Friday, April 13, 2007

Weekend Events!

Image of “He Practiced Every Day” by Luis Camntizer via El Museo del Barrio

Well, the weekend is finally here so why don’t you check out the following events that will be occurring between today and Sunday:


The Museo Alameda located in San Antonio, Texas opens tonight with a free concert by Linda Ronstadt and a fireworks exhibit. The museum’s aim is to “tell the story of the Latino experience in America through art, history, and culture” and is affiliated to the Smithsonian Institution, whose president is from Latin America. (Hat tip: VivirLatino).

However, if you’re in the Chicago area why not head off to the Congress Theatre to check out Julieta Venegas. The Mexican rockera (who’ve we discussed far too many times) is currently on a brief tour of the U.S. and will make future stops in Miami (April 14) and San Antonio (April 19).


The weather in New York City is going to be god awful from Sunday until the middle of next week, so Saturday would be a prime day to go out. New York University’s Latino Studies department will be hosting an all day conference entitled “The Lived Experience of Latino Immigration”. If that’s not your cup of tea then why not catch a movie during the opening weekend of the Havana Film Festival New York which features movies from around Latin America including Peru, Uruguay, and Puerto Rico.


In response to our post on International Women’s Day last month, someone at the International Museum of Women informed us of an online project they are doing now called “Motherhood”. As the name implies, the exhibit looks at the multiple facets of motherhood around the world and includes documentaries from Brazil and art from Mexico.

If you can make it before the storm hits, head off to El Museo del Barrio for its exhibition called “Los Desaparecidos.” It focuses on the thousands of people which vanished without a trace during repressive regimes in countries like Chile and Argentina. Some of the artists highlighted in the exhibit had strong connections to those who “disappeared” such as having close family members kidnapped by governments and tortured.

Links- VivirLatino, Museo Alameda, The Latin Americanist, Julieta Venegas, Congress Theatre, Gothamist, New York University, Havana Film Festival New York, International Museum of Women, El Museo del Barrio

World Bank and Juan Valdez join together

Juan Valdez: an icon of Colombian coffee known around the world and whose name even appears in cafes that sell coffee and items emblazoned with his image. Now comes word from the Colombian press that the World Bank will invest $20 million in Juan Valdez Cafes as part of an international expansion of the brand. The World Bank “places a guarantee…that confirms the seriousness of Colombian coffee growers” said the president of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation earlier today.

Mmmm, tastes like globalization!

Image- Latino Hoosier (Juan Valdez and his mule Conchita hobnobbing with Presidents George W. Bush and Alvaro Uribe)

Links- Wikipedia, Juan Valdez Cafe, El Tiempo

Brazil: Scientists find breakthrough in diabetes research

Researchers in Brazil may be on the road to a possible cure for a form of diabetes by using a procedure that does not involve medication. The sticking point is that the procedure relies on stem cell therapy which is a hot button issue in several countries like the U.S. Nevertheless, the Brazilian researchers who wrote about their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association are confident that their work has shown promise.

A cure for Type-1 diabetes would be very useful, especially for Latin Americans who are increasingly suffering from diseases relating to obesity.

Links- Cosmos, Boston Herald, Scientific American, The Latin Americanist

Image- howstuffworks (Man injecting himself with insulin in order to treat diabetes)

Mexico’s Slim close to top spot of world’s wealthiest

Look out Bill Gates; Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim (image) has become the world’s second-richest person according to Forbes. The magazine estimates that Slim’s fortune has grown by $4 billion to $53.1 billion due to a rise in stocks in the numerous companies he owns.

Slim’s business holdings are very extensive according to Reuters:

“Slim's companies have such an octopus-like reach in Mexico that it is difficult to spend a day in the country without putting more pesos in his pockets.

His empire also includes telephone giant Telmex, department stores, a banking group, restaurants and other firms that make cigarettes, kitchen and floor tiles.”

Image- CNBC

Links- Guardian UK,, The Age

Al Gore’s Chilean tour drops mining sponsorship

Former U.S. vice president and current environmental activist Al Gore (image) dropped Canadian mining company Barrick Gold from sponsoring a series of lectures in Chile next month. Barrick Gold has been under pressure by environmentalists and politicians due to the Pascua Lama project, where a massive gold mine will be built in Chile’s Huasco Valley.

Links- The Latin Americanist, Mercopress, Miningwatch Canada

Image- ecorazzi

Daily Headlines: April 13, 2007

* So this is how socialism in Venezuela really works? (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan).

