Since Southern Chile’s Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano complex erupted on June 4, its ash cloud has accomplished a feat many travelers daydream about: Circling the globe. And it didn’t even have to buy a round-the-world ticket.
On its leisurely cruise around the Earth, the cloud first grounded flights in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It blanketed Bariloche with ash and cinder, and closed the Cardenal Samoré border crossing. After drifting over the Atlantic Ocean, South Africa and other countries on that continent were affected. Across the Indian Ocean, then, to cause Qantas and other airlines to cancel flights in Australia and New Zealand last week.
Within two weeks, Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s ash cloud made full circle, re-entering South America near Coyhaique, Chile. Once again, South American air traffic was affected.
As if never ceasing on its enviable journey, the ashes arrived once again to Africa and Asia, causing the full moon to appear blood red during the June 15 lunar eclipse.
This past Monday, Virgin Australia, Qantas and other air lines once more canceled over 200 flights, affecting the travel plans of more than 40,000 passengers.
According to Australia’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, the ash cloud is traveling some 4,000 kilometers (2,400 mi) per 24 hours, pushed on by strong winds. Satellite images still clearly show the plume, and pilots have reported seeing it.
In the meantime, Puyehue Volcano’s eruption continued to pump out more smoke. Yesterday morning, fine ash fell upon Villarrica, Pucón and the Ranco Lake area. Northwesternly winds pushed the cloud towards Valdivia.
It appears, though, that Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s cloud will be running its course soon. Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Sernageomin) announced yesterday that the volcano has had a significant lava flow, which should stop the volcano from pumping out more ash. Nonetheless, the Puyehue and Ranco Lake districts are still under red alert.
Hopefully as Puyehue-Cordón Caulle settles down and unpacks its bags, human travelers will be able to get one with their journeys around the globe.
As reported last week, on June 4, Southern Chile’s Cordón Caulle on Puyehue Volcano’s slopes erupted for the first time in 51 years. Across the entire Southern Hemisphere, the eruption has been causing travel nightmares not only for common journeyers, but also for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who is on a regional tour. He had to bus to Buenos Aires and boat to Uruguay.
This past week, flights were canceled in Chileand Patagonian Argentina, as well as southern Brazil. On Monday another column of ash, shooting eight kilometers (5 mi) into the atmosphere, forced the closures of airports across the Southern Cone, from Santiago to Buenos Aires to Montevideo.
But South America isn’t the only place being affected by Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s fallout. When winds shifted to the West over the weekend, the ash forced Qantas and other airlines to cancel flights in New Zealand and Australia.
Both Chile and Argentina have declared agricultural emergencies in their Lake and Patagonia regions. Lava flows have oozed down the Nilahue River valley. Over five million salmon were relocated when rising river temperatures caused fishkills.
Friday, rain and ash from the eruption caused an avalanchenear the (closed) Cardenal Samoré border crossing road, which remains closed. To handle border traffic, the Chilean government has increased the number of ferries on Lago Pirehueico at the Hua Hum pass and has reopened Paso Pino Hinchado. Snows may force the re-closure of these crossings.
Chile’s Emergency Management Agency (Onemi) maintains a red alert for the Lago Ranco and Puyehueareas. Travelers are advised to watch the news for further developments. To keep up on Volcán Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s activity, check Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería(Sernageomin)website. Earthquake Report publishes an up-to-date chronicle of reports of Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s effects in the region.
Every week, VIVA Travel Guides will be bringing you a rundown of the biggest, most important events in Latin America.
Monday, September 20th: Fiestas Patrias, Santiago, Chile
Today is the end of the four-day weekend marking the bicentennial of Chile’s independence. Major events are planned in Santiago, specifically in Parque Alberto Hurtado and the Estadio Nacional.
Tuesday, September 21st: Independence Day, Belize
Parties can be found just about everywhere in the country, as Belize celebrates its independence from the United Kingdom.
Wednesday, September 22nd: Al Trabajo en Bici, Montevideo, Uruguay
Wednesday is Car-Free Day, celebrated in many cities around the world. In Montevideo, workers and students will be encouraged to bike to work. Cyclists will gather at the Monumento al Gaucho at 6 pm.
Thursday, September 23rd: Autumn Equionox, Chichen Itza, Mexico
The Maya mastery of astronomy and architecture becomes most apparent in Chichen Itza on the first day of autumn. On this day, thousands gather to watch the sun cast the long shadow of a serpent on the flank of the main pyramid.
