Saturday, March 15, 2008

Watch "Paz Sin Fronteras" concert webcasts!

On Sunday, a one-of-a-kind concert entitled Paz Sin Fronteras ("Peace Without Borders") will be held on the Simón Bolívar bridge linking Colombia and Venezuela. Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra, Alejandro Sanz and Miguel Bosé are some of the musicians confirmed to play at the concert whose aim is to promote regional peace after a recent diplomatic crisis nearly led to armed conflict in South America.

rockero Juanes- the mind behind the performance- hopes Sunday's concert can make a positive difference:

Do you think this concert -- or music -- can really make a difference?

``It's not that a song by Alejandro or Carlos is going to change people. But music becomes an excuse to send a message, that we're all here together building peace, that we are here as citizens and this is what we want, and we have to be heard. I think the governments have to understand and listen. We don't want to get involved in conflicts between people. We've had enough internal conflicts.''

Don't think you'll be one of the expected 400,000 people attending the concert? Then try catching it via live webcasts:

  1. Terra Colombia ( will be showing the gig from 1.30pm to about 5.00pm local time (2.30pm - 6.00pm EDT). "The service to view the concert will be free and without subscription" according to
  2. Yahoo! Telemundo ( will also have the concert and their coverage will start at 2.00pm EDT. Aside from the webcast, a press release claimed that viewers can "also be able to see and communicate with each other instantaneously."
Do you have any tips on where the Paz Sin Fronteras concert can be seen elsewhere online or on TV? Please let us know in the comments!

Sources (English)- Hspanic PR Wire,
Sources (Spanish)-
RCN, El Tiempo, Terra Colombia, Yahoo! Telemundo
Image- New York Times

Friday, March 14, 2008

Before the Incas, There were Temples in Peru

Archaeologists in Peru have discovered ancient temple ruins that could predate the Inca empire. The 11 room, 2,700 sq ft stone and adobe temple had 11 rooms that held mummies and idols. The temple predates Incas in the region, but has Incan history, as changes were made to the structure following Incan incursion in the area.
"It's from both the Inca and pre-Inca cultures, it has a sequence," Washington Camacho, director of the Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park, told AP news agency.
"The Incas entered and changed the form of the temple, as it initially had a more rustic architecture."
Source : BBC

Is Access to Buying Computers a Sign of Change in Raul's Cuba?

In the United States, freedom is just another name for being able to buy more stuff. So, I'm a bit wary of the claims that Raul Castro's decision to allow the Cuban people to buy electronic equipment : computers, video and DVD players, 19-inch and 24-inch television sets, electric pressure cookers and rice cookers, electric bicycles, car alarms and microwaves, as a sign of a Cuba that is more free.

While access to these items certainly can make Cuban life easier (what would I do without my computer, microwave, and rice cooker?), does the average Cuban have the means to access these items?
"The country's priority will be to meet the basic needs of the population, both material and spiritual," Raul Castro said as he replaced his brother, a staunch critic of capitalist consumer society.
Readers should note that I am no Cuba hater but I wonder about a more open press, for example, not about the ability to make a tv dinner.

Source : MSNBC

Bloggers of the World Unite!

Sources- A Year in Uruguay, The Daily Dish, The Offside Rules, The Latin Americanist,, Foreign Policy Passport, Chile From Within, Two Weeks Notice, Guanabee, Tim’s El Salvador Blog, Plan Colombia and Beyond, holamun2,


Cuba, Mexico could normalize relations

Diplomatic relations between Cuba and Mexico could soon be normalized according to several officials. Though relations had frozen in 2002 under previous leaders in both countries, there seems to be a thaw after Mexico's top diplomat visited Havana this week:

"Relations between Mexico and Cuba are completely normal and a new chapter of cooperation has been opened," Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said after meeting with Mexico's Foreign Affairs Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

Perez Roque said he would travel to Mexico in September "bearing an invitation for President Calderon to make an official visit to our country," from President Castro.

Espinosa told reporters that her visit marked "the start of a new period in the relations ... between Cuba and Mexico," after six testy years under Mexican ex-president Vicente Fox.

Among the pressing issues between both countries are Cuba's $400 million debt to Mexico and “organized crime rings” which are supposedly behind the smuggling of Cuban migrants.

Sources- Reuters, AFP, Xinhua, Chicago Tribune

Image- Associated Press (“Mexico's Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa is seen during a meeting with Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, not seen, in Havana, Thursday March 13, 2008.”)

