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Please Pardon My Absence

My husband and I will be traveling internationally until mid May 2019. During that time our internet access will be limited and SLOW. I’ll try to post periodically, but new posts will probably be few and far between.

However, I will try to catch up by publishing back-dated posts after we get home in late May. I hope you’ll check for new posts periodically but won’t give up if you don’t see anything new for a while.

Thanks for your understanding and patience.

U.S. banks working to guard seniors from rising financial abuse

Elder financial abuse has more than doubled in the last five years and U.S. banks are taking steps to protect vulnerable seniors.

Source: U.S. banks working to guard seniors from rising financial abuse

Punta del Este, Uruguay

Today we got a glimpse at how the other 2% lives. Punta del Este is a glamorous seaside resort often compared to St. Tropez. From its origin as a fishing village, the area has grown into the site of high-rise hotels and apartment buildings, and of luxurious mansions overlooking miles of sandy beaches, gardens, and groves of pine, eucalyptus, and acacia trees.

beach at Punta del Este

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

The area draws the rich and famous for 2 months of the year. The other 10 months, according to our guide, the place is like a ghost town. The year-round population of the town is 10,000, but during the summer that number soars to half a million.

The area is also an art lover’s dream, with many galleries and museums. One example is Casapueblo, the gleaming white building built over a period of 30 years by Uruguayan sculptor and painter Carlos Páez Vilaró. The building is now a museum.

Casapueblo

Perhaps the most famous icon of Punta del Este is La Mano (The Hand) sculpture on a beach by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal.

sculpture The Hand

Another iconic sight of in southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina is people drinking mate (pronounced MAH-tey), a kind of tea that is prepared and served in a special cup.

cup for preparing mate

You put sugar and mate leaves in the cup, then fill the cup with boiling water. The flat metal piece protruding from the cup functions like a straw—is has holes in the bottom to draw liquid from the bottom of the cup—through which you sip the mate. In both Uruguay and Argentina our guides told us that people carry a thermos of mate around with them all the time to refill the cup. They sip mate all the time, like this woman who visited Casapueblo at the same time we did:

Our guides also emphasized that mate is as much a social ritual as it is a beverage. When people invite others to have some mate, they’re really inviting their friends to sit around and visit while simultaneously sipping mate.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

2 Days in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is a vibrant city with more than 40 neighborhoods that showcase the cultures of immigrants, especially those who arrived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People from countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, Greece, and Russia brought their language, beliefs, and customs to their new homes. Many of these newcomers lived in large houses where different lived in different rooms but shared the kitchen, living room, and courtyard. The intermingling of cultures in these houses gave birth to the tango, Argentina’s national dance.

The central square of Buenos Aires is May Square, which celebrates Argentina’s movement for independence:

May Square

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

The country’s history is long and complex, so I’ll focus on one part of it that I found particularly moving. During the military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983 thousands of people disappeared. In 1977 the mothers and grandmothers of the missing began to meet in May Square. Government officials would not allow them to congregate or march, so they showed up and simply walked around the square to keep alive the memories of the loved ones they had lost. This simple monument picturing their headscarves honors their resistance and persistence.

monument to mothers and grandmothers

The scarves are also pictured in each section of a circle around the square’s central obelisk:

headscarf around central obelisk

The mothers and grandmothers continue to walk around in the square every Thursday at 3:00 PM to keep alive the memories of those who were disappeared during the dictatorship.

Another aspect of this story is that, during that time, many pregnant women were rounded up and kept in a camp until their children were born. After giving birth, the women were killed. Their children were then given to prominent military and wealthy families. After the return of democracy, the government established a DNA database so that those children, now in their late 30s and early 40s, could search for their families of origin. Can you imagine what it must be like, as an adult, to realize that the family who raised you, and whom you love, isn’t your biological family? Even more horrifying must be the discovery of the conditions of your birth.


The Metropolitan Cathedral faces May Square. This is the cathedral where Pope Francis was archbishop before being called to Rome.

Metropolitan Cathedral, Buenos Aires

The cathedral contains a memorial to José de San Martín, leader of Argentina’s fight for independence:

memorial to San Martin

We just happened to be in May Square to witness a changing of the guard:

military guard

These guards are part of a special military unit that guards Argentina’s president and also stands guard at the memorial to José de San Martín inside the cathedral.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, is set on an estuary of the Plata River. The city was first settled by the Portuguese as a bastion against the Spanish, who had already established Buenos Aires nearby. Spain expelled the Portuguese from Montevideo in 1724.

Our bus tour today took us to the most important locations in the Old City, which was originally a walled city. Today only a couple of pieces of the walls remain. But Independence Plaza features a monument to the walled city:

gate monument

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Independence Plaza sign

This plaza also showcases some of the city’s colonial-era buildings, including the early home of the parliamentary legislative council, shown in the photo at the top of this post. The building is now a museum. Government business takes place in a much newer building in the next block down the street.

Just off one corner of the plaza is the old theater:

Teatro Solis
Teatro Solis

The focus of Independence Plaza is a huge statue, erected in the 1920s, of José Gervasio Artigas, Uruguay’s national hero who first had a plan for the country’s independence from Spain.

statue of Artigas

Friezes all around the statue depict the masses of people who followed Artigas. He was impressed by the government of the United States and wanted to establish Uruguay as an independent nation with a similar form of governance. After a long and complicated history involving Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Britain, Uruguay was consolidated as an independent state in 1828, with Montevideo as the capital.

Uruguay now has a large Parliament building, the Legislative Palace, that was completed in 1925. It is made of granite and 22 different kinds of marble, all from various areas of the country.

Legislative Palace

In front of the building fly Uruguay’s national flag (left) and the Artigas flag (right).

