Things That Matter

11 Of The Deadliest Natural Disasters in Latin America

Violent natural disasters have claimed lives around the world since the dawn of time. Latin America is far from an exception, as natural disasters have caused profound human loss, as well as environmental destruction and financial loss. Events that cause the highest death tolls are geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, mudslides, floods, storms, extreme temperatures, fires and droughts. From the oldest to the most recent events on record, here are the deadliest disasters to strike Latin America:

1. 1906 Valparaiso earthquake in Chile

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At 8.6 on the Richter scale, the 1906 earthquake that hit Chile’s port of Valparaiso claimed 20,000 lives. This photograph depicts the immense damage at a church called Iglesia La Merced.

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This old photograph called Valparaiso despues del Terremoto (Valparaiso after the earthquake) shows the decimation of a busy market in wake of the disaster. 

2. Chile’s most deadly quake hits in 1939

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Sadly, Chile’s most deadly earthquake was yet to come. While it was a slightly smaller quake at 8.3 magnitude on the Richter scale, the 1939 earthquake in Chile’s capital Santiago left 28,000 people dead and many more maimed.

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This photograph depicts an article published in a Santiago newspaper just 2 days after the quake. The death toll was still being counted.

3. 1949 Ambato earthquake in Ecuador

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The earthquake that shook Ecuador on August 5th, 1949, was the largest to strike the Western Hemisphere in over 5 years. Although it’s commonly referred to as the Ambato earthquake, it actually hit a village called Pelileo in the Tungurahua Province southeast of its capital Ambato, claiming 5,050 lives. This photo shows the ruins of a church called Santa Rosa after the quake as children stand in the rubble.

Disaster Strikes Ecuador. Life magazine August 22, 1949

At 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, this disaster killed more than 5,000 people and left many more homeless. Life Magazine reported in its August 22nd, 1949 issue: “The subterranean shock flattened villages and towns in a 1,500-mile area along the eastern Andes.”

4. Hurricane Flora Hammers the Caribbean Islands in 1963

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On October 4th, 1963, Hurricane Flora became the 7th deadliest-ever hurricane to hit the Atlantic, resulting in more than 6,000 fatalities in the Caribbean. Haiti and Cuba were hit the hardest. 

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As a category 4 storm, Flora caused structural damage on a catastrophic scale.

5. The Great Peruvian Earthquake of 1970

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The most catastrophic disaster in Peru’s history happened when the Ancash earthquake struck on May 31st, 1970, killing 66,000 people. At 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, the quake levelled northern Peru and left over 800,000 citizens homeless. This photo was snapped as Peru’s First Lady and U.S. First Lady Pat Nixon inspected the earthquake’s damage.

Twitter @NixonLibrary

The earthquake triggered landslides and avalanches that caused the death toll to skyrocket after the quake itself was over. One landslide traveled 16.5 kilometers, buried the towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca, and claimed 22,000 casualties on its own.

6. Guatemala’s Earthquake of 1976

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On February 4th, 1976, an earthquake rocked Guatemala, causing widespread damage, including in its capital Guatemala City. This picture was a photographer’s depiction of Guatemala’s Hotel Terminal after the wreckage.

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With a magnitude of 7.5, Guatemala’s earthquake left around 27,000 people dead, caused massive structural damage and rendered millions of people homeless. This photograph shows a bridge that collapsed from the quake.

7. 1985 Mexico City Earthquake

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In the wee early hours of September 19th, 1985, Mexico City was shaken up by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, killing 9,500 citizens in and around the city. It made the cover of Time Magazine on September 30th, 1985.

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This photograph shows the devastating collapse of Mexico City’s General Hospital.

8. Nevado del Ruiz Volcano

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On November 13, 1985, Columbia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted and buried the neighboring town of Armero, resulting in about 25,000 deaths. The eruption triggered a deadly landslide from the Andes Mountains, where this photo was taken.

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The lava rushing from the volcano wreaked havoc on structures and homes, as you can see in this scene from the disaster.

9. Hurricane Mitch

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In October of 1998, Hurricane Mitch tore through several countries of Central America, including Honduras and Nicaragua. This photo reveals the devastation seen in the town of Morolica in Honduras.

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The category 5 storm reached peak winds of 290 kph, destroying homes in its wake. It also  Around 9,000 people lost their lives in Hurricane Mitch, making it the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record.

10. Venezuela Mudslides of 1999

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On December 15, 1999, flash floods from torrential rains sparked mudslides in the coastal state of Vargas, causing around 30,000 deaths–about 10 percent of the population in Vargas. Debris swept through the cities, causing damage for days after the mudslides began.

Twitter: @kvijayavel

The avalanches of mud, rock and debris that swept down from hillsides swept up thousands of people and even buried entire neighborhoods. Many were stranded on rooftops as the mud veered around their apartment buildings, and unfortunately, there was no organized rescue effort.

11. Hurricane Maria

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Not long ago on September 20th, 2017, Hurricane Maria brutally charged through Puerto Rico and left behind a massive death toll that climbed to 3,000. After Hurricane Irma hit just weeks earlier, Hurricane Maria made landfall as a category 4 storm with high winds and storm surge.

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Maria struck down cell towers and power lines, some of which were never repaired, causing millions of citizens to live without power. The death toll rose due to an extended lack of power in hospitals and other places where people depended on electricity. 

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Luis Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Luis Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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