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The Death penalty in Latin America

The Death penalty in Latin America

What very well may be the last vestige of a less civilized society, capital punishment, better known as the death penalty, has become a focal point within not only nations’ parliaments but even international forums such as the UN. And while many countries have decided the execution of criminals convicted of more heinous crimes are still deserving of life and have done away with the death penalty altogether, some nations still maintain its usage and even employ it regularly.

Before we delve into the complexities of the death penalty and its merit or lack thereof, it may be pertinent to explore its history.

Dating back to the time people first gathered together to form societies, the death penalty, in some shape or form, has been utilized as a means of punishment. Though its use was more liberal in the earlier days of society. Now, it is mostly used in cases where the crimes committed surpass simple law-breaking behavior, meaning that it’s reserved for those convicted of murder. However, some countries still use it in other contexts as well.

 

Capital Punishment and Latin America

Capital punishment has been a controversial subject as more and more countries begin to wrestle with the morality of executing criminals. On one side of the aisle sit those that stand for the death penalty and advocate its usage for serious crimes. To their point, they provide the argument that the penalty of death is the main deterrent standing between those who would commit heinous acts and those they would seek to harm. For them, the death penalty is a matter of justice and should be used as a means to “right” wrongs committed against others. Whether or not that constitutes vengeance and not justice, is up for debate.

On the other side, are those that stand against the death penalty. For those on that side, the act of murder or other crimes does not give us as a society the license to end a life. To put it simply, if we as a society stand against murder, it would represent a double standard to employ murder as a means of punishment.

And while the entire world has different standpoints on the issue, Latin America almost has a complete consensus towards the matter. In the region, only Cuba regularly uses it. Guatemala, changed its penal code just this past October (2017), to wording more in line with the rest of the region.  This stands in direct contrast to their neighbors to the north, mainly the US, which regularly employs the death penalty.

Murder for a Murderer…

There are valid points on both sides of the argument. For those that say the death penalty is the only thing that stands between good people and those that would take lives callously, certainly removing such a person from society is a solution, a quick one despite the moral ambiguity, but a solution nonetheless. On the other side, those against the death penalty have a valid point in saying that setting precedent as a moral authority requires one to be moral. Otherwise, it quickly becomes a circumstance of “Do as I say, not as I do” which should never be the tone taken towards crime and morality.

So while the majority of Latin America has decided that the death penalty should not be used in any case, the holdouts (Up until very recently Guatemala and Cuba, now just the latter) continue to force us as a society to ask one simple, yet important question:

“What type of society do we wish to be? What type of people do we wish to be?”

The answer to that question carries with it quite significant ramifications as it will dictate the path we take forward in terms of criminal justice. For the time being, the debate is a rhetorical one, as legally, the death penalty no longer exists in all but one of Latin American countries.

 

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Latin America Food and Evolution

Latin America Food and Evolution

Latin America is comprised of countries that were at one point dominated and colonized by  Portugal and Spain. Just like any region within a continent, countries in Latin America have their own culture with its unique food or cuisine, adding to the diversity of this collection of countries so frequently lumped together. This article will explore some of the food in Latin America.

 

Misconceptions about Latin American and Hispanic culture

One of the misconceptions I often encounter is that “Latin American” or “Hispanic” are denominators that mean “Spanish.” However, only things and people that come from Spain are Spanish. You must understand that there is nothing “Spanish” about a Mexican taquería, an Ecuadorian restaurant or a Chilean person.

The second misconception is that those who speak Spanish eat enchiladas and tacos. These foods originate from Mexico. Most of the regions in Latin America don’t have them, especially those in South America. Central Americans and Mexicans do use tortillas frequently as a base for a dish. “Tortilla” in Spain actually means an omelet or similar variation.

Certain kinds of foods or garnishes such as salsas and tamales are found in most regions. However, they differ, depending on what is locally found. Take beans, for example. Beans and rice is an essential dish in most countries in Latin America but prepared differently in every country. In Peru, you will find white beans and fava. In Cuba, slow-cooked black beans; in Puerto Rico, pigeon peas; in Mexico, pinto beans; etc.

Now you see that each country in Latin America has a distinct culinary tradition, which is based on local ingredients and influenced by Spanish colonial food. The cuisine from each Latin American country is loaded with different mixtures of spices and fresh produce found in the area. Here are some of the best dishes and areas where you can enjoy each one.

