Culture

If You Are In Latin America For The Holidays, Here Are The Best Places To Celebrate New Year’s

If you’ve ever celebrated New Year’s Eve, you know that it can get pretty loco, no matter where you are in the world! But while the U.S. is all champagne, loud dance music, twinkly lights, and wild parties, Latin America’s New Year’s looks different. In many different ways! Depending on where you are, you might be stuffing lentils in your pockets, wearing color-coded underwear, or burning elaborate dolls that resemble celebrities and wicked politicians. Latin America is a beautifully diverse region of the globe, and each country offers its own characteristic approach to ringing in the next solar cycle. To help narrow things down a little, we’ve gathered some of the most unique traditions that prove Latin America is a stellar place to celebrate El Año Nuevo.

All Over Mexico

Credit: Atamo Fireworks

Like many Spanish-speaking countries, New Year’s Eve in Mexico usually starts out with a family dinner. People gather with their closest peeps to eat a traditional meal with mole, tamales, bacalao, or lentils (depending on where they are—each region is pretty distinct, and Mexico is a huge country!). Once they’re good and fed, folks enjoy each other’s company until the clock strikes midnight—but at this pivotal moment, you better have your 12 lucky grapes on hand! Once they’ve made their 12 wishes, Mexicans step out into the night, mingling among outdoor fiestas in all the major plazas. Fireworks illuminate the dark sky for hours and hours. It’s a super vibrant setting to indulge in some of life’s greatest pleasures: friends, family, food, and drink!

Panama City, Panama

Credit: Pinterest

With gorgeous beaches, endless fireworks, and temperate tropical temperatures, Panama City is the ideal New Year’s destination (especially if you’re escaping frigid weather farther north!). The people of Panama sure know how to party—whether on the sandy shores of those gorgeous beaches, in vibrant clubs, discotheques, bars, or even on the street, there is sure to be a raging fiesta everywhere you turn.  In Panama, people create life-sized out of old clothes, which are meant to represent the past year. At midnight, the makers of these dolls burn them in a symbolic display of the whole “out with the old, in with the new” idea. Often, folks get really creative with their muñecos, crafting effigies that resemble political figures or celebrities. Talk about a fun, fiery way to say farewell to all of last year’s worst moments!

All Over Ecuador

Credit: YoTuT / Flickr

In Ecuador, people also know how to throw a good party. Ecuadorians also burn effigies that resemble Panama’s muñecos, but here a “muñeco” is known as an “año viejo.” But the mythology of the año viejo is a little more complex in Ecuador: along with the año viejos come las viudas, dudes who dress in drag and pretend to be the burned dolls’ widowed wives. These men—decked out in tight minifaldas, pantyhose, low-cut tops, and wigs—mill through the streets, asking for money to help support their now-fatherless families. It’s humorous, theatrical, and colorful: the perfect recipe for an entertaining eve!

Valparaíso, Chile

Credit: Pinterest

No matter where you are in the world, New Years isn’t New Years without fireworks—and the city of Valparaíso, Chile, has the largest, most grandiose New Years fireworks display in all of South America! (Back in 2007, this display won the Guinness World Records for setting off 16,000 fireworks.) If you’re a fan of serious skybound sparkles, this seaside city will absolutely dazzle you. Plus, it’s super accessible if you’re staying in the capital city of Santiago, which is also famous for its lively New Years fiesta culture.

