the oft-ignored ignored subjects in the U.S. post-World War II industrial boom was that of the Mexican “braceros.” The guest worker program ran for 22 years and it laid the groundwork for the labor force used in the U.S agrarian industry.

There was also a dark side to the “bracero” program in that workers were often abused and exploited with almost no recourse to fall back on. Yet a recent class action settlement could serve to rectify some of those wrongs:
Under a settlement announced this week, braceros living in the United States who worked from Jan. 1, 1942, through Dec. 31, 1946, will be able to file claims for about $3,500 in compensation from the Mexican government.

A U.S. District Court judge gave preliminary approval to the settlement of a class action lawsuit last Friday. Attorneys representing former braceros are now mounting a national campaign to get other laborers to file monetary claims…

"For decades in this country, lawyers and others have heard complaints from bracero workers that not only were they treated abysmally but that their wages were never fully paid to them," said Matthew J. Piers, an attorney with Chicago-based Hughes, Socol, Piers, Resnick & Dym, the firm that originated the lawsuit.
Eagle-eyed readers may’ve noted a potential problem with the settlement in that it will only cover workers who labored during five of the program’s 22-year run. This has upset some former “braceros” who will not be covered by the arrangement though others feel that it’s “a small battle” won after years of legal wrangling in the U.S. and Mexico.

Image- New York Times (“Braceros, here in 1963, were often farmhands.”)
Sources- Los Angeles Times, PBS,,

Alvaro Uribe Hampering Justice : Human Rights Watch

The international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, yesterday said that Colombian president Alvaro Uribe's administration "hampers justice efforts" by obstructing investigations into its alleged links with paramilitaries, and called for world oversight of the probes.

"The government of President Uribe, in our opinion, has become an obstacle for the advancement of justice," HRW's Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco told reporters on presenting the organization's annual report on Colombia.
Investigations are specifically focused on the United Self-Defense Group of Colombia (AUC). Not surprisingly Uribe says the charges are ridiculous, and he reasserted his commitment against violence in his country.

Sources : France 24

Daily Headlines: October 17, 2008

* Argentina: Officials with the D.E.A. claimed that Argentina is becoming “an increasingly important hub” in the distribution of meth by Mexican gangs to the U.S.

* Latin America: Despite some gains earlier this week, Latin American stocks suffered modest losses in trading on Thursday.

* El Salvador: The U.S. government granted El Salvador $2.6 million in order to combat gang violence.

* Honduras: Thirteen Cuban migrants arrived on the Honduran shore after spending roughly two weeks at sea on a makeshift boat.

Sources- IHT, UPI,,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hunger pangs for LatAm on World Food Day

World Food Day was observed today and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) millions of Latin Americans continue to suffer from malnutrition:
"The good news is that eight million fewer people suffered from malnutrition in Latin America between 1990 and 2005. The bad news is all the benefit of these 15 years has been lost," FAO regional delegate Jose Graziano da Silva said.

He presented a FAO report showing that from 2007 the trend reversed and now 51 million people in Latin America and 923 million around the world are affected by hunger.
Unfortunately, the FAO predicts that the growing global financial crisis could worsen world hunger as prices rise and governments are lax in contributing to anti-hunger campaigns.

Pope Benedict XVI also lent his opinion on world hunger today; he chastised wealthy nations for "corruption in public life or growing investments in weapons and sophisticated military technologies to the detriment of people's primary needs."

Image- AFP
Sources- Taiwan News, Voice of America, IHT, Reuters Africa

Pinochet judge to investigate Spanish disappearances

The Spanish judge who tried to prosecute the late Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet has now set his sights on thousands of “disappeared” Spaniards.

Judge Baltasar Garzon (image) said that he will look into those who vanished during the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco. In doing so, Garzon has ordered that nineteen mass graves be opened including one that supposedly has the remains of famed poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Garzon’s ruling is expected to face opposition from conservatives as well as some prosecutors. Nevertheless, the judge suspects that the Franco regime systematically tortured and killed leftist opponents:
The Franco regime, Judge Garzón wrote, “used all its resources to locate, identify and grant reparations to the victims from the winning side but did not give the same respect to the losers, who were persecuted, jailed, disappeared and tortured.” The disappearances, he concluded, constitute “crimes against humanity.”
Image- BBC News (“Judge Garzon is famous for crimes-against-humanity cases”.)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, IPS, AFP, New York Times, Times Online, Voice of America

Feminists disrupt Ortega's reign

TIME has a feature today on the interaction of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the country's feminists.