Report: Chavez blamed for anti-Semitism

A U.S. State Department report on anti-Semitism claimed that disdain against Jews was growing worldwide. The study found that prejudice against Israel and “government-promoted hatred towards Jews” was on the rise. Among the governments cited by the report (entitled "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism") was the one in Venezuela:

The report singled out a number of leaders, governments and state-sponsored institutions for fanning the flames of anti-Semitism, with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the top of the list.

It also took to task the Syrian government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as the government-backed Venezuelan, Saudi Arabian and Egyptian media.

"Chavez has publicly demonized Israel and utilized stereotypes about Jewish financial influence and control," it said.

The Chavez regime and the Iranian government have strengthened political and economic ties in recent years; earlier this month, Ahmadinejad said that both countries will “remain partners in different fields.”

Sources- Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, the Latin Americanist, IRNA

Image- MSNBC

Daily Headlines: March 14, 2008

* According to the AP, a U.S. federal judge has been requested to figure out if John McCain who was born in the Panama Canal Zone- can run for president.

* A Chilean court fined a local McDonald’s after a customer broke a pair of teeth biting into a piece of drill hidden in a sandwich.

* Mexico’s government has doubts over the claims that several Mexican students were among the dead in the Colombian military’s recent attack which killed Raul Reyes.

* Several economic experts told Bloomberg that Latin American exporters are being hurt by improving exchange rates.

Sources- UPI, Associated Press, the Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Houston Chronicle, Wikipedia

Image- Scoop

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Today’s Video: Isabel Allende

We end this week’s video theme of Latin American women and literature with Chilean author Isabel Allende.

“The House of the Spirits”, “Of Love and Shadows”, and “City of the Beasts” are just a few of the novels written by Allende who is certainly one of the best-known novelists in all the Americas. In 1996 Allende created a foundation in honor of her daughter, and Allende became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2003.

The video is from Allende’s appearance at the 2007 TED conference; her impassioned speech calls for us to stop the injustices against women and to become more active in changing the world for the better.

(Video link):

Previous videos this week:

Sources-, Wikipedia, Google Video, Isabel Allende, TED

Seven Cuban “futbolistas” defected while in U.S.

Seven members of Cuba’s under-23 soccer squad have defected while they played in Florida. After a surprising 1-1 tie with the U.S. on Tuesday in the qualifying tourney for the Olympics, five players sneaked out of the team’s hotel in Tampa and were joined by two more yesterday.

According to one of the players that left the Cuban team:

''We're fine, calm, feeling hopeful about our new lives,'' [team captain Yenier] Bermudez told The Miami Herald by phone Wednesday night. ``Of course, we're nervous because we're young, have no family here, and we don't yet know the way of life here, but we hope the Cuban and American communities will help us get started.''

At least five of the players will try out for second division professional team Miami FC according to a spokesman for the club and they could also seek political asylum.

The Cuban U-23s are scheduled to play Honduras this afternoon though the team may have to drop out of the competition since only eleven players will be eligible to play. (Aside from the seven defectors, Roberto Linares will serve a suspension after being red-carded in the game on Tuesday.)

Image- New York Times (Yendry Diaz (in the blue uniform) was one of the seven Cuban players to defect this week)

Sources- Canadian Press, Bloomberg,, Reuters UK, USA TODAY, Guardian UK, Who Ate All the Pies

South Korea plans energy partnership

South Korea anticipates expanding energy relations with Central and South America, said the country's foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan today.

President Lee Myung-bak will tour the region in November after attending Peru's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The country also will have an economic forum with Latin American officials in Seoul in September.

Read more here.

Source: Yonhap News

Bush urges Colombia trade deal

President Bush urged Congress to approve a free trade deal with Colombia, saying if it is not passed, leftist anti-American sentiment in Latin America will increase.

"Time is running out and we must not let delay turn into inaction," Bush said.

Free trade with Colombia would advance U.S. economic and security interests, Bush said, and will reward president Alvaro Uribe for promoting democracy and fighting violence within his country.

Bush also took the opportunity to chastise politicians considering pulling out of NAFTA.

Read the Associated Press coverage here.

Rice skips Argentina

U.S. Secretary of State will skip Argentina on her tour through Latin America, just as Bush did last March. The country's new president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has strong ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Meanwhile, Rice has visited Brazil and Chile.

