May 21st, 2014

Austin, Texas Trova Imports, the Austin-based group dedicated to sharing and preserving art from the indigenous communities of Latin America,is breathing new life into a 3,000 year old tradition.

“Often time consumers think of handmade textiles as expressions of a healthy equilibrium between pre-industrial communities and their natural surroundings,” says Blake Smith, founder of Trova. “However, in most instances today, the materials incorporated into the products we buy unknowingly come from an urban environment.”

For the past nine years Smith has been working with a co-op that involves more than 300 families throughout the Yucatan peninsula, providing a living wage to women who want to share their culture and experience through hand-crafted items. Though the raw materials sourced by Trova have historically beencotton & nylon, Smith has recently begun incorporating fair-trade hemp for his Mexican partners. In doing so, the families can remain a viable business delivering the most sought-after materials to market while still preserving their art of weaving one-of-a-kind Mayan Hammocks, Chair Hammocks and American style hammocks.

“Bringing these artisans new materials to work with is like providing them a new canvas on which to create,” says Smith. “The true art lies in the loom-weaving process practiced by the Mayan civilization for millennia. Having a finished hammockthat is as beautiful as it is comfortable just makes one appreciate it that much more.”With this approach, Smith says consumers have complete visibility into the items they’re purchasing, and can procure the goods they want with peace of mind knowing that they truly are art – from the ancient process to the finished product.


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January 20th, 2014

Chamula is a town outside of San Cristobal De Las Cassas. The church has unconventional practices compared to most catholic churches………

The church is really small and unassuming. It costs $20 pesos to get in the door, and you can’t take pictures. The guys at the door threaten to cut your head off with a machete if you do. As you walk in, there is green pine straw spread all over the floor and buckets of burning pine charcoal incense. There are thousands of candles lining the walls in front of saints wearing the local attire, which is black wool ponchos, along with necklaces made from local seeds & fruits. They obviously change the pine straw, clean candle wax, and switch necklaces frequently. As you walk through the saints, candles, incense, and pine straw, there are your typical mea culpas with people spread out on the floor mumbling, crying, crossing themselves and lighting candles. The alter in the front of the church is decorated with pine limbs, strings of colorful material, maybe some local art with other saints. Jesus might have been there somewhere…
As I was walking out of the Church I saw a family walk in with bottle of coke a cola, a bottle of clear liquid, a live chicken with its head hanging out of a black plastic bag, five eggs in a clear plastic bag, and a bag of candles. There was the grandfather, the grandmother, the husband, the wife, 3 small children around five or six, and a baby. The grandmother and daughter were wearing traditional attire except the mother was nursing the baby. The husband and three small children were dressed in normal street clothes. The grandfather wore a brown leather jacket. I asked the person next to me what was going on & she said it was a “baptismo”. So….the kid was getting baptized……..
The grandfather knelt down in front of one of the saints and started chanting. The husband wiped away a space from the pine straw and started putting the candles on the tile floor. He would dip the candles in the wax of a candle that was someone else’s spent offering to make them stick. He put the larger candles closest to the saint and started working his way back. The smallest candle row was closest to the chanting grandfather (in a brown leather jacket). I think there were about five rows with approx ten candles in each row. As the husband placed the candles the grandfather chanted and lit the candles with a spare candle he had next to him. He lit it on the spent mea culpa left behind.
The mother with the baby was sitting to the right of the grandfather. The grandmother was sitting next to her behind her husband. The three children were sitting next to the mother eating fried pig skins and hard boiled eggs. The husband stood behind the grandfather to his left. The chicken was on the left side of the grandfather. The eggs were on the right. The coke a cola and clear liquid were in front of the grandfather.
After the grandfather lit all the candles he continued chanting and bow to the saint and candles. The mother would bow with the grandfather. As she bowed the baby would lose the tete and start to cry. She would have to reposition herself while bowing so the baby could continue to nurse.
The grandfather would rise and chant
The mother would rise
The grandfather would relight the candles with his spare
Crying baby…..
Relight candles
This went on for about 20 minutes. Finally the grandfather rose from his last bow, and while chanting, moved the eggs to his left the chicken to his right. He hovered the plastic bottle with the clear liquid over the candles. The husband took the plastic bottle and poured the liquid into a cup. The grandfather took a sip and the husband poured the liquid into another container. Next the husband poured a cup, took a sip, & poured it into the separate container. The grandfather took the new container and sprinkled it on the chicken. Afterward the grandfather hovered the chicken over the candles, made a sign of a cross over the baby with the chicken, set the chicken down, and sprinkled more of the clear liquid over the chicken. Finally the grandfather poured half of the remaining clear liquid in a cup and gave it to the mother. As she was swallowing the liquid the chicken started wiggling. When she was done the remaining clear liquid was given to the grandmother. By the time the grandmother had finished drinking, the chicken was dead. The grandmother placed it head first into the black plastic bag. They chased the ceremony with the coke a cola.

