Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Singani 63 rocks in New York

Bolivian grapes are a well-kept secret; the French import a millions bottles of Bolivian wines every year, and none of it reaches New York. Years did we try in vain to find a bottle of any Bolivian spirits. Then Hollywood producer Steven Soderbergh, after imbibing a brandy made with Muscat grapes, liked it so much that he got an import certificate  and began selling the award winning Singani 63.
I tracked down a bottle at Park Avenue Liquor Shop ( ), which is actually located on Madison Avenue (after having actually been on Park Avenue for decades). Next I  took it to some friends at Amigos de Bolivia, and they, with more experience than me in mixology, came up with a murky mahogany coloured concoctions, which we have yet to name.
We hope to have some more mixing parties for this wonderful brandy, along with some catas de vino for yet more Bolivian wines. New Yorkers have been sorely deprived over the years and it is time to remedy that situation. Let's hope we don't have to go to France to track down some bottles.

[1] 2 oz Singani 63
[2] 1 oz Creme de Cassis 
[3] 1 oz Pineapple Juice 
[4] .5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
Add four ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into lowball glass.
Garnish with pineapple chunk.

[1] 2 oz Singani 63 
[2] 1 oz Valhalla Liqueur
[3] 1 oz Pineapple Juice 
[4] .5 oz Fresh Lime Juice

Add four ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into lowball glass.
Garnish with sprig of mint.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Write up of the Bolivian Day Parade in Jersey City

Yesterday the Bolivian Independence Day Parade took place in Jersey City, and some members of Amigos de Bolivia crossed the Hudson to check it out.  One was so impressed he took the time to learn to take pictures with his smart phone, and in an hour had amassed 200, which we plan to put up as soon as we learn to transfer from phone to blog...and believe me, you will see a wealth of colour like no carnival, so next time you think of going to Rio, just wait till August and take the PATH train to Jersey City.

There were dozens of bands each with dancers in elaborate native costume, Andean rythms vibrating from Uhauls all the way from Hamilton Park to City Hall. Many of these groups had come from other states, including New York and Virginia, where small enclaves of the Bolivian community exist almost unnoticed by America as a whole.

Bolivians tend to work hard and not get into trouble, most are very family oriented and so the Bolivian community keeps together, flying under the radar screen; few people even remember that Jaime Escalante and Raquel Welch were Bolivians. It could be a suggestion to promote more culture and tourism at the parades, Bolivia is a country with little crime and great wildlife from harpy eagles to orchids, and a whole range of products that it exports without getting the proper credit for (Brazil nuts, for instance, come mostly from Bolivia, not Brazil...).

The parade was enjoyable, but sadly at the end there were no cookouts with seviche and parillas as there have been in previous years. Also absent were any tables selling any CDs of the music, so I noted some of the bands and will be contacting them soon to buy CDs etc.

Today in Manhattan there is another parade, one which I passed on the way to the library midtown, and while it has many more adherents, it will in no way come near what we saw in Jersey. But hopefully we will not have to cross the river to see it; Manhattan is host to a great number of parades and it would benefit greatly from having a Bolivian parade in the future, along, with I hope, la comida boliviana.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bolivian Parade in Jersey City 2015

Bolivian Parade

August 8 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

| Free
The 12th annual Bolivian Parade will lite up Jersey City as the colorfully costumed marchers make their way from Hamilton Park traveling down Jersey Ave., turning at Newark Ave., then onto Grove St. and ending in front of City Hall.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Feast of the Great Power

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia's mix of Roman Catholic and indigenous traditions are on display across La Paz as thousands of costumed dancers perform during the annual feast of the Great Power, a raucous street party that celebrates a rendering of Jesus Christ with native features and outstretched arms.
Brass bands marched and onlookers cheered over the weekend as the dancers performed elaborate routines in their quest for prizes.
The gathering of faithful fun-seekers traces its origins to a religious painting from the 17th century that depicts the Christian savior — El Senor del Gran Poder, or The Lord of the Great Power — with indigenous Andean features.
Religious believers began parading the image through poor neighborhoods in the upper reaches of Bolivia's capital in the 1930s. The quiet, candle-lit processions eventually morphed into a full-blown dance festival that spilled into the wealthier valley below.
Today, the weeklong celebration is the city's largest festival and a major showcase of Andean folklore. It has become so big that Bolivia is offering the Carnival-like event as a candidate for recognition by UNESCO.
The 62 dance troupes that began performing last weekend reflect Bolivia's mix of traditions. Women in traditional bowler heats pounded down the street alongside people dressed as conquistadors, men prancing in brightly colored ponchos, and dancers with painted faces performing ceremonial Inca steps. The most prestigious troupes boast foreign diplomats and local politicians as members.
As many as 20,000 performers prepare for months, practicing moves, searching for flashy jewelry and embroidering elaborate outfits worth as much as $20,000 apiece. After the festival begins, hired bodyguards watch over the dancers to prevent robberies.
The individual troupes are often financed by a single leader. This year, Jose Gabriel Nina sponsored a group of men who wore giant masks and heavy handmade suits covered in pearly beads. They paraded down the street performing a traditional dance that is supposed to evoke the slaves who toiled in Andean mines under Spanish masters.
"The Lord of Great Power has given me blessings. I've spared no expense here because this is an act of faith," Nina said.
In the poor neighborhood where the festival was born, street vendors compete for attention, offering food as well as herbs, potions and llama fetuses to be used as offerings to the Pachamama, a pre-Colombian native Earth mother figure revered in Bolivia.
The festival rumbles on until Sunday.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Warning of attack in South America

This post is not about Bolivia, save for mention of one person who passed away there in 2012; Antonio Escobar, an Argentine diplomat. He, like Ivan Heyn, died in what some doubt was a suicide that winter. Heyn's death was more well known, as he was a finance minister accompanying the president to a conference in Uruguay. The press in the West ignored both. The public quickly moved on.

