Friday, December 13, 2013

Posting During the Holidays

With the holiday season fast approaching us, we will be changing our weekday schedule for our posts over the next few weeks:
  • December 16 to 20 and December 23 to 24 – Two posts per day consisting of “Daily Headlines” and the return of “World Watch.”
  • December 25 to January 3 – No posts.
  • January 5 to January 8 - Two posts per day consisting of “Daily Headlines” and “World Watch.” 
  • January 9 to January 10 – No posts.
  • January 13 – Resuming regularly scheduled posting.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you very much for your kind attention and readership. 

Happy holidays!

Video Source– YouTube user juancachorrin

De Musica Ligera: Remembering Kirsty MacColl

On December 18, 2000, English singer–songwriter Kirsty MacColl died under mysterious circumstances while vacationing with her family in Mexico.  

While scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel with her two sons, MacColl was hit and killed by a speedboat that entered illegally into a swimming-only area. The scuba instructor working with the group, Ivan Diaz, claimed that her final gesture was to save the life of one of her sons by pushing him away from the path of the boat.

Mexican business tycoon Guillermo González Nova owned the boat involved in the incident and he was on board the vessel with his family.  Crewmember José Cen Yam confessed that he drove the boat and his only punishment was to pay a small putative fine.  Yet MacColl's family and her supporters believed that Cen Yam took the blame for his boss and Nova covered up the true circumstances of the accident.  (They claimed that witnesses including Diaz saw Nova admit to police that he was driving the speedboat while Yam “drunkenly” said that Nova promised him money and a house in exchange for lying to the authorities).

The tragedy snuffed out the life of a gifted musician who was best known for having her debut solo single "They Don't Know" covered by Tracey Ullman, singing backing vocals on several songs from The Smiths and collaborating with Shane MacGowan in the holiday classic “Fairytale of New York.”  Yet at the time of her untimely death she was scheduled to present a series on Cuban music for BBC radio, which she recorded in Havana and included interviews with the Buena Vista Social Club and Ry Cooder.  Throughout her career she dabbled with Latin-themed tunes in her songs such as “In These Shoes” and “Us Amazonians” from her final album, Tropical Brainstorm

Below the page break is the video from 1991’s “My Affair”, an upbeat song described by The A.V. Club as a “simple cure” to overcome the sadness one may feel from her untimely death thirteen years ago this month:

Daily Headlines: December 13, 2013

* Mexico: Mexicans worldwide including scores of pilgrims who traveled to Mexico City's Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebrated the December 12th birthday of Mexico's patron saint.

* Uruguay: The U.N.-linked International Narcotics Control Board claimed that a marijuana legalization law passed this week is illegal and against a global drugs treaty.

* El Salvador: Police believe that the twenty-four bodies uncovered in a clandestine burial ground in El Salvador may have all been victims of gang violence.

* Brazil: Brazilian legislators are considering dropping a ban on genetically modified "terminator" seeds in a move that is reportedly backed by “powerful landowning groups” but opposed to by environmentalists and small farmers.

Video Source – YouTube user CadenaTres

Online Sources- The Huffington Post; Reuters; LAHT; The Guardian

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Cuarón's Debut

The nominees for the upcoming Golden Globe Awards were announced on Thursday and among the finalists for the Best Director Award is Alfonso Cuarón.  The 52-year-old Mexican was recognized for his work directing the critically acclaimed and box office hit thriller "Gravity" though he faces stiff competition from other nominees including Steve McQueen ("12 Years A Slave"), David O. Russell ("American Hustle") and Paul Greengrass ("Captain Phillips").   

A talented director, screenwriter, producer and editor, Cuarón is best known for films like "Y Tu Mamá También," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Children of Men."  Yet his first big hit came in 1991 with his directorial debut.  

"Love in the Time of Hysteria" focuses on a young man who is notorious for his womanizing and, as the narrator of the film's trailer claims, "will sleep with just about any lady he meets."  His life as a carefree Casanova comes to a quick halt after one of his many jilted lovers, a nurse, convinces him that he has AIDS.  His attempts of suicide are thwarted yet it is his desire to want to kill himself that leads him to fall in love with a stewardess who also wants to end her life after she is cheated upon.

Aside from directing this dark comedy, Cuarón also co-wrote, produced and co-edited the film.  Known locally as "Sólo con tu pareja", the movie garnered four nominations in Mexico's Ariel film awards and won in the Best Original Story category.

Below the page break is the Spanish-language trailer to "Love in the Time of Hysteria".  (Please note that it is Not Safe for Work due to images of brief nudity).

