Saturday, March 13, 2010

Today's Video: Raindrops keep falling on my cabeza

It's a wet, dreary, and overcast day outside of my apartment. Luckily it provides the perfect excuse to post "The Rain (Where Do I Begin?)" by the always awesome Si*Sé:

Carol C and company released their latest album- "Gold"- a few days ago. Please be sure to check it out!

Online Sources - Official Website for
Si*Sé, YouTube

Weekend Headlines: March 13-14, 2010

* Mexico: Five same-sex couples on Thursday became the first homosexual pairs to wed in Mexico City since a landmark gay marriage law took effect earlier this month.

* Venezuela: While a Spanish judge has insinuated that the Venezuelan government has links to ETA the head of the U.S. Southern Command publicly denied “a direct government-to-terrorist connection.”

* Peru: In the aftermath of last month’s deadly earthquake in Chile, Peru's government has created a tsunami early warning system.

* Paraguay: China’s latest move in strengthen their presence in Latin America is to seek closer relations with Paraguay.

Image – Los Angeles Times (“Same-sex couples are all smiles after getting married at the Municipal Palace in downtown Mexico City. The federal government has filed a challenge to the law. The law is also opposed by the Roman Catholic Church.”)
Online Sources- AP, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, CNN, Mercopress

Friday, March 12, 2010

Texas board backs whitewashing Latino history

Back in January we discussed the debate over changing the content of history textbooks to be used in Texan public schools. Proposed revisions to the primers included adding conservative elements such as the National Rifle Association and the Moral Majority. Yet suggestions included a shocking covering up of Latinos by the Texas State Board of Education (TSBE) such as possibly eliminating Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and labor leader Cesar Chavez from schoolbooks.

The debate was renewed this week and numerous Latino activists voiced their displeasure at the proposed glossing over including downplaying some of the advances made by the civil rights movement. Nonetheless their voices fell on mostly deaf ears as the conservative majority on the TSBE helped approve the controversial social studies curriculum changes earlier today in an 11-4 vote.

The amendments even touched world history such as dropping “references to American “imperialism,’ preferring to call it expansionism.” Latin America was not spared from the TSBE’s ugly revisionism; the board deleted listing in textbooks Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero who was murdered in 1980 after speaking out against his country’s repressive government.

The whitewashing of Latinos and Latin America by the TSBE led to justifiable outrage by one of the panel’s members:
Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

“They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”
The TSBE’s decision not only affects Texas (with its notable Latino population) but other states likely to use the same textbooks as Texas. Thus the greatest losers of the “Texas Textbook War” (as one 24-hour “news” network exaggeratedly called it) are the hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren who will learn an inaccurate version of history.

Image- New York Times (“Preschool classes, taught in Spanish at the Long Island Children’s Museum, get the parents and their children ready for the first day of classes.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Times, FOX News, AlterNet, Dallas Morning News,

Health care reform and immigration

What does the health care reform initiative currently floating around in Congress have to do with the push towards immigration reform? The apparent answer is “plenty.”

President Barack Obama has met this week with advocates from groups like the National Immigration Forum and the National Council of la Raze in order to give the impression that immigration reform is of high priority. Obama had also previously talked to two key Senators with the intent of creating an immigration reform “blueprint”. Yet one of those legislators- Lindsay Graham- subsequently threatened to delay immigration reform if Obama keeps pushing towards passing health care changes via reconciliation. “Immigration reform could come to a halt for the year if healthcare reconciliation goes forward,” warned the Republican congressman.

On the other side of the aisle the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) has shown its disappointement over delayed immigration legislation by threatening to vote against health care reform. The main disagreement comes over the Senate version of reform that would ban illegal immigrants from purchasing insurance through federally run “exchanges.” The provision may appeal to some on the right yet the CHC believes that such a clause hurts far more than helps:
They claim that while it may be politically popular in some parts of the country to ban illegal immigrants from using their own money to buy coverage, it is not good policy. Illegal immigrants will, one way or another, need medical attention in the United States, and it would be cheaper and more humane to provide them coverage if they pay for it. Otherwise, they will seek treatments in the nation’s emergency rooms, effectively increasing medical costs.

