Strike! Rio Blanco Uprising Was The Opening Shot Of The Mexican Revolution

Strike! Rio Blanco Uprising Was The Opening Shot Of The Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution was grounded in the overthrow of a dictator and a fight for workers’ rights.

And its genesis began in Veracruz.

Workers at the Rio Blanco textile and yarn factory in Orizaba, in the state of Veracruz, went on strike in 1907. The strike soon spread to other factories in the city and was a precursor to the Mexican Revolution, which erupted three years later. However, the strikes had a dire consequence: the execution of all participants.

The city of Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico. *** La ciudad de Orizaba, Veracruz, México. (Urvashi Makwana)

The movement started with the creation of the Sociedad Mutualista de Ahorros, two years before the strikes, with the formation of the Gran Círculo de Obreros Libres, in 1906. José Neira Gómez and Juan Olivar, delegated promoters of the Mexican Liberal Party, were the masterminds behind these organizations.

The goal was to oust the stranglehold of Mexico’s president, Porfirio Diaz.

The Mexican Liberal Party’s upper echelons had secret meetings with the Revolutionary Board’s president Ricardo Flores Magón. Flores Magón had based his Board in San Luis, Missouri, as Diaz had exiled him. These groups sought to remove Díaz from his almost three decades of power.

Workers protest outside the main door of the Hilos de Río Blanco Factory in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, during the Río Blanco Lockout on January 7, 1907. CTM photo archive. *** Obreros amotinados protestan frente a la puerta principal de la Fábrica de Hilos de Río Blanco, en Orizaba, Veracruz, México, durante los sucesos de la Huelga de Río Blanco el 7 de enero de 1907. Archivo Fotográfico CTM. (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

What happened in Rio Blanco?

Rio Blanco was not the first strike in the country.

Several workers in the states of Tlaxcala and Puebla had already gone on strike in 1906, seeking to improve their work environment. In response, the owners went on lockout and stopped paying salaries to the workers.  Desperate, they appealed directly to Diaz, who ordered a renewal of activities on January 7, 1907, but did not decree an improvement in working conditions. The workers, once again, protested and demanded both freedoms of the press and association.

“The strike sought to enforce workers’ rights, their working conditions, and a salary increase,” said Salvador Rodríguez, a historian from Veracruz. “These protests, although considered rebellions, were peaceful until the president turned his back on the workers to give more benefits to the owners.”

The Rio Blanco workers’ response was to reject the president’s resolution, as 1,000 workers started a riot outside the factory. The burned and looted property belonged to Victor Garcín, a businessman who owned the factory and two warehouses. The workers then ran to the local jail to free the inmates.

“The workers were in the right,” said Rodríguez. “They worked in precarious and inhuman conditions. The working hours, at a minimum, were 14 hours a day. They were barely given any time to eat or rest, and the salaries were quite low. They were paid only 35 cents per day of work.”

Soldiers opened fire against the workers, who managed to escape and flee to a nearby city, where they looted a store, stopped the city’s tram service, cut off the city’s electrical power, and robbed the wealthy. The federal forces executed all those who had tried to flee — men, women, and children.

There was no exact record of how many people died that day, as neither the state nor the Díaz Government released any official statement. However, it is believed that between 400 and 800 workers lost their lives. Witnesses claimed they had seen bodies loaded into trains so the government could pretend as if the riot had never occurred. Further, about 240 workers were locked up in prison.

Díaz then offered a dinner to foreign businessmen to quell their fears of further rioting and, by doing that, turned his back on his people. That indifference fueled the Mexican Revolution in November 1910. Though despised by workers, many Mexicans laud Díaz as the man who brought “modernity” to Mexico.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Melanie Slone and Fern Siegel.)


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Discover the Güiro, a Musical Instrument Made from Fruit

Discover the Güiro, a Musical Instrument Made from Fruit

Latin America is a major producer of musical instruments with diverse patterns, sounds and materials. One of the most unique is the “güiro,” which can be made out of a gourd.

The güiro is part of the scrapper family of instruments and is popular in Cuba, Ecuador, Panama, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. It’s a percussion instrument often made from a hollowed dried gourd, just like maracas and cabasa, and has several parallel notches on its skin. Güiros can also be made of such materials as fiberglass, plastic and wood.

