Saturday, March 31, 2007


Dog Parking

The dogs in Montevideo are amazingly well-behaved. These were "parked" outside my neighborhood grocery this morning.

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Friday, March 30, 2007


Semana de Turismo

In most Spanish-speaking countries next week is Semana Santa [Holy Week] but here, reflecting Uruguay's strong tradition of separation of church and state, it's called Tourism Week.

School's out and apparently everyone travels. Buenos Aires is a popular destination (although the Argentine piqueteros plan to block all the bridges between the two countries). Others head to the beach; I've heard that it's the only week the campground at Santa Teresa National Park is completely full.

Various festivals compete to attract visitors:
Paysandu hosts the 42nd annual Semana de Cerveza.
Montevideo holds the 82nd Semana Criolla - at the Prado.
Durazno has their Semana de la Juventud and
Treinta y Tres has the Festival Mastro Ruben Lena .
Tacuarembo re-scheduled their 18th Fiesta de la Patricia Gaucha to be on Tourism Week.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007


Barrio Carrasco

The Carrasco neighborhood is the most suburban of Montevideo's barrios, full of single-family homes with yards on tree-lined streets. Across the Rambla from its nice long beach is the once-grand Hotel Casino Carrasco. It looks like only the casino functions now. The building is surrounded by construction fencing, but I've never noticed any significant work being done. Behind the old hotel, Avenida Arocena wouldn't be out of place in Chicago's north shore suburbs with a big Blockbuster store and a bigger McDonald's and a tastefully-designed gas station leading to the plush lawn tennis club. All it's missing is a Starbucks. (There are several local cafes as substitutes.)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007



Bacalao, or salt cod, is certainly not my wife's favorite food. As a girl, when she smelled it cooking she would feign a stomach-ache and skip dinner. She still doesn't like it and tries to avoid it whenever possible.

Bacalao is certainly very popular in Spain and Portugal and in their former colonies. Author, Mark Kurlansky suggests that the Basque discovered the Americas long before Columbus, but kept it secret to protect their source of bacalao.

In the store it's hard and dry, so it has to be soaked before cooking. Cooked, I find it inoffensive, but I haven't eaten enough of it to develop a real desire to make it.

I've seen it several times in the last few weeks in Montevideo. I'm not sure if it's the season (Lent and Easter) or if I just happened to notice it more. I don't think we'll be cooking it at home.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Not just parrilla

A few nights ago we went downtown with friends and had food that was decidedly different for Montevideo: Korean. The restaurant was just off Plaza Independencia and has a small main dining room in front and smaller private dining rooms in back. The menu was all Korean; I don't think there's a Spanish menu, but they did have one with English descriptions alongside the Korean names, so we ordered using a mix of Spanish, English, and Korean.

The food was good. The kim-chee was probably the spiciest food I'd eaten since coming to Uruguay. My favorite dish was the fried dumplings. Pictured here is the carne with vegetables in spicy sauce.

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Monday, March 26, 2007


Rally de Florida

On Sunday, while we were enjoying steaks at a parrilla in Florida, several race car drivers appeared in the restaurant and headed to the bar. After lunch, we saw the rally cars lined up in a nice park alongside the river. These cars were substantially more modern than the historic rally I'd seen in Montevideo.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007


La Florida

We spent the day in Florida-- but not the Florida of hurricanes, Disney World and Miami Beach. Florida is a small city about 100 kilometers north of Montevideo on Ruta 5 and we were there for a soccer match. Uruguay's Declaration of Independence was signed in Florida in 1825. Today the town is the capitol of the departamento of Florida.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007


Air power

Our apartment is 10 stories up, so it's unusual to see things pass at balcony level, but this afternoon a glider sailed by. The "pilot" was down on the beach with a radio controller while the plane soared above. He was able to ride the wind for a long time, chasing seagulls and making the glider fly in loops. Eventually he landed it right at his feet.