* Bolivia’s counter-narcotics efforts have taken a new turn by sending U.S.-backed eradication teams to wipe out illegal coca fields.

* Police in northeastern Brazil arrested fifteen people suspected of involvement in a vigilante “death squad.”

* Peruvian men’s soccer coach Julio Cesar Uribe really ought to teach by example.

Links- Xinhua, Scotsman, Forbes, Andrew Sullivan, The American Scholar

Image- (Photo of the Caracas Country Club)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP: Kurt Vonnegut

Famed U.S. author Kurt Vonnegut (image) passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Vonnegut's style of writing mixed science fiction with satire and dark comedy in novels like Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-Five. Nonetheless, one of his best science fiction novels was 1963’s Cat’s Cradle which was set in the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo and whose ruling dictator may have been based on Haiti's "Papa Doc" Duvalier and Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo.

Here’s a link to the New York Times’ original review of Cat’s Cradle which deemed the book as a “work of a far more engaging and meaningful order than the melodramatic tripe which most critics seem to consider ‘serious.’”

Links- BBC News, Wikipedia, Vonnegut Web

Image- Notable Biographies

Bolivia: the bleaching of beauty

The Christian Science Monitor published an article yesterday on the emphasis on physical beauty in Bolivia. To wit, the stress is on winning beauty pageants and enrolling in modeling schools. However, part of the article touches on the concept of what is “beautiful” has to do with discarding their indigenous background and culture in order to copy the look of being light-skinned:

“For all the smiles, the pageants do underscore the sadder reality of racial divisions in a country that is split geographically between the more affluent east and the west, inhabited mostly by indigenous groups. In 2004, Miss Bolivia drew controversy for saying that Bolivia was only known as an indigenous country: ‘I'm from the other side of the country,’ she said publicly. ‘We are tall, and we are white people, and we know English.’”

The emphasis one race being inherently better or prettier to another is eerily reminiscent of ex-Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s policy of “blanquismo” in the mid-20th century. Such a notion seems unusual in Bolivia, a country where a vast majority of the population has some indigenous background and an indigenous leader in Evo Morales.

Roque Alvarenga, a makeup artist who coordinates pageants, tries to justify the concept of white equals beautiful:

“Pageants can help export Bolivia tourism to the world, which thinks we are only one type of person, that we are only indigenous.”

Ultimately those that lose the most are not foreigners who supposedly see Bolivia as a country of one race but rather young Bolivians that are made to learn that beauty is only skin deep, especially if one’s skin is of a darker hue.

Links- Christian Science Monitor, Wikipedia, CIA, BBC News

Image- Discover Vancouver (Photo of Miss Bolivia 2006)

IMF: L. American economy will slow down

A report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the economy in Latin Americana and the Caribbean will experience slower growth in 2007 and 2008. The IMF report (which can be accessed here) prognosticates a global slowdown which would lower demand for goods from Latin America.

Latin America’s economy has experienced moderate growth though improvements are needed, as blog contributor Alison Bowen pointed out last week.

Image- PBS

Links- Bloomberg, International Monetary Fund, MarketWatch, The Latin Americanist

Hundreds killed during Holy Week

-Contributed by Alison Bowen

Raucous Easter celebrations in Latin America claimed 700 lives during the 10-day Holy Week, according to South Africa’s Independent Online. The numbers reflect a tradition of drinking, driving and fighting in Latin America during the Roman Catholic holiday week.

In Venezuela, 118 people were murdered, despite President Hugo unpopular ban on late-night alcohol sales, meant to curb drunk driving deaths.

El Salvador reported 151 people killed: 73 killed by gunshot; 33 killed in traffic accidents; 25 drowned; and 21 murdered with knives. Civil defense officials also reported 769 people were injured, according to the article.

Included in the region’s casualties were 148 dead in Guatemala, an increase from previous years’ festivities, and 106 dead in Honduras. Fifty-three people died in Columbia in 37 traffic accidents, a stark increase from the 22 people who died last year.

Traffic deaths in Venezuela, however, were cut by 20 percent compared to last year, according to the article.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI, who will make his first visit to Latin America in May included the region in his April 16 Easter address. He prayed for the region’s spirit to be renewed, living conditions to improve and "the scourge of kidnappings eradicated, and democratic institutions be consolidated ... in a spirit of harmony and solidarity."

