Sep 272017
 

On this date in 1777 Lancaster, Pennsylvania was the capital of the United States for one day, after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia because it had been captured by the British. The revolutionary government then moved still farther away to York, Pennsylvania. I’ll give a few details about Lancaster (and other dribble) first, and then move to a more general discussion about capital cities.

Lancaster was originally called Hickory Town but the city was renamed after the English city of Lancaster by native John Wright. Its symbol, the red rose, was the symbol of the House of Lancaster. There’s a certain droll irony in both Lancaster and York being capitals of the nascent United States given that they were “capitals” of rival factions during the Wars of the Roses. The House of Lancaster was represented by the red rose and the House of York by the white rose – hence wars of roses. The word “capital” here is not strictly apposite. Lancaster and York in England are more correctly styled the “county seats” of Lancashire and Yorkshire, political and military centers for the ancient duchies of Lancaster and York.  Nowadays the reigning monarch is the claimant to the duchy of Lancaster, and the monarch’s 2nd son is given the title duke of York.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was part of the 1681 Penn’s Woods Charter of William Penn, and was laid out by James Hamilton in 1734. It was incorporated as a borough in 1742.  Things were looking grim for the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in September 1777. British forces under General William Howe had been advancing north from the Chesapeake Bay in an effort to capture Philadelphia, and forces led by George Washington had moved south of Philadelphia to intercept the invading force. On September 11, Washington’s men clashed with Howe’s troops in the Battle of Brandywine.

The battle was a catastrophe for the Continental Army. Howe outmaneuvered Washington, and the colonists had little choice but to retreat after the British appeared on their flank. Although Washington’s forces sporadically engaged the advancing British soldiers over the next two weeks, the loss at Brandywine effectively ended the chances of successfully defending Philadelphia. On September 26, 1777, the British marched unopposed into the city.

On hearing the news of the defeat at Brandywine the Second Continental Congress realized that it needed to find a new revolutionary capital post haste. The delegates packed up their gear and moved quickly the 60 miles west of Philadelphia to Lancaster. On September 27, 1777, just one day after the British strolled into Philadelphia, the Continental Congress met in Lancaster’s county courthouse, a building that had been constructed in the town square in 1737. The Continental Congress got some work done that day, including electing Benjamin Franklin as commissioner to negotiate a treaty with France, but the delegates didn’t have much time to get comfortable.

The 60-mile buffer between Philadelphia and Lancaster seemed a bit thin given how easily the British troops had marched into Philadelphia, so they packed their bags and moved the additional 20 miles to York, where, in addition to the extra distance, the Susquehanna River made the site more defensible. The Second Continental Congress had a longer stay in York. The delegates met in York’s courthouse from September 30, 1777, all the way through June 27, 1778, at which time the congress moved back to Philadelphia.

The Articles of Confederation of the United States stipulate that the capital is the place where Congress meets.  Thus, there have been NINE capitals of the US:

Chronological Table of the Capitals

First Continental Congress

September 5, 1774 to October 24, 1774:
Philadelphia, Carpenter’s Hall

Second Continental Congress

May 10, 1775 to December 12, 1776:
Philadelphia, State House

December 20, 1776 to February 27, 1777:
Baltimore, Henry Fite’s House

March 4, 1777 to September 18, 1777:
Philadelphia, State House

September 27, 1777:
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Court House

September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778:
York, Pennsylvania, Court House

July 2, 1778 to March 1, 1781:
Philadelphia, College Hall, then State House

Congress under the Articles of Confederation

March 1, 1781 to June 21, 1783:
Philadelphia, State House

June 30, 1783 to November 4, 1783:
Princeton, New Jersey, “Prospect,” then Nassau Hall

November 26, 1783 to August 19, 1784:
Annapolis, Maryland, State House

November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784:
Trenton, New Jersey, French Arms Tavern

January 11, 1785 to Autumn 1788:
New York, City Hall, then Fraunce’s Tavern

Congress under the Constitution

March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790:
New York, Federal Hall

December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800:
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County Building–Congress Hall

November 17, 1800 – present:
Washington, U.S. Capitol

We can get into a bit of quibbling match concerning whether the cities that housed Congress before the Articles of Confederation were “true” capitals, and purists often do. You can also argue whether or not the United States existed as a nation before the Treaty of Paris of 1783 which ended the Revolutionary War and recognized the independence of the nation from Britain. Nevertheless, a breakaway state can have a capital whether it is recognized by other nations or not. This, then, leads to a consideration of what constitutes a capital city.

Typically, a capital city (or simply capital) is the municipality exercising primary status in a country, state, province, or other administrative region, usually as its seat of government. A capital is most commonly a city that physically encompasses the offices and meeting places of its respective government; the status as capital is often designated by its law or constitution. In some jurisdictions, including several countries, the different branches of government are located in different settlements. In some cases, a distinction is made between the official (constitutional) capital and the seat of government, which is in another place. Capital cities that are both the centers of government and the prime economic, cultural, and intellectual centers of a nation or an empire are sometimes referred to as primate cities. Examples include Athens, Beijing, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cairo, London, Mexico City, Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo, and Warsaw.

The modern capital city has, however, not always existed. In the ancient and medieval world a migrating form of government, the itinerant court, was more common.  This manner of ruling a country is particularly strongly associated with German history, where the emergence of a capital city took an unusually long time. The German itinerant regime (“Reisekönigtum”) was, from the Frankish period and up to late medieval times, the usual form of royal or imperial government. The Holy Roman Emperors, in the Middle Ages and even later, did not rule from any permanent central residence. They constantly traveled, with their family and court, through the kingdom.

The Holy Roman Empire did not have even a rudimentary capital city; the emperor and other princes ruled by constantly changing their residence. Imperial dwelling-places were typically palaces built by the Crown, sometimes episcopal cities. The routes followed by the court during the journeys are usually called “itineraries”. Palaces were notably erected in accessible, fertile areas – surrounded by Crown mansions, where imperial rights to local resources existed. These princely estates were scattered around the whole country. The composition of the ruler’s retinue changed constantly, depending on what area the court was passing through, and which noblemen joined their master on the trip, or left him again.

During the course of a year, impressive distances were passed through. German historians calculate for example, on the basis of royal letters and charters, that Emperor Henry VI and his entourage in 1193 (between January 28 and December 20) traversed more than 4,000 kilometers – crisscrossing the entire German area. A reconstruction of destinations gives the following chronological route: Regensburg – Würzburg – Speyer – Hagenau – Straßburg – Hagenau – Boppard – Mosbach – Würzburg – Gelnhausen – Koblenz – Worms – Kaiserslautern – Worms – Haßloch – Straßburg – Kaiserslautern – Würzburg – Sinzig – Aachen – Kaiserswerth – Gelnhausen – Frankfurt am Main – and finally Gelnhausen again.

