Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Recomendación para Leer"

Les recomiendo para leer este gran libro,"La Quinta Montaña" de Paulo Coelho quien ha vendido más de 35 millones de libros en el mundo. Este autor es uno de los más leidos y no sólo eso, uno de los autores con mayor influencia hoy en día. No importa cual sea su credo ni cultura, usted se sentirá identificado con lo actual de su temática. Para mí es uno de los autores de referencia de nuestro tiempo.

Les sugiero fuertemente este libro que cuenta la historia del profeta Elías, quien ha recibido de Dios la orden de abandonar Israel. En un mundo regido por problemas económicos, conflictos religiosos, racismo, supersticiones. Determinando que nuestro jovén profeta se enfrente a una avalancha de acontecimientos que le conducen a un definitivo encuentro con Dios.

Una magnifica lección de esperanza para el hombre actual, en la que terminamos por plantear hasta que punto podemos determinar nuestro destino.

Leanlo y ya me comentarán.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bilingual Children

Unraveling how children become bilingual so easily
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Delicious Digg Facebook Fark Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Bookmarks .Print ..By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, Ap Medical Writer – Tue Jul 21, 3:08 am ET
WASHINGTON – The best time to learn a foreign language: Between birth and age 7. Missed that window?

New research is showing just how children's brains can become bilingual so easily, findings that scientists hope eventually could help the rest of us learn a new language a bit easier.

"We think the magic that kids apply to this learning situation, some of the principles, can be imported into learning programs for adults," says Dr. Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington, who is part of an international team now trying to turn those lessons into more teachable technology.

Each language uses a unique set of sounds. Scientists now know babies are born with the ability to distinguish all of them, but that ability starts weakening even before they start talking, by the first birthday.

Kuhl offers an example: Japanese doesn't distinguish between the "L" and "R" sounds of English — "rake" and "lake" would sound the same. Her team proved that a 7-month-old in Tokyo and a 7-month-old in Seattle respond equally well to those different sounds. But by 11 months, the Japanese infant had lost a lot of that ability.

Time out — how do you test a baby? By tracking eye gaze. Make a fun toy appear on one side or the other whenever there's a particular sound. The baby quickly learns to look on that side whenever he or she hears a brand-new but similar sound. Noninvasive brain scans document how the brain is processing and imprinting language.

Mastering your dominant language gets in the way of learning a second, less familiar one, Kuhl's research suggests. The brain tunes out sounds that don't fit.

"You're building a brain architecture that's a perfect fit for Japanese or English or French," whatever is native, Kuhl explains — or, if you're a lucky baby, a brain with two sets of neural circuits dedicated to two languages.

It's remarkable that babies being raised bilingual — by simply speaking to them in two languages — can learn both in the time it takes most babies to learn one. On average, monolingual and bilingual babies start talking around age 1 and can say about 50 words by 18 months.

Italian researchers wondered why there wasn't a delay, and reported this month in the journal Science that being bilingual seems to make the brain more flexible.

The researchers tested 44 12-month-olds to see how they recognized three-syllable patterns — nonsense words, just to test sound learning. Sure enough, gaze-tracking showed the bilingual babies learned two kinds of patterns at the same time — like lo-ba-lo or lo-lo-ba — while the one-language babies learned only one, concluded Agnes Melinda Kovacs of Italy's International School for Advanced Studies.

While new language learning is easiest by age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty.

"We're seeing the brain as more plastic and ready to create new circuits before than after puberty," Kuhl says. As an adult, "it's a totally different process. You won't learn it in the same way. You won't become (as good as) a native speaker."

Yet a soon-to-be-released survey from the Center for Applied Linguistics, a nonprofit organization that researches language issues, shows U.S. elementary schools cut back on foreign language instruction over the last decade. About a quarter of public elementary schools were teaching foreign languages in 1997, but just 15 percent last year, say preliminary results posted on the center's Web site.

What might help people who missed their childhood window? Baby brains need personal interaction to soak in a new language — TV or CDs alone don't work. So researchers are improving the technology that adults tend to use for language learning, to make it more social and possibly tap brain circuitry that tots would use.

Recall that Japanese "L" and "R" difficulty? Kuhl and scientists at Tokyo Denki University and the University of Minnesota helped develop a computer language program that pictures people speaking in "motherese," the slow exaggeration of sounds that parents use with babies.

