BBC News – Argentina restricts online shopping as foreign reserves drop

35% tax on foreign credit card purchases and 50% tariff on any foreign purchase over $25. The real kick in the nards? Los Argentinos get to stand in line at a customs office for the privilege of paying these taxes. Curious to see how this plays out. Local businesses may benefit but black market will likely grow to fill void of foreign products.

BBC News – Argentina restricts online shopping as foreign reserves drop.


Juan Nagel on Tiaras and the Venezuelan Work Ethic

Another Casualty of Venezuela’s Revolution: Work Ethic | Transitions is a somewhat bizarre stream of consciousness piece by Juan Nagel for Foreign Policy Magazine. The argument is that Chavismo put a ceiling on the benefits that could be reaped from a strong work ethic by stifling competition through a series of government interventions into the economy. Nothing new. Really. Nothing at all. Except perhaps for the mental gymnastics and metaphorical pilates necessary to frame the Miss Venezuela pageant as the country’s last bastion of free market competition and merit based rewards. Interesting to note that Nagel is not calling his compatriots lazy – just saying they lack incentive or legitimate outlets for competition. Nagel suggests that the lack of opportunity in Venezuela has actually had the effect of re-channeling  any residual work ethic into criminal, corrupt, or grossly manipulative exploitation of the various black market opportunities that have emerged as a result of Venezuela’s socialist policies. There’s plenty of free-market enterprise, it’s just that most of it is criminal. There are certainly far more coherent critiques of Chavismo but leveraging the uncanny dominance of Venezuelans on the world beauty pageant circuit was a nice gimmick to boost web traffic (almost as shameless as me reblogging the link …with photo). While I generally agree that Chavismo is a highly unstable house of cards built more on empty rhetoric than effective policy, I find the most worthwhile part of Nagel’s blog post to be the revelation that the Miss Venezuela pageant is sponsored by none other than Diet Bimbo …er, “Bimbo Diet”.

Actually, if we’re gonna sell out, let’s go the distance and throw in another shot of  Irene Esser: a beacon of hope for neoliberal values in Venezuela.




“Creíamos que el socialismo del siglo XXI no había sido capaz de crear al hombre nuevo. Pero no es cierto. El hombre nuevo existe. Es una bestia de rapiña. Se venía formando desde antes. El chavismo lo doctoró”.
– Tulio Hernández
Venezuelan sociologist and columnist for El Nacional

The quote is taken from the end of an article in El País on perceptions of social and political crisis in Venezuela. Well, the article is pretty clear what perception is most accurate – the author sees Venezuela on the fast track to an Escape From New York style post-apocalyptic anarchy. So with angry mobs of drivers taking control of the streets and people lining up around the block for toilet paper, is president Maduro -when not busy accusing the US of plotting his assassination- merely overseeing the final death knells of Chavismo? Or has the demise of the neo-Bolivarian dream been greatly exaggerated…?

Pussy Riot –

Philosophy student, Political activist, Punk rocker. This is Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot. The arrest and subsequent conviction of three members of Pussy Riot for hooliganism has made international headlines and  launched the girls to global fame as celebrities and NGOs around the world critique the conviction as emblematic of a retrograde state of human rights and freedom of expression under the Putin regime. The T-shirt that Tolokonnikova has been photographed in while in custody has also highlighted the syncretic blend of influences that feed into Pussy Riot’s music and political message. ¡No Pasaran! became a battle cry during the Spanish Civil War that was given new life in the 1980s by Carlos Mejia Godoy, a Nicaraguan musician who used “No Pasaran” to anchor his eponymous folk ballad that served as a de facto anthem for the Sandinistas. Just part of an interesting genealogy for the ladies of Pussy Riot.

