Category Archives: Caribbean

Christmas Traditions in Latin America

When Christmas time comes along in Latin America, it’s pretty impressive just how similar (and how dissimilar) a number of countries choose to spend their holidays commemorating the birth of baby Jesus.

You’ll find that the traditions often held by families and friends hold a deeply religious significance. What’s more is that throughout Latin America there’s little nuances that distinguish each country’s traditions from the next. Read on below to find out how they differ in our guide to Christmas Traditions throughout Latin America.

Argentina & Uruguay
With a number of historical and cultural influences dousing each of these countries in a smorgasbord of traditions, Argentina and Uruguay tend to consolidate and celebrate their holidays with Christmas trees and the nativity scene. Religious folk (specifically catholic and christian) attend church on the 25th and spend this time of the year (summer for them) getting together with close friends and family outside to host get-togethers and relish the good weather while preparing bountiful meals grilled over the barbecue. Sweet bread and apple cider often accompany these gatherings.

Christmas Day, Bariloche. Photo by: Paul Burnett

Christmas Day, Bariloche. Photo by: Paul Burnett

Bolivia
Bolivians celebrate their Christmas in a more deeply religious way, often putting up their nativity scene (pesebre) in their homes with a level of dedication and meticulousness unparalleled in other places. Churches too often put up a larger and more elaborate nativity right outside their doors. At midnight on christmas eve, the mass of the Rooster (La Misa del Gallo) is held and a large christmas meal is served afterwards at the household of each family. A traditional beverage served during this time is “cola de mono,” similar to eggnog.

Festive Frolics @ the Salt Flats. Photo by: Ewar Woowar

Festive Frolics @ the Salt Flats. Photo by: Ewar Woowar

Brazil
As a South American country we have included Brazil although its national language is Portuguese. Northern Brazilians, like Mexicans, enjoy a version of the folk play Los Pastores (The Shepherds). In the Brazilian version, there are shepherdesses rather than shepherds and a gypsy who attempts to kidnap the Christ Child. Friends and family members may also take part in these plays. People make a special meal and decorate their houses. Many go to church to attend services in line with family tradition. Christmas picnics and banquets are also common. Special items and usual holiday recipes are tried along with the cakes and wines.

Christmas chorus in Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by: Marcusrg

Christmas chorus in Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by: Marcusrg

Chile
Chileans like to bring in a figure similar to that of Santa Claus into their Christmas celebrations, known as the Viejo Pascuero (Old Christmas Man). He, like Santa Claus, wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and New Years, but as chimneys are rather scarce in the warmer climate of Chile, he simply comes in through the window instead. The nativity scene is also set up in the household as well, and midnight (on christmas eve) is followed by a bountiful meal that includes cazuela de ave (chicken cazuela) – a soup made of potatoes, onions and corn on the cob. This is followed with desert in the form of pan the pascua (fruit bread).

Colombia
The Christmas traditions start on December 7, with families lighting a candle in honor of the Virgin Mary. Following this day, churches commemorate the day of immaculate conception. What’s nifty about all this is that households typically end up lighting upwards of around 100 candles on the curb or sidewalk area in front of their house. Adding to this dazzling display of flaming lights are Christmas lights that decorate the trees and lampposts throughout the city.

December 16th sees Colombian families setting up and decorating their Christmas trees and nativity scene; gathering around said decorations throughout the days leading up to the 25th with prayers and carols (Novena de Aguinaldos).

Christmas eve has families getting together to eat and spend time together, with typical Colombian dishes such as ajiaco (a loaded and heavy chicken/potato soup) and natilla (corn based dessert) and bunuelos. Following this, the family waits until midnight to exchange presents and words of affection.

Christmas at Parque 93, Bogota. Photo by: Christopher Kirk

Christmas at Parque 93, Bogota. Photo by: Christopher Kirk

Cuba
While Christmas was considered somewhat of an oddity for some time (if anything, it was completely avoided after Cuba declared itself an atheist nation in 1962), the tradition itself has experienced somewhat of a resurrection in the past decade . Following the visit of Pope John Paul II, Christmas was reinstated as a national holiday and brought with it large following, including religious congregations that are now held in Havana’s Revolution Square. Cubans tend to head to mass at midnight, with the church bells announcing the transition from Christmas eve into Christmas day. Bountiful meals are served at households for family and friends following this.

