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Archive for March, 2009

Venezuela is the nation with the 10th-largest amount of biodiversity in the world. Efforts to protect that biodiversity are highlighted in a new study by RAISG, or La Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada.

According to the study, Venezuela has the second-highest proportion of its Amazon region protected. The Amazonian basin covers an astounding 3 million square miles in South America, overlapping several different countries and encompassing a population of perhaps 33 million. Venezuela has already protected 71.5% of its share — second only to Ecuador’s 79.7%, and far ahead of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.

RAISG measured Indigenous territory and other protected lands, which are generally the best conserved. Venezuela has 43 national parks. A respect for nature is enshrined in the constitution of Venezuela under a chapter that guarantees all citizens the right to a safe and healthy environment.

Since the Amazon Rainforest is often called the “lungs” of South America, we can breathe a little easier thanks to Venezuela.

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David Hernández-Palmar, a young Venezuelan man from the Wayuu Indigenous community, will be in New York City this Saturday to help present a documentary at the 30th Annual Native American Film and Video Festival.

“Owners of the Water: Conflict and Collaboration over Rivers” was created by Hernández-Palmar together with Caimi Waiassé (a Brazilian Xavante man) and U.S. Anthropologist Laura R. Graham. It chronicles an international campaign to protect Rio das Mortes River Basin in Brazil, a vital resource for the Xavante community that was threatened by soya production and related deforestation. The Xavante blocked a national highway to demand the protection of the basin.

To help tell the story of the Xavante’s struggle, Venezuela’s David Hernández-Palmar lent his talents as an up-and-coming documentarian. For more information about this and other films at the Native American Film and Video Festival, click here.

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Today there was an exciting development in public diplomacy that brought two communities together: the Venezuelan city of Carora and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These two places have teamed up to build connections through cultural, educational, and economic activities. Notably, it is the first Sister City agreement made between the U.S. and Venezuela in ten years.

The Sister City program allows citizens from the two countries to unite on a local level, which helps build cross-cultural understanding. It can also add a human element to political realities.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said:

Our leaders of our representative countries have not had the warmest relations and that makes what we are doing today more important. If leaders don’t see eye to eye that doesn’t keep individuals from working together. Political leaders come and go, but at the local, grass-roots level there’s still the ability as human beings for us to make the world better.

City officials are looking forward to sharing ideas on issues such as water, dairy production and coffee exchange. Carora is creating a welcome house for visitors from Milwaukee where they can learn about the city’s rich heritage.  It is in fact one of the oldest colonial cities on the South American continent, founded for the first time in 1569.

Considering the cold temperatures in Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s new sister will likely attract her share of snowbirds next winter!

Stay tuned for updates.

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Venezuela again defeated the US this week in the final game of the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The US made several errors and had some injured players as well. Though the Venezuelans seem to be holding up better, both teams advanced to the finals.

During the rainy game, Venezuela pulled ahead early on, scoring six runs in the second inning.  Despite being delayed 70 minutes and playing in less than favorable conditions, la patria querida emerged victorious once again!

Keep watching for the final round, which begins on Saturday, March 21st.

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Debuting soon is a new documentary about Colonia Tovar, the German settlement that lies just 60 kilometers outside of Caracas, but is culturally much further removed. The community, a small but well-touristed village of perhaps 6,000 people, was founded in 1840 by the intrepid Italian geographer Agostino Codazzi.

Colonia Tovar provides the setting for “María y el nuevo mundo” (Maria and the New World), the first full-length film from Venezuelan director George Walker Torres. It tells the story of a middle-aged woman who struggles to survive on a garbage dump and dreams of being reunited with her daughter. A parallel is drawn between her search to create a better life and that of the initial founders of the town.

The documentary is promoted by Venezuela’s National Film Board, or Centro Nacional Autónomo de Cinematografía (CNAC). Read more in Spanish. Check back here to watch the trailer once it’s available.

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Intercultural education will soon become a reality in Venezuela, if Professor Angela Diaz has anything to do with it.

She spoke at at a public event today in Washington sponsored by TransAfrica Forum. Diaz has been making her way around the U.S. capital,  speaking at Howard University and meeting Members of Congress to discuss the Afro-Venezuelan experience.

Diaz is a member of the Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organizations (La Red de Organizaciones Afrovenezolanas), has worked tirelessly over the past decade to help create a more inclusive education system. Like the U.S., Afro-descendants and Indigenous peoples in Venezuela have been too often distorted or omitted from public school curricula. Due to the work of people like Diaz, Venezuelan students will learn about all the ethnic groups that built the South American continent.

The new inclusive curriculum has been implemented in 17 states so far. Part of the process involves inviting community elders into the schools to teach.  In one school, grandparents taught students how to make a fish recipe, which is stuffed in a plantain leaf. Fish is a vital resource for residents along the Caribbean coast, many of whom identify as Afro-Venezuelan. Along with the recipe, the children learned about history, culture, art, and the environment. Sharing ancestral knowledge is the key to transmitting what has been left out of the history books.

Diaz emphasized that students are inspired when they can see themselves and their communities represented in their lessons. See more of Professor Diaz’s work with Fundación Curduvare.

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This year’s World Baseball Classic has been very exciting. Venezuela was back on top of its game yesterday, defeating the U.S. 5-3 to win pool C after losing to the U.S. 15-6 in a previous game. Their roster includes MLB stars like Bobby Abreu, Endy Chavez, and Francisco Rodriguez.

Venezuela moves on Saturday to play the Netherlands, which has been a proven to be a wild card this season, twice defeating the powerhouse Dominican team.

Keep watching, and keep your fingers crossed for the patria querida!

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