A metal rod accompanies every güiro, which produces the rhythmic sounds associated with the instrument. Thanks to composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel, the güiro joined the classical orchestras in the 20th century.



The güiro: Latin America’s musical instrument

Güiro is just one of several different names the instrument has: in Panama, güícharo, in Brazil, reco-reco, and in the Dominican Republic, güiraAncient Mexicans used instruments similar to the güiro, as archaeological evidence has found dried fruits identical to the modern instrument. It is one of the most popular Latin American tools to play folk songs.

“A güiro is just like a fingerprint: no matter how hard a creator tries, no two güiros will be the same,” said Josian Alvarado, an expert Puerto Rican güirero (güiro player.) “The first thing one has to do when wanting to make one, is to draw on its surface where will the notches be. The distance between each notch is what gives the güiro its characteristic sound.”

Most historians believe that the güiro originated in Puerto Rico, with the Taino among its first practitioners. Others, however, think it has African roots. Whatever the case, the güiro has accompanied dancers since before 1788, when Puerto Rican monk historian, Fray Íñigo Abbad y Lasierra, recorded it.

Cuba and Puerto Rico used the güiro for their traditional dance for centuries, even before becoming an integral part of Latin music such as conga and salsa. During the 19th century, it became an addition to musical groups, alongside such staples as drums and other percussion instruments.

“Each güiro is carved exclusively for the type of music it is going to play. No matter if it plays country or traditional music, the güiro’s role is to accompany the music created by the other instruments,” said Alvarado. “I keep saying, before anyone makes a güiro, they must know what type of music it is going to play.”

A well-made güiro can accompany any instrument or mark the beats of the song. However, it is impossible to attune a güiro. The scratching on the notches makes the sounds, so a güiro cannot change its notes without damaging them.

Musicians sing a welcoming song to Pope Francis in Cuba as he spends his first night in the country on September 19, 2015 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. *** Los músicos cantan una canción dando la bienvenida al Papa Francisco a Cuba mientras pasa su primera noche en el país el 19 de septiembre de 2015 en Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There is no standard size nor building material for güiros. It can range from 25 to 40 centimeters (roughly 10 to 16 inches) and use plastic or wood. However, the original güiros, made out of dried-out gourds, remain popular throughout Latin America.

Because of their non-standard design, güiros can create a wide range of musical notes, custom-tailored to any sound the musicians want to add. More modern ones have evolved to encompass more features, with some musicians shaking filled-up güiros to add a new layer of sounds.

“We call the dry, not yet carved instruments marimbos, which is a type of gourd. These güiros grow up large when sown, but we sometimes cut them down before they ripen if we desire an instrument of a certain size,” said Alvarado. “We call the lightly colored ones ‘güiro blanco’ and the dark ones ‘güiro Castilla,’ so they differ in that regard, as well.”

There are many ways to acquire a güiro. Platforms such as Mercado Libre, eBay, or Amazon can help foreign buyers to get one. Of course, the price will vary by the model used, the brand, the material, or the warranty. Nonetheless, it is a small price to pay for having the chance of holding a part so integral to Latin American folklore.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Matthew B. Hall)


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La variedad en la comida callejera resalta en Ecuador

La variedad en la comida callejera resalta en Ecuador

Cevichocho, cuy, y más es lo que Ecuador ofrece al mundo gastronómico.

El país se caracteriza por tener formas diferentes y variadas de preparar su comida y bebidas. Además de contar con recetas caseras y tradicionales, ofrece comida rápida como una opción balanceada; ocupa ingredientes que satisfacen el gusto de la población. Para ellos es muy común comer una gran variedad de frutas o buscar siempre el equilibrio de la canasta básica como el arroz, huevo, aguacate y carne de cerdo o res. Sin embargo, practican la cocina como todos los maestros latinoamericanos, así que el concepto de comida rápida para ellos no deja de ser sinónimo de buena alimentación.

¿Qué opciones tiene Ecuador a la hora de comer en la calle?

Además de platillos clásicos—como el ceviche, los langostinos y el cuy, entre otros—, pueden encontrarse variedades como las empanadas, que van rellenas de carnes, verduras, queso o frutas. Las hay de morocho, que se hacen de maíz con arroz; las verdes de plátano con queso; o las de viento, preparadas de harina con queso y azúcar.