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email problems

If you tried to send me email last week, please try again. My college's system was down all week and most of the messages were lost. They say it should be okay now. Sorry for the bother.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Huevo de Codorniz

I don't think I'd eaten quail eggs before coming to Uruguay. They are readily available at the larger supermarkets in Montevideo and I've had them a few times. To me they taste like ordinary chicken eggs, but bite-sized. Tienda Inglesa sells them for 24 pesos (about $1) for 15 eggs.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007


Autumn begins

Today was the first day of Fall in Uruguay (and, of course, it's the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere.) The weather here felt like summer and there were plenty of people on Pocitos beach. The trees are still green and there are plenty of flowers blooming. The days, however, are noticeably shorter.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Power of the Press

My wife's research was reported in several Montevideo newspapers today. It was nice publicity for her and her co-author except that the numbers reported in the articles are wrong. My wife's estimate for the increase in remittances to Uruguay from emigrants is between 12-15%, not the 62% calculated by the reporters in the articles.

From El Pais:
"Remesas a Uruguay fueron de U$S 115:

Se prevé que sigan creciendo; en 2006 subieron un 62%

El envío de remesas a Uruguay "continuará creciendo" en el futuro debido a la suba en la emigración y a la "propensión" de las personas fuera del país a volcar dinero hacia su país, según el estudio Remesas en Uruguay de los economistas Fernando Borraz y Susan Pozo a cuyas conclusiones accedió El País."

From El Espectador
Lo bien que viene

Los uruguayos radicados en el extranjero enviaron a sus familias remesas por 115 millones de dólares en 2006, lo que significa un incremento del 62 por ciento en comparación con 2005, de acuerdo a un estudio difundido.

En 2005 las remesas enviadas desde el exterior por los uruguayos ascendieron a 71,3 millones de dólares.

Según el estudio realizado por los economistas Fernando Borraz y Susan Pozo y difundido por El Espectador, al menos en un 2 por ciento de los hogares uruguayos se reciben remesas.

My wife is a bit upset by the errors. She and her co-researcher spent a good part of the day trying to contact the media and make corrections, without much success.

EL Pais does plan a longer article on their research in a few weeks.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Happy Birthday Tito!

Monday, March 19, 2007



Dengue fever has reached Uruguay. So far, there's only been an isolated case, or so. Brazil and Paraguay are experiencing epidemics, with thousands of cases reported.

The device in the picture is a small heater that holds a wafer of insecticide and plugs into an ordinary wall socket. We went to the Tienda Inglesa after we read the news and found a small crowd purchasing various anti-mosquito chemicals. The warnings on the insecticide box make me wonder which is worse-- the small risk of getting dengue or the small health risk from being exposed to the insecticide.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


Carnaval, the real end

I was wrong about the end of carnival. Monday was the end of the official competition but several performances followed. Saturday was the final night of shows. I saw two groups, Curtidores de Hongos and Agarrate Catalina at the last tablado at the velodromo.

Here's a short video from the tablado:

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Saturday, March 17, 2007


St Patrick's Day

To me, Saint Patrick's Day means a big pot of corned beef simmering on the stove accompanied by Guiness stout and Irish soda bread. Uruguay, despite being a big beef producer and having at least some Irish immigrants, doesn't seem to celebrate this way.

Historically, Uruguay was a big exporter of corned beef to the British Isles with a major processing plant at Fray Bentos, but the only corned beef I've seen in Montevideo is in cans.

Happy St. Paddy's!

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Friday, March 16, 2007



Pedidos are the things we ask visitors from the U.S. to bring us. Some people request lotions, socks, underwear, sneakers, or zip-lock bags. My daughter and I usually ask for books and she also requests Reece's Peanut Butter Cups.

My in-laws just arrived in Uruguay and they brought replacement battery chargers for my cameras. The originals were "lost" from my checked baggage on an Aerolineas Argentinas flight between Ushuaia and El Calafate. After reading this post, I was happy I'd asked my relatives to carry them and I understood much better the tradition of pedidos.