Ortega is being pressed by the women's groups about his alleged sexual abuse of his stepdaughter.

In August, Paraguay's minister of women's affairs Gloria Rubin called Ortega a "rapist." Hounduras' minister of the National Institute of Women, Selma Estrada, resigned her post to protest Ortega's invitation to their capital.

Read more about this interesting foil to his presidency here.

Source and Photo: Time

Losing hunger battle

Latin America is not meeting the challenge of feeding hungry people in an economic crisis, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.

The group said today that although malnutrition affects 8 million fewer people since 1990, the trend is reversing.

"The bad news is all the benefit of these 15 years has been lost," FAO regional delegate Jose Graziano da Silva said.

About 51 million people in Latin America are affected by hunger.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Today’s Video: Free trade, “Joe the Plumber”, and scowling

Last night’s third and final presidential debate could be described as the “Joe the Plumber” show based on the number of times he was mentioned. (For his part, the real Joe Wurzelbacher won’t publicly endorse Barack Obama or John McCain).

Neither Obama nor McCain scored a decisive blow despite McCain’s feisty demeanor and his need to turn the polls around in his favor.

Both candidates finally touched on Latin America after the region was ignored in the previous presidential and vice presidential forums. Obama criticized Hugo Chavez and U.S. dependency on Venezuelan oil while McCain cited Brazilian ethanol as part of his plans for energy independence. (Immigration was still ignored, however).

One of the most heated exchanges occurred over free trade:

Sadly, neither candidate was on the ball regarding free trade. For instance, McCain’s connection between the rescue mission of three Americans and the free trade draft with Colombia was an awkward segue. His glowing review of Colombia belied a more complex reality while his (to paraphrase Gordon Gekko) “free trade is good” viewpoint never acknowledged any shortcomings.

While Obama admitted that that free trade can be imperfect his perspective appeared disingenuous compared to his populist rhetoric in the primaries. He did not describe an adequate alternative to the free trade draft with Colombia and he has been at a disadvantage over not visiting to Latin America.

Did you see the debate? What did you think?

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, CBS News, Reuters, BBC News, Guardian UK, San Jose Mercury News

Daily Headlines: October 16, 2008

* Chile: The country’s Supreme Court sentenced retired army general Sergio Arellano Stark to six years in jail for the killing of five dissidents during the “Dirty War” period.

* Colombia: Allegations of police abuse have emerged after clashes between officers and protesting indigenous peoples left two dead.

* Venezuela: Labor Minister Roberto Hernandez said that he will submit a proposal to establish a new six-hour workday.

* Puerto Rico: The island will launch a pilot program that will use GPS to monitor the movements of those who violate protection orders.

Image- BBC News (Sergio Arellano Stark was sentenced along with four other ex-officers for human rights violations in 1973)
Sources- New York Daily News, Canadian Press, CNN, MSNBC

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today’s Video: Border crossing – the return trip

Earlier this month we looked at Pew Hispanic Center report which said that an increasing number of illegal Mexican immigrants are returning from the U.S. The Reuters video below cites the weakening economy as a main factor as to why more undocumented immigrants are crossing the border:

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Spanish "citizens group" blasts Ingrid Betancourt

It has been over three months since Ingrid Betancourt was rescued with twelve others from being held captive for years in the Colombian jungle. She has become the de facto spokeswoman for hundreds of hostages still held by the FARC guerillas and has campaigned vigorously on their behalf.

Yet there are those who have tried to unfairly knock her down as was the case earlier today in Spain:
The Ermua Forum - a Spanish citizens group which has repudiated (Basque separatists faction) ETA- requested Wednesday that Ingrid Betancourt return the Prince of Asturias Award. They claim that her award was “unjustifiable” since she declared in favor of negotiating with terrorists.