Daily Headlines: December 12, 2013

* Vatican: On the same day that Argentine-born Pope Francis was selected as Time magazine’s Person of the Year a new poll found that 92% of Catholics in the U.S. support the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

* Mexico: The lower house of the Mexican congress approved a controversial energy reform bill that would help break up the country’s 75-year oil monopoly.

* Honduras: The Honduran electoral tribunal confirmed the victory of ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez in the presidential elections though it remains to be seen if his “law-and-order platform” can stem the tide of high violence and massive poverty.

* Chile: Educational reform, economic inequality and gay marriage were among the issues discussed by Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei during the final televised debate before Chile’s presidential election on Sunday.

Video Source – YouTube use NTDTV (During his visit to Brazil last July, Pope Francis “issued the first social manifesto of his young pontificate, telling slum dwellers that the world's rich must do much more to wipe out vast inequalities between the haves and the have-nots”.)

Online Sources- Pew Research Center; FRANCE24; Prensa Latina; Bloomberg

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 11, 2013

* Uruguay: Legislators in Uruguay approved a landmark proposal that would grant the government authority to regulate marijuana production and distribution.

* Dominican Republic: The Dominican government strongly criticized a report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights opposing a recent court decision that could remove the citizenship of thousands of people.
* U.S.: The Spanish-language Obamacare/Affordable Care Act enrollment website commenced running this week after a two-month delay.

* Peru: Gastón Acurio, one of Peru’s best-known celebrity chefs, rejected the possibility that he will run for his country’s presidency in 2016.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- The Guardian; ABC News; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; Peru This Week

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Colombia: “Funeral” Honors Life and Legacy of Mandela (Updated)

A countless number of tributes in honor of ex-South African president Nelson Mandela have come from around the world since he passed away last Thursday.  Latin American leaders and Nobel Laureates such as Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Oscar Arias praised the iconic anti-apartheid campaigner who died at the age of 95.   Meanwhile, one of the most unique celebrations of Mandela’s life and legacy took place in a Colombian neighborhood named after him.

Last weekend, dozens of residents of the Nelson Mandela neighborhood of Cartagena held a vigil and “symbolic funeral” in his name. 

Religious leaders, community activists and admirers of the late leader took part in the activities that included an honorary mass and a funeral march with a coffin representing Mandela.  They chanted “Freedom, freedom, Nelson Mandela you are freedom” as they walked to a local soccer field.

“We wanted to do this symbolic funeral in order to remember with each step the achievements of our South Africa leader,” said Abad Berrio, one of the attendees.

“We’re getting together to remember him and teach the children what he represented as well as the peace we hope to achieve,” Berrio added.

The neighborhood was founded on the day Mandela was elected as president of South Africa in December 1994.  Most of the 40,000 residents are Afro-Colombians and had been displaced from other parts of the country mired in a decades-long armed conflict.  Yet the Barrio Nelson Mandela is one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods in Cartagena with residents suffer from poor social services and in absence of urgent medical care.

The problems of the Mandela neighborhood have not gone unnoticed by local civic leaders like Wailer Herrón who hope to draw encouragement from the legacy of the late activist:

Daily Headlines: December 10, 2013

* Brazil: A Sao Paulo-based truth commission concluded that ex-president Juscelino Kubitschek was murdered as part of a “conspiracy, a plot and a political crime.”

* Honduras: The Committee to Protect Journalists and Journalists Without Borders called on a full investigation into the recent death of a Honduran member of the media.

* Colombia: Thousands of people gathered in the main square of Bogota, Colombia to support the city’s mayor after he was controversially removed from his post by the country’s inspector general.

* Argentina: At least seven people died in the overnight hours in northern Argentina as disgruntled police in ten provinces have gone on strike.

Video Source – YouTube user jornaldobrasil (Former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek died under mysterious in an auto accident in 1976).

Online Sources- BBC News; ABC News; Latin Times; AFP

Monday, December 9, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 9, 2013

* Russia: An amnesty proposal being pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin could lead to the liberation of Argentine environmental activists Camila Speziale and Hernán Pérez Orsi. 

* Puerto Rico: Why is Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla urging the U.S. Congress to oppose granting statehood to Puerto Rico even though most voters in a 2012 referendum backed statehood?

* Venezuela: Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party won a majority of localities in Sunday’s municipal elections though the opposition made gains in several major cities.

* Colombia: Commanders of Colombia’s FARC guerillas announced a unilateral thirty day ceasefire while President Juan Manuel Santos declared that the country’s military offensive “will continue” following a deadly rebel attack.