The Carnival of Oruro is a religious festival dating back more than 2000 years that takes place in the highlands of Bolivia. Originally an indigenous festival, the celebration merged with a Christian ritual around the Virgin of Candelaria, which takes place in February. The traditional ‘Llama llama’ or ‘Diablada’ became the leading traditional dances of the festival. It is one of UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The modern festival demonstrates the ongoing pagan-Catholic blend common in the Altiplano region. The carnival starts with a ceremony dedicated to the Virgen del Socavon. Marching bands compete simultaneously in the greeting to the Virgin the grotto of Pie de Gallo. The highlight of the festival is the three day and three night parade of 48 groups of folk dancers over a four kilometre route to the sanctuary of the tunnel. In different regions of Bolivia and Peru, the locals wear colourful masks and dance to the rhythm of lively music, liberally inebriated by aguadiente, the local firewater.
The World Wildlife Fund has recognised the Bolivian government in recognition of its commitment to conservation. This followed the designation of a 6.9 million-hectare area in the Llanos de Moxos, in the lowlands of the Amazon basin, as protected wetlands. Under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Llanos de Moxos is now the largest area of Wetlands of International Importance in the world. Yolanda Kakabadse, the Ecuadorian President of WWF International, presented representatives of the government of Boliviawith a WWF Gift to the Earth, the global conservation organization’s most prestigious award. In total, Bolivia has committed to designate 15 million hectares of its wetland area as Ramsar sites, demonstrating the government’s political support for freshwater conservation – while contributing significantly to the conservation of the wider Amazon basin. “WWF recognizes Bolivia as a conservation leader for its pledge to ensure the conservation and wise use of its freshwater resources, clearly stated also in the country’s laudable environmental policies,” said Luís Pabon, Director of WWF-Bolivia. “There will be challenges ahead but we stand ready to support the Bolivian government in taking the next steps necessary to honour their bold commitment.” Visiting Bolivia’s Amazon is not for everyone, as the infrastructure is fairly basic, but if you want to get well off-the-beaten track we can organize just the trip.
A new species of tapir, has been identified by scientists in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil and Colombia. The new mammal, unknown to science but known to local indigenous tribes, is the smallest of the five known species of living tapirs. The scientists have named the new tapir Tapirus kabomani. It is the first tapir discovery since 1865. Its skull differs in shape and features from those of all other living tapirs, having darker hair, a lower mane, and a broader forehead than its well known cousin. The first known specimen collected for this species of tapir remained unidentified for almost 100 years. The collector was Theodore Roosevelt, who was President of the United States from 1901–1909. Roosevelt remarked in 1914 that this specimen “…was a bull, full grown but very much smaller than the animal I had killed. The hunters said that this was a distinct kind.”
Pablo Neruda was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile, the son of a railway worker and a teacher. The poet, whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, grew up in Temuco. From the age of thirteen he contributed to newspapers. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal Selva Austral under the pen name of Pablo Neruda. Some of the poems he wrote at that time are found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago. Between 1927 and 1935, he was given honorary consulships, which took him around the world. Neruda was appointed consul in Paris in 1939, and then posted to Mexico, where he rewrote his Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent. In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile and he was elected senator of the Republic in 1945, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla’s repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he hid in a basement for two years escaping to Europe in 1949, returning home in 1952. Years later, Neruda was a close advisor to Chile’s socialist President Salvador Allende. Neruda was ill at the time of the Chilean coup d’état led by Augusto Pinochet. On 23 September 1973, Neruda died of heart failure. Neruda’s death was announced around the world. Pinochet denied permission to make Neruda’s funeral a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and paraded in the streets.
A new kind of river dolphin has been discovered in the Araguaia River in north eastern Brazil. This is the first new dolphin since 1918,that means extremely rare. The aquatic mammal species is to be named after the river where it was found, which means ‘River of red Macaws’ in Tupi-Guarani. There are probably only a thousand individuals in the river basin, putting them on the list of vulnerable species. South America is also home to the Amazon pink river dolphin, or boto, noted for being highly intelligent. The Araguaia river species is smaller, with fewer teeth but most of the evidence to their separate nature was found by studying their DNA. River dolphins are related to their marine cousins and are known for their long snouts for fishing in the river mud. Sadly many local fishermen see them as an unnecessary competition and they are at risk from nets and building of dams.
Visit the Amazon with us on your own adventure.
Though the Amazon is by far the greatest river in the World in volume, arguments have gone on for years about the actual length and whether the Nile is longer. If the definition of source is “the most distant point up the longest tributary in the river’s drainage basin.” finding the Amazon’s source has been easier said than done. Over the years since Europeans explored the region, five different rivers have been given the honour. For a long time it was thought to be the Marañón which provides the largest volume of water by far. Then in 1971 a National Geographic expedition led by Loren McIntyre identified the snow-capped peak of Mismi as the ultimate source of the Amazon by flowing into the Apurimac tributary. Now scientists they say they have finally found it at the Mantaro River, which runs of the Cordillera Rumi Cruz also in Peru. Topographic maps, satellite imagery, GPS tracking data and digital hydrographic datasets were used to the chart the Mantaro and determine that it was around 75–92km longer than the Apurimac. The Amazon is currently measured at about 6,437 kilometres (4,000 miles) by the U.S. Geological Survey. We have been helping a writer Kiki Deere explore much of the Brazilian Amazon, see her photos here.
Earlier this week a Chilean woman went to make breakfast and was terrified to find a young, but full grown, puma in her kitchen. She immediately closed the door behind her to call the authorities who took five hours to get a proper shot at it with tranquilizer darts. The puma appeared to be quite healthy. The specialists also believed to identify it as a wild puma, although in many similar cases exotic animals found in urban centers were illegally domesticated.
Easter Island aficionado David meets Dr Jago Cooper of the British Museum*, whose documentary on Easter Island recently screened on BBC4. David was there 27 years ago (with a previous BBC ‘Horizon’ film crew). In those days the theory was that the islanders, known as Rapanui, were the cause of their own demise by cutting down the trees and using up all resources. Cooper’s film shows that this is unfair and that the islanders were living in harmony with the environment and it was the contact with outsiders that brought disease, slavery and unsuitable farming that did for the island. Whatever the history a visit to the island is an unforgettable trip and should be high on anyones ‘Bucket list’. * At the Latin American Travel Association’s annual event at the House of Lords. Photo courtesy Adrian Pope.
By James Morgan Photography
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