Things That Matter

These 24 UNESCO Heritage Sites In Latin America Will Trigger Your Wanderlust

Traveling the world is one of the most rewarding and spellbinding things someone can do. You are exposed to different cultures, people, food and ways of thinking. Experiencing global heritage connects you deeper with this world. Here are 24 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites to visit next time you make your way to Latin America.

1. El Tajín: Veracruz, México

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This area is one of the most important, pre-Columbian archeological sites in Latin America. It gives visitors and historians a vivid picture of what city life was like in Mesoamerica.

2. Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca: Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

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The intricate complex of forts and armament has been protecting the port of Santiago de Cuba since the mid 17th century. It is, according to UNESCO, the most complete and well-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture.

3. Canaima National Park: Bolívar, Venezuela

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You can find this park in the southern part of Venezuela along the border with Guyana and Brazil. It covers 3 million hectares, almost 12,000 square miles, and is predominately tepui mountain formations giving visitors spectacular views.

4. La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site: San Juan, Puerto Rico

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La Fortaleza was built in San Juan between the 16th and 20th centuries to protect the city and bay. The importance of the structure is that is shows the transfer of technology and architecture from Europe to the Americas.

5. Viñales Valley: Viñales, Cuba

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The valley is encircled with breathtaking mountains and the multi-ethnic villages around the area add to its majesty. The more important part of the valley is the unchanged agriculture practices that have grown tobacco for several centuries on the plains.

6. Churches of Chiloé: Chiloé Archipelago, Chile

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The 70 churches that make up the Churches of Chiloé were first constructed by the Jesuit Peripatetic Mission in the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings were further enriched by use from Franciscans the following decade and represent a merging of Chilean and European culture at the time.

7. Sian Ka’an: Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, México

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Sian Ka’an translates to “Origin of the Sky” from the language of the native people who first called this place home. The wetlands of the area contain tropical forests, mangroves, marshes, a barrier reef and around 300 species of birds.

8. Xochicalco: Miacatlán, Morelos, México

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The archeological site is home to structures built at the beginning of the Epiclassic Period after the fall of the Mesoamerica powerhouse political cities of the Classic Period. The site shows what it looked like to have a fully fortified city during these politically tumultuous times.

9. Catedral de León: León, Nicaragua

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Construction for the Léon Cathedral, aka Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, began in 1747 and lasted until the early 1800s. While it is located in Nicaragua, the style is in Antigua Guatemala Baroque style with hints of Spanish influence.

10. Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve: Honduras

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The reserve located in the north-eastern part of the Central American country is one of the most bio-diverse tropical forests in Central America. Not only does the reserve boast varied plants and wildlife, around 2,000 indigenous people still call this area home.

11. Cocos Island: Costa Rica

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Cocos Island National Park is the only island in the Pacific Ocean that has a tropical rain forest. Its biosphere of plant life and location in the Pacific Ocean lends itself to a very diverse marine life.

12. Tikal National Park: Tikal, Guatemala

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Located in the northern rainforests of Guatemala is this ancient Mayan citadel. The site was inhabited between 6th century B.C. and 10th century A.D. It is one of the major sites of the Mayan civilization.

13. Portobelo-San Lorenzo: Portobelo, Colón, Panama

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These ancient fortifications line a portion of the Caribbean coast of Panama. They protected the city of Portobelo, Colón, Panama from invasion by sea and are a magnificent example of 17th to 18th century military architecture.

14. Machu Picchu: Peru

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At 2,430 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is one of the most impressive structures in the world. This Incan city is located in mountainous rainforests and gives visitors views and photos of a lifetime. It was abandoned in that 16th century when the Spanish conquered the country and stayed unknown to the world until 1911.

15. Tiwanaku: Tiwanaku Municipality, Bolivia

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This archeological site is the center of the Tiwanaku civilization. The indigenous population who lived here ruled over a major portion of the South Andes from 500 to 900 A.D. This piece of pre-Hispanic culture is one of the purest examples of an indigenous American culture.

16. Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

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The Galápagos Islands are composed of 19 islands just off the cost of Ecuador. The ecosystem is so diverse it is commonly referred to as a living museum showing the path of evolution. These are the islands that inspired Charles Darwin to pursue evolution.

17. Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves: Brazil

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The Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves is a protected forest that stretches from Rio Grande do Norte state in the north to Rio Grande do Sul to the south. It is one of the last living examples of Atlantic forest left in northern Brazil.

