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Archive for the ‘Central and South America’ Category

View of the Andes from a LAN airways 737

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We were lucky to be passing over the mountains on a sunny, clear day

Written by marypmadigan

November 20th, 2009 at 12:49 am

Friendly Capuchin monkeys travel to the edges of the jungle…

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…to see the funny hairless beasts in boats.

On a boat tour in Gamboa, Panama, we took a boat ride to Monkey Island. The howler monkeys would (of course) howl and hide when they saw us, but the Capuchins were friendly and curious.





This young capuchin jumped onto our boat..


..as his father watched from the trees, supervising. The young capuchin gave me a high five, then jumped back into the trees.

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November 17th, 2009 at 12:57 am

Montreal and the Tamil Tigers

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I was in Montreal, walking with my family to a restaurant, when I saw a gathering of people wearing black masks over their faces and carrying red flags with tigers on them. I took a few pictures…




After dinner I noticed that the same group was still there, holding a candlelight vigil for the oppressed Tamils in Sri Lanka. I did some googling and discovered that the Tamil Tigers have a fair amount of support in Montreal.

But the vigils and the money didn’t do much to help the Tigers, who now admit defeat. At Pajamas Media, Richard Fernandez contemplates the spectacle of Westerners fearing that the Tigers might be wiped out:

“Now that their military hopes are dashed, the fear in western capitals is that the Tamil Tigers will again turn to terrorism. If the Tamil leadership goes ahead with their threats of suicide will there be anyone left to negotiate with? ”

At Winds of Change, Armed Liberal asks defense commentators about those supposedly “invincible” guerilla armies…

Written by marypmadigan

May 19th, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Into the Jungle: Lamanai Temple, Belize

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We visited Lamanai, the ruins of a place that was once an urban center of the Maya civilization. During the height of their civilization, (800-900 BC) there were more than a million Mayans living in Belize. Now, the population of Belize is about 300,000.



Bruce and me at the top of the Temple: When I had almost climbed to the top of this temple, I took my hat off because it was slipping and blocking my view. I set it between some rocks so it wouldn’t blow away.

On my way down, when I was almost at ground level, my husband reminded me about the hat. Since the Belize government is somewhat neurotic about the pristine quality of their tourist attractions, I was worried that the guide would get in trouble if I ‘littered’, so I climbed back up and got the hat. Unfortunately, just as we were about to get back on the boat, my hat blew off, into the river. I wasn’t about to try to get it, since I’d seen this croc…


…swimming in the same area of the river. I guess the Mayan Gods wanted that hat.


Traditional Olmec “giant head” sculpture: The Olmec merged their traditions with other Mayan tribes. According to our guide, there are some theories that the Olmec tribe originated in Africa. Some of these theories are based on certain qualities of the Olmec language.

Lamanai, which means “submerged crocodile” was actually pronounced Lam’an’ain by the Olmec/Mayan. “Ain” is also a letter in Arabic (which kind of looks like a backwards 3), and it also means ‘eye’. Which may prove something. Or nothing…



This is the site of where Mayans would play a ballgame that was sort of like raquetball or vollyball, and which often featured human sacrifice. The winners would have the honor of being killed. It seems to have been a Mayan tradition to sacrifice their best and their brightest to the Gods, as volunteering to be killed guaranteed a ticket to heaven. This may have reinforced faith and unity within their society, but in the long-term, this tradition would probably weaken any civilization.

As we left the city, our guide noted that many of the Mayan ruins in Belize are still buried within the jungle. There have been few archeological studies of the Mayan past. We still don’t know what their daily life was like, or why each village collected mercury in a jar. Like the technology of Roman civilization, we have no idea of what we lost – this once thriving, innovative civilization is still a mystery.


The river is kind of the area’s main street. It’s a lot less bumpy than the roads.


Good fishing


Mennonite Village: According to our guide, these are ‘progressive’ Mennonites, who take a day off on Sunday to smoke and drink, then go back to being Mennonites on Monday.

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May 12th, 2009 at 9:58 pm

A New Yorker in Belize

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Daily life in Caye Caulker, a small coral island (pop. 1,300) off the coast of Belize.


Taxi – The roads are paved with sand and the taxis are all golf carts


Rush-hour traffic…




Fishermen’s Wharf – Pelicans gather to catch a free meal


A Frigate bird tries to steal the catch. Frigates are huge, gliding birds who rule the sky in Caye Caulker. Pelicans are excellent fliers at low altitudes, but they aren’t as speedy or maneuverable. When they got together, we saw some excellent dogfights.


Local game


[Financial district] – View from the roof of the Lazy Lizard – In the evening most of the town gathers at the Lazy Lizard cafe and bar, which offers excellent (and cheap) happy hour rum drinks and a great view of the sunset. There’s also a swimming and snorkeling spot, which is nice as long as you avoid the boats going through the canal.


View from the roof, to the north



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April 30th, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Look to Brasilia, Not Beijing [or Saudi Arabia]

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Washington is still looking for friends in all the wrong places. There are better alternatives:

Threats to the global liberal order are usually identified with illiberal states. That’s why China, with its repressive domestic regime and its see-no-evil (unless related to the United States) foreign policy attracts so much attention these days.

But a more compelling challenge to the current world order may be emerging from an unlikely trio of countries that boast both impeccable democratic credentials and serious global throw weight. They are India, Brazil and South Africa and their little-noticed experiment in foreign policy coordination since 2003 to promote subtle but potentially far-reaching changes to the international system has the potential to leave fears of a rising China in the dustbin of history.

The quasi-alliance of these three powers has serious implications for the international system, and its major underwriter, the U.S., depending on how the challenge is handled. But an equally important, and quite unintended implication, is the sabotage of China’s great power ambitions. By robbing China of its claims to represent developing countries, this new cooperative trio could sideline China from the major debates in international affairs. That may be good news for domestic reform in China, which has long been stunted by the country’s great power ambitions.

The origins of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) lie in South Africa’s quest for a new allies more consonant with its interests and ideas following the end of apartheid in 1994. The immediate impetus came from Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who floated a formal cooperation scheme in early 2003…


* Link thanks to Fausta

Written by marypmadigan

April 8th, 2009 at 3:43 pm