Thursday, November 30, 2006


Design Flaw

These trash cans are placed at regular intervals on the broad sidewalk between the Rambla and Pocitos beach and Buceo harbor in Montevideo, Uruguay. As trash cans go, I think they are rather handsome. People do seem to use them, although there is still litter on the beaches to be cleaned up by the city crew.

There is a problem with the design-- not the style, but the material. The plastic isn't heat resistant, or at least it isn't fireproof. I'm not sure if the fire comes from cigarettes accidently discarded in bins full of paper, or if the fire comes from deliberate vandalism, but as you can see in the second photo, the side of a bin melted, leaving a big hole.

This trash bin is still in service, and people continue to use it. Despite the hole, it more or less functions as intended.

This one doesn't. This is all that's left of a trash bin that completely melted. At first, I didn't even recognize what it had been.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006



Getting covered with mud and shaving cream seems to be part of the 15 years (quince años) celebration in Uruguay. I've noticed it a few times. The girls are really a mess but they seem happy about it. I think there's a big party later in the evening. I don't know much about the tradition in Montevideo, but I think it differs from the experience shown in this movie: Quinceañera

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Barrio Muñoz

We went to Barrio Muñoz this morning to do a little shopping. It's a neighborhood full of shops selling all kinds of stuff-- mostly inexpensive products imported from China. It's said to have the lowest prices in Montevideo. Nearly all the stores were painted in bright colors and the streets were bustling with people. Most of the stores were very small but packed with a variety of products: kitchen gadgets, cameras, shoes, picture frames, appliances, vases, candles, beer mugs, plates, batteries, candy, Christmas lights, and more, all in a space about the size of my bedroom. A few stores were bigger, direct importers. I think the street vendors and small shops buy their goods there. We bought a hat & it was a fairly complicated process: first the sale had to be more than 100 pesos, then pay at a window and then wait (a while) for the hat to appear from upstairs (which seems to be a giant storeroom.) I get the feeling the neighborhood is a little problematic. A truck driver warned us to move our car, when we first parked because it would get robbed or the windows would be broken. We moved it.

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Monday, November 27, 2006



A combination between windsurfing and flying a kite, kiteboarding looks fun. It looks hard, too, at least in winds like we had today. After some warm summer weather it's become cooler with a strong wind. No one was at the beach today, except for two kiteboarders and a windsurfer.

I'd seen kiteboarders in Montevideo earlier, but this is the first time I'd seen them on Pocitos beach.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006


CD release

Our friend, María Noel Taranto, will celebrate the release of her latest CD, "Divinas Divas," with a show next Friday, December 1, 2006 at 9:00 pm (21:00) at the Espacio de Arte La Colmena.
address: Maldonado 2182, Montevideo, UY
For reservations call: 402-7868

The CD is a tribute to the great jazz singers like Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Ella Fitzgerald, and others.

A short video from her earlier show is available in this post.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006


Club de Pesca

I visited the Club de Pesca Punta Brava as a guest of my friend Tito. We didn't fish, but we ate very well. The club is one of three on Punta Brava, the southernmost point in Montevideo.

Tito cooked a wonderful lunch for about a dozen guys. He made matambre a la leche. It was made with the same meat as this matambre but it wasn't rolled with vegetables. For this dish, the meat was boiled until tender, then baked on a cookie sheet with milk and grated cheese. It was great.

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Friday, November 24, 2006


Shopping Season

Today is the traditional start of holiday shopping in the US. A Chicago Tribune story estimates 137 million Americans will go shopping this weekend. Some dissenters promote "Buy Nothing Day" and even "Buy Nothing Christmas". I don't think today is a big shopping day in Montevideo, since Thanksgiving isn't normally celebrated in Uruguay. (We had a true Thanksgiving feast, complete with turkey, thanks to the Southron.)

Christmas items appeared in the local stores around Halloween and the big retailers have elaborate displays. If it weren't for the hot weather, it'd feel like Christmas. I know this shows my northern upbringing, but the weather makes me feel like it's almost the Fourth of July. I've heard the fireworks on Christmas are outstanding, so perhaps I'm not that far off base.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006


Happy Thanksgiving

No, we won't be eating ñandú for Thanksgiving, but I didn't have any turkey photos. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Escuela rural

We visited this rural school on our way to the Estancia Las Cecilias. The students had left for the day and the teacher was leaving, but she graciously opened the school so we could see it.

