Posted by: ivetteromero | April 22, 2014

Dominican Republic Mourns Singer Sonia Silvestre


Last weekend we were focusing on the deaths of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez and Puerto Rican singer Cheo Feliciano that I forgot to post this other sad news. Here is a follow-up to today’s previous post Dominican Singer Sonia Silvestre Dies at 61:

Dominican singer Sonia Silvestre died on Saturday at age 61. The singer had been hospitalized for a week after suffering a massive stroke and two heart attacks. Her husband, José Betancourt, communicated his family’s gratitude for the expressions of solidarity shown by the Dominican public towards the artist, who for years displayed one of the most acclaimed romantic and patriotic repertoires in the Dominican Republic.

Sonia Margarita Silvestre Ortiz was born on August 16, 1952, in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Her parents were Estela Ortiz and Manuel Silvestre. The singer grew up in Hato Mayor, where her parents moved when she was a young girl.

Silvestre started singing publicly while still a teenager, when she met singer Cecilia García, who helped her by getting her started in the business of singing advertisement jingles. Silvestre made her official debut as a vocalist in May 1970 on the program “Gente,” produced Freddy Ginebra for Radio Televisión Dominicana; on the program, she sang the Castro Brothers’ song “Yo sin ti” [Me without you] accompanied by band leader Luis José Mella.

A turning point in her career came when composer Leonor Porcella de Brea chose Silvestre to interpret her song “¿Dónde podré gritarte que te quiero” [Where can I shout out that I love you?] at the IV Festival of Dominican Song, sponsored by AMUCABA (Association of Musicians, Singers and Dancers) in Santo Domingo in 1971. She won second place and later recorded her first LP entitled “Esta es Sonia Silvestre” [This is Sonia Silvestre] for artistic entrepreneur Bienvenido Rodríguez. In 1971 she was a finalist in the International Song Festival in Bogota, Colombia, and in 1972, the magazines Tele-3 and Farándula selected her as the most popular singer of the moment.

[Many thanks to Sophie Maríñez for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full articles (in Spanish), see and

Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 22, 2014

Over 100 writers in 2014 Bocas line-up


The action-packed programme of the 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest includes more than 100 writers, performers and speakers—the festival’s biggest line-up yet, Trinidad’s Express reports.
Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival begins this Wednesday and runs for five days, closing on Sunday. The schedule of readings, discussions, performances, workshops and film screenings follows a month of pre-festival events aro­und the country.
“We have so much in store this year that we’ve even added an extra day to the festival,” say the organisers. They continue: “The NGC Bocas Lit Fest has a special focus on Caribbean writers—which automatically makes us international, as our region is and has always been a global space.
“We’re proud to showcase some of our best writers from T&T, but we’re equally proud to feature extraordinary writers from across the whole Caribbean.”
The 2014 festival has a special focus on poetry. The “Festival Warmup” on Wednesday, a lunchtime session in the Old Fire Station in downtown Port of Spain, features UK-based Trinidadian poet and musician Anthony Joseph and British poet Malika Booker, whose roots are in Grenada and Guyana. They will perform their work alongside singer/songwriter Gillian Moor.
And one of the festival’s main highlights is a performance on Friday billed as The Living Word.
Described as “a celebration of the Caribbean’s poetry and performance traditions”, it also com­memorates the 60th birthyear of the late Jamaican dub poet Mikey Smith.
The free event, to be held at the backyard performance space Bohemia in Woodbrook, boasts a line-up of poets, including the iconic Linton Kwesi Johnson, fellow Jamaicans Lorna Goodison, Mervyn Morris and Kwame Dawes, Trinidadians Anthony Joseph, Vahni Capildeo, and Lauren K Alleyne, St Lucian newcomer Vladimir Lucien, and a guest performance by Freetown Collective.
Elsewhere in the programme, the eminent UK-based Guyanese poets John Agard and Grace Nichols will read from and discuss their work, as will the US-based Trinidadian poet Mervyn Taylor.
And on Saturday morning, an array of Guyanese writers will mark the centenary of AJ Seymour, the late poet and editor.
Trinida­dian Jennifer Rahim and Vincentian Philip Nanton will also launch new books of poems during the fes­tival.
At Bocas 2014’s grand conclusion on Sunday, T&T’s best spoken-word poets will contest the finals of the VERSES Bocas Poetry Slam.
The Thursday- and Friday-lunchtime open-mike sessions on the Brian Lara Promenade, Port of Spain, will be the prelude.
The focus on poe­try doesn’t mean an absence of fiction wri­ters.
Canada-based Trinidadian novelist Neil Bissoondath will appear at a special event at the Naipaul House Museum, former home of his grandparents; and St Kitts-born Caryl Phillips, Belizean Zee Edgell and Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo—whose debut novel, We Need New Names, was recently shortlisted for the Booker Prizer—will also read from their works.
Robert Antoni, Bernardine Evaristo and Gerard Besson will all participate in a special event looking at how post-colonial writers are reinventing the historical novel, while Jamaican Esther Figueroa and Barbados-based Trinidadian Ingrid Persaud will discuss how fiction can tackle social issues.
Books of fiction making their debut at the festival include Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw’s Mrs B, and Vashti Bowlah’s short story collection, Under the Peepal Tree.
As usual, the festival also makes room for lively, serious discussion of pressing social issues. The programme includes a number of events addressing T&T’s widespread concern with crime and vio­lence.
An event called Bloody Friday will bring together Irish-Trinidadian novelist Amanda Smyth, Scottish crime writers Denise Mina and Allan Guthrie, and US editor Johnny Temple for a discussion on how writing of different genres can deal with social violence.
An innovative extempo debate featuring Short Pants and Black Sage will ask, “Are there more criminals in jail or in public office?” And the Bocas Debate on Saturday will bring together a high-level panel of opinion-makers for a frank discussion on “Breaking the Circle” of crime, chaired by UK High Commissioner Arthur Snell.
Several dozen other writers and speakers will complete the programme. And, as in previous years, the 2014 festival will include seve­ral events focused on budding and emer­ging writers.
A new festival event, called Who’s Next?, will present a line-up of eight emerging writers from T&T; and the Stand and Deliver open mic series will give prose and poetry writers a chance to present their work to an audience.
The festival’s film series will offer documentaries on major Caribbean authors such as Derek Walcott, VS Naipaul and Earl Lovelace; a survey of recent Indian writing in English; and a special showcase of the films made by British director Anthony Wall for the BBC’s Arena programme in the 1980s. These include docu­mentaries on Mikey Smith’s visit to London, Carifesta 1981 in Barbados, and the West Indian community of coastal Nicaragua, as well as the first feature-length documentary ever made on Bob Marley, originally released in 1986.
And on Sunday 28 April, a special programme of films and talks will pay tribute to William Shakespeare on the occasion of his 450th birthday, which falls during the festival.
Look out for adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, each introduced by NGC Bocas Lit Fest programme director Nicholas Laughlin, as well as a discussion on “Shakespeare, our contemporary”.
The festival is also the occasion for the announcement of the winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Lite­rature, a major regional award recognising Carib­bean writers of poe­try, fiction and nonfiction; the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize, supporting an emerging Caribbean writer in completing a book; and the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature for Young Adult readers.
Parallel to the main festival, the NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest will include dozens of readings, performances, and workshops for young readers and wri­ters.
For more information on the 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest programme, a full list of participants and information on how to register for workshops, visit
For the original report go

Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 22, 2014

The Best Poetry Books of All Time


I love lists. They can run the gamut from enlightening to just plain irritating, but they never leave you indifferent. London’s Telegraph has just published a list of the 15 best poetry books of all times. It is no surprise that most of them are written in English—only three were foreign language texts (The Selected Poems of Li Po, Eugene Onegin, and The Divine Comedy)—or that none on their main list comes from anywhere bordering the Third World. But things get more interesting in their “Other Contenders” list, where we find Langston Hughes’ Montage of a Dream Deferred, Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, and Derek Walcott’s White Egrets. You can find the list at 15 best poetry books of all time –

Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 22, 2014

Dominican Singer Sonia Silvestre Dies at 61

Sonia Silvestre

Dominican singer Sonia Silvestre has died in Santo Domingo after having two strokes, her husband said. She was 61.

