Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Montevideo's Harbor (in Black and White)

Montevideo's harbor (aka "el puerto de montevideo") is a very interesting place, but unfortunately access is restricted. I was lucky to get in and take pictures because I am entering a photography contest and was given a special permission and a tour guide to walk around. These pictures describe the harbor and its people, their work and their breaks.

Please full view them by clicking on the thumbnail, you will appreciate the scenes much better. I might add a couple more in about a week or so because I will go back to take some more so if you like them come back for more! Hope you enjoy them...

Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor

Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor

Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor

Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor

Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor

Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor Uruguay, Montevideo's harbor

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rifa Arquitectura, around the world in seven months

Architecture and travelling, are not necessarily synonyms, right? Well, in Uruguay they are, sort of. Every year a group of more than 100 students of the Architecture Faculty, of the University of the Republic get to travel around the globe for seven months or so. The best of it, is that this is willingly financed by Uruguayans. You are thinking taxes, or university support, right? Well, not exactly. Actually they organize the biggest fundraiser raffle in the country.

arquitectura rifaIt’s a Uruguayan tradition, which is more than sixty years old already. I understand the travel has a couple of different flavors, some do the whole thing, others half of it, and some customize some of the destinations, but for those who do the full monty it means travelling throughout all of europe, north of africa, asia, and north america. It’s an awesome trip.

Everybody in Uruguay knows someone who’s either studying architecture, or who has a son, or sister who’s doing it, and it’s like the right thing to do in Uruguay to buy at least one ticket to support the lazy bum to travel the world, meet interesting people, learn and maybe some day… design houses?

arquitectura rifaSince this has been going on for years, they have perfectioned a strong marketing muscle, and they are sponsored by big companies, and mainstream media. They have the ability to put on some of the funniest commercials in uruguayan tv. The best of them all imho was the one that involved a drag queen, who had lost the prize for not playing the usual number on a particular year, being this so unlikely he’d made a promise he’d have his parts removed on the event of the number being a winner, well, the ticket number turned out to be a winner, and ... yeah he fulfilled his promise (I como soy un hombre de palabra…).

Tickets can be paid in affordable ten bucks installments, for a period of one year, and the prizes are really, really good. Like houses, apartments, cars, laptops, trips, etc. There are 10 sorting events (is that the term?) along the year, all of them with a very attractive pool of prizes.

In theory those who travel are graduate students, in practice they travel before finishing studies, usually a couple of years before, and since the career takes so long (7 in theory, 11 average) ages of those travelling vary (thanks ana for the correction). They are allowed to take someone as travel partners. When they are abroad they flock in smaller groups to do parts of the trip. These groups sometimes buy vans in Europe to road trip, and after they are done they sell them.

Some of the Uruguayan architecture travellers take the trip with a, let’s say, academic attitude, they get up early, visit museums, go to conferences, and try to see and learn as much as they can. On the other hand, there’s always the nonstop partying crowd, who focus on learning the different cultures at nighttime.

This week you may see them in Plaza Cagancha, “demonstrating”, and trying to sell raffle tickets. You just can’t say no to those faces, can you?

arquitectura rifa

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Uncle Sam has left Uruguay

Friday 9. Some hours before Bush's arrival. I live and work in Montevideo's downtown, here known as "El Centro", and there was some nervousness at the office. It was not directly related to the president of the U.S. arriving to Uruguay in a couple of hours, but it had more to do with the two demonstrations that were going to take place and pass by la plaza cagancha, against Bush, imperialism, the states, etc, etc.

The first demonstration, called by the unions association PIT CNT, didn't worry us since we knew it was of a peaceful mood. The second one, on the other hand, called by the anti imperialist coordinator (la coordinadora antiimperialista), made some of us bit uneasy, since it involved some of the more radicals members of the uruguayan left, along with some special guests from argentina.

The company didn't took any preemtpive measure, demonstrations in Uruguay are 99% of the time without violence.

I took off at six, I had to make it somewhere in El Parque Rodo. I took the 117 bus, the route wasn't the usual but still I arrived on time. After an hour I had to return to El Centro, I took the same bus on the way back, and this time it had to take Pablo de Maria, which is a detour of around five blocks in narrow streets with jammed traffic, horns, waits, and an old lady in the seat by my side telling me what a lack of respect was all that turmoil for receiving a president we had invited. The type of conversation you find yourself nodding no matter what the old lady says. The bus took twice the time, maybe the same if I had walked.

Later that night I've found out that for the most part the demonstrations went on without violence but there had been some incidents. Some shops had it windows smashed, like MacDonalds in 18 y Gaboto, and a Brazilian Pentecostal telepreachers church place (pare de sufrir, ex trocadero cinema) and even some violence against journalists. With an outcome of around 20 arrests.

Some friends told me also about a couple of puppets being carried in one of the marchs, portraying the relationship between U.S. and the states, where Bush was the groom, and Tabare Vazquez the bride, pregnant with an FTA.

Saturday 10. Beautiful day. Bush was all over the media, tv, news, and radio shows. Both presidents appeared always smiling as usual.

I catched part of the presidential press conference from La Estancia Anchorena, the uruguayan version of camp david. I would sum it up as a lot of good will talk but I have to agree with chuck there was little of substance in both speeches. Among the topics touched there was trade for the most part but without references to an FTA. Inmigration was also present. The one remarkable thing is that Bush said something like: "if you have any problem, you grab the phone, and give me a call". Now, what does that mean?.

Sunday 11. I wake up and the guy was already gone. Still newspapers, and tv shows only talk about his visit, the misfits that played havoc in El Centro on friday, and the way the police had failed to repress, intentionally or not, the incidents.

Today, It came out, that last saturday they took Bush to dinner to ciudad vieja, undercover, and he discovered the taste of Uruguayan Milanesa.

On and all, I think it was a rather regular weekend for the most part of uruguayans.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Uncle Sam is coming to Uruguay

Everybody is talking about two things this week in Uruguay. The first one is Argentina's 2007 edition of Big Brother, the reality show, and the way Nadia was kicked out :) The second one, is the fact that Bush is arriving this friday to Uruguay along with Condolezza Rice, and all the turmoil this is generating.

I'd have to agree with southron, when he says it looks like an american invasion, since the number of americans walking by 18 de Julio this week has tripled, word of mouth is Uruguay has earned around 1 millon dollars with this visit, more than what's raised in eastern week with tourism.

People are talking about a couple of helicopters that were brought, and assembled here in Uruguay, and all the security devices and policies that will be enforced during mr danger's visit.

Tabare Vazquez and Bush will meet in the presidential countryside residency "La Estancia Anchorena", and an FTA is expected to be among the topics discussed. Opinions about the convenience of this are strongly divided in Uruguay's government. My opinion is Uruguay should open, and establish as many trade routes, and agreements as possible, not only with the states, but with China, and Chile, and the rest of the world. Recent years have proved that we can't expect much from our direct neighbors. Like Artigas said, nothing we can expect, but from ourselves.

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