Nowadays there is a host of different possibilities for capital cities, as there has been in the past.  For example, having 2 capitals is not uncommon. Usually this means that one city is the official capital is one city but the national government meets in another. For example, in Chile Santiago is the official capital, site of many government offices but the national government meets in Valparaiso.  Some countries actually have no official capital cities. Neither Paris nor London are official capitals.

Then there are countries, such as Myanmar, where I live right now, that never seem to be able to make up their minds. In the past the capital was wherever the king wanted it to be. After independence from Britain it was Yangon (Rangoon). Right now the official capital is Naypyidaw but you’d never know it.  Yangon is the largest city as well as the hub of business, transport, and most of the judiciary and embassies. Naypyidaw was founded in 2002 and is still pretty much a wasteland. The real reason for the move is not known. Some say it was a vanity project of political strongman general Than Shwe. But also, Naypyidaw is more centrally located than Yangon. It is also a transportation hub located adjacent to the Shan, Kayah, and Kayin states which have been historically turbulent regions because of ethnic conflict, and some leaders felt that a stronger military and governmental presence nearby might provide stability. The official explanation for moving the capital was that Yangon had become too congested and crowded with little room for future expansion of government offices.

Capital City, LLC, is a Washington DC founded in 2011 to produce some rocking down home foods. Their website is here, https://www.shopcapitalcity.com with plenty of recipes for you.  Their signature product is Mambo Sauce for chicken wings and other dishes.  The recipe for the sauce is a proprietary secret of course, but this is supposed to be close. It comes (slightly modified) from here https://www.washingtonpost.com/recipes/almost-capital-city-mumbo-sauce/13476/?utm_term=.275b9d725c25 Pure cane can be hard to find. Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup is acceptable and reasonably available in the US. Under no circumstances substitute Karo Light Corn Syrup as the original suggests.

Fake Capital City Mambo Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup ketchup
1 cup cane syrup
1 tbsp mild Hungarian paprika
3 tbsp hot sauce
¼ cup water
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp Gentleman Jack whiskey (optional)

Instructions

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir to blend well. Once the mixture comes to a steady boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cool and use right away, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep for about 2 weeks.

 

Feb 122017
 

By strange coincidence this date marks two events that represent the beginning and the end of the Spanish rule of Chile.  On this date in 1541 the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago, establishing a permanent Spanish colony, and on this date in 1817 Argentine and Chilean troops defeated Spanish royalist troops at the battle of Chacabuco, effectively ending Spanish rule (although there was another year of fighting). One year later on this date – not by coincidence – Bernardo O’Higgins declared Chile an independent nation.

According to archaeological investigations, it is believed that the first human groups settled in the Santiago basin in the 10th millennium BCE. The groups were mainly nomadic hunter-gatherers, who traveled from the coast to the interior in search of guanacos (Lama guanicoe) during the time of the Andean snowmelt. About the year 800 CE, the first inhabitants began to settle due to the formation of agricultural communities along the Mapocho River growing mainly maize, potatoes and beans, and herding domesticated camelids.

The villages established in the areas belonging to ethnic picunches groups (called promaucaes by Incas), were subject to the Inca Empire throughout the late 15th century and into the early 16th century. The Incas settled in the valley of mitimaes, now in the center of the present city, with fortifications and sacred sites at Huaca de Chena and El Plomo. The area was the center for the failed Inca expeditions southward along the Inca Trail.

Pedro de Valdivia reached the valley of the Mapocho on 13 December 1540,  having been sent by Francisco Pizarro from Peru and having made the long journey from Cuzco through the desert rather than face crossing the Andes. Valdivia’s troops camped by the river in the slopes of the Tupahue hill and slowly began to interact with the picunches who inhabited the area. Valdivia later summoned the chiefs of the area to a parliament, where he explained his intention to found a city on behalf of king Carlos I of Spain, which would be the capital of his governorship of Nueva Extremadura. The natives accepted and even recommended the foundation of the town on a small island between two branches of the river next to a small hill called Huelén.

On 12 February 1541, Valdivia officially founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremedura in honor of St James and of his native region of Spain. Following the norms of colonial rule, Valdivia entrusted the layout of the new town to master builder Pedro de Gamboa, who designed the city with a standard grid layout. In the center of the city, Gamboa designed a Plaza Mayor, around which various plots for the Cathedral and the governor’s house were selected. In total, eight blocks from north to south, and ten from east to west, were built. Each solar (quarter block) was given to the settlers, who built houses of mud and straw.

Valdivia left months later to go south with his troops, beginning the War of Arauco. Santiago was left unprotected. The indigenous hosts of Michimalonco used this to their advantage, and attacked the fledgling city. On 11 September 1541, the city was destroyed by the Michimalonco, but the 55 members of the Spanish garrison managed to defend the fort. The resistance was led by Inés de Suárez, a mistress to Valdivia. When she realized they were being overrun, she ordered the execution of all native prisoners, and proceeded to put their heads on pikes and also threw a few heads at the Indian forces. In face of this barbaric act, the Indians dispersed in terror. The city was be slowly rebuilt, giving prominence to the newly founded Concepción, where the Royal Audiencia of Chile was then founded in 1565. However, the constant danger faced by Concepción, due partly to its proximity to the War of Arauco and also to a succession of devastating earthquakes, would not allow the definitive establishment of the Royal Court in Santiago until 1607. This establishment reaffirmed the city’s role as capital. Until 1817 Chile was part of Spanish viceroyalties in South America.

In 1814, having been instrumental in the establishment of a popularly elected congress in Argentina, José de San Martín began to consider the problem of driving the Spanish royalists from South America entirely. He figured that the first step would be to expel them from Chile, and, to this end, he set about recruiting and equipping an army. In just under two years, he had an army of around 6,000 men, 1,200 horses and 22 cannons.

On January 17, 1817, he set out with this force and began the crossing of the Andes. Careful planning on his part had meant that the royalist forces in Chile were deployed to meet threats that did not exist, and his crossing went unopposed. Nonetheless, the Army of the Andes (San Martín ‘s force) suffered heavy losses during the crossing, losing as much as one-third of its men and more than half of its horses. San Martín ended up allying with Chilean patriot Bernardo O’Higgins, who commanded his own army.

The royalists rushed north in response to their approach, and a force of about 1,500 under Brigadier Rafael Maroto blocked San Martín ‘s advance at a valley called Chacabuco, near Santiago. In the face of the disintegration of the royalist forces, Maroto proposed abandoning the capital and retreating southward, where they could hold out and obtain resources for a new campaign. The military conference called by Royal Governor Field Marshal Casimiro Marcó del Pont on February 8 adopted Maroto’s strategy, but the following morning, the Captain General changed his mind and ordered Maroto to prepare for battle in Chacabuco.