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December 24th, 2013

Trova is one of the great roots of the Cuban music tree. In the 19th century a group of itinerant musicians known as trovadores moved around Oriente, especially Santiago de Cuba, earning their living by singing and playing the guitar. According to one writer, to qualify as a trovador in Cuba, a person should a) sing songs of his own composition, or of others of the same kind; b) accompany himself on the guitar; and c) deal poetically with the song. This definition fits best the singers of boleros, and less well the Afrocubans singing funky sones (El Guayabero) or evenguaguancós and abakuá (Chicho Ibáñez). It rules out, perhaps unfairly, singers who accompanied themselves on the piano.

Probably, this kind of life had been going on for some time, but it comes into focus when we learn about named individuals who left their marks on Cuban popular music.

Casa de la Trova, Santiago de Cuba

Trova musicians have played an important part in the evolution of Cuban popular music. Collectively, they have been prolific as composers, and have provided a start for many later musicians whose career lay in larger groupings. Socially, they reached every community in the country, and have helped to spread Cuban music throughout the world.

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For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico

November 9th, 2013

MEXICO CITY — Mexico, whose economic woes have pushed millions of people north, is increasingly becoming an immigrant destination. The country’s documented foreign-born population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, and officials now say the pace is accelerating as broad changes in the global economy create new dynamics of migration.

Read more on the NY Times!!

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Trova Interviews Hammock Distributor about Mexico’s Drug War

June 25th, 2011


Constantino runs a co-op in Merida, Mexico. He works with over 300 indigenous Mayan families selling their fair trade hammocks worldwide. Trova was one of his first clients. We took a few minutes of his time to ask him about how the drug war in Mexico has affected his business.

Where were you born and raised?

In Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
What was your family background?

Mi bisabuelo paterno llego de cuba y se caso en Mérida con una descendiente de españoles..mi lado materno son una cruza de español con indígenas.

Educational background?

Business degree
What is your current occupation?

Hammock seller
In your opinion, what has caused the war?

Wich war? The one in Libia? Middle east?…we don’t have a war…you mean the Drugs cartels?…we have isolated fights in the north of the country, between the drug cartels and with the federal police…even the center of Mexico the DF is very safe now…and the south is totally safe…if you say the word war in the south nobody is going to understand..we have a security problem in certain areas of this huge country..Because of the over demand of drugs in the USA we have gangs with lot of money and weapons coming from the united states..and if you  gave all this money and power to a few…. just a few…of non educated and very poor people you have a problem..A security problem..(not a war)… witch I’m very confident is going to be control asap..and I know for fact is not what FOX and CNN said.

How has it affected your business?

In any way affect my business….tourism is growing every day…Cancun and surrounded were full of springbreakers last season

How do you feel about the war?
there is no war

What were your family or friends’ feelings?

Probably same as me

How has it affected the indigenous population?

Maybe some indegenas join the cartels in the north of Mexico…and they start forming music bands and playing “narcocorridos” wich is very similar to the the gangsta rap
In what ways did the war change your activities or habits?

Were you or others in your community treated differently because of your gender/ethnicity/race or other factors? This one in spanish

Si..en México es muy común que la gente te trate distinto por la manera en que te ves, hablas, o te vistes…pero a diferencia de otros lugares la clase indígena está muy integrada a la gente con descendencia española
If so, how did you or others react?

Yo tengo una buena relación con todas las clases sociales..Pero si hay racismo en México.
What were some of the first changes in your life after the war started?

Did you know anyone who was killed or wounded in the war?

No….normally is the same people involve in the drugs..
Is there anything else I should ask you?

Is there anything that you would like to add on this subject?

Americans need to stop doing drugs…


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A Suttle Papaya

November 27th, 2010

a suttle papaya

a suttle papaya

Oh praise the papaya
that melts in my mouth
with a suttle sweetness
that only few recognize and appreciate
your texture is like a warm clear morning
your tast is like a melting sunset

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Ciudad de Mexico Metro

January 10th, 2010


Part 1: The Origin

The idea of building a subway in Mexico City began in the 1950s, a time in which the capital city of Mexico had about 4 million inhabitants (today it approaches 21 million). Old tramways criss-crossed the city, traffic jams began to boost, and the bus system wasn’t enough to fulfill all the commuter demands. It was time for a modern mass transit solution. It was until 1967 when the city government approved the construction of the first line. Officially, on June 17, 1967, the construction of the “Metro” began… The approval of its construction could be easily guessed: Mexico City would host the 1968 Olympic Games. However, the government focused in offering a mass transit option for people living in the eastern and western sections of the megacity. The first phase covered three lines: one having an east-west direction, another linking north and south, and a third one departing from the northwest heading to downtown, and then turning south, so it could cross the other two lines. This is what is called a “ring solution” in which 3 lines cross at three different points (rather than the “cross solution” in which two lines cross in one point).