 

Pão de Queijo

This dish is a high-class export delight, which pleases all penchants and is gluten-free. It originates from Brazil, and the preparation process is as simple as opening the door. The food is prepared from sour cassava flour with generous quantities of tasty cheese. It is a common breakfast food and snack for locals in Brazil, and it can trace it’s origin to African slaves brought to the area. They would peel and soak the root of the cassava before making bread rolls with it. A dish will keep you salivating for more.

 

Tacos

Soft or crunchy, they may look messy but are so worth it. Traditionally from Mexico, they are made of wheat or corn tortillas rolled or folded around various fillings. These may be seafood, chicken, cheese, vegetables, pork, or beef. You can eat a taco without utensils, and most times it will be garnished with chili pepper, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, coriander, and guacamole or avocado. Yum!

 

Alfajores

This special food is all you need to fall in love with Argentina. It is considered one of the four native foods that best define it. The Alfajor is a traditional sweet, made with two soft and powdery cookies, which sandwich a thick layer of caramel (dulce de leche). This meal is a national treasure. You can eat this in the morning with tea or coffee. You can also eat it during lunch and dinner. Any time is a good time to eat alfajores. Right now, you can try it.

 

Peruvian Ceviche

This delicious dish is among the spiciest in the region. With an eclectic mixture of international cultures, which settle within the Peruvian area, ceviche is a blend of flavors. If you ever visit Peru and don’t have it, then you did not visit the country at all. Ceviche is made of smoked and spiced seafood – fish, shrimp, mussels, squid, clams. Consider complementing it with sweet potatoes, corn, or plantains – You will never taste anything like it.

 

Indeed, Latin America is filled with a different blend of foods, which transcend national boundaries but are never as good as when prepared in native lands. These are just a few examples of the many dishes that are unique to each country of the region.

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Why Are Countries in Latin America So Happy?  

Why Are Countries in Latin America So Happy?  

In the face of global economic hardships, political tension, and natural disasters, it’s surprising to find that research has identified Latin America is among the happiest regions. Obviously, many people want to know the secret behind this finding.  

Gallup associates completed the study by measuring positive and negative daily experiences. More specifically, the study was done with the objective of bringing some light on why certain countries had such high positivism, even if they were confronted by adversity, violence, inclement weather and bad governments. Nearly 149,000 interviews were conducted with adult participants, from 142 countries in 2016.

Results revealed that Latin American countries took the lead in terms of positive experiences. These covered emotions like laughter, enjoyment and having rest. Similar results for Latin American countries are reported for much of the past decade.   

The report also highlighted other regions that had the highest ratings for negative experiences. These experiences included feelings of anger, stress, and worry. At the top of the list were Uzbekistan, the Philippines, and Norway.   

Findings showed that people from Greece rated stress at  67%. Given the current socioeconomic turmoil in the area, it is evident domestic factors may affect positive emotions.  

 

A similar conclusion can be drawn from the information obtained in Iraq. The world is aware that it has been a war-ravaged country for quite some time now. It doesn’t come as a surprise that for the 5th time, Iraq topped the negative experience list.   

Below is a summary of other findings from the study:

While measurements like unemployment and GDP help quantify certain aspects of a society’s health, virtually no macro-level data exists on the emotional state of a country.

It’s important to get clues on the emotional states of people and why it matters to the entire world.  Did you know 70% of human behavior is based on emotions – not reasoning? More than 70% of people worldwide, smiled, experienced a lot of enjoyment or laughed a lot.  It seems the secret behind Latin American countries being so happy, partly reflect their cultural tendency to focus on life’s positives. Like any other report, they analyzed and factored in elements of bias that may have impacted on results.  

The Gallup 2017 Global Emotions Report is in its third year and has proven useful. It offers global leaders, economists and political scientists insights into people’s feelings and behaviors, telling them more about their society’s health and future than traditional economic measures. By measuring life’s intangibles, feelings and emotions, it gives readers a picture of the well-being of their countries and quantifies, ‘What makes life worth living.’  

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Invisible Citizens | Immigrant

Invisible Citizens | Immigrant 

As we near the close of 2017, we look back on a year that has been mired in conflict and huge social upheavals. Across the world there has been a seemingly endless wave of tragedies, some forcing entire communities to leave behind the relative familiarity of home for new, and often dangerous, places. Few countries have avoided the tides of people looking to escape conflict, hunger, or those simply looking for the prospects of better lives for themselves and those they love.

Whether it is the refugee crisis sweeping across much of Europe, the tragic situation unfolding in Myanmar, or the new policies the administration of the United States has implemented, governments have struggled with what course to take, in order to deal with surging populations and very often humanitarian crisis unfolding around their borders.

