Saturday, May 31, 2008

La historia oficial - Argentine film

This is the first and only Argentine film which has won an Oscar award . It won in the foreign language category in 1986. I had been looking for this and finally got to see yesterday.

Alicia, a high school history teacher is happily married to a successful lawyer Roberto and they have an adopted daughter, the five year old Gaby. Her contented and innocent life takes a turn when one of her students asks if she believed in what the history books say. This wake up call is followed by the revelations of her childhood friend Ana ,who returns from exile. Ana recounts how she was detained and tortured on the suspicion that her husband was a subversive. She tells the horror stories of atrocities and disappearance of people and the handing over of children of disappeared parents to families related to the military junta. This makes Alicia to question and find out how Gaby came to be adopted by her husband. Her husband is evasive and denies any wrongdoing. But Alicia is determined to find out the truth and embarks on a mission to find out if Gaby is the daughter of a disappeared mother. She goes to search hospital records and finally gets to meet Gaby´s grand mother whose daughter had disappeared during the repression of the dictatorship.

The director of the film, Luis Puenzo, has vividly brought out the trauma suffered by Argentine society during the the years of dirty war waged by the military against leftists and their sympathisers. Rather than dramatising the crimes of the dictatorship, the director has used a middle class family to tell the sufferings subtly but poignantly.

The mothers whose children had " disappeared" continue even now their mourning and walking around the Plaza of May in Buenos Aires. They are known as the Mothers of Plaza of May.

Norma Aleandro ( Alicia) and Hector Alterio ( Roberto) and the other actors have portrayed their role realistically . The actress Norma Aleandro herself had gone into exile in Uruguay and Spain and returend to Argentina only after the restoration of democracy.

The movie was started in 1983, after the fall of the military dictatorship but had to be suspended and resumed secretly after the director and actors received threats from the military officers.

Argentina has still not got over the nightmare of the suffering under the military dictatorship. Military officers involved in killings are even now brought to justice and the scars have not healed yet. This is a reminder of the historical stain in the otherwise sofisicated, refined and cultured society of Argentina.

This film certainly merited an Oscar and the other awards it won.

Friday, May 23, 2008

U.S.-Latin America Relations - A New Direction for a New Reality

U.S.-Latin America Relations - A New Direction for a New Reality

This is the title of a report published in May 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. The task force which brought out the report includes among others Charlene Barshefsky former USTR.

Here are some highlights of the report:

-For over 150 years, the Monroe Doctrine provided the guiding principles for U.S. policy toward Latin America, asserting U.S. primacy in the foreign affairs of the region. Over the past two decades, those principles have become increasingly obsolete. Washington’s basic policy framework, however, has not changed sufficiently to reflect the new reality. U.S. policy can no longer be based on the assumption that the United States is the most important outside actor in Latin America. If there was an era of U.S. hegemony in Latin America, it is over.

-the era of the United States as the dominant influence in Latin America is over. Countries in the region have not only grown stronger but have expanded relations with others, including China and India.

-Latin America hasbenefited greatly in recent years from democratic opening, stable economic policies, and increasing growth. Many countries are taking advantage of these developments to
consolidate democratic institutions, broaden economic opportunities, and better serve their citizens.

-The region has undergone a historic transformation politically, with military authoritarian rule giving way to vibrant, if imperfect, democracy in almost every nation. Economically, Latin America is now one of the more open market regions in the world and a crucial global provider of energy, minerals, and food.

-U.S. policymakers must change the way they think about the region. Latin America is not Washington’s to lose; nor is it Washington’s to save. Latin America’s fate is largely in Latin America’s hands.

-Latin American states,especially the larger ones, do not consider their interests to be primarily determined by diplomatic, trade, or security ties with the United States.

-Latin America already supplies more oil to the United States than does the Middle East, and the
region has great potential to be a major provider of alternative fuel sources, increasing U.S. and regional energy security through diversification.

These highlights are reproductions from the report itself....