The night before the clash, Antonio Quintanilla confided to another Spanish official his opinion of the ill-chosen strategy: Given the position of the insurgents, the royalist forces ought to retreat a few leagues towards the hills of Colina. “Maroto overheard this conversation from a nearby chamber and either couldn’t or refused to hear me because of his pride and self-importance, called on an attendant with his notorious hoarse voice and proclaimed a general decree on pain of death, to whoever suggested a retreat.”

All Maroto and his troops had to do was delay San Martín, as he knew that further royalist reinforcements were on the way from Santiago. San Martín was well aware of this as well and opted to attack while he still had the numerical advantage. San Martín received numerous reports of the Spanish plans from a spy dressed as a roto, a poverty-stricken peasant of Chile. The roto told him that the Spanish general, Marcó, knew of fighting in the mountains and told his army to “run to the field”, which refers to Chacabuco. He also told San Martín the plan of General Rafael Maroto, the leader of the Talavera Regiment and a force of volunteers of up to 2,000 men. His plan was to take the mountainside and launch an attack against San Martín.

O’Higgins

On February 11, three days before his planned date of attack, San Martín called a war council to decide on a plan. Their main goal was to take the Chacabuco Ranch, the royalist headquarters, at the bottom of the hills. He decided to split his 2,000 troops into two parts, sending them down two roads on either side of the mountain. The right contingent was led by Miguel Estanislao Soler, and the left by O’Higgins. The plan was for Soler to attack their flanks, while at the same time surrounding their rear guard in order to prevent their retreat. San Martín expected that both leaders would attack at the same time, so the royalists would have to fight a battle on two fronts.

San Martín sent his troops down the mountain starting at midnight of the 11th to prepare for an attack at dawn. At dawn, his troops were much closer to the royalists than anticipated, but fought hard. Meanwhile, Soler’s troops had to go down a tiny path that proved long and arduous and took longer than expected. General O’Higgins, supposedly seeing his homeland and being overcome with passion, defied the plan of attack and charged, along with his 1,500. What exactly happened in this part of the battle is fiercely debated. O’Higgins claimed that the royalists stopped their retreat and started advancing towards his troops. He said that if he were to lead his men back up the narrow path and retreat, his men would have been decimated, one by one. San Martín saw O’Higgins premature advance and ordered Soler to charge the royalist flank, which took the pressure off O’Higgins and allowed his troops to hold their ground.

The ensuing firefight lasted into the afternoon. The tide turned for the Army of the Andes as Soler captured a key royalist artillery point. At this point, the royalists set up a defensive square around the Chacabuco Ranch. O’Higgins charged the center of the royalist position, while Soler got into position behind the royalists, effectively cutting off any chance of retreat. O’Higgins and his men overwhelmed the royalist troops. When they attempted to retreat, Soler’s men cut them off and pushed towards the ranch. Hand-to-hand combat ensued in and around the ranch until every royalist soldier was dead or taken captive. 500 royalist soldiers were killed and 600 taken prisoner. The Army of the Andes lost only 12 men in battle, but an additional 120 lost their lives from wounds suffered during the battle. Maroto succeeded in escaping, thanks to the speed of his horse, but was slightly injured.

The remaining royalist troops left Chile and retreated to Lima by ship. Interim governor Francisco Ruiz-Tagle presided at an assembly, which designated San Martín as governor, but he turned down the offer and requested a new assembly, which made O’Higgins Supreme Director of Chile. This marks the beginning of the “Patria Nueva” period in Chile’s history.

Chilean cuisine shares much with South American cuisines, being a mix of indigenous ingredients and cooking methods, and those imported from Spain, overlaid by other European elements.  But it is definitely distinctive.  I’ve been to Santiago many times because it is a hub for local airlines, and I have had frequent long layovers (including one overnight on the way to Easter Island), giving me the chance to sample local specialties.  The typical cazuela of Chile is very popular but it’s pretty ordinary – meat, potato, pumpkin, rice, and corn in a stew.  Let’s go out on a limb.  Here’s caldillo de congrio: conger eel stew, an absolute classic.  I’ll give the recipe in Spanish because I miss speaking Spanish. Hit the translate button if you are challenged.  If you can’t find conger eel you can substitute white fish but, of course, it’s not the same.  This is the simple recipe. More traditionally, a fish stock is prepared first using eel and fish heads, onions, and garlic.  Then it is strained and used as the cooking broth.

Caldillo de Congrio

Ingredients

aciete
1 cebolla cortada en pluma
2 zanahoria pelada y cortadas en rodajas
1 churadita de aji de color
2 tomates cortados en cuarto
1 hoja de laurel
2 rama de perejil
1 pizca de oregano seco
sal y pimiento
gotas de salsa aji
4 medallones de congrio sin piel
1 taza de vino blanco
¼ taza de crema liquida
cilantro

Instructions

En una olla, calendar a fuego medio el aceite. Agregar la cebolla y zanahoria y concinar 10-15min

Agregar el aji de color y revolver mezclar.

Anadir los tomates, hoja de laurel, rama de perejil y oregano y cocinar — 5min.

Sazonar con sal, pimento y gotas de salsa aji.

Anadir los medallones de congrio, vino blanco y agua

Hervir la mezcala, reducer el calor y cocinar 10-20min

Quite la cabeza de pescado de caldo. Saque las mejillas de pescado y añadir

A ultimo momento verter la crema.

Adorne con cilantro.

Dec 072016
 

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Today is Quema del Diablo (Burning the Devil) in Guatemala, an intrinsic part of the preparations for Christmas that has the usual unverifiable speculation about “origins” associated with it. But there is obviously a nugget of truth in these speculations. On this date people in cities throughout Guatemala build bonfires and burn effigies of the devil at around 6 pm. Traditionally this marked the beginning of the Christmas season (which climaxes on Christmas Eve – not Christmas Day – as is true throughout Latin America).

The underlying idea seems to be that this is the moment to cleanse everything in preparation for the Christmas season. Tomorrow (December 8) is the feast of the Immaculate Conception which, in much of Latin America signals the beginning of Christmas (or did, at one time). So the eve of the feast is the perfect time to get rid of the old and welcome in the new. I am a little reminded of Mircea Eliade’s Myth of the Eternal Return in which he argues that the turn of the year happens at different times in different cultures, but the underlying principle is the same everywhere whether the turning point is Halloween, Shrovetide, or New Year’s Eve – get rid of all the old stuff that burdens you and welcome in a fresh, clean start. In the Western Christian calendar, the first Sunday in Advent is the start of the new ecclesiastical year. The church colors change from green to purple, the lectionary Bible readings begin a new cycle, and so forth.

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The long practice in Guatemala has been to symbolize this cleansing of the old by getting rid of all the clutter and garbage in the house, putting it on the street, and burning it on a big bonfire. People still do this although it is more of a token than an actual cleansing, building fogarones (burning fires) as they are called in dialect. Somewhere along the line, effigies of the devil were added to the mix and this is now the usual custom.

