Latin American Pride Is At Home - Not In Miami!

Colombians seem to worship all things Anglo-American, "Miami-style" most of all. It's a sign of our own socio-cultural shame and some appalling choices made by past governments.

In Medellin: Tango pride on the wall
In Medellin: Tango pride on the wall
Juan Manuel Ospina


BOGOTA — Is there a Christmas tree in your house? Do you really know why they celebrate Halloween, or why it now includes children in disguise asking strangers for candy? Did you go shopping on Black Friday or take advantage of discounts at some "Miami-style" (Miamesco) sale? Do you live in a residential compound with a name like Park Seventy One or Country?

I could draft an endless list of pseudo-cosmopolitan affectations that suggest the imposition of a globalized culture and our own society's presumptuous, upstart tendencies — or, excuse me, are those aspirational?

All such affinities are expressions of our inability to identify ourselves and our reality as a society and culture. We notice them across all social classes in Colombia, though more in the middle class, which is thought to convey the conviction that it is moving up the social ladder; as well as the upper class, which insists on feeling a little less Colombian and a little less provincial.

With our conduct we present the spectacle of a precarious urban society, unsure of itself and dazzled by the lights of a consumer lifestyle that is bereft of all human culture or depth. It is a culture sent our way from the north — especially Miami, that paragon of Latin American fakeness.

My land, my language

On the traditional streets of our towns and cities, billboards, shop notices and names are "in English," often badly written though not as badly as they are pronounced. They are pathetic attempts to reassure ourselves that we have left behind our "backwardness" and are nicely settled now on the fast-track train of modernity. We're in and have somehow ridden ourselves, even if symbolically, of certain peasant roots that apparently make us dark, impoverished simpletons.

This social conduct and its potential for money-making have certainly found an apposite cultural space here, especially when we think of one past president whom I shudder to recall, who abolished by decree the teaching of the history and geography of Colombia and its regions. Another one before him had already cleansed school curricula of all teachings about the workings and institutions of democracy, what they used to call civic education.

The result is a society and citizenry — especially its youth — deprived of any sense of identity or belonging. Only the Colombian soccer team and its goals make us momentarily see ourselves and behave as a nation, rather than guests in a roadside motel. Many of our compatriots seem to forget that those they dream of living with elsewhere (like Miami) are actually peoples of the south, Latinos and even Colombians with due and proper ID papers.

I am not urging that we retreat inwards and bunker up behind our native mountains and plains. Certainly, going out into the world to share our culture and goods, our dreams and fears, is a necessary part of growing and enriching ourselves, both in material and cultural terms, as individuals and a society.

The point is to do it from what and who we are, without pedantry or shame, open to giving and receiving. Merely by defending what we have been and are as a people, we shall earn respect and recognition. And therein lies the importance of saying out loud: I speak Spanish and this is my land, my history and my culture. I ask for nothing and owe nothing.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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