Christmas Day, Cuba. Photo by: Ingmar Zahorsky

Christmas Day, Cuba. Photo by: Ingmar Zahorsky

Ecuador
Ecuador celebrates the holidays with the usual fare of family, food, Christmas trees, lights and nativity scenes. In fact, in the capital, you’ll find that up on El Panecillo (a substantial hill visible throughout the city) the statue of the Virgin Mary has her own gigantic, glowing nativity scene at her feet and is a sight to behold from a distance at night. Families tend to gather on Christmas Eve for food and drink. At midnight they exchange gifts and words of affection. Attending mass during this time is also quite common.

El Panecillo, Quito. Photo by:  Adn Montalvo Estrada

El Panecillo, Quito. Photo by: Adn Montalvo Estrada

The indigenous have a show of color and fine threads as they dress in their finest and ride brightly colored llamas down to the ranches where their employers live. Typically, they’ll bring gifts of fruit and produce with them, which they then lay down in front of the nativity scene which is set up out by the farmhouse. Children are the ones that typically give words or songs to the holy infant, asking for blessings for their family and future. Following this, festivities ensue with singing and dancing outside. The owner of the farm also gives gifts to his employees and their families, along with a big feast.

Christmas Decorations at the base of El Panecillo

Christmas Decorations at the base of El Panecillo

El Salvador
El Salvador is fond of intimate gatherings focused on family and friends. You’ll find that families, in their entirety, go to church together at this time. Following this, they’ll head back to the house and have a huge meal throughout the evening up until midnight, at which point presents are exchanged. One distinguishing feature about this tradition is that, throughout the weeks following up to Christmas, you’ll find that the nativity scene in homes lack the baby. It isn’t until midnight on Christmas Eve that families finally take out baby Jesus and put him in the manger, symbolizing that Christ is now born.

Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Photo by:  Edwin Merches

Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Photo by: Edwin Merches

Mexico
La Posada, as it’s known in Mexico, is a religious procession that focuses on the search for shelter by Joseph and Mary, and is usually performed as a reenactment by children or adults. The groups typically go from house to house carrying images of Mary and Joesph. During this season, market stalls pop up all around the city known as “puestos” that house all kinds of foodstuffs and flowers. Flowers specifically (the poinsettia in particular) seem to replace the concept of Santa Claus here, as their brilliant red-star shaped petals are found nearly everywhere.

Children receive gifts on Christmas Day, and are also (sometimes) blindfolded and given a swing at a pinata. Once successfully broken, the children scramble to reap the sweets and small toys that fall out. Should the children behave extra good during the holiday season, they’ll also receive a bonus present on the 6th of January from the three wise men.

Christmas at Zocalo Square, Mexico City. Photo by: Juan Carlos

Christmas at Zocalo Square, Mexico City. Photo by: Juan Carlos

Peru
Nativity scenes in Peru are typically made by Quechua Indians, and you’ll find a number of these beautiful, wood-carved figures throughout the country (should you get a chance to step into someone’s home). Following midnight on Christmas Eve, dinners are held back at home which feature tamales among a number of other delights. On Christmas day, the streets come alive with religious processions commemorating the Virgin Mary, her statue of which is transported throughout the streets.

Venezuela
Aside from attending the usual mass on Christmas Eve and the exchange of presents on Christmas day, Venezuela has a distinct tradition held on January 6th.

On this day, when the children awaken, they will discover gifts by their bedside, What’s more is that the children will know that the Magi and their camels have been at home, for when they look themselves in the mirror and see a black smudge on their cheek they then know that Balthazar, King of the Ethiopians, has kissed them while they slept.

BREAKING NEWS: 7.6 Earthquake Rattles Costa Rica

Today at 8:42 a.m. local time (14:42 UTC), a 7.6 earthquake hit the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The epicenter was Nicoya Península in Guanacaste Province, 80 kilometers (50 mi) from Liberia.

 

Preliminary reports cite electrical outrages and highway damage. The cell phone network has collapsed.  Thus far, two people have been reported missing.

 

It was also strongly felt in San José and other parts of Costa Rica, as well as in Nicaragua and Panama.