Japanese college students who'd had little exposure to spoken English underwent 12 sessions listening to exaggerated "Ls" and "Rs" while watching the computerized instructor's face pronounce English words. Brain scans — a hair dryer-looking device called MEG, for magnetoencephalography — that measure millisecond-by-millisecond activity showed the students could better distinguish between those alien English sounds. And they pronounced them better, too, the team reported in the journal NeuroImage.

"It's our very first, preliminary crude attempt but the gains were phenomenal," says Kuhl.

But she'd rather see parents follow biology and expose youngsters early. If you speak a second language, speak it at home. Or find a play group or caregiver where your child can hear another language regularly.

"You'll be surprised," Kuhl says. "They do seem to pick it up like sponges."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Gift from the Sea"

What a circus act we women perform
every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist
to shame. Look at us. We run a tigh rope daily,
balancing a pile of book on the head.
Baby-carriage, parasol,kitchen chair,still under control.
Steady now!

Anne Morrow Lindbergh. B.1906.

Que acto de circo nosotras las mujeres hacemos
cada día de nuestras vidas. Ponemos el trapecio de artistas
desgraciadas. Miradnos. Corremos diariamente la cuerda floja,
balanceando una pila de libros en la cabeza.
Coche de bebé, sombrilla, silla de la cocina, todo bajo control.
Seamos constantes ahora!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of Indies or Cartagena of West Indies, in Spanish) (Spanish pronunciation: [kaɾtaˈhena ð̞e ˈin̪d̪jas], English: /ˌkɑrtəˈheɪnə deɪ ˈɪndiəs/), is a city on the northern coast of Colombia and capital of Bolívar Department. The metropolitan area has a population of 1,240,000, and the city proper 1,090,000 (2005 census). It is the fifth largest urban area in Colombia.

Today the city is a centre of economic activity in the Caribbean region and a popular tourist destination.

Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.


Precolombian era: 7000 BC - 1500 AD
The Caribbean region, particularly in the area from the Sinú River delta to the Cartagena de Indias bay, appears to be the first documented human community in today's Colombia: the Puerto Hormiga Culture.

Until the Spanish colonization many cultures derived from the Karib, Malibu and Arawak language families lived along the Caribbean Colombian coast. In the late pre-Columbian era, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, was home to the Tayrona people, closely related with the Chibcha family language.

According to the chronists descriptions the huts of the prehistoric inhabitants of the actual city may looked very similar to these Taino culture huts in CubaArchaeologists estimate that around 7000 BC, the settlement of the formative Puerto Hormiga Culture, located near the limits between the departments of Bolívar and Sucre was established. In this area archaeologists have found the most ancient ceramic objects in the Americas, dating from around 4000 BC. The primary reason for the proliferation of primitive societies in this area is the relative mildness of climate and the abundance of wildlife which through continuous hunting allowed the inhabitants a comfortable life.

In today's villages of Maria La Baja, Sincerín, El Viso and Mahates and Rotinet, there have also been discoveries of the remains of culturally organized societies through the excavation of maloka type buildings, which are directly related to the early Puerto Hormiga settlements.

Archaeological investigations date the decline of the Puerto Hormiga culture and its related settlements to around 3000 BC. The rise of a much more developed culture, the Monsú, who lived at the end of the Dique Canal, near today's Cartagena neighborhoods Pasacaballos and Ciénaga Honda at the northernmost part of Barú Island. The Monsú culture inherited the Puerto Hormiga culture´s use of the art of pottery but also developed a mixed economy of agriculture and basic manufacture. the Monsú people's diet was based mostly on seashells, sweet- and salt-water fish.

The ethnologists who discovered Monsú, Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff and his wife Alicia Dussan, found an interesting artificial mound created by them consisting in vases and rests of skeletons. After the first excavations, the Monsú mound was found to be a communal hut that had strong wood logs around it and was built on different levels, each one from a different period of time. The most ancient of these is the Turbana Period, from 3350 BC. This archaeological zone, less than 6 miles from Cartagena de Indias' downtown boasts the most complete collection of ceramic instruments in Colombia and the American continent. The ceramic patterns found in Monsú, are a tour de force for students of archeology of the Caribbean sea basin and northern South America.