Source: NYT

Daily Headlines: March 13, 2008

* Britain’s Prince Charles and wife Camilla continued their tour of the Caribbean with an impromptu jam session with a group of Rastafarian musicians in Jamaica.

* During a speech on Wednesday, U.S. president George W. Bush blasted Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez for “praising terrorists.”

* Despite its own energy problems, Argentina agreed to keep providing natural gas supplies to Chile.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, People’s Daily Online, Al Jazeera, Reuters

Image- Associated Press

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Today’s Video: Julia Alvarez

We continue this week’s theme of famous Latin American women in literature with a look at Julia Alvarez.

Alvarez- who is of Dominican background- has written numerous acclaimed books of fiction and poetry. Despite this, her 1991 novel “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents” has been the subject of controversy after a South Carolina school board recently banned the text. In an interview published last month Alvarez noted how the book’s outlawing of her book reminded her of her childhood under infamous dictator Rafael Trujillo.

The following video clip is another interview of Alvarez discussing her most recent book on quinceañeras. Alvarez explains why she wrote on the subject despite her initial reluctance as well as “what writing is all about”.

(Video link):

Previous videos this week:

Sources-, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, YouTube, Independent Weekly, Vivirlatino

Will the next New York governor help Latinos?

Earlier today New York governor Eliot Spitzer resigned from his post due to his involvement in an illegal prostitution ring. Spitzer’s replacement will be Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a visually impaired African-American who is experienced and well-respected by his peers.

What can the state’s Latino population expect from Paterson whose term is set to begin on Monday? According to’s blog on immigration, Paterson “has certainly spoken up for immigrants’ rights” during his time as lieutenant governor. Nevertheless, he will have to tread lightly on the issue of immigration; Spitzer’s plan for providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants was dropped last year amidst controversy.

Meanwhile, an article in one of New York City’s main Spanish-language dailies- El Diario/La Prensa- said experts feel that Paterson will do more for the Latino community than Spitzer:

Under Paterson’s mandate, the number of Hispanics in high office could increase…according to experts.

“Well, at first nothing will change. If (Paterson) names new people then I have no doubt that he will take Latinos into account,” opined Rodolfo de la Garza, political science professor at Columbia University.

Though Hispanics currently represent 16% of the state’s population only 4% of them work for the state government. -[ed. personal translation]

Paterson will become the first African-American governor in New York history and the state’s first physically disabled one since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Sources (English)- Christian Science Monitor, AFP, Huffington Post,, Gothamist

Sources (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- TIME

Prince William County's Immigrant Crackdown Impacting Everyday Life - Even Futbol

Prince William County, Virginia, and it's anti-immigrant crackdown is something I've been following. Today an article in the Washington Post points out how public policy impacts the private lives and personal time of Latinos.
As Prince William proceeds with its crackdown on illegal immigrants, one result is a shake-up and shrinking of the area's entrenched Hispanic soccer leagues. The reason is simple, organizers say: Players and fans, among them many illegal immigrants, are so worried about being detained by authorities en route to or at games that they are avoiding local fields. Legal immigrants are also wary, for themselves or their illegal relatives, organizers say.
The result has been that teams have moved their games. Some don't play because not enough players have signed up. Spectators aren't showing up for games the way they used to , no children playing on the sidelines.

Futbol and local games are a regular part of my family life and I can't even envision what Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, NYC would look like if this situation were repeated here.

Source : Washington Post

Hugo Chavez - El Loco?

Calling someone crazy as a way to discredit them is nothing new but it is the latest tactic being used against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Lawyers affiliated with the opposition party Democratic Action are working on a petition, similar to one rejected by the Supreme Court in 2002, that would require Chávez to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Hugo Chavez's behavior is being labeled as "sociopathic". According to Wikipedia in order for someone to be officially diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder they must fit three or more of the following criteria:
  1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
  2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honour financial obligations
  7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
Does that sound like Hugo Chavez to you? What if someone were to make the same claim against um say U.S. President Bush? I can only imagine the outrage. So why is such a claim ok to make against Chavez or any president for that matter? Because people dislike him and his policies? Well if that's the case I'd like to submit a list of public figures that should get evaluated by a shrink.

Some are saying that this most recent call for a head check is a response to a February order warning of sanctions to psychiatrists and media outlets that promote ``the use and abuse of disrespect towards the majesty of the state and our president.'' All this because Chavez said something about life on Mars.

Sources: Miami Herald, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: March 12, 2008

* A U.S. judge tossed out $2.5 million in putative damages awarded by a jury last year from Dole Fruit to five former Nicaraguan plantation workers.

