Arts and Culture

The gringo speaks

Eric Volz, the American who in 2007 was convicted and later acquitted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Nicaragua, is publishing a book about his ordeal. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Volz case. On the one hand, he was almost certainly railroaded. It’s pretty hard to fabricate phone and chat records, and he had many eyewitnesses that placed him in Managua at the time the murder took place.

On the other hand, I found the U.S. media’s handling of the whole thing to be distasteful. I’ve been to San Juan del Sur, several times. It’s a scummy, weird place full of scummy, weird people. Volz sold real estate there, which in my book makes him one of the thousands of opportunistic foreigners who profit from the very fact that Central America’s legal systems and regulatory bodies are vulnerable to extra-legal influence.

That doesn’t mean he deserved to be convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. But it does significantly muddy the narrative that 60 Minutes, CNN, the Today Show, and others put forth, of a wholesome blond gringo cruelly set upon by a culture of lawless savages, as if this kind of thing never happens in America.

NowA� he’s drafting off that narrative with a book called Gringo Nightmare. It’s good business, but it doesn’t seem right.

Also posted in Human Rights, Nicaragua | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Marching in

Art ants

"Ants" by artist Rafael Gomez Barros

Spotted on the facade of the National Congress, in Bogota, Colombia

Also posted in Colombia | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The littlest samba queen

That 7-year-old samba queen got her moment in the spotlight at Carnival this weekend. And she burst into tears. Too many photographers, it seems. It’s not clear whether she did the whole parade, but her father held her hand across the finish line. Some people still seem upset about the whole thing. I, for one, hope Julia Lira can someday look back on this from the pinnacle of a brilliant career and laugh.

Also posted in Brazil, Odd | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Donkey Library

The Biblioburro is a great story. Once a week, Mr. Luis Serano saddles up his two burros with a selection of books and rides off into Colombia’s backwoods (in the eastern Caribbean area) to give people a chance to read. In 2008, the New York Times published an excellent profile of the institution.

Now film director Carlos RendA?n Zipaguata – who shot a documentary on the Biblioburro – will be doing a feature-length film, according to El Tiempo.

Here’s a little video I found on the Biblioburro (not, I don’t think, shot by Mr. RendA?n).

Also posted in Colombia | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

And the nominees are…

Two Latin American movies are up for an Oscar in the awkwardly-named Foreign Language Film category.

El Secreto de sus Ojos, from Argentine director Juan JosA� Campanella, looks like an investigative thriller, starring that one actor that seems to be in all Argentine movies that achieve international recognition, Ricardo DarA�n:

The other nominee is a Peruvian flick called La Teta Asustada. Directed by Claudia Llosa, it looks quiet, beautiful, sad:

I’m looking forward to seeing them both.

Also posted in Argentina, Peru | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Gang documentary wins award

The documentary film La Vida Loca, on El Salvador’s youth gangs, has won a critics award in France for best documentary film. The film’s director, Christian Poveda, was murdered last year while he was finishing the documentary. The government has made several arrests in connection with the crime, but no one has been convicted yet. There are a few clips from the documentary on YouTube. Here’s one with decent English subtitles.

Also posted in El Salvador | Tagged , , , | 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 vacA�o, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaA�a."A�[link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre CantA?. 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]