Links- Independent Online, International Herald Tribune, CNN

Image- WitNit

Daily Headlines: April 12, 2007

* Mexican police arrested two men suspected in the murder of a Televisa reporter in Acapulco.

* The Dominican Republic will place armed guards along its border with Haiti.

* Over a month after FIFA head Sepp Blatter criticized the Colombian government’s wish to host the 2014 World Cup, the country’s national soccer body officially withdrew its bid.

* The governor of the province where Rio de Janeiro is located has requested that federal troops be deployed to control spiraling violence in that city.

* Counter-narcotics officials from Mexico and Colombia will work more closely together according to an interview with a top Colombian law enforcement official.

Links- Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist, ESPN Soccernet, Reuters, International Herald Tribune, BBC News

Image- BBC News (Mexican journalists ask for “Justice” in the murder of one of their colleagues)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

Image of Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo via MIT

Links- Blogger, VivirLatino, Mark in Mexico, National Journal – On Call, Latina Lista, Hispanic Tips, The Latin Americanist, Plan Colombia and Beyond, The Offside, Latinista,, Global Voices Online, Metafilter, travelistic, American Federalist Journal – The Unalienable Right

Maradona released from hospital

Soccer legend Diego Maradona was released from a Buenos Aires hospital where he was being treated from acute hepatitis linked to alcohol abuse. “El Diez” left the Guemes Sanatorium today shortly before dawn after two weeks of treatment where doctors recommended he continue follow-up treatment.

Though Maradona is one of the best soccer players of all time (example- FIFA’s Goal of the Century), his personal troubles with drugs and obesity has captured headlines over the past few years.

Links- BBC News, International Herald Tribune, YouTube, Wikipedia

Image- Javno

Fidel peeved over Posada Carriles decision, says Granma

Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro condemned the temporary release of accused bombing suspect Luis Posada Carriles by a U.S. judge. “The government of the U.S. and its institutions decided ahead of time to free this monster” said Fidel in an article published today in Granma where he also denounced the imprisonment of five Cubans convicted of spying against the U.S.

Fidel’s article is his third in three weeks; the previous two focused on biofuels.

By the way, don’t forget about our debate this week which focuses on the relations between Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez.

Links- CNN, The Latin Americanist, Granma, Monsters & Critics

Image- Wonkette (August 2006 photo of Fidel Castro)

Ecuador’s Correa: vote for assembly or I quit

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa upped the ante by saying that he would “very seriously” consider resigning if voters do not approve a government-backed constitutional referendum. Odds are Correa will keep his post since the latest polls show overwhelming support for installing a constitutional assembly.

Correa’s comments come in the midst of a heated political debate over the future of Ecuador; Correa wants a constitutional assembly that would curb the power of traditional political parties while the opposition has accused him of trying to install a Chavez-like “dictatorship”.

Links- CNN, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Image- CNN

Colombia: stolen funds may have led to health crisis

Colombia’s government has launched a major investigation against several officials in the province of Chocó (image) where a health crisis has left dozens of children dying of malnutrition. “We must bring charges not only of theft of public funds and abuse of authority but of murder,” said Attorney General Mario Iguaran about the investigation where the accused allegedly stole health funds destined for hospitals and local communities.

Links- The Latin Americanist,


Daily headlines: April 11, 2007

* Is U.S. President George W. Bush’s immigration plan realistic or impractical? The Christian Science Monitor examines it.

* U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized “a positive agenda for Latin America” during remarks given on Tuesday.

* Foul play is suspected in the murder of a migrant worker’s rights activist found beaten to death in Monterrey, Mexico.

* One of Los Angelestop Latino radio DJs was acquitted of charges that accused him of criminally threatening his own son.

* As if Chile didn’t have enough mounting problems we can add another to the list- sub-standard stadiums for soccer World Cup qualifiers.

Links- The News & Observer, Christian Science Monitor, Reuters UK, Newsday, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Image- Reuters (Dozens of Border Patrol officers serve as background for President Bush speech near the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Prostitute lists her requests as part of an MTVLA aid

MTV Latin America has started a salacious campaign in order to promote the channel’s programming. The ads for “The 10 Most Requested” spoofs people in different occupations (e.g. surgeon, chef) listing customers’ most common requests.

Yet it is the ad with a prostitute that is most tongue-in-cheek (pun intended) since her list of requests include anal sex (“in the back door”) and voyeurism (“in a public place”).

