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From issue: Trafficking and Transnational Crime (Spring 2010)


Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and events from around the hemisphere with AQ's Panorama. Each issue, AQ packs its bags and offers readers travel tips on a new Americas destination.

In this issue:
In travel, experience life off-road in Mendoza, Argentina. Photograph by Gabriel Bouys (AFP/Getty).

U.S.-Cuba Cultural Exchange

Matthew Aho

Many of the restrictions on educational and cultural travel to Cuba enacted by former President George W. Bush officially remain in place, even under President Barack Obama. But there is evidence that travel by U.S. and Cuban academics, musicians, artists, writers, and athletes is growing.

Since 2009, a number of Cuban musicians and scholars have received visas to visit the United States. In February 2010, Cuban salsa stars Los Van Van played their first Miami concert since 1999. Last November, Dr. Eduardo Torres Cuevas, director of Cuba’s José Martí National Library, lectured at the City University of New York and Florida International University.

Other travellers who received U.S. permission to visit Cuba recently include Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Puerto Rican hip-hop duo Calle 13, 1970s dance group Kool & the Gang, and even a Massachusetts seniors-league softball team that went and beat their Cuban counterparts. Even the much-publicized concert by Colombian superstar (and U.S. resident) Juanes required the approval of U.S. officials. But approve it they did.

There have been hiccups, like the cancellation of a 2009 Cuba concert by New York’s Philharmonic Orchestra after U.S. officials refused to allow board members’ spouses to join the trip, but the trend is clear: U.S.-Cuba cultural exchanges are on the rise.

Officially, the Obama administration has remained quiet on plans to reduce travel restrictions. However, Cuban Minister of Culture Abel Prieto called increased interaction “very favorable” and a “fissure” in the historic “blockade” of information between the two countries. All of which raises a question: why won’t the Obama administration—like the Clinton administration—say publicly that human-to-human contact is a worthy policy goal?

Chilean Folk Music

Matthew Aho

In Chile, a gentler style of music is starting to flow through venues that were originally opened to accommodate hard rock guitar riffs. Dubbed Nu Folk, it is the sound of a folk music revival that springs from both traditional Andean music and the works of world-renowned Chilean artists such as Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara and Atahualpa Yupanqui.

Nu Folk artists such as Felipe Cadenasso with his band Matorral, and others such as Perrosky, Camila Moreno, Nano Stern, and Chinoy represent a mix of musical genres. With ages ranging from early-20s to late-30s, some have backgrounds in hard rock or techno, while others are folk purists. But they all share a deep interest in traditional beats and Chilean folkloric roots.

Some fans view the simple lyrics about regular people and everyday life combined with bucolic images as calls for a return to a simpler lifestyle or to a period of greater cooperation after an era of individualism.

Several festivals have evolved for Nu Folk fans. The folk festival Solistas en Solitario had its second annual event in 2009, but this year’s gathering was postponed indefinitely after February’s earthquake. Meanwhile, the Chilean Folk Summit is already scheduled for 2010 in Santiago and Valparaíso. More than mere retro, the trend harkens back to a musical tradition of concern for the dispossessed, with a modern twist on the rhythms and harmonies of indigenous traditional music.

iPhone Apps in Brazil

Matthew Aho

The release of the iPhone in 2007 has created a new global software development industry. The refrain, “there’s an ‘app’ for that,” has not only sparked creativity in the Unites States, it’s also prodded a whole new generation of software innovators in Latin America. Nowhere is this truer than in Brazil.

Carros, an app developed by Brazilian technology consultant Renato Ornelas, displays the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment’s emissions rating (Nota Verde) for most car models sold in Brazil. This clever app reflects a new, trendy sense of environmental consciousness among Brazilians.

Another innovative app is TrânsitoRio, developed by Belo Horizonte-based Max Systems. Using more than 90 cameras positioned around Rio de Janeiro, it streams live video feeds of most major avenues. Using this app, cariocas can be the masters of their own commuter destiny.

In 2009, the sale of Apple-based apps totaled $2.5 million. The U.S. and Europe still dominate consumption and production of apps, but countries like Brazil (and its programmers) are showing an increasing aptitude for capturing demand for their own market. It’s a market that will certainly increase with the April launch of the iPad.

10 Things to Do: Mendoza Argentina

Matthew Aho

Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina, is situated in the scenic foothills of the Andes. In 2009, National Geographic named Mendoza one of the top 50 places to visit in the world. Even for non-oenophiles, it’s a convenient base for exploring the province’s rugged countryside.