The school has one classroom and seven students, across all the elementary grades. The classroom has several tables, two computers, a timeline of Uruguay's history stretched across the room, and other student projects on display. In addition to the classroom, the school has two bathrooms, a large kitchen, and a bedroom for the teacher. There were two ostrich eggs (ñandú) on the kitchen table. Outside, there were chickens, a cat, and a lamb. The students' smocks and ties hung from hooks in the hallway.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Gauchos at work

The Estancia Las Cecilias raises cattle and sheep.

Watch a short video of the gauchos weighing sheep:

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Camels on the Rambla

They are filming on the Rambla again. This seems to be a bigger production than the earlier one. Trucks full of props and equipment line both sides of the street. They closed several driving lanes causing traffic to back up for blocks. They also roped off a large section of beach and outfitted it with beach umbrellas (uncommon on this beach) and extras in bathing suits.

Yesterday afternoon, they were filming this camel. A life-sized camel dummy sprawled on the sidewalk off-camera and a nearby truck held a spare camel. The crew is back this morning, but I haven't seen the camels.

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Monday, November 20, 2006


Photos from Estancia Las Cecilias

An album of photos from Estancia Las Cecilias

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Sunday, November 19, 2006


Estancia Las Cecilias

I was a guest at the Estancia Las Cecilias for the last several days. It's a beautiful ranch on the Rio Yi, about 200 kilometers from Montevideo. I had a wonderful time. I went with friends and I had the pleasure of meeting several members of the family on the estancia. The grazing land was dotted with sheep, cattle, horses and the occasional ñandú. The food was great, as was the companionship. I took a lot of photos and a little video.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Another trip

I'll be traveling again, so I doubt I'll have a chance to blog in the next few days. Check back Monday for details.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Price check

I liked this alternative technology for checking prices at a supermarket in Montevideo. See the price check video.

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Rose garden

As summer comes to Uruguay more and more flowers are in bloom. A couple of weeks ago I visited the rose garden at Parque Prado (where Expo Prado was held in September.) The roses were beautiful.

See a video of the rosaleda.

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Monday, November 13, 2006


El Águila

El Águila, the eagle, is an eccentric cabin built overlooking the sea near Atlántida. The eyes are windows, rumoured to have been used to watch for smugglers. There is a great view of the Rio from there. Now, the building is open to tourists, courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

Atlántida also has a small zoo. Shown here are a ñandu and a carpincho, both native to Uruguay.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006


Nike 10K

The Nike 10K was another heavily promoted event in Montevideo this weekend. The race was along the Rambla, so we could watch from our balcony. There were a lot of runners; it must have taken an hour for them to all pass.

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Fiesta de la X

Saturday night there was a big music festival in Parque Batlle in Montevideo. For more than a month, at soccer practice, we'd been watching them construct the main stage. By Thursday, a beer tent had taken over a corner of the court.

I went to the Fiesta for a few hours. (Sorry, no pictures from the event -- cameras were prohibited.) There were rock bands on several stages, electronica on another, folk music, hip hop, etc. My favorite was a candombe drum troupe. The concert lasted all night, but I didn't.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


Lunch in Brazil

We had a great meal in Chuí. The waiter brought skewer after skewer of grilled meats: beef, pork, chicken, sausages. A buffet offered various salads, french fries, feijoada (the Brazilian national dish of black beans and meat)and a lot of other choices. It was tenador libre, all-you-can-eat. I ate all I could.

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Chuy is Uruguayan and Chuí is Brazilian. The two names describe one town straddling the border. There are no formalities to cross the frontier in Chuy, just walk across the street and you're in Brazil. The border itself runs between the parked cars. On the Brazilian side, the benches are painted green and yellow. In Uruguay, they're blue.

Shopping is Chuy's attraction. Right now, the exchange rate favors Brazilian shoppers and they cross to Uruguay to buy cheap goods. The weak peso makes it expensive for Uruguayans to shop in Brazil, so the stores on that side are struggling. Brazil's pharmacies do sell inexpensive generics.

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Friday, November 10, 2006


Recommended reading

Looking for something engaging to read? Check out this list:

These books aren't about Uruguay, but they are interesting. I built the list to help in a charitable effort of Seth Godin's blog
Here's the one day challenge: go build a holiday lens [and] have all the royalties earmarked for Room to Read. If every reader of this blog and every lensmaster on Squidoo builds just one lens today, we'll create tens of thousands of lenses, each donating money every day to build new schools. It only takes a few minutes...



More from Punta del Diablo

another movie

And a set of photos at Flickr

update: Or see the photos at Facebook, which seems to work better.

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Piriápolis is a quiet beach town, between Montevideo and Punta del Este. The Hotel Argentino, shown here, is the biggest building in town. In the 1930's, ferries brought Argentine tourists directly to Piriápolis.

