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Friday, November 4, 2016

Oktoberfest in Blumenau (Santa Catarina, Brazil)

Oktoberfest - The beer festival in Blumenau, Santa Catarina

The  Germanica villa where the party begins.

This festival was held traditionally in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. The Oktoberfest or Folk Festival runs in October remembering the marriage of king Ludwig I that happened in 1810.
Now the festival is spread all over the world, being Blumenau one of the most known places where the festival is very large.  With the coming of many German immigrants and after a flood in 1984, the city of Blumenau in Santa Catarina, Brazil established this festival in order to grow the economy of the city and maintain the traditions of the immigrants.

Parade with dances and costumes

Some dances require much practice and skill.

One of the most important events are the parades with dances, delicious culinary and obviously beer. The party is also highlighted by the start of spring in this part of the hemisphere.
The Oktoberfest in Blumenau is considered one of the largest festivals of its kind outside Germany.

Everybody takes part, joung people ...

even the not so young...
and women
It is a 16- to 18-day festival during the month of October, with the main attractions mostly during the weekends. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people come every year to enjoy this party.
During the event you can taste different types of beer. To avoid excessive drinking in many drinking contests like the metro shop (600 ml) one, the traditional beer has been changed to non-alcoholic beer. The idea is to enjoy and have a nice time but without excess.

Metro Shop 
Fun is guaranteed.

Beer is shared

The whole family participates.

Music is part of the party.

Special cars...




Oktoberfest Queen 2016

Every year the Oktoberfest queen represents the friendliness and beauty of this region of german immigrants.

Chopão grandparents, typical characters of the party
Clowns are also present.

After the parade, the party is on the street.

Everybody takes part.

You cannot miss the beer.

Flowers and candies for all.

Music and rythm.

If you are in Brazil in this period, visit Blumenau in the State of Santa Catarina and enjoy this festival!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Madidi: The bolivian avatar

Surely the vast majority of people remember Avatar, the science fiction movie produced and directed by James Cameron, in which an environmental tragedy is told in a distant planet called Pandora that is threatened by human ambition.
What is happening in the Madidi National Park in Bolivia? And how it is related to the plot of the film?

Madidi National park, jungle surrounded by mountains

In Avatar the battle between the indigenous (Navi) against human aliens is described. Humans are determined to extract a rich mineral deposit found beneath a giant tree that is the biological center of Pandora. Just for money and wealth, many indigeneous were killed in order to exploit minerals.
In Bolivia, some construction companies and multinationals which have ties with the current government want to build two mega dams that will affect one of the most biodiverse places on earth. They mention that the aim is to develop the country and have an income by selling the energy to countries like Brazil, But these projects are being developed without even having certainty in the future international market or the technical conditions of the project and without noticing the environmental damage that will be generated as it was detailed in  in various forums and independent analyzes.
In its time, Avatar had an enormous impact just by denouncing the conflict between corporate greed opposed to the right of native people. It's funny that a government that is presumed to be anti-imperialist and conservacionist is still the protagonist taking the side of large corporations that are only guided by their extractive greed.

Bala´s Strait. It is the suggested location of the dam

Destruction of indigenous communities

San José de Uchupiamonas is the main community within the park. It is of Tacana and Quechua origin. It was founded in 1616 by Franciscan priests. The main town is located in the Tuhuichi river and its members are totally against the project. As in the film, no one has asked them their opinion and the project is now in its final design phase.
The interesting thing is that this community is performing a sustainable exploitation of the region using ecological park shelters for tourism and bird watching. They also have changed in their attitude to nature, as they have reduced hunting activities. They recognize the value of the nature in the area, the wildlife richness and they have  become the best guardians of the park.

Local people extracting bananas by the river.

The government is also attacking the comunity in its activity by requiring visas to Israeli tourists arguing political differences with Israel. This measure far from affecting Israel's government is harming the flow of tourism to the park, because the main destination of those tourists was the park.


The film is without doubt one very important piece of environmental defense. It considers all the main aspects for conservation as virgin forests and indigenous people. It shows a planet that functions as an interconnected collective attacked by evil corporate interests.
The parallel with the Madidi park is awesome, which is considered one of the world's largest biodiversity reserves due to its wide range of heights and ecosystems. We are always hearing about new discoveries of new species in the area, showing the richness of the park that it is not yet fully quantified.

Red hawler monkeys. You can hear them from long distances in the park.
iClick here to listen to the sounds of the park. Red hawler monkeys and macaws in the beginning of a rainy day
Anyone, who is lucky enough to visit the park, may admire its great biodiversity. That's what the Bolivian government should do, taking time to know this wonder and realizing what is going to be lost.

Capuchine monkeys. Part of the wildlife of the park.

The bule and yellow macaw. It probably inspired the flying animals of the movie

A curious woodpecker (Celeus flavus peruvianus).
The renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Satore when he visited the park said: "Things scream here all night. Birds and bugs, I’m told. So many species that each has developed a specialized call. One bird sounds like water pouring out of a bottle. Another like a digital alarm clock. The locals say palm trees here grow legs and walk to find more sunlight. "
Considering that experienced photographers like Joel, who have been all over the world registering the wonders of nature, are so impressed by the park,shows, indeed, that this is an invaluable treasure. Not for nothing, only 8 countries in the world have greater biodiversity than Madidi.

The jungle with amazing tall trees

Some interesting facts:
+1000 Species of birds have been confirmed (11% of existing species in the world)
+1000 Species of butterflies (butterflies are only 1.8% of known bugs)
+32 New species of vertebrates such as mouse climbing sud (cf. Rhipidomys austrinus)
Source identity Madidi, expedition reports to the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

The hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), a typical bird of Madidi´s park.