Thursday, March 15, 2007



It's very common for businesses to put advertising stickers on the rear windows of cars in Uruguay. I've had a couple appear on my car but I peeled them off. Some people like them and eventually their back window gets completely covered.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Carnaval 2007 ends

The final performances of Carnaval were on Monday night. Yesterday was la noche de fallos when they determine the winners and losers. There was live TV coverage on two channels last night. It took hours to calculate all the points-- running into the early morning hours.

The winners were:
Murgas:Asaltantes con Patente
Parodistas: Jacquet's
Humoristas: Sociedad Anónima
Revistas: Carambola
Negros y Lubolos: Yambo Kenia

I'd seen each of these groups at various tablados Here's a video of the first prize groups:

I'd already posted videos featuring Asaltantes con Patente
and Yambo Kenia. And one or more winning group appears in each of these videos: March 2 tablado, Tablado Tres Cruces, Carnaval Defensor Sporting and Tablado Defensor Sporting

More info? The official guide to Carnaval is a 75 page pdf file (in Spanish).

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Street corner marketing

Nearly everyday in Montevideo, I see young people advertising on the streets. Typically they hand out brochures, but sometimes they go beyond that. Before Christmas, Punta Carretas Shopping featured young women in silky bathrobes to promote their special all-night hours.

The guys in the picture were part of the most sophisticated campaign I'd seen. They were at a traffic light near the beach and when the light changed they would enter the crosswalk and each of them would take a drink of Coke. Then they would turn to face the cars and their shirts would spell Ahhh! Then they held up their signs, saying "El lado Coca-Cola de la frescura" [The Coca-Cola side of freshness] all before the light changed. Then they'd go back to the sidewalk and wait for the next traffic cycle.

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Monday, March 12, 2007


Public Art

A couple weeks ago, workers were installing some kind of frames on the sidewalk along Pocitos beach. They turned out to be for an art exhibit of huge photographs taken by French photographer Frances Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The exhibit runs for six blocks along the Rambla and will be there for two months. It's been quite popular-- even crowded at times.

All the photos are shot from the air, usually from a helicopter. The exhibit is called "La Tierra Vista Desde El Cielo" [The earth seen from the sky]. There are pictures from all over the world, with a special section, running a block or so, of Uruguay photos.

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Uruguay blogs

I've seen several new blogs on life in Uruguay. Here are a few links:

  • Amargo y Dulce
  • Great restaurant reviews written by la Gaucha Guapa.

  • Uruguay Daily News
  • Today's news from Montevideo, in English.

  • A Girl and Guy in Uruguay
  • Massive reports with tons of photos on life in and around Uruguay

  • This is Uruguay
  • Notes from an American living in Montevideo

  • Uruguay Dreaming
  • Notes about Uruguay with a Brazilian perspective


    Sunday, March 11, 2007


    Daylight Savings Time, otra vez

    Daylight Savings Time ends today in Uruguay and begins in the US, so Montevideo is only one hour ahead of the eastern US. In October, Uruguay switched earlier than the US.

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    Fuera Bush

    Bush is leaving Uruguay as I type this. My wife counted 65 vehicles in his motorcade as it passed our apartment this morning, not including the helicopter flying overhead or the two speedboats racing along the Rio. Traffic on the Rambla was closed for hours, both for Bush's arrival and for his departure.

    Bush was fairly well-received in Uruguay. In my neighborhood, people lined the sidewalks to watch him arrive. Most were simply curious to see "the most powerful man in the world" & didn't seem to be politically motivated one way or the other. There were protests downtown with Bush burned in effigy and McDonald's windows being smashed. (Some Uruguayans blamed the vandalism on Argentine agitators.) Uruguayans give Bush substantial credit for US financial assistance during Uruguay's 2002 economic crisis.