Mercado artesanal , Otavalo, Ecuador. (Andrea Leon/Unsplash)

Las humitas son de origen peruano, pero llegaron a la Cordillera de los Andes—Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador—, para dejar a los ecuatorianos preparaciones rápidas como esta, que es una pasta de maíz, envuelta y cocida en las hojas de una mazorca también de maíz. Se le acompaña con huevos, aguacate, cebollas, y distintas especias para darle más concentración al sabor, y las hay dulces o saladas.

“Por un dólar puedes comprar un cevichocho, son súper ricos; se consiguen en la calle también por cualquier parte, es algo delicioso, te llena full, es barato. El plato tiene chochos, tiene candil, lleva chifle que es plátano picado. Y se le baña con un juguito que es a lo que llaman ceviche, y de ahí es el nombre de cevichocho. También le ponen limoncito”, dijo Albert Oleaga, venezolano radicado en Ecuador.

El pan de yuca, elaborado con queso blanco, almidón de yuca, huevos y polvo de hornear, se amasa y se hornea en toda la costa del país, lo que lo hace una delicia exprés y de paso. Los patacones son una comida frita, hecha con plátano verde; son muy famosos en otros lugares de América Latina. Los pinchos, palillos rellenos, contienen variedades de vegetal, papa y carne.

Los bolones se hacen con plátano verde o macho; se cocinan y se aplastan hasta hacer una masa que se rellena con queso, chorizo o chicharrón. Son el desayuno ideal para los ecuatorianos, acompañados con una buena taza de café, huevo frito y ají.

La salchipapa se consume en toda América Latina, pero igualmente en Ecuador se prepara, pues las salchichas fritas, cortadas en rodajas o enteras, acompañadas de papas fritas y salsa son una opción deliciosa. El choclo o el maíz peruano puede prepararse con queso y carne desmechada; se encuentra en puestos de comida callejera. Por último, los cevichochos son preparados vegetarianos que llevan semillas de chocho, limón, sal, cebolla, salsa de tomate, maíz tostado y banano frito, listos para todo el público en general.

“Algo que te puedes topar de primera instancia en Quito son los puestos de salchipapas, es algo común, tradicional; te sirven una cama de papas fritas y encima de ella una salchicha de buen tamaño, las rocían con sal y pimienta; además las puedes bañar de salsa de tomate y mayonesa, acompañadas de un poco de ensalada de cebolla o ensalada de col”, dijo Albert Oleaga.

Las bebidas allá igualmente son famosas, y hay desde preparaciones en restaurantes o bares hasta los mismos que se encuentran en locales más típicos o clásicos. Las más comunes son las dulces como el morocho seco y granos de maíz agrietados, que se hacen con leche, canela, azúcar y pasas, así como el rompope o ponche de leche, el cual se bebe frío o caliente y lleva por ingredientes leche, azúcar, vainilla, cascara de naranja, crema, y alcohol de caña de azúcar. Se disfrutan con o sin alcohol, en una reunión, en la calle o a solas.

“Otro alimento callejero que hay acá son los pinchos, conocidos también como chuzos, que tiene plátano maduro, lleva papa y a veces chorizo porque tú puedes elegir eso, y la gran parte del pincho es de pollo que también puede ser de carne, también lo decides tú, entonces se dice me das un pincho de carne o dame un pincho de pollo”, dijo.

Sin duda, Ecuador tiene mucho que ofrecerle a sus visitantes y a sus propios pobladores dentro de su gastronomía nacional.

Por Vanessa Sam y Christian Valera Rebolledo

(Editado por Melanie Slone y LuzMarina Rojas-Carhuas)

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What Two Teens Did On Summer Vacation: Discover Gold

What Two Teens Did On Summer Vacation: Discover Gold

Two Israeli teens helping an archaeological team during their summer break made a find that’s the envy of their professional counterparts: a clay pot containing 425 meticulously preserved 24-carat gold coins that date back to the 9th century.

“It was amazing,” said Oz Cohen, one of the teens who volunteered at the excavation site in central Israel before entering military service after the summer holidays. “I dug in the ground and when I excavated the soil, saw what looked like very thin leaves. When I looked again, I saw they were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure.”

The dig took place at a site being prepped for a housing development. The two archaeologists in charge of the excavation, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad, said in a statement obtained by Zenger News that the treasure appeared to be deliberately buried at the site, because the pot containing the coins had been secured with a nail.

