Category Archives: Uruguay

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.

How to Pick Your Next Travel Destination

By Mark, Viva Staff Writer.

There are approximately 870,546,002 travel destinations on planet Earth. Such a vast number of options makes it extremely difficult to decide where to visit. Talking to a travel agent or scouring the Internet for top ten lists and reviews are extremely helpful in choosing where to go on vacation, but they are also highly unoriginal. Try these more creative ways of selecting a place to visit.

Photo by Patrik Stollarz

Ask your Pet
Paul the Octopus has been making headlines for accurately predicting the results of Germany’s World Cup matches. If you don’t have an octopus, your cat, dog or hedgehog should be an adequate substitute, and should be able to predict whether you’d have a better time in, say, Guatemala or Peru. All you need is some pet food (Paul’s food of choice: mollusks) and a couple crudely drawn flags on which to place the food. Release your hound, cat or hog and let it do the decision making.

Play Darts
What you will need: a dart, a world map, and a blindfold. What you will need to do: Hang the map, preferably over a dartboard or corkboard; blindfold yourself and throw the dirt (it’s not all in the wrist). No dartboard in your billiard room? Take your world map down to the local pub and do your worst. Note, if you’re old school, you can also try the classic spinning globe selection process. Spin a globe, close your eyes, jab the world, and wherever it stops, that’s where you’re headed. No do-overs, unless you end up in the middle of the ocean or Yugoslavia.

Get with the Band
Check your favorite band or musical artist’s website for worldwide tour dates. You could end up crowd-surfing in a castle in Bratislava. Hint: Europe is particularly flush with music festivals during the summer, and South America is a year-round haven for aging power balladeers in too-tight jeans.

Take a Gamble
If your bags are packed and you’re ready to go right now, choose from Germany, Spain, Holland or Uruguay. One of these four will be World Cup champions next Sunday. You have a 1-in-4 chance of attending the biggest victory party of the year.

Check the Monitor
Show up at the airport, glance at the international departures monitor and buy a ticket on the next available flight. Yes, it’s that easy.

Follow the VIVA
Viva writers and editors blog and tweet travel destination info on a daily basis. Check the blog and twitter feed for the latest and greatest travel destinations.

Argentina- Uruguay Border Crossing Again Open

Good news for travelers! For the first time in over three years, the border crossing from Gualeguaychú, Argentina, to Fray Bentos, Uruguay is once again open—at least for 60 days.

Since November 2000, Gualeguaychú’s Asamble Ambiental (Environmental Council) has blockaded Puente General San Martín bridge over concerns that Uruguay’s new paper plant would pollute the Río Uruguay, which separates the two countries. Gualeguaychú-Fray Bentos is the closest border crossing to the two countries’ capitals, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This has meant travellers and merchants have had to make a 220 kilometer (137 mi) detour to the next-nearest border crossing.

The Asamblea Ambiental, citing violations of a binational agreement to work on the river’s environmental issues, filed a suit in the Hague’s International Court. In April 2010, the court ruled no violation existed.  Since then, the governments of Presidents José Mujica of Uruguay and Cristina Fernández of Argentina agreed to establish a joint agency to monitor the paper plant’s effects on the river.

On June 17, the Asamblea agreed to lift the blockade for 60 days, to allow the two governments to work on a solution to the problem.

Off-Season Beachin'-It in Uruguay

By Jena Davison, V!VA Editorial Intern

So, you think you can’t have a worthwhile beach getaway in South America during the fall or winter months? Think again. Uruguay’s coast is chock-full of interesting beach towns, and unlike popular neighbors Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay still manages to maintain a low-key, under-the-radar vibe, especially during the off-season months (April through mid-November). Going to Uruguayan beaches in the off-season will not only allow you to escape the hoards of crowds and the inflated summertime prices, but it will also give you the chance to see the beach towns stripped-down to their natural states.

During high season, many of these lazy beach towns dance to a more rushed beat. Their tranquil, anything-goes attitudes seem to transform into intense party scenes as soon as December comes along. If that is what you are after, you will have a great time, no doubt. But, if you are looking to clear your mind, to have the beautiful stretches of sandy beaches to yourself and to connect with local Uruguayans, going in the off-season is the sounder choice.

