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Ecuador’s 2,500 Year Old “Lost City” Uncovered

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The jungle protected them for centuries and centuries, but the construction of roads, erosion and agricultural work endanger the mounds of a colossal Amazonian civilization some 2,500 years old in eastern Ecuador.

Along 300 km2 in the Upano valley, south of the Amazon, there is a “lost city” found in 1978 that shows evidence of ancient settlements in the rainforest region, of different sizes and connected by roads.

“It was thought that they were (structures) natural and were cut to build roads. So it is urgent (…) a protection plan, not only for research,” said Spanish archaeologist Alejandra Sánchez, who has been investigating this heritage for a decade.

With the help of a state project in 2015, she and other archaeologists used information yielded by sophisticated technology to identify some 7,400 mounds in L, T, U, square, rectangular and oval shapes.

But when the archaeologist from the University of Valladolid visited the area years ago, she found that some of these earthen giants had succumbed to the power of modern machinery: “They were damaged by the passage of roads.”

Erosion, deforestation and agriculture also threaten the structures up to four meters high and about 20 meters long. “With the rains, with the wind, with the plows, etc., they are destroyed very easily,” explains Sánchez. In addition, the Upano River, cradle of the indigenous culture of the same name, is prey to voracious illegal mining.

As a protective measure, the state National Institute of Cultural Heritage (INPC) will begin by marking the boundaries of the complex in the province of Morona Santiago (southeast).

“The envy we had of the archaeological heritage of our Peruvian neighbors or our distant Mesoamerican neighbors, we have it here, in the Upano valley, in quantity, in grandeur, in history, in cultural manifestations,” says Ecuadorian archaeologist Alden Yépez from the private Catholic University of Ecuador.

Lost city

In 2023, Sánchez and Argentinian Rita Álvarez presented an analysis of the images obtained after an overflight using LiDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) technology, which uses laser to detect terrain irregularities. “The conservation and enhancement actions have changed a lot,” said INPC director Catalina Tello.

For Tello, understanding the archaeological findings should occur “in context”, in this case including the Shuar and Achuar indigenous people who “have safeguarded and cared for all these vestiges”.

Upano rose to fame in January, when the journal Science published an article by Frenchman Stéphen Rostain, who conducted excavations in the 1990s.

The INPC and archaeologists such as Yépez recall that the structures have been analyzed for four decades, when the story of their existence reached the ears of Father Pedro Porras. The priest and also Ecuadorian archaeologist described them in the 1980s as a “lost city”.

The tip of the iceberg

Pots with reddish dyes and finely decorated, a piece of carved volcanic rock in the shape of half animal and half human, and other pieces found by the priest are exhibited at the Weilbauer-Porras museum at the Catholic University (PUCE) in Quito.

The center also houses maps and black and white photographs of Porras in which the geometric mounds that stand out from the ground can be distinguished. The most modern findings are in the INPC documentation center, which holds the images generated by LiDAR.

For Yépez, also a professor at PUCE, the more than 7,000 mounds described a year ago by Alejandra Sánchez are the “tip of the iceberg” of a civilization that could have been even larger.

The researcher estimates that the mounds extend over some 2,000 km2 around the Upano, Palora and Pastaza rivers, where there are signs of settlements.

Amazon Venice

The findings described so far of the Upano culture show political, economic and religious organization typical of great civilizations. “That idea that the Amazon was an unpopulated space” or only inhabited by nomads is dismissed, adds the INPC director.

Yépez, who continues to investigate the area, works with other scientists analyzing the atmospheric data of the place where rain is frequent. Unlike his colleagues who speak of structures connected by roads, Yépez believes that these are “huge interconnected drainage systems.”

“One of the fundamental purposes is to evacuate the vertical precipitation, so there is a direct, wonderful correlation” with the atmospheric characteristics of the area, explains the researcher.



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International Arts Festival 2024 Announces Venues and Dates in the Provinces of Guanacaste and San José ⋆ The Costa Rica News

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The Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCJ) announces the cantons that will be the main venues for the International Arts Festival 2024 (FIA2024) in Guanacaste: Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Cañas and Liberia; Likewise, it will travel with caravans through the districts of the 11 cantons, from November 8 to 17, 2024; and San José center will be sub-headquarters, from December 4 to 8, 2024.

The most important cultural festival in the country

“The International Arts Festival is the most important cultural festival in the country, and this 2024 it transcends geographically, because for the first time in its history, we will take the main festival headquarters outside the capital. We are going to Guanacaste from November 8 to 17, with a proposal that arises from a stage of technical, logistical, artistic, cultural and territorial analysis, which come together in a design according to the particularities of the cantons of the Chorotega Region and the San José locations. Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Cañas and Liberia will be the main venues for FIA 2024; complemented with a caravan trip through various districts of Guanacaste, opening the window to the richness and cultural diversity of these territories, also adding the center of San José, as a sub-headquarters” indicated NayuribeGuadamuz Rosales, Minister of Culture and Youth.