“We must sadly announce that our Sonia Silvestre has died,” said José Betancourt, the singer’s husband and father of their two children, Andrés and Heloise Estela Betancourt Silvestre,

Silvestre died on Saturday, Betancourt said.

A private memorial service will be held by the family on Sunday for the singer, who died at Hospital Plaza de la Salud.

The family plans to hold a public wake for Silvestre on Monday at a Santo Domingo funeral home, Betancourt said.

The singer had strokes on Wednesday night and Thursday morning while undergoing treatment at the hospital.

Sonia Margarita Silvestre Ortiz, who was born on Aug. 16, 1952, in the eastern city of San Pedro de Macoris, participated in music competitions and scored big hits with “La tarde esta llorando,” “El arañazo” and “Donde podre gritarte que te quiero?”

In a statement today, Dominican President Danilo Medina mourned the passing of the singer, recalling her commitment to social causes and the loss her death represents for the nation’s arts community.


A post by Peter Jordens.

Colloquium: Memory, History and Power in Postcolonial Lands: The Haitian Experience – A Tribute to Michel-Rolph Trouillot

April 24-25, 2014, from 9 am to 7 pm

Room B 106 and Salle de la Coupole (Maison de l’étudiant)

Université Paris 8

2 rue de la Liberté, 93 526 Saint-Denis Cedex

The Club for Reflection of Haitians Scholars of Paris (CRUHP) is the initiator of this event that will pay tribute to the late Haitian anthropologist and historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1949-2012).

For two days, memories of post-slavery and postcolonial societies and power in Caribbean societies will be the subject of discussion and debate. Researchers, sociologists, teachers and historians will reflect and interact on the relationship between history and power in Haitian society and in the wider Caribbean, and the entanglement of these societies, marked by the colonial and slavery experience, in the colonial imaginary constitutive of modernity. According to the organizers, “There is indeed a postcolonial drama related to the question of power caught in the net of coloniality (Aníbal Quijano). And this is one of the ideas to be discussed in this colloquium. It will interrogate on what anthropological-political foundation these political societies and ‘imagined communities’ (Benedict Anderson) are based – while keeping in mind the experience of Haitian independence – to examine how it would be possible to deconstruct the colonial logic of power from which the capitalist world-system draws its enduring dynamics. This will at the same time help to better understand the cultural, economic, social and political background of memory dynamics and social demands in post-slavery societies.”

Papers to be presented include the following: ‘Policies versus urban memories, the example of Fort-de-France, Martinique’ by Sandrine Hilderal-Jurad; ‘Haiti: International assistance, NGOs and colonization’ by Djems Olivier; ‘Vagrancy in the Haitian colonial and postcolonial context: Social invalidation and becoming co-owner of the state’ by Francklin Benjamin; ‘Power struggles and foreign interference in the Dominican Republic’ by Dr. Luis Alfonso Escolano Gimenez; ‘Concerning an iconic conflict in Haiti’ by Carlo A. Celius; ‘Magic-religious political power in Haitian society’ by Edelyn Dorismond; and ‘Haitian Revolution and postcolonial studies’ by Adler Camilus.

The detailed program is available here:

Participation in the Colloquium is free.

For more information contact the CRUHP coordinators at email, website, tel. (+33) 06 9917 6372 or 06 3064 8762.


Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 21, 2014

‘Bouyan wara’: Guianese awara broth


A post by Peter Jordens.

