Posts Tagged ‘South America’


Venezuela’s plains region is home to the capybara (in Spanish, chigüire), which is the world’s largest rodent. These herbivores can weigh up to 100 pounds and live most of their lives in water. When they are born, they actually swim better than they walk, according to a zookeeper in Parque del Este in Caracas.

Sadly, chigüires are sometimes hunted and eaten for Easter dinner despite the fact that, during Lent, there is a religious prohibition against eating meat. During the time of colonization, the native chigüire was misrepresented to the Catholic church by the Spanish conquistadors, who wrote to the church officials for permission to eat the animal, which was unknown in Europe. The Spaniards said that chigüis lived in the water and resembled fish, conveniently leaving the hair and four feet out of the description.

By and large, chigüires are friends, not food, and people in the llanos keep them as pets. Recently,  the chigüire has become a subject for popular art, and can be found on t-shirts and logos everywhere in Venezuela.

Spanish-speakers will enjoy a popular sytirical news blog in Venezuela known as El Chigüire Bipolar.


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Venezuela defeated Colombia yesterday in the South American qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. The game was played in Cachamay Stadium in Puerto Ordaz, located the eastern state of Bolivar.

Colombia was one player short at the end of the game, due to a yellow card. The Venezuelan team took advantage of their extra man to win the game 2 – 0.

Substitute striker Nicolas Fedor, seen at left, was the first to score. Left-footed midfielder Juan Arango delivered the second goal on a free kick late in the game. Venezuela is currently in 8th place, just behind Colombia.

The vinotinto is keeping the dream alive! Stay tuned as they play Bolivia in June. Read a New York Times article about yesterday’s game.

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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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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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Today, the World Jewish Congress welcomed the commitment of Latin American Leaders to condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

President Chavez of Venezuela, along with Presidents Lula da Silva of Brazil and Fernandez of Argentina signed a joint declaration promising to

renew their commitment to continue working at national, regional and international level to fortify the mechanisms of promotion and protection of the human rights, in order to assure their total respect irrespective of race, color, sex, religion, or political opinions

The President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder (pictured at right) called the signing of the declaration “an important and very welcome step” that could serve as an example to the rest of the world.

Click here to read the press release.

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Representatives from 33 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean just finished meeting in Brazil. By all accounts, the atmosphere was convivial.

Believe it or not, this “Rio Group” summit marked first time that such a large regional event has occurred without the presence of the United States. So what does this mean for the hemisphere? It depends on who you ask.

The AP reports that President Lula da Silva of Brazil said:

In the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, our countries are discovering that they aren’t part of the problem,” Mr. da Silva said. “They can and should be fundamental players in the solution […]

There was a time when our friend Chavez was all alone. Who would have imagined 10 years ago our beloved Evo Morales as president? Would would have thought that a liberation theology bishop could become Paraguay’s president?

President Chavez said:

The important thing is that we are here together, without the patronage of the empire. The way is beginning, a new way – our way from the South.

And of course, Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington had this commentary to add:

This is a healthy development and should not be seen as a rejection of the U.S. On the contrary, Latin America wants to deal with the U.S. and other major world powers, but it wants to do so on more equal terms than in the past.

Read more about the Latin American summit from the AFP and the New York Times, and use the comments section to tell us what you think about the events.

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Thanks to the Miami Herald today, we have a lesson in how to make the Venezuelan dish called the cachapa. This is a savory pancake made of corn that is eaten with mild white cheese and makes a tasty snack. The recipe that appears in the Herald is from the book The South American Table.

In Venezuela, the best cachapas are usually grilled to a golden brown on a large, flat budare like the one pictured here.

The cachapa is said to come from Venezuela’s indigenous heritage, particularly in the interior of the country. Corn was an important staple food for many Native American communities.

It is also the main ingredient in another Venezuelan snack that remains popular today; the singular arepa.

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