Friday, August 10, 2012

Daily Headlines: August 10, 2012

* Cuba: Despite U.S. travel restrictions Cuban officials claimed that tourism revenue increased by 12.8% in 2011.

* Mexico: At least two people died after Tropical Storm Ernesto drenched parts of southern Mexico on Thursday.

* Chile: Santiago police clashed with dozens of protesters opposed to government-backed education reforms.

* Ecuador: In what may be a boost to the Ecuadorian economy coffee exports shot up by 23% last month.

Video Source – YouTube via user brianandrewsntn24 (Video published in January 2012).

Online Sources-, CBS News, Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg

Thursday, August 9, 2012

London Calling: Usain, the “Living Legend”

Is Usain Bolt of Jamaica the greatest sprinter ever? The case could certainly be made after an amazing run on Thursday in the London Games.
Bolt put his name in the record book by becoming the first man to successfully defend both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash in the Olympics. He accomplished this on Thursday night by winning the 200-meter sprint with a time of 19.32 seconds.

According to the BBC, Bolt “ran a brilliant bend from lane seven to lead by a meter coming into the straight.

Glancing to his left he was aware of (fellow Jamaican Yohan) Blake closing in a fraction at 150m, but held his form to cross the line with a finger to his lips”.

Jamaican runners swept the medal tally in the race with Blake winning silver and Warren Weir earning bronze.

After the race, Bolt boasted that his victory made him a “living legend” while Blake acknowledged that he is “the god of track and field.”

Bolt also praised iconic sprinter Jesse Owens yet he criticized Carl Lewis who in the past has cast doubts on Jamaica’s drug testing program for runners.

“Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him. The things he says about other track athletes is really downgrading other athletes. I think he is looking for attention because no one really talks much about him,” said Bolt at a press conference.

Bolt will be looking to add a sixth Olympics gold this weekend in the 4x100 meter relay, an event Jamaica won in Beijing four years ago.

Several Latin American athletes made it to the medal stand on Thursday including:

Daily Headlines: August 9, 2012

* Colombia: Jairo Varela, the founder and leader of renowned salsa band Grupo Niche, died at the age of 62 due to an apparent heart attack.

* Guatemala: A former Guatemalan military commander accused of taking part in the infamous Dos Erres massacre could soon be extradited from Canada to the U.S. where he awaits trial.

* Brazil: The federal legislature backed an affirmative action-like law that supporters hope will increase Afro-Brazilian enrollment in universities.

* Mexico: Archeologists have supposedly found an ancient Aztec burial site containing a skeleton surrounded by nearly 1800 human bones.

Video Source – YouTube via juanitolinares

Online Sources- Billboard, The Latin Americanist, CBC News, BBC News, Huffington Post

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

London Calling: EEUU! EEUU! EEUU!

Over the past week and a half our posts on the London Games have focused primarily on athletes from Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, however, we will look at three Mexican-American competitors who have performed admirably for the U.S. (This is why the title to this post uses the popular "USA! USA! USA!" chant with the Spanish language abbreviation).

There is a cliché that says, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Such was the case on Tuesday night for Leo Manzano in the men’s 1500 meters final. As he entered the last turn he was in a distant sixth and it certainly appeared that he wouldn’t reach the podium. But in the final ninety meters the University of Texas graduate surged ahead of four other runners and finished in second place.

Manzano’s silver-medal winning finishing kick at the Olympic Stadium was reminiscent of the following come-from-behind victory at a track meet roughly one year ago in London:

Manzano thus became the first U.S. runner in forty-four years to obtain a medal in the men’s 1500 meters.

He reportedly celebrated after the race by carrying both the flags of Mexico and the U.S.

Boxer Marlen Esparza lost in her semifinal match-up against Chinese pugilist Cancan Ren though she still ended with a bronze medal. Both boxers fought defensively though it appeared that the six-time national champion from Houston landed more punches in the first two rounds. But the judges viewed the fight different and gave Ren a 7-4 advantage. Esparza was more aggressive in the final two rounds against the three-time world champion but in the end she ended up losing by a score of 10-8.

After the bout U.S. head boxing coach Abdullah Basheer criticized the judges scoring while Telemundo commentator Rene Giraldo claimed that the fight was “gifted” to Ren.

Meanwhile a frustrated reportedly “broke down in tears several times after the fight” and told reporters that she “can't be angry about getting any medal at all but (bronze) wasn't my goal.”

Women’s water polo player Brenda Villa has obtained the three Olympics medals but she has never obtained the gold medal. She will be looking to change that tomorrow when the U.S. faces Spain in what will likely be her last time participating in the Olympics.

The thirty-four-year-old veteran who has been with the team since 1996 played a key role in the quarterfinals when she scored twice in a 9-6 win over Italy. She missed a penalty throw in regular time of the semifinal against Australia but she and Maggie Steffens combined for a defensive stop in the final minute of overtime that helped preserve an 11-9 victory.

