Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cities are without Food and Water

Yesterday, I mentioned the flooding that much of Colombia is experiencing. However, I did not mention a situation that is beginning to get worse with the passage of time. This situation is very critical. Right now, many cities and towns have been isolated by the flooding with the roads leading to these towns having flooded. Many of these roads are still under water, others have been completely destroyed or buried by landslides. This is preventing food from reaching people in the cities. Store shelves are empty.

Additionally, the flooding of the rivers Pamplonita and Zulia in Cucuta (the capital of the department of Norte Santander) has destroyed the city's water purification plant. Now, citizens are surrounded by water, but none of it is potable. There are 27 trucks trying to fill the water needs of 600,000 people, which is simply not enough. The citizens are greatly suffering in the near 90 degree humid climate. Even the hospitals are closed because there is no water.

Right now, the only way to help the people of Cucuta would be to enter emergency supplies into the area by way of Venezuela -- you know Colombia's "good friend" to the East. Diplomats are trying to see if they can accomplish this.

While Cucuta is the largest city in this situation, it is not the only one. Many smaller cities and towns in many of the Departments are also now completely isolated and can only be reached by boat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Flooding in Colombia

Throughout Colombia over the last few days there has been massive flooding caused by the start of the rainy season -- el invierno. So far, 93 have been reported dead. Major road ways have been destroyed, paralyzing the country's infrastructure. As many as 69,000 have been left homeless.

This is on the heels of last year's deadly and destructive invierno.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Our walk down Salsa's history lane will slow down to a crawl. This will allow for a closer look at each one of the Fania Stars. But let's begin with a look on the rear view mirror. One of the precursor rhythms to Salsa was something called Latin Boogaloo and the father of this rhythm was Gilberto Miguel Calderón. He was a Neuyorican, someone born in New York to Puerto Rican parents. By the end of 1950s, Calderón had become Tito Puente's friend, had formed his own band (The Joe Cuba Sextet), and had changed his name to - well-- Joe Cuba.

In 1964, a rising vocalist and future Fania star named Cheo Feliciano was given the charge to sing Joe Cuba's song Que Problema (What a Problem). Here it is:

Que Problema by The Joe Cuba Sextet with Cheo Feliciano

Fania re-wrote this song and popularized it in the voice of Hector Lavoe. They named it, Que Lio (another way of saying What a Problem!). I like the fact that the first word in this drum beat based jam is a well deserved "Africa". Also, listen in this slow, heart felt bolero for Willie Colón's famous Trombone.

Que Lío by Hector Lavoe

Finally, Marc Anthony did a decent update of the song for the movie "El Cantante" about the life of Hector Lavoe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Something for Colombianitos to Look Forward to

If you have little Colombianitos, you have probably seen your share of Elmo and Rosita. This week Colombian rock sensation JUANES filmed a segment for an upcoming episode of Sesame Street, set to air this fall.

Word is that he will teach the kids the words -- Manos, Cabeza and Pies (hands, head and feet) -- via song.

Definitely something to look forward to.

See a picture of Juanes with Rosita here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Documentary on Colombian Police

A friend made me aware of this recently uploaded documentary on the Colombian Police. Very Interesting! It comes in three parts of approximately 15 minutes each.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Short Documentary on the Ciclovia

Here is a great little documentary on the Sunday Ciclovía in Bogotá -- in Enlgish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I grew up hearing of Fania as a musical institution. The history of Fania, the Record Label, and of Fania All Stars, the Band, could fill large tomes. That history has been explored by many, and can be easily found on the Internet. I highly recommend PBS's Latin Music USA documentary, which contains a chapter called Salsa Revolution. It is great, even though the story is told from an American perspective.

As Jimmy Smits, the narrator, puts it, "by the end of the 70s, Fania had sold millions of records around the world. All the while, back in the US, most people barely noticed. So, this is the story of what they missed. . . . the birth of Salsa."

The creation of Fania Records in 1968 is, in my opinion, that birthday. The label was created by an Italian, Jerry Masucci, and by a Dominican, Johnny Pacheco. By the time Fania All Stars performed their famous concert in Yankee Stadium in 1973, the label had signed up the likes of Willie Colón, Bobbie Valentin, Ray Barreto, Larry Harlow, and even Carlos Santana's younger brother Jorge Santana. Other Stars such as Ismael Miranda, Cheo Feliciano, Ruben Blades, and Celia Cruz would soon join Fania as well.

