Monday, February 26, 2007

Lula says it's ok for Uruguay to negotiate outside Mercosur

Lula, Brazil's current president came to Uruguay, and held a private meeting with our president Tabare Vázquez, in the countryside presidential residence "La Estancia Anchorena" in Colonia.

They seem to have agreed that it's ok for Uruguay to negotiate outside the Mercosur economic block.

Brazil is Uruguay, and Argentina's big brother in the Mercosur, if Lula supports this sort of economic agreement outside the block I guess Argentina will have to put up with it. It's a bit pathetic that we have to go by asking permission to do things, when is something that doesn't happen the other way around, but that's the way it is (let's face it... we are a midget in the middle of two basketball players).

I'm not sure whether Lula's word is enough, I'll be more comfortable when they reach a legal agreement, maybe modifying the Mercosur constitution, to back up what Lula said. Since I think this is against Mercosur's legislation (not that anyone is paying much attention to it latetly).

"Withing the block is better", said brazilian economy minister who came along, and I agree, but now is more of a guideline, not a rule.

Uruguay has recently established a trade agreement named TIFA (TRADE AND INVESTMENT FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT) with USA, as a second option after almost agreeing on an FTA.

Our economy minister, Danilo Astori, who is maybe the greatest sponsor of an FTA with the US, has publicly declared something like an FTA is not discarded ("no hay nada descartado acerca del TLC") after establishing the TIFA.

In the meantime, US president, Bush, comes to visit Uruguay in two weeks, and Chavez who is coming to Argentina, will demonstrate in Buenos Aires, right in front of Uruguay's embassy, against the presence of Bush (or as he danger) in the region.

I feel when Bush arrives Astori along with our president will replay the FTA card.

Is this the beginning of the end of the Mercosur?

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Parque del Plata, Canelones

I've spent the last few days in Parque del Plata, Canelones, Uruguay, along with my familiy for the carnival holidays.

Parque del Plata is one of a series of beachside villas/towns (balnearios) by the coast of Canelones. All of them very peaceful, green, with nice beaches, reasonably good renting prices, and most important around 50km from Montevideo. They make for good weekend escape spots.

These are not trendy places, like Punta del Diablo, Cabo Polonio, or Punta del Este, but still they are nice and have good beaches. Some of them are Marindia, Atlantida, Las Toscas, Parque del Plata, La Floresta.

All this places are kinda dead during most of the year and come alive in the summer season. Atlantida is the biggest of them all, and the one with best nightlife, restaurants, pubs and discos. It is also the place where El Aguila is located.

In particular Parque del Plata, and Atlantida host an increasing amount of retired couples that are choosing to live all the year in these places, escaping from the city.

Parque del Plata has some of the best dunes in the coast of Uruguay, that is why is not uncommon to see people practicing sandboard in the beach.

By the way I'm a brand new uncle (hooray!). In the following slideshow you get to see my mother proudly walking her three weeks old granddaughter, Maria Lucia.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Food, Torta Frita

Torta Frita Uruguay Continuing with the typical food series, another heavy weight in Uruguay food tradition is what we call Torta Frita.

Torta Frita UruguayTorta Frita is a round shaped, fried biscuit, with a hole in the middle. Is a very simple biscuit to prepare. Torta Frita ingredients are: flour, self-rising and salt creating a mass which is fried in grease. Thus the name, torta frita, something like fried cake.

Uruguay Torta FritaTorta Frita is the dish of rainy afternoons in Uruguay, by excellence, and is another typical partner of Mate.

It can be bought in stands for around five uruguayan pesos (one quarter usd), but is usually homemade.

Torta Fritas are usuarlly eaten with sugar or dulce de leche.

Uruguay Torta Frita

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Pizza & Faina in Uruguay

Pizza Uruguay In Uruguay pizza is not round, and slices are not triangular, well now is getting more common, but when I was a kid, round pizzas could only be seen in movies.

I guess the reason lies in the traditional usage of a spade (pala, is spade the right word? is more like a paddle) in the cooking process. Pizza here is prepared a la pala, using a sort of spade to put the pizza into, and take it out from the oven, typically a firewood oven. The pizza is given a rectangular, long and thin shape, to be better handled with the spade. In some places pizza is sold by the meter.

pizza uruguayAlso in Uruguay, if you order a pizza, you'll get one without any mozzarella. If you want the portion with mozzarella, you have to order a mozzarella :D Informally called "muzza".

faina uruguayIt is also usually ordered along with a traditional dish in Uruguay named Fainá (farinata in italian), which is a sort of thin bread mixed with cheese (depending on the receipe), and served with pepper. It's typical to order it from the border (faina de la orilla), which is kind of stupid, taking into account I've never met anyone that likes it from the middle (everybody orders it "de la orilla"). If you ask me among the best places to have Pizza in Uruguay is a bar called Costa Azul by the Rambla de Pocitos. One portion of pizza costs around 20 pesos, almost 1 usd, and one portion of muzza costs two times that amount.

wrapped pizza uruguayPizza is usually delivered wrapped in paper and nylon to separate the layers of pizza, muzza, faina, etc. The paper is typically used to get your hands cleaned.
The size of the portion also changes from bar to bar, and it depends heavily on the cookers mood when cutting the portion. One interesting experiment I like to make is to order one portion, and after a while order two portions. Usually two portions aren't two times one, but more like 1.5, and if you order three you'll get whatever, since it's eyed measured. When you are uruguayan, young, penniless, and starving this is the type of useless things that you pay attention to.

It is typical to have a slice of muzza, with a slice of faina on top, and this is called pizza a caballo (pizza on horseback?).

pizza a caballo uruguay

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