Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last working day, throw your calendar away

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New year's eve at montevideo New year's eve at montevideoIn Montevideo's downtown the last working day of the year has it's traditions. Most of the offices work until noon, the after office is at "El mercado del puerto" or ciudad vieja and around 11:30AM an unusual show starts.

New year's eve at montevideoPeople start throwing shredded paper out of the windows, and buckets of water to say goodbye to the old year. Traditionally the papers that are thrown are sheets of the old year's calendar, torn out the last working day.

New year's eve at montevideoIt's fun, the space between buildings gets filled with calendar sheets with every day in the almost gone year dancing in an american beauty plastic bag kind of way. At the same time people rush out of the buildings to avoid unexpected showers of the randomly falling water, and the ocasional unlucky one gets soaked. It's an unusual and funny sight.

New year's eve at montevideo

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

News, Rapists ripping cellmate on christmas'eve

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Uruguay, rapists, el cosita Last saturday, on christmas'eve, in the Uruguayan prision of Libertad two prisoners butchered one third cellmate.

The prisoners known as "El cosita" (the little thing) and "el sapo" (the toad) ripped out the genitals, heart, and head of their cellmate nicknamed "El caramelero" (candyman) supposedly because candyman was bragging about how he'd rapped and killed his last kid victim. I must point out that "the little thing" and "the toad" are also convited murderers/rapists.

Now, I wonder, what's the deal with rapists killing rapists based on moral & ethical basis?. It's not like they have some code of honor that candyman broke. I mean what on earth were they thinking? like "he went too far, he said nasty things, let's butcher him" what!!!?? you piece of an animal kill and rape inocent people but when someone talks dirty...ahh, no, just can't stand it, and to set things right you tear the guy apart. Flawless logic.

There is some degree of speculation on whether the reason is what they say it was or if someone from outside the prison paid them to kill the third rapist, which seems more likely.

It is in fact the first time that a murder as brutal as this is perpetrated in an uruguayan prison. Sad news is that this country is bringing up this sort of animals.

This murder is now in everyones conversation in uruguay this week. Toad and little thing were given the maximum allowable time in prison by uruguayan law.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Uruguay

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Christmas fireworks Uruguay First of all, there is no such a thing as white Christmas in Uruguay, for two reasons. The first one is that in this hemisphere is summer time, the second being that it never snows in Uruguay (a great deal of Uruguayans don’t know snow), so even if it were winter, it wouldn’t be white anyway. In hot summers here is more like sweating Christmas.

Santa Claus here is called Papa Noel, and his associates here deliver all the Christmas presents at 12’ o clock sharp. So children expect presents to appear right away under their noses and they are a tough clientele. Yes, yes, HoHoHO! For some weird reason Santa Claus has this weird way of laughing over here too, although here is spelled more like JOJOJO ;)

There are no Christmas vacations, school period goes from March till December, school has already finished a month ago. For working guys such as myself, the 24th is workable only until noon, and the 25th is a non workable holiday. Unfortunately this year both days fell in weekend days which sucked.

Christmas holy mangerPreparations for Christmas’ eve and Christmas day include setting up your own Christmas tree. Some people like to have it natural, in such a case you have to go and get some pine tree somewhere, which is becoming uncommon. Another thing to do is to make one little holy manger usually within the fireplace, with ceramic figures, and rock paper. Some families also leave the little Jesus spot empty in the manger until Christmas day arrives.

Christmas fireworks uruguay

Christmas is celebrated typically in the following manner: families gather on a Christmas’s eve dinner, spend the evening together, until the clock ticks twelve. When Christmas day finally does arrive, everyone hugs each other, parents put up a children’s deceiving show telling them to look at some nonexistent star in the sky where Santa is supposedly coming from (here the north pole Santa’s elves factory thing is not very spread), also this scheme lends to several possible variations. While the children are looking at the sky after some decoy the other parent or some relative puts the presents beneath the Christmas tree, and shouts notifying of the sudden arrival and departure of Santa. Everyone else who is not involved in this children deceiving scheme may probably be playing with fireworks, making a lot of noise, lighting up the city, eventually getting a hand burned.

Christmas fireworks Montevideo

Ciudad Vieja Montevideo UruguayAfter all of this in Montevideo the two more interesting spots to be are “La Rambla” where people usually park their cars and put music real loud, dancing and drinking by the beach, or in ciudad vieja where there are a lot of pubs to hang out.