The increase in numbers of people looking to escape their homelands in favor of safety and better opportunities has caused many countries to turn towards less than sympathetic views. This is evident in many of the nationalistic political groups’ gain of traction within countries affected most by immigration. Even now, as Venezuela is reeling from political turmoil, public unrest, food, and health shortages, people fleeing the nation are met with a sense of resistance from the countries they enter, specifically in the instances of Colombia and Peru. Which is surprisingly odd, given many people from those nations are not opposed to immigration – until it affects their home country, that is.

 

Nationalistic Responses and an Overlooked Struggle

The news of nationalist movements and the policies set in place have continually been a point of contention for many citizens within the countries’ most heavily affected by the surge of immigration. Lost among the infighting between parties and citizens themselves, an overlooked but vitally important factor of the entire situation is going unnoticed by many – the immigrants themselves. The strife and difficulties faced by those that have left behind everything they have known to find refuge in another country, knowing no one, not speaking the language or the culture.

The difficulties faced by immigrants is one that cannot, and should never, be overlooked, as t it’s heart, the immigration debacle is a human problem.

 

The Difficulties of Starting Over

For many immigrants, the choice of leaving behind everything they once knew is one that is not made lightly. The immense difficulty of having to decide to enter a foreign country is something that can be conveniently overlooked by those that argue against immigration.

As immigrants struggle to start over from scratch,  they can at times feel completely shunned or ignored by the very people they are growing to call neighbors or the place they are learning to call home. That feeling of invisibility is only enhanced by the difficulty faced in trying to build a life once again from nothing.

For those that enter countries illegally, often out of desperation, that feeling of invisibility is only compounded by the fact they must lead a life completely hidden from official view.

For many, joining society in full capacity is simply not an option, as exposure to local government agencies would spell deportation under most circumstances.

 

Addressing the Invisible Problem

And while the leaders of nations continue to debate over the best way to deal with the surge in people crossing borders, both legally and without permission, the people that are affected most are overlooked at best – at worst, demonized.

An alarming trend is becoming more and more apparent with each new country that faces a surge in immigration, one of growing nationalism and segregation. Seen in many countries across the world, an influx of immigration often sparks or empowers existing nationalistic parties into action. Fueled by fear, the parties begin to gain traction. People often fear any perceived threat, a fear often masking xenophobia.

As we move forward, we have to recognize these struggles and shine a light on a situation that cannot be overlooked much longer. This, while avoiding the gut instinct to close ourselves off to others based on fear.

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Not to be “Indio”

Not to be “Indio”

We always find it difficult to appreciate our cultural wealth. In most cases, we associate it to the cause of all our problems. In Latin America, our cultural practices have always faced challenges from a small number of people who would like to destroy them. Even now, anyone who is a Creole is regarded as a very lucky individual; being Mestizo is also okay. However, being an indigene is like someone who has been condemned to hunger, poverty, and ignorance right from birth.

The term “Indio” is regularly used in Latin America to mock others. Sometimes, you will hear friends, relatives or enemies throwing this word as an insult to others, meaning ignorant, unethical or uninformed. The statement “Do not be an Indio” (No seas indio) is often used to show a profound sense of contempt. It is common to hear Mestizos and the indigenous people criticizing others in a bid that they are different and superior to them.   

When the Spaniards came to Latin America, they systematically destroyed the cultural legacy and sense of self of the native population. There were cases of divided families, forced labor and murder in a scale that left only remnants of that identity. We are all aware of these facts, but it is not enough to know the history –  the fact that racism has a place in common manner of speech should not be accepted or tolerated. The best way forward is to accept those experiences as part of our history and move on. It is never advisable to dwell much in the past, but rather, work hard to create a better tomorrow. Continuous lamentation is not contributing anything to our society, what we need is intelligent action.

We are made up of different cultures with different colors and factions.  Learning from what happened in the past means accepting that what our ancestors experienced was not their fault, but a violent change they faced in the context of events that altered human history.  It is now our responsibility to come out of this cultural jam. If we want to see change, it is essential to understand that this change must come from us, and not from a specific leader or paternalistic government that will solve our problems.

I remember one of my university professors who once told me that he learned how to read at twenty-three and with continuous effort, he finished his education. He didn’t just learn to read; he also earned a Master’s degree in Finance. I stood in awe of this man, not for the amazing feat of rising above the circumstances of education, but that he was indigenous and did this. Looking back, I would like to believe that his story would have amazed me independent of the color of his skin, but can that really be the case without taking merit from the hurdles he faced because of it? If we want to be accepted, removing judgment and the  dregs of inherited resentment from our minds must be an intentional and daily exercise.