 

A tsunami alert is still in effect for Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. The warning was issued initially for the Pacific Ocean basin, as far north as Mexico and south to Chile, and for the Caribbean.

Latin America News Update: February 19th-25th

Thanks again to Lorraine Caputo for tracking down these stories.

ARGENTINA

Paleontologists have found Tyrannosaurus Rex’s ancestor, Dawn Runner, in the famed site at Ischigualasto. And hey, let’s do this: Check out V!VA’s new guide to Argentina, due out this spring!

CUBA

Cuba is putting on the 20th edition of its uniquely egalitarian International Book Fair this week.

HONDURAS

Honduras has banned smoking in public and many private places. Hondurans can now even call the cops on people smoking at home.

A young Honduran who starred in a documentary about illegal immigration has been granted asylum in the US.

MEXICO

Despite the wave of drug violence ravaging the country, Mexico is still attracting lots of Spring Breakers from the US.

Latin America News Update: January 29th- February 4th

Thanks once again to Lorraine Caputo for compiling these links.

BRAZIL

Photos of an uncontacted indigenous group living on the border between Brazil and Peru have been released in an effort to protect their traditional lands.

Brazilian lawmakers are looking to enshrine the right to pursue happiness in the country’s constitution.  In other (possibly related) news, a clown was seated in Congress after having been found to be literate.

CHILE

Despite the earthquake last year, Chile is still at risk for a major quake.

COLOMBIA

Afro-Colombian hip hop group ChocQuibTown is in the running for a Grammy and has already brought attention to life in the impoverished Chocó region. Check out the single here.

CUBA

A Cuban woman has turned 126 years old, though the Guinness Book of World Records refuses to recognize her as the world’s oldest person. Capitalist pigs!

ECUADOR

The Devil’s Nose train route, a popular tourist destination in Ecuador’s central sierra, has reopened today. Trust us, that’s what this article says.

MEXICO

A rare snowfall has caused major disruptions in northern Mexico.

Mexico will launch a new PR campaign to woo tourists back to the violence-plagued country.

Latin American News Briefs: Protesting Tribes, Prison Takeovers, and the Plague

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!

Awá child. Photo courtesy Twilight Earth.

Awá Tribe Emerges from Amazon to Show They Exist

[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]

Indigenous Mexicans Want Conquistador Monument Removed

[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]

Need to catch up on the news? Check out our archive of Latin American News Briefs.

Latin American News Briefs: Murder Mysteries, Marsupials, and Maradona

Compiled by Jen O’Riordan 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 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]

A marsupial. Photo courtesy www.animalspix.com.

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]

The Finnish paper mill. Photo courtesy www.elrevolucionario.org.

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]

US Embassy Issues Warning About Dengue Outbreak

By Jen O´Riordan, Viva Editorial Intern

The US Embassy in Honduras has issued a warning to residents and visitors to and from the country about dengue fever. Last month, Honduras declared the recent surge in cases of dengue a national emergency. It is believed that the disease has killed 21 Hondurans already this year. Another five fatalities are currently being investigated in order to ascertain if dengue fever was the cause of death.

The disease takes on two forms; classic and hemorrhagic. Symptoms include fever, headache (particularly strong behind the eyes), bone joint and muscle pain, bleeding through the nose and gums, and in many cases an increased susceptibility to bruising and a rash.

The disease cannot be transferred from one person to another but is contracted by a bite from an infected mosquito. Unfortunately there is no vaccine or cure for the disease yet. Last week, the total cases of classic dengue in Honduras since the start of the year stood at 17,620, with another 594 cases of the hemorrhagic type also diagnosed. The government reported that 85 percent of the hemorrhagic dengue cases occurred in the capital of Tegucigalpa.

However, cases this year have also been reported throughout Central and South America in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Peru, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

The fever usually lasts up to a week, and in a very small percentage of cases patients develop dengue shock syndrome (DSS), which can lead to death.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dengue infections are a worldwide occurrence and are commonly reported from most tropical countries in the South Pacific, Asia, the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa.

The Honduran government has launched fumigation efforts and a public education program in order to try and bring the recent outbreak under control.

Latin America News Briefs: Eagle Attacks, Banana Uprisings, and Paul the Octopus

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 3rd to July 9th.

