Things That Matter

Seven South American Nations Sign An Environmental Pact To Protect The Amazon, Just Like Three Months Too Late

There is a wise old Mexican saying that goes: “Ahogado el niño se tapa el pozo“. It roughly translates as “Once the child drowns the well is shut off”. In other words, sometimes horrible things need to happen for people to react and come up with solutions or at least a bit of an effort to prevent further catastrophes. Well, that’s the feeling that we get with the recently signed pact to protect the Amazon after fires savaged los pulmones de la Madre Tierra for weeks. 

The meeting was initially called by the host and the Peruvian president, as the Sunday Star Times reports: “The host, Colombian President Ivan Duque, and his Peruvian counterpart Martin Vizcarra called for the meeting following global outrage over a surge in the number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon region this year, which triggered protests at Brazilian diplomatic missions worldwide over Bolsonaro’s alleged indifference to environmental concerns”. So what is the pact all about and what is the deal with Bolsonaro?

The pact was signed by seven South American nations.

Credit: default. Digital image. Euronews.

The signing countries are: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Surinam. The pact was signed in the Colombian town of Leticia, deep in the Amazon, last Friday September 6. The pact has 14 points and it focuses on improvements to disaster response coordination among the seven countries, and increased satellite monitoring of the world’s largest rainforest. Other notable points include education around environmental matters and an increased participation of indigenous communities on policies and projects. The document also looks to curb illegal species trafficking, illegal mineral extraction, deforestation and planting of illicit crops (so, drugs). 

The host, Colombian president Ivan Duque, called for unity.

Credit: Instagram. @ivanduquemarquez

The host said: “This meeting will live on as a co-ordination mechanism for the presidents that share this treasure – the Amazon”. But he also expressed a wider message: “We believe that this is a moral duty, our societies are increasingly aware of the need to protect our shared home, of our Mother Earth”. We certainly hope these are more that pretty words. As abuelitas say, del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho. It is worth noting that the original owners of the land were present, as CE Noticias Financieras reports: “Representatives of indigenous communities were also present at the meeting and the instance was concretized to a traditional ceremonial area in the Monilla Amena community”. 

Notably absent was Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who “attended” via video conference.

Credit: Instagram. @michellebolssonaro

The Brazilian leader, who has been widely criticized for his reluctance to accept foreign aid during the fires, was at hospital at the time. Bolsonaro, however, delivered a message that can only be read as support for continuing efforts to mine indigenous reserves and protected areas. He said:  “Our riches will be utilized in a sustainable way, in accordance to the resources that we have”. We don’t have to read too much between the lines to realize that this is a somewhat veiled way to say they will continue exploiting the Amazon for its natural resources… wildlife and indigenous rights be damned. 

Only two Amazon countries did not sign the pact: Venezuela and France, who owns the French Guiana.

Credit: Instagram. @picturesoftheamazon

Will they join in the efforts to protect the biggest single source of oxygen in the world? We certainly hope so. They also have to be held accountable!

And there were some discrepancies over the ways in which the Amazon can be saved.

Credit: Instagram. @TheForestInitiative

The participants in this meeting didn’t all see eye to eye. Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who was himself born in the Amazon, said: “We are killing the Earth, and all of us are responsible”. But Bolsonaro claimed that foreign countries were using the fires to conspire against the sovereignty of the regions’ nations.  So clearly out of the seven at least Brazil is looking after industry lobbyists, perhaps?

But at the end we are all responsible for our planet and the Amazon fires were yet another wake up call! 

Credit: Instagram. @climatesavemovement

Environmentalists and activists in pro of animal rights stressed out the fact that the Amazon fires were in part to blame on the meat industry. While we can disagree with a total ban on meat, fact is that climate-related emergencies will be the norm rather than the exception in the coming years, and we do have to thing about our consumption habits and the ways in which we harvest riches from the land. 

Truth is, politicians will always use catastrophes to increase their profile, so we have to ALL make an effort to protect the environment.

Credit: Instagram. @evomoralesayma

Perhaps we are being too cynical, but the Amazon disaster has conveniently brought out the best out of politicians. Evo Morales, for example, has had too many photo ops related to the rainforest relief efforts, right in the middle of an electoral campaign and when his long rule over Bolivia is being harshly questioned by the opposition. So it is up to us, as Latinos and as human beings, to hold those in power accountable for protecting our home. 

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This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

Fierce

This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

Drew Angerer / Getty

An Indigenous woman from Utqiagvik, Alaska who is part of the Iñupiaq tribe is TikTok’s latest culture sensation.

While the rest of us are stuck indoors and quarantining, Patuk Glenn has been amassing a following on Instagram and teaching her 81,000 followers about the Iñupiaq culture, traditions, and daily routines. From sharing videos about hunting to showing off her culture’s traditional clothing, Glenn’s videos are a reminder that beyond being alive, indigenous cultures around the globe are resilient– even in the face of our world’s constant attempts to change and eliminate them.