Pretending superiority in the presence of others and justifying insults as jest is no longer sustainable. Once you can understand why you think the way you think, you can quickly forget those useless beliefs that can only delay human development. It is necessary to learn from the past, overcome it and focus on improving the vision of the generations to come.

Reminding ourselves that the whole point of this exercise is improving our region and the quality of life of the people in it, including us, by reducing the fears and worries in their minds, will help motivate the inherent self serving individual (Yes, I mean you and me). Changing our attitudes from opportunistic to appreciative of the efforts others are making to overcome hardships, taking pleasure in their successes and encouraging their comebacks. The more sensible we are about this, the easier it will be for us to achieve our shared goal.

There are 64 languages in Mexico other than Spanish, and a significant portion of Mexicans ignore this fact. Guatemala has 21 native dialects. Colombia has 65, while Peru has 36 dialects. This issue is a common problem that many regions face.

Joining different nations into one will not solve this problem. We cannot allow people to accept a constitution that supports the destruction of an entire group of people nor remain in backwards ideas. We have lived under this umbrella of unequal conditions for more than five hundred years, and it is time to fight for what we want and what we believe – not with violence, but with the gentle change of daily kindness and respect.

 

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Finding Inspiration and Love In all the Weird and Right Places…

Ishto Juevez

Finding Inspiration and Love In all the Weird and Right Places…

 

A trend had emerged in the music industry early in the golden era of record production, one that focused on producing music for profit, rather than for enrichment of the spirit and soul. And while this has carried on until today, luckily there are always exceptions to the rule. And this exception is named Ishto Juevez.

Far too often when listening to music, we immediately begin to do two things: Identify the genre of music, and then look for the nearest example of what we’re hearing, a similar artist to describe the melodies or similar singers to describe inflection. It is not anyone’s fault, certainly everyone at some point has said “This is the new Radiohead” or “This guy is the new Dylan.” Once in awhile, though, there comes an artist that just breaks that mold and leaves you wondering “What is this magic and why have I never heard it before?”

That is the best way to describe Ishto’s music to anyone who has not been fortunate enough to spend time at one of his intimate shows or gotten the chance to watch his live recordings. Immediately, that way of thinking grinds to a complete stop as you can’t help but think “This is different, this is something else.” And you would certainly be right.

Istho combines so many different genres, rhythms and influences, it’s hard to pin down what exactly you’re listening to, but a few notes in, the realization that naming it doesn’t matter because named or not, it drives deep into your soul and takes a seat. In fact, it doesn’t only take a seat in your soul, it lights a cigarette, cracks a beer, and offers to share stories.

Behind the madness of music and sound is a man as interesting as the music he plays. Spending a few moments watching Ishto, it is hard not to see that this man not only was born to play a guitar but loves doing it. That combination of love and talent, with a healthy dose of eclectic influence, creates something music lovers the world over can appreciate: Authenticity. There is no beating around the bush, when you watch Ishto play, you are witnessing something unique and truly special.

As he shifts from complex chord to complex chord in a timing reminiscent of his classic Latin influence with such ease, it is easy to forget that despite the smiles and the laughs, you are watching some serious talent go down right in front of you.

Hidden behind the playful way he picks chords and strums the often jazzy beat he employs, lays complexity not readily seen on music so fun and upbeat.  It’s almost as if there was no other way for Ishto to play but from the heart, but within that heart lies some serious guitar chops.

If you are unfamiliar with Ishto and his music, then you are depriving yourself of an opportunity to experience what music truly is, pure individualistic expression with no filler. There are no planned hooks and pandering lyrics, just a level of authenticity not always present in mainstream music.

And for a man as talented as Ishto, it is a bit surprising that his name has not been added to the list of great artists that have come before him. Though that honor is certainly to come as his passion and contagious chords changes capture everyone’s attention, leaving you wanting to never stop.

I can only hope that he will continue to be as proliferous in the future as he has so far.  And if his already extensive catalogue of music is any indication of the depth of his personal well of inspiration, there will quite a bit of magic coming this way. If you haven’t already treated yourself to the joy of watching Ishto play guitar, then visit his YouTube channel. You’re welcome.

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The Tale of a Sunken Spanish Galleon

The Tale of a Sunken Spanish Galleon

 

A recent story coming out of Latin America has all the trappings and intrigue of a Hollywood blockbuster, but with some serious real-life implications.