Fania All Stars traveled the world spreading the new rhythm. One of my favorite appearances is the one the band made in 1974 in Zaire, a country known today as the Democratic Republic of Congo. This happened around the same time that Cassius Clay, better known as Heavy Weight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, fought George Foreman during their famous Rumble in the Jungle title fight. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was also in Kinshasha, Zaire at the time.

Salsa was now around six years old, full of life and playful. And Fania played Salsa for fun. The Zaire concert like Fania's many live presentations was filled with powerful jam sessions designed to showcase the amazing talents of its members. Here are two samples taken from Zaire. Some jam sessions were slow such as this one:

El Ratón by Cheo Feliciano with Fania All Stars

Some were explosively fast, such as this one: Turn it up! Azuuucarrrr!

Quimbara by Celia Cruz with Fania All Stars.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Myths for Monday -- The Real Legend of El Dorado

Few Legends have had a greater impact on the History of the America than that of EL DORADO!!! It's name stirs up Hollywood type images. But did you know that the Legend that started it all came from a small area in what is now the department of Cundinamarca -- today's source of our Myth for Monday?

In a way it is hard to call today's story a myth, because in reality, it was not. The Legend of El Dorado was well rooted in an actual practice of the Muisca/Chibcha Indians of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense (what is today the departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca). The myths that were spawned by this historical practice, however, are legendary.

I now present to you the HISTORY that SPAWNED THE LEGEND:


Among the Musicas, the kingship was not passed from Father to Son as it was in Europe. Rather, it was passed from the king to his nephew -- the oldest son of his oldest sister. This occurred in an elaborate ceremony that took place at the lake in GUATAVITA.

The new king (Zipa) to be was first sheltered in a cave for many days. There he could not eat salt. He could not enjoy the company of women nor go outside.

Following this seclusion, he would make the trek to Guatavita. There, his subjects would have made a raft, which would be decorated with innumerable riches (particularly gold and emeralds) and burning incense. The new Cacique would then be covered in a sticky substance then guilded with gold dust from head to toe.

He then would be placed on the raft with four of his most important chieftains (caciques). They too were decked out in gold -- crowns, bracelets, earrings, breastplates, etc. They would then be paddled out in to the lake, where all of the gold and jewels would be dumped into the lake as an offering to their god.

The raft would return and the new Zipa would be recognized as the leader.

Indians from all around (all of Colombia, parts of Venezuela, Ecuador and even Peru) knew of this tradition -- why? Because the Muiscas obtained all of their gold through TRADE. The Muiscas were the third large group of indigenous peoples in the Americas in 1492. They traded near and far what they thought was valuable -- SALT and BLANKETS, for the gold used in their ceremonies and decorations. Those they traded with told others, and they told 2 friends and so on.

When the Spanish heard of these stories, they assumed that the people must live in a city built of gold -- after all they had so much that they would throw it away. Also, who knows, it might have been like a rumor growing as it spread from one group to another -- you know something like this, "The Panches say that the Quimbaya say, that they hear from the Muisca traders".

In reality, Jimenez de Quesada found little gold. When his brother asked the Zaque of Tunja to fill a hut with all of the Muisca treasure, he was stunned to find blankets, ruanas, and salt stuffing the room instead of gold. This lack of cultural understanding cost Quemeunechatocha -- the Zaque -- his life, but convinced many Spanish that the Indians must be hiding the real location of their city of gold from them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

2nd in the World -- UNfortunately

Colombians love to tell you that Colombia ranks 1st in this or 2nd in that among the nations of the world. Typically, they will mention their flora and fauna, but recently, they marked a sad 2nd place finish in the world. Colombia ranks 2nd, behind Afghanistan, in the number of landmines deployed within its borders.

If you had been in Bogotá last week, you could have seen the following commemoration of this unfortunate 2nd place finish.

See the "monument" here:

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Do adopted children suffer from lower self-esteem? This is the question addressed by a Meta-Analysis of Studies done on Transracial, International, Domestic Adoptees by Femmie Juffer and Marinus H. van IJezdoorn. I recently came across this great study published in Psychology Bulletin in 2007.

The hypothesis was that adopted children would suffer from lower self esteem. However, the analysis proved the opposite.