A generation ago the burning of the devil was a very big deal, and older people look back on their childhood memories with  great fondness. This website is typical – http://growingupbilingual.com/2012/latino-parenting/la-quema-del-diablo-the-death-or-transformation-of-a-guatemalan-tradition/

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Every year, as a child, I would look forward with excitement to December 7th. On that day we would gather old newspapers, magazines and cardboard boxes that we had been collecting in the garage for months and make a big pile on the street next to the curve. We would wait for my father to come home from work and go out to buy a bright red devil piñata, cuetes and ametralladoras (firecrackers and long strings of firecrackers 6 or 8 feet long) from one of the street vendors that had set up wooden stands on Avenida de las Americas and all around the city.

We would then come home and put the devil at the top of the pile of trash, get out the garden hose and an antique hay fork that belonged to my grandfather and wait for 6pm to arrive. As we stood on the sidewalk and looked down and up the street we could see many families gathered outside in front of their piles of trash, some with devils some without.

 qd1

At six everyone would light up their pile. We would watch as the devil piñata caught fire, sometimes we would strategically place some firecrackers inside of it other times we would just throw firecrackers into the huge bone fire and watched as garbage and devil where consumed by the flames. In December nights are starting to get chilly in Guatemala and the whole family would gather together on the sidewalk, one of us venturing closer to the big fire to throw firecrackers or use the heavy pitch fork to push the trash together into the center of the fire.

Every year we tried to make the pile bigger and it had become somewhat of a competition. We wanted to have the biggest fire on the block and some years my mom would even buy two or three hay bales to add to our pile if we didn’t have enough trash. As the years went by we had our share of what I then considered exciting memories and now look back on as pretty scary situations that could have gone bad. One year we made the fire too close to a tree and the tree caught fire. In Guatemala firemen are only called for life or death emergencies and a tree on fire did not qualify so we quickly got the garden hose and my parents put out the fire while we ran around excitedly screaming and pointing a the poor tree. After that we started making the fire in front of the garage and away from the trees and ever since that day the garden hose was always ready in case of emergencies. Did I mention that my parents would sometimes pour a little gasoline on the pile to get the fire started!?

A few days before December 7th stands and kiosks selling devils and fireworks would appear like magic on every corner of main streets and avenues around the city. The devils of all sizes ranging from one foot to 12 made of paper mache and chicken wire hanging and waiting to be bought and burned. After La Quema del Diablo the stands would remain on the streets until New Year, the devils replaced by more fireworks and sometimes holiday wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Most of these vendors came from small towns or from the poor and marginal areas of the city and they turned these makeshift wooden stands into their homes, sometimes bringing along their families, children and all. They would spend the entire holiday season living on the streets, sleeping surrounded by fireworks. Every year there would be accidents, someone would throw a cigarette butt and the fireworks would quickly catch fire, one little shop setting a row of 10 or 15 similar shops on fire and some of these vendors losing their lives.

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Over the years the festivities got a little out of hand in some locations. Some people used the fires to burn car tires, old appliances, and other materials that produced toxic smoke that polluted the cities and endangered the environment. Generally speaking Guatemala is becoming more conscious of the dangers of the festivity in terms of health and safety. In recent years the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente (Ministry of the Environment) has campaigned strongly against the tradition and it has definitely toned down.

In the city of Antigua there is still a very boisterous tradition tinged with political overtones as described here:  http://www.perceptivetravel.com/issues/0210/guatemala.html

In front of Antigua, Guatemala’s Devil is a message from him addressed to his “colleagues.” It is strikingly regretful. It begins, “I dreamt last night that everything was beautiful, that there was a Guatemala without violence, without kidnapping, corruptions, gangs, dictators, extortionists, poverty, and drug addicts.” After continuing to describe the happy, ideal society of his dreams, the devil’s message continues, “But when I awoke, I realized that everything was a sad, crude reality. This is why I live below.” He ends by saying that one reaps what he sows, and although he will burn at six, he also “wants the Guatemala that everyone wants.”

I think we all want what Guatemala wants. Meanwhile, let’s consider stuffed peppers cooked in the Guatemalan style. The peppers are mild, but smaller than Western bell peppers, and stuffed with a mix of meat and vegetables, coated in a whipped egg batter and fried. The egg batter is just eggs that are separated and beaten, then combined and used to coat the stuffed peppers. Here’s a video if you are not Spanish challenged.

To supplement, here’s a good recipe. If you look in the video you will see that Guatemalan bell peppers are smaller than the usual Western ones. Don’t use big peppers.

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Chiles Rellenos Guatemaltecos

Ingredients

1 cup finely diced cooked carrot
1½ cups finely diced cooked potato
1 cup finely diced green beans
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ lb minced cooked chicken meat
1 crushed bay leaf
thyme
6 eggs, separated
1 tbsp flour (approx)
8 bell peppers
oil
salt

For the salsa

10 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 hot chile pepper, chopped

Instructions

Start by making the salsa. Put the ingredients in a pot and cover with water. Simmer gently for at least an hour. Then cool and pulse in a food processor. Set aside.

Cut off the tops of the peppers and clean out the seeds and pith without damaging the skin. Place them in boiling water and simmer until they are soft, but not too limp. Drain and cool.

Combine the stuffing ingredients – vegetables, meat, and herbs. Stuff the peppers with the mixture being careful not to pack them too tightly.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Sift in the flour and whip to combine. Beat the yolks and then gently fold them a little at a time into the whites.

Heat oil to the depth of about ½” in a deep wide skillet over medium-high heat.

Thoroughly coat the stuffed peppers with the egg mixture by dipping them in the mix. Place them in the hot oil and sauté on one side until browned, then flip and cook the other side. Do this in batches.

Serve hot with the salsa. They are also good as the filling for crusty buns with some fresh lettuce and onions.

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Jul 232016
 

1881g

The Tratado de Límites (Boundary Treaty) of 1881 between Argentina and Chile was signed on this date in Buenos Aires by Bernardo de Irigoyen, on the part of Argentina, and Francisco de Borja Echeverría, on the part of Chile, with the aim of establishing a precise and exact borderline between the two countries based on the uti possidetis juris principle (designed to assign uncolonized territory). The main point of the treaty was to divide Patagonia between the two countries for fear it would be grabbed by foreign powers such as Britain, but there were also issues concerning trade routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific via the channels between Tierra del Fuego and the mainland. The treaty needed to be renegotiated several times, but the basics are still in place demarking Chile’s and Argentina’s current 5600 km of shared borders.

Argentina declared its independence in 1816 and Chile followed suit in 1818. Once the Spanish had been expelled, relations between the two nations soured primarily due to a border dispute: both claimed to have inherited overlapping parts of Patagonia. Independence movements in South America were catalyzed in the early 19th century by the weakness and instability of Spain and Portugal caused by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Before that time South America was loosely divided into very large and unwieldy viceroyalties, which broke apart as successive regions fought for and won their independence. Then they set about fighting each other for land. The 19th century was a bloodbath all across the continent.

