Simeon Tegel is a British journalist based in Peru. He writes about a broad range of themes across Latin America but specializes in environment and adventure.

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Lucha de gigantes

Yawar Fiesta, emblemática tradición de los Andes peruanos que enfrenta a un toro bravo con un cóndor, está en auge. Pero el ave majestuosa del que depende está cada vez más amenazada.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Mientras que el toro se retuerce y corcovea, el atemorizado cóndor amarrado a su lomo bate sus gigantescas alas, casi eclipsando al enfurecido animal. Con un coro de cuernos aballados, un comunero con una capa arrugada entra a la plaza. Son las dos de la tarde, en Cotabambas, un pueblo a cuatro horas de Cuzco, la antigua capital del imperio inca, en Perú. Han estado fluyendo la cerveza y chicha -el jugo de maíz fermentado que tanto gusta a los andinos- desde hace horas, y la fiesta Yawar está llegando a su irresistible y brutal desenlace. En medio de la polvareda, el cóndor y el toro emergen fugazmente como un solo ser mítico, un potente toro alado que planea sobre los espectaculares cerros que rodean Cotabambas. El hombre de la capa, que camina de forma inestable como alguien que ha tomado un par de tragos de más, logra llamar la atención del toro, que arremete contra él. El hombre esquiva, apenas evitando una cornada por centímetros, mientras que su capa queda enganchada en los cuernos del toro. Corriendo, salta la barrera y regresa a la seguridad de la muchedumbre

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The changing face of Andean glaciers

Independent Blogs: Notebook

Friday 2 September 2011

To the untrained eye, the view from the Yanapaqcha glacier, some 17,000ft above sea level in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, represents nature at her most sublime. Sheer, snowcapped peaks stretch to the horizon while, through the clouds below, fertile ravines drain into perfect turquoise lakes. But as our crampons crunch into the hard ice, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is well in this spectacular wilderness. “The glacier looks like a patient dying of a virus,” says Richard Hidalgo, arguably Peru’s foremost mountaineer. “The disease is eating it away from the inside.” Climate change is tightening its grip. The statistics for glacier retreat in the Cordillera Blanca – or White Range, as this stretch of the Andes is known – are well documented: The average annual figure per glacier was seven meters in the 1970s, 20 meters in the 1980s, 24 meters in the 1990s and 25 meters in the 2000s. But, as Richard explains, the ravaging of the glaciers is about far more than shrinking snouts. As we tour Yanapaqcha, his concern becomes palpable. A huge expanse of the lower part of the glacier is riddled with dark stains, slushy puddles, ponds that freeze every evening only to thaw out again each afternoon, and enormous sinkholes.

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The ghosts of Mexico’s past

Exhausted by the war on drugs, the country is on the verge of electing the PRI, a party notorious for its autocratic, corruption-plagued rule. Simeon Tegel reports from Mexico City.

Monday 4 June 2012

For seven decades, the Institutional Revolutionary Party ruled Mexico by hook or by crook, stuffing ballot boxes, massacring democracy protesters and bribing journalists into providing sycophantic coverage. When it finally lost a presidential election for the first time, in 2000, the atmosphere was reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin wall. But now the party, universally known in Mexico as PRI, its Spanish initials, is on the brink of a triumphant comeback, with its youthful candidate for July’s presidential polls, Enrique Peña Nieto, enjoying a consistent lead of around 20 points over his nearest challenger. In the race for congress, the PRI, buoyed by its alliance with Mexico’s controversial, death penalty-supporting Green party, is close to winning 50 per cent of the lower house. That would be the chamber’s first outright majority in some 15 years, giving Mr Peña Nieto, a 45-year-old former governor of the massive state of Mexico, which includes much of Mexico City, more power than any president has had since the early 1990s.

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Cerro Rico: The mountain that eats men

Bolivia’s fabulously rich silver mine has claimed thousands of victims, yet the men keep coming.

Thursday 21 March 2013

CERRO RICO DE POTOSI, Bolivia — “There isn’t a man on this mountain who wants his children to work here,” Pablo Choque says as he prepares for his shift as a driller. Above us towers 15,800-foot Cerro Rico — literally the “Rich Mountain” — the greatest silver deposit ever known. Locals have another name for it: The Mountain that Eats Men. In its 17th century heyday, armies of indigenous and African slaves died here as the ore they mined helped keep the ailing Spanish empire afloat. Four centuries later, thousands of men like Choque continue to risk life and limb deep in the bowels of Cerro Rico as they search for its last veins of silver, zinc and tin. The miners rarely report accidents to the labor ministry, and there are no comprehensive official mortality statistics. But the tales of death are everywhere. The local paper is a good place to verify the horror. “Detonation leaves miner’s body in pieces” and “Boy miner, 14, dies after falling 60 meters down chute” read two typical recent headlines.

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