 

Though it has been quite some time, as significant as several centuries can be, since the Spanish ship San Jose set sail for its intended destination, the ship is still making headlines across the world. Initially tasked as a carrier mission to transport gold to the then French monarch to support the nation’s fight against the British, that last voyage would become the beginning of a centuries’ long search for sunken treasure and the start of a new way of viewing lost wonders.

 

Sunken Treasure and Finders Rights…

 

The story of the San Jose’s sunken treasures has all the makings of classic high sea adventure. There are multiple governments claiming ownership, closed-door dealings, and of course the excitement of finding hidden wonders deep below the ocean’s surface. More importantly, at the center is a decades-long discussion concerning who truly has a claim over riches lost to the ocean.

 

For quite some time, the popular notion that those who find lost treasure have a rightful stake over the treasure has reigned as the de-facto ruling. Though this has been highly contested and fought over the years, the so-called “finder’s rights” have been, for the most part, respected. This notion was also legitimated in the eighties, as the United States government heard a case involving a professional team of treasure seekers and the US state of Florida.

 

As most, if not all, of the treasure found among the wreckage, was gained not through exploration within the Spanish’s borders but was the product of their imperialistic history, there is the rightful claim that the treasure belongs to those from it was initially taken from. In these case, the nations of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia while they were under Spanish rule. While cases of lost treasure taken from people long since passed do not immediately elicit the appropriate response that might be admitted to more recent of subjugation and exploitation.

 

To put this in perspective and give a slightly more modern example of the practice, one just needs to consider the troves of valuables stolen from the Jewish people at the hands of Hitler’s forces.

 

When viewed in that light, the answer to the debate becomes quite clear, if the heirs of the Nazis were to try to claim rightful ownership over the tons of gold stolen from the very bodies of the people they massacred. The world would unequivocally stand against such assertion, as the memories of those horrors are still very much present in our collective mind.

 

The same principle, attitudes, and feelings hold true for the treasure found in the wrecked San Jose. And while all parties are still fiercely fighting over ownership, perhaps it is time that we start to make the wrongs of our past right, and begin to recognize that riches gained through exploitation is owed to those from which it was stolen.  

 

Understanding and Embracing Our Differences.

 

Given the shifts towards nationalism that have struck much of the world, it may seem easy to look at many of the things that make us different as reasons for distrust instead of a celebration of the different realities we inhabit.

 

This wave of protectionism and nationalism, while dangerous and disruptive to global progress, is, unfortunately, gaining ground among politicians who would exploit it for political gain.

 

And as the United States wrestles with an administration that has built much of its campaign promises and policy changes around border walls and preventing immigration; amidst Britain’s decision to separate itself from its European neighbors, dispelling the fears and celebrating our differences is more imperative now than ever.

 

Failure to embrace our differences will lead to more dire consequences beyond returns to nationalism, as our reticence to accept cultural differences may disrupt the progress we’ve made as a people to a creating a thriving global market.

 

So in honor of that which makes us who we are, no matter where we are from, let’s take a look at some of the differences Latin American countries have with the rest of the world.

 

Punctuality is more than a courtesy in Germany…

 

Across the pond, preparation is considered more than a sign of courtesy but a way of life

 

For the people of Germany, showing up on time is ingrained into their very culture. One that extends into every aspect of their lives, regardless of the situation.

 

Whereas inhabitants of Latin American nations are known for a more blasé approach towards punctuality, formal occasions and appointments always require a sense of readiness. That is not readily seen extending into personal lives beyond being a courtesy.

 

Though this seems like a rather innocuous culture difference, understanding the slight variations in the way a little tardiness is perceived is imperative when starting to bridge the gap between countries and building business relations abroad.

 

And as every business relationship is exactly that, a relationship, entering into one with more understanding of where the other side is coming from will only lead to a stronger alliance.

 

Keeping your home life at Home.

 

Latin American culture is well known for always being inviting, parties and reasons to celebrate, drawing huge crowds of people. This gregariousness is part of the definition of our culture. In contrast,  in Northern latitudes such as Canada, that proclivity to drawing everyone into celebrations and giving access to every aspect of life is not readily shared.

 

This isn’t to say Canadians are not a welcoming people, far from it. It is more to say that when compared to Latin Americans, Canadians tend to enjoy their privacy a bit more. There is often a very noticeable distinction between personal life and work life.

 

For example, a child’s birthday may be a reason to invite the entire office in Latin America, but the same event in North America would perhaps only warrant a pleasant conversation the following Monday.

While there are more examples than one could readily describe, or even mention in one post, it is important to remember that while the differences among us may be numerous, commonalities vastly outnumber the points in which we differ.