In a press release, the Ermua Forum differed “radically” from the opinions of the former candidate... [ed. Personal translation]
So what did Betancourt say that so riled up the Ermua Forum? According to the AP:
Betancourt said there are two schools of thought on terrorism: "One says that you don't talk to terrorists. The other, in which I believe, says that precisely because they are terrorists, we must talk"…

Betancourt said it was important not to let terrorist groups become isolated but to constantly demand that they explain what they do.

"The solution is not to close the door but on the contrary to force it open," Betancourt said.
The notion that diplomacy is always equal to appeasement is short-sighted and counterproductive. While Betancourt backed the concept of negotiating with terrorists she also blasted the FARC for holding nearly 3000 hostages and denounced them for repeated death threats against her. She has consistently criticized them after her liberation which ought to cancel out the laughable claim that she has Stockholm syndrome.

Instead of petty critiques why not follow her example and seek a meaningful solution?

Sources (English)-
AP, Plan Colombia and Beyond
Sources (Spanish)-
Semana, El Tiempo, El Espectador, Canal Caracol

Peru: Deadly bus crash kills nine

We’ve all had our bad days that we wish to forget and put behind us. But those days probably are nothing but sunshine and rainbows compared to what Peru’s San Cayetano soccer team faced on Monday.

The squad boarded their bus after being walloped in their second division match 10-0. While en route a “gang of youths” boarded the bus and tried to rob the passengers. Sadly that was the least of their problems:
A bus carrying a professional soccer team rolled off a cliff in northern Peru, killing eight people and wounding 22, the state news agency Andina reported.

The vehicle's brakes failed after armed robbers forced the driver from the bus near the town of Celendin in the region of Cajamarca last night, and the bus tumbled over a 200-meter (656- foot) cliff, Andina said, citing Juan de Dios Tello Villanueva, the mayor of Celendin.
According to one local report three of the deceased were San Cayetano players while citizens of Celendin are observing several days of mourning.

Tragic, simply tragic.

Image- 24 Horas Libre Peru
Sources (English)- Bloomberg, Sydney Morning Herald
Sources (Spanish)- Diario Correo Peru, RPP

Cuba : Unapologetically Socialist

You have to give it to Cuba. The island nation, despite all of it's problems, is the isla that could and is doing so on it's own terms even with the U.S. embargo. Changes have been slow and some say meaningless, with easier access to certain consumer products, pero one thing Cuba doesn't plan on changing is it's socialism.

Cuba's foreign minister warned Tuesday that President Raul Castro will never renounce socialism, just days before Havana holds landmark talks with European Union leaders.

"There has not been reform in Cuba, but a deep social revolution" and "this process has to be continually perfected," Felipe Perez Roque told a press conference in Madrid when asked about reforms undertaken by Raul Castro since he replaced his ailing brother Fidel two years ago.

If the reforms imply that "Cuba is renouncing socialism, we have to say that they are not," he said, following a meeting with his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos.

On Thursday, the European Union is to hold its first ministerial talks with Cuba since 2003. The initiative follows the EU's lifting of sanctions against Cuba last June.

Source : The Raw Story

Daily Headlines: October 15, 2008

* Mexico: The U.S. State Department issued an upgraded travel alert for Mexico as eleven people were killed in the northern state of Chihuahua.

* Venezuela: First it was McDonald’s and now it’s local fast ford chain Arturo's which has been closed for several days over alleged tax irregularities.

* Cuba: Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain accepted an invitation to visit Cuba next year.

* Brazil: The construction of a pair of hydroelectric dams along a tributary of the Amazon River has angered natives and environmentalists according to this article.

Image- AFP
Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Universal, Reuters, IHT, MSNBC

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

De Musica Ligera: Anahi vs. anorexia

I’m not going to mince words: I’ve always hated RBD. I’m far from a music snob (*cough*…Spice Girls…*cough*) but their brand of fluffy, corporate, and exceedingly radio-friendly pop was just not my cup of tea. (More like a cup of ipecac).

Yet I tip my hat to ex-RBD member Anahí who unveiled a campaign against anorexia and bulimia earlier today. “It’s very gratifying to help millions of teens that go through it” she said after admitting that she overcame her problems with eating disorders.