A man holds the cache as found at the site. (Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)


The cache as found at the site. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)


A man counts the cache as found at the site. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)

“The person who buried this treasure 1,100 years ago must have expected to retrieve it,” they said. “We can only guess what prevented him from returning to collect his treasure.”

The discovery is rare, indeed, as gold coins were traditionally melted and re-used over time, rather than preserved in their original form. Moreover, the coins provide a glimpse into trade relations in the Mediterranean region more than a millennium ago, according to the authority.


Most of the coins, which weighed a total of 845 grams (almost 2 pounds), were minted in the Islamic world. But some are from the Byzantine empire, which indicates that there was trade between Christian lands and the so-called Abbasid Caliphate, which controlled an empire that stretched from Persia to Baghdad in today’s Iraq.

The hoard consists of full gold dinars, an early Islamic currency, but also about 270 small gold cuttings that were used as small change. The rarest piece is a fragment of a gold solidus of the Byzantine emperor Theophilos, minted in the Byzantine empire’s capital of Constantinople. This fragment, according to Robert Kool, a coin expert at the authority, is rare material evidence of the continuous connections—war and trade—between the two rival empires during this period.

Israel Antiquities Authority excavations in the centre of the country. (Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)


Liat Nadav-Ziv, director of the excavation, with the cache. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority/ Real Press)

“This rare treasure will certainly be a major contribution to research, as finds from the Abbasid period in Israel are relatively few,” Kool said. “Hopefully, the study of the hoard will tell us more about a period of which we still know very little.”

And the value of the gold coins? Though considered priceless today, Kool said 1,100 years ago, the entire hoard would have been enough to buy a luxurious house in one of the best neighborhoods in Fustat, then the wealthy capital of Egypt.

(Edited by Stephen Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.)

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India Beckons Foreign Artists ‘Home’

India Beckons Foreign Artists ‘Home’

CHENNAI—India has always held a certain mystique for people from Western countries. While for many the fascination may be fleeting, for a few performing artists who have made India their home, it is now an enduring affair.

Here are some of their stories:

Marie Elangovan

Marie Elangovan, who is French-Canadian, was a student of religious studies in Montreal when she stumbled upon a Bharatnatyam video at her university library. That was when she decided to learn the art form in the place of its birth, the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India.

“The performer in the video, clad in a red sari, dancing in the backdrop of a temple, left me spellbound,” said Elangovan. “I fell in love with the art form.”

Unable to find a full-time teacher in Montreal, she realized that she had to come to India if she wanted to learn the dance.

“I felt at home in India right from the beginning,” said Elangovan. “I had to make some adjustments, but they added color to my life.”

Some of the adjustments she made included not sitting in parks by herself, and meeting but not greeting strangers like she would in Canada. However, it was all worth it, she said, because she got to learn Bharatanatyam — which is what drew her to India in the first place.

Elangovan ended up marrying Elangovan Govindarajan, the son of her Bharatanatyam teacher, K. J. Govindarajan, further enhancing her assimilation into her adopted culture.

Sharon Lowen

Sharon Lowen, a U.S. citizen from Detroit, came to India in 1973 on a Fulbright scholarship to study Manipuri dance, a classical form from northeast India, under the tutelage of Guru Singhajit Singh.  She also learned Odissi, a dance form from the eastern state of Odisha, from guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

“Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra said I learned faster than anybody else,” she said.

Lowen settled down in India in the 1980s, though she maintains close ties with the United States and will be voting in the upcoming elections there.

Lowen said that it has been easy for her to thrive in India because she is accepted as a performer in a country where a classical dancer has to be exceptional to pass muster.

“I decided to stay on in India because here I was doing something worthwhile,” she said. “ I was learning about Indian languages and creating good work.”

While Lowen did not know any Indian language when she  arrived, she did not let that hinder her growth. She would ask people to translate poetry for her and then read more about [the poets] to understand the nuances of their work.

Sonali Mishra

Sonali Mishra poses for a photo in Bhubaneshwar, India in August 2019. (Courtesy: Srikant Panda)

Odissi dancer Sonali Mishra is of Indian ancestry, but she was born and raised in the United States. She moved to India permanently in 2011 after marrying into an Indian family.

Her decision was also triggered by her love for India and her comfort level with its culture. Mishra had visited India often to learn Odissi, before she got married.

“I moved here because I got married, but dance made it easier to take that decision because I was familiar with the culture and context of life here,” said Mishra.

