Friday, November 1, 2013

Observing the Day of the Dead (Again)

In honor of the Day of the Dead, we're reproducing the following post 
that was originally published in 2009 by guest writer

In Mexico and in Mexican expat communities, November 1st and 2nd mark "Día de Muertos," or Day of the Dead. The two days are a chance for families to remember their lost ones, combining ancient Aztec, Mayan, Náhuatl, Purépecha and Totonocao traditions with Spanish Christianity.

In the days prior, many Mexicans put up an altar in their house. Usually adorned with flowers (cempasúchil, or marigolds), a candle for and photo of each loved one, sugar or chocolate skulls, fruits, the sugary "bread of the dead" (pan de muerto), pumpkins, candied squash, religious symbols and paper decorations, the altar is said to be an offering for the departed.

Daily Headlines: November 1, 2013

* Mexico: Mexican legislators approved a proposal that would raise taxes on sugary drinks and junk food.
* Latin America: According to a new World Bank report Peru is the best Latin American country for foreign investors while Venezuela is the worst in the region.

* Cuba: Direct passenger flights between Key West, Florida and Cuba are expected to resume for the first time in fifty-one years.

* Chile: Canada’s Barrick will halt development of its Pascua-Lama gold mine in Chile that was opposed to by some local residents and environmental activists.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- Bloomberg; Fox News Latino; GlobalPost; Reuters

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Colombian University Bars Halloween Celebrations

Halloween is being celebrated today in several countries around the world including in parts of Latin America where the holiday has traditionally not been observed.  One of these countries is Colombia and while some people there have taken on the Halloween customs such as pumpkin decorating and trick-or-treating, others are not so pleased.

Earlier this month the dean of the Universidad Minuto de Dios called for a ban on all Halloween celebrations at the school’s campus. 

“I ask that this holiday is not celebrated in our institution, which I consider contrary to our Christian principles of love and seeking what is good, said Father Harold Castilla in a statement issued on October 22nd.  Halloween, in his view, is a “tradition with roots in the pagan adoration of spirits and the Celtic god of death.” 

Though Castilla acknowledged that individuals have a “personal choice” to observe Halloween away from school, he called on all Halloween decorations to be removed from the campus.  Instead he urged students and faculty to prepare for the celebration of Christmas, which he described as a holiday “where we can all open our hearts, homes and this intuition to receive the Christ Child.”

Some university students claimed that Castilla was censoring them and limiting their freedoms of religion and expression.

“It’s an outrage falsely based on Church doctrines,” reportedly said one person who commented on the “Memes UniMinuto” Facebook page.

“What did you expect from a religious institution? It’s like saying that partygoers at a nightclub should pray the rosary at midnight,” mentioned another commenter.

Daily Headlines: October 31, 2013

* U.S.: David “Big Papi” Ortiz was named as the Most Valuable Player in the World Series after he helped power the Boston Red Sox to their third title in the last nine years.

* Puerto Rico: Hector Pesquera announced that he would resign as head of a police force beleaguered by corruption and a high murder rate on the island.

* Chile: Recent polls indicated that ex-President Michelle Bachelet would easily avoid a runoff in next month’s elections.

* Brazil: Eike Batista, who was once Brazil’s wealthiest man with $34.5 billion in assets, filed a bankruptcy protection request for the oil firm he controls.

Video Source – (World Series MVP David Ortiz batted .688 in six games while his the Red Sox teammates hit .234).
Online Sources- Boston Herald; Reuters; The Guardian; Xinhua

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Cesar Chavez on the Silver Screen

Despite the efforts of the Texas State Board of Education the impact of Cesar Chavez on American history cannot be understated.  Simply put, he was instrumental in promoting the labor rights of farm workers and is viewed as an icon in the Latino civil rights movement. 

His life will be the subject of a feature film directed by Mexican actor Diego Luna and starring Michael Peña as Chavez.  Entitled “Cesar Chavez: An American Hero,” the movie also stars America Ferrera as Chavez’ wife and Rosario Dawson as immigrant and labor rights activist Dolores Huerta.

“I’ve gone across (the U.S.-Mexico) border many times, my son was born in the United States – he is also a Mexican-American with the two passports. So with this movie I want to bring that community and its neighbors closer together,” said Luna in a recent interview.

The official trailer to the Chavez biopic was released this week, which you can view below the page break:

Daily Headlines: October 29, 2013

* Argentina: The Argentinian Supreme Court upheld a government-backed media law that could obligate the Clarin media conglomerate to sell off some of its licenses in radio, TV and the Internet.

* Brazil: Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo claimed that he doesn't anticipate any protests at next year’s soccer World Cup like the mass demonstrations several months ago during the Confederations Cup.

* Uruguay: President Jose Mujica announced that the 850-member Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti would be withdrawn partly due to a “political impasse in Haitian society.”

* Mexico: An uptick of violence has been reported in the state of Michoacán resulting from clashes between self-defense groups and the Knights Templar drug gang.

Video Source – YouTube via user teleSURenglish tv

Online Sources- BBC News; The Guardian; GlobalPost; MercoPress; The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

U.N. Condemns Cuba Embargo…Again

For the 22nd consecutive year, the United Nations (U.N.) passed a resolution against a decades long U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

A whopping 188 of the 193 member nations of the U.N. General Assembly condemned the embargo while the U.S. and Israel where the only states to reject the resolution.

"Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at the General Assembly. "The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable,” he mentioned though he also claimed that the “blockade” has caused $1.1 billion in “economic damages” to Cuba.

Speaking in the name of the South American Mercosur bloc, Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. Samuel Moncada blasted the embargo as “the main obstacle to the economic development of Cubans” and a “violation against the principles of justice and human rights.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean alleged that the embargo and the U.S. labeling Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” have negated any “progress in the process of reforming” the island’s economy.

In response to the criticism of the embargo, senior U.S. adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs Ronald Godard claimed “Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to urge respect for the civil and human rights.  He tied to downplay Rodriguez’ comments by noting that $2 billion in remittances were sent to Cuba from the U.S. in 2012 and that the island’s government “silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly (and), impedes independent journalism.”

Daily Headlines: October 29, 2013

* Venezuela: Venezuelan officials announced the planned installation of tens of thousands of surveillance cameras nationwide including in high-crime areas of several major cites.  

* Chile: Patricio Ahumada, the leader of a gang recently convicted of the 2012 murder of gay youth Daniel Zamudio, was sentenced to life in prison by a Chilean court.

* Cuba: The relaxation of travel restrictions may explain why there was a reported 35% boost in the number of Cuban tourists who have left the island.

* Brazil: Brazil’s Bio-Manguinhos biomedical research center in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will try to produce a combined measles and rubella vaccine for export to developing countries.

Video Source – YouTube via user brianandrewsntn24 (Video uploaded in March 2012).

Online Sources- El Universal; The Latin Americanist; GlobalPost; ABC News; Reuters

Monday, October 28, 2013

Daily Headlines: October 28, 2013

* Argentina: Opposition factions made big gains in yesterday’s local elections and may have “snuffed out” any chance of amending the constitution to allow President Cristina Fernandez to run for a third term.

* U.S.: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltrán was named as the recipient of this year’s Roberto Clemente Award in recognition of his charitable efforts.

* Nicaragua: The Nicaraguan government issued a “red alert” for a dengue epidemic that has killed at least twelve people this year.

* Colombia: The FARC guerillas “quietly” released a former U.S. army private to Red Cross representatives over four months after he was detained in southeastern Colombia.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- Reuters; Fox News Latino; Nicaragua Dispatch; USA TODAY