Of course, as a punk rockers, the lion’s share of Pussy Riot’s lineage traces back to the American and British punk scene from the 80s and early 90s. According to John Harris, Pussy Riot takes many of its cues from bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, two scions of the “riot grrrrrl” movement out of Olympia, Washington. The Guardian published an interesting article by Harris where he explores these connections and dissects how modes of cultural protest that have grown tired, cliché, or otherwise drained of their original urgency in the west are finding a new voice and new audience in the higher-stakes political arenas of the east:

“What does all this tell us? That the Anglo-American world still sleeps, having sent forth cultural archetypes that have exploded all over the world. That in some places, culture actually still matters. And that in the macho dystopia of Putin’s Russia, where everything cultural is political and vice versa, three remarkable women have gone to prison to prove it.”


The LA Riots

For as long as he doesn’t sue us to take down his photos, Ted Soqui (the lens master who’s Occupy LA photograph graces our homepage) will remain a special member of the HELA family. Of all the photos I’ve seen during this year of commemoration, Ted’s are the one’s that take me straight back to ’92. At that time, there were a handful of images that would remain indelible. The burnt and burning strip malls, Reginald Denny getting dragged from his truck and curb stomped on live TV, and soldiers guarding storefronts. And while I’d grown up with plenty of Korean-Americans, I’ll always remember the LA riots as a sort of coming out party for the K-Town locals.

When I first saw the photo below I thought, “These guys aren’t the cops, they’re not the National Guard, they’re not gangsters… they’re just shopkeepers protecting what’s theirs …and these hombres do NOT fuck around.” It reminded me that there are times in life when you gotta draw a line in the sand and the only person you can ultimately rely upon to hold that line is you, yourself, and maybe a couple of your closest brochachos.

There was also something jarring about seeing this group of people in a new light. It’s rare that we ever imagine immigrants for who they were, that is, for who they used to be. I mean, we take for granted the entirety of a life experience that brought someone across an ocean or a desert and through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy -with or without their family- to set up shop on this side of the border. Of course, not every cab driver was a surgeon in a past life, but this photo told me that the guys who stock the shelves and ring up your groceries had definitely gone through some serious shit before planting themselves in the ciudad, and they weren’t about to see their new life go up in flames.

Photo: Carlos Schiebeck

If I can shift from the journalistic lens to a little duder’s eyewitness account, there was another interesting phenomenon that became evident in the aftermath of the riots. While the ashes still burned, you could see that there were a lot of small and humble ways that people expressed their commitment for a return to normality. Despite the wanton recklessness and gratuitous destruction of property, it wasn’t ENTIRELY as our good man Bradley once stated “about comin’ up and stayin’ on top and screaming 1-8-7 on a motherfuckin’ cop.” A lot of people moved quick to clean things up and do their best to support their less fortunate neighbors. Because once a city’s collective outrage spills over into the streets, the havoc it wreaks becomes indiscriminate and the jackasses lighting everything on fire didn’t pause to think much about who would suffer most from the collateral damage.

In Soqui’s photo essay for the LA Weekly, he juxtaposes “then and now” shots of various ground zero locations and you can see that some of these neighborhoods never totally recovered. Some businesses burnt to the ground and 20 years later the only thing to rise from the ashes is a couple weeds in an empty lot. But in the moment, there were little things that helped the city move forward. And while it may not seem like a big deal, one of those little things was high school sports.

Try to realize that even after things had cooled down a bit, a lot of parents didn’t want their kids being bussed into the ashes. Even if their neighborhood was already torched up, there was still a somewhat legitimate concern that when their kids stepped off the bus at a rival high school, they’d have to dodge bullets. A riot is anarchy and nobody was really sure what the unwritten rules would be moving forward. Times were tense and kind of weird. There was a lot of fear and lot of anxiety and yet somehow people intuitively figured it out. It was a moment when fear briefly surrendered to …I don’t know… faith? As freaked out and traumatized as the city was, there remained an undercurrent of confidence that the same assholes sniping at firefighters the week before would know better than to pull the trigger on kids playing baseball and running track.