“I don’t think the landscape has changed dramatically from where it was before,” (Rep. Xavier) Becerra said.
Let's hope that planned protests on the 21st in favor of immigration reform can knock some sense into the minds of our so-called “elected leaders”.

Image- Tucson Citizen
Online Sources- PBS, The Hill, The Latin Americanist, Vivirlatino, Wonkette

Chile's Piñera vows to be a "reconstruction president"

Sebastián Piñera promised that he would be Chile’s "reconstruction president" in the aftermath of last month’s ferocious earthquake.

The conservative billionaire was inaugurated as president yesterday and urged his countrymen to “dry our tears and put our hands to work.” As part of the rebuilding efforts Piñera introduced a $30 billion emergency bill that includes subsidies and a $76 handout to the over four million earthquake survivors.

Coincidentally, yesterday’s inauguration ceremonies in the coastal city of Valparaiso were rocked by a 6.9 magnitude aftershock that rattled the nerves of a few dignitaries. That tremor was one of the strongest aftershocks since the 8.8 magnitude quake last month officially killed around 500 people.

Piñera takes office on the heels of Michelle Bachelet who left the presidency with high popularity but also increased criticism over the government’s earthquake response. As Chile’s first right-wing ruler since the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, Piñera will face very close scrutiny:
Right-wing political leaders and the corporate right — of which Mr. Piñera was a part — were protégés of the Pinochet government and benefited generously from its economic model and the privatization of state industries.

While campaigning in November, Mr. Piñera met with about 500 retired military and police officers, at their request. He said he would make sure human rights trials were accelerated and laws would be “correctly applied” — a clear reference to the amnesty law and the statute of limitations on investigations, both of which judges have failed to apply over the past decade.

Some analysts said Mr. Piñera’s honeymoon could be short-lived if he appeared to favor private business interests in the reconstruction effort, estimated to cost at least $12 billion. His choices for governors in Santiago and Maule, in the quake zone, were chief executives of engineering and construction companies.
Image- Al Jazeera English (“Pinera, in red, said he saw people 'in anguish' as he surveyed quake-hit Constitucion.”)
Online Sources- Voice of America, Calgary Herald, New York Times, AP, Xinhua

Daily Headlines: March 12, 2010

* Ecuador: Ecuadorian officials vowed that their environmental damages case against Chevron will continue despite a U.S. judge ruling yesterday that the oil firm may seek international arbitration.

* U.S.: Whether President Barack Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize is still up for debate but at least part of cash award will go to several worthy charities including the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

* Argentina: The government has pointed the finger at Royal Dutch Shell and Brazil's Petrobras for allegedly causing a gasoline shortage.

* Panama: While construction continues on an expanded Panama Canal officials expect a “modest rise” in revenue this year.

Image – New York Times (“An open oil pit near La Joya de los Sachas, Ecuador.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, UPI, Wall Street Journal

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Arte para la gente: Alfonsina Storni

In honor of International Women’s Day this past Monday we continue out look at women in the Americas with one of the region’s greatest poets.

Born in Switzerland and raised in Argentina, Alfonsina Storni was inspired by her own personal experiences to write poems on gender inequality, love, and death. Works like “Hombre pequeñito” (“Little Man”) and “Tú me quieres blanca” (“You Want Me Pure”) blasted male hypocrisy and the oppression of women, respectively. Storni has reached near mythical status in the over seven decades since her suicide and her work have influenced writers throughout the Americas.

“Voy a dormir” ("I'm going to sleep") was Storni’s last poem before she killed herself in 1937. It is, undoubtedly, one of her finest works:

Online Sources- YouTube, (translated), Wikipedia

Texting connects teens to census

Celebrities and advocates think texting will be the key to connecting Latino youth to the 2010 census.

Rosario Dawson and Wilmer Valderrama spoke during a "Be Counted, Represent" news conference in California Wednesday, encouraging students to download a phone ap or text family and friends to tell them about the census.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alongside Voto Latino and the California Community Foundation sponsored the conference.

“Your voice literally does matter,” Dawson told the students. “You have the right to live with dignity in your communities. This is the opportunity to fight for that.”

