Saturday, June 19, 2010

Arte para la gente: Adios Carlos

Sad news from the world of literature where one of Mexico’s most famous contemporary authors died.

Carlos Monsiváis passed away at the age of 72 due to respiratory problems. The author and journalist had been hospitalized for approximately two months until he died this afternoon.

Monsiváis was a prolific writer whose works examined areas such as Mexican social life and mocked those in power. His 1970 book "Los procesos de México'' (“The processes of Mexico”), for example, took a harsh look at the judicial process against the students arrested after the infamous 1968 massacre at Tlatelolco. Monsiváis had also become such a well-known media figure through his articles and TV appearances that poet José Emilio Pacheco called him the only writer Mexicans could “recognize on the street.”

Numerous literary figures have lamented the death of Monsiváis such as fellow author Carlos Fuentes:
“We have not lost Carlos Monsiváis. A writer does not die because he left his craft. We didn’t lose Monsiváis; we have won Monsiváis forever.”
To understand what Fuentes means and appreciate the impact of Monsiváis on Mexican culture take a look at this biographical documentary:

Online Sources- YouTube,, La Opinion, Clarin, AFP, El Universal

Friday, June 18, 2010

Today's Video: Remnants of war

As you may have noticed we've been a little World Cup crazy with most of the posts from the past week focusing on the tourney in South Africa. Though we'll continue to focus on the Cup in the days ahead we also hope to catch up on other news and issues from Latin America.

For now we'll leave you with the following from Al Jazeera English on Nicaragua's struggle to clean up landmines still left behind from armed conflict in the 1980s:

Online Source - YouTube

World Cup Review: Viva le Mexique!

Two North American neighbors played against a pair of European sides in key World Cup matches Thursday and today. While one side overwhelmed and outplayed their cross-Atlantic rivals the other nearly paid the price for a lax defense. Here’s our overview of the Mexico-France and U.S.-Slovenia matches.

Lo Bueno (The Good)…

Would it be hyperbole to say that Mexico’s 2-0 win over France yesterday was their best victory since the Battle of Puebla?

The French press has ripped their side and rightly so after Mexico thoroughly dominated and outmatched Les Blues. Javier “el Chicharito” Hernandez opened the scoring in the 64th-minute after beating the offside trap by a hair and dribbling past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Cuauhtemoc Blanco buried a penalty kick fifteen minutes later, and ensured a historic and well-deserved victory for El Tri:

Historically, Hernandez’ goal came fifty-six years after his grandfather scored against France in the World Cup. Furthermore, Blanco became the first Mexican player to score in three different World Cups as well as the oldest Latin American player to score a Cup goal.

Mexico’s final group match comes on Tuesday against Uruguay. Both sides would qualify for the round of 16 with a tie though don’t be surprised if they aim for a win that cold see them avoid a red-hot Argentina squad in the next stage.

Lo Malo (The Bad)…

I’m a tried and true fan of the U.S. and I’m utterly disappointed at their 2-2 draw with Slovenia. But not due to the blankety-blank-bank of a ref who inexplicably disallowed a legit U.S. goal minutes from full time. And not because I feel that they came up just short of a win despite a thrilling comeback. Rather it’s watching how a team with high expectations of winning instead played a dreadful first half that was reminiscent of their terrible losses at the hands of the Czech Republic and Ghana in the 2006 World Cup.

The Stars and Stripes aren’t eliminated, but they will certainly have to play a solid ninety minutes against Algeria on Wednesday if they want to advance from the group stage. Goals like the one scored by Michael Bradley would obviously help:

Y Lo Feo (And the Ugly)
Like the saying goes “ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.” Step forward Diego Maradona:

(Hat tip: Deadspin).

Online Sources- YouTube, New York Daily News, CBS News, Wikipdia, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, AP, Deadspin

Daily Headlines: June 18, 2010

* Puerto Rico: A deal was reached yesterday that may end a 56-day student strike that has paralyzed the University of Puerto Rico.

* Colombia: Over fifty miners are trapped and possibly dead due to a coal mine explosion that has already killed twenty people.

* Latin America: At a House subcommittee hearing yesterday, journalism experts highlighted the violence against media members in Latin America including countries like Honduras and Mexico.

* Chile: The government may need to scramble to find alternative funds for Chile’s earthquake reconstruction plan after the Senate rejected modifying certain mining royalties.