* Could the Venezuelan government land on a list of countries blamed with sponsoring terrorism?

* Apparently crime in Mexico has deterred some U.S. university students from spending spring break south of the border.

* Cuba’s population has decreased for the second straight year based on government figures.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Associated Press,

Image- ABC News

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Today’s Video: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

The phrase “Renaissance man” is used to describe people who are experts in many fields of knowledge. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz would certainly fit this description; the 17th-cenutry nun was one of the most influential authors and minds in Latin American history. Though she was a controversial figure in her time for outspokenness and feminism, she has become revered in modern times.

Below is a video narrating one of Sor Juana’s most famous poems – Hombres necios (“Stubborn men”). In it, she blasts the sexism of her era and including the moral double standards towards prostitution (“Who is most to blame…the one who pays for sin or the one who sins for pay?”)

In honor of International Women’s Day, this week’s videos will look at famous Latin American women in literature. On Monday we focused on Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni.

Sources- Las Mujeres, Wikipedia, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Report: Lower growth rate of remittances to L. America

An Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) report released on Tuesday showed that the rate of remittances sent to Latin America has grown at a slower pace than in previous years. Though previous IADB reports have shown double-digit increases, the latest study showed that money transfers only grew by 7%. The amount of remittances hit a record $66.5 billion in 2007, yet there are several factors which explain the slower rate:

The decline in Brazil reflected the strength of the Real against the dollar, which made it less attractive for the estimated 350,000 US-based Brazilians to send money home.

The attractions of the thriving Brazilian economy are also leading many migrants to return home from the US. Anecdotal evidence shows that many Brazilians in the area around Boston - a traditional centre of Brazilian emigration - are doing just that…

The US housing crisis and decline in the construction sector, where many Latin American migrants have jobs, was partly to blame…

All this suggested that tighter law enforcement against illegal migrants, especially at a state and municipal level in areas where Mexicans tend to be the dominant immigrant group, was playing a role. "The slowdown clearly has something to with it but the general atmosphere is more to do with it," said [Donald Terry, manager of the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund].

Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia are the top 3 countries receiving remittances according to the IADB, while 7 countries in Latin America get more than 12% of their gross domestic product from money transfers.

Sources- UPI,,,

Image- La Voz

Study: 1 in 5 Mexican-American girls infected with STDs

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that an alarming number of teen girls in the U.S. are infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The study of over 800 subjects found that 26% of teen girls overall have STDs with black girls at the most danger of infection with 48%. Regarding Latinas, only Mexican-Americans were considered in the study; their rate of infection was approximately 1 in 5.

The CDC’s findings show that sex education programs are in need of retooling, according to several experts interviewed by the Associated Press:

"This is pretty shocking," said Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center's Children's Hospital in New York.

"To talk about abstinence is not a bad thing," but teen girls — and boys too — need to be informed about how to protect themselves if they do have sex, Alderman said…

"Those numbers are certainly alarming," said sex education expert Nora Gelperin, who works with a teen-written Web site called She said they reflect "the sad state of sex education in our country."

"Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society," she said. "Teens tell us that they can't make decisions in the dark and that adults aren't properly preparing them to make responsible decisions."

Sources- New York Times, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Associated Press

Image- BBC News (“HPV, which can cause cancer, was found to be the most common STD”)

Poker tour scheduled

Latin America's first major poker tour, the Latin American Poker Tour, announced yesterday, will begin in May.

The $2,500 tournament will begin in Rio de Janeiro and continue to San Jose, Costa Rica, and Uruguay throughout the summer.

The total prize pool will be more than $600,000.

Interested participants can check out for more information. The tournament is not limited to Latin Americans.

Source: The Earth Times


Countries ranked in safety

Business travelers can rest easy when traveling to Costa Rica, Chile and Uruguay -- the safest countries in Latin America, according to the Latin Business Chronicle.

Haiti is the most dangerous country for business executives and, presumably, tourists to visit.

Other countries leaning toward dangerous are Ecuador and Venezuela after last week's spat with Colombia.

Source: Latin Business Chronicle


Daily Headlines: March 11, 2008

* iPhones could be coming soon to the Latin American market according to this article.

* Ex-Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo is the frontrunner for Paraguay’s presidential elections which will take place next month.

* Haiti’s government is taking steps to limit emigration to the Bahamas.