The ad itself is very funny, but it’s the justification for it that disturbs me a bit:

“As Jose Molla, agency co-founder, notes, ‘In Latin America it's a bit more flexible when it comes to that sort of thing. You can get away with more stuff.’”

Does this not seem like its pandering to negative stereotypes of the Hispanic community, especially since the prostitute speaks in English with a heavy Spanish accent? Or perhaps this is a secondary concern compared to the overall humor of the ad.

Update: Unfortunately, MTV's parent company removed the ads from YouTube; they may be available via MTV Latin America's website.

Links- AdWeek, YouTube

Brazil ready for global trade talks

Trade representatives for Brazil will be traveling to Delhi, India on Thursday in order to meet with emissaries from the U.S., European Union, and India. They will attempt to renew stalled global trade negotiations that have been stuck since the 2001 Doha round.

During a meeting with the U.S. president last Monday, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva emphasized the need to break the impasse between wealthy and developing countries:

“I believe that in this case there's no Plan B. Either we have the A Plan, or there's no agreement.”

Link- Washington Post, The Latin Americanist, World Trade Organization, Times of Oman

Image- Christian Science Monitor (Brazilian farmers demonstrating WTO discussions last July)

Venezuela backs natural gas cartel

Venezuela’s government said that it would back efforts by the Gas Exporting Countries Forum to establish a cartel on natural gas. “Yes, I do believe it would be a very good idea” affirmed Venezuelan Minister of Energy Rafael Ramírez at the notion of creating an OPEC-like group for gas.

Not every major gas producing country agrees with making a gas cartel; the U.S. and Europe have major doubts about forming an alliance and Bolivia has yet to fully commit to the idea.

Update: Here's an interesting addendum to the issue- Anti-Chavez Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a press release against the creation of a gas cartel. (Links via and

Links- Reuters, El Universal, USA TODAY, Indian Muslims

Image- BBC News

Haitian migrants given more time for asylum hearings

U.S. immigration officials granted additional time for 101 Haitian migrants that arrived in south Florida in late March. Advocates for the migrants were pleased with the decision, which would give them an extension to prepare for asylum hearings.

In the meantime, 78 Haitians who tried to reach the Floridian coast on Sunday (image) will be deported as part of the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy.

Links- Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Latin Americanist


Border “light pollution” worries scientists

Sometimes the actors in the immigration debate are not always the usual suspects. Take the case of astronomers working in observatories close to the U.S.-Mexico border who worry that changes along the border would impede their work. Dan Brocious- spokesman for Arizona’s Whipple Observatory- said that possible plans for “stadium lights” and other technological equipment along the border would be harmful for several astronomical facilities located in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Links- Green Valley News, The Latin Americanist, Washington Post

Image- (Whipple Observatory in Arizona)

Daily headlines: April 10, 2007

* Congrats to Mexican actress and producer Salma Hayek (image) for her deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to form a film company focusing on Latino movies. (Hat tip: Hispanic Tips).

* This would have helped as evidence in last week’s “Weekly Debate”China’s increasingly relying on Brazil to fill its demand for soybeans.

* Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa is confident that voters will pass a constitutional assembly on Sunday.

* Colombia’s largest rebel group was accused of masterminding a car bombing outside the police headquarters in Cali yesterday.

Links- Hispanic Tips, Reuters,, Washington Post, Reuters AlertNet


Monday, April 9, 2007

Argentina: Teachers strike and demand justice for murdered colleague

Most schools and universities were closed in Argentina as teachers from all over Argentina went on strike today. The strike was done to protest the death of one of their colleagues who was killed during a demonstration last week supposedly after being hit by a tear gas canister fired by police at close range. Some have even called on the governor of Neuquén to be held accountable for the police force's actions by resigning.

The teachers strike was coupled with another general strike that has halted nearly all public services in Argentina.

Image- Diario Hoy (Thousands of Argentine teachers and sympathizers protest in Buenos Aires)

Links- Clarin, CNN, BBC News, Monsters & Critics

El Salvador’s Saca backs Brazil biofuel push

Salvadoran president Tony Saca publicly supported Brazil’s emphasis on biofuel production. Perhaps Saca’s defense was an altruistic opinion or a jab against Fidel Castro, but it most probably had to do with the decision by the U.S. and Brazil to choose El Salvador as the site for a “biofuels feasibility study.”

Brazil’s desire to expand biofuel production is not limited just to partnerships with the U.S.; Brazil signed an ethanol alliance with Ecuador last week.

