Things That Matter

These Stunning Photos Come From Actual Places In Latin America That Are Totally Easy To Visit This Summer

One of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life is visiting a cenote in the Riviera Maya in Mexico. I remember so vividly paddling in a little boat on top of an underground river, surrounded by the natural cave and being in awe of everything. In fact, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life — which totally makes sense since Latin America is absolutely full of surreal, beautiful places to visit.

From Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia to the Marble Caves in Chile/Argentina to the Cave of Crystals in Mexico to the Viñales Valley in Cuba, there is incredible, natural beauty all over the Americas and the Caribbean. You’ll never believe all of the different things you can see, from deserts to glaciers to incredible valleys filled with so much greenery. And there’s even a rainbow river! If you want to travel to some of the most obscenely incredible sites in the world, then check out these 21 most surreal places in Latin America.

1. Cenote Samula, Valladolid, Mexico

CREDIT: vagando_por_mexico/Instagram

The Mexican cenote is a beautiful thing and, in case you didn’t know, it is a natural sinkhole that exposes the groundwater underneath — and has become a wonderful place to swim, particularly in the Yucatán Peninsula. This one is one of the majestic ones that you’ll definitely want to see.

2. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

CREDIT: torresdelpaine/Instagram

This gorgeous national park, located in Chile’s Patagonia region, is well-known for the beautiful soaring mountains and bright blue icebergs, plus grasslands that house wildlife such as the llama-like guanacos. There are seemingly endless places to go, and you’ll want to stay here forever.

3. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

CREDIT: dudewheresmypassport/Instagram

When you go to Bolivia, you absolutely must stop by the southwest part of the country to visit the Andes mountains and Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. This is the result of a prehistoric lake that went dry and left us with a desert-like landscape of bright-white salt and rock formations… And it’s beautiful, no?

4. Mount Roraima, Venezuela

CREDIT: conocevenezuela/Instagram

Nestled safely in Venezuela, though also touching Brazil and Guayana, is this beautiful and unique “floating island” plateau that actually sits 1,2000 feet above the forest floor. This natural wonder is very much worth visiting on your next trip to South America. It’s surreal and will surely take your breath away to stare up at this gorgeous mount.

5. Marble Caves, General Carrera Lake, Chile-Argentina

CREDIT: passionpassport/Instagram

This lake, located in Patagonia, is deep and beautiful… and has a glacial origin since it is surrounded by the Andes mountains. Meanwhile, the Marble Caves, which are here, were actually formed by wave action over the last 6,2000 years and are one of the most wonderful parts to see at this lake… But don’t worry, there’s plenty more here, too. 

6. Cueva Ventana, Puerto Rico

CREDIT: g.sullivan97/Instagram

If you’re still heartbroken over the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, then you should know that so are we… But the good thing is that we can do something about it, like travel to Puerto Rico and support the country with volunteer efforts and our tourism dollars. Of course, if you’re there, you will want to head to the limestone cliff in Arecibo, where you can find this large cave that overlooks the Río Grande de Arecibo valley. Isn’t it gorgeous?

7. Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

CREDIT: lucaspereiraphoto/Instagram

Los Glaciares National Park is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Argentina, and I highly encourage you to go there ASAP. But you’ll want to know where to go, right? Well, the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most impressive to see and likely one of the most important (and surreal!) tourist attractions in the country. You’ll definitely be impressed.

8. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

CREDIT: brunoferrucio/Instagram

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is located in the northeastern area of Brazil, and a splendor to see. This area, which is roughly 580 square miles, is full of low, flat, and occasionally flooded land, along with plenty of sand dunes. And, get this: There is abundant rain but almost no vegetation! Heading there to take a dip in some of the waters might be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.

9. Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

CREDIT: elisepoiffaut/Instagram

This shallow salt lake is a wonder to see, mainly because the white color of the borax islands contrasts with the reddish color of its waters (which is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae). It’s a wonder to see, and you will absolutely love your time there. The colors, the views, all of it… So surreal!

10. Valley of the Moon, Atacama Desert, Chile

CREDIT: nick.bailey360/Instagram

Located west of the Andes mountains and primarily in Chile, this desert plateau is actually the driest desert in the world and home to many beautiful views such as this one from the Valley of the Moon. Beyond that, there is plenty of stony terrain, tons of salt lakes, salad, and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes and catches my breath every single time. Wow. Just wow!

11. Rio Secreto, Riveira Maya, Mexico

CREDIT: riosecreto/Instagram

As I mentioned earlier, the Riviera Maya has a lot of beautiful, natural caves with rivers — such as the Rio Secreto that is one of the most spectacular underground rivers around. There are tons of hiking and swimming excursions, too, where you can marvel at the splendor while surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. And the river itself, of course.