Their conclusions:
In a series of meta-analyses we investigated the self-esteem of adoptees in all age ranges, from childhood to adulthood. Surprisingly, across a comprehensive meta-analysis of 88 studies we found no difference in self-esteem between more than 10,000 adoptees and more than 33,000 non-adopted comparisons. We did not find evidence for moderating factors pointing to potential risks of low self-esteem in specific groups of adoptees. The absence of risk of low self-esteem was equally true for children adopted before and after their first birthday. We did not find lower levels of self-esteem in adolescence than in other life stages. International adoptees did not show lower self-esteem than domestic adoptees, and transracial and same-race adoptees did not differ either. In a separate meta-analysis we found higher levels of self-esteem in adoptees than in non-adopted institutionalized children. Unfortunately the number of comparisons was small, as only three studies presented data on self-esteem of institutionalized children and adopted children.

In another separate meta-analysis we included studies that directly compared the self-esteem of transracial and same-race adoptees. Across 18 studies with more than 2,000 adoptees no significant differences were found between transracial and same race adoptees.

If you are interested in reading the complete report, click here:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Your Referral Documents

When you get your child's (or children's) referral, you will find out a plethora of information about them. While each child's history is different, and some are happier than others, here are somethings that you will most likely see. Here is a list of documents you should get with your referral.

Document #1 -- This is the actual letter from ICBF or the Ca
sa Privada which states that on a specific day the Adoption Committee met and you were assigned a child. It will include the complete name of the child and his/her birthdate.

Document #2 -- This document is called the FICHA BIOPSICOSOCIAL (in Spanish) and the translation is the BIOLOGICAL, SOCIAL & PS
YCHOLOGICAL REPORT. This report will include the following sections:
  1. Identifying Information: Name, Birth Date, Birth Place (city, department), Age, Location of the Child, Date of Adoption Resolution (or Written Consent in the Case of Casas Privadas)
  2. Family Background: This typically includes an explanation of why the child came into the system. Names the birth parents and other extended family members. It may include family medical information. It may also list siblings. In the case of children that came into care immediately after birth, there may also be information on the birth itself.
  3. Psychological Evaluation: This typically includes the psychologist report which may also address the child's overall development. Typically, there will be a discussion of the child's sleep habits. It may also address sexual or other abuse, if applicable.
  4. Social Worker Evaluation: This focuses on the child's development in specific areas and usually goes into a lengthy explanation of the child's daily routine (which is typically out-of-date by the time you pick up your child). There will be a list of favorite toys, foods, activities, etc. Of course, the older the child, the more information there will be.
  5. Health Evaluation: You will receive information about the child's health and nutritional status. The report will reference the child's immunization record.
  6. Recommendation for Placement: Typically, the social worker will write recommendations for the type of family that the child needs, as well as, in some cases, recommendations that might help the adoptive familyduring the transition process.
Document #3 -- The Resolution of Adoptability. This is the legal document that declares your child available for adoption. Some are better than others. In some, you will learn A LOT about the birth family. In others, practically nothing. Some judges use TONS of Legal JIBBERISH, others are clear and easy to read.

Document #4 -- Immunization Records.

Document #5 -- Original Birth Certificate. This will list the names of the birth parents and their National Identification Number. Keep this document as it could be essential if your child ever decides to look for his/her birth parents.

Document #6 -- Specialized Medical Certificates or Evaluations. You will get copies of original documents whenever your child has needed specialized medical attention

Document #7 -- THE PHOTO!!!!! This is often taken at Foto Japon (chain of Photo Shops in Colombia). They will often include strange backgrounds. One friend said of her daughter's referral picture, "It looks like my daughter is being vommited from Minnie Mouse." I wish I had her permission to post the photo, but trust me it was very true. My own son's photo was very interesting. He was wearing clothes that were 4-5 sizes too big. His hair was slicked on to his head in such a way that it made the Fonz look conservative in his use of grease. But, he turned out to be just about the cutest thing I had ever seen -- once we got the gell out of his hair.

Also, remember that that the pictures are typically 2-3 months old at the time you get your referral documents. So, in the case of very little ones, they will change a lot by the time you see them.