1.   Experience Life Off-Road. Mendoza has been the heart of Argentina’s Dakar Raid road race for the past two years and is the perfect place for off-road 4x4 lovers. Rent a truck or quad to cross the desert valleys to feel an been the heart of Argentina’s Dakar Raid road race for the past two years and is the perfect place for off-road 4x4 lovers. Rent a truck or quad to cross the desert valleys to feel an intense adrenaline rush.

2.   Visit the Vendimia Harvest Festival. The festival, which takes place the first week of March, is the country’s premier wine-tasting event. Once you’ve satisfied your thirst, be sure to take in the parades and shows—and fireworks on the first night.

3.   Walk the City. Mendoza’s plazas and parks will reward even the casual stroller. Founded in 1561 in an arid desert setting, the city now has stunning centennial trees best observed in Parque General San Martín. Also noteworthy: the traditional acequias—canals that carry Andean spring water throughout the city.

4.   Tour the Valle de Uco. Taste Argentina’s grape varietals while visiting the nearby vineyards and sample the local favorite, Malbec. Stop by the Tunuyan-based Salentein Bodegas winery’s museum and restaurant, an hour’s drive from the city.

5.   Hike the Andes. Drive one hour west of the city to Potrerillos or Uspallata, and take a day-long hike up the mountains. Rent a kayak and descend via the Mendoza River. On the way down, stop in Cacheuta for a soak in the natural thermal springs.

6.   Conquer Aconcagua. Climb the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua (from Quechua, Ackon Cahuak, or “stone sentinel”). Thousands of climbers from around the world strive to reach its 6,959-meter (22,830-foot) peak.

7.   Ski Las Leñas. Take the four-hour drive to Malargue and visit the Las Leñas valley ski resort—one of the most important resorts in South America.

8.   Go Birdwatching. Southern Mendoza province has unique fauna and flora. Don’t miss the chance to visit lagoons like Laguna de Llancanelo – a birdwatcher’s paradise.

9.   Dine at Azafrán. With an imaginative and eclectic menu of locally sourced cheeses and smoked meats and a well-stocked wine cellar, Azafran, located at Sarmiento 765, provides one of Mendoza’s most delightful and charming culinary experiences.

10.  Enjoy the nightlife. Spend a night at the bars and clubs on Avenida Aristides Villanueva. Make new friends over sandwiches at Palenque (Aristides Villanuieva 287).

Technology: HablaCentro

Matthew Aho

With Internet connectivity rates around 22 percent, many Central Americans are missing out on the digital revolution’s potential for greater communication. Guatemalan-American journalist and U.S. Fulbright fellow (and AQ blogger) Kara Andrade is working to reverse that trend with a new portal ( that allows citizen journalists to upload stories from their cell phones.

Seeking to take advantage of Guatemala’s nearly 80 percent cell phone penetration, Andrade, who emigrated from Bananera, Guatemala, when she was six, created a space for people to upload news and photos on their mobile phones via services like Twitter. “You don’t have to be connected by a computer or at a cyber café to share your story,” says Andrade, who notes content comes via phone and Internet in equal amounts.

She started by launching from Antigua, Guatemala, in May 2009. Today, the site boasts 26 bloggers, 40 subscribers and 2,335 visitors per month. The project has inspired editorially independent sister sites in Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, all of which use HablaCentro as a central hub.

Demand has been driven, in part, by tumultuous events in the region. Andrade launched after a video surfaced following the murder of Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg. was launched in the wake of the June 2009 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. At the height of the crisis, it received 6,000 hits a day.
Andrade is now wooing cellphone companies to provide Android phones to rural Guatemalans with the goal of them becoming citizen journalists. She hopes the various country sites will become “seed beds” for investigative journalism “...that goes beyond the coverage of foreign media,” as well as produce an income for participants.

From the Think Tanks

Matthew Aho

In the last decade, Latin America’s participation in peacekeeping operations has increased 725 percent. What this means for the region and for women is the subject of a new book by Red de Seguridad y Defensa de América Latina (RESDAL). La Mujer en las Instituciones Armadas y Policiales (Women in Military and Police Institutions) analyzes the growing role of women in security forces and the evolution of their participation in individual countries. Available in Spanish.

Who are our legislators and how do they vote? This can be tough to answer even in democracies with transparent institutions. Complex electoral systems and less-than-perfect transparency make it downright daunting. Argentina’s Fundación Directorio Legislativo addresses this issue by publishing an annual guide on Congress and state legislatures as well as information about current representatives. The 2010 edition will be released in late June. Available in Spanish.

Issues of climate change and deforestation affect every country. A new publication from Canada’s International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), REDD After Copenhagen: The way forward, shares a distinctly Canadian perspective on how to move ahead in negotiations to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Taking stock of outcomes from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, IISD shares options for national-level programs to combat deforestation.

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