18. National Archeological Park of Tierradentro: Inza, Cauca Department, Colombia

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This park is home to the largest concentration of hypogea, underground temples or tombs, as well as statues of human figures. The structures date from the 6th to 10th century giving visitors a peak into pre-Hispanic culture in the North Andes.

19. Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue: Trinidad, Paraguay

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The ruins here are the lasting reminders of 30 Jesuit missions to the Río de la Plata basin during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was part of the European attempt to Christianize the indigenous people of South America.

20. Cueva de las Manos: Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

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Argentina is home to some interesting prehistoric art dating back to 13,000 to 9,500 years ago. The hand art that has been immortalized on the stone gives the UNESCO World Heritage site its name.

21. Joya De Cerén: Agua Escondida, El Salvador

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Joya de Cerén was a small farming village in 600 AD that was wiped out by a volcano eruption. Much like Pompeii in Italy, the Laguna Caldera volcano erupted and killed the village and perfectly preserved it. The people and artifacts are so well persevered, you can clearly see daily life in Central America at that time.

22. Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works: Región de Tarapacá, Chile

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Thousands of people from Chile, Bolivia and Peru worked and lived in this company town mining saltpeter to create fertilizer sodium. The town was operation for 60 years and created it’s own culture since the people were very isolated in one of the driest deserts in the world.

23. Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento: Uruguay

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Colonia de Sacramento was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 to resist the Spanish expansion in South America. The site is preserved because of its unique and historic architecture that was influenced by multiple groups of people. It is also strategically placed on the bay facing Buenos Aires, Argentina.

24. Belize Barrier Reef: Belize and Honduras

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The barrier reef stretches from Belize to Honduras is the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. The large ocean ecosystem is home to several threatened species including American marine crocodiles, manatees and marine turtles. It includes mangrove forests, sand cays, coastal lagoons and estuaries.

Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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There are millions of people just itching for a vacation right now, and Cancun wants to welcome visitors with open arms. However, there’s a huge problem with their plan. Most of the country is still in a severe phase of the pandemic – with all 32 states reporting daily increases in confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, even locals aren’t allowed to venture far from their homes and restrictions on shopping, dining, and exercising are still in full force.

However, the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has resumed his cross-country travels and is trying to portray a ‘new normal’ – the problem is little has changed to prevent further outbreaks.

Cancun is aiming to open its doors to tourists from June 10 – but it makes zero sense given the actual situation on the ground.

Quintana Roo, home to the famed beaches of Cancun and Tulum, will resume activities next week – according to the governor, Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez. The state, which depends heavily on tourism, has lost over 83,000 jobs in the last few months due to the pandemic, and with reopening the state could see an economic rebound. However, that entirely depends on the success and implementation of safety measures.

In a press conference, the governor said that tourists could start arriving in the Caribbean destination as soon as June 8th. He added that tourism is an essential activity and that there is no other of greater importance in Quintana Roo “and we are going to fight for it to be considered that way.”

He stressed during the public address that for the opening to happen by June 10th, protocols and hygiene measures must be followed to protect workers and tourists from Covid-19.

And he has good reason to reopen. According to a new survey by Expedia, ‘Cancun flights’ is one of the top 5 searches on the platform. In the same survey, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeres (all located in Quintana Roo) were announced as three of the most internationally sought after destinations.

Meanwhile, AMLO has launched a cross-country tour touting the lifting of Coronavirus restrictions.

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President AMLO also held his daily press conference from the state of Quintana Roo to mark the beginning of Mexico’s economic reopening and resume his tours across the country.

But this too makes zero sense. Yes, the government has mandated that states can begin lifting restrictions – if they’re no longer declared ‘red zones.’ However, every state in the country is still in the red, with many seeing peak infection numbers.

It’s just the most recent example of confusing messaging from the president.

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While AMLO is eager to get the country reopened and put Mexicans back to work, Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. Mexico has now recorded the seventh-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, with nearly 10,000 virus-related fatalities and almost 100,000 confirmed cases. Testing in the country is low and health officials acknowledge that the numbers are likely much higher.

The federal government unveiled a red-light/green-light system to implement reopening procedures state by state. But currently every state is still in ‘red-light’ phase – meaning stay-at-home orders are still in full effect – making AMLO’s messaging extremely confusing.

Time and time again, the president has downplayed the virus outbreak and has criticized stay-at-home orders for harming the economy.

Keep in mind, however, that non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico is still largely banned.

Since March, all non-essential travel has been banned between the U.S. and Mexico. However, that ban is currently set to expire on June 22. It’s possible both sides could extend the travel ban, but given AMLO’s rhetoric it isn’t likely he’ll keep the country closed to tourists for much longer.

