Friday, November 28, 2014

Mexican Comic Icon "Chesprito" Dies

Famed Mexican comedian Roberto Gómez Bolaños passed away on Friday at the age of eighty-five at his home in Cancún.

Prior to becoming an actor, Bolaños was an amateur boxer, studied engineering in college and wrote scripts for film and TV.  He short stature and prolific writing earned him a nickname that was a play on words from "Little Shakespeare" and would remain with him throughout his life: "Chespirito".

His big break came in 1968 with a sketch comedy show that allowed him to develop numerous comic characters over the years including wacky medic "Dr. Chapatín", petty crook "El Chompiras" and bumbling superhero "El Chapulín Colorado". Yet he was best known for his role as "El Chavo del Ocho", an orphan who resided in a barrel located inside a lower-class Mexico city neighborhood.  An episode of El Chavo often showed his good-nature hijinks with his child friends and adult neighbors though his penchant for wordplay sometimes masked social commentary.

"El Chavo interprets every word in the literal sense and, thus, suffers the injustice of the world.  He questions society and our relations of power and friendship by emphasizing the significance of language," noted Colombian television critic Omar Rincón.

Bolaños' humor made him a superstar across the Spanish-speaking world where numerous countries still show his programs even though he stopped recording TV material roughly twenty-five years ago.  El Chavo-themed restaurants in Puerto Rico and Colombia have dishes named in honor of the characters from the program homage while visitors can travel to an official Chavo theme park in Venezuela. Bolaños himself claimed in a 1999 interview "this may sound blasphemous in Mexico but in Peru I'm seen as the most important Latin American comic of the millennium. And I believe it."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The First Thanksgiving

The following post was first published in 2013:

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and it is generally believed that the first Thanksgiving feast took part between the Pilgrims and Native Americans in Massachusetts in 1621.  But as we first mentioned back in 2007, the first Thanksgiving really occurred in 1565 when Spanish explorers and Timuca natives in St. Augustine, Florida got together and dined on bean soup.

The following brief video via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delves into the history behind the first Thanksgiving nearly 450 years ago:

Although Thanksgiving is not typically celebrated in Latin America, many Latinos in the U.S. do celebrate the holiday.  Some households modify the holiday and add traditional Latin American details such as feasting on tamales or (in the case of my family) serve yellow rice as one of the side dishes to the Thanksgiving turkey.

Video Source - The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via YouTube

Online Source - The Latin Americanist; Latino Post

Daily Headlines: November 27, 2014

* Brazil: A spokesman for Brazilian soccer legend Pelé confirmed that he was taken to a “special care” unit of a Sao Paulo hospital in order to be treated for a urinary tract infection but is soon expected to be discharged.

* Venezuela: At least thirteen Venezuelan inmates who had gone on hunger strike to protest prison conditions died after breaking into an infirmary and ingesting medications.

* Peru: The Peruvian Supreme Court refused to listen to appeal from president Alberto Fujimori seeking to overturn his twenty-five year prison sentence for human rights abuses.

* Cuba: Several Cuban dissidents thanked Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo for urging the island's government to permit former political prisoners to safely leave the country.

Video Source – YouTube user FRANCE 24 English (“The 74-year-old football legend admitted 3 days ago with a urinary infections suffers from complications after surgery and has been transferred to the 'special care unit' in hospital.”)

Online Sources – ABC News; GlobalPost; Latin American Herald Tribune; Reuters

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Daily Headlines: November 26, 2014

* Mexico: Human rights groups accused the authorities of cracking down against protesters marching at a rally on November 20th to protest the disappearance of forty-three students missing for more since September 26th.

* Cuba: Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo urged the Cuban government to accelerate economic reforms and allow previously imprisoned dissidents to leave the country.

* South America: Will the South American Pacific Alliance and Mercosur trading blocs soon merge together?

* El Salvador: Salvadoran police blamed gang violence for the murders of eight people at a graduation party on Tuesday.

Video Source – Fusion via YouTube 

Online Sources – The Guardian; The Washington Post; Buenos Aires Herald; Reuters

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Daily Headlines: November 25, 2014

* Colombia: The FARC freed two recently kidnapped soldiers this morning in an action that could help renew the suspended peace talks between the rebels and the Colombian government.

* U.S.: A poll released yesterday showed that 89% of Latino voters including solid majorities across all major political party affiliations favor President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

* Chile: A rematch of the Brazil-Colombia 2014 World cup quarterfinal and the traditional Argentina-Uruguay rivalry will be two of the more highly anticipated group stage matches at next year’s Copa America.

* Puerto Rico: According to police data the estimated 688 homicides for this year is expected to be 25% less than 2013 and at least 40% less than the record 1164 murders committed in 2011.

Video Source – The Economist via YouTube

Online Sources – Rappler; NBC News; Fox News Latino; SBS

Monday, November 24, 2014

Daily Headlines: November 24, 2014

* Mexico: “We will not rest until we find them alive…because we don’t want one of you to become the 44th (victim),” said one of the relatives of the missing Ayotzinapa students during an appearance on stage at a Calle 13 concert last Friday.

* U.S.: According to the Pew Research Center at least half of undocumented migrants from Mexico and Central America will receive temporary benefits from an executive action first announced last week by U.S. President Barack Obama.

* Ecuador: The Ecuadoran government will continue to offer a safe haven to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who has been residing in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June 2012.

* Uruguay: Polls indicate that former President Tabaré Vasquez will easily win the November 30th presidential runoff election.

Video Source – La Jornada via YouTube

Online Sources – teleSUR English; Pew Research Center; SBS; Voice of America