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Archive for September, 2008

This is an exciting story on the education and technology front: Venezuela signed a deal with Portugal last weekend to buy 1 million affordable laptop computers to place in schools across the country.

The first delivery will consist of 250,000 of the kid-friendly laptops (Intel’s Classmate PC), and the rest are expected by the end of 2009. This is the single largest purchase of these new computers to be made so far by any country in the world.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said, “It’s a lot more than exporting computers. It’s about cooperating with Venezuela to set up a program similar to what we have in Portugal. The aim is to improve education.”

The computers run on Linux software, an open-source technology supported by the Venezuelan government. Read more from AP, AFP and BBC.

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Breaking news, movie fans: Venezuela has just selected its submission for the category of Best Foreign Language Film in the upcoming Oscars. Oh the agony of waiting until February 22nd, 2009 at 5pm to find out who wins!

The film is called El tinte de la fama (“The Color of Fame”). It tells the bittersweet and often humorous tale of a young woman who tries to escape poverty by entering a Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest. It is directed by Alejandro Bellame and stars Elaiza Gil. Click on these links to read more in English or Spanish. Watch the extended trailer below.

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Just on the other side of Henri Pittier National Park in Aragua, Venezuela, there is lovely little beach town called Choroni. A tiny mountain road leads you up into the clouds and over, into a forest of tall shade trees, rushing creeks, and lush ferns.

The beach itself is nestled beside the coastal mountains that stretch across Venezuela. Choroni is a favorite destination for nature lovers and sun worshippers alike. Hundreds of varieties of birds live there, and some lizards too.  Visitors pitch tents on the beach and camp overnight. You can rent a chair and umbrella and pass the day watching the waves crash between the mountains. Coconut water is a favorite treat, and occasionally you might see some one climb up a palm tree and get a coconut.

The small town of Choroni was constructed in the Spanish style. On the “malecon” or sea wall, there are remnants of an old Spanish fort, complete with cannons. At night, locals and visitors come together on the malecon, to share music, art, souvenirs, food, and drink. Couples and friends sit on the wall and stare into the sea, dreaming of the next time they come to Choroni.

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At a shop nestled in the Andean town of Mérida, visitors can find the largest selection of ice cream available anywhere on the planet. Heladeria Coromoto holds the Guinness World Record for the widest variety of ice cream flavors. Its menu includes varieties such as smoked trout, garlic, coca-cola, avocado, hot dog — nearly everything imaginable. There are over 830 of them.

Heladeria Coromoto was founded twenty-odd years ago by Manuel Da Silva Oliveira, a Portuguese immigrant with a good business sense. His parlor has become an attraction for locals and tourists alike. Amazingly, he explains, “we use no chemicals… It’s all natural. If you eat the spaghetti with cheese ice cream, it has real spaghetti and cheese in it.”

Still anxious for more? Check out an article from the Christian Science Monitor.

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In Caracas, and throughout Venezuela, the number of stray animals is striking. Street dogs or “cacris” live without a home, human companionship, or veterinary care. Generally the animals are unsterilized, heightening the overpopulation crisis with each season. Meanwhile, the very few Venezuelan animal shelters are packed to capacity.

To help alleviate the crisis, a group of Venezuelan youths took action, and “La Red de Apoyo Canino” (or the Canine Support Network) was born in 2005.  The mission of La Red, is to share information, encourage sterilization, and find homes for cats and dogs through a network of foster homes. Through its listserve, supporters voice concerns, ask questions, and find homes and supplies for rescued pets. The Network supports a number of caring citizens who have turned their homes into animal shelters.

Notably, in Caracas, Mrs. Maria houses 30 to 40 dogs at a time in her apartment. Volunteers from “la Red” visit her each week to help her clean the house,  wash the dogs, and give them walks and attention. They usually bring a load of dog food along, too. Mrs. Maria’s home is pictured at the top.

The number of stray dogs and cats in Venezuela is still increasing, but there are a growing number of active, concerned citizens who are connecting with each other and educating the public to help save the animals and give them the loving homes they deserve.

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Venezuela has always been one of the best-represented countries in the U.S. Major Leagues. This year, Venezuela stood out for sending even more professional baseball players into MLB at a time when the number of foreign-born players declined overall. Now, the Venezuelans are breaking records.

Making headlines this week for their never-before-seen feats were Francisco Rodriguez (“The Kid,” or “K-Rod”) of the L.A. Angels and Carlos Zambrano (“El Toro,” above) of the Chicago Cubs.

Last Saturday, Rodriguez stunned fans by saving a record number of 58 games for his team to defeat the old record set by Bobby Thigpen nearly two decades ago. Then, on Sunday, Carlos Zambrano pitched a lockout game in which the other side achieved no hits or runs.  Watch a video montage of Zambrano’s “no run no hit” game set to triumphant rock music from the Caracas newspaper, El Universal.

Read more about Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Zambrano, go to MLB.com. For articles in Spanish, click here and here.

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Dame Pa’ Matarla is a band based out of Yaracuy that is just starting to gain attention outside of their hometown. They have been frequently seen on the beaches near Chichiriviche, hawking CDs and performing for passersby. Now, they’re giving concerts in Caracas and all around Venezuela. And they have a blog!

We recommend the song, “Alzemos la voz en favor de la paz,” which means, “Let’s raise our voices for peace.” It is a social commentary with a positive message sung in perfect harmony. Watch the video below.

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