In fact, when these beaches are not crowded, you can get a real taste of Uruguayan hospitality; locals often invite people to stay in their homes or to join them for dinner or drinks. Plus, passing through these beach towns during the off-season helps support the local businesses, which tend to make the bulk of their money during the summer months. And, as if you need another excuse to hop on the next boat, bus or plane to Uruguay, an additional perk rests in the fact that you are bound to meet other likeminded travelers in these places, since many are purposefully coming in the off-season for similar reasons. So, although you may not leave with that golden tan you had hoped for and may have to bear some chilly nights, the beaches of Uruguay in the off-season still have a lot in store for those travelers willing to give them a chance.

Here are three cool Uruguayan beach towns not to be missed:

1) Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo, Uruguay. Photo by Jena Davison.

With a permanent population of less than 1,000 people, Punta del Diablo is a small fishing and surfing village about 30 minutes from the Brazilian border. In the off-season, Punta del Diablo has a chilled out, hippie vibe, but come high season, the village is overrun with thousands of Argentine, Brazilian and foreign tourists as well as many Uruguayans from Montevideo. However, even in high season, it has a pretty relaxed feel and it attracts a more carefree, creative crowd than the more high-strung town of Punta del Este.

In Punta del Diablo, colorful cabañas are perched on sandy hills overlooking the ocean located a few paces ahead.  Nameless dirt roads, on which people travel mostly via horse or on foot, crisscross through town. Located in the tiny town center is the bus station and a main strip of restaurants with similar menus offering Uruguayan food.  Along the beach rests a small boardwalk where you can buy seafood-stuffed empanadas, knotted bracelets and ceramics. Punta del Diablo is also known for its spectacular surf, so here you can take surfing lessons or rent a board and surf independently. Besides surfing or just lounging on its three main beaches, visitors can visit the nearby Parque Nacional Santa Teresa by foot or on horseback, check out the Santa Teresa fortress, or simply relax on the sanddunes. There are no banks or ATMs here, but some hostels will give cash advances for a fee.

2) Cabo Polonio

Cabo Polonio, Uruguay. Photo by Jena Davison.

Cabo Polonio is a tiny village about an hour from Punta del Diablo by bus. Since it is technically located in a national park, no cars or buses can drive into the town. Instead, you must be dropped off at the highway and take one of the registered 4x4s about 20 minutes through the park and along the beach until you arrive at the village. No new buildings are allowed to be built there and older buildings cannot be repaired without a hard-to-obtain permit. In fact, the government wants for the buildings to fall to the ground and for people to leave the area slowly.

Cabo Polonio has no roads or electricity. Since there are no lights at night, all of the restaurants, bars and homes are illuminated by candlelight, giving it a truly magical feel. This also makes for some spectacular star-gazing opportunities. The village itself is little more than a lighthouse and some artsy shacks scattered along the beach, which mingle with the few beachfront hostels, bars and restaurants that are there. However, it is also home to thousands of sea lions, so you can walk along the rocks to watch them lounging, swimming and communicating with one another. Cabo Polonio also has enormous sand dunes that you can climb and rest on, which will make you feel like you are more in the Middle East than in Uruguay. There are no ATMs or banks here, so come prepared with enough cash.

3) La Pedrera

Although it is often overlooked by travelers who tend to hit up more major Uruguayan beach towns, La Pedrera is a nice little beach spot that should not be skipped. About four hours northeast of Montevideo and a few hours southwest of Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo, La Pedrera is a tiny resort town that is known for its water sports. Its beaches—including the popular El Desplayado beach—are definite surfer magnets, especially during the summer. However, visitors can surf as well as windsurf, bodyboard and sport fish here pretty much all year round. Other activities include visiting the remains of ¨Cathay,¨a fishing boat that sunk in 1971, and exploring the colorful ravines of La Pedrera.

Like other beach towns on the coast, La Pedrera swells in population during high season, when parties and outdoor concerts commence and continue all summer long. Yet, to really enjoy its beauty and tranquility, and to surf in peace away from over-populated waters, visiting in the off-season is the way to go.

Uruguay Approves Bill for Same-Sex Adoption

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.