Friday, September 24th: La Semana del Arte, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This is the last night of this annual festival, which highlights the best of Buenos Aires’ ever-expanding art scene. Gallery nights, museum tours and other activities are on offer all week. Check out the festival’s Spanish-language website for more info.
Saturday, September 25th: South American Music Conference, Quito, Ecuador
One of Latin America’s most important house and electronica events swings through Quito this year. The highlight of SAMC 2010 is a concert Saturday night at Cemexpo, featuring DJs from around the region and headlined by Paul Oakenfold.
Sunday, September 26th: VIVA Travel Guides Boot Camp, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
VIVA editors head to beautiful Tamarindo to give a crash course on how to be a travel writer, from September 26th-October 1st. For more information about applying, check here.
Compiled by Jen O’Riordan, Eli Mangold and Libby Zay.
Every Friday, Viva Travel Guides combs the presses to round up the most relevant and recent Latin America news stories. Here are the stories our office talked about during the week of July 30th to August 6th. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!
[BRAZIL] Last Sunday, fifty-five members of a small indigenous tribe emerged from the Amazon rainforest to prove they exist and highlight the fact that their home is being mercilessly destroyed. Many of the tribe members left the rainforest for the first time in their lives to join 150 supporters in the town of Zé Doca, Maranhão, where the local Mayor’s office had previously denied the Awá people even exist. Local authorities have recently opposed a federal court ruling that ranchers, loggers and settlers who have occupied Awá lands should leave. Along with witnessing the destruction of up to 50 percent of their home, the tribe (believed to be one of Brazil’s two remaining nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes) has also been subject to massacres by settlers and have fallen victim to illnesses such as the common flu for which they have little or no immunity. [Indigenous People's Issues]
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa May Face Brother in 2014 Election
[ECUADOR] Strangely enough, the only significant opposition to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s administration is his own kin; his old ally and older brother Fabricio. The brothers worked together to get Rafael elected in 2006, but after a rather nasty corruption charge (Fabricio’s engineering business supposedly boomed just after the younger one was elected), their relationship unraveled. There has been macho posturing on both sides, and Fabricio is quoted as saying “Nobody has so far had the testicular competence to sue me.” Should be in interesting election to watch. [BBC]
Mexico City Upholds Gay Marriage Law
[MEXICO] Eight out of ten justices in Mexico’s highest court decided to uphold a law allowing same-sex marriages in the capital. The law was passed seven months ago, but federal prosecutors said it “went against the principle of protection of the family,” according to the BBC. [BBC]
Thirty Trapped in Chile Mine
[CHILE] A small mine collapsed in northern Chile late Thursday, leaving 30 miners trapped. Rescuers believe the trapped men may have taken refuge in an underground shelter that has oxygen and food “for them to last for some time,” but no further details have been released. [Reuters]
Guatemala Willing to Meet with the U.S. About Labor Dispute
[GUATEMALA] There is a possibility that the Guatemalan government is facing hefty fines for violating terms of the joint free-trade agreement with the U.S. The U.S. AFL-CIO labor federation and six Guatemalan unions first lodged the complaints in April 2008 over the violation of labor conditions, including failure to implement laws regarding the rights of workers to bargain collectively and organize, as well as the right to acceptable working conditions. According to the International Confederation of Trade Unions, Guatemala is the second most dangerous country for workers after Colombia. Sixteen workers are thought to have died in labor-related incidents in 2009 alone. [Global Post]
The Plague Surfaces in Peru
[PERU] Both the bubonic and pneumonic plagues have appeared in Peru, killing one 14-year-old boy and infecting 31 others. The disease is carried by fleas and transmitted by their bites, and Peruvian authorities are looking into sugar and fish meal imports from the Ascope province. But don’t worry about another Black Death, the plague is easily treatable with antibiotics if found early. [AP]
Troops Found $7 Million in Cash at Home of Drug Lord
[MEXICO] Troops who raided the house of drug kingpin Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel last week found $7 million in cash. They also seized jewelry, three expensive cars, and several weapons. Coronel, who died in the gunfight, was third in line in the Sinaloa drug cartel. [AP]
Fidel Castro Plans to Address Cuban Assembly on Issue of Foreign Affairs
[CUBA] After falling ill and conceding power to brother Raul, Fidel Castro is now healthy enough to address the National Assembly. Although not officially confirmed, the state media has reported that the ex-head of state plans to orate on the impending nuclear crisis between North Korea, Iran, Israel and the US. The session will be held on Saturday, August 7th. [BBC]
Prison in Brazil Found to be Run by Inmates
[BRAZIL] Police raided a prison in Rio de Janeiro to find inmates had overrun the place. The facility, which held 150 prisoners awaiting trial, had only one guard when police arrived. Police seized keys from the prisoners, as well as a pistol, ammunition, mobile phones, and records that detailed payments made by prisoners for larger cells and better conditions. [BBC]
Baby Revives Inside Coffin at Wake in Mexico
[MEXICO] A Mexican baby who was declared dead by doctors revived inside her coffin while her wake was in progress. Apparently, during the ceremony, parents heard a strange noise coming from the casket and opened it up to find their baby very much alive. The baby was born prematurely Monday, and is now in stable condition at a hospital. The doctor who pronounced her dead is being investigated for possible negligence. [AP]
Diego Forlan in Calcutta. Courtesy BBC.
