Friday, April 25, 2014

Today’s Video – Sister Dorothy

In honor of Earth Day this week we looked at a few videos on environmentalism in Latin America.  We conclude our brief look into that area with the following trailer to a 2008 documentary on the late nun and environmental activist Sister Dorothy Stang:

Stang was shot and killed in February 2005 after she received death threats from loggers and landowners. Following several appeals, a pair of local ranchers - Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura and Regivaldo Galvao - were each convicted to thirty years in prison for masterminding the murder of the 73-year-old.   Rayfran das Neves Sales, the man who confessed to assassinating Stang, was released from jail in 2013 after serving less than nine of his 27-year sentence.

Daily Headlines: April 25, 2014

* U.S.: Streaming media service Netflix ordered its first Spanish-language series, which will be a comedy on professional soccer and starring Mexican actor Louis Gerardo Méndez.

* Brazil: Riot police clashed again with dozens of residents of a Rio de Janeiro favela who were still angry at the authorities for possibly causing the death of a local professional dancer.
* Latin America: Several Latin American figures were named to TIME magazine’s list of the “100 most influential people in the world” including Argentine-born Pope Francis, Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and the presidents of Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.
* Cuba: Conrado Marrero, the oldest former Major League Baseball player, died in Havana this week just two days prior to his 103rd birthday.
Video Source– YouTube user Film Festivals and Indie Films (Actor Louis Gerardo Méndez and director Gaz Alazraki worked on the Mexican film Nosotros los Nobles and they will reunite for Netflix’s first Spanish-language series).

Online Sources – The A.V. Club, BBC News; LAHT; The Latin Americanist; Reuters

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Today’s Video – Dangerous Air

In honor of Earth Day that was commemorated on Tuesday we featured a video showing the actions taken in Costa Rica to protect the environment.

On Wednesday local authorities in the Santiago, Chile imposed a “preventative environmental warning” due to the poor air quality in the capital city.  As a result of this measure, certain cars without catalytic converters were barred from being driven between 7:30 AM and 9:00 PM.  Furthermore, Santiago residents were strongly urged not to engage in strenuous physical activity outdoors and especially at schools.

The following video originally aired on Chile’s TVN and examined the environmental pollution affecting Santiago and other parts of the country.  According to researchers interviewed for the video, Tocopilla in northern Chile is one of the cities with the worst air pollution due to the area’s mining industry and factories powered by fossil fuels.  As a result, 260 of Tocopilla’s 24,800 residents became sick with cancer between 2002 and 2012. Approximately 70% of those affected with cancer would go and die from the disease:

Video Source– YouTube user Gerardo Rojas

Online Sources – Terra Chile; The Latin Americanist

Brazil: Rio Residents Protest Against Police (Updated)

At least one person was killed in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro as protesters clashed with police on Tuesday night.

Streets in the tourist area of Copacabana where closed and fires where set alight in the impoverished Pavao-Pavaozinho favela as a result of the protests.

Hundreds of residents were angry against police who they blamed for the recent death of 26-year-old Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira.  Demonstrators argued that the professional dancer who appeared on TV Globo died at the hands of the police who allegedly mistook him for a wanted criminal. 

Rio de Janeiro's State Security Secretariat said in a Twitter post that he died as a result of a fall and that the death was still under investigation.  Yet a forensic expert reportedly said to investigators that the blood trail from da Silva Pereira’s body indicates that he ran across the roofs of several houses prior to his death. This lends credibility to the hypothesis that the deceased may have been chased by police officers as he was trying to escape a shootout between the authorities and local drug gangs.

Several cars and buses were burned on Easter Sunday in separate protests by residents in another part of Rio regarding the deaths of two teenagers on Friday while under police custody.

The incidents occurred as authorities step up security roughly six weeks prior to the start of the World Cup.  Their strategy to combat violence, particularly in the poorer areas of Rio, has been controversial:

Daily Headlines: April 23, 2014

* El Salvador: Salvadoran church leaders have called on the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 street gangs to agree to a second truce in order to combat an uptick in violence following the end of a previous peace pact.
* Colombia: A Colombian court ordered that Gustavo Petro should be restored as mayor of the capital city of Bogota over a month after he was ousted over alleged mismanagement.
* Puerto Rico: Unemployment in Puerto Rico continues to fall though at 14.7% it’s more than double the latest U.S. unemployment rate.

* Cuba: According to the Costa Rican press, U.S. diplomatic officials in the Central American country ran a now-defunct “Cuban Twitter” social network aimed at creating unrest against the island's government.
Video Source– Voice of America via YouTube

Online Sources – Reuters; GlobalPost; LAHT; Tico Times

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Today's Video - Ticos and the Environment

In honor of Earth Day, this week we're going to highlight videos regarding the environment.

The following brief video via the World Bank examine, as the narrator mentions, how Costa Rica has become "a shining example of how the green growth ideal is within all countries' reach."