After two years, the first subway line was opened on September 4, 1969. This first section runs from Zaragoza in the east, to Chapultepec in the west. At this beginning, the system had only 16 stations and it was only 11.5 km long. People were really fascinated with this new form of transportation; even a well-known TV news presenter was marveled by the new “Metro”: fast, clean and safe. In September 1970, Line 2 was opened from Tacuba in the northwest, to Tasqueña in the south, where the Xochimilco-Tlalpan light rail line ran to the southeastern parts of the city (later the Xochimilco light rail line would be entirely reformed, so it offered new stations and modern trains). Line 2 opened with 22 stations, and 18 km of track. In November 1970, the central section of Line 3, from Tlatelolco to Hospital General was opened, adding 7 stations and 5.5 km. to the network. At the same time, the extension of line 1 to Tacubaya was opened. Line 1 reached its western terminus Observatorio in 1972. So, at the end of this first stage, by 1975 Mexico City’s subway had 40 km of track and 48 stations. It is important to notice that while digging into the soil of the ancient Aztec capital, many important discoveries were made. The most important was a little circular pyramid dedicated to the Aztec God of wind, Ehécatl. Instead of moving it out and placing it in a museum, it was a good idea to leave it in the place it was found. So, around this pyramid, the Pino Suárez station (lines 1 and 2) was built. As a tribute, the pyramid was chosen as the station’s symbol.


For an ever-changing capital city like Mexico City, it was evident that 42 km of subway weren’t enough for an 11 million megalopolis. But after the first phase of the subway system was completed, there were not sufficient funds for builiding new routes, or adapting the trains for the system’s growing demands. At that time, the first subway accident occured: in 1975, two trains crashed at Viaducto station. The official reason: human failure; however, security systems weren’t well developed at that time. Further action was taken throughout the years; because of such actions, the Mexico City subway hasn’t had another train crash, making it one of the safest systems in the world.
In 1977, the Metro Master Plan (“Plan Maestro del Metro”), was presented. It projected a 15-line, 315 km system that could be finished by the year 2015. Many of the actual subway routes follow that original plan, however, some routes had to change their alignment, due to the geological conditions of the city (remember that Mexico City was built over a lake, and the aztec empire once stood on this site).
After sufficient funding was available (thanks to the late 1970’s oil boom), it was decided to extend line 3, north and south. In 4 stages, from 1978 to 1980, it was extended north to La Raza, and then to Indios Verdes, its definite northern terminus; to the south, from Centro Médico and then to Zapata. In 1983, line 3 reaches its definite terminus at Universidad.
But three lines weren’t enough for the city. Thus, at the beginning of 1980, construction began on line 4 and line 5. Line 4 was planned as a north-south route, running on a viaduct, serving the eastern part of the city. Line 5 should link the eastern suburbs of Mexico city, via the airport and the new northeast section of the Circuito Interior (inner ring road), to the Politechnic School in the northwest. In August 1981, the first section of line 4, from Martín Carrera to Candelaria was opened; the second section (Candelaria – Santa Anita) opened a year later. As of line 5, the first section (PantitlánConsulado) opened in December 1981; the extension to La Raza in July 1982, and two months later the section to Politécnico.

Another interesting discovery was made while building line 4. While digging the soil for building the foundations of Talismán station, the remains of a mammoth (dated 10,000 B.C.) were found. Today, these remains are shown permanently in Talismán station, and the mammoth was chosen as the station symbol.

The subway wasn’t stopping its permanent expansion: the first section of line 6 (an east-west route linking the northern parts of the city) was inaugurated in December 1983, and line 7 would open in 3 stages (from Tacuba to Barranca del Muerto) during 1984 and 1985. Line 7 is the deepest line of Mexico City’s subway: some stations stand at 35 m below street level (not so deep compared to some European systems). Finally, two more sections were opened in this expansion stage: an extension on line 1 between Zaragoza and Pantitlán (so this would be linked to line 5), and a two station extension of line 2, reaching its definite terminus Cuatro Caminos. Cuatro Caminos was the first station built outside the Distrito Federal (Mexico City’s “official” limit), trying to be a transportation gateway to the northern suburbs.