Total Solar Eclipse to Occur on Sunday

[Chile, Argentina] A total solar eclipse will track across the South Pacific on Sunday, and will be visible in Chile and Argentina during sunset. The eclipse can be seen during the day on Easter Island, the Cook Islands, and Wellington Island, among others.

Read more about the Solar Eclipse on www.timeanddate.com.

Watch a video of a harpy eagle attacking a film crew, Courtesy YouTube.com

Harpy Eagle Attacks BBC Film Crew

[Venezuela] When documentary filmmakers attempted to install a camera near a giant harpy eagle nest, a female bird repeatedly dive bombed the crew. Although the crew left unscathed saved for tears in their protective layers, they have now requested riot gear from local police for the rest of filming.

Read more about Harpy Eagle on www.asylum.com.

More than 150 Sought in Puerto Rico Drug Operation

[Puerto Rico] What is being described as the largest drug bust on American territory went down this morning on the west coast of Puerto Rico. According to AP, police “planned to arrest about 170 people and seize more than $1 million in property.”

Read more about the Puerto Rico drug bust on news.yahoo.com.

Tungurahua Volcano in 2004, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tungurahua Volcano Continues to Erupt

[Ecuador] After two weeks of silence, Tungurahua Volcano is again spewing gas and ash. Activity began on Wednesday, and in the last 24 hours there have been eight emissions that have risen up to three miles high. The Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School has classified the explosions as “moderate” in intensity.

Read more about Tungurahua Volcano at www.hoy.com (in Spanish).

52 Political Prisoners Freed, Dissident Ends Hunger Strike

[Cuba] After 135 days, a Cuban dissident named Guillermo Farinas agreed to end his hunger strike when Havana agreed to free 52 ill political prisoners. Farinas has conducted 23 hunger strikes as protests to different elements of the Cuban regime. The strike was mediated by the Catholic Church.

Read more about the hunger strike at www.bbc.co.uk.

Ecuadorian Drug Submarine, Courtesy the DEA via Fox News

Drug Submarine Seized in Ecuador

[Ecuador] With help from the U.S. DEA, authorities in Ecuador seized a 30-foot submarine intended to carry multiple tons of cocaine. The submarine had been constructed in the remote jungle near the Ecuador-Columbia border.

Read more the submarine bust on www.foxnews.com.

Panama Strikers Seize Four Cops in Labor Clash

[Panama] Four police officers are being held hostage by striking banana workers in Panama. Workers have been upset since the Panamanian President signed a law last month that lessens the power of unions and gives companies power to suspend the contracts of striking workers to hire replacements. On Friday, one man was killed and 102 people were treated for injuries after police fired tear gas and buckshot at strikers who had blocked roads with trees.

Read more about the labor clash over Bananas on www.alertnet.org.

12 Inmates Die in Uruguay Prison Fire

[Uruguay] A short-circuiting heater is believed to be the cause of a prison fire in Uruguay that left twelve inmates dead and eight hospitalized with serious burns. The overcrowded prison built for 60 houses twice as many inmates.

Read more about the prison fire on www.comcast.net.

Paul (or Pablo?) the Octopus, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Spaniards Wish to Rechristen Paul the Octopus as Pablo

After a psychic sea creature predicted Spain as the winner of the World Cup, the Spanish team declared their love for the octopus and wants to rechristen him “Pablo.” All the predictions Paul the Octopus has made in the World Cup have come true.

Read more about Paul the Octopus on www.sify.com.

Cuba Embargo to Remain in Place

Despite mounting calls to abolish the decades-old embargo of Cuba, the USA is sticking with it, according to Vice-President Joseph Biden. While visiting Chile over the weekend, Biden indicated the new administration’s desire to have better ties with all of Latin America, but showed no signs of budging in regards to the Cuban blockade. For now, it will still be difficult for US citizens to visit the island.

Boggy Peak to be Mount Obama

The tallest point on the Island nation of Antigua will soon have a new name: Mount Obama. For years, Boggy Peak (1,300 feet/396 meters) has attracted hikers and been and integral part of the landscape.  Boggy Peak’s new name will become official on August 4, President Obama’s birthday. Antigua is a tiny Caribbean nation, the population of which is over 90% black. Must say, “Mount Obama” sounds much more stately than “Boggy Peak.”