‘Bouyan wara’, ‘bouillon d’awara’ or awara broth (or soup or stew) is the ultimate Guyanese specialty, the traditional dish for Easter in French Guiana. It is made from the orange-colored palm fruit called ‘awarra’ or ‘wara’ [Astrocaryum vulgare] which is common in tropical South America, especially along the coast. The juice extracted from this fruit constitutes the base of a very thick stock, cooked for a long duration and supplemented with a real jumble of ingredients, such as tropical vegetables, manioc, fish or prawns, smoked ham, salty meat, banana leaves, and spices. It is usually served with rice.

Jean-Marc Kromwel of the news site reports that because awara broth takes so long to make, the preparation of this traditional family dish is nowadays often outsourced.

It is impossible to escape the hustle and bustle of awara broth during Holy Week. First, because it is THE dish with which Guianese celebrate Easter. Second, because even if we were to forget, our neighbors, acquaintances and relatives make sure to remind us. “I sell awara broth at 15 euros per portion and it is well served. Do not forget to order,” said an email which I received last week. Offers of this nature increase each year. They meet a demand, as more and more people find that awara broth takes too long to make: three or four days if you want to get everything right, from collecting the awara until the final simmer.

This is the case for Micheline, from Macouria. For twenty years, she cooked the broth herself for her husband and her two children who in the meantime have given her six grandchildren. Three years ago, she decided to commission the preparation to an expert friend. “It became too much to do,” she says. “Especially as the size of the dish had to increase each year along with the appetite of my children, the boys in particular.”

This order costs a little more than one-hundred euros, for a family of ten people. Ten euros per portion, “because there are ten of us,” says Micheline. Otherwise, it is fifteen euros. Sometimes it is twenty euros or more per portion. “For some, it has become a business like ‘matoutou de crabes’ in the French Antilles,” laments Stanley, a native of Martinique, who has become a fan of awara broth. “But the most expensive versions are not always the best …”

Most Guianese will have their awara broth on Easter – no matter who has prepared it!

For the complete, original article (in French), go to

A recipe (in English) for ‘bouyan wara’ can be found here:

There is a proverb that says “Si tu manges du bouillon d’Awara … en Guyane tu reviendras” [If you eat awara broth, you will return to Guiana].

There is an educational, ethnographic film called Awara Soup, produced by Marie Clémence Blanc-Paes and directed by César Paes. Made by Laterit Productions (France) in 1996 and 71 minutes long, it explores the extraordinary cultural diversity of one small town in French Guiana, with the cooking of awara soup as a starting point. The film is in the many languages spoken in Guiana: French, French Creole, Sranan Tongo, Portuguese, Hmong and Javanese, with English subtitles. See (includes trailer) or

Posted by: ivetteromero | April 21, 2014

Scientists Tether Lionfish to Cayman Reefs

Lionfish Sightings

I have mixed feelings about lionfish but this practice seems cruel to me regardless of the benefits down the line. In any case, here is the report: U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands tethered lionfish to reefs in an effort to train sharks and groupers to prey on lionfish. Various groups of researchers and scientists are in disagreement as to whether these fish would prey on untethered lionfish in the wild.

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

The invasive species with a flowing mane of venomous spines has no natural predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Native sharks and groupers typically avoid healthy lionfish, a native to the Indian and Pacific oceans that was likely introduced through the pet trade. But when a University of Florida team tethered spry lionfish to lead weights on reefs off Little Cayman, underwater video cameras late showed nurse sharks and Nassau groupers gulping them down.

Thomas Frazer is one of the researchers and the director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. In a Thursday email, he said the study off Little Cayman suggests that sharks and groupers “have the capacity to learn to pursue, capture and consume” lionfish without human intervention.

[. . .] Some researchers and lionfish wranglers who were not involved in the study expressed doubt about the findings, arguing that tethered fish do not behave naturally and likely trigger an unusual feeding response in predators.

“I am highly skeptical that a native predator eating a tethered lionfish means that those predators will eat untethered lionfish,” said Mark Hixon, a University of Hawaii professor of marine ecology and conservation biology who has studied the lionfish invasion.