Image – New York Daily News (University of Puerto Rico students have been on strike for almost two months over harsh budget cuts and steep fee increases).
Online Sources- MSNBC, Dallas Morning News, Reuters, Xinhua

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Report: Latinos help college enrollment boost

Latinos and other ethnic minorities are behind an increase in college enrollment according to a study released by the Pew Research Center.

The report found that the number of freshmen students in college has grown by 6% between 2007 and 2008, the first year of the U.S. recession. During that period Hispanic freshman enrollment grew by 15%, outpacing blacks (8%), Asians (6%) and whites (3%). Though the boost in first-year enrollment was across al levels of colleges, researchers found that minority students tended to be bunched in community colleges and trade schools rather than four-year institutions.

Why has this minority enrollment surge occurred? One reason according to the study is the demographic change in the Latino population. Indeed, last week we mentioned that Census data found an increase in the number of Latinos, which tends to be younger than the general populace. In addition the study cited a larger number of Latinos competing high school, a record high of 70% in October 2008. Another factor not mentioned by researchers is that Latino youth seeking jobs have been hit very hard by the recession and their unemployment rate in January reached 13.9%. Hence, going to college becomes a more favorable option.

Not all was good news for Latinos in the Pew study, as the AP noted:
(...) while Hispanics have seen recent gains in college enrollment, they still lag overall. Hispanics make up roughly 12 percent of full-time undergraduate and graduate students, compared to their 16 percent representation in the total U.S. population.

"These findings are only half reassuring," (Pew researcher Richard) Fry said. "Many Hispanic teens still are not graduating high school, and the high school gains may not be sustained when the teen labor market revives. It also remains to be seen how many of these additional minority freshmen will actually complete degrees."
Online Sources- Pew Research Center, AP, Washington Post, The Latin Americanist

World Cup Review: Southern Cone conquerors (Updated)

We'll have more details on Friday of Mexico's historic 2-0 win over France along with other news like problems with preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Original Post:
A trio of teams from South America’s Southern Cone played yesterday and today at the World Cup and all three won their respective matches. Here’s our quick look at these great games.

As we mentioned in passing yesterday, Chile won over fellow Latin Americans Honduras with the sole goal coming from Jean Beausejour. Chilean winger Mark Gonzalez was humble in a victory where his side “could have scored more goals. As a team we did things wrong and we will try to fix that up." For the Central Americans, meanwhile, they will need to bounce back against a strong Spanish team looking to shake off their shock defeat to Switzerland.

South Africa are close to becoming the first host country not to qualify past the group stage after their 3-0 loss to Uruguay. Diego Forlan scored twice for los celestes though after the game he admitted that “the important thing is to win”, not his personal goal tally. According to the BBC the “South Americans were much more forward-thinking than during their nervous opening match with France”.

Today’s video highlights via come from Argentina’s resounding 4-1 win this morning over Group B rivals South Korea. Gonzalo Higuain scored Argentina’s fourth-ever hat trick in World Cup history with assists on all three goals from Lionel Messi. Argentine coach Diego Maradona’s mind games seemed to have worked, as his team is only a stone’s throw away from making it into the round of 16.

Online Sources-, New York Times, BBC Sport, The Latin Americanist, Sky Sports, The Telegraph

Daily Headlines: June 17, 2010

* U.S.: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that 30% of Latinos lacked health insurance, double the national average.

* Honduras: It’s been a banner year for Honduran journalists but for all the wrong reasons; Luís Arturo Mondragón became the ninth media worker killed this year in that country.

* Latin America: UNASUR wants to expand politically but without coming into conflict with other regional entities according to the bloc’s chief, ex-Argentine president Nestor Kirchner.

* Guatemala: Wild weather could again threaten Guatemala weeks after heavy storms killed 150 people.

Image – Orlando Sentinel
Online Sources- UPI, CNN, Reuters, Knight Center for Journalism

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CentAm migrants possible victims in train crash

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants make the perilous journey northward to the U.S. in search of a better life. The risks are many, especially for those who travel hundreds of miles through Mexico on the tops of freight trains.

According to Mexican police at least thirteen people were killed yesterday when a train hauling corn slammed into a group of empty freight cars. The incident occurred in the northern state of Sinaloa and may have been due to a mechanical failure along with human error. Among those dead were a private security guard and reportedly migrants travelling to the U.S. based on comments made by local officials.