The Chilean constitution of 1833 established the Andes as its eastern boundary. This view of Chile’s borders was challenged in 1853 by Miguel Luis Amunategui in Titles of the Republic of Chile to Sovereignty and Dominion of the Extreme South of the American Continent, in which he put forward the notion that Chile had valid arguments to claim all of Patagonia. He traced Chilean claims back to the conquest of Chile in the 16th century by Pedro de Valdivia, arguing that de Valdivia obtained rights from the Spanish crown to establish a captaincy limited by the Strait of Magellan to the south. De Valdivia subsequently founded several cities through southern Chile with the goal of reaching the Strait of Magellan. However the remoteness of the region and the Mapuche in the War of Arauco limited further expansion to the south. The Republic of Chile founded Fuerte Bulnes in 1843, and later Punta Arenas in 1847, giving strong assistance to steam navigation through the Strait of Magellan and probably averting the occupation of the strategically crucial strait by the European powers or the United States.

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In 1865 Welsh immigrants began to settle around the lower part of Chubut Valley. This colonization, supported by Argentina, meant that Argentina got a new exclave in Patagonia apart from Viedma-Carmen de Patagones, which had been founded in 1779. While the economic and geopolitical impact of this settlement was less than that of Chile’s Punta Arenas, it soon became a starting point for further colonization toward the Andes.

Chilean trade and culture were oriented towards Europe and therefore the complete control of the Strait of Magellan was a core Chilean interest. Chilean politicians saw control of the strait as vital to the survival of Chile as a nation. In contrast, the rest of Patagonia was seen by Chilean politicians as a worthless desert. This view was shared by Diego Barros Arana and was inspired by Charles Darwin’s description of the area as a useless moorland.

Mapuches and other indigenous groups had for a long time pillaged the Argentine southern frontier in search for cattle that was later taken to Chile through the Camino de los chilenos. The cattle were traded in Chile for weapons and alcohol. These groups had strong connections with Chile and therefore gave Chile certain influence over the pampas. Argentine authorities feared an eventual war with Chile over the region in which the indigenous locals would side with the Chileans, and that the war would be fought in the vicinity of Buenos Aires.

In the 1870s, Argentina built a more than 500-km long trench called Zanja de Alsina, which Argentina had undertaken during the Conquest of the Desert from 1876 to 1878 to defeat the indigenous people occupying northern Patagonia, and which was intended to control the eastern third or, at a minimum, the eastern mouth of the strait.

Great Britain and the USA did not directly intervene in the distribution of land and maritime areas, but the U.S. ambassadors in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires, Thomas A. Osborn and Thomas O. Osborn (stupendous coincidence of names), did serve as mediators. The concern of the great powers was free navigation through the strait. The U.S. administration declared immediately before the negotiations leading to the treaty that:

The Government of the United States will not tolerate exclusive claims by any nation whatsoever to the Straits of Magellan, and will hold responsible any Government that undertakes, no matter on what pretext, to lay or impost or check on United States commerce through the Straits.

The colonial powers, United Kingdom and France, viewed Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego as terra nullius (unclaimed territory) and were active in land grabs. This was evident in the Malvinas, which Argentina claimed under papal concessions dating back to the 15th century, but which Britain occupied in 1833, expelling the Argentine colony of the time – making the assertion that no one owned the islands. Argentine fears about Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego were therefore well justified.

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In 1874 Chilean minister Guillermo Blest Gana and the Argentine Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Tejedor agreed to put the question to arbitration. However, the new Argentine president Nicolás Avellaneda, boosted by internal popularity, cancelled the agreement in 1875. Attempts to clear up the dispute about Patagonia were unsuccessful until 1881, when Chile was fighting the War of the Pacific against both Bolivia and Peru. At that time Chile had defeated Bolivia’s and Peru’s regular armies and had large contingents in occupying Peru and fighting Andrés Avelino Cáceres’ guerrillas. In order to avoid fighting Argentina as well, Chilean President Aníbal Pinto authorized his envoy, Diego Barros Arana, to hand over as much territory as was needed to avoid Argentina siding with Bolivia and Peru.

According to the Argentine view of the treaty, called the Magellan/Atlantic transfer, the general agreement was that Argentina was an Atlantic country while Chile was a Pacific one. Chile has never accepted that view. In the main the treaty is simple – the highest peaks of the Andes form a natural border between Argentina and Chile, down to latitude 52°S. There it gets a little contentious. Both countries wanted control of navigable waters between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Border disputes concerning Patagonia continued after the treaty because large parts were still unexplored. The concept of the continental divide based on highest points and drainage was easy to apply in northern regions, but in Patagonia drainage basins crossed the Andes leading to disputes over whether the highest peaks would be the frontier (favoring Argentina) or the drainage basins (favoring Chile). The Argentine explorer Francisco Perito Moreno suggested that many Patagonian lakes draining to the Pacific were in fact part of the Atlantic basin but had been moraine-dammed during the quaternary glaciations, changing their outlets to the west. In 1902, war was again avoided when British King Edward VII agreed to mediate between the two nations. He established the current border in the Patagonian region in part by dividing many disputed lakes into two equal parts and most of these lakes still have different names on each side of the frontier.

Navigation was basically sorted out by making the Strait of Magellan neutral and carving up the offshore islands between the two nations but minor disputes lingered for decades. This map (click to enlarge) shows some of the claims.

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Argentina started to establish its right to the whole of Tierra del Fuego in the 1870s by proposing the building of a penal colony in Ushuaia, modeled on the British colony in Tasmania, but only really got going on the project after the 1881 treaty.  If you visit Ushuaia, as I did in 2011, you can ride the railway built by the prisoners and visit the remains of the colony. It is a bleak place.

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The ubiquitous plant of the southern reaches of Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina is the calafate, also known as Magellan barberry, which has a characteristic yellow flower and bears a distinctive blue-black fruit. The plant has many close relatives in the Old World, but the Patagonian calafate has a unique flavor. It is commonly made into jellies and preserves, or a flavoring for ice cream and cocktails. The common legend is that if you eat calafate berries in Patagonia you will return. I have, and I will.

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The hardest thing about recipes for calafate is getting hold of the berries themselves. No doubt you can get preserves and cordials easily enough online. To get the actual berries I expect you would have to go to Patagonia. They are everywhere. I doubt that they are grown commercially because they grow like weeds on any available land. You can pick them at will. In La cocina del fin del mundo, Jesús Fernandez, gives a recipe (in Spanish) for calafate jelly. I’ve not tried it, but I’ll give some pointers, and make some additional suggestions based on my general experience with jams and jellies.

First I note that Fernandez uses no pectin, but he does include apples whose juices will help set up the finished product. If you’re lazy, though, you can just add pectin according to the instructions on the package. I think the recipe would make a decent preserve as well as a jelly.

Calafate Jelly

Ingredients:

1 kg calafate berries
½ kg green cooking apples
700 gm sugar

Instructions

Wash the berries well in cold running water. Peel and core the apples and cut them in chunks.