One person who had doubts about their deaths stayed around to look at his own list of suspects, one of whom is a Gringo. And quite a few Argentinians might not have a problem believing that a Gringo could be behind such a move.

A couple of years prior to their demise, a Gringo was behind some shenanigans in Bolivia and its neighbours - and in 2009 there was discovered a plot to kill Evo Morales, president of the country. Again, not much doubt that a Westerner could be involved in something against the country that is supposed to have stripped their ambassador and sent him packing on a mule.

But there is much more to this than the nationality of two ne'er-do-wells who happen to get involved in intel attacks on Latin America; the most famous of which is the Bay of Pigs, led by one spoiled brat named Richard M. Bissell of the CIA. Bissell trained Hispanics to attack Cuba to spite Russia, and this might have worked but for the sheer stupidity of just about everyone involved. They overrode advice from military men and cost the lives of many on both sides, along with Cuban civilians. What they thought was genius was the fact that it was supposed to look like it was Hispanic in origin and the real perpetrators could, using 'plausible denial', escape any responsibility while getting what they wanted out of it.

Fast forward to today, and the same things are planned. But having made such a pig's ear of the Cuban invasion, the powers that be in the US are not quite so stupid. Give them some credit; they do learn from their mistakes.

Presently, we have gotten wind of plans to attack Britishers and Falkland Island/Malvinas residents using Hispanics with Argentine accents, with the result that all hell breaks loose, the Brits and Argentinians going at it full force. And thus certain people step in and take advantage - people who have been hearing rumours of an accord between Whitehall and the Pink House that would give Argentina a percentage of the petroleum from the Falklands while giving Britain use of Argentine ports. Both sides could save a lot of time and trouble and end up making money, putting aside past grievances and going forward.  Not an official negotiation; maybe just a rumour. But enough to make some people nervous.

One could here jump to the conclusion that  this is a CIA job, but reflect; the CIA is an old dog not up to much. Not that it ever was. The best move they ever made was when Allen Dulles, and this is before there was a CIA, took the time to listen to Fritz Kolbe, the German diplomat who ultimately helped turn the tide of war by giving Dulles, then spy chief at the US Embassy in Zurich; Kolbe gave him intimate details of Nazi and Japanese military plans. Kolbe had first gone to the British Embassy, where their spy chief pompously turned him away. Lazy dog was he; but his action is common, in fact, the reason for the British losing the American colonies what that their commander, a Hessian, was too lazy to open a letter from a Tory informant. He died with the letter unopened in his pocket; had he read it, he could have anticipated the surprise attack on Christmas Day.

Dulles' move was simple and efficient; he listened to an informant, who, by the way, did not want to be paid. Dulles' agency, the CIA, later turned into a den of snakes staffed by former Abwehr agents, whose influence led to things like the Operation Northwoods plan. I'll leave the reader to google that one and see what I mean.

At some point, the US government took the move to source its covert ops to private agencies, thus creating plausible denial. And some of these private agencies, which change their names frequently, are completely ruthless. They are able to override executive orders and get US State Department waivers to do things around the world that are illegal by many standards.

Here I will stop, having said enough, huelga decir hay mas a decir, y nosotros vamos a decirlo si alguien va escuchar.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hemp in South America

Over the years I have received many questions about hemp in Bolivia. Most from well meaning people, but they are not serious enough to go to the seed cultivators with the data they need to get the right seeds - for instance, the day/night differential in weather for a certain area.

Recently  a more serious enquirer, who is hooked up to a Canadian university, showed deeper interest and is now at the stage of approaching Bolivian government officials, although he is not sure yet if it is lumped in with marijuana, as it has been in the US and elsewhere. Chile is growing  hemp profitably for seed oil already.

In the past Brazil wanted to cultivate hemp, as it was very needed for rope and fibre - it makes the best paper for instance - but Portugal did not want to allow its colonists too much power so did not encourage its cultivation. In North America its cultivation allowed the colonists to outfit an army and navy and be self sufficient. That is why North American states achieved independence before the rest of the nations in the hemisphere.

Hemp can today hemp bring about financial independence, if grown it can supply in a span of 90 days expensive, GMO free and highly nutritious oil - which, unlike fish oils these days, will also be free of mercury, cadmium and other metals with which man has polluted the oceans. The stems are a quick supply of cellulose, the ingredient of paper and so many other products; it makes a better paper than either tree or cotton pulp.

And another advantage to Bolivia especially is that it can be grown on the side of a mountain - indeed at high elevations as it is in Nepal - thus being useful as a crop that does not require prime farm land. In Bolivia, arable land is at a premium, being less than 5% of the total land mass of the country. So Amigos de Bolivia in New York will continue to support Pablo, a Mexican who is studying in Canada and presently working on an agricultural project in Viacha, Bolivia, with the hope that he can assist Bolivia in this enterprise.