At the end of 1985, the subway had 105 stations, distribuited on a 110 km. long network… not bad for a 10-year period!


In the next three years, more sections within the city limits were opened: the second section of line 6 (Instituto del Petróleo – Martín Carrera) in 1986; line 9 (a parallel route to avoid saturation of line 1) in 1987, and the north section of line 7 (Tacuba – El Rosario) in November 1988… but what about line 8? Yes, in 1989 there were 8 lines, numbered 1 to 7 and line 9. What happened to line 8?
Line 8 history is a case in which the original alignment had to be changed because of geological reasons. Originally it was planned to run from Indios Verdes station, via the city center (the “Zócalo”), and then heading east to Ejército Constitucionalista in the eastern limits. If such route were built, several buildings, dating from the 17th century would had been affected (even historical buildings like the Cathedral, and the Templo Mayor aztec ruins). On the other hand, the southeastern parts of the city, as well as the eastern suburbs wouldn’t benefit from a subway service…
The Master Plan had a serious problem: no route was projected to run beyond the Distrito Federal limits; therefore, the terminals would lay at the state limit, and other means of transportation should be used in the suburbs. For a city having 20 million inhabitants, 40 miles long and 25 miles wide, having a subway within some limits wasn’t admissible. Thus, the Plan was modified to include extended routes into the suburbs. The first of these routes was planned as a suburban line to the eastern suburbs, but it was decided to operate as a “light subway” line, running on steel wheels instead of rubber tyres. Line A, from Pantitlán to La Paz, was born.
Line A was inaugurated in August 1991. Distance between stations is the main distinctive feature of this line: an average distance of 1700m, compared to the 1100m of the “urban” lines. However, it proved to be a good transportation solution, considering that pollution in the area, as well as traffic jams had been getting worse.

Simultaneously, the alignment of line 8 was revised, and a new route was proposed. A first stage would run through the city center, but away from the historic area; then it would head east, then south through Iztacalco ward, and finally east to Iztapalapa ward. The solution was approved, and construction began in 1991. In August 1994, the longest subway section ever built (19 stations in 20 km) was opened, linking the southeastern neighborhoods to the city center.

Another densly-inhabited area lies in the northeastern part of the metropolitan area: the city of Ecatepec. So, after line 8 was completed, line B (originally line 10) went into construction stage. Because of financial problems, the first section was finished five years later, in December 1999, from Buenavista (Mexico City’s train station) to Villa de Aragón. Eventually the second section to Ciudad Azteca would be finished on 30 November 2000.


Last spring the revision of the Master Plan was presented. It presents the future Metro network layout for the year 2020, which includes extensions to some of the lines, as well as new routes. One interesting feature is that 9 light rail lines, with a private right-of- way have been considered, to link the suburbs to the main subway lines. In 20 years, there will be 17 metro lines (13 urban and 4 suburban), and 10 light-rail lines. It is important to say that the potential of commuter rail hasn’t been considered, so there is an opportunity to link towns in a 100 km radius to the capital, creating a multimodal transportation hub.
Of course there are short term plans: in the next three years, there are plans to build 22 km of new routes.
  • Line 7 will be extended to the south, from Barranca del Muerto to San Jerónimo (4 stations).
  • Line 8 will be extended to the north and to the south. To the north, it should reach Indios Verdes station on line 3, linking with line 5 at Misterios, and line 6 at La Villa Basílica (6 stations). To the south, an extension will be built from Escuadrón 201 to Acoxpa (8 stations).
  • And what happens to the section from Atlalilco to Constitución de 1917 ofpresent line 8? It will be part of the planned line 12, a new east-west line linking the southern parts of the city. This line will head to Mixcoac (change for line 7), crossing line 2 at Ermita and line 3 at Zapata. A new station will be built at the crossing of lines 8 and 12, and part of the section between Escuadrón 201 and Atlalilco will become a linking spur between the lines.

It is expected that these extensions will increase the subway ridership by 1,000,000 persons per day. This way, the Mexico City subway tries to fulfill the demanding transportation needs of 22 million inhabitants, and become a reliable, safe and clean backbone of the biggest city of the world.