Soccer Star Diego Forlan Visits Calcutta
[URUGUAY] Diego Forlan’s visit to one of India’s few football-crazy cities has caused much excitement in recent days. The 31-year-old Uruguayan player was named player of the 2010 World Cup after scoring no less than 5 goals for his country in the tournament. Forlan’s visit was part of a football talent hunt where many of the participants come from underprivileged backgrounds. “I’ve had the opportunity to see them playing, and I’m surprised how organized the young players are. You can see real talent,” he said. A large number of followers greeted the Atletico Madrid forward on his arrival in Calcutta, and his visit to the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity also drew large crowds of well-wishers. Forlan became a hero in his home country after his performance in South Africa and joins a list of football favorites that have visited Calcutta in recent years, including Diego Maradona, Branco, Romario, Oliver Kahn, and Gerd Muller. [BBC]
Former Chilean Secret Police Chief Blames CIA for 1974 Murders
[CHILE] General Manuel Contreras, the former chief of Chile’s feared secret police, said the CIA is to blame for the assassination of General Carlos Prats. At the time, Prats was the biggest enemy of General Augusto Pinochet, who proceeded him as head of Chile’s army. Contreras is serving combined sentences of 100 years for murders and kidnappings that took place while Pinochet headed the army. [AP]
No Oil Drilling in Ecuadorian Amazon Reserve
[ECUADOR] Ecuador decided the value of an Amazon Reserve was worth more than the oil money it would receive, and ruled against drilling in the area. It is estimated there are 846 million barrels of crude oil under the reserve, which is home to several indigenous tribes, as well as tons of flora and fauna. Under Ecuador’s new agreement with the UN, the reserve will remain untapped for at least 10 years. [V!VA]
[MEXICO] Mayan Indians in the Mexican state of Yucatan have signed a petition calling for the removal of two life-sized bronze statues from the state capital. The statues were erected in June in honor of the conquistador Francisco de Montejo and his son. In the mid-16th century, both Montejo and his son were responsible for many vicious battles and the deaths of thousands of indigenous during their quest for control of the area. The local council agreed to consider the petition on Wednesday which was signed by over 100 Mayan groups and many more individual Yucatan citizens. Over the years, Mexicans have avoided any attempt to praise or commemorate those that invaded the country and statues in their honor are rare. [AP]
Every Friday, Viva Travel Guides combs the presses to round up the most relevant and recent Latin America news stories. Here are the Latin American news stories our office talked about during the week of July 24th to July 29th. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!
Cristina Calcieta’s mystery has been solved. Photo courtesy AFP.