They plan to visit more schools in neighborhoods that have proved hard to count in the census, giving out music downloads and spreading the word.

Source: Los Angeles Times, AP


Mexico Meets Hollywood

President Felipe Calderon announced yesterday that Mexico is angling to become the Hollywood of Latin America.

Calderon said Mexico wants to share in profits from movie and TV productions while becoming "Latin America's movie capital."

He promised to compete with other countries like Canada and Australia. His announcement was at a Rosarito, Baja, film studio, which has been the location for shoots in "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbor."

However, Mexico will need to first step it up with their incentive programs. The country reimburses produces for 7.5 percent of their expenses on productions costing at least $5.5 million, which doesn't yet compare with the U.S. and Canada.

Source: Los Angeles Times, AP


Daily Headlines: March 11, 2010

* Mexico: According to Forbes Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim is the world’s wealthiest person with a personal fortune of $53.5 billion.

* Chile: The Chilean government may’ve faced harsh criticism due to their response to last month’s earthquake yet that has not diminished the high popularity of outgoing President Michelle Bachelet.

* Ecuador: To arbitrate or not to arbitrate? That is the question being examined in Ecuador’s environmental damage case against Chevron.

* Cuba: In a move that could help Cuban dissidents the U.S. Treasury Department lifted technological restrictions on email, instant messaging and social networking.

Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Reuters, The Citizen Daily, BusinessWeek, Guardian UK

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mourning Cuban dissidents on hunger strike

Several Cuban dissidents vowed to continue with their hunger strikes in solidarity with a recently deceased comrade.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in late February after undergoing his own hunger strike against the Cuban government. The death of Zapata- who had been jailed since 2003 “on charges including disrespecting authority”- caused strong condemnation of the Castro regime from the Spanish and U.S. governments.

In response to his death, four more imprisoned dissidents as well as non-jailed activist Guillermo Fariñas started their own hunger strikes. Fariñas’ health has worsened sharply since his actions began nearly three weeks ago and he has reportedly lost 28 pounds. Nevertheless he recently told Mexico’s Milenio that he would continue his protest for the release of 26 infirm political prisoners “until the very end.”

Tamayo’s death and Fariñas’ hunger strike are likely to put a serious crimp in U.S.-Cuba relations that had been slowly improving. The Cuban government’s reaction to Fariñas’ debilitating state will surely worsen matters:
The Cuban government is willing to let Guillermo Farinas, a dissident who has been on hunger strike for two weeks, die, the official newspaper Granma suggests.

In an article published Monday, Granma said forced tube feeding would be "unethical" and the government cannot give in to "blackmail," The Miami Herald reported…

"There are bio-ethical principles that require a physician to respect a person's decision to start a hunger strike," Granma said. "Therefore, there's no way he can be forced to take food, as U.S. authorities do regularly at the prisons and torture centers in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram."
Image- USA TODAY (“Physician Ismely Iglesias checks Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas' blood pressure last week. Farinas has since been taken to the hospital by relatives.”)
Online Sources- Washington Post, BBC News, AFP, Milenio, Reuters, UPI

Haiti’s aftermath: Prosthetics wanted

As a person with a disability I’ve often argued with friends and strangers alike that what disabled people often prefer are not handouts but rather empowerment. It’s a daunting task to convince others that pity has its limitations and can at times even be harmful. Give us the tools to overcome daily obstacles and permit us to become important members of society.

These thoughts come to mind after reading that several prosthetics companies have been donating their products to Haitians recently amputated from January’s deadly earthquake. Foreign firms are trying to assist as many as an estimated 7000 new Haitian amputees. "If you're farmer and only have one arm, you're in really bad shape. That's why a prosthesis is so important," said one board member of Haiti’s Hospital Albert Schweitzer to the press.

The demand to help Haiti’s newly disabled has also led to “scores” of physical and occupational therapists from countries like Canada to volunteer their efforts in Haiti. As the executive director of Christian Blind Mission Canada told the Canadian Press, disabled Haitians want to erase the stigma often labeled against the disabled:
"It's easy to stereotype them as cursed or - and there was that - less than human," (Ed) Epp says of pervasive attitude in Haiti towards the disabled.

