The New York Times offers a partial list of Brazil’s elite musical contributors. Luiz Gonzaga is on it.


National Geographic looks at what it calls “The Other Mexicans”, which are the migrants from that country whose primary language is one of the 60 indigenous tongues rather than Spanish.


A laser mapping technique used at the pre-Columbian site called Tajin in Eastern Mexico has uncovered more evidence of ball courts.

The courts are estimated to date 1,000 years ago.

It took the death of  Hugo Chavez, unfortunately, to turn the attention of the U.S. press back toward Latin America in general and Hugo Chavez in particular.  However, the biographies of the late Venezuelan leader are useful for highlighting some of the commonplaces in the history of the region. The obituary by Simon Romero of the New York Times, for example, evokes the caudillo and populist, which are too common categories of leaders in Latin America.

He was a dreamer with a common touch and enormous ambition. He maintained an almost visceral connection with the poor, tapping into their resentments, while strutting like the strongman in a caudillo novel. His followers called him Comandante.

In office, he upended the political order at home and used oil revenues to finance client states in Latin America, notably Bolivia and Nicaragua. Inspired by Simón Bolívar, the mercurial Venezuelan aristocrat who led South America’s 19th-century wars of independence, Mr. Chávez sought to unite the region and erode Washington’s influence.

Another remembrance from the prolific Latin American historian Greg Grandin tries to push back against the lazier U.S. views of Chavez, which distort him through a caracature that he was mentally unstable megalomaniac and his followers were merely stupid and seduced. I applaud Grandin’s view and share his regrets about U.S. news media coverage of Latin America. Although I think Chavez fell far short of the quality of leader that Venezuela’s poor deserve,  and even fell short of other actual populist Latin American leaders in the last few decades, he gets a better grade than most leaders that have been inflicted on Venezuela.

Luz Maria de la Torre is a native Quechua speaker from Ecuador who now teaches the language at UCLA. She says in an interview that education propelled her as a leader in preserving the language.
Education was the key to battling the discrimination and disempowerment that haunted her society for thousands of years. Profesora De La Torre obtained a Master’s Degree in political science from Facultad Lationoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Ecuador and studied linguistics and sociology in Paris V. She claims her parents had much to do with her achievements in higher education. “Aunque mis padres nunca aprendieron a leer y a escribir siempre estuvo en sus sueños que nosotros como una generación nueva aprendiéramos a leer; no solamente que leyéramos las palabras sino que leyéramos la vida,” said de la Torre.

A BBC report on the work of anthropologists in the Sonoran Desert who recover and investigate the dozens who die every year on their way to the U.S. In the year just ended, 150 bodies were discovered and almost half remain unidentified.

Mangueira samba school

Here is a sample of the spirited drumming from the bateria, or drum corps, of the famous Rio samba school from the Mangueira favela. Here is another sampling of the drumming from a variety of schools that appear to be performing in Rio’s sambadrome.

National Public Radio featured older and newer artists from Latin America who write political music.

Banda Group

I have marveled at the popularity of banda music among young Mexicans for a while now. You hear it on the few Spanish-language music stations around here. I talked about it with a young, hip DJ in a restaurant in Mexico City.

But it boggles since it would be as if I was digging polka music when I was a younger, dumber music fan in my youth instead of  Talking Heads, The Replacements or (even younger) Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Proof of its popularity among the young, and in this case young pukes, is the rash of burglaries of schools in L.A. If you are a bolillo and have no idea how the banda sound sounds, here’s a sample from the giant stars of the genre, Banda Recodo, from its homeland in Sinaloa.



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