Friday, June 24, 2005

discovery of a new author Laura Restrepo

I have just finished the novel
The dark bride( la novia escura ) by this colombian author.
I felt at in latin america
it is a typical latino fare
with a puta as the heroine
Laura has handled the puta theme admirably, like Jorge Amado of brasil and the master of this theme.
The story involves petroleros, poverty and prostituition
there is humour, irony,provocative and evocative descriptions.
Of course love of the putas and love for the putas has been juxtaposed.
sprinkling of philosophy and scattered nuggets of wisdom appear here and there

the inevitable love is defined and refined
amidst the wretched and miserable lust

The half Indian girl enters audaciously the world of puteria
without a peso, she commands the cartpuller to take her to a puteria
transforms herself into sayonara, with whom everyone falls in love
But she falls in impossible love with one miserable worker and becomes amanda
What a to disconnect heart and mind...opening the heart knowing the risk of breaking it
sayonara is memorable

and what more, sayonara meets her lover on the bank of River Magdalena
the same river in which the hero of Love at the time of cholera ( gabriel garcia marquez)takes his bride on a honeymoon cruise after having waited and married her after 70 years of age. The same Rio magdalena in which Maqroll ( alavro mutis novel)embarks on a risky journey upriver for the saw mills.

I am going to read the other two novels of Laura

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

cafe means more than coffee in latin america

While walking around in the centre of the city of Santiago,capital of Chile, one can see legs through the glass windows of cafe. Man cannot resist. You walk in. oops! what do you see... pretty young chicas (girls in spanish) dressed 0.1 percent. They smile, welcome you and take you to your seat. They ask what coffee you wil have. They mean strong or weak. The coffee comes in the slender hands while the man feasts his eyes.Just sit down, relax, listen to music and take the coffee.Not expensive. just about a US dollar. Forget it . it is just coffee . nothing more. no alcohol .. no nothing. These cafes are called as " cafe con piernas " meaning "coffee with legs ". These are proper, decent places , not something seedy. The idea behind this is to animate the tired and exhausted men coming from work and send them home in good spirits. . Who says the Chileans are less latin and more European?

In Saopaulo,(Brasil) there is a famous cafe called as " cafe foto ". Dont get dressed up for the photos while taking coffee. There is neither coffee nor photo there. It is the best night club of Brasil with 50-60 gorgeous garotas ( girls - in portuguese). There are a few such other cafes in the city which are more intoxicating and addictive than coffee.There are a number of customers in these cafes with special cards like the frequent flier miles cards.
This reminds one of a Venezuelan joke
what does a Russian man do after sex?..... takes vodka
what does a French do after sex?...... takes cognac
what does an American do after sex ?.... smokes
what does a venezuelan do after sex ?
oops .. he goes home

Coffee is used to describe the skin of people in latin America
coffee colour means blacks
milk colour is whites
coffee with milk is mulattos, mixture of whites and blacks and browns
so we from India are "cafe con leche"(coffee with milk) colour.
Coffee is the drink of all classes of people of latin america, unlike in India where coffee is the drink of the rich people, while the poor classes are tea-drinking. In many offices, shops and businesses, coffee is kept for free self service.
In cafes, when you order coffee, the waiter will ask you ..what coffee?...guayo, negro,negro corto, negro largo,negrito,maron oscuro, maron claro,marroncito,cafe con leche or cafe cortado .so many varieties depending on strength, proportion of milk and colour.In general , cafe serving in latin america is small but it is strong.In many offices and shops they keep coffee near the visitors room for people to help themselves.
In saopaulo "cafe carioca " means weak coffee. It is the way of paulistas ( people of sao paulo ) making fun of the easygoing people of Rio de Janeiro who are called as Cariocas. The other comment about Cariocas is that their week starts on Tuesday and weekend starts on Friday. In Brasil, breakfast is called as " Cafe de Manha " which literally means morning coffee
Coffee in small cup is "cafezinho" in brasil and "cafecito" in the rest of latin america, which speaks spanish. One of my favourite books is called as " A cafecito story " written by Julia Alvarez from Dominican Republic. It is based on the real life story of her husband , an American who developed an organic coffee plantation and helped the small coffee farmers of Dominican Republic
The politics of Saopaulo state of Brasil in the eighteenth century was described as "cafe con leite" ( coffee with milk ) politics. It was a period of stuggle for power between the rural landlords who owned thousands of acres of lands of coffee and sugar plantations and cattle ranches and the emerging urban industrial and business class who processed, traded and exported coffee, sugar, milk and the meat. Guess how much each cow in Brasil has as grazing area... eight and half hectares ! The landlords prefer to have large cattle ranches , since cultivation of crops is a botheration and avoidable work.
It was the coffee export economy that created the deep divisions between the privileged elite and impoverished rural masses and caused revolutions in central America even as late as the 1980s.The Coffee dynasties of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua held political power during much of the ninteenth and twentieth centuries.The period from 1880 to 1930 was the golden age of the coffee elite in central america. In 1895 majority of the national legislators of of El Salvador were coffee growers. At the turn of twentieth century, coffee was the primary export, the foundation of wealth, the determinant of social status and the arbiter of political power in most of central america.
Coffee is the most important cash crop of Latin America which produced 63 million bags (60 kgs) out of the world production of 109 million bags in 2001-02. Brazil is the largest producer in the world followed by Colombia. These two countries account for 39 percent of the world trade in coffee. In the case of Colombia, coffee was the main export commodity in the past but now petroleum and manufactures have overtaken coffee.
Guatemala wass known as the "Coffee Republic" as it depended upon coffee exports as the main source of foreign exchange .These days the emigrants bring more dollars than coffee.
With 15 billion dollars in annual sales, coffee is the world's most valuable commodity after oil, providing 10 nations with over 50% of their foreign exchange.
While i was ambassador in Venezuela i introduced " Cafe con Visa " for Venezuelan business visa applicants. The visa is made ready by the time the visitor finishes coffee with the marketing Officer or Ambassador.