The campaign will be sponsored by the Mexican government and the charitable arm of media giant Televisa. (Televisa was the driving force behind the RBD juggernaut which recently disbanded.) In the meantime, it’s rumored that Anahí will soon launch herself as a solo artist.

Below is one of the PSAs in Anahí’s campaign where she warns against eating disorders:

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Wikipedia
Sources (Spanish)- Milenio, El Universal, Cronica, La Tercera

Trade with E.U. splits Andean Community

Leaders from the Andean Community started their summit today and initially agreed that regional unity was necessary to combat the global financial crisis. Yet that idea hit a bump when Ecuador and Bolivia decided to opt out of a trade deal with the E.U.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa said that the bloc would seek political and economic cooperation agreements with the E.U. and called for a summit between both groups. According to Bloomberg that may be a challenge:
The split over trade within the Andean group threatens to erode the bloc's negotiating power. The European Union has said the South American countries must meet demands over financial deregulation and intellectual property before talks can resume.
The heads of most members of the Andean Community attended the conference yet one notable absence was Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Diplomatic relations between both states have been cut since the March raid of Colombian forces into Ecuador which killed a guerilla commander. Uribe cancelled going to the summit citing remarks made by Correa to a Brazilian newspaper on the raid; Correa replied that he had been misquoted.

Image- Living in Peru
Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Bloomberg
Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Reports: High price tag from Postville raid

Oftentimes the immigration debate centers on issue of race and national security. But what about the costs related to immigration?

Case in point: federal officials claimed that the price tag of a May 12th immigration raid in Postville, Iowa was approximately $5.2 million. As reported by The Des Moines Register and picked up by the AP, the figures are partial in that they’re from May until mid-August. Yet the taxpayers’ bill comes up to an average of $13,396 for each of the 389 illegal immigrants arrested.

One local politico tried to defend the high cost of the Postville:
U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, disagreed. He said immigration laws must be enforced, regardless of the expense to taxpayers.

"If we start saying, 'Well, it costs too much money to enforce the law,' then we will see more and more of these radical, pro-illegal immigration activists drive more wedges between us and make it harder to enforce the law," King said.
I would agree with King that excising laws should be implemented except that the status quo hasn’t been working and is in dire need of being repaired. “Enforcement” of a flawed system yields little benefit and the only real “wedges” are among families, communities, and local governments trying to figure out what to do.

Of course, immigration reform requires politicians to stand up and face the issue rather than provide sound bites when they feel it’s convenient. Unfortunately, King’s colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress and the major presidential candidates have viewed immigration as a taboo. Alas, reform is nothing but a distant notion so as long as politicos ignore finding meaningful solutions to the immigration debate.

Image- Time (“Two women attend a press conference at Saint Bridget Parish in Postville, Iowa” shortly after the May raid.)
Sources-,, The Des Moines Register

Legalize drugs says Honduran prez

Drug use ought to be legalized as a way to combat violence said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya yesterday during a regional conference on drug trafficking. "The trade of arms, drugs and people ... are scourges on the international economy, and we are unable to provide effective responses” said Zelaya at the forum in Tegucigalpa. His proposal included establishing a regionwide counternarcotics plan that would supplant bilateral U.S.-led efforts in countries like Mexico and Colombia.

Zelaya’s remarks were harshly criticized by U.N. Office of Drug Control rep José Martinez who was present at the meeting:
Mister President, there are those that claim that the problem of crime would disappear with the legalization of drugs. In other words, to solve such a difficult problem we must stick our heads under the sand like ostriches and accept the drug trade which is annihilating our youth. ¬– [ed. Personal translation]
Image- BBC Mundo
Sources (English)- AFP, IHT
Sources (Spanish)- El Mercurio, El Heraldo

Daily Headlines: October 14, 2008

* Haiti: In the wake of several deadly storms, immigration advocates and Haitian president Rene Preval have requested that the U.S. government offer "temporary protected status” to Haitians.

* Puerto Rico: Flood warnings have been issued as Tropical Depression 15 is expected to gain strength and become Tropical Storm Omar.

* Nicaragua: Several NGOs have accused President Daniel Ortega of “intolerance and authoritarianism” after being cracked down by the Nicaraguan government.

* Brazil: Officials with state-run Petrobras claimed that they found more oil at a massive offshore well.

