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From issue: Impact Investing: Profit Meets Purpose (Fall 2011)


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:

Ride em' Boiadeiro (slideshow available)

Matthew Aho

Above: AQ's favorite photos from the rodeo in August 2011. Photos courtesy of Os Independentes.

The Festa do Peao de Boiadeiro (Cowboy Festival) in the north of Brazil's Sao Paulo state may not have the name recognition of Canada's annual Calgary Stampede or the audience (2.3 million) of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. But Latin America's largest rodeo is still a crowd-pleaser.

This year's Festa, held August 18-28, drew 980,000 visitors to Barretos, a city of just 112,000 located 273 miles (440 kilometers) from the city of Sao Paulo. First held in 1956, the event is now a key part of Brazil's transnational rodeo circuit. The organizers, Os Independentes (The Independents), say this year's rodeo attracted 600 athletes from Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, and the U.S., along with 1,550 animals--and used 370 tons of feed. The $17 million needed to hold the 11-day event pumped $117 million into the region's economy and created 15,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to public relations agency Phabrica de Ideias.

Barretos, a historical center of Latin American beef production, was a natural spot to start a rodeo. It rose to national prominence in 1999 when Minister of Sport Rafael Greca proclaimed rodeo an official national sport. In 2006, the Liga Nacional de Rodeio (National Rodeo League) was formed to further professionalize rodeo and promote the Barretos competition and the circuit of smaller rodeos around it.

Events include traditional saddle bronc and bareback riding, bulldog (where riders immobilize a steer without ropes or lassoes) and team penning (a group of three riders must separate 30 steers)--as well as the distinctly Brazilian competition of cutiano, which requires riders to hold a horse's reins with one hand without touching any part of the animal with the other.

For this year's 24-year-old bull-riding champion, Juberto Morales from the state of Mato Grosso, the prestige of Barretos is all that really mattered: "I haven't decided what to do with the prize money; I just wanted to be champion of Barretos," he says.

For those who want to escape the Oscar Niemeyer-designed stadium, organizers hold an annual cooking competition, A Queima do Alho (The Garlic Burning), which recreates cooking conditions in an era when Barretos was just the land of cowboys.

El Regreso (video available)

Matthew Aho

Above: trailer for El Regreso (The Return).

El Regreso (The Return) is the bittersweet story of Antonio, a 30-year-old Costa Rican writer who is unexpectedly summoned home from New York by his family after 10 years away. Upon his return, Antonio finds a country that has shed its peaceful, bucolic coffee-farming past: roads are congested with traffic and residents have erected giant fences to fend off would-be thieves. He has trouble relating to his sick father; his sister (now a single mother) struggles to get by; and his best friend has become a heavy metal head.

Making the film was an intensely personal effort for Costa Rican filmmaker Hernán Jiménez, who wrote, directed and acted in the movie as the central character. At 31, Jiménez is not only about the same age as Antonio, but he also experienced the same “rough re-entry” experience.

Although Jiménez’ own journeys home were more frequent, the country he (and Antonio) returned to was “basically unrecognizable after 10 years away,” he says, “The social and economic decay is palpable. Every time I come back, the streets are worse, traffic is worse, and there’s more violence, more crime and more inequality.”

Despite the film’s less-than-perfect portrayal of Costa Rica, support for the up-and-coming director is strong back home. Jiménez raised over half the film’s $100,000 budget through individual donations—largely from fellow Costa Ricans—on, an online fundraising forum that has become increasingly popular among artists, musicians and filmmakers around the hemisphere.

El Regreso premiered in Costa Rica in September to rave reviews and soldout shows for several weeks. In August, El Regreso won the award for best international film at New York’s 2011 International Latino Film Festival.

“Winning the award was fantastic,” says Jiménez. “It reassured me that there is some universal truth beneath the story. Everyone has departed and returned home at some point; everybody has gone back to where they came from.”


10 Things to Do: San Salvador

Matthew Aho

San Salvador is not only El Salvador’s capital city, formally known as La Ciudad de Gran San Salvador, but home to nearly half of El Salvador’s 6 million inhabitants. Nestled in El Valle de las Hamacas (The Valley of Hammocks) and surrounded by active volcanoes, it is the epicenter of El Salvadoran business, culture and politics. Though overwhelming at times and off the beaten trail for many travelers, San Salvador has lots to offer business and leisure visitors alike.

1.  Hike Up a Volcano. San Salvador’s nearest volcano is located in the Parque Nacional el Boquerón. The crater is 4,920 feet (1,500 meters) wide, situated 5,905 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level. Hikers reaching the top are rewarded with dramatic city views. Open Monday–Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For help try Eva Tours at

2.  Catch a Free Movie. A favorite of San Salvadoran cinema-goers for decades, El Atrio, located a few blocks east of nightlife area La Zona T, shows free flicks Monday–Wednesday at 7 p.m. The screenings range from classic Latin American favorites to Hollywood blockbusters. Av. Alvarado 30 at Boulevard de los Heroes.

3.  Check out Local Art. El Museo de Arte de El Salvador, founded in 2003, showcases an extensive collection of Salvadoran art from the mid-eighteenth century to the modern day. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Mondays. $1.50 admission for adults.

