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“Creating Freedom in the Americas, 1776-1826”

In honor of the bicentennials (200 year anniversaries) of the nations of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, and of the shared history and values of the US and South America, the symposium “Creating Freedom in the Americas, 1776-1826” was celebrated in Washington, DC on November 19, 2010.  The symposium was co-hosted by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, and featured leading historians of the revolutionary periods in Latin America, Brazil, Haiti and the US. The symposium’s panel sessions included:  The Americas on the Eve of the Independence Movements, Comparing Independence Movements in the Americas, and Constitution-Making in the Western Hemisphere. A recording of the symposium is available free at http://www.ustream.tv.  (Image of the Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Resources are available online at www.LOC.gov.)

The Ultimate Burrito 2010

Sometimes, you just cannot have too much of a good thing, particularly when you’re trying to set a Guinness World Record. This dictum also applies to a favorite Mexican immigrant, the burrito.  The largest burrito on record was prepared on November 3, 2010 in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  The burrito was made from a single flour tortilla that weighed over 2 tons and measured 1.49 miles (2.4 kilometers). The tortilla was filled with fish, onions, chilies, and refried beans. Over 3000 volunteers and 54 restaurants participated, under the leadership of the national Mexican food industry association, CANIRAC (Cámara Nacional de la Industria Restaurantes y Alimentos Condimentados). The machine used to roll out the tortilla was specially designed and adapted by Blas Avila, and required 9.5 hours to cover the full 1.49 miles. The final delicious dish weighed 12,786 pounds (5,799 kilograms).

33 Chilean Miners Rescued 2010

To jubilant cheers and heartfelt tears, the horrific mine accident crisis in Copiapó, Chile came to a happy conclusion as the last of 33 miners resurfaced from deep in the earth. The 33 men were trapped for 69 days, over 2300 feet underground and about 3 miles from the entrance to the mine. As the world watched the dramatic rescue, mining specialists from around the globe rushed to assist the Chilean government and mining community.  The nation was determined to bring home their men.  The Chilean miners were commended for their organization, leadership, and high morale throughout the terrible ordeal.  One of the leaders, Mario Sepulveda (nicknamed “Super Mario”) said in an interview, “The only thought that kept going through my head was that I didn’t want to die before my children had an education. It sounds like a crazy thought but that is so important to me.”  (No, Mario, I don’t think that it was a crazy thought.)  Their heroic story was movingly captured in the 2015 movie The 33 / Los 33.  (Image released to the public by the Government of Chile)

Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa awarded Nobel Prize 2010

Peruvian-Spanish writer, politician, and journalist Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa was announced as the winner of the Nobel prize for literature on October 7, 2010.  Llosa is regarded as one of Latin America’s most inspiring and significant authors, with international reputation and regard.  Llosa began his acceptance speech in praise of literature and reading, “Once upon a time, there was a boy who learned to read at the age of five. This changed his life. Owing to the adventure tales he read, he discovered a way to escape from the poor house, the poor country and the poor reality in which he lived, and to journey to wonderful, mesmerizing places peopled with the most beautiful beings and the most surprising things, where every day and every night brought a more intense, more thrilling, more unusual form of bliss.”   (Photo by the Nobel Foundation, Orasisfoto)

Murder on the Border Crossing 2010

The Mexican Naval Infantry made a dark discovery on August 25, 2010, when they found 72 corpses near the US Mexican border.  The victims were believed to be migrants from Central and South America, murdered by a drug cartel.  This grim incident was the largest single body count since Mexican President Felipe Calderón made his courageous decision to battle the Mexican drug cartels.  While the victims lie in the earth south of the US border, the customers for the drug cartels are the unscathed law breakers north of the border: Mexico’s horrible drug war is fueled by unlawful sales of illegal drugs willingly purchased by US consumers.

The First Use of the Sucre

On July 7, 2010 the new South American currency, the Sucre, was used for the first time in an international trade transaction.  The Sucre (Unitary System of Regional Compensation) is the currency developed by the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), enabling member states to trade internally without the US dollar.  As explained by Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, “It is a very simple concept: instead of using a currency from outside of the region to trade in goods and services, we use this compensation system where you pay in national currency to your respective exporters and in that way the international currency isn’t needed.”   Cuba is a member of ALBA, which is why we will not be hearing much about the Sucre in the USA.

Charo, Latina Singer, Musician, Activist

On June 25, 2010, Charo, a Latina singer, guitarist, and comedian, volunteered with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to protest against bullfighting as an inhumane sport.  Charo addressed a rally in Los Angeles, urging tourists not to attend a bullfighting festival, Gran Corrida, in Mexico.  Charo was born in Murcia, Spain, and studied classical Flamenco and guitar. Charo’s full name is María del Rosario Mercedes Laura Jennifer Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, in case you were wondering.

El 25 de junio de 2010, Charo, una cantante latina, guitarrista y comediante, se ofreció a PETA (Personas por el Trato Ético de los Animales) para protestar contra las corridas de toros como un deporte inhumano. Charo dirigió a una concentración en Los Angeles, instando a los turistas a no asistir a un festival taurino, Gran Corrida, en México. Charo nació en Murcia, España, y estudió guitarra clásica y flamenca. Nombre completo de Charo es María del Rosario Mercedes Laura Jennifer Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, en caso de que se preguntan.

Billboard’s Spirit of Hope and Lifetime Achievement Awards 2010

On April 29, 2010, Puerto Rican pop superstar Marc Anthony received Billboard’s Spirit of Hope Award, and the iconic Mexican group Los Temerarios earned Billboard’s Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Anthony was awarded the Spirit of Hope Award for his philanthropic efforts, including his work for the Children’s Health Fund, Make-a-Wish Foundation and ING’s Run for Something Better school-based fitness program. Los Temerarios were recognized for their 30-year cross-cultural career and for expanding the appreciation of Latin music.  Los Temerarios has earned 39 titles on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, more than any other act in the chart’s history.

Alejandra Castillo, US Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

On April 12, 2010, Alejandra Castillo was appointed by the Obama Administration as National Deputy Director of the US Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The MBDA serves minority entrepreneurs across America who are building and growing businesses.  Castillo writes, “My advice to young Hispanics just starting out would be to pursue your dreams, follow your passion and strive to be the best in every aspect of your professional pursuit. It is critical that as Latino/Hispanics we place education at the core of one’s foundation for growth and advancement.  … I live through my Abuela’s refranes, especially “haz bien y no mires a quien. (Do good onto others without regard to who they are.)”

José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano, President of Uruguay

José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano, the President of Uruguay, was inaugurated on March 1, 2010.  The politician and former Tupamaro guerilla fighter spent 14 years in a military prison and was wounded by police (unlike North American politicians, who usually are imprisoned after their careers in politics).  A 2009 article by The Economist characterized him as “a roly-poly former guerrilla who grows flowers on a small farm and swears by vegetarianism.”  Mujica donates 87% of his state salary to charitable causes, and he and his wife, also a former guerilla, drive an old Volkswagon Beetle.  Uruguay is a small country on South America’s southeastern coast, with a population of 3.5 million. Uruguay is considered one of the most economically developed countries in South America.

Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras

Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras, was inaugurated on January 27, 2010.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and was granted a doctorate by Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.   Lobo’s administration has received mixed reviews, with criticism from Human Rights watch for political oppression and praise from the Obama administration for his work to reconcile the nation, his appointment of a human rights adviser and his inclusion of political opponents in his administration.