The white-throated toucan (Ramphastos tucanus cuvieri), another beautiful bird of the park
The round-tailed manakin (pipra chloromeros)is a beutiful jewel of the park

A female deer in the jungle
Religion and Spirituality

Avatar recognizes the value of traditional religion. In Bolivia, the "mother earth" is called  Pachamama. The ancestors' culture considers it as a vital aspect for life. "The land is what feeds us and keep us alive". We have to respect it and acknowledge this. All nature is integrated and harmonious. If we do not respect the order, chaos is unleashed. It is interesting that many Bolivian intellectuals as Huascar Vega Ledo (2010 Year of the avatar Jesus attribute that director Cameron based many ideas of the movie using the concepts of Pachamama in the development of his film. That's why anyone who respects the traditions should protect nature.

The Bala and Chepete dams

One of the greatest threats to the Madidi National Park has been the Bala dam project, which has a long history and had a major importance in 1998 and then apparently was abandoned by the catastrophic obvious consequences. Unfortunately, now the danger is latent because the final design is underway and two dams are contemplated. In time and thanks to professionals and organizations that are contributing as universities and NGOs, more technical details are known that demonstrate the impracticality of these projects.

The future

What to do? The film gives us the idea: a tenacious opposition. The more people actively oppose and unite the Navis (meaning the local communities of the park like San José de Uchupiamonas), the better that the nature will be protected. This park is a heritage that is vital for the future of humanity and we must fight to keep it. As in the famous fable of the goose that lays golden eggs, killing the goose will not give more gold and we will not win anything. in fact we will lose everything. These dams should never be constructed.

A nice and preserved jungle and ecosystem is the best heritage for the future

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bird watching, a surprising activity!

One in five people in the United States and a similar number in Europe use to enjoy bird watching. And it is increasingly becoming even more common. What is attracting people? Why such popularity? What are the benefits to us? This article will try to give an answer to these questions.
Figure 1. A male black-throated mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis),
very common in Southamerica

Bird watching allows us to know better the birds and learn more about nature and wildlife. The idea is, first, to identify the species that has been found according to the audio and visual features that are detected. It can be done with the naked eye, with the aid of binoculars or listening to the sounds they produce. It is an activity that can be done with the family and you do not need to go far from where you live.
The park located near your home or even your own garden will probably provide excellent opportunities for that. All it takes is time and patience. While the most seasoned observers try to find rarest birds in more complex habitats, using cameras or audio devices to watch birds, the general idea is the same in our case. You have to consider that over 10,000 species of birds have been identified in the world, so there are plenty of opportunities out there.
Figure 2. A male red-necked tanager (Tangara cyanocephala).
It can be found in the south and east part of Brazil, north of Argentina and Paraguay.
But how can we identify birds?
It is very similar to how we identify our neighbors. At the beginning everyone may seem strange, but after a while we detect certain particular characteristics such as size, shape, habits, etc. Birds are like little treasures that are ready to reveal. Once we put our attention on them, we begin to know them better and to admire its beauty. Many of these animals are colorful. Think of a color, and there is probably at least some birds that have that color. But its appearance is not the only feature that attracts our attention, there are its singing and all the details of his life, mobility and environment . Actually bird watching is a bird's study.
Birds are vertebrate animals having beaks. Although not all fly, they have always wings, they are hatched from eggs (egg-laying) and have feathers, which makes these animals unique. It is interesting to note how each type of bird has adapted to a specific environment and can be found from the southern end to the northern end of our planet.
Figure 3. A female burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia)
found throughout North and South America. 
The shape of the beak is usually related to the type of food they have. Some are thin and sharp for fishing as heron's beaks, others have a curved beak and pointed to tear the flesh like eagles, others like parrots can have strong beaks to eat hard fruits and so the variety is immense. Each type of bird has adapted not only its peak, but his whole body for a specific habitat. This is the reason also for migration or moving long distances even changing continents to find the right place with the type of food they require. So far it is not known with certainty many of the characteristics of these migrations and how well they know the right places to go at the right time. Some biologists have devoted to studying birds and they are called ornithologists. They have classified birds in various ways, for example, considering the type of food, like fruit-eating birds, granivorous birds, feeding on grains, insectivores, feeding on insects, nectar eating birds, carnivores that feed on meat, fishing birds, scavengers, which feed on dead animals, omnivores that feed on eggs, etc.
There is also another division according to the type of habitat or environment in which they live as jungle, mountains, wetlands, sea, etc.
The best way to identify them is to start getting to know the different groups of birds that share similar characteristics like the silhouette, posture, behavior, etc. For this there are books that have all the detail and help.
Figure 4. A male violaceous euphonia (Euphonia violacea) is a small
passerine bird found in Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.
Why people watch birds? It's hard to explain. When we do this activity all the accumulated stress of daily life goes away. The contact with nature recharges our energy. We need also to display some physical activity like walking that improve our health, we get in tune with nature because generally we wear using natural colors or camouflage to not scare birds and we are also doing an activity that contributes to the preservation of these animals. Finally, this results in greater environmental education and love of nature that moves us to act on their preservation. "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught" (Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist).
This is the purpose of this article, to put more attention to birds and nature and motivate you to study them and to preserve and spread this to more people.
Our future as humanity and consequently our survival depends on preserving nature. To do this, we must shift our focus from just thinking about us, and start paying attention to our surroundings and their people and animals.
Feel free to share this message with your friends.