Video Source - World Bank via YouTube 

Nuestro Cine – Gabo

“Nuestro Cine” is our occasional feature where we focus on the world of film in the Americas. 
In his career spanning some six decades, recently deceased Latin American journalist and novelist Gabriel García Márquez sold tens of millions of books and received near universal acclaim worldwide.  His great literary skill was acknowledged in the numerous tributes to Gabo including a ceremony on Monday at Mexico City’s Fine Arts Palace and a symbolic funeral in the late author’s birthplace of Aracataca, Colombia.

Not as well known, however, are the movies based on his texts that graced the silver screen.  (One could argue that his most famed adaptation to have been filmed where the scenes in the R.E.M. music video for “Losing My Religion” that where based on one of his short stories).
Directed by Francesco Rosi of Italy the 1987 movie adaptation of Chronicle of a Death Foretold was filmed in the Colombian state of Bolivar.  The movie contained numerous European-based actors who were relatively unknown across the Atlantic though British-born Rupert Everett would gain fame for his roles in My Best Friend’s Wedding and in two of the Shrek films.

As one can view below the page break, the first part of the movie shares some of the non-linear structure of the book that is the fictional reconstruction of the real murder of Santiago Nasar.  However the film does differ in that omits many of the dozens of characters included in the novel and also changes the narrator from an anonymous actor to the character of Cristo Bedoya, the closest friend of Nasar. 

Daily Headlines: April 22, 2014

* Mexico: Could Mexico’s new food labeling rules aimed at reversing an obesity epidemic backfire and lead to an increased consumption of items with sugar?

* Uruguay: Uruguayan President Jose Mujica may have given the green light to a U.S. deal that would allow the repatriation of five Guantanamo detainees but he rejected the possibility of a free trade pact with the U.S.
* Argentina: U.S. Supreme Court justices listened to arguments yesterday regarding a lawsuit from creditors seeking payment of Argentina's $82 billion default in 2001.
* Peru: A new poll found that two in three Peruvians oppose a proposal that would permit civil unions though most people back specific components of the bill.

Video Source– AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – NBC News; Businessweek; Xinhua; GlobalPost; Gayopolis

Monday, April 21, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 21, 2014

* Peru: In the latest case of the growing international problem that is counterfeit drugs, researchers found that 28% of contraceptive medicine in Peru is either counterfeit or ineffective.

* Venezuela: Argentine-born Pope Francis used his Easter homily to call for the “reconciliation and fraternal accord” in Venezuela, a country torn by political unrest though tempers have calmed somewhat after talks between the government and opposition
* Bolivia: President Evo Morales urged Bolivian peasants and impoverished residents to teach children how to be fluent in foreign languages so they can apply for scholarships to study abroad.
* Colombia: A new report found that at least thirty-four Colombian indigenous groups are going through a "humanitarian crisis" and this could lead to their extinction.
Video Source– YouTube user VOAvideo (“The World Health Organization estimates that 25 percent of medicines sold in poor countries are counterfeit. Monitoring by the World Bank and others suggests the overall global trade in fake and substandard drugs is now more than 30 billion dollars per year”.)

Online Sources – Vox; The Telegraph; The Guardian; LAHT; Fox News Latino

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why the Easter Bunny? (Revisted)

The text of this post was first published in 2009 and we are featuring it again on this Easter holiday.

On Sunday, Catholics [Ed.-  and Orthodox Christians] around the world will commemorate the holiday of Easter- the day Jesus resurrected from the dead. Yet there’s also the view of Easter as one filled with eggs and a certain ubiquitous bunny. (And yes, it’s possible to celebrate both as I recall my childhood Easters going to church then decorating eggs after returning home!)

There has always been one detail that has nagged me: how did the Easter Bunny come about? Thankfully, the always informative Mental Floss website explains the origins. Much like the Virgen de Guadalupe, the Easter Bunny was born due to a combination of spiritual beliefs:
Many pagan cultures held spring festivals to celebrate this renewal of life and promote fertility. One of these festivals was in honor of Eostre or Eastre, the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility near and dear to the hearts of the pagans in Northern Europe. Eostre was closely linked to the hare and the egg, both symbols of fertility.

As Christianity spread, it was common for missionaries to practice some good salesmanship by placing pagan ideas and rituals within the context of the Christian faith and turning pagan festivals into Christian holidays (e.g. Christmas). The Eostre festival occurred around the same time as the Christians’ celebration of Christ’s resurrection, so the two celebrations became one, and with the kind of blending that was going on among the cultures, it would seem only natural that the pagans would bring the hare and egg images with them into their new faith (the hare later became the more common rabbit).

The pagans hung on to the rabbit and eventually it became a part of Christian celebration. We don’t know exactly when, but it’s first mentioned in German writings from the 1600s. The Germans converted the pagan rabbit image into Oschter Haws, a rabbit that was believed to lay a nest of colored eggs as gifts for good children.
So now you know!

Video Source - YouTube user Carolina Arellano (Fanesca is a traditional Ecuadorian soup or stew prepared once each year on Easter that typically contains ingredients like bacalao or salted cod and a variety of grains). 

Online Sources - Mental Floss; Wikipedia; The Latin Americanist