A 2009 report by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission highlighted how drug gangs and other criminals target Central American migrants. The study found that between September 2008 and February 2009 nearly 9800 migrant men, women, and children had been kidnapped as part of an “alarming, growing trend.” An Amnesty International report released last April blamed authorities for “turning a blind eye” to the difficult situation migrants face:
"Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses," said Rupert Knox, Mexico Researcher at Amnesty International.

"Persistent failure by the authorities to tackle abuses carried out against irregular migrants has made their journey through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world."
Online Sources- BBC Mundo, The Latin Americanist, Amnesty International, AFP, MSNBC, UPI

World Cup Review: Swiss bliss

On Thursday we’ll examine Chile’s 1-0 win over fellow Latin Americans Honduras and Uruguay’s clash with South Africa. For now, however, the first massive upset of this month's World Cup occurred moments ago.

Bookies, aficionados, and even a video game simulator have picked Spain as the favorite to win the World Cup and this morning they had a chance to prove them right in their opening match against Switzerland. Yet a funny thing happened in Durban thanks to Gelson Fernandes' opportune goal in the 52nd-minute:

The stunning loss means that La Furia Roja will be forced to win their next match against Honduras or else they will become the third consecutive European champion to be knocked out in the World Cup first round. "We tried in an orthodox way and in an heroic way but we were not able to source a goal,” admitted Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque after a match where Spain dominated most of open play.

Spain’s loss is wonderful news for Chile who will certainly be anticipating Monday’s clash against Group H co-leaders Switzerland. Chile’s victory earlier today via a 34th-minute goal by Jean Beausejour was the country’s first in nearly fifty years.

Online Sources- YouTube, USA TODAY, BBC Sport, The Latin Americanist, RTE

Daily Headlines: June 16, 2010

* U.S.: In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court agreed with a Mexican-born plaintiff and ruled that only migrants who commit “serious crimes” can be automatically deported from the U.S.

* Costa Rica: As part of the CAFTA free trade deal the U.S. lifted tariffs for sugar from Costa Rica.

* Latin America: Researchers studying men in four countries including Bolivia and Argentina found that tough guys have tough voices.

* Ecuador: Police recovered over one ton of cocaine in a shipping container destined for Spain.

Image – Christian Science Monitor
Online Sources- LAHT, The Telegraph, Los Angeles Times, Reuters

Salud Mesoamerica 2015

The government of Spain, along with the foundations of Carlos Slim and Bill Gates (two of the richest men in the world), are coming together to donate $50 million dollars each for a Meso-American Health Initiative. The 2015 Meso-American Health Initiative, which was launched in a ceremony at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City by Mexican president Felipe Calderon, is said to benefit at least 10 million people in mostly Southern Mexico and Central America. The nutrition and health programs will especially benefit mothers and children who live in poverty and with hunger every day. The money and resources for the $150 million Initiative will be channeled through the Inter-American Development Bank. Bill Gates and Carlos Slim are self-made billionaires, and are well-known philanthropists.

News Source: The News, Lanval News
Image Source:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup Review: A un-Justo result and Maicon magic

A pair of Latin American sides played in the World Cup on Monday and Tuesday; one underdog should’ve walked away with three points while another team had some trouble getting a win. Here is our look at the Paraguay-Italy and Brazil-North Korea matches.

Lo Bueno (The Good)…

There are 104 spots between top ranked Brazil 105th-placed North Korea yet it was the South American side that was lackluster after a scoreless first half. Brazil stepped up its attack in the
second half and their diligence would be rewarded with an acute angle strike from Maicon:

Despite the 2-1 victory Brazilian coach Dunga acknowledged that his side showed “a lot of nervousness and anxiety” and will need to play better in their next matches against Ivory Coast and Portugal.

Lo Malo (The Bad)…

Paraguay played a solid defensive effort in its 1-1 tie with defending World Cup champs Italy. The Azzuri underwhelmed in their title defense against a Paraguayan side that, according to ESPN, “seemed content to sit back and soak up Italy's pressure.” Paraguay’s confidence was bolstered in the 39th minute when Antolin Alcaraz found the best moment to score his first ever goal in international competition. Unfortunately for the Albiroja they had to share the spoils with Italy after goalie Justo Villar mistimed a corner kick and Daniele De Rossi scored the game-tying goal:

Ultimately Paraguay will be very pleased to come away with a point against their most difficult group opponent and they have good odds of making it into the round of 16.

Y Los Feo (And the Ugly)
Two words: Dunga’s coat.

Online Sources- YouTube, USA TODAY, ESPN, The Telegraph

Today’s Video: Mata-don't

We'll be publishing several posts shortly including our latest "World Cup Review."

