Alidad Vassigh

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food / travel

How Argentina's Soup Kitchen Cooks Serve Up Haute Cuisine

People like Aunt Eva, in the outskirts of Mendoza, Argentina dedicate countless hours to preparing food for the needy. They make use of whatever is at hand, and invent some remarkable dishes in the process.

BUENOS AIRES — Pretty much everyone has at least heard of goulash, the Hungarian meat stew served in cafés the world over. But who invented it? Impossible to say. What we do know is that it's a recipe born from necessity: the need, in this case, to slowly cook dried or lesser quality meat until tender.

Indeed, many famous dishes originated this way, from people having to make do with what they had. And who knows, perhaps 20 or 30 years from know we'll be tracking the origin of the corn flour pizza that María Angélica Parodi — Mary, as most people know her — prepares in her kitchen in Rosario, in central Argentina.

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Society

Sunday Murders, Morning Bike Thefts: The Data On When Crimes Occur

In Colombia, killings happen more often on Sundays. Most big city crimes in the U.S. happen during the day, though violence is a night-time thing. Weekends account for more than half of illegal acts in Cape Town, South Africa. A global glimpse at the "when" of crime.

BOGOTÁ — They call it the "criminal clock." The Colombian NGO Excellence in Justice Corporation (Corporación excelencia en la justicia, CEJ) recently published a study of or the hours of the day and days of the week when different types of crimes happen.

Some of the findings might not surprise: murder is an evening crime, though it occurs disproportionately on Sunday. Meanwhile, Colombian thieves are busiest in the mornings. Elsewhere in the world, we also see patterns that both meet and defy expectations.

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Society

Catholic School Must Pay Bullying Victim After Urging Bully "To Pray"

The private school outside Buenos Aires must pay the family of a student who was tormented for six years. Officials of the Catholic primary school had invited the main bully "to pray," rather than taking necessary steps to keep the victim safe.

ENSENADA — A school near Buenos Aires has been ordered to pay damages equivalent to nearly $5,000 for "not doing enough" to protect a primary school student from six years of bullying.

The abuse was mostly at the hands of one classmate, and included being hit in the school yard, pushed down the stairs, punched and grabbed, and insulted inside and outside the school, Clarín reported last week.

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Ideas

Luddite Chronicles: Whatever Happened To The Telephone

Why must I feel like a washed-up nobody just because I have no need for a new "data plan"? All I want to do is make (and pay for) a simple phone call.

-Essay-

MADRID — I recently tried telephoning my mother in Tehran. By that, I don't mean some kind of 1950s rotary phone or 1990s cordless relic. I've long embraced the convenience of using my mobile phone — though now we are told that it is a smart phone.

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Economy

China, The Silent Conductor In Latin America's Big Rail Projects

China's global investment tentacles have reached South American railways, where Chinese firms are "silent" partners in expanding rail networks, through financing or sale of rolling stock.

SANTIAGO — From public mistrust of its goals to suspicions of its ties to corruption rackets, Chinese investment in Latin America's railway sector has gotten off to a shaky start. Over the past decade, the Asian superpower may have suffered from its unfamiliarity with regional and domestic policies, but it's going full steam ahead on investment in an industry where there is much to gain, but also much to risk.

Francisco Urdinez, a politics professor at the Catholic University of Chile, cites the aborted Mexico City to Querétaro railway project as a cautionary tale: The deal was canceled for corruption, and public opinion singled out the Chinese firm in the scandal, even though it was part of a multi-company consortium.

"I think the reputational harm ends up being greater than the project's potential benefits," says Urdinez. "Chinese firms have more to lose than win out of uncertainties around the risks of domestic corruption here in Latin America."

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Green Or Gone

Polluted Pink Lake In Argentina Has Now Turned Red

Locals in the coastal Argentine district of Trelew say a fish processing plant has turned a nearby lake into a cesspit that left its waters pink this past summer, and now the situation has grown darker.

CHUBUT — Back in July, Argentine authorities had told people in Trelew, in the coastal province of Chubut, not to worry — a local lake that had turned pink, likely by chemicals, would soon be fine again. But instead, it has now turned red — or a kind of red-to-purple violet — as the daily Jornada de Chubut reported.

And again, locals don't know why.

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Geopolitics

Latin American Pariah, The Cost Of Brazil's Isolationism

By turning its back on regional integration, the conservative government of Jair Bolsonaro is putting ideology above the country's long-term economic and political interests.

-Analysis-

After two decades of leading the process of Latin American integration, Brazil's absence at the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) underscores a dramatic change, of course, that is costing the regional giant both politically and economically.

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Economy

How Mexico Can Exploit The U.S.-China Showdown

If Mexico could forge a clear vision of its business interests, the showdown between the United States and China would present it with some major trading and strategic opportunities.

-Analysis-

MEXICO CITY — New Zealand rugby players famously perform a Maori dance called the Haka before each match. Its gesticulations, grimaces and threatening noises are meant to intimidate adversaries, though most see it as nothing more and nothing less than a celebration of heritage. I wonder if after the Donald Trump presidency and the Afghan débacle, the world will see the United States, the erstwhile leader of the free world, with the same rational distance.

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Geopolitics

Immigrants Don't Drive Up Crime: Here Are The Facts

Crunch the numbers, or just look around...and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe.

Standing outside Hamburg's Arts and Crafts Museum, I observe a little the traffic and bustle of this historic German port, home to two million people. I notice to my right two German women sitting on the grass in the Carl Legien Platz, gaunt but eager as they prepare themselves a syringe full of some drug. To the left, sitting on the museum's steps, is an African man, wearing a pretty checked shirt and white cap. He wipes his face in despair, trying to decipher a manual for a gadget or contraption.