Glenn’s trending TikTok videos run the gamut from cooking to wearing her traditional clothing.

In some videos, Glenn shares the recipe for Inuit ice cream (caribou fat, ground caribou meat, and seal meat) or shares what her traditional clothing looks like. In one truly insightful clip, she takes her followers through a traditional ice cellar in her mother’s house. There, Glenn shared with her viewers that she and her family use the permafrost surround the cellar to preserve whale, seal, and caribou.

Given some of the food content, some of Glenn’s videos have received some backlash to which she isn’t batting much of an eye.

In videos where Glenn features food from whales (muktuk, or whale skin) she says that she has become used to receiving not so positive comments on occasion. Speaking to CBC News, Glenn explained that such comments are hurtful at times but mostly only inspire to continue to educate her followers more. “At first I was really upset,” she explained. “From there, with all of the negative backlash, I felt like it was my responsibility to help educate on why our Inuit people in the Arctic are hunters and gatherers.”

Glenn says that negative comments only push her to share more and educate her followers, particularly because she would like her daughter to be able to share her love for her culture one day as well. “We don’t want our kids to feel ashamed of who they are and where they came from. That’s what really hurt me the most.”

Impressively, Glenn says that learning on TikTok has become a two-way street too.

From TikTok, Glenn says that she has been able to learn and educate herself more about other Indigenous cultures as well. Glenn’s growing understanding of these groups and tribes (like Navajo and Cree) are a welcome surprise. Particularly for someone who, like the rest of us, is taught very little about the world’s Indigenous populations. “In the United States, we’re largely left out of the media. There’s no representation of us,” Glenn shared. “It’s 2020, we have a real opportunity in this day and age to be able to educate the world where institutional education has failed, or where mainstream media has failed.”

For Glenn, her fight to teach others more about her culture is vital. “This platform is helping give the power back into Indigenous people’s hands, to speak on behalf of themselves. I think that’s the really cool piece of it.”

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A Pre-Hispanic Restaurant In Mexico Has Been Named One Of The World’s Best

Culture

A Pre-Hispanic Restaurant In Mexico Has Been Named One Of The World’s Best

Cocina Chontal / Facebook

Latin America has quickly moved up the ranks when it comes to fine dining – especially as much of the world finally catches on to the many treasures across the region.

For several years, high-end dining featuring fusions from Japanese and French mixed in with typical Mexican or Colombian or Peruvian cuisines have been recognized. Case in point: a Mexican woman was recognized as the world’s top chef in 2019.

But more recently, Indigenous flavors have started to get the recognition they deserve.

A Mexican restaurant has been named among the world’s greatest thanks to its Indigenous roots.

The world’s top 20 restaurants – as selected by Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine – finally features an Indigenous restaurant, and from Mexico’s Tabasco state no less.

A culinary critic cited the mole poblano with turkey, scarlet shrimp and the ambience among the reasons the restaurant was chosen to join the rankings of the world’s best.

Cocina Chontal is an intimate restaurant situated in a small house with brick floors and wooden tables where dishes are cooked on an outdoor comal and dogs hang out waiting for scraps. It may seem out of place compared to some of the more ‘high-end’ restaurants on the list. might seem an unlikely place to find one of the world’s best foodie haunts.

Cocina Chontal sits amid the jungle and is bringing Pre-Hispanic flavors to Mexico’s foodie crowd.

Credit: Cocina Chontal / Facebook

Sitting in the middle of the San Isidro de Comalcalco jungle in Tabasco, Mexico, is a restaurant that’s heart is the wood-field comal just outside the front door. The restaurant is on he outskirts of the Zona Arqueológica de Comalcalco, a Chontal Mayan site containing the remains of the westernmost city of the Mayan civilization.

Chef Nelly Córdova Morillo is a former lawyer who grew up eating traditional Chontal cooking on her grandparents’ farm. Her restaurant celebrates the pre-Hispanic cuisine of the region, serving traditional dishes made with traditional ingredients cooked over wood harvested from the surrounding landscape. She’s in touch with her roots and aims to share them with the rest of the world.

Popular dishes include “tortilla Chontal,” a type of fresh-masa quesadilla served with a dark green salsa that tastes of the forest, alongside frothy pineapple agua fresca.

Nevertheless, chef Nelly Córdova Murillo said ending up on the travel magazine’s list was a total surprise.

“Truly it’s incredible,” she told Travel + Leisure. “I was calmly baking some cinnamon rolls with my daughter, and suddenly it occurred to me to get my telephone. I found all these people congratulating me, and I didn’t know for what.” 

Córdova is among chefs in major world cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Bogotá, and Santiago, Chile. But she hasn’t let it go to her head. The award, she said, goes to all tabasqueños.

“It’s their culture, their traditions, their customs, their men and women, their products, and their artisans,” she said. “Cocina Chontal is that. It’s Tabasco in a small place.” 

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