Arts and Culture

NAFTA and Mexican maize

The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

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Acid-throwers linked to contest opponent

María Fernanda Núñez is a Colombian model who was poised to win the title to represent North Santander in the Miss Colombia competition. Then someone threw acid in her face.

Now the Colombian authorities say they know who did it, and the suspect is linked to another participant in the competition. From Semana:

The suspect is Fabián Sáez Ibáñez, a young man who identified himself with his ID card on June 10 in the chemical store where he bought the bottles of acid. Sáez is the boyfriend of Yesid Ramón Gómez, who is himself the cousin of Carolina Gómez Gómez, one of the eight candidates who were competing against ‘Mafe’ for the title of Miss North Santander and to represent the region in [the Miss Colombia competition] in Cartegena. Carolina Gómez [is] a favorite together with the candidate who was attacked.

Buying acid with your ID card on the day you plan to attack someone with said acid does not strike me as a brilliant move. Anyway, Caracol is reporting that the suspects, whoever they are, have fled, which is a bit smarter.

The Semana article seems to indicate that María Fernanda is recovering well, and she appeared on CNN the other night. Here’s a video of her from 2009. Get well soon.

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Pecados de mi Padre

This looks like a fascinating movie: Pecados de mi Padre – Sins of my Father – purports to be a documentary on the life of Pablo Escobar’s son, Sebastián, but it also appears to have a healthy bit of good clean footage and storytelling about Pablo himself.


However, I have to say that having read Killing Pablo the whole thing seems a little weird. According to my foggy recollection, during Pablo’s final days, 16-year-old Sebastián was Pablo’s communication link to the world and to his troops, such as they were by that point.

And he took to the job pretty heartily.

That would make Sebastián a little more than just the innocent bystander he appears to be portraying himself as. Of course, many of us at 16 would have done something similarly craven if given the chance, but I still wonder if this documentary is an attempt at laundering the past.

Anyway, lots of questions. Hope I can find this somewhere other than HBO.

(Thanks to Anahí for the tip on this one.)

Also posted in Colombia, History, War on drugs | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Alamar

Alamar, a Mexican film about a father and son that is supposedly some kind of documentary/feature film hybrid, won best picture at the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente.


What a pretty-looking movie.

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Rolling southward

Last week I laughed when I read a comment from a Mexican health insurance executive blaming a 16% increase in the cost of health insurance last year on “people getting sick more.” Then my wife said, “Diet?” and I said, hm. And now I read this great post from Structurally Maladjusted on The NAFTA Diet.

Apparently Mexico is very fat, and has become so recently:

About 70 percent of Mexican adults are now overweight, according to government estimates, more than triple the number of three decades ago. Also, about a third of the country’s schoolchildren and teenagers are overweight, making Mexicans the second-heaviest people on the planet, gaining quickly on their American neighbors.

I don’t know of any easy way to figure out what proportion of food people eat is over-processed crap, and anyway, as SM points out, correlation is not causation. Common sense tells us, however, that a free trade agreement with a country whose government-subsidized food industry is killing its customers will not be good for you.

Indeed, living as I do in a country that recently ratified CAFTA and has for the last couple decades been rushing to adopt the American way of life, I’ve seen the food culture change in only the few years I’ve been here. Grocery stores have more (and cheaper) chips and crackers and string cheese and dips and all the other fun stuff you could nominally associate with a Super Bowl party.

Also, fast food is ever-cheaper and quickly becoming competitive with more traditional rice-and-beans-based options. Costa Ricans, like Mexicans, are putting on the pounds: Only 22% of men were overweight in 1982. Now, it’s 62%.

One thing countries like Costa Rica and Mexico do have going for them is healthier distrust of the companies whose terrible products make them fat. Just try unanimously passing a federal law in the US banning junk food from public schools and you’ll note the contrast.

Even so, I have no doubt that the globalization of the American diet will someday (if not already) be seen as one of the greatest cultural and public health travesties in history.

(Original image courtesy Enrico via Wikimedia Commons.)

Also posted in Costa Rica, Mexico, Trade | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Christ the Redeemer tagged


Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue was vandalized by intrepid ne’er-do-wells who scaled scaffolding that was in place for cleaning the statue. Rio’s mayor called the vandalism of the 120-foot statue “a crime against the nation” and promised the vandals “will go to jail.”

Also posted in Brazil, Odd, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment


The second episode of El Chigüire Bipolar‘s Isla Presidencial. Frankly, not that good. And kind of… racist? Episode I was much more fun.

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BREAKING: Ricky Martin is gay

Shocking, right? The Puerto Rican singer held forth on his Web site today:

What will happen from now on? It doesn’t matter. I can only focus on what’s happening to me in this moment. The word “happiness” takes on a new meaning for me as of today. It has been a very intense process. Every word that I write in this letter is born out of love, acceptance, detachment and real contentment. Writing this is a solid step towards my inner peace and vital part of my evolution.

I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.

Good for him. Bad for the 20-something (30-something?) women who have crushed on him all these years. Have a nice Semana Santa everyone.

(H/T Gawker)

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Good for a laugh

I give you, the Venezuelan version of People of Wal-Mart, Solo en Venezuela (Only in Venezuela).

“The door bell doesn’t work, please knock with the hose.” OK, fine, one more:

Also posted in Odd, Venezuela | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The New York Times’ Simon Romero has written a profile of the excellent Venezuelan political satire site El Chigüire Bipolar. The site is basically the Venezuelan version of The Onion. Though it skewers everyone, it has so far only managed to anger the government, which doesn’t have a very well-developed sense of humor about itself. [link]

Also posted in Side notes, Venezuela | Leave a comment
  • DAILY LINKS

    • The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

    • Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas ended his hunger strike yesterday after 134 days. Farinas decided to end his strike after the Cuban government said it would release political prisoners rounded up in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. Get well soon. [link]

    • The Uruguayan selection, which has made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, just received a shipment of half a ton of fine cuts of beef for the mother of all asados in preparation for a contest against Ghana on Friday: "450 kilos of lomo, 200 of entrecot, 75 of vacío, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaña." [link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre Cantú. Torre was gunned down along with six others at about 10:30 this morning on a highway on the way to a campaign event. Drug mafias are assumed to be responsible. [link]

    • From the days when coups were something of a regional sport, new documents detail a famous British ballerina's role in a plot to topple the government of Panama. The plan was to use her yacht to gather men and arms, then "land somewhere and collect in the hills." It didn't work. [link]

    • Mexico's Attorney General's Office has posted on its web site irrefutable evidence that gold-plated AR-15s and diamond-studded pistol grips are not nearly as cool-looking as they sound. The deadly knick-knack collection is said to belong to Valencia Cartel leader El Lobo. [link]

    • Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: "Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers." [link]


    • This video of a kidnapping and car chase in Mexico is notable mainly for the bad-assitude of the TV journalists who were on this like white on rice. Well done, gentlemen.

    • The Economist takes a peak at the Mockus phenomenon in Colombia: "His moustacheless beard gives him the air of a Baltic pastor... He is financing his campaign with a bank overdraft. His supporters rely on Facebook and make their own posters; street vendors sell unofficial campaign T-shirts." [link]

    • Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]