Photo: Don Emmert

That meant me and my fellow brochachitos -kids who had watched history unfold from the relative safety of the South Bay- spent the month of May in a yellow school bus trucking through all the neighboring barrios that got lit up during the LA Spring. One thing I’ll never forget, something that was simultaneously eerie yet reaffirming, was that we played ball in places where everything in the neighborhood had been burnt, wrecked, or broken …except for the school — especially the parochial schools. Little islands in an ocean of chaos. Everybody so pissed and so destructive and yet even during a moment of complete disregard for boundaries, there was an awareness that some things remained sacred. The church and the classroom. Two sanctuaries in a time of crisis.

A look 20 years back at HELA’s barrio today. Christine Burrill’s photo collage from the Free Venice Beachhead

Argentina @ the Vanguard of Gender Rights

Sweeping Transgender Bill of Rights Approved in Argentina

As a younger dude, Argentina’s transgender community stood out to me because they would frequent the same clubs as the straight and gay …and not stand out. They might have tended to be a tad taller and a few years older than the coked up kids bouncing around the dance floor but there was no real substantive balkanization along gender lines. Buenos Aires nightlife was more or less democratized and the porteños -who can be so damn neurotic in so many other walks of life- seemed to form a kind of socially libertarian zeitgeist when it came to gender politics. That street level sense of equality has now percolated through the Argentine political apparatus and landed in the Casa Rosada. The pending legislation doesn’t just grant marriage rights to transgender citizens, it’s a comprehensive bill that includes medical coverage for procedures ranging from plastic surgery to hormone therapy. Images of the drug trade, cacerolazos, and Kristina’s [Pyrrhic] victory over Repsol make it easy to forget that economics aren’t the only benchmarks for progress and begs the question as to who’s really stuck in the third world. Right about now, shit’s looking pretty medieval on this side of the frontera.

TIME Magazine Cover: The Colombian Comeback – Apr. 23, 2012 – Colombia – President Juan Manuel Santos

TIME Magazine Cover: The Colombian Comeback – Apr. 23, 2012 – Colombia – President Juan Manuel Santos.

Una conejita Playboy argentina despertó miradas y polémica en el debate presidencial mexicano –  

I think it adds significant credibility to the Mexican presidential debates to have a conejita Playboy involved. Seriously, what’s the big deal. It’s not like it was all about her boobs. What? Oh.

Una conejita Playboy argentina despertó miradas y polémica en el debate presidencial mexicano –

May Day protests – Los Angeles Times: Framework

Shots by Lawrence K. Ho, Barbara Davidson, and Al Seib from the LA Times coverage of May Day protests in Downtown Los Angeles. Intriguing alliance between immigration / labor interests and the queer contingent. A growing blue collar Latino partnership with LGBTA activists undercuts assumptions that the political right will eventually be able to tap into conservative social values to build the Republican Hispanic base.

May Day protests – Framework – Photos and Video – Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.

Didiu Rio Branco – Political Cartoons & Hip-ee Hop-ee

Researching the The Spirit of Apollo, I came across this video with opening animation by Paulista cartoonist Didiu Rio Branco. It’s pretty funny – Lino Krizz‘s brasileño homage to blowout combs and lowriders.

And from the NASA project, screening tonight at the Los Feliz 3:

More of Didiu’s political and cultural critique can be found at Mundo Mocoh:

Even has his own Havaiianas!

Why Spanish Matters

Language IS politics. Immigration debate has warped linguistic policy – maybe even made it taboo to admit that we have or need any such policy – but right or left, the need to negotiate a bilingual world is something that can no longer be ignored in the proliferating regions of “Spanish America”. A group of colegas at La UCLA started this conference a couple years ago and are exploring some issues that are muy interesante and super-importante for bringing our attitudes towards linguistic diversity out of the egocentric dark ages.

Among the many badass panelists, you can check out are Armando Guerrero Jr.: “You Speak Good English for Being Mexican”: Language and Identity of East Los Angeles Chicano English (ELACE).