    The meetings between Bush and Uruguay's president, Tabaré Vázquez, seemed very amiable but nothing of substance was announced. The two presidents ate parrilla de cordero (grilled lamb) at Vázquez's estancia. Bush brought a complete barbecue set as a gift to Uruguay's president. Vázquez's gifts to Bush included a gaucho belt and boots. As Bush left, he reportedly said to Vázquez, "If you need any help, grab the phone and call me."


    Saturday, March 10, 2007


    Palo Borracho in bloom

    I thought people planted the palo borracho tree for its resemblance to a medieval torture device. For the last few weeks, the trees have been covered with big pink flowers which better explains their popularity. I can't think of a Michigan tree that blooms in late summer.

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    Friday, March 09, 2007


    Bush visits Uruguay

    As you've probably heard, President Bush is coming to Uruguay today. In preparation for his visit, the dumpster in front of our apartment building, along with all the dumpsters along the Rambla, moved. I found this group of them a couple of blocks away. Some people say it's to beautify the route by hiding the garbage and the people who make their living scavenging from the dumpsters, but the more common explanation is security: to prevent terrorists from hiding in the trash.

    Montevideans are talking a lot about US security for this visit. Apparently 2500 military and security people appeared in the city earlier this week. The Uruguayans describe them as "big, tall, and fat." Lots of military hardware arrived in huge cargo planes. I'm told that US air power, for this temporary visit, outdoes the Uruguayan Air Force.

    Bush isn't popular in Uruguay but there's not much anti-American sentiment here. (Of course, Bush is not popular in the US either.) His visit is an attempt to repair US relations with Latin America and to reduce the influence of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.


    Thursday, March 08, 2007


    Mas Carnaval

    It's a rainy day, so I finally got around to editing my video from las llamadas.

    And I have a photo album of various carnival events.

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    Wednesday, March 07, 2007


    DVD regions

    Years ago, in Spain, we discovered the incompatibility between European video tapes and US video tapes. A few days ago, in Uruguay, I discovered the modern equivalent-- DVD regions. Unlike the older problem, DVD incompatibilites were created intentionally by Hollywood and forced on hardware manufacturers around the world.

    We joined a video club in Montevideo and had rented a few DVDs and watched them on our laptop, without problem. My daughter selected another movie recently and when we put it in the computer, it didn't play. Instead, a warning screen appeared saying she couldn't watch the movie since it was from the wrong region.

    But, no problem, the screen would let us switch to Region 4 (Latin America and Australia) with the click of a button. But there was a catch-- a significant catch-- the region could only be changed 4 times and then our computer's DVD drive would be locked into that region. This meant that in less than a week, switching between DVDs we'd brought from the US and the local rental ones, we could cripple our computer forever.

    At first I thought this was a Microsoft issue and that I could just download a patch to fix the region problem, but the restrictive code is built into the hardware (firmware) so patches are risky. I wondered if this would be another reason to buy an Apple computer, but Apple computers have the same problem.

    This is a strange way to treat legitimate customers-- prevent them from using your product. Paranoia over piracy seems to have caused Hollywood to decide that all of its customers are criminals.

    Is this a good business model? I don't think so. For me, it means we won't buy any DVDs for the rest of the year-- either from the US or from Uruguay. The Uruguay ones won't work when we move back to the US and the US ones won't work here.

    Does it prevent piracy? No, not in the least. In fact it probably encourages it. It's easier and probably cheaper to buy pirated DVDs at the Feria Tristán Narvaja than it is to rent them at my neighborhood video store. Or just download anything using BitTorrent. By making it so hard for customers to watch movies legally, the companies create big incentives to become pirates.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007


    Kids and Carnaval

    It's been interesting to see children at every carnaval event-- desfile inaugural, las llamadas, los tablados, teatro de verano. The events run late-- 2 or 3 am-- and often feature suggestive content (probably more suggestive than I know, since I don't understand most of the double entrendres) but these are definitely family affairs.