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José Ignacio

José Ignacio is on the Atlantic coast, east of Punta del Este. It's a small resort town favored by Uruguayan TV stars.

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Punta del Este

Punta del Este, where the Rio officially becomes the Atlantic Ocean, is the most famous beach town in Uruguay. While Montevideo reminds me of NYC, Punta del Este reminds me of the flashier parts of Miami. It's an international resort where celebrities, like George Bush Sr, vacation. It's an hour or so east of Montevideo.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006


Parque Nacional Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa National Park is just a few kilometers north of Punta del Diablo. The fortress is its best known feature, but it also offers gorgeous beaches, big campgrounds, and rental cabins. There are rose gardens, historic artifacts, and a greenhouse for tropical plants. The fort dates back to colonial times and has been completely restored.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Pescadores de Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo was founded as a fishing village and, for decades, there was no access by road. The fisherman conserved their catch as bacalao de tiburon, dried shark meat. Fisherman still leave the beach each morning to catch sharks, shrimp, and fish. They haul their boats out of the surf using hand-cranked winches.

I can't imagine going out to sea day after day, winter and summer, in a little boat, then hauling it all the way up the beach to unload it. It's such hard work... but very interesting to watch and the location is beautiful. On top of that, while I was watching the fishing boats, a whale surfaced in the bay.

See a video of the process here:

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A few pictures from Punta del Diablo

Click on the link for a little slide show of photos from Punta del Diablo

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Monday, November 06, 2006


Punta del Diablo

I'm back from 5 days at Punta del Diablo, a village on Uruguay's Atlantic coast not far from the Brazilian border. It's a 4 hour drive from Montevideo, not counting stops. We passed the beach towns I visited earlier and continued through the open countryside. There were rolling green hills, dotted with cows and horses. In places, it could look like the Midwest, if it weren’t for the ñandu alongside the grazing cattle. A ñandu is a South American ostrich, or rhea. Palm trees, and gauchos on horseback, emphasized that we weren’t in Iowa.

Punta del Diablo is a fishing village in a setting so beautiful that it’s hard to describe. I complained that my Spanish vocabulary was too limited, but I’m not sure I can do it justice in English either. I did take a lot of photos and will put some online in the next few days.

Punta del Diablo has two main beaches, framed by huge rocks sculpted by the sea. One beach is for the fishing boats and the other is favored by surfers. Vendors sell necklaces made of shark vertebrae from a pier along the fishing beach. There are a few little stores, restaurants, and hotels but no big commercial operations. Many of the rental places are 4 small houses on a single lot. Summer is the busy season when the ranchos and casitas fill with people getting away from the city. It's spring, now, and much quieter. In winter, there are very few people there.

I went with Tito and 3 friends. We walked on the beach, enjoyed great camaraderie, and ate like kings. I had a great time.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006


Blog silence

For my regular readers: I'm off to Punta del Diablo for an extended weekend. I've heard it's wonderful-- undeveloped, remote, & natural. I assume that means no Internet cafes, so I won't be blogging for a few days. Check back next Tuesday for more...

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006


In the news

My wife's research was cited in a front page article on international migration in today's Wall Street Journal [subscription only].

CIUDAD BARRIOS, El Salvador -- This lively mountain town survives on money sent from its sons and daughters living in the U.S. On days payments arrive, lines at the local credit union can reach 150 deep. The crowds then hail motorcycle taxis and head for the town's open-air market to stock up on food and clothing, or browse tiny appliance stores stuffed with blaring televisions and stereos.

It's the sort of scene that many development economists believe could transform some of the world's most impoverished regions, by putting cash directly in the pockets of the poor. With tens of millions of migrants around the globe sending remittances home, the flood of money has grown immense -- $167 billion last year, according to the World Bank.

In recent years, her work has focused on the economics of remittances in various countries. Currently, she is researching remittances to Uruguay with colleages at the Universidad de Montevideo, with support from the Fulbright Scholar Program.

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Nuestro auto

Our "new" car is a 1992 Nissan Sunny. It's a little bigger than most of the cars here, so it feels roomy. It must use more gasoline, as well. We bought some gas yesterday--500 pesos worth of nafta. I think it will cost between $60 and $70 US to fill the tank.

Before buying the car, an escribana did a historia for it, which is something like a title search. (Escribano is translated as notary public, but they seem more like paralegals.) The license plate belongs to the car, so we didn't need to change that. We did get the libreta, which is like an ID card for the car and the matricula which is like the registration.

There are a lot of interesting cars on the streets here (see this post), but we didn't look at any antiques.

update:I was wrong about the gas costs-- I never put in more than 1000 pesos ($40 US) to fill the tank, even when gas prices increased.

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