4.  See the Daily Catch. A trip to the market at the bustling port city La Libertad is a fish-lover’s paradise. Small fishing boats unload their catch day and night at the pier, and you can get a taste of freshly prepared red snapper and mahi mahi at a string of restaurants lining the boardwalk. Thirty minutes from San Salvador by taxi ($25) or $1 by bus.

5.  Ride the Waves. After you’ve eaten, work it all off on the boards. A 10-minute drive from La Libertad will take you to Tunco, the weekend mecca for surfing Salvadorans. Surfboard rentals and lessons are available throughout town for around $15 a day. On Friday and Saturday nights, enjoy live music and dancing.

6.  Fill Up on Pupusas. The corn-based pupusa is El Salvador’s most delectable contribution to regional cuisine and the specialty of every Salvadoran mother. Have it filled with cheese and limitless fixings at Senkali in Southwest San Salvador’s Antiguo Cuscatlán district. Eat to your heart’s content for under $10.

7.  Walk Historic Streets. San Salvador’s downtown is an eye-popping mix of colonial architecture and street vendors selling everything from pupusas to pirated DVDs. It’s pulsing with crowds every day except Sunday, but avoid the area at night.

8.  Visit El Mozote. El Salvador’s bloody 1980s civil war touched nearly every family and shaped modern-day Salvadoran politics. Day hikers to Cerro el Pericón often stop by El Mozote on the way down, where visitors can pause to reflect at the memorial for those who died in a massacre in the town’s church in 1981.

9.  Explore a Mayan City. El Salvador’s most important (and best preserved) ancient Mayan ruins, Tazumal, are located 20 minutes by car from the capital. The name in the Indigenous Quiché language roughly translates as “pyramid where victims burned.” The earliest structures here date from around 5000 B.C.E.

10.  Watch Fútbol. Soccer is a national obsession (it even sparked the so-called “100-hour Fútbol war” with neighboring Honduras in 1969). San Salvador Fútbol Club plays at the 80,000-spectator arena Estadio Mágico González—named after El Salvador’s most famous sports star. Tickets cost as little as $2—if you can get them.

La Vida Bohème (video available)

Matthew Aho

Above: Music video for "Radio Capital" from La Vida Bohème's most recent album (Nuestra, June 2011).

Four young musicians from Caracas, decked out in paint-spattered overalls, are just entering the international spotlight in a bid to reclaim what they call a “party of our own.”

In July 2011 the band, La Vida Bohème, made its U.S. debut performing its latest album, Nuestra, at the twelfth annual Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in New York.

The album, a mix of alternative punk rock sounds and vibrant dance rhythms, wowed the same audiences that helped launch the careers of now-famous names, such as Manu Chao, Jorge Drexler and Calle 13. In September Nuestra was nominated for two 2011 Latin Grammy awards. “Nuestra speaks to parts of our popular culture we share[...]and that shape our identities as Venezuelans: old songs, old city street names—things we have forgotten about. That’s what’s ours,” says bandleader Henry D’Arthenay, 23.

The Caracas indie music scene isn’t very well known outside Venezuela, says D’Arthenay, but there’s been a recent surge of new bands that he hopes will promote a sense of fraternity among the city’s youth in a polarized country that is facing an uncertain future.

And the paint? Early on, each member used a distinctive color to paint his hands and mouth. Once they started mixing the colors, the band members decided to make the process interactive. Nowadays, they go on stage wearing all white, and the fans splash them with colors in the musical equivalent of a food fight. It feels “cathartic,” says D’Arthenay.


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AQ Poll: Venezuela Elections

AQ Online

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has defied and frustrated opponents and observers for 13 years. Will the October 2012 presidential elections be any different? Many believe a worsening economy, electricity and water shortages, and rising crime and lawlessness weakened El Comandante Chávez politically even before his cancer diagnosis. Polls conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner before news of the president’s ill health (June 18 to June 30) showed that 53 percent of Venezuelans felt the country was headed in the wrong direction. Many identified concrete concerns linked to the president’s government. Most surprising, though, is that Chávez retained a 51 percent approval rating among the general population and recent polls have shown that number to be climbing again. Will an uptick in public support stymie next year’s opposition contenders?

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From the Think Tanks

Matthew Aho

América Latina y el Caribe: Globalización y conocimiento, co-published by the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is the first installment of a three-part report on rethinking Latin America in the twenty-first century. The work, focusing on poverty reduction and social development, is an effort to improve the collaboration between social science and public policy.

The twice-monthly update on Latin American extractive industry production by Revenue Watch Institute, Análisis de las Industrias Extractivas en América Latina, provides regular updates and analyses on everything from oil and gas revenues to gold, copper and silver mining practices throughout Latin America. The institute’s regional partners around the hemisphere provide guidance on local information sources and research assistance for the publication’s wide-ranging analyses of extractive industries.

One consequence of past political violence is the pressure on governments to compensate victims of crimes committed by the state. In Peru, the Lima-based Instituto de Defensa Legal’s new report, Avances y desafíos en las reparaciones a las víctimas de la violencia política, looks at the Peruvian government’s recent efforts to provide reparations to victims of the country’s decades-long war against the Marxist-insurgent group Sendero Luminoso. It criticizes weaknesses in compensation efforts and offers recommendations on how to proceed.

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