Throughout the world it’s sometimes surprising to find people still doing jobs that disappeared in wealthy countries centuries ago. One example: rag pickers. Men, women and even children who pick through trash, looking for items of value.
Today there are still millions of rag pickers in India. Only the lowest caste people do what is obviously an unpleasant and demeaning job. But Mary Stucky met a rag picker in Ambala Cantt, a city north of Delhi, who does this job with dignity and hopes to give his children a better future.
Mexico is the birthplace of chocolate. The story goes that the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl presented his people with a gift from the garden of paradise: the cacao tree from which chocolate is made. Nowhere in Mexico is chocolate held in higher esteem than in Oaxaca – it is said that every man woman and child in this city in southern Mexico consumes chocolate at least once a day.
Mary Stucky went to Pilar Cabrera, a native of Oaxaca and a well-known chef,
According to some estimates there are at least a hundred thousand youth gang members in Central America. Violent, involved in drugs and organized crime….their numbers are growing and they’re moving north. Some Central American countries have adopted what they call an iron fist approach with massive detentions and harsh prison sentences… with little positive effect. But in Nicaragua they’re taking a different approach.
In Guatemala a majority of the population is Mayan Indian. For centuries they have been excluded from national political and economic life, but today they’re finding their voice in music. One Guatemala rock band called B’itzma (BEETZ-MAH) sings in an indigenous language called Mam. B’itzma, by the way, means “Harmony.” The band has a big following in Guatemala and in the US.
Tourist brochures of Bolivia show women in bright traditional dress, often with the jaunty bowler hats worn in some regions of the country. Mary Losure recently returned from the city of Cochabamba in central Bolivia, and offers these thoughts about indigenous women’s fashions there, and the hard choices they represent.
Nowhere is the lowly potato more revered than in the Andes of South America. This is where potatoes originated. In just two countries — Peru and Bolivia — there some 10,000 different varieties of potatoes, in colors ranging from green to black to pink. Each has a unique taste and culinary purpose.
Twenty years ago, a young Canadian backpacker named Mary Jane Gagnier stumbled upon a tiny village in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca, fell in love with a local weaver — and never left.
To this day Mary Jane and Arnulfo Mendoza live in Teotitlan del Valle. That’s pretty typical in this village nestled in the dry foothills of the Sierra Juarez, where people stay put — unlike many in Mexico, who are forced by poverty to emigrate.
“There!” Our guide, Cirilo Tapui, points with his machete. “A gigantic woodpecker.”
I follow his gaze. Gigantic is right.
A ray of sun backlights the bird’s brilliant red crest as it pounds its huge beak on a dead tree — THWOK! THWOK! THWOK! Here in the Ecuadorian Amazon, immense and flashy birds like this still thrive, along with monkeys, tapirs, caimans and even, here and there, a jaguar.
Planning to buy a bouquet of roses for someone you love?
If, like 90 percent of the roses sold in the U.S. today, they’re imported, they may have a dark history. The workers who grew them might have been child laborers. The blooms might have been exposed to deadly, environment-polluting pesticides.
But those scenarios are beginning to change. Move over, fair-trade coffee. Now, there are fair-trade flowers.