    At Friday's tablado at Club Defensor Sporting the kids were having their faces painted during the pausa.

    Here's a short video:

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    Monday, March 05, 2007


    Tablado otra vez

    The weather didn't look promising Saturday and it was too cloudy to see the lunar eclipse, but I returned to Defensor Sporting Club hoping the rain would hold off long enough to see a few groups at the tablado. It did sprinkle a bit but the show went on.

    I left around 1 am, after the fourth group, trying to make an early night of it. I got to my car just as it started to rain hard. I turned the key only to discover I had forgotten to turn off the headlights when I parked and the battery was dead.

    I walked to a nearby gas station but they couldn't help, so I walked home in the rain, woke up my wife and she called an auxilio. Then I caught a cab back to Defensor Sporting and waited for the tow truck. The driver was friendly and helpful and my car started easily. 250 pesos seemed like a good deal.

    The tablado featured La Margarita, Bafo y sus Mulatas, Sociedad Anonima, and Falta y Resto. Here's a short video:

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    La Margarita

    La Margarita was the opening group at Saturday's tablado at Defensor Sporting Club.

    See this short video from their performance:

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    Gran Premio del Uruguay

    The Gran Premio del Uruguay 4ta. Edición – 19 Capitales – Histórico road rally completed their 4th stage in Montevideo, Sunday night. The cars were all antiques, going back to the 1920s. They competed in various classes, but nearly all the cars I saw were very small. The rally, sponsored by El Automóvil Club del Uruguay, went to the capitol city of each of Uruguay's 19 departamentos.

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    Sunday, March 04, 2007


    Falta y Resto

    Falta y Resto was the last group at my first tablado. I really liked their performance but I was so tired I couldn't stay to hear the end of it.

    See the Falto y Resto website.

    They were back at Defensor Sporting club on Saturday, so I had the opportunity to watch their whole set.

    Here's a video of their despedido:

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    Agarrate Catalina

    Agarrate Catalina was the closing act at Friday's tablado at Defensor Sporting Club. I'd enjoyed seeing them at the Teatro de Verano and I also liked seeing them on the neighborhood stage. It's a different experience being close enough to see their expressions.

    Here's my video of Agarrate Catalina.

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    Carnaval continues

    Montevideo's carnival continues for nearly two more weeks. Most of the tablados have reduced their schedules to weekend nights but the Teatro de Verano still has shows everyday.

    Here's a video from Friday's tablado at Defensor Sporting club:

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    Saturday, March 03, 2007


    Tren del Fin del Mundo

    The End of the World Train is a narrow-gauge tourist attraction outside Ushuaia. It runs along the right-of-way of the old prison line to Tierra del Fuego National Park. You can still see the stumps left from the prisoners' efforts. The prisoners rode on open flatcars and logs were carried back to town on the same train. The current train, while simple, is substantially more comfortable.

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    Friday, March 02, 2007



    I think of flamingos as tropical birds so I was a little surprised to see them in El Calafate a few miles from the Moreno Glacier. Lago Argentina, where these birds are feeding, is fed by meltwater from the glaciers, making it too cold for me to even consider swimming.

    I think these are Chilean Flamingos. There are two other species of flamingo that live in the Andes.

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    Thursday, March 01, 2007


    Economic Development

    Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, began with a prison. At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina built a large prison to house dangerous felons and political prisoners at the "end of the world". Not incidentally, the development cemented Argentina's territorial claims in Tierra del Fuego. Very few prisoners escaped because there was nowhere to go.

    The prison closed in the 1940s and the building now holds the Museo Maritimo, with various exhibits in the small cells. The old prison railway, used to transport prisoners to the nearby forests to cut lumber, has been rebuilt as a tourist attraction complete with workers in period uniforms.

    Tourism is now the main industry, with a substantial number of Antarctic cruises leaving from Ushuaia's port.

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