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.

Puerto Vallarta Has Long Been An LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Destination And Here’s Why

Culture

Puerto Vallarta Has Long Been An LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Destination And Here’s Why

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Puerto Vallarta is one of the favorite Mexican tourist destinations of the LGBT community. There are hotels, bars, nightclubs, beaches, and even drinks specifically for LGBT travelers, and due to the safety and welcoming environment for these guests, it is the first city in Mexico to receive the Gay Travel Approved distinction by GayTravel.com.

But why PV? What made Vallarta Mexico’s top gay destination?

Let’s start back at the beginning.

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In the south of Puerto Vallarta you will find the “Old Town,” also called “The Romantic Zone,” the tourist area favored by expats and foreigners who want to soak up local traditions. The Old Puerto Vallarta is also considered the gay neighborhood since 1980, when the gay community and retired Canadians and Americans bought land and properties in order to create gay-friendly businesses. Today there’s a wide variety of attractions with this focus, including bars, restaurants, stores, nightclubs, and both budget and boutique hotels.

In this zone is nestled the popular beach Playa de los Muertos, which, although not exclusively gay, for the last 20 years has been known as a gay-friendly beach (also called Blue Chairs, because of the many blue chairs placed by a gay resort which bears the same name), mainly in the high season, from November to March.

Why is this pristine beach the LBGT meeting point? Because the gay-friendly beachfront hotels in the area causes—and guarantees—a concentration of LGBT tourists, bringing a multicultural ambience where members of this community will be respected without discrimination. In the morning they can socialize and enjoy the party atmosphere, and in the afternoon walk holding hands under the dazzling sunset, in a romantic atmosphere free of hostility. Such is the high demand for LGBT-friendly vacation spots that the area has been extended to include the green chairs and as far as the north coast, in the elegant Oceano Sapphire Beach Club, owned by gays.

But it’s about more than just the beach.

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Unlike certain countries, laws against homosexuality never existed in Mexico. There is, however, a strong macho culture and religious influence which disapproves it—nonetheless the locals show respect. Under these circumstances, the growing community has led LGBT organizations to work to promote a change of culture in the pursuit of equality. Their work has gotten results: they have achieved recognition of gay rights, and implemented laws against the provocation and incitement of hate or violence against LGBTs, and also to guarantee equality in employment and public accomodation and services. Even more, in 2013 Puerto Vallarta legalized civil union between LGBT couples, followed by same-sex marriage in 2016.

This city organized its first Gay Pride March, and has hosted the Pink & Proud Women’s Party—the equivalent lesbian celebration—for the last four years, with assistance from the local Canadian and American communities. The multiple events in support of the LGBT community have marked out Puerto Vallarta as the “Mexican San Francisco.”

Now, there’s a giant and flourishing LGBTQ tourism industry that welcomes people from around the world.

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For the last 10 years, the number of LGBT visitors has increased in Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco, and in order to meet demand, the number of LGBT-friendly resorts and touristic attractions has also increased. Now three of every 10 hotels in Puerto Vallarta are LGBT-friendly, and most also offer weddings and other symbolic ceremonies.

Bars, nightclubs and other amenities are already focused on this market, and there are also tours—like the Gay VIP Bars Tour—and even drinks—like the Gay Tequila and the Gay Energy Drink—to make these guests feel extra welcome. As a result, Puerto Vallarta now hosts International LGBT Business Expos, with important conferences and events, including fashions shows, beach parties and music festivals to celebrate this booming market.

Puerto Vallarta remains the gateway to Mexico for many LGBTQ travelers.

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Some other cities have recognized the demand, and are now attempting to attract LGBT tourism to their destinations. Puerto Vallarta is not letting it happen: diverse businesses—no matter the sexual preference—are joining forces to create organizations to promote this targeted brand of tourism. The market gives consumers what they want, and they have identified this growing target and will not let it go.

Beyond the marketing, Puerto Vallarta became a platform to support gay rights, and the LGBT community knows it and feels welcome here. What really keeps the LGBT community hitting Puerto Vallarta is the activism, respect, and freedom they find in this beautiful paradise.