Guanacaste is an outstanding destination in the cultural and artistic field, it is a territorial area resulting from a history with high heritage wealth, a product of cultural diversity and the multiple migrations and populations that inhabited and inhabit the province. This province enriches national culture and becomes an element with high value when choosing to hold the 2024 International Arts Festival.

“The existence of artistic and humanistic institutions at the secondary level in the region, the universities present, the multiplicity of heritage and artistic manifestations in population centers, coastal places, the slopes of the volcanoes and the gulf, allow Guanacaste to be today nourish that creative effervescence that becomes a strength to be the headquarters of the FIA,” the minister emphasized.

For her part, Vera Beatriz Vargas León, Vice Minister of Culture, expressed: “It is key to mention that within the framework of the 200th anniversary of the Annexation of the Nicoya Party to Costa Rica and protected by Executive Decree No. 43637-C, which creates the Auxiliary Commission to commemorate the 200 years of the Annexation, the institutions are invited so that we must be willing to join the National Bicentennial Program, as a commemoration of an anniversary that has national scope. With this, the call of deputies of Guanacaste, Federation of Municipalities of Guanacaste, Chamber of Tourism of Guanacaste and the Auxiliary Commission of the Bicentennial of the Annexation for Guanacaste to become the headquarters of the FIA ​​in 2024 is answered.

Dates and locations

In the cantons of Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Cañas and Liberia, FIA2024 will be in an itinerant manner and will generate activations in public spaces of social convergence, starting in Santa Cruz and Nicoya on November 8, 9 and 10; It will move through three caravans in: Nandayure (Carmona), Hojancha (center), Nicoya (Sámara and Mansión), Santa Cruz (Tamarindo and Cartagena), Carrillo (Filadelfia and El Coco), La Cruz (center and Cuajiniquil), Bagaces ( center and Guayabo), Cañas (Bebedero), Abangares (center), Tilarán (center and Nuevo Arenal), and the Municipality of Colorado and Liberia, on November 12, 13 and 14, to finally move to Cañas and Liberia on November 15, 16 and 17.

“The Caravan of the Arts allows us to reach every corner of the towns of Guanacaste, which is why the design is reflected in a creative, artistic, technical and logistical approach, which responds to activating venues and communities en route, allowing the Festival to be move in an itinerant way, so various communities will enjoy FIA2024,” said NayuribeGuadamuz Rosales, Minister of Culture and Youth.

The FIA ​​2024 sub-headquarters in San José will be concentrated for five days, and will run from December 4 to 8, with programming in emblematic places such as the National Theater of Costa Rica, the Antigua Aduana Cultural Complex, the Teatro the Alberto Cañas Escalante Customs House, the Dance Theater, the National Cultural Center, the Children’s Museum and the Plaza de la Democracia.

The entire FIA ​​2024 programming is outlined for large, medium and small scale locations, reaching diverse audiences, such as children, youth, adults and older adults, with stage shows, workshops, special activities, meetings, literature, visual arts, among others.

FIA24 call

The Artistic and Cultural Production Center (CPAC), the entity that produces the FIA2024, opened the period for submitting projects for competitive funds for the programming of national artistic and cultural activities in the International Arts Festival 2024 (FIA 2024), to continue supporting the artistic and cultural sector, as established by the Emergency and Cultural Rescue Law (No. 10041) and its regulations, Executive Decree No. 43530-C.

These funds allow financing artistic production projects prepared by creators, performers, researchers, producers, promoters, managers or any other person working in art and culture, whether natural or legal persons, who meet the requirements established in the bases of participation.

Interested persons can download the participation bases on the Google forms platform and access the registration form through the following link: https://forms.gle/poAAJBgTjzJHRvFGAThe registration period began on February 20, 2024 and ends at 11:59 p.m., on April 1, 2024.

Form for institutions

In the call there is also an exclusive form for those public institutions that want to be part of the programming and for this purpose, they must fill it out.Institutional proposals will be received through the online form:https://forms.gle/cqiRgyue8cHhbMou6

Call for international groups

A call for international artists will be promoted through coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, as well as with the diplomatic corps stationed in the country. Other international artists will be managed through contributions from collaborators and strategic alliances.