Full report in uncorrected version

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Boca vs River super classic

According to Observer newspaper of UK, one of the fifty sport events one should watch in life is a super classic game between Boca Juniors and Riverplate teams of Argentina. In fact, this event is the top in the list of fifty. I watched it today at the stadium of Boca called as La Bombonera.

More than the game, the most exciting thing to watch was the Boca fans. The stadium, which was packed with 61,000 spectators was a riot of colour, noise and energy. There was almost non-stop singing, drum beating, throwing of paper rolls and insults hurled at River. The Boca fans call themselves as the number 12 ( La doce), which means they are the twelth player.

La Bombonera was vibrating when the fans started to jump in rhythm.. They say "La Bombonera no tiembla. Late" ("the Bombonera does not tremble. It beats.")

The fans, irrespective of their ages get into a frenzy and are transformed into totally different creatures inside the stadium. Grandmother, father, son and kids were shouting the most abusive and colourful words together against River players and the coach. It might be more appropriate to call it as a game of "Putas" (bitch ), since it was the word most used with many prefixes and suffixes.

There were so many songs praising Boca and damning River. Here is their Hymn.

Boca es nuestro grito de amor.
Boca nunca teme luchar,
Boca es entusiasmo y valor,
Boca Juniors. . . a triunfar. .

The rivalry between Boca and River Plate is the most intense in Argentine football and, perhaps, in the whole of Latin America. There is no equivalent even in Brazil, where the rivalry is dispersed among many teams unlike the intense bipolar rivalry between Boca and River which divides the whole country vertically.

La Bombonera ( means chocolate box) stadium in La Boca area of Buenos Aires is like chocolate boxes stacked up together.

Boca fans are more from the working class while River has an affluent fanbase, hence their nickname, Los Millionarios. Boca Juniors claims to be the club of "half plus one" ("la mitad mas uno") of Argentina's population, but a 2006 survey placed its following at 40%, still the largest share.
Maradona, who had played for Boca has a special balcony in the stadium and whenever he is there, a banner says " El Juancito esta presente". Today he was there.
In today´s game Boca won 1-0 to the delight of my hosts Francisco Okecki, his mother Maria and his two sons, who are hardcore fans.
Boca and River have played 182 games so far. Boca has won 66 times, River 61 times and rest were draws.

valle de la luna ( moon valley)- visit on 3 May 2008

They call this as the valle de la luna ( moon valley ) because it looks like the lunar surface. It is 300 km from San Juan city in the province of San Juan. This 63000 hectare park has been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The moon valley has fossils from the Triasic period, which lasted for 45 million years from 228 million and 187 million years back. They have found fossils of the first reptiles/dinosaurs of the world. Paleontologists from all over the world do research at this site in their quest to understand and reconstruct prehistorical evolutions.

The landscape of the valley is a natural beauty. The wind and the rain have worked out some incredible sculptures on the rocks.

Here is a spinx-like rock

Here is a picture of the rocks formed like balls. They keep coming out of the surface like pumpkins. The outer surface is formed by manganese.

The rock formation below is called as Submarino..since it resembles a submarine
More my foto gallery

The valley is surrounded by hills which shine reddish in the sun due to iron content in their rocks. The valley attracted 70,000 tourists last year. The park arranges moon light trips every month. They say it is magical.
Although it was not in my original programme of the visit to San Juan, last week, it became possible thanks to the offer of the helicopter by the Governor Jose Luis Gioga. It took us one hour by helicopter from San Juan city and at the valley we spent an hour touring the valley with a guide, who is passionate about the valley.
San Juan is one of the most dynamic and progressive provinces of Argentina. Although it is small with a population of 800,000 and 97 percent of the area is arid and mountainous, the hardworking San Juaninos have made the province as the second largest wine producer in the country. Syra is the signature wine of the province. The province´s agro exports include wine, table grapes, olives and fruit concentrates. There is also a thriving and growing mining industry in the areas of gold, silver, copper etc. And , of course, it has the Amancay Golf club , where I played nine holes before rushing to the airport.