Once they have had their injection, the women recline to enjoy the buzz, until two policemen arrive. They dryly nod at the African and ask the women for their ID. I observed with fascination and must say, no travel journalist should omit to record these little bits of reality. They are as informative to readers as sight-seeing recommendations or dining tips.

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Geopolitics

Cuba: Growing Internet Access Is About Money Not Freedom

People used social media to help organize the large, anti-government protests that took place on the island last July. And yet, unlike their counterparts in China, Cuban authorities are loath to prohibit access to such sites. Do the math.

-Analysis-

Mobile phones, as the former Facebook executive Antonio García Martínez writes in his blog The Pull Request, were illegal in Cuba until 2008. Even after that, it took another decade before people were allowed to connect those phones to the internet. And more recently, on July 11 — when people held large protests (organized in large part online) — Cuban authorities blocked the internet for several hours.

Overall, however, internet access is finally available in Cuba, albeit with some limitations — for two reasons. The first is the expensive. An Amnesty International report titled Cuba's Internet Paradox reveals that the connection cost, as of 2017, was $1.50 per hour, a tremendous amount for people where the average monthly wage is roughly $25.

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Future

Latin America, The Next Mecca For Digital Nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend.


LIMA — Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all.

Olson recently tweeted that the average freelancer based in New York City could lower standard monthly costs from $4,000 to $1,000 by setting up shop in Ecuador.

Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

To this end, he says, the government of President Guillermo Lasso is preparing a temporary residency visa for such workers. It "allows foreigners to work remotely for foreign firms in Ecuador. How does it benefit our country? By bringing foreign exchange into our economy and creating jobs," Olson stated.

Ecuador wants to be the first Latin American country to issue such visas, and the timing could not be better. While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050.

A remote worker on the beach in Mexico

A remote worker on the beach in Mexico — Photo: Wonderlijk Werken

Latin America wants to compete with Europe 

Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work.

It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the legislator promoting this law, says it will be a stimulus for Costa Rica's "economic reactivation. With this legislation, which is pioneering in its area, Costa Rica has a great tool to boost the country as a choice destination."

Neighboring Panama is also creating short-term residencies for remote workers and plans to extend tourist visas. The nation hopes to use the foreign cash spent on hospitality, retail and local services to revive an economy that shrank 17.9% in 2020.

Mexico offers temporary residencies to attract digital nomads

Mexico, meanwhile, offers no particular visa for digital nomads but remains one of their favored destinations, with 20 Mexican cities and towns currently hosting remote workers.. At the moment, the country simply offers temporary residencies for applicants able to show financial solvency (either $1,650 in monthly income or a bank balance with at least $27,000).

In Colombia, the government approved a Law of Enterprises that includes special migratory rules. It stipulates that the "Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Relations, shall expedite a special regimen for the entry, residence and work of digital nomads [...] with the purpose of promoting the country as a center for remote work."

When it comes to choosing a destination, taxes are often a decisive factor for digital nomads. Foreigners must consider facilities and infrastructure provided by host country, says Valeria Galindo, People Advisory Services Partner with the accounting firm EY Perú. But no less important in the choice of destination are " the tax consequences moving to a foreign country can have for themselves and their firm. Let's remember, many countries work on the basis of territoriality, which can generate taxes both in the destination country and in terms of the firm's settlement arrangements."

AirBnB partners with the city of Buenos Aires

Why are various Latin American countries courting digital nomads as residents? A study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, called "Work and Wander: Meet Today's Digital Nomads," found that 87% of them earned around $4,500 a month, and spent around 36% of these earnings wherever they reside. Their work profiles were a mix of writing, sales and IT programming.

The website Nomadlist also finds these workers are generally young and more disposed to try different experiences and visit new places.

Their disposable income — and their willingness to spend it — makes digital nomads a boon to the continent's battered travel sector. The Mexican government found that a single person's stay for three months or longer translates to thousands of dollars poured into the local economy.

Victoria Bramati, Airbnb's communications chief for South America, says "the pandemic is changing the way we work, live and travel. People want to live anywhere," and technology is making this possible. This, she adds, is "happening in real time." In June 2021, the company came up with Live Anywhere on Airbnb, a pilot program where 12 people shared various Airbnb lodgings for 10 months. She said it was an opportunity for people to "make the world their home" for nearly a year, with most of the costs at Airbnb's expense. The firm recently signed an agreement with the Buenos Aires city government to jointly promote the Argentine capital as an international destination, particularly for remote workers.

Between its low costs, exotic destinations and colorful cultures, Latin America has a major potential to become the next digital nomad hotspot. And the moment is ripe to entice travelers who don't need — or want — to return home.

WORLDCRUNCH

Columbus Statue In Mexico City Is Coming Back — Quietly

Target of vandalism and anti-colonial protests, the Christopher Columbus statue in the emblematic Plaza Colón (Columbus Place) lost its place to an indigenous woman statue. But now officials have voted to put it back up in a quiet and chic district called Polanco.

MEXICO CITY — Christopher Columbus, the 15th century "discoverer" of the Americas, has recently been having a bad run in the Western Hemisphere, among the European conquerors getting a bitter anti-colonial reassessment of their supposed heroic role in history. In Mexico City, authorities recently decided not to restore the prominent Columbus statue to the spot it had occupied since the 19th century, after it was taken down for repairs in October 2020.

Now, Mexico's Council of Monuments, a state body, decided unanimously to move Columbus from the emblematic Plaza Colón (Columbus Place) along the city's most prestigious avenue, to a quieter, residential district called Polanco, the Heraldo de México daily reported.

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