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Mercado del Puerto an uruguayan tradition

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Mercado del puerto Uruguay

Santa claus uruguay mercado del puertoIt’s December 24th, noon, and you are in Montevideo, Uruguay. What do you do? You go to El Mercado del Puerto” (translated would be something like the Port’s Market). El Mercado del Puerto is a recycled market from mid 19th century which now hosts grill restaurants, serving typical Uruguayan dishes, asado and relatives. The place’s been around for about 150 years and has seen guests such as Gardel, Figari and virtually everyone who ever lived in Montevideo in the last century. It’s a very picturesque spot, it’s one of the icons of the city, and it’s a must for every tourist wandering about. The place deserves a post on its own.

Mercado del puerto UruguayTowards the end of the year it’s the place of choice for lots of Uruguayans wishing to bid the year farewell, typically with office mates. It’s traditional to go and have lunch, and get dizzy or plain drunk on “medio y medio” (a drink made out of bubbling wine and dry white wine, medio y medio meaning half n’ half), a sweet deceiving thing that goes up ones head quickly.

Candombe at el mercado del puertoThe peaks of this celebrations are the 24th and the 31st when most offices work till noon and the after office traditionally is at El Mercado del Puerto, where people go to celebrate, eat, dance in the street, or just watch the live spectacle. It’s the kind of event you’d see on an E! Wild On show. There are music groups playing drums at Candombe and Samba rhythms, people spill beer and “medio y medio” over each other, (women are the most affected :) So if you go chances are that you will get wet and come back smelling, whether you drink or not. Movement starts somewhere around noon, and continues until around five.

Mercado del puerto uruguayAs the afternoon advances the place gets progressively crowded, noisy, wild, and even dangerous since it’s a drunken mob that we are talking about. The vibe in general is very, very good, but on a 24th or 31st the place is Armageddon, I don’t stay after three or four myself. Instead a few blocks away there’s the old city (ciudad vieja) where partying in the street continues.Uruguay mercado del puerto dec 2005

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Uruguay cost of life

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Uruguayan moneyFinally i'm making the big step, or one of the big steps, or one step in the way, or ... whatever. I'm moving with my girlfriend, and my budget is in crisis. I figured out that the info about how much does it cost to live in Uruguay may eventually help someone somewhere, or at least it will be fun to compare.

Here goes one table with prices for some consumption items, that I hope will serve as example.

Item Peso UY USD Comment
Lunch at restaurant from 60 to 150 from 2.5 to 6.25 Places where you sit, and there's a waiter
Dinner for two in a fancy restaurant from around 350 to 700 from around 15 to 30 appetizer, main course, dessert, good wine for both
Lunch at Mac Donald's 84 3.5 MD is not considered a cheap meal
Movie Theatre/Cinema from 50 to 105 from 2 to 4.4 105 weekend price
Theater around 200 around 8 pitty is so expensive
20km taxi drive in Montevideo around 200 around 8.3 from carrasco to ciudad vieja
Urban bus ticket 16 0.7 this is a very expensive price for a generally bad service
1 lt of gasoline 31.6 1.32 ooOOOUCH!
Renting a one bedroom apartment in a fancy neighborhood from around 4000 to 5000 plus common expenses from around 170 to 210 neighborhood being pocitos or punta carretas
Renting a two bedroom apartment in a fancy neighborhood from around 6000 to 8000 plus common expenses from around 250 to 330 Two years ago prices were half of what they are now
Electricity bill around 1000 around 40
Phone bill from around 1500 to 3000 from around 62 to 125 five person house, one teenager
Water bill around 300 around 12
cable tv bill around 500 around 20
internet broadband (256k download) from 800 to 1250 from 33 to 52 armed robbery
Renting a two bedroom apartment in a fancy neighborhood from around 6000 to 8000 plus common expenses from around 250 to 330 Two years ago prices were half of what they are now
Kilo of Potatoes around 10 around 0.42
Kilo of apples around 12 around 0.5
Kilo of bananas around 17 around 0.7
1 lettuce around 6 around 0.25
Kilo of fatless grinded meat around 80 around 3.3
Kilo of beef loins around 95 around 3.96
1 lt milk 10 0.42
1 loaf of bread 10 0.42

Is it expensive? cheap?