Lad Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, a Florida-headquartered organization of divers and marine enthusiasts, said he believes feeding lionfish to native predators in the Cayman Islands or anywhere else is dangerous. [. . .]

For full article, see

Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 21, 2014

U.N. Struggles to Stem Haiti Cholera Epidemic

A young Haitian fishing in the Latem River, known to be contaminated. The country is still struggling to stem a cholera epidemic. Ian Willms for The New York Times

A young Haitian fishing in the Latem River, known to be contaminated. The country is still struggling to stem a cholera epidemic. Ian Willms for The New York Times

This article by RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD and SOMINI SENGUPTA appeared in The New York Times. Here is an excerpt, with a link to the full article below.

For three years, the United Nations has refused to address whether its peacekeepers brought a deadly strain of cholera to Haiti, insisting instead that it was more important to help the country stanch the disease once and for all.

But on that score, it is still very far behind. In some ways, Haiti is even less equipped to tackle cholera than it was three years ago.

The United Nations raised barely a fourth of the $38 million it needed last year to provide lifesaving supplies, including the most basic, like water purification tablets. Clinics have run short of oral rehydration salts to treat the debilitating diarrhea that accompanies the disease. Some treatment centers in the countryside have shut down as the aid groups that ran them have moved on to other crises. And a growing share of patients are dying after they finally reach hospitals, according to the United Nations’ own assessments.

Josilia Fils-Aime, 11, who lives in this village on an isolated spit of land near the Artibonite River, where the epidemic first began, knows these shortcomings all too well. Her family had run out of water purification tablets, and she drank water from what must have been a polluted stream nearby.

“I felt dizzy and sick,” the girl said. She was struck by sudden vomiting and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed cholera.

Her predicament has multiplied across Haiti, which has had the most cholera cases in the world for three years in a row.

The United Nations has yet to raise the $5 million necessary to vaccinate 600,000 vulnerable people right away — as the rainy season approaches and the threat of waterborne illnesses like cholera looms — let alone the $2 billion that it promised to raise from rich countries to build Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure, which public health experts say is vital to ridding the country of cholera.

Pedro Medrano Rojas, the United Nations secretary general’s newly appointed envoy for the cholera outbreak, attributed the shortfall to global “donor fatigue” in the face of other humanitarian crises.

“Had we had the resources it would have been different,” Mr. Medrano said. “It’s not expensive. No one should be dying from cholera.”


The United Nations is essential to solving the problem because, like many of the country’s institutions since the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s own health care system remains in shambles. Clean drinking water and sanitation remain as scarce as when the epidemic began. And where international nonprofit groups, along with the government, once operated 120 cholera treatment centers across the nation, the number has shrunk to barely 40 as aid groups have pulled out.

Perhaps that most troubling measure of all is the rising percentage of cholera patients who die in the treatment facilities that remain. As the United Nations mission said in its report to the Security Council in March, “That reflects weaknesses in the capacity of health centers to provide timely and adequate health services to patients affected by cholera and the longer travel time required for treatment as a result of the closure of many cholera treatment centers.”

Josilia Fils-Aime, for instance, most likely survived because Partners in Health, a nonprofit that has worked in Haiti for years, opened a satellite clinic near her home. The next closest cholera treatment center would have required a two-hour trek, including a boat ride.

“In any other country, you would declare it a humanitarian disaster,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a health policy adviser for Partners in Health. “What’s going to happen when the rainy season starts?”

By Mr. Medrano’s estimates, as many as 40,000 people could become infected once the clouds break and the rivers swell.


Forensic studies, including one ordered by the United Nations, have concluded that the bacteria found in Haiti is an Asian strain common in Nepal, where hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti came from. The forensic studies have also linked the spread of cholera to a flawed sanitation system at the Nepalese peacekeeper base, which contaminated a river tributary that many Haitians used for drinking and bathing water.