Source: Urban rail.net

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Otavalo Market, Ecuador

July 22nd, 2009

While travel throughout Ecuador presents limitless opportunities for visiting markets, none tops the market in Otavalo. Well known as the largest market in South America, its fame is a testament to an amazing experience. Even those who don’t like to shop will find themselves enchanted.Otavalo Market

Located at the base of a breathtaking volcano in the mountains of Ecuador, Otavalo is only two hours north of Quito and worth the winding bus ride. The busiest market day is Saturday but there is a market in Otavalo every day of the week. The story goes that the first sale a villager makes each day is always the best price (presumably for good luck), so it’s recommended you arrive early.

The market is centered around Poncho Plaza and is filled with everything from textiles to paintings to jewelry to musical instruments including the traditional charango. The textile industry dates back to Spanish colonial days when Rodrigo de Salazar, who acquired a land grant at Otavalo, set up a weaving workshop employing the Otavaleno Indians who were already skilled weavers. With the new techniques and tools from Spain, Otavalo eventually supplied most of the textiles used throughout South America.

An incredible variety of textiles and other crafts can be found throughout the market for unbelievable prices. But beyond the bargains to be had, the experience is all the more enriched by the very artisans selling their goods.  Dressed in traditional clothing distinctive to this area, the men and women of Otavalo and the surrounding villages are a friendly and proud people and while bargaining is part of the game, you may find yourself succumbing to the irresistible smiles.

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July 5th, 2009

The siesta is a tradition in many cultures and while the word “seista” is Spanish, from the Latin hora sexta or “the sixth hour” counting from dawn (making it the noon hour), the tradition of a midday nap actually has roots in Islam and is mentioned in the Koran. Romans also observed siesta and like Islam, siesta was focused more on health needs. But it was the Spaniards who centuries ago were credited with long midday rest to relieve farm workers from sun during the hottest part of the day.
img_12111Today, siesta is common in most Latin countries and can last from 2 to 4 hours. Since relief from midday sun isn’t always a real need, in many places the tradition of siesta has evolved into one that focuses on spending time with family. In San Rafael, Argentina, for instance, the entire town begins to shut down around noon and some businesses may not reopen until 4 or 5pm. During this long break, children come home from school, parents come home from work, a big lunch is prepared (often accompanied by wine) and then the entire family naps.img_0651
But because the observance of a long siesta makes for a much longer workday (consider that returning to work at 4pm would result in a workday that may not end until 9pm) and to accommodate international business practices, Spain eliminated the extended siesta for government workers in 2006.
However, studies do prove that a short nap during the day is very beneficial for our health and while we may not need 2 to 4 hours of rest, the tradition certainly has it’s appeal.

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The Tango

July 4th, 2009

img_01971For more than 100 years, Buenos Aires has been the heart of the tango and while the dance is universally embraced today and regarded with glamor and elegance, such was not always the case.

While some accounts trace the origins of the tango to a country dance of 17th Century England, most recognize it’s evolution into the dance we know today as beginning in the late 1800’s. During this time, immigrants from Africa, Europe and ports unknown found their way to the outskirts of Buenos Aires and lived in conventillos (large houses inhabited by several families). It was here in the underbelly of the thriving city that the emotion and expression of the tango made it’s debut and interestingly, the dance was deemed obscene by upper society.img_0229

But disdain for the tango wouldn’t last. When Ricardo Guiraldes, a respected upper-class poet from Argentina, toured Europe in 1910, he endeared the fashionable Parisians to the tango with a poem called “Tango” accompanied by a tango performance. This would mark the beginning of many latin dance crazes to sweep Europe, and with the favourable reception of the tango by high society Parisians, Argentine high society saw this dance in a new light.

Since then, the Tango has morphed and evolved in both musicality and dance style. For example, there is a striking difference between Argentine tango and ballroom tango. While ballroom tango has the partners arching their upper bodies away from each other and maintaining contact at the hip, Argentine tango is nearly the opposite with dancers’ upper bodies being closer than the hips and heads touching or nearly touching. Then there is salon tango which is characterized by slow, measured, and fluid moves with a close but flexible embrace and with the walk being the most significant element of the dance. And mention must be made of Gotan Project, a Parisian band whose tango-based music is layered with electronic beats and heavily influenced by house music.

Today the tango has experienced a resurgence in popularity with younger generations and a visit to Buenos Aires reveals tango being performed in parks and plazas during the day img_1035and at dinner shows in the evenings. It is well worth the time to experience a dinner show where guests are not only dazzled by the tango performances (often accompanied by traditional gaucho dancing and a variety of musical solo exhibitions), but also enjoy an amazing culinary experience.

Visit this site for more information about tango dinner shows in Buenos Aires: www.argentina-tango.net For a more intimate environment, we recommend the Gala Tango show. If you’re lucky, you’ll get Nestar as your waiter…and be prepared for a steak the size of a softball!

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