However, it’s important to point that out even if you technically can travel – right now you really shouldn’t. In much of Mexico, confirmed Covid-19 cases are on the rise with many cities across the country just now entering it’s worst phase.

Coffee Is Steeped In Tradition Across Latin America, Here Is How Each Country Brews The Perfect Cup

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Coffee Is Steeped In Tradition Across Latin America, Here Is How Each Country Brews The Perfect Cup

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OK, so we’re in like Week 12 of lockdown and some of us may have taken up new hobbies and interests to help pass the time. For me, that’s been getting to know a good cup of home-brewed coffee. Plus, the draw of a warm, delicious cup of coffee can definitely help you get your day started with that often much-needed shot of caffeine.

Many coffee experts agree, that now is the time to familiarize yourself with all the traditional coffee methods from around Latin America and figure out which one you like best.

Latin America is one of the biggest producers of coffee beans, but surprisingly, coffee isn’t a big part of life here, with the exception of Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina. But those who do enjoy their coffee, have a wide array of traditions when it comes to preparing that perfect cup.

Like the millions of people and cultures of the world, coffee too has its own variations and traditions surrounding it. Here is a glimpse of how it is prepared and consumed in different ways all over the planet.

Argentina

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Maté may be the official national beverage, but coffee drinking is a refined, lingering art in Argentina’s cafes.

The country’s capital, Buenos Aires, has always been Latin America’s coffee capital and long before any neighboring nation even knew of the existence of a ‘latte’, Porteños were sipping macchiatos (called lagrimas) and café con leche like it was nobody’s business. The city has always offered the best coffee in the entire continent – mostly due to its influx of Italian immigrants who brought with them the traditional techniques of coffee brewing.

Brazil

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Unlike much of South America, coffee is very popular in Brazil, with many Brazilians preferring a cafezinho – a strong and very sweet coffee. And it kinda makes sense considering Brazil is the world’s largest producer of the stuff.

Coffee is consumed all through the day, in dainty little cups, with or without meals. Coffee added to a glass of milk is often served for breakfast to kids as young as 10 years old. Though American-style coffee culture and drinks are gaining popularity, walking while eating or drinking is a strict no-no in Brazil

Colombia

Colombia, known for its great, versatile coffee beans, likes its coffee black with lots of sugar, in small cups. It’s known as tinto and it will leave you awake for days…

Colombia’s coffee culture only recently got off the ground. Prior to 2003, the country’s best beans were only exported and Colombians only had access to the leftover beans. But this has changed and coffee culture is a huge part of Colombian identity.

Cuba

Cuba may be best known for the cafecito – or Cafe Cubano. This very strong drink is a type of espresso coffee that first developed in Cuba after Italians arrived in the country.

The Cafecito beverage is made by sweetening a shot with Demerara sugar, during the coffee brewing process. There are variations on the method including a variety of recipes. The Demerara sugar is traditionally added into the glass into which the espresso will drip so the sugar and espresso mix during brewing which is said to create a unique and smooth quality.

Guatemala

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Guatemalans aren’t huge consumers of coffee. And those who do drink coffee tend to drink it as much of the world does – as a latte or shot of espresso.

However, Guatemala is revered for its superior quality and complexity of flavors. It’s a step above the rest, because many coffee fincas (plantations) still harvest beans in the most traditional of ways. The nation’s highlands are where you’ll want to head and – luckily for you – where you can experience the country’s long-held passion for coffee and discover some of the most magnificent landscapes in the entire continent. The most popular region for coffee lovers to visit is Lake Atitlan, a spectacular area framed by three volcanoes.

Mexico

In Mexico, coffee is often brewed with cinnamon and sugar. The cinnamon and sugar aren’t merely added to the coffee after brewing, but they’re incorporated right into the brewing technique. The result is a coffee that’s at the same time sweet and spicy. 

Cafe de Olla is the national coffee drink and it varies from state to state but it’s definitely a must to try if visiting the county. But it’s also easy to make at home!

Venezuela

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At one point, Venezuela rivaled Colombia in terms of its coffee production. However, those days are long gone and now the country produces less than 1% of the world’s coffee (since 2001). Although some Venezuelan coffee is exported, the vast majority is consumed by the Venezuelans themselves. 

Venezuela’s most renowned coffees are known as Maracaibos. They are named after the port through which they are shipped, close to Colombia. The coffee grown in the eastern mountains is called Caracas, named after the country’s capital.