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Honduras Confiscates Assets of Ex-Cop Linked to Drug Trafficking in US :

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The Honduran Prosecutor’s Office confiscated eight properties and other assets from former police officer Mauricio Hernández Pineda, cousin of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is accused of drug trafficking in the United States, the institution reported on Monday.

Through the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Organized Crime and the Technical Agency for Criminal Investigation, “four home searches were carried out in [the departments of] Cortés and Copán” and “seizures of 37 assets considered to be of illicit origin,” the statement said.

Eight properties, two vehicles, and 27 financial products (bank accounts or deposits) were seized in the police operation called “El Primo” and “were registered in the name of Mauricio Hernández Pineda, who pleaded guilty in the Southern District Court of New York, United States, on February 2, 2024, to charges related to drug trafficking,” it added.

The New York Prosecutor’s Office accused Hernández Pineda, along with his cousin – the former president (2014-2022) – and Juan Carlos Bonilla, former director of the Honduran National Police, of conspiring to traffic cocaine from producing countries in South America to the United States.

The drug transportation was carried out in conjunction with the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, which was then led by drug lord Joaquín “el Chapo” Guzmán, who was sentenced to life in prison in the United States for the same crime, according to witnesses at the trial against former President Hernández.

The trial against Hernández began on February 12 in New York and continues this week.

The New York Court had decided to unify the trial against the three Hondurans, but Hernández Pineda and Bonilla pleaded guilty, so only the former president was brought to trial. The high court will pass sentence on Hernández Pineda on May 2 and on Bonilla on June 25.

Honduras sent prosecutors to the trial in New York for “the exercise of criminal actions” against the Hondurans who are convicted, according to the statement from the Prosecutor’s Office.



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The Mystery of the Misshapen: Unraveling the Genetic Enigma of Central America’s Sloths

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In the verdant heart of Central America, a peculiar trend has caught the eye of scientists and animal lovers alike. For over a decade, the lush jungles have been the stage for an unfolding mystery: an unusual influx of baby sloths bearing the marks of genetic anomalies. This phenomenon, characterized by misshapen limbs, missing appendages, and rare instances of albinism, has perplexed researchers and spurred a quest for answers amidst the canopy’s emerald embrace.

A Puzzling Pattern Emerges

It was during her Ph.D. research near the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica in San Clemente that Dr. Rebecca Cliffe first encountered these anomalies. Sloths with limbs that zigged when they should have zagged, some missing fingers, toes, or even entire limbs, became subjects of her study. “Their ears and jaws were also prone to deformity,” Cliffe revealed in a dialogue that shed light on the severity of these genetic mutations.

Not confined to the sanctuaries, these anomalies were also witnessed in the wild. “In the South Caribbean, it’s not uncommon to spot adult sloths thriving despite missing limbs,” Cliffe added, highlighting the resilience of these creatures. Yet, the question looms: What causes these genetic mutations?

Beyond External Anomalies

The intrigue deepens as Dr. Andrés Bräutigam, a veterinarian at the Toucan Rescue Ranch, points to internal issues. “Many mutations affect internal organs, leading to congenital conditions that hinder the development of lungs and hearts, among others,” Bräutigam explained. This suggests that the problem is more complex, with mutations often flying under the radar due to the necessity for extensive medical examination.

The Struggle for Survival

The survival of these sloths is a tale of resilience and tragedy. “Even a missing finger can mean a death sentence,” Cliffe remarked, noting that necropsies often reveal numerous internal abnormalities. These revelations paint a stark picture of the challenges faced by sloths from birth, thrusting them into a fight for survival from their first breath.

Costa Rica: A Biodiversity Powerhouse

Costa Rica, known for its rich biodiversity and status as a sanctuary for an estimated 5 percent of the world’s species, finds its national symbol in the sloth. This nation, boasting the highest density of sloths, is also the world’s leading pineapple producer, a fact that harks back to a time when pineapples were a symbol of wealth and extravagance in colonial America.

The Pineapple Connection

The pineapple, once a luxury that could command prices as steep as $8,000 in today’s money, has a history intertwined with international trade and the democratization of luxury. Charles Lamb’s 1857 description of the pineapple as a fruit whose taste is “almost too transcendent” echoes through time, reminding us of the fruit’s enduring appeal.

Seeking Answers

As researchers like Cliffe and Bräutigam peel back the layers of this mystery, their work sheds light on the resilience of nature and the interplay between genetics and environment. The plight of the sloths serves as a poignant reminder of our interconnected world, where the health of the smallest creatures can reflect broader ecological changes.

This ongoing saga of discovery and resilience in the face of genetic adversity offers a window into the complexities of nature, urging us to pay closer attention to the silent stories unfolding in the world around us.



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