 

Taking that into consideration, with a healthy dose of open-mindedness and acceptance, is essential as we move forward into a global community and embrace all the small cultural differences that make crossing our borders so interesting and exciting.

 

The importance of Latin America

 

As a business partner is undeniable now and in the last century, not only in the US but the whole world. Now more than ever is a great time to start a business in the region – but no one said that this would be an easy task to achieve.

 

Latin America may seem homogeneous, but similarities are as frequent as not.  Negotiation in every region will be different, but before starting a business usually, the other side wants to meet in a more personal manner, and this step is crucial for business. People pay attention to facial expressions, so it does not hurt to be friendly and smile. Time is what is called “island time” meetings are often (not always) relaxed with few time pressures, negotiators tend to make their business decisions upon first impressions and trust (Interpersonal process). Direct conflict or confrontation is something that is not appealing during negotiations and is avoided as much as possible,  relying upon the interpersonal process to minimize any roughness.

 

In Latin America, people take particular care with regards to their appearance and believe in spending valuable time with business partners. Through this is how they gain respect and trust. It, therefore, goes without saying that one needs to have a flexible schedule when doing business in Latin America.

 

Don’t expect great detail or sharing of information in the preliminary meetings, as negotiators hesitate in sharing data as they may feel that the other party is going to use it against them.

 

Zero Sum negotiation must be expected and, the solution to this is to distribute benefits. Don’t be surprised if you encounter bargaining and haggling as this is something familiar with the negotiators in the region.

 

The Latin America negotiators manage the rapport by the emphasis in persuasion, meetings start very affably, telling jokes and looking for personal similarities. As time passes the tone changes and the negotiator becomes quite eloquent (or at least that is the intention) and if things are not going their way usually will use power as a last resort to try to convince you (loud voices and disinterest to intimidate).

 

Some subcultures in Latin America negotiate with a language of ambiguities. A “Yes” may, in fact, mean “maybe” or even “No,”

 

Learn to read between the lines as Latin Americans tend to communicate indirectly. When in doubt, do not hesitate to ask sensitive questions. The real key to getting along with Latin Americans is a positive attitude.

 

Spontaneity precedes any planning in South America. Where many things are uncertain and where the political situation, as well as private affairs, could change from one day to the next, spontaneity is the norm.

 

However, those who come with an open mind and do not adopt prejudices are on the right path to becoming interculturally competent.

 

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Musical Mutation

Musical Mutation

Roger Marroquin

 

“ The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you” B.B. KING

 

Over the years, many things have changed in the way music is produced, recorded and published. Thirty years ago, Latin American bands needed a record label to reach their objective of making a record, be distributed and promoted, but that obviously came with a price. In some way, they had to compromise their music style and adjust to the demands of the industry.

 

Almost every country had a local professional studio that would produce and record at higher costs that could only be afforded by a few bands, with no real chances for international distribution. Private music academies started to emerge, and smaller recording studios as well. The local scene was only that…local!

 

In the early 90’s a new enthusiastic generation of musicians was born, with no professional skills to perform but with an enormous desire to express themselves no matter what. It all developed at the same time as music stores,  musical instruments became easier to obtain and more venues were available to perform. The formula to experiment and create was the same as always, mainly garage bands exploring the different genres.

 

Technological advances played a very important role in music development. Computer software allows musicians to explore a new universe of possibilities, turning a homemade cassette recording into a track made with digital interfaces, and creating music file formats such as MP3, WAV, FLAC, etc.

Home studios were born including tools such as personal computers, midi interfaces, midi instruments and digital soundboards. These helped in a big way to improve home recording soundboards, this, in turn, helped improve home recordings sound quality, making better demos and manage without a paid conventional studio.

 

Subsequently, bands could independently complete the process of recording, mixing, mastering, burning discs, designing and print a disk cover, and start selling their material. With that advantage, the creative process was not compromised, giving more opportunity to explore and create new sub-genres. Then, small recording labels appeared, giving bands the opportunity to be promoted by playing in music festivals and increasing their crowd, becoming more sustainable.

 

By the late 90’s, the download era began with peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing in an MP3 format such as Napster, Kazaa, LimeWire and many others. People were sharing and downloading instead of buying compact discs. In a way, this helped emerging bands to spread and distribute their music. On the other hand, the big bands not getting any revenue and eventually,  these platforms were brought down due to copyright issues.

 

A new millennium started with new challenges, but the key is to adapt and evolve. Musicians were now leaving behind the dream of being signed by a major-label company, finding new strategies to survive and remain active. Launching their websites made them attractive and updated,  an effective platform to be exposed. The software industry also helped improve websites making them visually appealing and dynamic.