She said that since she married into an Odiya family, she is no longer considered a foreigner in the eyes of the people in her dance class. But that comes with added responsibilities, she said..

“The label of a foreigner or American ceased to exist,” said Mishra. “As a dancer, I had to work harder to raise my standard to that of the level of dancers in India.”

Just like Lowen, Mishra feels at home in India as well as in the United States.

Christopher Guruswamy

Christopher Guruswamy, a Chennai-based Bharatnatyam dancer who grew up in Australia, said that he did not think he would end up living  in Chennai after his training at the premier dance institute—Kalakshetra—ended.

“I came to India only to go to Kalakshetra; I did not plan to stay on after that,” said Guruswamy.

However, a chat he had with the then director of Kalakshetra , Leela Samson, an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer, led to his decision to stay in Chennai.

“Leela Akka (sister) asked me what I would do in Perth,” said Guruswamy. “She felt I was a good dancer and should pursue it seriously so I extended my stay for a year.”

Guruswamy has now been in Chennai for 15 years.

“I like how Chennai is quieter than other cities,” he said. “When I go to places like Mumbai, I realize how much of a Chennai boy I am.”

Zophia Lichota

Zophia Lichota poses for a photo in New Delhi, India in June 2016. (Courtesy: Joginder Dogra)

While some dancers have stayed permanently in India, others with work commitments have had to leave and then come back whenever they could. Zophia Lichota is one.

Based in Poland, Lichota has been coming to India on a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. She felt that if she wanted to train seriously, she had to come to India.

“Indian art forms aren’t taught in Europe the way they are in India,” she said.

After coming to India, she started training in Odissi and Kuchipudi. Earlier, she worked from her home in India so that she could keep up employment and still learn a new dance.

An analyst with a global auditing firm, Lichota plans to take a sabbatical so that she can spend more time in India learning Odissi and Kuchipudi.

“I will use my sabbatical to learn and perform in India,” she said.

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.)

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Archaeologists Find Traces of Fertility Cult

Archaeologists Find Traces of Fertility Cult

Archaeologists in Romania have discovered polished tools and clay statues from what’s believed to be fertility cult from an ancient European civilization that existed 6,500 years ago. The discoveries, made at an archaeological site in Topolita, a village in Romania’s Neamt County, appear to predate what was previously thought to be the oldest confirmed European civilization.

Vasile Diaconu, a representative of the Neamt National Museum Complex and leader of the archaeological team that made the finds, told Zenger News the discoveries included numerous prehistoric objects such as “carved and polished stone tools, bone tools, but also splendid anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations [i.e., depictions of divine beings in human form and animal form, respectively].”

Artifacts found at the archeological site in Romania in an undated photograph. (Real Press)

Diaconu says the human-style figures are modeled from clay in a very realistic way, with meticulous anatomical details. “Most experts say that all these human statuettes, mainly female characters, are the expression of a fertility cult, common to most sedentary prehistoric communities, who practiced agriculture,” he said.

Previous finds in in the area belong to the Cucuteni culture, the oldest confirmed civilization in Europe that existed from 5,200 to 3,200 BC. But the latest discoveries, including the remains of more than 20 prehistoric houses, are even older and have been labeled as being from the Pre-Cucutine era. Diaconu said that the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations found served as “the expression of the religious beliefs of 6 millennia ago.”


“This year’s discoveries from the site of the Pre-Cucuteni culture from Topolita are extremely valuable, first of all due to the large number of human statuettes, but also due to their typological variety,” he said. “Another special aspect is that some statuettes were located right inside the houses, which can confirm their religious symbolism.”

Artifacts found at the archeological site in Romania in an undated photograph. (Real Press)


Artifacts found at the archeological site in Romania in an undated photograph. (Real Press)


Artifacts found at the archeological site in Romania in an undated photograph. (Real Press)

The Pre-Cucuteni culture developed into the Cucuteni culture which, over the course of the fifth millennium, expanded from its roots in the Prut–Siret region along the eastern foothills of the Carpathian Mountains into the basins and plains of the Dnieper and Southern Bug rivers of modern-day Ukraine.

“The prehistoric civilizations in eastern Romania left behind remarkable vestiges,” Diaconu said, “which archaeologists frequently bring to light, trying to reconstruct those times.”

(Edited by Stephen Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.)

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