Cuzco, Peru

Credit: Pedro Szekely / Flickr

Peru is known around the world for its impeccable approach to cuisine, and if you consider yourself a foodie of any sort, Cuzco is the place to be. Replete with restaurants overlooking the Plaza de Armas, it’s a beautiful setting in which to indulge all the delicacies the country has to offer—while still engaging with local traditions. As thousands of locals (and, inevitably, tourists) all gather in the Plaza, waiting for the impressive midnight fireworks display, you can enjoy a wide array of traditional and contemporary Peruvian dishes, ringing in the New Year with a delicious, nourishing meal.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Credit: Pinterest

On the afternoon New Year’s Eve, people in Montevideo gather in the Mercado del Puerto to celebrate in a really effervescent way—by literally pouring bottles of cider all over each other. And at the end of the workday, employees shred their calendar from the last year, tossing them out the windows like confetti. With drumlines, dancing, and generally high energy, the New Year’s celebrations begin early, ultimately culminating in lots of fireworks, bustling parties, and incredible dinners. Uruguayans normally eat lamb, lechon, or salmon on New Year’s, and you’re bound to find yourself an excellent feast in one of the many fine restaurants throughout the capital city.

READ: Make 2020 Your Year With These 5 Steps To Succeed At Your Resolutions

I Was Today Years Old When I Found Out These Pokémon Were Inspired By Mexico And Latin America

Entertainment

I Was Today Years Old When I Found Out These Pokémon Were Inspired By Mexico And Latin America

Pokémon.Fandom / Instagram

The Pokémon franchise is one of the biggest and most important ones in the world. Including video games, TV series, movies, card games, collectible cuddly toys and even clothing, the Pokémon empire’s profits amount to billions of dollars annually. With more than 800 species of Pokémon, the work for Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri has taken inspiration from various cultures around the world to invent each of the “pocket monsters,” and some were inspired by Latin America.

Nintendo and the Pokémon Company have published well over 50 different Pokémon games.

In the two decades since Pokémon first came to be, Nintendo has released over 50 games set in different worlds —featuring hundreds of unique monsters.

Currently, there are 722 official Pokémon that have been confirmed by Nintendo.

The nearly 800 monsters, draw upon the folklore from various cultures. Mawile, a fairy/steele-type monster, is loosely based on the Japanse legend of the Futakuchi-onna, a demon woman with a second mouth hidden in the back of her head, for example.

While some Pokémon are tied to myths, others are grounded in real-world cultures.

In particular, there just so happen to be a handful of pocket monsters with direct links to Latin America. Some of them are super cool and some of them are…well, pretty racist. But they’re all a part of the Pokémon legacy and you should know all about them.

Ludicolo

In typical Pokémon fashion, it’s difficult to tell what Ludicolo’s supposed to be exactly. It’s a pineapple. It’s a duck. It’s a man wearing a poncho and a sombrero who likes to sing and dance? At best, Ludicolo’s supposed to be a tribute to Mexican Mariachi. At worst, it’s just offensive. You decide.

Sigilyph

Sigilyph is a flying/psychic Pokémon first introduced in the Black and White games. Unlike most Pokémon, Sigilyph isn’t based on a specific animal, but rather a drawing of one. The monster’s design is inspired by the Nazca Lines, a set of artistic geoglyphs etched into the earth of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

Hawlucha

Hawlucha is definitely part of the Pokémon wall of fame. It’s a fighting/flying hawk-esque creature with an affinity for airborne wrestling moves inspired by lucha libre. Whereas Ludicolo came across as a slightly-racist reading of a cultural tradition, Hawlucha’s characterization tends to be much more respectful and celebratory. Also it’s just cool.

Wooper

This Pokémon is inspired by the axolotl, the amphibian endemic to the Mexican Basin, who can regenerate its own body. The Mexican-inspired monster is blue, and has a pair of antennae on its head —which are a clear reference to the gills of Axolotls.

Rayquaza

Rayquaza is a mixture of several mythological beings, but we gotta say that its resemblance to Quetzalcoatl is pretty evident. This is one of the most powerful Pokémon of the franchise’s universe, and there’s a colorful version in the Pokémon Go video game.

Maractus

For foreigners, the cactus is a very Mexican element, and Maractus is a Pokémon-cactus, its bright colors are reminiscent of Mexican culture. In addition, it shakes what would be its hands as if they were maracas, another very “Mexican” element for people —hence the name mar(acas)(ca)ctus.