In a stinging report in March, Gustavo Gallon, a special envoy for human rights in Haiti, took the United Nations to task for its failure to explain how the disease had spread to Haiti and who was responsible. He urged the United Nations to establish a commission “to enable damages to be recorded, corresponding benefits or compensation to be paid, the persons responsible to be identified, the epidemic to be stopped and other measures to be implemented.”

Three class-action lawsuits have been filed against the United Nations in American courts, asserting it was responsible for the outbreak. Responding for the United Nations, the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said in early March that he believed the United Nations Charter rendered the organization “absolutely immune from legal process and suit absent an express waiver.”

All three cases seek hefty compensation for victims. That is not only a costly proposition, but it also could set a daunting precedent for future peacekeeping missions around the world, Mr. Medrano cautioned.


All the while, Haitian government health workers involved in cholera treatment centers have not been paid in months, some for almost a year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A disease surveillance system that enabled workers around the country to send text messages about suspected cholera cases to the ministry of health does not always work, “delaying the response time,” according to a review by the humanitarian affairs office, which also recommended more systematic use of tests to differentiate cholera from other causes of diarrhea.

The ranks of malnourished children, who are most susceptible to cholera because of low immunity, have also grown in the last year. Less than two-thirds of the population has access to clean drinking water. According to the United Nations humanitarian office’s latest country report, published at the end of 2013, “the main cause for the persistence of cholera in Haiti is the lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities and poor hygienic practices.”

That is what brought Jislaine Marc, 15, to the general hospital in Port-au-Prince in early April. Her family said the girl had suddenly been struck by violent vomiting and diarrhea — the telltale, debilitating signs of cholera. Had she reached a hospital on time, she could have been saved, with one of the cheapest, easiest remedies of all: oral rehydration salts. But she did not. She died.

At the hospital, the girl was not tested for cholera. Hospital workers told the family she was dead on arrival. They ordered family members to take the body home. At first, the family refused to believe she was dead.

Soon, another family member showed symptoms and was rushed to a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, which dispatched health workers to Jislaine’s house, sprayed it with a disinfectant bleach solution and informed the health ministry to remove the girl’s corpse.

“It was so sudden,” the girl’s aunt said, as the health workers adjusted a white tarp over Jislaine. “She was just a normal kid who went to school and church.”

For the original report go to


The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has warned eligible nationals of Haiti who currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to re-register by May 2, 2014. Approximately 50,000 Haitian nationals with TPS reside in the United States.

“Failure to re-register by this deadline may result in the loss of your TPS and your work authorization,” said the USCIS in a statement issued here. If you re-register during the registration period and request employment authorization, you will receive a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with an expiration date of January 22, 2016.” [. . .]

USCIS said it recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs have expired. Therefore, it said it is automatically extending current TPS Haiti EADs with a July 22, 2016, expiration date for an additional six months.

In early March, US Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, extended TPS for eligible nationals of Haiti for an additional 18 months, effective July 23, 2014 through January 22, 2016.

Current Haitian beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from March 3, 2014, through May 2, 2014. [. . .]

For full article, see

For image above and more information, see 

Posted by: lisaparavisini | April 21, 2014

UNESCO Pays Tribute to Gabriel García Márquez


The United Nations Educational, Scientifical and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) paid tribute today to the recently deceased Nobel Literature Prize Gabriel García Márquez, Prensa Latina reports.

In a message, the director general of the agency, Irina Bokova, considered the death of the Colombian writer (March 6, 1927-April 17,2014) “a huge loss to the universal culture”.

Besides being a great writer and journalist, García Márquez was a passionate activist for human rights and freedom of information as a driving force for emancipation and democracy, she affirmed.

Bokova highlighted the vast work of the author: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera, The General in His Labyrinth, and many others.

“These are songs of love to the boundless reality of Latin America and the Caribbean, from a man who embodied the power of literature to explore reality, its ghosts and myths,” she said.

Gabo died in Mexico, where tribute is being paid today at the Palace of Fine Arts.

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