 

Soon, a revolution started with the arrival of social networking. One of the first was MySpace, which quickly became the world’s largest social network, providing bands with a way to reach 125 million users worldwide.

 

In late 2006, Universal Music Group sued Myspace for millions in damages for copyright infringement. This suit was settled in mid-2008 with the launch of MySpace Music, a site where users can listen to streaming songs from all sorts of an artist. Soon after, bands were attracted by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, allowing musicians to work with a higher level of autonomy.  There are now many options for music streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, APPLE Music, Pandora, SOUNDCLOUD, Tidal. The sky’s the limit, any band can now create their own Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter profile and be streamed in every platform available, get profits from it and be seen and heard worldwide.

 

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The Mayan City of Quirigua, Guatemala: World Heritage.

The Mayan City of Quirigua, Guatemala: World Heritage.

José Crasborn

Quirigua was a little Mayan city located in the northwest of Guatemala.

The hieroglyphic texts of its monuments, as well as the archaeological investigations carried out on the site, have determined that it was occupied for about four hundred years; however, political, artistic and cultural achievements were propelled until its last eighty years of existence.

 

Through this short period, Quiriguá came to bear the economic benefits and control of one of the most important trade routes in pre-Hispanic times. This allowed his greatest ruler and his successors to accomplish an ambitious sculptural project, that highlights the finely decorated monuments of the Mayan kingdom. Features for which this city was listed in 1981 by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage.

 

The city of Quirigua was established in 426 AD as part of a program of political and economic expansion of the city of Copán. Positioned in the extreme southeast of the Maya area in what is now Honduras, it is built on the north margin of the Motagua River.

Quirigua was in control of this fluvial commercial route, which was one of the most influential of its time because through the river people traveled from the Guatemalan highlands to other regions of Mesoamerica with products such as jade, obsidian, skins, and feathers among others (Figure 1).

 

Figura 1: Mapa de Ubicación de Quiriguá dentro del área Maya (Dibujo J. Crasborn 2009).

 

During its first years, Quiriguá had a sculptural and constructive development that was quite modest, since between the years 426 and 652 D.C. construction did not reach great dimensions, and only six monuments were carved. This left a void in the records of the site; there are records of only five kings who had governed the city for 226 years.

 

Years later, in 724 D.C. a  man called K’ahk ‘Tiliw Chan Yopaat (GOD WHOSE FIRE BURNS the SKY) ascends to power. He later would become the greatest king in the entire history of Quirigua, not only for the time he remained in power (roughly 60 years) but also for the achievements made during his reign, which would be remembered by his successors, for many years to come (Figure 2).

 

Through his first 14 years of reign, the city of Copán still maintained the control on Quiriguá. Towards the year 738 D.C. In an act that has not yet been fully clarified, he captures and decapitates the king of Copán, who was known as Waxaklaju’n Ub’aah K’awiil (Eighteen Images of the God K’awiil), with this Quiriguá achieves its political and economic autonomy, becoming a city of significant influence in the region.

 

These advantages allowed him to initiate an ambitious sculptural program that includes nineteen of the monuments, that are recognized by specialists as the tallest and finely carved that are known in this Mayan region. Sadly, this apogee came to an end after 810 D.C. when, for unexplained reasons, the elite stopped carving monuments and left the city. It lingered in oblivion for several centuries until 1842, when it was discovered by the American traveler John L. Stephens. It is described in his popular book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan

 

From that time on, the interest in Quirigua has been growing. The majority of investigations have concentrated on its monuments, which as mentioned  above,

 

have the necessary attributes to be recognized as world heritage of humanity,  in 1981 was designated using the following criteria (the criteria number correspond to those used by UNESCO):

 

(I) Represents a masterpiece of human creative genius: Quiriguá has the tallest and most elaborate monuments in the Maya area and is an example of the techniques and sculptural refinement achieved by this culture. Among these stands  Stela E with 10.60 meters in height (Figure 3).

 

Photography T. Draper

 

(II) To observe a significant interchange of human values, during a particular period or in a cultural area of the determined world, in the fields of architecture or technology, monumental arts, urban planning or the creation of landscapes. They were carved between the years of 700 to 850 AD forming part of the Motagua style sculptural school, with a strong influence in the Maya area of Honduras and Belize (Figure 4).