Image- AFP (“Haitian storm victims gather at a shelter in September 2008 in Hinche, Haiti.”)
The Latin Americanist, UPI, Reuters, Guardian UK, Bloomberg

Monday, October 13, 2008

Today’s Video: Samba do Stereolab

The audio is a little wonky and the video is slightly fuzzy but Stereolab’s unique cover version of “One Note Samba” is too cool to pass up.
(Video link):

Sources- YouTube,

SoFla congressional races heat up

Aside from the U.S. presidency, several legislative seats are up for grabs and will be decided on November 4th. An increasingly heated race has developed in Southern Florida where the Latino electorate will be a decisive factor.

Republican Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart has been in Congress since 1992 and has easily won reelection, sometimes uncontested. Yet he faces a strong challenge from another Cuban-born politico- former Hialeah mayor Raul Martinez.

The campaign between both Latinos has gotten ugly with allegations and insinuations flying between both campaigns. For instance, Diaz-Balart’s campaign recently aired a TV ad implying that Martinez was involved in the 1980s drug trade. Martinez, meanwhile, accused his GOP rival of being connected to a Puerto Rican bribery scandal.

Diaz-Balart is not the only legislator of Cuban background facing a tough campaign from Latino challengers. His brother, Mario, is running neck-and-neck with Joe Garcia while Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is facing tough competition from Colombian-American businesswoman Annette Taddeo.

Why is the trio of staunch anti-Castro Republicans in danger of losing their seats? As Time magazine mentioned in an August article:
Florida Democrats are drawing new strength from a growing number of non-Cuban Latinos…(Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s) 18th District is still 65% Latino, but it is less than 30% Cuban today. That has emboldened Democrats like her challenger…whose constituents worry less about Havana than about immigration, health care and U.S. indifference toward the rest of Latin America.

Still, a likely decisive issue in these races involves Cuba. In 2004, as a gift to conservatives, President Bush tightened restrictions on travel and remittances to the island…The move backfired: most Miami Cubans oppose the new rules, according to an FIU poll, and they have been particularly unpopular among younger Cuban Americans…What would have worked in 1985 to deepen GOP support had the opposite effect in today's more diverse Miami. Says Garcia, sipping a café cubano in Little Havana: "Bush succeeded in dividing what was once a monolithic vote for his party."
Image- Miami New Times (From the upper left corner clockwise: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Raul Martinez, Joe Garcia, Mario Diaz-Balart)
Sources- Time,, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Swing States Project,

LatAm schools languish on best university list

The Times Higher Education list of the world’s top universities was released last week with the top spots being dominated by schools in the U.S. and U.K. According to the British-based publication, Harvard was head of the class (pun intended) for the fifth straight year followed by Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, and Cal Tech.

Three Latin American institutes of learning made it to the list of the 200 best schools; the National Autonomous University of Mexico moved up from 192nd place last year to the 150th spot. The University of São Paulo slipped 21 places to 196th while the University of Buenos Aires made its first ever appearance on the list.

Without taking away the merit from the three aforementioned schools, it seems disconcerting that they didn’t place higher or that more Latin American schools were included. A recent World Bank publication noted that there has been improvement in the quality of Latin American universities yet they languish behind other regions:
Recent reforms of higher education in Latin America are broadly consistent with international trends. While Latin American countries appear to be on track to develop modern educational systems, they may not be moving at a fast enough pace, as high-income nations continue to advance rapidly. Latin America should not only create learning opportunities at the current rate of OECD countries but also aim at closing the gap.
Image- Vanguardia (Aerial image of the UNAM campus in Mexico City)
Times Higher Education, Guardian UK, Bloomberg, Google Books

Ecuador gains a Saint

Ecuadoran Catholics this week celebrated the beatification of Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, a 19th century Ecuadoran woman of humble origins (born in Nobol, she was herself orphaned at an early age) that was known for helping the sick and poor, and for her intense devotion to ritual.

