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Latin America: 2010 in Review

In 2010 a major earthquake hit Chile, several new heads of state took office, former Argentinean president Nestor Kirchner unexpectedly passed away, the Nobel Prize in Literature was given to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, and Global Voices held its Summit in Santiago, Chile. Let's review these and some of the other stories our Latin American team covered during this year from a citizen media perspective.

Natural Disasters

The region was severely hit by natural disasters this year. In January, Juan Arellano reported on mudslides in Cusco, Peru which left almost 2,000 tourists stranded, and Juliana Rincón gathered citizen videos calling for aid.

Post-earthquake destruction in Chillán, Chile on February 27 – photo by Felipe Ovalle on Flickr, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

On February 27, Eduardo Avila began covering the earthquake that hit Chile, reporting that,

At 3:34 a.m. local time, an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 struck off the coast of the Maule region in Chile. The earthquake was felt in the capital city of Santiago located 325km from the epicenter.

A Special Coverage Page was created to gather citizen reports and featured Global Voices stories, like Felipe Cordero's post on the social inequalities revealed by the earthquake and Silvia Viñas’ report on the indigenous Mapuche community affected by the earthquake.

In May, Guatemala was severely affected by an increase in the activity of the Pacaya Volcano and the strong rains from tropical storm Agatha. Heavy rainfall also affected Mexico, causing flooding in the states of Veracruz and Tabasco in September. In November, tropical storm Thomas hit Costa Rica.

The winter in Colombia has been particularly difficult this year. Author Catalina Restrepo wrote about floods in the northeastern Chocó department, and later gave us a glimpse of Colombian solidarity with a post on a “Twitterathon” [es] to gather supplies for the victims of this year's harsh winter.

Venezuela was also hit by heavy rains, flooding and landslides at the end of the year. Relief efforts became a political issue –as several bloggers reported– with the passing of an Enabling Law that grants President Hugo Chavez special powers until June 2012.

Politics, International Relations and Conflict

Politics are always a hot topic in the region, and this year was not an exception.

The year began with right-leaning candidate Sebastián Piñera winning the Chilean presidential election after 20 years of center-left ruling by the coalition party Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia. His first months in the presidency were marked by events such as a hunger strike by the indigenous Mapuche over an Anti-Terror Law, and the rescue of 33 trapped miners in the north of Chile.

In Uruguay, José Mujica continued the left-leaning rule of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition as he took office on March 1st.

Right-wing candidate Juan Manuel Santos was elected to succeed president Álvaro Uribe in Colombia. Author Julián Ortega thoroughly covered the May 30 elections as seen on citizen media –and specifically through Twitter– and later reported on the reactions to the election results on Twitter and the Colombian blogosphere.

"Simple things with meaning: physical proof of having participated in the Parliamentary Elections 2010, against the backdrop of the Venezuelan flag because it’s about more than just political parties, I did it and will keeping doing it for my country” Image taken from Flickr user, @Ivanchild. Image used under Creative Common License for non-commercial use.

On September 26 Venezuelans voted to renew the National Assembly, the country's unicameral legislative branch. Juliana Rincón showed us how web videos were used to encourage citizens to vote, while Patricia Acosta reported on the online activism that took place during the campaign through Twitter. Patricia later showcased blogger's analysis and opinions of the election results.

A few days after Venezuelans voted to renew the National Assembly, on September 30 a police strike in Ecuador caused chaos and confusion as Ecuadorians tried to make sense of the day's events. Global Voices created a Special Coverage page which includes several articles by authors Paulina Aguilera and Milton Ramirez.

Another unexpected event took place in Argentina, when former president Nestor Kirchner died from a heart attack in October.

In Central America, a conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua broke out over the dredging of the San Juan River, which rekindled an ongoing border dispute between the countries. Costa Rican author Roy Rojas began the discussion with a post on reactions from the Costa Rican blogosphere, and Nicaraguan author Rodrigo Peñalba continued our coverage with a two-part post (see part II here) on the conflict.

Further north, migrants traveling through Mexico into the United States made news around the world this year, when 72 bodies of migrants from several Latin American countries were found on August 23.

In Mexico, drug-related violence was discussed on citizen media throughout the year. For example, Juliana Rincón wrote:

Mexican bloggers debate whether citizen videos and pictures showing graphic violent crimes are an answer to what some say is the mass media's resistance to cover drug trafficking related violence or if it is just another way to spread fear and terror.

Also in Mexico, the United Nations Climate Change Conference-COP 16 took place in Cancun from November 29 to December 10. Mexican author Andrea Arzaba tracked climate negotiations as a representative for the Adopt a Negotiator Project. Andrea wrote about the work of other trackers and their conclusions after the conference.

Culture

The region's rich culture was also featured on Global Voices this year. Mexican writer Issa Villarreal put together a 3-part series on graffiti and urban art in Latin America. Later in the year, Venezuelan author Laura Vidal introduced us to the world of comics in Venezuela and their presence on the web.

Mario Vargas Llosa at the Cervantes Institute in New York on October 7, 2010, after the announcement that he had received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Image by Flickr user Globovision, under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

In Chile, Isabel Allende was awarded the National Prize for Literature, a prize some thought was overdue and others criticized. But the biggest news for Latin American literature this year was the Nobel Prize in Literature, as Peruvian author Gabriela García Calderón wrote :

On Thursday October 7, Peruvians woke up to what has been called the “News of the Year”: Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy.

Silvia Viñas later reported on the response to the prize throughout Latin America and Juan Arellano wrote about the author's relationship with Peru.

2010 was certainly an eventful year for Latin America. Bloggers in the region provided a unique perspective on many events that made headlines around the world and also opened our eyes to issues that got very little media attention. At Global Voices, the Latin American team will continue gathering the voices of the Latin American blogosphere in 2011.

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