If you have received your referral, what did you think of the information you received? How were your referral pictures? Please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- pa' Colombia

"Less talk, more music" seemed to be the message that I got after my (lengthy) posts on the history of Salsa. The history tour really isn't over yet, however. Next, we will talk about Salsa Pioneers and Fania. But since last week we arrived at a place where we can make a short stop, I decided to take this opportunity to show that I listen to my readers' comments. Right away, here's more music:

Pa' Colombia by Willie Colón and Hector Lavoe

I was reminded about this song by a reader, after I posted the same artists singing La Murga a few weeks ago. More on Willie Colón's silly Bad Guy image gimmick to come. For now, Willie Colón was in Colombia recently and lamented that it had taken him the same amount of time to fly from Miami to Bogotá, as it had taken him to travel from El Dorado International Airport to his Hotel. About four hours?! Well, he was gracious enough to blame the contractors who have destroyed and delayed the reconstruction of the main access highway to the airport. In the process, Willie showed that he is well acquainted with Colombian current events: The contractors, a family by the last name Nule, are at the center of a huge government contract misappropriation scandal and are standing trial in Bogotá right now. Yes, welcome to Colombia.

Anyway, the song mentions the 5 girlfriends these two guys had in Colombia: Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cali, Medellín, and Bogotá. But the song is "pa' Colombia entera" (to the whole country). Great rhythm, enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Myths for Monday -- El Gritón -- The Screamer

Put your earmuffs on because today's noisy myth comes from the department of Córdoba.

El Gritón

Deep in the jungles of the department of Córdoba, there once lived a lovely indigenous woman. Unfortunately, this poor woman committed some crime (unnamed) that caused her to be expelled from her tribe. Alone, she roamed the jungle. Then, one day she was shocked to run into someone else in the jungle. The person caused her to shake in fear as a feeling of horrible terror gripped her and she froze in place. The stranger, who proceeded to attack her, was the devil himself. The result of the attack was a child -- half human, half devil. His name is El Gritón -- The Screamer.

He is so named because his horrific scream pulls the trees from their roots, makes the earth shake, and causes the rivers to heave beyond their boundaries. Anyone unfortunate enough to hear the scream will also freeze in place, often losing consciousness. Upon awaking, the Gritón is gone, but the fear remains.

So, BEWARE, and do not walk through the jungles of Córdoba at night.

Friday, April 08, 2011


I was at physical therapy last week and on the TV there I saw an Anthony Bourdain special on Cartagena. If you are in Colombia, think about taking a side trip to Cartagena. Here is a sample to get you excited:

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Found Alive

Here is a story that is too close to my heart! Once again, a child has been found in a garbage dumpster in Bogotá. While it was originally thought that he had not survived, he was still breathing. Now, baby José Gonzálo is in ICBF care awaiting a permanent home. Perhaps one of my readers will be the lucky person chosen to parent baby José Gonzálo.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Colombia Indoor Soccer World Champions

Last week Colombia won the Indoor Soccer World Cup in a stunning victory 8-2 over the former World Champions -- Paraguay. Celebrate with the Colombians :)!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tunes for Tuesday -- A defector from Oriente and Her Contribution to Salsa Music

OK. We are almost to where all this background turns into Salsa. But, what does all of it have to do with Colombia? Well, for starters, Colombia has its own version of the Charanga. The original Cuban Charanga was played with timbales, güiro, conga, piano, volin, and flute. Colombians threw in . . . the accordion!

But this isn't today's topic either. We can't end our visit to Cuba without mentioning a few more details, relevant to the development of Salsa music. During the second half of the 19th Century, as Cuba became an independent island nation, the new country was divided along both geographic and socio-economic lines. Geographically, there were the provinces of Oriente (East) and Occidente (West). In Oriente, the main city was Santiago de Cuba, a place of intense economic activity which, years earlier, the Spanish Conquistadores had turned it into a main port for the trade of African Slaves. The natives of Santiago de Cuba, the Taino and Siboney Indians, would also "welcome" a wave of French immigrants. The resulting racial and cultural salad bowl that would arise would also engender its own spice, the new musical rhythms of Son, Bolero, and others.

The main cultural center in Occidente was La Habana (Havanna), a mandatory stop for Europeans traveling to Mexico and South America. After Cuban independence, the music of La Habana with its large Orchestras playing instruments and music reminiscent of France, became the music of the rich, white class. The music of Oriente would become the music of the poor and mostly black and mestizo people.