Place the berries and apples in a heavy pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and add the sugar. Stir well and let the fruit cook to a pulp, stirring occasionally at first and then more frequently as the fruit softens – about 2 hours.

Test the gel by taking a small amount of the liquid with a spoon and placing a drop on a cool saucer. If it beads up and keeps its shape it is ready. If it flows outward you need to keep cooking. This step is critical. If the liquid does not gel it will never set up when cooled. There are no rules at this point except to keep cooking until you get the desired gel.

Now you have two choices. You can press the mixture through a conical jelly sieve to extract the liquid which will make your jelly, or you can just leave it as is and use it as a preserve. In either case, divide your product between air tight jelly jars and keep them in a cool place.

Apr 192016
 

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On this date in 1943, Albert Hofmann, creator of synthetic lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)  performed a self-experiment to determine the true effects of LSD, intentionally ingesting 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms) of the substance, an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms). Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception. He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home and, as use of motor vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle. On the way, Hoffman’s condition rapidly deteriorated as he struggled with feelings of anxiety, alternating in his beliefs that the next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, and that the LSD had poisoned him. When the house doctor arrived, however, he could detect no physical abnormalities, save for a pair of incredibly dilated pupils. Hofmann was reassured, and soon his terror began to give way to a sense of good fortune and enjoyment, as he later wrote:

Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.

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The events of this first LSD trip, now known as “Bicycle Day”, after the bicycle ride home, proved to Hofmann that he had indeed made a significant discovery: a psychoactive substance with extraordinary potency, capable of causing significant shifts of consciousness in incredibly low doses. Hofmann foresaw the drug as a powerful psychiatric tool; because of its intense and introspective nature, he couldn’t imagine anyone using it recreationally. Bicycle Day is increasingly observed in psychedelic communities as a day to celebrate the discovery of LSD.

The celebration of Bicycle Day originated in DeKalb, Illinois, in 1985, when Thomas B. Roberts, then a professor at Northern Illinois University, invented the name “Bicycle Day” when he founded the first Bicycle Day celebration at his home. Several years later, he sent an announcement made by one of his students to friends and Internet lists, thus propagating the idea and the celebration. His original intent was to commemorate Hofmann’s original, accidental exposure on April 16th, but that date fell midweek and was not a good time for the party, so he chose the 19th to honor Hofmann’s first intentional exposure.

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Albert Hofmann was born in Switzerland and joined the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories, located in Basel as a co-worker with professor Arthur Stoll, founder and director of the pharmaceutical department. He began studying the medicinal plant squill and the fungus ergot as part of a program to purify and synthesize active constituents for use as pharmaceuticals. His main contribution was to elucidate the chemical structure of the common nucleus of Scilla glycosides (an active principle of Mediterranean Squill). While researching lysergic acid derivatives, Hofmann first synthesized LSD on November 16, 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic). It was set aside for five years, until April 16, 1943, when Hofmann decided to take a second look at it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small amount of the drug through his fingertips (and may have accidentally touched his eye) and discovered its powerful effects. He described what he felt as being:

 … affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away.

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Beginning in the 1950s, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began a research program code named Project MKULTRA. Experiments included administering LSD to CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, prostitutes, mentally ill patients, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions, usually without the subjects’ knowledge. The project was revealed in the US congressional Rockefeller Commission report in 1975.

In 1963, the Sandoz patents expired on LSD. Several figures, including Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Al Hubbard, began to advocate the use of LSD. LSD became central to the counterculture of the 1960s. In the early 1960s the use of LSD and other hallucinogens was advocated by new proponents of consciousness expansion such as Leary, Huxley, Alan Watts and Arthur Koestler, which profoundly influenced the thinking of the new generation.

On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD was made illegal in the United States. The last FDA approved study of LSD in patients ended in 1980, while a study in healthy volunteers was made in the late 1980s. Legally approved and regulated psychiatric use of LSD continued in Switzerland until 1993.

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I grew up in the 1960s so acid and psychedelic counterculture is old hat for me. By just in case you are too young to remember those crazy days I’ll give a brief synopsis. By the mid-1960s, the psychedelic lifestyle had already developed in youth countercultures in California, particularly in San Francisco, with the first major underground LSD factory established by Owsley Stanley. From 1964 the Merry Pranksters, a loose group that developed around novelist Ken Kesey, sponsored the Acid Tests, a series of events primarily staged in or near San Francisco, involving the taking of LSD (supplied by Stanley), accompanied by light shows, film projection and discordant, improvised music known as the psychedelic symphony. The Pranksters helped popularize LSD use, through their road trips across America in a psychedelically-decorated converted school bus, which involved distributing the drug and meeting with major figures of the beat movement, and through publications about their activities such as Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) – a good read. In both music and art, the influence on LSD was soon being more widely seen and heard thanks to the bands that participated in the Acid Tests and related events, including The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and through the dazzling and wildly inventive poster and album art of San Francisco-based artists like Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean, Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley, and Wes Wilson.

A similar and connected nexus of LSD use in the creative arts developed around the same time in London. A key figure in this phenomenon in the UK was British academic Michael Hollingshead, who first tried LSD in the US in 1961 while he was the Executive Secretary for the Institute of British-American Cultural Exchange. After being given a large quantity of pure Sandoz LSD (which was still legal at the time) and experiencing his first trip, Hollingshead contacted Aldous Huxley, who suggested that he get in touch with Harvard academic Timothy Leary, and over the next few years, in concert with Leary and Richard Alpert, Hollingshead played a major role in their famous LSD research at Millbrook before moving to New York City, where he conducted his own LSD experiments. In 1965 Hollingshead returned to the UK and founded the World Psychedelic Center in Chelsea in London.

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Among the many famous people in the UK that Hollingshead is reputed to have introduced to LSD are artist and Hipgnosis founder Storm Thorgerson, and musicians Donovan, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison. Although establishment concern about the new drug led to it being declared illegal by the Home Secretary in 1966, LSD was soon being used widely in the upper echelons of the British art and music scene, including members of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, The Small Faces, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and others, and the products of these experiences were soon being both heard and seen by the public with singles like The Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park” and LPs like The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Cream’s Disraeli Gears, which featured music that showed the obvious influence of the musicians’ recent psychedelic excursions, and which were packaged in elaborately-designed album covers that featured vividly-coloured psychedelic artwork by artists like Peter Blake, Martin Sharp, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat (Nigel Waymouth and Michael English) and art/music collective “The Fool.” Memories !!!

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In the 1960s, and ever since, when LSD became illegal, people have tried to promote natural (legal) foods that can produce hallucinations. Most mushrooms with hallucinogenic qualities are banned in the West, but I know of a few that can be legally obtained in China. In fact I’ve seen a number sold on the streets in cities, but never bought any because the sale is largely unregulated and people die annually from poisonous mushrooms. I did buy quite a few funky looking mushrooms for culinary purposes, however, and lived to tell the tale.

