Ushuaia to New York

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 2015.  The Redentor at the end of yet another long day. La fin d’encore un dur jour pour le rédempteur.

We started with a snowstorm in August at the world’s southernmost city – Ushuaia, capital of the Tierra de Fuego, just below Patagonia – and ended six months later in January with a snowstorm at the North American metropolis. In-between, we swallowed almost 43,000 kilometers (more than the circumference of the Earth), took 133 public buses, four passenger boats, crossed 17 countries (*). We bumped into Salvador Allende’s commemoration of his 4 September 1970 election (also Chile’s National Wine Day !**) in Santiago, and narrowly escaped a huge, 8.3 earthquake further north. We were between Chile and Bolivia when the International Court of Justice agreed to hear the very sensitive case of the latter demanding back from the former an access to the Pacific Ocean. On the 11th of October, after passing through Brazil’s new and colonial towns, we joined the two million Brazilians who had descended on the Amazonan city of Belem, just off the Atlantic, to celebrate Cirio de Nazaré, the country’s largest holiday after Rio’s festival, and an impressive and true “bain de foule”.

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Lima, Peru, November 2015.  Always colorful the people of the Andes and of any mountain. Toujours très colorés les habitants des montagnes, Andes et autres.

In Lima, Peru, we had the chance to partake in a festival of very colorful dance troupes from all Andean countries. However there too, as earlier in Uruguay, we witnessed several strikes and street demonstrations against the government antisocial policies. It was to become worse in Ecuador, further north, where we bumped into strong protests to the shouts of “Fuera Correa fuera!” in Cuenca’s historical district against Chavez’ and Evo Morales’ friend, then we arrived in its capital on the 481st anniversary of its founding, a 6th of December. In the next country we arrived just on time in Villa de Leyva to commemorate Antonio Nariño’s death 191 years before, a leader of the independence movement in New Granada – present-day Colombia.

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Cuenca, Ecuador, December 2015.  Lots of social protests throughout Latin America… as elsewhere in the world. Partout au monde les mêmes revendications de justice sociale.

More political encounters in Central America. It started while crossing aboard a sailing boat the San Blas archipelago from Colombia to Panama, when we met an admirer of Uruguayan socio-political writer Eduardo Galeano, top Sandinista Tomas Borges’ widow in Esteli, a hotbed of the Nicaraguan revolution, and finally our niece and deputy celebrating with the El Salvador government the 24th anniversary of the peace agreements with the guerillas.

Last, in New York, right across from our house, immigrant descendants of Aztecs gave thanks to Pachamama – Mother Earth – in early spring.

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Pantanal, Brazil, October 2015.  The famous capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), here carrying a Cattle Tyrant (Machetornis rixosa). Moucherolle querelleur voyageant gratis sur le fameux capybara.

Chance served us. We couldn’t possibly have planned all these events and encounters. Ah! we also bumped into millions of Sulphur butterflies which literally overwhelmed us (together with hundreds of the 10 million yacare caimans, the largest single population on Earth) along the fantastic Transpantaneira, the 147 km long dirt road which crosses 122 wooden bridges (some in bad disrepair) at the heart of the Pantanal, the top nature place ahead of lovely Patagonia, Argentina’s famous Ruta 40, the Atacama desert, as well as Costa Rica.

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Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Argentina, August 2015.  An immense glacier, an unforgettable sight, especially with six condors flying over. Inoubliable spectacle que celui de voir un immense glacier, surtout quand il est survolé par six condors.

Indeed, the landscape, the mountains, the never-ending Andes!, the fauna were Latin America’s best asset, much more than the people, including the children,  who were either indifferent or downright hostile (most natives) – very unlike former Soviet Central Asia where people smiled and begged us to take photos of them – with the exception of Argentina, and Paraguay, a very smiling people in spite (or because) of being one of the poorest along with Nicaragua and, surprisingly, Costa Rica, which few rich are clustered in the numerous highly touristy enclaves.

(*) including the Ruta Maya in which we covered Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico, (& northern South America), a part we did before.

(**) on the 4th of September 1545 Pedro de Valdivia, a Spanish conquistador and the first royal governor of Chile, wrote to King Charles V of Spain asking ‘vines and wines to evangelize Chile’.

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