In a recent Orange County Register article, U.S. coach Adam Krikorian referred to Villa as “the Magic Johnson of water polo.” Such a moniker may refer to her strength in the pool though she also strives out of the water to help improve her community:

Daily Headlines: August 8, 2012

* Puerto Rico: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit seeking to stop a new penal code that is allegedly “intended to suppress speech, to stop people from protesting against government policies.”

* Mexico: Thousands of people were evacuated from parts of the Yucatan Peninsula as Tropical Storm Ernesto reached landfall this morning.

* Venezuela: Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles vowed that “during my term in office not even a single barrel of oil will be given to other countries for free.

* Peru: Researchers have identified Sira Barbet, a new bird species located in a remote cloud forest of the Andes.

Video Source – YouTube via user acluvideos (This 2011 video from the American Civil Liberties Union features alleged “acts of police brutality in Puerto Rico over the past year against civilians demonstrating peacefully.”)

Online Sources- Miami Herald, Reuters, El Universal, Discovery News

Monday, August 6, 2012

London Calling: One Hour of Glory

The London Games are shaping up to be one of the most successful Olympics for Latin American athletes. The strongest proof of this occurred on Monday when six competitors from the region won medals all in the short span of one hour.

At the Olympic Stadium, Dominican sprinter Felix Sánchez captured the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter hurdles with a time of 47.63 seconds. The 34-year-old runner, who won in the same event in 2004, coincidentally clocked the same time that gave him gold eight years ago in Athens.

“I just wanted to make her proud so I’ve got her name on my spikes,” said Sánchez in dedicating his win to his grandmother who died while he was competing in the Olympics in 2008. As seen in the images in the video below, Sánchez wept openly after running with a picture of his grandmother under his uniform and then while on the medal stand:

Sánchez wasn’t the only Latin American to shine in the men’s 400-meter hurdles finals. Javier Culson won bronze and thus became the first Puerto Rican to achieve an Olympics medal in a sport outside of boxing.

The runner from Ponce was a favorite to win the race and according to The Guardian “in his eyes there were tears as the 28-year-old stared in disbelief” for finishing third. Nevertheless, he received plenty of adulation via Twitter from Boricuas including Gov. Luis Fortuño and Calle 13 musician René “Residente” Pérez.

Minutes after Sánchez and Culson won their respective medals, Cuban wrestler Mijain López successfully defended his gold medal in the men's 120-kg Greco-Roman wrestling. The four-time world champion beat Heiki Nabi of Estonia by scores of 2-0 and 1-0 in order to retain his Olympics title.

“Cuban supporters cheered wildly as Lopez did a lap of honor of the packed arena with his country's flag draped over his shoulders,” according to Reuters on the crowd’s reception to the man who was Cuba’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies.

From the wrestling mat we return to the athletics track where Liguelin Santos completed a historic double for the Dominican Republic. The eighteen-year-old became the youngest man to medal in the men’s 400-meter dash after finishing second with a time of 44.46 seconds.

According to ABC Online “world junior champion Santos, the third fastest man this year, was billed as main rival (to eventual gold medal winner Kirani James of Grenada) due to the absence of (defending champion LaShawn) Merritt but he never looked like seriously threatening”. Nevertheless, Santos has a promising career ahead and should be viewed as a favorite to win gold in Rio in 2016.

Nearly sixty minutes after Sánchez won gold, Yarisley Silva of Cuba earned second place in the women’s pole vault.

Silva cleared 4.75m along with Jennifer Suhr of the U.S. but the Cuban was awarded the silver medal since she had missed one more jump than Suhr.

Five medals by five athletes in the space of sixty minutes. Day ten of the 2012 Summer Games was surely one of the most historic and memorable in the history of Latin American sports.

In other notable results from Monday:

Today’s Video: Usain!

We will be back later today to cover this weekend's action at the London Games by numerous Latino, Latin American and Caribbean athletes.

The following video comes from reactions by dozens of Usain Bolt fans in a Jamaican bank branch witnessing and celebrating his win in the men's 100 meter dash yesterday:

Bolt's time of 9.63 seconds was an Olympic record and only 0.05 seconds behind the world record.

Bolt's countryman and training partner Yohan Blake won the silver medal while Justin Gatlin of the U.S. claimed bronze.

The Bolt-Blake finish came on the eve of Jamaican Independence Day and one night after defending women's 100 meter dash champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce successfully defended her gold medal.

Daily Headlines: August 6, 2012

* Mexico: The uniquely talented and headstrong Mexican singer Chavela Vargas passed away yesterday at the age of 93 due to respiratory failure.

* Honduras: Tropical Storm Ernesto is expected to bring heavy rains today to Honduras and then strengthen into a hurricane by the time it reaches the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday.

* Peru: More than 100 villagers in Santa Rosa de Cajacay have gotten sick as a result of a toxic spill from a major copper mine.

* Chile: Documents unearthed by the DPA news agency detailed how the government under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet “systematically spied on foreign media correspondents in Chile.”

Video Source – YouTube via user monre1949 (Costa Rican-born singer Chavela Vargas embraced Mexican ranchera music and established herself as an icon in her adopted country).

Online Sources- BBC News, Reuters, ABC News, Business Recorder