I don't have the mean income info, but if i have to guess it, i'd say for 70% of the population it's below 1000 usd, making everything rather expensive.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

The night of the lights

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Rambla Montevideo

For the last five years every December there is one night when many, many Uruguayans get together at “the rambla” at night. This is due to La noche de las luces” or night of the lights, a big event organized by Coca Cola which consists of a small parade and a fireworks display.The fireworks only last about 15 minutes but it seems to be well worth it for everybody because years pass and hundreds of thousands keep coming to see this from all neighborhoods in Montevideo. They take buses or walk but somehow they manage to get there to watch.

Carro chorizoThe Rambla is full of “carros de chorizo”, which are basically food stalls that sell hot dogs, hamburgers and chorizos (sausage). You can see these silver mobile restaurants all around the city and they are quite popular. In order to meet the demands of all these hungry people, they all seem to come to where the night of the lights is held.

Fireworks Montevideo Noche de las lucesThe small parade takes place at around 6 pm and everybody has to wait until it gets really dark at about 10 pm to see the show. The spectacular display of fireworks begins on time and people shout when the first ones explode. Then there is silence for a while and only at the end you can start hearing people again when the fantastic show finishes with the biggest fireworks they ever saw.

Montevideo Noche de las luces parade

When people have to leave this awe-inspiring show and return to their houses a little bit of chaos arises. Buses waiting for them to get on, crowds of people walking in front of the buses not letting them move. I guess this is the downside of the event, but somehow they manage to leave and about midnight the streets have been cleared of people, and cars can circulate again.

Night chaos montevideo Noche de las luces

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ricky Martin in Punta del Este

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Ricky Martin Punta del Este While zapping i discovered that Ricky Martin was singing in Punta del Este. It’s not like we are in 1999 and everyone is livin’ la vida loca, he's definitely not in his top moment, but still one has to acknowledge that the guy had the whole world shaking his bon bon some years ago.

Anyway, seems to me the concert got no diffusion, no press, in fact this channel informing of the event is not even Uruguayan. From what I saw, it looked like he was doing playback bigtime.

After some research it seems that the Conrad hotel opened the 2006 summer season with a Ricky Martin’s concert for 2000 thousand persons. I wonder if they managed to fill those empty seats.Ricky Martin Punta del Este

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Peñarol tied with Rocha FC 4-4

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Peñarol Rocha
In a narrow escape from humiliation Peñarol tied today with Rocha 4-4. Why is this relevant? Peñarol is one of the greatest football teams in Uruguay, in terms of history, number of supporters, and titles achieved (the greatest of them all is Nacional, but that’s off topic :), and it almost got humiliated today for the second time in a row by a much inferior team (inferior in terms of funding ;), since about a month ago Peñarol lost 7-2 with Danubio (that’s gotta hurt).

Today Peñarol has tied, from behind, thanks mainly to the red card shown to Rocha’s player Cardozo, leaving the game 11 against 10 early on the second half of the match, giving Peñarol time to recover from a three goals difference. It is in this way that Peñarol concludes a terrible year, winning nothing, going nowhere, relented to watch the Libertadores cup on TV.

On the other hand Rocha FC (football club) is barely a professional team, funded in 1999. It’s more of an amateur group invited to play the national championship. Miraculously Rocha entered in the history of Uruguayan football about a week ago, when beating Rampla Jrs, and obtaining the first half of the national championship (“el apertura”), consecrating itself as the first team coming from outside Montevideo to win a national cup. Rocha Peñarol

As a Uruguayan champion Rocha is going to play “La Copa Libertadores de America” cup, being the most popular South America’s clubs championship, facing the best of South American football teams, like Argentinean Boca jrs. The question is will it be able to sustain the success achieved nationally?

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Miami Vice is shooting in Uruguay

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Miami Vice movie set, Atlantida, Canelones, Uruguay Miami Vice, the movie, will be shooting some scenes in Uruguay, in three locations, Colonia, Atlantida, and Montevideo's historic neighborhood ("ciudad vieja"). The movie will be starred by Colin Farrel and Jamie Foxx, under Michael Mann's direction.

Colin has arrived last week to Uruguay. They are casting for extras, I've heard about 300 persons getting hired, at 90 dolars a day. Half of Atlantida's population will be playing cubans. Word is that some parts of Uruguay will be used to recreate "La Habana", after all the resemblance is stunning (...errr....mmm... weeeelll, how about.. no?).