In the meantime, here's video of Mexican matador Christian Hernandez who dropped out of his performance on Sunday:

Hernandez admitted afterwords that he had a "great fear" consume him and that he "lacked the balls" to go on. He would later be briefly arrested for "breach of contract" and he was chastised by Plaza Mexico boss Roberto Andrade for his alleged "lack of respect." Surely Hernandez had the last laugh in that he did not suffer the fate of the likes of recently-gored matador Jose Tomas.

Daily Headlines: June 15, 2010

* Latin America: According to a joint OECD-FAO study, food prices worldwide will rise over the next decade though farm production in Latin America is also expected to increase.

* Mexico: A magnitude 5.7 earthquake followed by minor aftershocks rattled areas along the California-Mexico border Monday evening.

* Venezuela: Citing a “grave financial situation” the state took over and may possibly close Banco Federal CA.

* Brazil: The country’s leading political parties selected their candidates for October’s presidential elections.

Image –National Geographic (“
Tortilla maker Leticia Balino gathers a pile of the flatbreads in her shop in México City on January 10, 2007.”)
Online Sources- NASDAQ, BusinessWeek, CNN, Bloomberg

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sorry Bolivia, There's a New Kid on the Block

Bolivia recently jumped into the headlines as a potential, albeit somewhat cautious "Saudi Arabia of Lithium."

As the NY Times covered last year, Bolivia was confident that it would soon hold huge sway over the multinational producers who'll need lithium for to produce their gadgets:
“We know that Bolivia can become the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” said Francisco Quisbert, 64, the leader of Frutcas, a group of salt gatherers and quinoa farmers on the edge of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. “We are poor, but we are not stupid peasants. The lithium may be Bolivia’s, but it is also our property.”
But today the New York Times reported on a surprising discovery that Afghanistan may hold up to $1 trillion worth of lithium and other precious metals, some of it in Taliban-controlled areas across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. Lithium is a critical component in batteries for cellphones and a host of other personal electronics, but global demand is expected to really jump when we all start driving electric cars.

The rush to mine Afghanistan's lithium - for better or worse - is officially on. China has spent years building its green tech industry and seemingly has no qualms about going anywhere and partnering with anybody to access the natural resources that drive its growth. And given the whole war thing, the US might like to get it some lithium, too. Not to mention Afghanistan, who would like to export something besides poppy (heroin) and the occasional dried nut.

So where does this all leave Bolivia? La Razón, a Bolivian daily, is leading its website with government spokesperson Iván Canelas saying the Afghanistan discovery will have no effect on Bolivia's lithium development plans.

Those plans, up to now, have tended to the realm of "resource nationalism" and have shown significant concern about the benefits of foreign investment. Referring to Bolivia's long history of being a mineral-rich country with extremely uneven development, President Evo Morales said his country need "partners but not patrons."

The "resource curse" - the corruption, instability and inequality that often results when poor countries becoming major producers natural resources - is well documented.

With today's announcement, Bolivia may have fallen from its perch as the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," but perhaps that's better than settling for being the "Nigeria of lithium."

Image Source: NY Times
Online Sources: Green Beat/Venture Beat, Vanity Fair, La Razón (Bolivia), Reuters, Reuters Africa, Wikipedia, Council on Foreign Relations

Today’s Video: "Dwight Eisenhower colors Easter eggs"

Similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000, Josh Way pokes fun at short movies on subjects like grooming, classroom discipline, and safety against nuclear attacks. In the video below as part of his "Fun with Shorts" series Way pours over (ha!) a dull 1960s film from the Coffee Brewing Institute:

(Hat tip: Metafilter).

Online Sources - Metafilter, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Officers Rescued in Colombia

The hostages rescued from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels in Colombia included three offiecrs, Reuters reported.

One was a general who was captured more than a decade ago and held in the jungle by the resilient rebel group.

Reuters reported that the rescue was the most high-profile operation since the rescue of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2008.

The rescue, which The New York Times wrote was code-named Chameleon, included 300 military personnel sent to Guaviare in southern Colombia.

FARC still has about 18 captured members of the Colombian security forces, The Times reported.

The Latin American News Dispatch writes that the hostages were some of the longest held people ever by the FARC.