 

Photography T. Draper

 

(VI) To be an eminent representative example of a type of construction or architectural, or technological or landscape set that illustrates one or several significant periods of human history. Hieroglyphic texts refer to calendar dates, celestial events such as eclipses, passages of Mayan mythology and political, social and historical events of this city developed between AD 426 and AD 810. Making it possible to reconstruct part of the Mayan history (Figure 5).

 

Photography T. Draper

 

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The Nordic Model and Paving the Way for Change in Latin America

The Nordic Model and Paving the Way for Change in Latin America

It seems… That the entire world, with a few exceptions, is experiencing a wave of turmoil within the planet’s governing bodies, one that has much of the world’s population battling its effects. And while chaos within nations is sadly becoming normalized as each country tries to deal with its crisis, whether they be the influx of displaced people fleeing conflicts, significant droughts, or food shortages.  As is the case with portions of Latin America, rampant corruption and daily clashes between citizens and those that were put in place to govern, it may be easy to overlook some of the available options other countries have employed to better the lives of all that reside within their borders.

So, we can take a look at how one particular part of the world, has seemingly inoculated itself against much of the strife that is observed in other nations. While, also exploring the ways that its application may change the very state of life within areas affected by turmoil and unrest, in this particular case that of Latin America.

Latin America, An unfavorable history of conflict, corruption, and struggle…

While Latin America has a long-standing history of beautiful societies and vibrant cultures, present from the very early days of many of the nation’s inceptions, it unfortunately and sadly also has a strong history of conflict and strife within the borders of the many countries that make up the region.

Years of infighting between those in power, battles between revolutionaries and despots, rampant corruption, and dwindling prospects has unfortunately left many nations struggling to build the many needed institutions and services that make a country a bastion of happiness, progress, and equality.

No place is this more apparent than Venezuela currently, as the country struggles to maintain its identity through bloody clashes between its current leadership and those that seek to provide better lives for more than just those in the uppermost sections of society. Indeed the dire situation only grows more tense and bloody with each passing day as more and more protestors find themselves in the crosshairs of government security forces.

And while the situation within Venezuela is genuinely saddening and indeed representative of the amount of strife within the region, it cannot be forgotten that each nation struggles with very much the same things throughout Latin America.

As the citizens of those countries struggle to rebuild their nations, it is essential to look at what a restored Latin America may look like. Let us take a look at a region in which satisfaction with life and general happiness are not words but also ways of life.

Exploring what has made many of the Nordic nation’s bastions of happiness…

It seems to be well-known that many of the countries of Northern Europe, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland to name a few, have some of the highest rates of happiness for those living within their peaceful borders. And while it may be easy to look towards the region’s cultural similarities, the relative distance from many areas experiencing dire conflicts, and smaller populations as the reasoning behind much of the successes of the region regarding creating a better functioning society, doing so would overlook the most fundamental, and rather astonishing, reason behind the region’s success:  The unique way in which the governing bodies operate and the way in which citizens view their government.

Exploring the Nordic Model…

The unique set of principles and ideas that govern much of the region’s controlling bodies has been furnished the name of the Nordic Model. This model refers to a unique style of governance and economic attitudes found throughout each nation, though each varies to some degree. This unique way of combining both a welfare state, that watches and cares for its most vulnerable and at-risk citizens, with free market capitalism,  which focuses on creating healthy GDP, is prevalent throughout each nation.

What is discovered, at the core of this model, is not only a willingness to provide necessary safety nets and promote strong individual growth with open views towards capitalism and private ownership but a complete and resolute trust based in transparency and accountability.

The combination of trust within those that govern, strong social institutions created to protect those that are most vulnerable, and a focus on private development has created a unique environment conducive to a more open and happy society.

Applying the Nordic Model throughout Latin America…

While those nations that employ a healthy social democracy prevalent throughout Northern Europe have found low levels of corruption throughout their governing bodies, the countries that makeup Latin America are sadly not privy to the same, as corruption has become all too common throughout the region.

And while this indeed will impede application of any social and governance model, it is but one of many things that prevent the Nordic Model from being utilized to stabilize the region.

Along with corruption, Latin America does not benefit from a global economy much in the way that many of the nations of Northern Europe do. Instead, wealth and property ownership are spread throughout a small portion of society preventing the economy from reaping the full benefits of globalization.  Until these disparities are adequately mitigated, no model, whether it be Nordic or some other version of social democracy will be able to take hold within the region.

As the brave citizens within the region fight to build better lives for the generations of people that have yet to be, the reality of employing a healthy social democracy is becoming a bit clearer and more feasible. And what that new Latin America, built on the foundation of firm social contracts and transparency within government, will look like, is indeed beautiful enough to continue striving towards and one day obtaining.