I've a friend who'll act as a russian bodyguard, and driver, for a russian weapon's dealer (one of the movie's bad guys). He told me that they were looking for policemen, preferrably tall, blond ones, that could pass as russians, with very good english. When they found out that the cop fitting that profile has not been invented yet in uruguay, they hired my friend, who is a guns freak, and could pass as russian. My friend get's killed in a shooting (nico, don't forget us after you become a superstar! ;)

The pictures here are of the movie's set in Canelones, Atlantida.

Miami Vice movie set, Atlantida, Canelones, Uruguay


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Places, Canelones, Atlantida, El águila

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Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila The eagle shadow There is one weird building standing in the Uruguayan coast of Canelones, Atlantida.

If you have time to do some beach walking, starting from Atlantida’s calm beach, (“la playa mansa”) and heading west you’ll notice after a five minute walk, this rock among the pine trees coastline. In no time you’ll realize it’s the head of an eagle you’re looking at.

This building is one of Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águilathe typical sights of Atlantida, and in my mind it’s been there since forever. The whole construction is shrouded in a haze of myths, about its origins and purposes. The most spread one is that it was built as a Nazi watch post, in the Second World War to monitor the river plate river. It’s a known fact that there were Nazis in the river plate region during the Second World War, and the eagle shape help the mystery gain credibility.Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila the eagle I must admit that there’s something elegant and surreal to an eagle shaped rock constantly watching the horizon, it feels as some old civilization ruin left over (it helped the fact that until one year ago the place actually was in ruins, the thing was a wreck).

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila the eagleOne year ago the national tourism office realized something had to be done about it falling apart, and restored it, at least partially. In restoring it, they also killed the myths as now you can read posts telling the official construction’s story. It seems in the year 1945 one Italian rich guy called Michelizzi owner of one seaside house, ordered the construction of a small shrine by the beach, to consecrate it to the virgin. The constructor in charge, named Torres, built something twice as large as indicated and when Mr Michelizzi saw the place, and the view it had, he decided to dedicate it to reading, and painting instead, and as a whim he ordered the construction of an eagle on top of it, covered in stones as feathers. When it was finished he liked it so much that the he told Torres to continue his work building something in the shape of a naval ship underneath. Michelizzi died in 1957, and the sea completely destroyed the ship part of the building, leaving only the eagle.

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila coastline

Although now I know the true story, I can’t help thinking of it surrounded in mysterious plots of war, spies, and a time that is no more.

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila the eagleNow it’s open to the public, you can go in it, walk up the stairs and appreciate the view from within the eagle’s head. They even light it up at night, in a way that it seems it has its eyes opened.

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida view

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Human rests were found in Pando

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After four months of digging and a lifetime of waiting

Uruguay march for those who disappeared
Twenty years after the finalization of the dictatorship in Uruguay the left party has won the elections and is now the ruling government. The tide has changed, former Tupamaro guerilla activist are now government senators, the once prosecuted are now in power.

On a controversial initiative the government has requested the military forces to provide reports on the locations of the buried political prisoners in the de facto government, and the explanations on the main events that took place related to the 150 persons that went missing, 30 of them said to been buried in Uruguay. The request was made on august the 8th. Four months of digging in the signaled locations have passed with no results, at least until very recently.

Last Tuesday human rests were found in one farm in Pando, one of the places signaled by the air force report. The rests are presumed to belong to José Arpino Vega, a construction worker, which militated in the communist party, who disappeared in 1974.

The place declared by the army (which is the force responsible for most of the disappearances) stills shows no results. Some think that the information provided by that force is untrue and misleading. Word on the street is that if there are no results the higher hierarchies in the army will be uprooted and replaced. Some even go as far as saying that the recent findings were planted by the government to appease the population. I guess only time will tell, the findings will be studied by a team of anthropologists from Uruguay and Argentina, who will define their validity.

Among those that are against this process the claims are that it’s unwise to open old wounds. Others think that until this matter is settled there will be no peace of mind for some sectors of the population. Others think that the will be no total forgiving and healing until the protagonist generation passes away.

Anyway, I’m optimist and I like to think that what’s been found is for real, that these findings have shed some light in the investigation process, and renewed the hope in everyone in Uruguay who wishes to end this black chapter in Uruguay’s history once and for all.

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