12. Colca Canyon, Peru

CREDIT: mlodzinskiphoto/Instagram

This river canyon, located in southern Peru, is one of the world’s deepest and also a well-known trekking destination. The landscape has green valleys and remote traditional villages, and you can even head down to the Colca River for rafting. Just don’t forget to be ready for R&R because you will surely be relaxed and rested after a trip here. Just look at those breathtaking views!

13. Altos de Chavón, Dominican Republic

CREDIT: 7xijosdavid/Instagram

The Altos de Chavón is actually a re-created Mediterranean-style European village that is located atop the Chavón River in the Dominican Republic, but you’ll want to head here not only to see the adorable little town but also the nature that surrounds it. Just look at this gorgeous river, and tell me you don’t want to stare at it forever… 

14. Iguazu Falls, Argentina-Brazil

CREDIT: iguazufalls/Instagram

Bordering both Argentina and Brazil, these waterfalls are known to be one of the most beautiful in the world and with good reason. The magic seen here is impossible to describe and you will feel as if you stepped into a surreal world of incredible beauty. Trust me, you’ll want to come here and breathe in all of the fresh air and just marvel in how incredibly special all of this is.

15. Cave of Crystals, Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico

CREDIT: acrisiomelo/Instagram

If you’ve ever dreamed of stepping into a crystal cave (and who hasn’t, amirite?), then your wishes can come true in the Chihuahua region of Mexico. The main cave chamber actually contains giant selenite crystals, which are some of the largest natural crystals ever found. Surprisingly, the cave is also extremely hot and is relatively unexplored because of the heat and humidity. If you go, make sure that you have proper protection… and probably only stay for about 10 minutes.

16. Caño Cristales River, Meta, Colombia

CREDIT: neotropicexpeditions/Instagram

This Colombian river is a beautiful place to go on your search for the surreal beauty that you can only find in South America. This river is often called the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow” because it is, indeed, the most beautiful river in the world thanks to the variously colored plants that make the bed of the river light up with yellow, green, blue, black, and especially red from July to November. 

17. Catatumbo Lightning, Venezuela

CREDIT: earth_timeline/Instagram

Prepare to be completely amazing: The Catatumbo Lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon that happens in Venezuela, and it occurs only over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it emboss into Lake Maracaibo. Basically, about 140-160 nights of the year, a mass of storm clouds originates over the lake and lightning strikes for up to 10 hours a day and up to 180 times per hour. Although it differs year to year, it is absolutely AH-mazing to see.

18. Semuc Champey, Guatemala

CREDIT: leelooledoux/Instagram

You will never believe how surreal this beautiful, natural moment in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, is when you visit. Consisting of a natural limestone bridge, plenty of turquoise pools, and many more other things. You’ll be in plenty of splendor here, and with plenty of time to relax and enjoy yourself. 

19. Underwater River, Cenote Angelita, Mexico

CREDIT: msoceantw/Instagram

As I said, checking out some of Mexico’s many cenotes should definitely be on your Must Do List if you plan to visit some of the most surreal places in Latin America. But, if you want to see one of the most amazing ones, then you absolutely need to go to the underwater one in Cenote Angelita. It’s an incredible sight to behold and you won’t believe your eyes as you swim through this gorgeous place.

20. Viñales Valley, Cuba

CREDIT: abbeywel/Instagram

This valley in Cuba is definitely one of the places you’ll want to visit ASAP. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and located in a beautiful part of the island (not that there is a non-beautiful part, that is). If you’re looking for some natural beauty here, then look no further. There is a lot of hiking to be done here, so head here for a full day of beauty before taking the next day off to lay on a beach. Trust me on this one.

21. Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador

CREDIT: noorasusann/Instagram

The highest volcano in El Salvador is also where you can find one of the most beautiful views in the country, and with good reason. You can hike this baby and is definitely made for the serious backpacker. There’s so many gorgeous things to see here, and especially the stunning turquoise lake that is at the bottom of the volcano’s crater. Talk about surreal beauty, huh?

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It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Culture

It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Pixabay

Two of Latin America’s most important ingredients – staples of cuisines across the region – are in danger of possible extinction thanks to climate change. Tomatoes and chilies both make up a huge part of traditional recipes from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina to Cuba – and they’re close to disappearing from grocery stores everywhere.

We know that tomato and chili are two fundamental ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Due to the threats suffered by its main pollinator, the bumblebee, these basic ingredients could disappear forever.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet. But one of the most at-risk species is the humble bumble bee. These often feared insects are a vital source of pollination for thousands of plant and flower species around the world – if they disappear so too do the species of plants that depend on them.

Pollinators are species of great importance for a healthy environment. They are responsible for the the diversity and health of various biomes. Across Latin America, the bumble bee is largely responsible for the pollination of modern agriculture and this could have a major impact on the production of tomatoes and chilis.

Unfortunately, bumblebees are currently threatened, resulting in the possible extinction of different vegetables, including tomatoes and chili.

But why does the tiny bumble bee matter at all?