Mew

When the first Pokémon games were released, Mew was something of an urban legend. When Mew’s existence was finally confirmed and the Pokémon was made available to the public, we learned that Mew was the original Pokémon from which all others descended.

In the first Pokémon movie, Mew’s described as being a psychic capable of learning all moves and transforming into other Pokémon. It’s also explained that researchers looking for the elusive monster eventually (and unknowingly) discover it in the jungles of Guyana. Ancient Guyanese cultures, it’s implied, encountered Mew often enough that they incorporated it into their local mythology, a concept that’s worth pointing out considering that Mew’s known for rendering itself invisible.

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

Things That Matter

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

subecuba / Instagram

The progression of Cuba’s modern world has been a slow one, but it’s also been eager to thrive thanks to the younger generation. The integration of the internet didn’t arrive on the island until the late aughts. Back then, when U.S. relations with Cuba became friendlier under the Obama Administration, it looked as if Cuba was ready to get online. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Cuba decided to team up with Venezuela in order for the country to help them venture into the digital age. Now, under the Trump Administration, who is putting the breaks on the Cuba/U.S. relationship, the Cuban people have something more to aspire to. 

A Cuban startup has launched a cab service that will help tourists get around the island now that the Trump Administration has blocked airline travel to all areas of Cuba except Havana.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

The company is called Sube (which translations to “get on” or “hop on”), and it’s basically a ride-share service like Uber and Lyft, although their intention is to seek out tourists who wish to visit the areas outside of Havana. 

Late last year, the Trump Administration issued a travel ban throughout the island, which meant that American airlines could only fly into Havana. All other airports in Cuba were forbidden. The announcement didn’t automatically erase flights that were already booked. U.S. travelers can only arrive in Havana, so if they have plans outside of the capital, getting there is trickier and expensive. The solution is Sube. 

Sube wants tourists to know that their service is safe and that they can provide an exciting and fun way to get around the island.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“Sube is a ridesharing app founded in Cuba,” their About section states. “Our drivers will help you move around safely and fast while sharing their knowledge of our customs and culture.”

One of the most popular attractions in Cuba is their vintage cars. So how can these old cars keep up with this new motive of transportation? Sube owners say all cars, vintage ones as well, are in perfect condition and can drive long distances. All drivers have verified licenses as well. 

The app launched in 2018, and since then, the app has been downloaded at least 10,000 times and so far has 6,000 registered users.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Claudia Cuevas Alarcón told NBC News. Aside from Cuevas Alarcón, a 27-year-old, Sube’s creators include 26-year-old Damián Martín, 26, and 27-year-old Darién González. 

What makes this company even more fascinating is that these young entrepreneurs have found a way to work the system to their benefit. For example, U.S. credit cards are prohibited on the island, which means travelers can only use cash. 

Sube creators registered their company in the U.S., so this makes it possible for travelers to download the app before they leave their home country, upload their credit card information. Once they arrive on the island, they have already reserved their car service, and the exchange of payment is not needed. 

It’s not just tourists who use the app, locals are using Sube to get around the island as well.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“If you are visiting Cuba this December, move with SUBE and pay from abroad,” one of their beautiful Instagram posts says. “We have 70 registered and available taxis, which will make your trips more enjoyable and safe. You can book them before your arrival at the airport, until departure. Do not hesitate.”

Other ways to use Sube is pretty straightforward. You can use Whatsapp or Facebook to reserve a cab. Travel experts also suggest that if you’re traveling to Cuba, you should also download apps that will help not only with travel information but translation, money exchange, and texting capabilities. Here are some useful apps that extremely useful: Maps.me, XE currency, Google Translate, Pocket, Havanatrans, Zapya, AlaMesa, CubaMessenger, and ProtonVPN. And, of course, Whatsapp and Airbnb. 

It’s very exciting to see young Cubans not allowing connectivity or travel regulations (or any sort of limitation) stop them from progressing into a new frontier of digital capabilities.

READ: The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island