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Archive for April, 2008

Venezuelan race car driver Milka Duno is burning up the ovals. A sophomore competitor in the IndyCar series, she is currently ranked 26th among 41 drivers, and appears to be progressing fast. Milka is one of three women set to compete in the Indy 500 this Memorial Day weekend.

Believe it or not, Milka has also made an impression in Hollywood. She graced the red carpet last Saturday at the premiere of the new movie Speed Racer, in which she plays the role of the eccentric Russian driver Kellie “Gearbox” Kalinkov.

Duno’s own story is amazing — she is a trained Naval Engineer and holds four master’s degrees. She first hopped in a race car only a decade ago, and just for fun.

Now that we’ve got your motor running, check out Milka’s career stats and read about her record-setting successes. And keep an eye out for her children’s book, Go, Milka, Go!

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Today, April 29th, events are taking place in Venezuela to celebrate International Dance Day. This particular art form holds a special place in the hearts of Venezuelan people, who seldom turn down a chance to grab a partner and show off their steps.

Ballet performances are being featured at the massive Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas. It was built in the 1970s and since then has housed Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, the group recently brought to world attention by conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The theater gets its name from one of Venezuela’s most famous female musicians, Teresa Carreño, a gifted classical pianist and composer who began at an early age by tickling the ivories at the White House of Abraham Lincoln when she was only ten.

Here are some highlights from ballet performances at the Teresa Carreño Theater:

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Have you heard about Armando Galarraga yet? If not, you were bound to soon. He is the newest pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and one of Venezuela’s youngest and most promising new recruits in Major League Baseball.

Galarraga’s fastball has helped deliver several victories for the Tigers already this season. Off the field, he is known for performing card tricks in the clubhouse. One team mate called it “David Blane stuff.” Read about the pitcher and his many talents today in the Detroit Free Press.

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Venezuela continues to be a source of hope for people around the world who are pushing for peace in Colombia. Two successful hostage releases were brokered this year by President Chavez, and even though that process was derailed, the country continues to advocate for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico (pictured at right, on horseback) is in Venezuela today to discuss the case of three U.S. defense contractors held captive in Colombia since 2002. The men are Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, and Thomas Howes.

Governor Richardson told reporters in Caracas, “I think President Chavez can help and can play a role in this issue.” He added that he had been asked by the families of the hostages to intervene on their behalf.

To read related news articles, click here and here.

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Venezuela celebrated World Book Day last Wednesday, April 23rd. Events in Caracas included readings of poems by Miguel Otero Silva (1908-1985) and a lecture by one of Venezuela’s most famous living poets, Ramón Palomares.

Now, the cultural center funded by the state oil company PDVSA is hosting a book fair at which hundreds of titles ranging from popular fiction to educational texts will be available to the public at low costs.

The idea behind the book fair is to democratize access to cultural production in Venezuela. Article 98 of the constitution reads: “Cultural creation is free. This freedom includes the right to invest in, produce and disseminate creative, scientific, technical and humanistic work.”

Several state programs have been created in Venezuela to promote reading and education, such as the literacy program Mision Robinson and the book publisher El Perro y la Rana. Last year, a university in Merida began sending mobile libraries out to rural communities using mules! Read a BBC article here.

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We brought you Venezuela’s national bird. We brought you its best-known literary traditions. And also some other, lesser known traditions. Now, it’s time to find out about the national flower.

The Cattleya Orchid, also known as the “Easter Orchid” and “Flor de Mayo,” blooms during the months of April and May. Its spiritual significance makes it a feature of parades during Semana Santa, the week before Easter.

This showy orchid can be white, pink, purple, red or practically any color in between. It was declared Venezuela’s national flower in 1951, and can still be seen in the wild in many parts of the country, particularly in the coastal mountain range and on the slopes of the Venezuelan Andes.

Of course, the flower is also honored in popular culture in Venezuela: to listen to a folk song by composer Otilio Galíndez called “Flor de Mayo,” click here.

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With concerns about global food security mounting, a group of Latin American leaders including Venezuela’s President Chavez met to create a special fund that would offset future crises.

The food security fund, which is under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, begins with $100 million. The investment will be used to guard against shortages of basic foods in member countries Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

The ALBA agreement comes just in time; yesterday, the UN World Food Program said that the recent rise in food prices could cause more than 100 million people to suffer from hunger. To read more, click here and here.

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