Latin America Travel Journal
Joy P. 6th Period
Stop #1: Mexico City, Mexico
Today has been amazing! I must be the luckiest tourist ever. After all, it's not everyday where the mayor of Mexico City offers to take you on a private tour of the city in his car! His name was Marcelo Ebrard, and he seemed really kind, despite my stereotypical impression that mayors were serious men with mustaches and suits.
I was really nervous during the car ride, so I made an attempt at conversation by asking him about the government in Mexico City. He was happy to answer my question, and launched into a very detailed speech.
Mayor Ebrard explained that the government of Mexico City and Mexico was a federal republic. Apparently, the very first elected mayor of Mexico City was a man named Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, elected in 1997. According to Mayor Ebrard, the position of mayor is considered the second most powerful political seat in Mexico, after presidency. That's pretty powerful!
After Cardenas, Mayor Ebrard told me about Rosario Robles Berlanga, who was appointed the position of mayor, becoming the very first woman mayor of Mexico City. Talk about girl power!
Finally, Mayor Ebrard dropped me off at my destination, in front of the Federal District buildings. The Federal District buildings are two buildings on the southern side of Zocalo in Mexico City, housing the offices of governing authorities. I quickly snapped a few pictures of the two buildings.
The mayor wished me a good day before driving off, leaving behind a cloud of dust. I wiped off my camera lense, still unable to believe that the mayor of Mexico City himself took the time to take me on a private tour. But even though that was definitely the highlight of my time in Mexico, I still have to admit, I was really impressed by the government and its history.
The mayor of Mexico City, who showed me around the city.
The very first elected mayor of Mexico City.
Federal District Building
One of the Federal District buildings.
Stop #2 Guatemala
Though most of my trip has been lots of fun, I've seen some really disturbing and sad things, too. For example, when I was here in Guatemala this week, I noticed a large mob of people in front of a court building. When I asked what was going on, a native young woman explained to me that the former dictator, Rios Montt, was on trial today. Apparently, he was facing 75 years in prison due to his part in the recent Mayan genocide.
The young woman explained that she was a native Mayan, and that her parents survived the genocide in the civil war by going into hiding for many years, along with some other family members. The war lasted from 1960-1996, fought between government forces and various rebel groups mainly supported by the Mayan indigenous people and poor peasants. Around 200,000 people were killed or missing in the war, 40,000-50,000 gone missing for certain. A peace accord was signed in 1996, finally ending the civil war.
However, the young woman said, the government forces were condemned for committing acts of genocide against the Mayan population, and she described some of the gruesome fates many Mayans victims met. Rios Montt was said to have taken a large part in the genocide.
As the woman finished speaking, I was shocked that someone would even try to wipe out an entire ethnic group just because they exist. It's sad how things like this happens all over the world, and I pray that the Mayans will see better times in the future.
The former dictator of Guatemala, currently facing a 75 year trial.
Rios Montt's Genocide Trial
Rios Montt at his genocide trial.
Young Mayan Woman
The young Mayan woman who told me about Rios Montt and his trial.
Stop #3 Colombia
Today I'm on a tour around the country of Colombia. I boarded the bus this morning, along with other tourists, and we departed. The tour guide explained that we would only make a few stops, since the entire country of Colombia was too big to explore entirely in one day.
We first headed to a small mine, where miners mined for coal. According to the guide, Colombia has more coal than any other South American country. That's pretty cool. As we arrived, we noticed a large crowd of miners gathered around something. When we asked what was going on, a miner told us that one of the miners had found an emerald amongst the coal. We admired the shining green stone, and I took picture after picture of it, as well as the mine. I even got a picture of all the miners smiling over the emerald in a group photo. Colombia is a major gold supplier, as well as the world's number one source of emeralds.
Our next stop was a large plantation, where coffee was being grown, harvested, and exported. Coffee is a major cash crop, and Colombian coffee is known all over the world for its rich flavor. We tourists were each given a small pack of freshly ground coffee beans as souvenirs. Bananas, sugarcane, cacao, rice, and cotton are also grown and exported.
As we were on our way to our third and final stop, the bus drove by another plantation growing strange plants. I snapped a few photos. When I asked about it, the tour guide explained that the plants were really coca, which is made into the drug cocaine. Drug dealers pay the farmers to grow the coca, which is then smuggled into other countries as drugs to sell. The government is trying to convince the farmers to return to growing other crops, like rice and coffee.
Finally, we reached our third stop: a factory. Inside, we saw clothing being made by workers and machines. Colombia's manufacturing industry also consists of producing leather goods, food products, paper, chemicals, and iron and steel products. I dug out my camera and took pictures.
As we boarded the bus on the way back to the station, I looked through all the pictures I had taken on the tour. I smiled at the emerald, frowned at the coca plants, and gazed at the strange robots and machines piecing together cloth to make clothes. I smiled again, and promised myself that I would never forget all the things I had seen today.
Stop #4 Brazil
Did you know that Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world? It takes up nearly half of South America, and borders almost every country! Of course, I hardly knew anything about Brazil's geography. That is, until I was I was convinced to take a tour of Brazil. More specifically, the Amazon.
So here I was, on a helicopter, flying over the Amazon rainforest. Below, I could see the thick canopy of trees. Somewhere below the leaves, the Amazon River, also the second longest river in the world, winds through its banks.
Finally, the helicopter reached our destination and dropped me off in front of a small cabin, where the tour guide was waiting with the other tourists. I introduced myself, stating that I was part of the tour group. The guide welcomed me, and ushered me into the back of a truck with the other tourists.
He got into the driver's seat, and we drove down a dirt path into the rainforest. On the way, the guide pointed put the many droplets of moisture on the truck windows, saying that the Amazon was on of the rainiest parts in the country. The Amazon Basin and rainforest got up to 120 inches of rainfall a year! The rainy season was usually from December through April of each year. Well, I thought, that explains the humid tropical climate. Surprisingly, temperatures above ninety degrees Fahrenheit were rare, which was a relief, though it didn't change the fact that I was beginning to sweat.
Throughout the tour, the guide pointed out various species of plants and animals. I soon forgot about how hot it was, and took picture after picture of the scenery. We even spotted a lime green tree snake dangling from a branch overhead.
Finally, we headed back to the cabin as the sun began to set. The guide explained that tomorrow, we'd board a small plane and fly over the Brazilian Highlands, which cover half of Brazil. From up high, we'd be able to look down and see the Great Escarpment, where the highlands drop steeply into the Atlantic Ocean.
That night, I laid wide awake on my cot, unable to contain my excitement. I saw some truly fascinating things in the rainforest today. I wonder what the highlands will be like.
The tree snake we found hanging from a branch above us.
The Amazon rainforest from inside the helicopter.
The Amazon River from inside the helicopter.