34 Years Later, Argentine Students Crack Murder Mystery
[ARGENTINA] The families of a young couple who disappeared in 1976 can finally lay the remains of their loved ones to rest after their bodies were identified by a group of students and community members in the small town of Melincue. The students linked the timing of the couple’s disappearance with a discovery of two brutalized bodies a rural farmer had made in 1976, and DNA tests proved their suspicions. Under the Argentine military dictatorship that ruled at the time, tens of thousands of suspected left-wing activists were murdered or disappeared. [AP]
Other South American Countries Attempt to Diffuse Venezuela/Columbia Feud
[COLOMBIA / VENEZUELA] After Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed ties with Colombia last Thursday, South American foreign ministers failed to bring the two countries back together at a meeting in Quito, Ecuador Thursday. Brazil President Lula da Silva plans to speak with Chavez on August 6th. Venezuela and Colombia have a long history of mixed feeling toward each other, and on Thursday Colombia accused Venezuela of harboring around 1,500 leftist guerrillas and closed the consulate. [Colombia Reports / Reuters]
Troops Kill Mexican Drug Kingpin
[MEXICO] Soldiers gunned down Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a leader of the Sinaloa cartel during a raid of his hideout in the western city of Guadalajara. In an attempted to escape, Coronel fired on soldiers as helicopters hovered overhead. One soldier was killed and another wounded. “The scope of [his] influence and operations penetrate throughout the United States, Mexico, and several other European, Central American, and South American countries,” said the FBI in a statement. [AP]
Ancestors of Australian Marsupials Arrived from the Americas
[GERMANY] According to genetic research from Germany, well known Australian species such as kangaroos, possums, koalas and wombats share a common ancestor that must have traveled to the region from the Americas. “I think this is pretty strong evidence now for the hypothesis of a single migration [to Australia] and a common ancestor,” said Juergen Schmitz, of the University of Muenster research team. The DNA analysis unfortunately does not tell us when this migration to Australia occurred, but researchers speculate that it may have taken place some 30-40 million years ago. [Discovery News]
Catalan Bullfight Ban Raises Debate in Latin America
[LATIN AMERICA] After Catalonia, Spain banned bullfighting last Wednesday, many bullfighting enthusiasts and animal rights groups throughout Latin America are having heated debates about the support. The tradition of bullfighting dates back to Spanish colonization in countries like Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Mexico, which is home to the world’s largest bullring. Michel Lagravere, father of Franco-Mexican child bullfighting star Michelito, said the Catalan parliament vote was “more anti-Spanish than anti-bullfight.” [Montreal Gazette]
Diego Maradona’s Tenure Ends as Argentina’s Coach
[ARGENTINA] Diego Maradona confirmed the end of his time as Argentina’s coach on Wednesday. Maradona accused Julio Grondona, president of the Argentinian Football Association, of lying to him and Carlos Bilardo, the national team’s general manager, of betraying him. Although many are blaming Maradona for Argentina’s loss in the World Cup, Maradona pointed out: “Not since 1990 has Argentina made it past the quarter finals.” [guardian.co.uk]
Argentina and Uruguay Reach Agreement on Pollution Monitoring
[ARGENTINA / URUGUAY] An agreement has finally been reached in the 7-year dispute between Argentina and Uruguay regarding pollution of the shared Uruguay River. The controversy began when Argentina raised concerns about contamination of the river from a Finnish paper mill on the Uruguayan side. The agreement was signed at the presidential palace and calls for a joint-scientific committee to monitor and identify pollution from all farming, industrial and urban centers that spill their waste into the Uruguay River and its tributaries. Argentina hopes the agreement will please environmentalists who have been blocking a bridge linking Gualeguaychu to Fray Bentos in Uruguay for the past three years. The UPM mill was built there seven years ago despite Argentina’s objections that it would pollute the river. [Global Times]
UNESCO Takes Galapagos Islands Off the Threatened List
[ECUADOR] After a 14-5 vote, the United Nations has voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from its list of endangered sites. The committee believes Ecuador has made significant progress in protecting and preserving the Islands. The Galapagos Islands had been on the list since 2007 after threatened by tourism, over-fishing and the introduction of invasive species. The Galapagos Islands has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. [Voice of America]
United States Closes Consulate in Ciudad Juarez
[U.S. / MEXICO] The United States announced closure of its consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico indefinitely. A U.S. official said the consulate was closed due to a “credible threat.” Last year, more than 2,600 people were killed in drug-related violence in the city. In March, the consulate closed for several days after a U.S. employee, her husband, and the husband of another staff member were killed. [BBC]
Watch a news report on the situation in Arizona. Video courtesy MSNBC.