The bumble bee belongs to the insect family Apidae, which includes hundeds of different species of bumblebees. In fact, the bumble bee can be found on every continent except Antarctica and plays an outsized role in agriculture. The insects are often larger than honey bees, come in black and white varieties and often feature white, yellow, or orange stripes. This genus belongs to the Apidae family that includes different species commonly known as bumblebees. They’re almost entirely covered by very silky hairs. An adult bumblebee reaches 20 millimeters or more and feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants. A curious fact is that females have the ability to sting, while males do not.

Bumblebees are epic pollinators of the tomato and chili plantS. Together with different species, the bumblebee helps produce many staple foods that are part of healthy diets around the world. If these become extinct the eating habits of all Latinos would suffer drastic changes as several vegetables would disappear.

So why are bumblebees in danger?

The main threat of these insects is the pesticides used in modern agriculture. That is why it is necessary to avoid consuming food produced in this way. We can all help the bumblebee planting plants, protecting native species and especially not damaging their natural environment.

But climate change is also wreaking havoc on the breeding patters of bumblebees – leading to colony collapse. With fewer colonies there is less breeding and therefore fewer bees around the world to pollinate our global crops.

Can you imagine a world without tomatoes or chilies?

Salsa. Moles. Pico de gallo. Ketchup. Chiles rellenos. Picadillo. All of these iconic Latin American dishes would be in danger of going extinct along with the bumblebee – because what’s a mole without the rich, complex flavors of dried chilies?

Several groups are already working hard to help fund programs that would work to conserve the dwindling bumblebee populations. While others are working out solutions that could perhaps allow tomatoes and chilies to self-pollinate – much as other plants already do.

Using Social Media, Russia Is Accused Of Being Behind The Massive Protests Across Latin America

Things That Matter

Using Social Media, Russia Is Accused Of Being Behind The Massive Protests Across Latin America

Marcelo Hernandez

For months now, Latin America has been facing a political crisis as country after country has seen massive populist protest movements that have destabilized the region. From Chile to Puerto Rico, Bolivia to Ecuador, governments have struggled to respond to growing inequality – which has forced millions of Latinos to take to the street.

Many of these protest movements lack obvious leadership but they do share a few common threads. For one, they want to see more government accountability and actions against corruption. They also share a desire to fight growing income inequality which has stifled economic development for the region’s most vulnerable populations.

Now, a new report has tied many of these massive protest movements to Russian bots – which are seen as instigating and magnifying the region’s unrest.

The US has reportedly tied Russian bots to increased protest movements across Latin America.

Although the protest movements across Latin America share a few common threads, the majority of them are overwhelmingly different. In Chile, protests started over a planned increase in public transport fares. In Bolivia, it was against alleged voter fraud by then-President Evo Morales. In Puerto Rico, it was to fight back against alleged corruption and to hold leaders accountable for homophobic and misogynistic texts.

According to the US State Department, however, they’ve identified one theme they all seem to have in common: Russian interference.

In Chile, nearly 10 percent of all tweets supporting protests in late October originated with Twitter accounts that had a high certainty of being linked to Russia. While in Bolivia, tweets associated with Russian-backed accounts spiked to more than 1,000 per day – up from fewer than five.

And in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile over one 30-day period, Russia-linked accounts posted strikingly similar messages within 90 minutes of one another.

Senior diplomats from the US believe that Russia’s goal may be to increase dissent in countries that don’t support Maduro’s presidency in Venezuela.

Russia’s alleged campaign to help tap support for Maduro’s regime has resulted in mixed reviews. It’s not obvious how successful the campaign has been.

With the support of more than 50 other countries, the Trump administration has imposed bruising economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro’s government in Venezuela over the last year. The coalition is backing Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, whom most of Latin America and the rest of the West views as the country’s legitimate president.

Russia is working to expand its presence in Latin America, largely at Washington’s expense.

The US State Department frequently keeps tabs on Twitter traffic worldwide to monitor for potentially dangerous activities, like the proliferation of fake pages and user accounts or content that targets the public with divisive messages

“We are noting a thumb on the scales,” said Kevin O’Reilly, the deputy assistant secretary of state overseeing issues in the Western Hemisphere. “It has made the normal dispute resolutions of a democratic society more contentious and more difficult.”

Souring attitudes toward the United States throughout the region over trade and immigration issues, the rise of populist candidates, and the deepening internal economic and social challenges facing many Latin American countries create favorable circumstances for Russia to advance its interests.

About a decade ago, it became obvious that Russia was launching an online campaign to destabilize the region using new technology and social media.

There are Spanish-language arms of two Russian-backed news organizations that have been found to spread disinformation, conspiracy theories and, in some cases, obvious lies to undermine liberal democratic governments.

According to one state-financed group, RT Español, they’ve reached 18 million people each week across ten Latin American counties and have more than a billion views on YouTube. This is huge liability for the truth.