As we said last week, by the time of the Batista regime (1940s), several rhythms (Mambo, Charanga, Chachachá, Songo, Mozambique) had emerged mostly in the Cuban Oriente. Fidel Castro's rise to power in 1959 and the subsequent US embargo threatened to keep Cuban music on the Island. However, just prior to these historical events, a great change had taken place in the music, the Conga drum had been incorporated as a new instrument. The sound of the Conga, familiar to other musicians around the world, contributed to the rapid escape and spread of Cuban rhythms outside the Island. While Castro and the US embargo managed to reduce the influence of Cuba as a music center, they also pushed immigrant musicians to maintain and develop the Cuban rhythms, and to find them a new home. The sound that emerged would be called Salsa, and its home would be in three main places, New York, Miami, and Colombia.

Before talking then about the Pioneers of Salsa music, here's a Son by a wonderful Cuban artist with a Colombian connection. She muses: "Para bailar bien el son, hay que nacer en Oriente . . ." In order to dance the Son well, you have to be born in Oriente . . ." She's not really excluding anybody, this is just her homage to her homeland. The song comes from her second album Cantaré, released in 1992. She was already a well known figure in Cuba and had released another album in 1988 titled, Habrá Música Guajira (There Will Be Guajira Music). Her success had taken her to a show in Colombia in the early 1990s, where she decided to defect. Colombia would have kept her forever, but she decided to move to Miami in 1993. There, she was swallowed up by a black hole of a music label owned by Gloria Estefan, never to be heard of again.

OK, since we really haven't met Albita Rodriguez, here she is singing live one of her best known hits "La Parranda Se Canta":

Monday, April 04, 2011

Myths for Monday -- La Sirena Hurtado

Here is a myth, just in time for the upcoming Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week). It comes to us via today's department, CESAR.

La Sirena Hurtado

Once, there was a beautiful, yet obstinate little girl. Born in Valledupar, she was spoiled and accustomed to always getting her way. She never listened to her parents and was rebellious and disobedient.

One afternoon, she decided to go swimming in the Guatapurí river in a spot called the POZO DE HURTADO. When her mother realized what she was planning on doing, she forbid it -- after all it was JUEVES SANTO (Maundy Thrusday) and swimming would be disrespectful to the Lord, Jesus Christ. However, in her usual fashion, the girl ignored her mother and snuck out the door.

When she arrived at the Pozo de Hurtado, she took off her clothing and jumped into the water from the very highest rock. When she hit the water, the sunny afternoon sky turned dark. Then, when she tried to surface, she could not. Her legs became heavier and heavier and she was unable to move. Slowly, she worked her way to the shore where she discovered that her legs has changed into a fish tail. She had turned into a mermaid.

As the afternoon dragged on, her mother realized that her daughter was missing. She ran to the river calling her daughter's name, but there was no response. The mother, believing that her daughter had drown, ran into town seeking help. She hoped that the townspeople would help her find the body of her daughter. Most of her neighbors agreed to help look for the girl the following morning.

At first light on Viernes Santo (Maundy Friday), dozens of people headed for the river. There, as the rays of the sun first struck the rock from which the girl had jumped the day before, the crowd of family and neighbors saw the mermaid as she waved her tail and dove into the water, never to be seen again.

People still claim that if you listen carefully late at night, you can hear the lonely Sirena's songs as they lilt gently in the breeze along the banks of the river Guatapurí.

Friday, April 01, 2011


You can do your part in saving Colombian native arts. Watch this:

Here are the 10 techniques you can vote for:

#1. los Peyones (Weavings) of the Indigenous Wayuú from La Guajira
#2. los Tejidos de Algodón (Textiles) from Charalá, Santander
#3. la Alfarería (Ceramics) from Ráquira, Boyacá
#4. la Sombrerería (Hat making) from Ancuyá, Nariño
#5. la Marimba (Marimba) from Guapi, Cauca
#6. las Alpargatas (Sandals) from Guacamayas, Boyacá
#7. la Talla en Madera (Wood working) from the Amazons
#8. la Cestería (Basketmaking) from Tinjacá, Boyacá
#9. la Cestería (Basketmaking) from Indigenous Peoples of Nariño & Cauca
#10. la Filigrana (Knitting with Gold and Silver) from Chocó

You wanna know how I'm going to vote? See this past post:

Now you go vote,