Illegal Immigrants Prepare to Leave Arizona as New Law Takes Effect
[U.S. / MEXICO] A controversial immigration law, which could see an influx of deportees returning to Mexico, took effect in Arizona yesterday. Shelters across the border in Mexico are gathering supplies and preparing for a 20-25% increase in occupancy in the coming months. However, some say that many illegal immigrants will simply move from Arizona to another American state rather than return to Mexico. Mexico already extended its annual voluntary repatriation program in anticipation of the Arizona law, beginning the initiative earlier than usual in June. Other Mexican states such as Guanajuato and Chihuahua have also announced employment programs for possible returnees. [ABC News]
Chilean President Rejects Calls to Pardon Officials
[CHILE] In a televised address to the nation last Sunday, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera stated the sweeping pardons requested by the Catholic Church for military prisoners would not be granted under his government. The 60 military prisoners were convicted of humans rights abuses during the ear now known as the “Dirty War.” The majority of the prisoners live in a comfortable, well-equipped prison build especially from them. Standing up to the Catholic Church was a bold move, however, recent scandal and sexual abuse claims against Chilean priests have tarnished the Church’s reputation in recent years. Despite the rejection, the Church reacted positively saying that at least now the issue of overcrowding and conditions in Argentina’s prisons had been put on the national agenda. [NY Times]
Cuban Hunger Striker Departs Hospital
[CUBA] Guillerrno Farinas, an opposition activist who went on a 134-day hunger strike, has departed the hospital after three weeks of treatment. The 48-year-old psychologist and journalist began accepting food and water on July 8 after an agreement was reached between the Catholic Church and President Raul Castro to release 52 political prisoners. Twenty prisoners have so far been flown in exile to Spain with their families. [AP]
Spring has arrived in the Southern Hemisphere. Days are now longer and warmer. Soon forests of multi-colored mushrooms will be cropping up across the landscapes of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay as travelers pitch their tents.
In most of Latin America, carpas (tents) are looked upon with curiosity. Few can understand how rich foreigners can so innocently leave their belongings in something as flimsy as a cloth hut. It opens one up to theft – and possible worse – in the night. Luckily, though, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have a culture of camping. Popular with local people looking for inexpensive vacations, camping is also the shoestring traveler’s best lodging option in these costlier countries and a safe one for solo women travelers. A few sites are open all year. Others begin opening in spring. By summer, the season is in full swing until the end of vacations in February.
Argentina is the best prepared country for camping. Even many small villages have their camping municipal. Local tourism offices keep lists of all public and private sites and their rates. Expect to pay a one-time fee for the tent or vehicle plus a daily per-person charge. Some additionally charge for showers. Solo Campings lists Argentine campgrounds www.solocampings.com.ar). ACA – Automóvil Club Argentino – operates good sites that are open to motorists and non-motorists alike (www.aca.org.ar/servicios/turismo/frame.htm).
Unlike its eastern neighbor, Chilean towns do not have municipal campgrounds. Privately owned facilities are more common in tourist-popular destinations. Many of the national parks have designated sites and allow backcountry camping for trekkers. Some parks also have basic refugios (check with the local Conaf office or ranger station about availability). In general, camping is more expensive in Chile. For more information on campgrounds throughout this country, check:
In many parts of Uruguay are double campgrounds. At one locale is a public or private ground with complete facilities. Not too far away is another (usually free) that has no facilities (or perhaps only latrines). Guía Gambia is the most complete listing of campsites in the country. Many kiosks sell the printed guide, which can also be consulted at: www.guiadeturismo.com.uy/guiaweb/.
In all three countries, a rain-proof tent is needed, and in the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, one resistant high winds is advisable. If you have one without a rain fly, you can use a rain poncho or tarp. If you have left home without a tent, pick it up in a cheaper neighboring place like Bolivia, as they are expensive further south. Another necessary piece of equipment is an insulation pad. The cold, damp ground robs your body of heat. Depending on how rough you’ll be going, you may need a camp stove. Gas canisters are easy to get in most areas. Open fires are prohibited in national parks. If sticking to established campgrounds, you can get by without one, as many places have fire pits or a quincho with kitchen facilities. By camping, you’ll find that polyester mushroom soon pays for itself with what you’ll be saving on hostels or hotels.
Lawmakers in Uruguay passed a bill late Thursday allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. The bill, passed 40-13 by The Chamber or Representatives, must first go through the Senate, who has until September 15 to vote. Since the ruling party holds the majority in the Senate, the bill is expected to pass, making Uruguay the first country in Latin America to allow adoption for same-sex couples.
This bill is the latest in a series of progressive laws backed by President Tabaré Vázquez. With the aid of his political party Broad Front Coalition (Frente Amplio), Vázquez has been working hard to change the legal landscape of alternative sexuality. Since taking office in 2005, the center-left president has legalized civil unions, lifted the ban on homosexuals joining the military, and approved a bill allowing children 12 and older to change their names — a nod to transgender youth.
These laws have been met with heavy opposition from conservatives and members of the Roman Catholic Church, the dominant religious group not only in Uruguay, but also in Latin America as a whole. Although the laws are controversial, they lay down the stepping stones toward social equality, paving the way for other Latin America countries.
Rachel Anderson is a staff writer/editor for VIVA Travel Guides.