Or if you’ve ever seen people freak out when someone speaking english has the huevos and the gall to pronounce a Spanish word with a Spanish accent, catch Jhonni Carr’s: “One margarita, please! Language Attitudes Regarding Pronunciation in the Language of Origin”

Other speakers looking at current and historical issues in language politics include Ian Romain ”The Founding Fathers and the Original Language Politics in the United States”, Mariška Bolyanatz “Why Language Policy Matters: Effects of Prop. 227 on Minority Populations”, Belén Villarreal “The Importance of Spanish in Communication between Parents and LA Public Schools”, Covadonga Lamar Prieto: “The Silencing of the Californios: Tracing the Beginnings of Linguistic Repression in 19th Century California”, Ricardo Medina “Where Bilingualism Mattered? Translators and the Mexican Borderlands”, Bryan Kirschen “The (not-so) Distant Relationship between Spanish and Arabic”, Nancy Ballesteros “Why Teaching Pronuntiation to Spanish L2 Learners Matters”, and because Brazilians are everywhere, Michelle Addae presents “Spanish in Contact with Portuguese: The influence of Spanish on Barranquenho.”

For todos los de Los Ángeles, faculty sensei Claudia Parodi will speak on: “Latinos and Other Minorities in LA: Their Languages.”

And finally, Chase W. Raymond answers Larry David’s pressing question as to when and where we can take that leap from Ud. to vos to tú in his pronominal opus: “In-the-Moment Pronominal Address in Spanish” …lest we end up like Caesar.

La foto del dia: Patriotismo

Los Narco Boludos: Argentina Breaks Bad

A recent article in Foreign Policy outlines the rapid proliferation of drug trafficking in Argentina – a problem compounded by the geography of exposed borders, a strong European market, a strong domestic market, and the displacement of northern cartels from the continuation of militarized crackdowns in Mexico and Colombia. And as HELA discussed last month, the continued insistence of the US to stick to a painfully outdated and counterproductive drug policy that refuses to consider legalization has created breakdowns in cross-border cooperation between Argentine and US enforcement agencies.

Some highlights:

The new chorizo.

#1 in Customer Service: 95% of shipments reach their destination.

Busts over the past two years suggest that Spain is an especially popular entry point for drugs dispatched from Argentina. In April 2010, Spanish officials seized 800 kilograms of cocaine from a truck disguised as an official support vehicle for the Dakar Rally off-road race, later affirming that the drugs were loaded in Argentina. Last January, an executive jet piloted by two sons of Argentine dictatorship-era air force generals arrived in Barcelona from Argentina laden with 1,000 kilograms of cocaine, with the ties to the military piquing concern about institutional corruption. These busts suggest a clear transit route between the two countries and raise questions as to how such a high volume of drugs are exiting Argentina undetected. According to an official report compiled by Martin Verrier, a security advisor for Argentine congressman Francisco de Narvaez, 95 percent of the cocaine shipped from Argentina safely arrives at its destination. “In Argentina, the situation is such that narcotraffickers enter and exit without inconvenience,” laments Claudio Izaguirre, president of the Argentine Anti-Drugs Association, a Buenos Aires-based NGO.

Our prices can’t be beat! …and it’s great for tourism. Your study abroad stipend now covers a weekly six pack of Quilmes AND a daily dime bag of yayo. Sigue leyendo

Undocumented Immigrants Paid $11.2 Billion In Taxes While GE Paid Nothing | ThinkProgress

You PAID taxes...?? Jajaja.... the frontera is that guey pendejo.

This is exactly why we need to get them the hell out of here. Paying taxes is un-American! Just ask El Guante.


Undocumented Immigrants Paid $11.2 Billion In Taxes While GE Paid Nothing | ThinkProgress.

Santorum is attacking.


Breaking news people: Shazam does NOT recognize Pop-O-Pies. Proof positive that Santorito is on the offensive..