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Heavy doses of very hot foods created with powerful chile peppers are also known to induce hallucinations, though not reliably. I’m a big fan of intense curries and have never experienced anything other than tongue-searing heat, pouring sweat, and the feeling that my eyeballs were falling out.  It is also said that large doses of ground fresh nutmeg (2 tablespoons or more) can be hallucinogenic. As with chiles and other home experiments I DO NOT RECOMMEND this. You’re more likely to get nauseous than anything else, and there may be physical damage.

It has been known for centuries that Sarpa salpa, known commonly as the salema, salema porgy, cow bream or goldline, a species of sea bream, recognizable by the golden stripes that run down the length of its body, can cause hallucinations when eaten. It is found in the East Atlantic, as well as the Mediterranean, ranging from the Bay of Biscay to South Africa. It has occasionally been found as far north as Great Britain. It is quite common and found from near the surface to a depth of 70 m (230 ft). Males are typically 15 to 30 cm (6–12 in) in length, while females are usually 31 to 45 cm (12–18 in).

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Sarpa salpa became widely known recently for its psychoactivity following articles published in 2006 (and disseminated widely), when two men ingested it at a Mediterranean restaurant and began to experience auditory and visual hallucinogenic effects. These hallucinations, obviously unexpected, were reported to have occurred minutes after the fish was ingested and had a total duration of 36 hours. Salema is, in fact, often served as a dish at seafood restaurants in the Mediterranean area without these effects. It is believed that this and other Mediterranean fish sometimes ingest a particular algae or phytoplankton which renders it hallucinogenic. These effects have been reported sporadically all the way from classical times by Greeks and Arabs – often after eating the head.

Varieties of sea bream are quite readily available and can be prepared in any number of ways – poached, fried, baked, grilled, etc. I’ve always been a big fan of oven baked whole fish because there’s nothing much to it, the fish is tasty, and the results are healthy.

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Make sure the fish is scaled and gutted. Place it on a well greased baking tray, fill the cavity with lemon slices, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and bake in a pre-heated oven at 500°F (or hotter) until the skin is browned and the meat is cooked through – between 20 and 30 minutes. Serve on a bed of boiled new potatoes (black olives add a spark), with a green salad or poached green vegetables. I usually go with spinach or asparagus.

Oct 122015
 

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In most countries in the Americas, today used to be some version of “Columbus Day” because it was the date in 1492 that Rodrigo de Triana, lookout on the Pinta in Columbus’ flotilla, sighted land in the New World. Now, in almost of all of Latin America, and a few cities in the U.S. the name of the day has been changed to reflect the cultural realities of the arrival of Columbus in the New World. The negative view of Columbus has several strands. First, it is now obvious that his arrival was not good news for the indigenous populations which were enslaved and/or killed wholesale. Second, it is abundantly clear nowadays that Columbus was not some dreamy eyed-adventurer, but a cold, calculating profiteer.

Though Christopher Columbus came to be considered the “discoverer of America” in U.S. and European popular culture, his true historical legacy is more nuanced. America was first discovered by its indigenous population, and Columbus was not even the first European to reach its shores as he was preceded by the Vikings at L’Anse aux Meadows. But the lasting significance of Columbus’ voyages outshone that of his Viking predecessors, because he managed to bring word of the continent back to Europe. By bringing the continent to the forefront of Western attention, Columbus initiated the enduring relationship between the Earth’s two major landmasses and their inhabitants. It was not that Columbus was the first, but he was the first to stay.

Historians have traditionally argued that Columbus remained convinced to the very end that his journeys had been along the east coast of Asia, but recently they have started to question this view. His journals from the third voyage call the “land of Paria” a “hitherto unknown continent.” On the other hand, his other writings continued to claim that he had reached Asia, such as a 1502 letter to Pope Alexander VI where he asserted that Cuba was the east coast of Asia. He also rationalized that the new continent of South America was the “Earthly Paradise” that was located “at the end of the Orient”.

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Columbus is often attributed with refuting a prevalent belief in a flat Earth. However, this legacy is a popular misconception. To the contrary, the spherical shape of the earth had been known to scholars since antiquity, and was common knowledge among sailors. Coincidentally, the oldest surviving globe of the earth, the Erdapfel, was made in 1492 just before Columbus’ return to Europe. As such it contains no sign of the Americas and yet demonstrates the common belief in a spherical Earth.

The scholar Amerigo Vespucci, who sailed to America in the years following Columbus’ first voyage, was the first to actively speculate that the land was not part of Asia but in fact constituted some wholly new continent previously unknown to Eurasians. His travel journals, published 1502–04, convinced German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller to reach the same conclusion, and in 1507—a year after Columbus’ death—Waldseemüller published a world map calling the new continent America from Vespucci’s Latinized name “Americus”. According to Paul Lunde, “The preoccupation of European courts with the rise of the Ottoman Turks in the East partly explains their relative lack of interest in Columbus’ discoveries in the West.”

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Historically, the British had downplayed Columbus and emphasized the role of the Venetian John Cabot as a pioneer explorer, but for the emerging United States, Cabot made for a poor national hero. Veneration of Columbus in America dates back to colonial times. The name Columbia for “America” first appeared in a 1738 weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament. The use of Columbus as a founding figure of New World nations and the use of the word “Columbia”, or simply the name “Columbus”, spread rapidly after the American Revolution. Columbus’ name was given to the federal capital of the United States (District of Columbia), the capital cities of two U.S. states (Ohio and South Carolina), and the Columbia River. Outside the United States the name was used in 1819 for the Gran Colombia, a precursor of the modern Republic of Colombia. Numerous cities, towns, counties, streets, and plazas (called Plaza Colón or Plaza de Colón throughout Latin America and Spain) have been named after him. A candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church in 1866, celebration of Columbus’ legacy perhaps reached a zenith in 1892 with the 400th anniversary of his first arrival in the Americas. Monuments to Columbus like the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and Columbus Circle in New York City were erected throughout the United States and Latin America extolling him.

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More recent views of Columbus have tended to be much more critical. The combined effects of Columbus’ forced labor regime, war, and slaughter resulted in the near-total eradication (98%) of the native Taino of Hispaniola. De las Casas records that when he first came to Hispaniola in 1508, “there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it….” The native Taino people of the island were systematically enslaved via the encomienda system implemented by Columbus, which resembled a feudal system in Medieval Europe.

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Disease played a significant role in the destruction of the natives; however there is no record of any massive smallpox epidemic in the Antilles until 25 years after the arrival of Columbus; rather, the natives’ numbers declined due to extreme overwork, other diseases, and a loss of will to live after the destruction of their culture by the invaders. When the first pandemic finally struck in 1519 it wiped out much of the remaining native population. According to the historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes by 1548, 56 years after Columbus landed, fewer than five hundred Taino were left on the island.