"And they're still being hidden. We walked through one of the (homeless) camps and we're ... trying to find people with disabilities. And we had a hard time finding them, even though we knew they were there."
The late disability rights activist Henry Viscardi once wrote, “I seek opportunity, not security.” This is what disabled people in Haiti (and for that matter, the Americas) ask for on a daily basis, the chance to shatter stereotypes and demonstrate their personal worth.

Image- The News (“Andy Lambert of Hanger Orthopedic Group in Richland shows used artificial limbs Tuesday Feb. 9, 2010 that local residents have donated for earthquake victims in Haiti.”)
Online Sources- Norwich Bulletin,, Canadian Press, New York Times

Nuestro Cine: What is it like to be a single Latina activist mother?

In honor of International Women's Day this past Monday we will be highlighting women in the Americas. Yesterday we briefly looked at Colombian singer Lucia Pulido who performed in concert last night. Today we recognize the experiences of single Latina mothers who juggled home life with sociopolitical activism. According to the description of "A Crushing Love" on YouTube:
A Crushing Love, Sylvia Morales sequel to her groundbreaking history of Chicana women, Chicana (1979), honors the achievements of five activist Latinas—labor organizer/farm worker leader Dolores Huerta, author/educator Elizabeth Betita Martinez, writer/playwright/educator Cherrie Moraga, civil rights advocate Alicia Escalante, and historian/writer Martha Cotera—and considers how these single mothers managed to be parents and effect broad-based social change at the same time.
The following is a revealing clip from that documentary that encapsulates some of the ups and downs of being a single Latina activist mami:

(The above clip comes c
ourtesy of Women Make Movies,

Online Sources- YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: March 10, 2010

* Brazil: Rumors of a “trade war” between Brazil and the U.S. have emerged after Brazil raised tariffs in response to high U.S. taxes on cotton exports.

* Puerto Rico: Unemployment on the island reached a staggering 15.8% in January and is expected to grow with the layoffs of thousands of public employees.

* Mexico: Is Mexico’s weakened economy slowly bouncing back?

* Argentina: One of the Iranians charged in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center denied that he was involved in the attack.

Image – BBC News (In 2008, the WTO ruled as discriminatory U.S. tariffs on Brazilian cotton exports).
Online Sources- AFP, AP, LAHT, Bloomberg

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sean Penn on Chavez Critics

Gotta give it up to Breitbart for writing a snappy headline.


Also of note, Bill Maher's pronunciation of Chavez is atrocious. Video below:

The full quote that led to the headline:

"Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media, who should -- truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."

Online Sources:
Video Source: Daily Motion via Real Time with Bill Maher

De Musica Ligera: Lucia Pulido concert tonight!

If you're in the New York city area and in the mood for some great music then head on down tonight to the Galapagos Art Space and see Lucia Pulido in concert. The Colombian singer incorporates sounds from her native land to produce both songs of romance as well as of love lost. She will likely sing the latter as tonight's concert theme is "Songs of Despecho."

Accompanying her tonight will be Gato Loco, a group that she has played with previously including in the video below. The visuals are far too dark, yet Pulido's lovely and melodic voice can clearly be heard:

Online Sources- Lucia Pulido's Website, Galapagos Art Space, YouTube

Daily Headlines: March 9, 2010

* U.S.: Jury selection in the hate crime murder of Marcelo Lucero has been anything but easy based on this New York Times piece.

* Mexico: Why was the late Ricardo Montalban left out of the "In Memoriam" tribute at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony?

* Latin America: According to a recent Inter-American Development Bank Latin America’s economy is expected to grow at least by three percent this year.

* Colombia: The political tug-of-war between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the FARC guerillas has delayed the release of pair of soldiers kidnapped in 1998.

Image- New York Daily News (“Toddler contributes to makeshift memorial at scene of brutal murder of Marcello Lucero.”)