From the pope's speech on October 12th:

"The young Ecuadorian laywoman, Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán, offers us a perfect example of a prompt and generous response to the invitation that the Lord makes to us to participate in his love. And from a very young age, upon receiving the sacrament of confirmation, she clearly felt in her heart the call to live a life of sanctity and surrender to God. To assist with docility the action of the Holy Spirit in her soul, she always sought the counsel and guidance of good and expert priests, considering spiritual direction as one of the most effective means to reach sanctity... In her passionate love for Jesus, that brought her to embark on a path of intense prayer and mortification, and to identify herself more and more with the mystery of the cross, she offers us an inviting testimony and a polished example of a life totally dedicated to God and neighbor."

Saint Narcisa is the third Ecuadoran to gain papal beatification, and the first woman. She was just 37 years old when she died in Lima, Peru.

Sources: AP,, Zenit

Happy “Vespucci Day”!

Columbus Day is being observed in the U.S. today and is generally seen through his “discovery” of the New World. Yet there has been a dark side to Columbus’ legacy since he was a harbinger of disease and death to millions of natives.

Columbus Day is commemorated as a day of Italian-American pride with celebrations being held nationwide. Those of Italian heritage deserve a day to honor their background but would “Vespucci Day” be more appropriate? As I wrote two years ago today:
The reality is that it is very difficult to extricate the positive myths surrounding Christopher Columbus from the American psyche...

Nonetheless, I propose renaming Columbus Day in favor of Italian explorers whose contributions were not as tainted as Christopher Columbus (who may not have been Italian by birthright). A case could be made for cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whose name gave birth to calling the western hemisphere “America.” Why not Antonio Pigafetta who was one of a handful of survivors from Ferdinand Magellan’s famed voyage around the world between 1519 and 1522 or Giovanni da Verrazano- the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America. Surely a strong case could be made for Giovanni Caboto (more commonly known as John Cabot) who was Genoa-born and lays claim to being the first European explorer to set foot on the North American mainland since the Vikings.

These gentlemen are not only sources of Italian pride but also beacons of discovery and exploration whose legacies carry far less of a stigma than Christopher Columbus.
What do you think?

Image- MSNBC
The Latin Americanist, CNN, Wikipedia,, Thinkquest, BBA Communications

Daily Headlines: October 13, 2008

* U.S.: For the second straight weekend “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” topped the box office. (I wish I were lying but unfortunately that's not the case).

* U.S.: Could Chicago’s “Latino character” be a deciding factor in the city’s 2016 Olympics bid?

* Mexico: Yet another case of the country’s crime wave as gunmen killed six at a family party in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

* Chile: The country’s presidential election may be over a year away but conservative Sebastian Piñera leads in the latest polls.

Image- Los Angeles Times
Latin Americanist, Angus Reid Consultants, New York Times,, CNN

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today’s Video: Were they chanting “Boo” or “Boo-urns”?

The following video is not Latin American-related per se, yet it involves a Latino athlete. (A possibly tenuous connection but please bear with me!)

The Philadelphia Flyers season home opener was Saturday night and before the game the ceremonial dropping of the puck was held. Visiting New York Rangers captain Scott Gomez (of Colombian and Mexican heritage) and Mike Richards lined up at center ice with special guest Sarah “hockey mom” Palin. As you can see below the Philly fans were less than thrilled but not before fellow Alaskan Gomez gave a special greeting to the V.P. candidate:

For the record, Gomez had an assist as the Rangers won 4-3 and continued their unbeaten start to the season.

(Hat tip: Deadspin. Post title reference: Urban Dictionary).

Sources-, Slap Shot,, YouTube, Deadspin, Urban Dictionary

Daily Headlines: October 12, 2008

* Argentina: Election Day may be approximately one month away yet U.S. expats in countries like Argentina have already cast their ballots for president.

* Mexico: The country’s crime wave continued with the killing of over two dozen people in a matter of hours last week including eleven gunned down in a bar.

* Ecuador: Oil and mining minister Galo Chiriboga quit from his post as the government renegotiate contracts with foreign oil firms.

* Panama: The Inter-American Development Bank approved a $400 million loan to fund the Panama Canal expansion project.

Image- MSNBC (“Alan Bonder of the U.S. signs his envelope after filling out his absentee ballot for the U.S. presidential election at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City” in 2004.)
Buenos Aires Herald, Guardian UK, IHT, Los Angeles Times, Monsters & Critics