Columbus’ treatment of the Hispaniola natives was even worse; his soldiers raped, killed, and enslaved with impunity at every landing. When Columbus fell ill in 1495, soldiers were reported to have gone on a rampage, slaughtering 50,000 natives. Upon his recovery, Columbus organized his troops’ efforts, forming a squadron of several hundred heavily armed men and more than twenty attack dogs. The men tore across the land, killing thousands of sick and unarmed natives. Soldiers would use their captives for sword practice, attempting to decapitate them or cut them in half with a single blow.

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The historian Howard Zinn writes that Columbus spearheaded a massive slave trade; in 1495 his men captured in a single raid 1500 Arawak men, women, and children. When he shipped five hundred of the slaves to Spain, 40% died en route. Historian James W. Loewen asserts that “Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more slaves – about five thousand – than any other individual… other nations rushed to emulate Columbus.” When slaves held in captivity began to die at high rates, Columbus switched to a different system of forced labor: he ordered all natives over the age of thirteen to collect a specified amount (one hawk’s bell full) of gold powder every three months. Natives who brought the amount were given a copper token to hang around their necks, and those found without tokens had their hands amputated and were left to bleed to death.

The Arawaks attempted to fight back against Columbus’s men but lacked their armor, guns, swords, and horses. When taken prisoner, they were hanged or burned to death. Desperation led to mass suicides and infanticide among the natives. In just two years under Columbus’ governorship more than half of the 250,000 Arawaks in Haiti were dead. The main cause for the depopulation was disease followed by other causes such as warfare and harsh enslavement.

There is evidence that the men of the first voyage also brought syphilis from the New World to Europe.[120] Many of the crew members who served on this voyage later joined the army of King Charles VIII in his invasion of Italy in 1495. After the victory, Charles’ largely mercenary army returned to their respective homes, thereby spreading “the Great Pox” across Europe and triggering the deaths of more than five million people.

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Two years ago on this date I celebrated Día de la Raza in this blog. You can find the post here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/dia-de-la-raza/ Here is an excerpt:

The most common name for the date in Spanish is Día de la Raza. The day under this name was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917 (since changed to Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural), Venezuela and Colombia in 1921, Chile in 1922, and Mexico in 1928. The day was also celebrated under this title in Spain until 1957, when it was changed to the Día de la Hispanidad, and in Venezuela until 2002, when it was changed to the Día de la Resistencia Indígena. In Uruguay it is called Día de las Américas. Originally conceived of as a celebration of Hispanic influence in the Americas, as evidenced by the complementary celebrations in Spain and Latin America, Día de la Raza has come to be seen by many nations and individuals in Latin America as a counter to Columbus Day; a celebration of the resistance against the arrival of Europeans to the Americas by indigenous peoples. In the U.S. Día de la Raza has served as a time of mobilization for pan-ethnic Hispano activists, particularly in the 1960s.

Argentina’s name, Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural, attempts to be balanced, mirroring, in part the United Nations’ decision to name the day Spanish Language Day. This title still salutes the colonists over the indigenous peoples, but it downplays Columbus in favor of promoting a sense of multiculturalism. This passage is taken from a UNESCO site:

Las Naciones Unidas celebran el Día del idioma español. El objetivo es promocionar y apoyar aquellas iniciativas que promuevan el plurilingüismo y multiculturalismo así como crear conciencia entre los funcionarios, de la historia, la cultura, el desarrollo y el uso del español como idioma oficial. La decisión de celebrar los Días de los idiomas fue aprobada por el Departamento de Información Pública de las Naciones Unidas en la víspera del Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna, celebrado anualmente el 21 de febrero por iniciativa de la UNESCO. Esta es una oportunidad para poner de relieve la importancia del idioma español dentro de la organización para la consecución de sus objetivos y la difusión de su labor a un público más amplio.

So, although the U.N. specifically honors Spanish on this date, the underlying message is that every culture and every language should be celebrated.

There is no doubt that the cultigens of the New World – potatoes, tomatoes, squash, pole beans etc. – transformed world cuisine. None is more important to me than the chile pepper which now exists in hundreds of varieties. Chile peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BCE. The most recent research shows that chiles were domesticated more than 6000 years ago in Mexico, in the region that extends across southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, and were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central and parts of South America.

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Peru is still a center of diversification of chiles where varieties of all five domesticates were introduced, grown and consumed in pre-Colombian times. Bolivia is, however, where most diversity of wild Capsicum peppers are consumed. Bolivians distinguish two basic forms: ulupicas, species with small round fruits including C. eximium, C. cardenasii, C. eshbaughii, and C. caballeroi landraces; and arivivis with small elongated fruits including C. baccatum var. baccatum and C. chacoense varieties.

Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them “peppers” because they, like black and white pepper of the Piper genus known in Europe, have a spicy hot taste unlike other foodstuffs. Upon their introduction into Europe, chiles were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. Christian monks experimented with the culinary potential of chile and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were so costly that they were used as legal currency in some countries.

Chiles were cultivated around the globe after Columbus. Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus’ second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chiles to Spain and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494. The spread of chiles to Asia was most likely a natural consequence of its introduction to Portuguese traders (Lisbon was a common port of call for Spanish ships sailing to and from the Americas) who, aware of its trade value, would have likely promoted its commerce in the Asian spice trade routes then dominated by Portuguese and Arab traders. It was introduced in India by the Portuguese towards the end of 15th century. Today chiles are an integral part of many Asian cuisines.

The chile pepper features heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony (e.g., vindaloo, an Indian interpretation of a Portuguese dish). The name “vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos, a dish of meat (usually pork) marinated in wine and garlic. The Portuguese dish was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red Kashmiri chile peppers with additional spices to evolve into vindaloo. Nowadays, the Anglo-Indian version of a vindaloo is marinated in vinegar, sugar, fresh ginger, and spices overnight, then cooked with the addition of further spices.

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I’m partial to vindaloo and used to make it all of the time. Since living in Argentina and China I have not been able to get all the necessary spices but here’s a decent recipe from memory. Spices can be varied according to taste. You do not have to overwhelm the dish with chiles, but it should be hot.

Pork Vindaloo

Ingredients

2 lbs fatty pork, cubed

paste
16 dried Kashmiri chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon white vinegar
salt to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced, or more to taste
2 inch piece fresh ginger root, minced
2 green chile peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1/4 cup white vinegar

Instructions

Put the paste ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth paste. In a mixing bowl thoroughly mix the paste and pork, then place the mixture in a plastic bag, expel all the air, seal, and refrigerate overnight.

Next day heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until they are golden. Add the pork mixture and continue to sauté until the meat takes on color. Cover with water or light stock plus the vinegar and bring to a simmer. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles and simmer partly covered for about an hour, or until the pork is tender. The sauce should reduce somewhat but still be plentiful.

Serve with plain boiled basmati rice, flat breads, and chutneys.