Approximately 1 million of Uruguay’s population of 3 million people live in Montevideo. The capital city contains all the country’s colleges. University education is free, but those who live outside the capital must relocate to Montevideo to take advantage of these educational opportunities.

The main resource of Uruguay’s economy is beef. This country of 3 million people houses 12 million head of cattle.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

2 Days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

One and a half days, really. We docked yesterday morning, spent the night in port, and left a bit after 1:00 this afternoon. And one and a half days was nowhere near enough time to do this vibrant city justice.

Yesterday we took a walking tour of the highlights of this city, home to “nearly seven million” people, according to our guide. Originally settled by the Portuguese, Rio was the second capital of Brazil, from 1763 until 1960, when the capital was moved inland to Brasilia. The city overlooks Guanabara Bay, which offers 45 miles of beaches. It’s not unusual to see modern skyscrapers adjacent to historical buildings.

The central square contains city hall, the Bibliotheca Nacional (national library), the fine arts museum, and the French-influenced Municipal Theatre.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

city hall
city hall
Biblioteca Nacional
Biblioteca Nacional
Municipal Theatre
Municipal Theatre

The plaza displays geometric mosaic designs created from tiles originally brought as ballast in ships from Portugal.

tiled plaza
tiled plaza

Today we ascended Sugarloaf Mountain, a conic mountain that resembles the way sugar was stored in colonial times. The trip up the mountain requires two different cable cars.

The top offers beautiful views of Guanabara Bay as well as Copacabana Beach, three miles of sand along the Atlantic side of the peninsula.

Copacabana Beach
Copacabana Beach

A hungry iguana joined us at the top of Sugarloaf:

On our way back to the ship we drove by the beach but weren’t able to get any decent pictures. The beach was amazingly crowded, with umbrellas and chairs about 10 deep along the water. The temperature was about 97 F, so there were paths from the beach up to the sidewalk along the street sprayed with water so beachgoers wouldn’t burn their feet. The sidewalks along the beach feature mosaics similar to those in the central plaza.

We didn’t get to visit one of Rio’s most iconic sites, the statue Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Guanabara Bay from atop Corcovado Mountain. When we first arrived in Rio, we stood on our verandah and could just see the statue far in the distance.

We had hoped to get a better view on our second-day trip up Sugarloaf Mountain, but the top of Corcovado was shrouded with fog:

After we reached the bottom of Sugarloaf, the fog had lifted enough for us to catch another fleeting glimpse.

Now we have two sea days to rest up for our next adventure.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Armação dos Búzios

Often referred to as just Búzios, this town started out as a smuggling, slave-trading, and whaling outpost. In the mid–19th century, with the decline of whaling and the slave trade, the town changed its focus to agriculture and fishing. Descendants of natives and slaves gradually turned the town, located not far from Rio de Janiero, into an ocean getaway.

The town gained international notoriety in 1964 when French actress Brigitte Bardot visited while trying to elude the paparazzi of Rio. Búzios is now known as a tranquil resort of 23 beaches without the crowds of more popular Rio.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

beach at Búzios
beach at Búzios
beaches at Búzios
beaches at Búzios

Its colorful main street, known as Rua das Pedras, contains shops, galleries, and restaurants.

art in Búzios
art in Búzios
art in Búzios
art in Búzios

Among the artwork throughout is this statue Três Pescadores, Three Fishermen, by Christina Motta.

Três Pescadores
Três Pescadores

Before returning to the ship, we enjoyed a couple of the local drinks made with muddled limes, sugar, and a local rum-like liquor made from sugar cane.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Salvador Da Bahia, Brazil

After several days at sea, today we made land at Salvador Da Bahia, Brazil. (Bahia is a state.) This city was founded in 1549 as the first capital of Brazil and remained the capital until 1763. The city was originally established on a high escarpment overlooking the Bay of All Saints, the largest bay in Brazil. The lower part of the city was built up later. The upper and lower parts of the city are connected by the levador Lacerda, first built as a cargo elevator in 1873.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

elevator
elevator

At the top of the elevator we got a good view of the Bay of All Saints.

Bay of All Saints
Bay of All Saints

Our tour focused on the Upper Town, the colonial area that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site 1985. The area continues to undergo restoration and preservation. Many of the buildings now sport pastel facades reminiscent of their colonial origin.

colorful buildings
colorful buildings

Salvador was the first slave port in the Americas, and it is estimated that over the years about five million Africans were brought over to work in the sugarcane fields and in the diamond and gold mines. As a result, Salvador has developed a religion and a culture that combines elements of native indigenous people, African slaves, and Portuguese traditions. The colorful local incorporates many African images.

African art
African art
colorful art
colorful art

Today the city contains more than 300 churches, but it also annually celebrates a religious festival in which many people, some dressed in African-inspired costumes, march four miles in procession to one of the churches. We visited on the day before the festival, so we got to see some of the costumes without having to experience the huge festival crowd.

traditional costume
traditional woman’s dress

The city still felt crowded to a lot of us. When someone asked our guide if the crowd was normal for Salvador, he said that the city was more crowded than usual for two reasons: (1) three cruise ships were in port that day, with a total of about 9,000 tourists; and (2) many people from outlying areas had traveled to the city for the annual festival.

The chief resources of Bahia are fruits, vegetables, cocoa, beef (there are more cows than people in Brazil), and oil.

Our guide emphasized that Salvador is a city that loves music. He told us that their Carnival lasts a full week—five official days plus two extra days. We saw a lot of evidence of the love of music in the number of bands and dancers we saw. One form of local dance is an amalgamation of dance and an African defensive form of what we would now call martial arts.

men's drum band
men’s drum band
martial arts
martial arts

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown