Saturday, September 25, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
On the Colombian Coast, Natural Beauty, Gritty Charm
By LIONEL BEEHNER
Published: September 15, 2010
IT’S not called the Parque de Los Novios — Park of the Newlyweds — for nothing. Young couples lock arms as they stroll past rows of freshly planted flowers. A Sinatra love ballad sung in Spanish echoes from a corner dive bar. Aside from a few mustachioed, sombrero-clad men playing a board game, it seemed as if everyone on this breezy August evening was on a romantic sabbatical.
Yet this square in the center of Santa Marta, a port city along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, was not always a streetlamp-lighted refuge of romance. Just a few years back, the park was a tumbledown area trafficked mostly by prostitutes and petty criminals.
Wedged between the sea and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta peaks, the city may be Colombia’s oldest, but it has always been seen as the grittier and more industrial counterpart to nearby Cartagena — at best, a stopover point for visitors looking to trek through Tayrona National Park or hike to the Lost City, a well-known archaeological site nearby.
“Until five years ago nobody would come here because of the guerrillas,” said Michael McMurdo, a New York City-trained chef who recently opened a Mexican restaurant, Agave Azul, in Santa Marta. “While there is still some sketchy stuff going on, I like it here because it still feels real and Colombian.” CONTINUE READING
Posted by m. at 9:54 PM
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Ballads Born of Conflict Still Thrive in Colombia
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: September 4, 2010
“Uriel Henao needs to travel with certain standards,” said the 41-year-old balladeer, referring to himself in the third person, as is his custom. “The people in these parts expect it,” he explained after a convoy of honking pickup trucks and motorcycles led by the town’s fire truck marked his arrival for a concert here in August.
The rock-star welcome for Mr. Henao, who cloaks a gourmand’s paunch under a white leather jacket, was common enough. Colombians call him the king of the corridos prohibidos, or prohibited ballads, a musical genre that describes the exploits of guerrilla commanders, paramilitary warlords, lowly coca growers and cocaine kingpins.
Given the graphic depiction of the drug trade, some established radio stations in Colombia keep the songs off their playlists, sometimes fearful of violent reprisals that might result from glorifying one side or another in the country’s four-decade war. CONTINUE READING
Posted by m. at 12:27 PM
Thursday, September 2, 2010
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: August 27, 2010
PRESIDENT ALAN GARCÍA is certainly used to being unpopular.
During his first term as president about 20 years ago, when Peru was suffering from terrorist attacks by a Maoist insurgency, he was widely blamed for the hyperinflation that crippled the nation’s economy.
Now in what might be considered his comeback term, a chance to rehabilitate his place in history, the insurgency is a shadow of its former self, the economy is booming — and he is still battling low approval ratings and heated criticism from his constituents.
So perhaps it is not surprising that Mr. García has learned to respond to Bronx cheers with panache.
“We’re sort of still the kind of country that expects the son of the sun, the Inca, to do acts of magic,” he said in a interview this month. “I have tried it, but it is difficult, almost impossible.”
Posted by m. at 3:52 PM
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: August 22, 2010
CARACAS, Venezuela — Some here joke that they might be safer if they lived in Baghdad. The numbers bear them out.
In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.
Even Mexico’s infamous drug war has claimed fewer lives.
Venezuelans have absorbed such grim statistics for years. Those with means have hidden their homes behind walls and hired foreign security experts to advise them on how to avoid kidnappings and killings. And rich and poor alike have resigned themselves to living with a murder rate that the opposition says remains low on the list of the government’s priorities. CONTINUE READING
NYT Photo Slideshow: Venezuela’s Climate of Crime
Personal Project documenting Crime in Venezuela: Rojo Rojito
Posted by m. at 3:03 PM