Online Sources- Mercopress, MTV News, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, New York Times

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today's Video: Women's worth

Today is International Women's Day (IWD), a day in which we celebrate the accomplishments of women throughout the world as well as recognize that much still needs to be done to prevent gender inequality, discrimination, and prejudice. 2010 marks the centenary anniversary of the first IWD and the this year's theme is "equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all."

As part of its IWD campaign the World Food Program created a video designed to highlight the role of women to combat malnutrition. "Empowered, we are one" is one of the captions in the video below:

Online Sources- YouTube, Huffington Post, CNN

Zelaya Making Moves

Barely a month after his arrival in the Dominican Republic, former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has sprung back into action.

Zelaya has accepted an invitation from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to serve in the newly created position of head of the political council of Petrocaribe.

According to Americas Quarterl
y: "Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolás Maduro said that in his new post, Zelaya would ‘oversee strengthening of political independence and the defense of “popular democracy” in Latin American and the Caribbean’."

In addition to the Petrocaribe gig, Zelaya will also pen his take on the coup that deposed him from power, with the Miami Herald and AP reporting that he's writing a book that could be on the press in as soon as a few months. In the book Zelaya will assert that the coup originated with Honduran business leaders who felt threatened by his policies.

Image Source: Latin American Herald Tribune
Online Sources: Miami Herald, AP, Business Week, BBC, Americas Quarterly, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: March 8, 2010

* Colombia: Days after Colombia’s Constitutional Court rejected holding a presidential referendum the tribunal will examine the validity of a controversial military pact with the U.S.

* Latin America: According to a recent Inter-American Development Bank report remittances to Latin America may be “stabilizing” after plummeting by 15% last year.

* Mexico: Seven out of every ten Mexican women above the age of fifteen have been abused and roughly one in eight has been the victim of sexual harassment according to the country’s main human rights commission.

* Bolivia: President Evo Morales blasted U.S. counternarcotics efforts and called them a “tool for realizing its hegemonic goals or expressing the discredit of the governments, including Bolivia.”

Image – Javno
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, LAHT, Reuters, People’s Daily Online

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Argentine movie wins Best Foreign Film Oscar (Updated)

For only the second time ever a Latin American film won the Academy Award for top foreign movie.

Argentina's "El Secreto de sus Ojos" ("The Secret In Their Eyes") beat out entries from countries like France and Germany to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. "Viva Argentina!" declared director Juan José Campanella after accepting the statuette along with other members of the production. Campanella also briefly proclaimed his solidarity with the victims of the recent earthquake in Chile though his comments were abruptly cut off. (Update: According to Argentina's Campanella sent "a hug to my Chilean brothers".)

"El Secreto de sus Ojos" was one of the five finalists along with the gripping Peruvian drama "The Milk of Sorrow" (La Teta Asustada). In the end, the Argentine thriller joined another movie from that country- 1985's "La Historia Oficial" ("The Official Story")- to be recognized by the Academy as the Best Foreign Film.

The following is the trailer to "El Secreto de sus Ojos". See for yourself why this movie won top honors tonight:

Online Sources - TIME, YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Buenos Aires Herald

Today's Video: A few drops in the bucket

One week after a giant earthquake shook Chile a national telethon was held in order to raise funds for reconstruction. The 25 hour "Chile aids Chile" telethon was able to raise $59.2 million, a figure that was reportedly twice the goal of the event's organizers. Donations were made not only in Chile but around the world via the telethon's website.

The event featured musicians from Chile and the Americas; one of them was Argentine Diego Torres whose presentation included his signature song "Color Esperanza":

Online Sources- BusinessWeek, YouTube, Xinhua

Weekend Headlines: March 6-7, 2010

* Puerto Rico: Economic concerns, not the possible change in political status, reportedly took precedence during a recent hearing in front of the Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.

* Mexico: After the death of a Mexican Red Cross worker caught in gunfire some Red Cross clinics in northern areas have refused to treat the injured.

* U.S.: “Nearly 20 Latino members of Congress” have publicly called for the repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law that bans homosexuals from openly serving in the military.

* Guatemala: Two senior law enforcement officials including Guatemala’s head of national police were arrested over alleged drug trafficking.

Image – Washington Post
Online Sources- Reuters, New American Media, MSNBC, BBC News