The Top 12 Salsas From Across Latin America, Ranked

Culture

The Top 12 Salsas From Across Latin America, Ranked

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Hot sauce has been a kitchen table staple for Latinos for thousands of years. The Aztecs pretty much invented it. We put it on eggs, on snacks, on meat….you probably have that person in your life who would put it on their finest cardboard and eat it up, the stuff is so popular. Anything that brings vegans and carnivores together at the dinner table deserves to be celebrated. Enjoy this roundup of hot sauces from all over Latin America to try out with your next meal.

1. Mexico: Cholula

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Made in Chapala, Jalisco, the sauce is made with a blend of piquín and arbol chiles. It’s often put up against Tapatio on American restaurant tables in a Coke vs. Pepsi level battle of the condiments. But we know there’s room for both. However, if you’re really dedicated, you might be able to join the Order of Cholula for exclusive offers.

2. Belize: Marie Sharp

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Made in Stann Creek, Belize, Marie Sharp started her line of hot sauces in her kitchen where she experimented with blends of Habanero peppers and jams and jellies made from fruits and vegetables picked from her farm. The brand has long outgrown the kitchen and went international. We stan an entrepeneurial queen.

3. Costa Rica: Banquete Chilero

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This thicker sauce from Costa Rica gets its flavor from habanero peppers and carrots. Some might compare it to an asian sweet and sour sauce.

4. Guatemala: Picama’s Salsa Brava

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This mild, green sauce has a ketchup-like consistency and is made with serrano peppers. The color is straight up neon, but some people swear by it, stocking up on bottles when they visit Guatemala. Also, don’t you love when an abuela comes through like this?

5. Honduras: D’Olanchano

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This hot sauce uses Tabasco peppers grown in the Olancho valley and later aged in wooden barrels to acquire its taste.

6. Nicaragua: Chilango

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Chilango Chile sources their ingredients from all over the world to create unique flavors in their line of hot sauces. The Cabro Consteño is made with the Nicaraguan yellow “goat” pepper grown on the Atlantic coast. The Habanero Chocolate gets its name from the dark, brown pepper it uses for flavor. It doesn’t actually have chocolate in it – whether that relieves or distresses you.

7. Panama: D’Elidas

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This yellow is made with Habanero peppers, mustard, and vinegar. Hot sauce lovers report getting a lot of that mustard taste in the sauce, so adjust expectations accordingly. People are known to fill up their suitcases with bottles before leaving Panama.

8. Brazil: Mendez Hot Sauce

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Mendez Hot Sauce is a brand out of Central Brazil where creator, Rafael Mendez strives for sustainable business practices that help his community. The sauce uses the locally sourced Malagueta pepper which creates work for local farming families, lifting many of them out of poverty.

9. Chile: Diaguitas

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Diaguitas is the most popular hot sauce in Chile, coming in a few flavors. It’s light on ingredients, letting the peppers speak for themselves. It’s salty, so handle with care to balance that taste out on your food.

10. Colombia: Amazon Pepper Sauce

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This brand uses a variety of Amazon peppers that grow at the edge of the rainforest in the Andes Cauca Valley. They blend the chilis with other tropical ingredients. They have a mild flavor that stands out made with guava. 

11. Ecuador: Ole

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Ole carries a few different flavors, but it always goes back to the ingredients to make a hot sauce unique to the region it comes from. Ole uses the tena pepper which only grows in Ecuador. They have it on its own where you get the fruit taste with a lash of heat. They also put it in their Tamarillo sauce which couples the tena with the fruit from the pepper tomato tree.

12. Peru: Salsa de Aji Amarillo

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What’s actually the most popular thing to do in Peru is to just make your own hot sauces. However, sometimes you can find bottled sauces that will satisfy the craving. The Peru Chef makes one with the aji amarillo pepper which has a subtle sweetness to it and is a cornerstone of Peruvian cuisine.

Of course, there are many hot sauces from all over Latin America that you’ll simply have to travel for if you want the best like Llajwa sauce from Bolivia. You could also probably stay home and get some bomb green sauce from King Taco.

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