Source: Reuters, NYT, Latin American News Dispatch

Photo: Reuters, Uribe speaks with soldiers

Reports: Hispanics Leaving Arizona

USA Today reports that weeks before Arizona's tough new immigration law goes into effect, requiring everyone to carry proof of citizenship, Latinos are leaving the state.

For example, in the Balsz Elementary School District, which is 75 percent Hispanic, 70 students recently left the school.

The New York Daily News reported that another school district, Alhambra, expected to lose as many as 300 students because of the new law.

Other school officials, business owners and residents are saying both legal and illegal Hispanics are leaving before the law goes into effect July 29.

A spokesperson for Governor Jan Brewer said it's hard to find precise numbers, but that he also has heard of more Hispanic leavings. "If that means that fewer people are breaking the law, that is absolutely an accomplishment," Paul Senseman said.

After a law was passed in 2007 punishing businesses for hiring illegal immigrants, about 100,000 immigrants left the state, the Daily News reported.

Most residents in Arizona support the law, the Examiner added in a story reporting the exodus. A June 9 Rasmussen survey reports that 56 percent of U.S. voters say their views on illegal immigration are closer to the thoughts of Brewer than to President Barack Obama.

Sources: USA Today, Daily News, Examiner

Photo: AFP, via Examiner

Daily Headlines: June 14, 2010

* Cuba: A paraplegic dissident was freed from jail on Saturday and vowed to “press on in the struggle…until we achieve freedom and democracy for the Cuban people."

* Colombia: According to President Alvaro Uribe two hostages held by rebels since 1998 were rescued in a military operation.

* Venezuela: An arrest warrant has been issued against the president of the Globovision TV network who also happens to be a strong critic of President Hugo Chavez.

* Guatemala: The country’s constitutional court removed Conrado Reyes from the attorney general’s post due to accusations of corruption and ties to drug traffickers.

Image – ABC News (“Ariel Sigler, an ailing political prisoner, is helped by paramedics after been released from a hospital where he was being held prisoner in Pedro Betancourt, Cuba, Saturday, June 12, 2010. Roman Catholic leaders announced Friday that Cuban authorities agreed to free Sigler and transfer six others to jails nearer their homes.”)
Online Sources- CNN, UPI, AFP, Reuters

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup Review: The luck of the draws

The first two days of the World Cup in South Africa found Weston Hemispheric teams playing in five matches, four of which ended in a tie score. Each game had its share of action, however, and we’ll highlight some of the best and worst moments of the first 48 hours of soccer’s biggest tournament.

Lo Bueno (The Good)…

Thus far Argentina has been the only winner from the Americas after beating Nigeria on Saturday by the minimal score of 1-0. As we mentioned yesterday, the lone goal came from a wonderful diving header in the sixth minute by Gabriel Heinze. His tally came off a corner kick, which was indicative a game where los albicelestes were dangerous off the dead ball. The score could’ve been much greater had it not been for several opportune saves by Nigerian goalie Vincent Enyeama. Nevertheless a win is a win, especially in the World Cup debut as head coach of legendary player Diego Maradona.

Honorable Mention: Argentine referee Hector Baldassi made two key (and absolutely correct) calls late in Sunday’s 1-0 Ghana victory over Serbia.

Lo Malo (The Bad)…

On paper Mexico is a superior team to South Africa but it was the host country that nearly shocked el Tri in the opening game on Friday. Sisphiwe Tshabalala scored the opening goal with a stunning 55th minute blast that beat Oscar “el conejo” Perez. Rafael Marquez subsequently tied the game at one with eleven minutes until full time. Despite Mexico outshooting their opponent 16 to 10 and having a whopping 65% of possession, the game ended in a draw.

Honorable Mention: Uruguay played a strong defensive game in a scoreless tie against France that was marred by the ejection of Nicolas Lodiero.

Y Lo Feo (And the Ugly)

The English tabloids have had a field day going after keeper Robert Green whose gaffe was costly in a 1-1 draw against the U.S. At the time of Green’s mistake in the fortieth minute England dominated the game against their cross-Atlantic rivals yet the second half was a far more even affair. (Green partially made up for his error with a great save off a tough shot by Jozy Altidore). Ultimately both the U.S. and England shared the spoils and they will need to bounce back in their next matches against Slovenia and Algeria, respectively.

Honorable Mention: Was Pablo Ramirez racist or silly in poking fun at Siphiwe Tshabalala’s name?

Online Sources- CBC, The Latin Americanist,, Voice of America, AFP, YouTube, Los Angeles Times, ESPN, Christian Science Monitor, Guanabee