* Environmental problems are the central topic of a unique conference of indigenous peoples in southern Mexico.

Sources- Bloomberg, UPI, MSNBC, PRESS TV

Image- MSNBC

Monday, March 10, 2008

Today’s Video: Alfonsina Storni

Last Saturday was International Women’s Day (IWD), a day in which to reflect on the accomplishments of women worldwide and to correct the wrongs committed against them. Several events took place on the 100th anniversary of IWD including a protest in Ciduad Juarez, Mexico calling for justice in the over 400 women killed since 1993. Many famous women have made their mark throughout Latin American history and this will be the theme for this week’s videos.

Today we feature Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni; much of her work focused on the repression of women by men and can be categorized as feminist. In the video clip below, Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa sings Alfonsina y el Mar ("Alfonsina and the sea"), a heart-wrenching tune based on Storni’s 1938 suicide when she walked into the ocean.

(Video link):

Sources-, AFP,, Wikipedia

Bolivia: Court halts referendum

Bolivia's National Electoral Court postponed the country’s constitutional referendum which was scheduled to take place on May 4th. According to the tribunal there are not enough "legal guarantees, sufficient time and adequate electoral environment” for the voting to take place in slightly less than two months.

Last month, Bolivia’s constitutional assembly approved the original date for the referendum. The issue of whether or not to pass a new constitution has split Bolivian politicians:

If approved, [president Evo] Morales' constitution would outline a detailed bill of rights and considerable autonomy for the country's 36 indigenous groups, long shut out of power by the country's elite.

Opponents say the charter places Indians over the rest of the population and fails to address the autonomy demands of the eastern states, which are fighting Morales' land redistribution plan and want to keep more of the region's natural gas revenues.

Sources- Reuters UK, JURIST, People’s Daily Online, Associated Press
Image- BBC News 

E.U. commish wants to drop Cuba sanctions

The top development aid official for the European Union (EU) has advocated that EU sanctions against Cuba should be dropped. During a visit to Cuba over the weekend, EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said that the elimination of sanctions that were imposed in 2003 would allow for political talks between the EU and the Cuban government:

…Michel and Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the two sides would work to remove all European sanctions on Cuba in order to pave the way for normalizing ties.

The statement called the 2003 sanctions - imposed after Cuba imprisoned 75 dissidents two years earlier - the 'principal obstacle' to creating a political dialogue and said they should be 'eliminated definitively.'

While Michel called for removing sanctions with Cuba, the U.S. government has criticized such an approach. For instance, president George W. Bush said on Friday that the normalizing of relations with Cuba is “exactly backward.”

Sources- Reuters, Monsters & Critics, AFP
Image- Washington Post (“People line up to buy eggs in a state-run store in Havana last month.") 

Report: Hate crimes vs. Latinos increased

A study released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) alleged that anti-immigrant sentiment has been the catalyst behind an increase in hate crimes against Latinos. The report called “The Year in Hate” cited FBI data stating that 819 people were targets of anti-Latino crime in 2006, compared with 595 in 2003. According to an SPLC spokesman and as quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"The immigration debate has turned the climate of this country into something very nasty," [Mark] Potok said. "A lot of this is due to the vile propaganda coming out of these hate groups…"

“If it were merely the groups in a corner by themselves it wouldn't be worrying," Potok said. "But now the propaganda is being circulated by the mainstream media."

Potok said conspiracy theories by the groups have been picked up and given validation by CNN and some national politicians.

Among the worst offenders, Potok said, are CNN's Lou Dobbs and Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa).

One of the “hate groups” targeted by the SPLC’s report- the Federation
for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)- responded in a statement.
A FAIR spokesman criticized the study’s methodology and accused the
SPLC of representing “self-serving political interests.”
Sources- Philadelphia Inquirer,,, Associated Press

Daily Headlines: March 10, 2008

* “I'd like to thank that young lady for coming up and joining us on stage,” mentioned famed singer Bob Dylan after a fan rushed onstage and hugged him during a concert in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

* Immigration from Latin American countries was one of the main issues in Sunday’s Spanish elections; they were won by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s party.

* Canadian officials have been asked to intervene in the case of a national jailed in Mexico and under suicide watch.

* About 80 people were wounded at a brawl during Saturday’s soccer derby in Cali, Colombia.

Sources- Reuters, Americas Society/Council of the Americas, AFP,, USA TODAY

Image- Vancouver Sun (Bob Dylan performs in a 2006 concert in New Orleans)