Links- People’s Daily Online, The Latin Americanist, Forbes, BBC News

Image- (Brazilian sugarcane)

Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Political extremes hurt immigration debate

Rather than focus on the lovely little quarrel between Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera last week we’re going to look at a more realistic and relevant perspective on immigration.

Nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. warned how fringe elements on the political left and right have united to dilute the debate on immigration in the U.S. With President George W. Bush and Congress trying to refocus on the need for immigration reform, Navarrette Jr. admits that the president’s plan is a step in the correct direction even though it will not satisfy the desires of everyone on the political spectrum. Said Navarrette Jr.:

“Conservatives hate the fact that millions of illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay; liberals hate that, from now on, family reunification would no longer be the deciding factor as to who immigrates legally to the country. So, both sides immediately began slinging arrows at the White House.

But these ideas are worth debating. And we can't allow the folks at the extremes to short-circuit those discussions for the sake of their own interest.”

Navarrette Jr. concludes with a call for the public to analyze the situation rationally and to act constructively rather than point fingers at one another:

“When it comes to fixing our broken immigration system, there is no perfect plan. But, as they say, we can't make the perfect the enemy of the good. And as ideas go, there is a lot of good out there. So let's stop looking for flaws and start looking for solutions -- before the problem gets worse.”

On a related note, thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday (image) calling for immigration reform as soon as possible.

Links- CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, VivirLatino

Image- CBS News

U.S. and Cuban govt’s appeal release of accused bomber

Both the governments of Cuba and the U.S. are peeved at a Texas court decision last week releasing Luis Posada Carriles on bail. Cuban media accused the U.S. of employing double standards in the "war on terror" by temporarily freeing Posada Carriles- a Cuban exile and ex-CIA agent wanted by Venezuela and Cuba for the deadly 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455. Meanwhile, U.S. federal prosecutors want Posada Carriles to remain in detention for falsifying immigration documents while his fate ultimately becomes decided.

On an interesting side note, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Cuban exiles have mixed feelings on Posada Carriles. This would seem to confirm the results of the 2007 FIU Cuba Poll which we examined last week.

Links- Guardian UK, Voice of America, Wikipedia, BBC News, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News

Weekly debate: Evo = Chavez?

Last Friday, Associated Press journalist Dan Keane examined the similarities and differences between Bolivian president Evo Morales and Venezuelan chief Hugo Chavez. Keane notes that the policies of Evo and Chavez are very similar and both profess to admire ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro. However, Keane points out that it’s “a mistake” to suggest that Chavez is a catalyst for change in Bolivia:

"'The idea is homegrown,' said Jim Shultz, director of the Democracy Center, a Cochabamba-based nonprofit monitoring Bolivian politics. 'Whether or not it's being pushed farther or in more directions because Morales is following the model of Venezuela is known only to the backroom conversations between Evo and Hugo.'"

Let’s take a look at some similarities and differences between Evo and Chavez:


  • Pushed for assemblies to rewrite their country’s respective constitutions.
  • Eager to redistribute unused and “wasted” land to the poor.
  • Desire to nationalize the phone company.
  • Critics in both countries claim that their policies will lead to a socialist failure.


  • Bolivia’s push for a constitutional assembly preceded Venezuela’s by several years.
  • Venezuelan nationalization projects were met by greater support than in Bolivia.
  • Bolivia lacks the surplus in petrodollars that Venezuela takes advantage of.
  • Evo is not as interested in a Pan-American alliance against the U.S. like Chavez emphasizes.

Are Evo and Chavez each copies of on another or are they too different based on the environments in each country? Are Evo and Chavez more similar to other Latin American leaders than each other? Will future regional leaders try to emulate or distance themselves from Evo and Chavez?

What do you think?

Links- Guardian UK

Image- truthdig

Daily headlines: April 09, 2007

* Did you celebrate Easter yesterday? If so, how?

* Vacationing or campaigning – Bill and Hillary Clinton traveled to the Dominican Republic for a private lunch with the country’s president.

* Kudos to Slovenia's Martin Strel who become the first person to swim the over 3000 miles of the Amazon River.

* Lax inspections along the U.S.-Mexico may be a grave security problem according to experts on freight travel.

* A bit of good news for Chile after a week of mounting problems – the peso reached a two-week high due to more than expected economic growth. (Update: On the other hand, problems with the transit system in Chile's capital may be really hurting the economy.)

Links-, Monsters & Critics, BBC News, ABC News, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

Image- The World in Photos (Easter procession in the town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)