The Reichel-Dolmatoffs later found other artificial mounds, dating from 3200 to 1000 BC, thus making the suburbs of modern Cartagena the seat of the first organized society in Colombia, and one of the most ancient in the Americas.

The development of the Sinú society in today's department of Cordoba and Sucre, eclipsed these first developments around the Cartagena Bay area. Around 1500 the area was inhabited by different tribes of the Karib language family, more precisely the Mocanae sub-family. These were:

In the downtown island: Kalamarí Tribe
In the Tierrabomba island: Carex Tribe
In the Barú island, then peninsula: Bahaire Tribe
In the eastern coast of the exterior bay: Cospique Tribe
In the suburban area of Turbaco: Yurbaco Tribe
Some subsidiary tribes of the Kalamari lived in today's neighborhood of Pie de la Popa, and other subsidiaries from the Cospique lived in the Membrillal and Pasacaballos areas. Among these, according to the first chronicles the Kalamari Tribe had preeminence.

These tribes, though physically and administratively separated, shared common architecture, such as hut structures consisting of circular rooms with tall roofs inside wooden palisades.

Alonso de Ojeda passed through the bay in 1505 but decided to continue to Uraba.
[edit] First sightings: 1500-1533
Since the failed foundation of Antigua del Darién in 1506 by Alonso de Ojeda, and the subsequent failed city of San Sebastian de Urabá in 1517 by Diego de Nicuesa, the southern Caribbean coast became a bit unattractive to colonizers, which preferred the more known Hispaniola and Cuba.

Pedro de Heredia founder of the city and explorer of its hinterlandThough, the Casa de Contratación gave permission to Rodrigo de Bastidas to again, conduct an expedition as adelantado to this areas. Bastidas, explored the coast and discovered the Magdalena River delta in his first journey from Guajira to the south in 1527, trip that ended in the Urabá gulf, seat of the failed first settlements. De Nicuesa and De Ojeda noted the existence of a big bay on the way from Santo Domingo to Urabá and Panama isthmus, encouraging De Bastidas to investigate.

Rodrigo de Bastidas, discovered the bay in 1527 but never settled.In this first trip, he died Cartagena de Indias's bay but noted that in future voyages he will investigate this "immense bay, perfect for ships." This second trip was made in 1530 and the calculations were true: it was an enormous bay with profound waters. After the discovery, De Bastidas returned to Santa Marta, recently founded by him in 1528. Colonial era: 1533-1717

Juan de la Cosa, traveled with De Heredia to the area, and died in the near town of Turbaco in a battle, his office was to make the maps of the expedition due to his expertise after being the first cartographer of America.Cartagena de Indias was founded on 1 June 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former seat of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village.

Ximenez de Quezada was the Founder of Bogotá and Governor of the City after the death of Pedro de Heredia. Initially, life in the city was bucolic, with fewer than 2000 inhabitants and only one church. A few months after the disaster of the invasion of Cote (see below), a fire destroyed the city and forced the creation of a Firefighting Squad, the first in the Americas.

The dramatically increasing fame and wealth of the prosperous city turned it an attractive plunder site for pirates and corsairs (French privateers, licensed by their king). Just 30 years after its founding, the city was pillaged by a French nobleman Jean-François Roberval known as "Robert Baal". The city then set about strengthening its defences and surrounding itself with walled compounds and castles. Martin Cote attacked years later.

Many pirates intended the same on Cartagena who was more and more notorious in the thieves' guilds in Europe:

Sir John Hawkins (England): Tried to trick Gov. Martín de las Alas in 1568 to open (against the Spanish Law) a foreign fair in the city to sell its goods for then ravaging the port. The Governor declined and Hawkins tried to siege but failed.

Sir Francis Drake (England): Nephew of Hawkins, the famed pirate came with a strong fleet and quickly took the city. The Governor Pedro Fernández de Bustos and the Archbishop fled to the neighbouring town of Turbaco and from there negotiated the costly ransom for the city: 107,000 Spanish dollars of the time (Around 200 mill. of today's USD), in any case, the future "Sir" destroyed 1/4 of the city, the developing Palace of the Township and the recently finished Cathedral. After this disaster Spain poured millions every year to the city for its protection, beginning with Gov. Francisco de Murga's planning of the walls and forts; this practice was called "Situado". The magnitude of this subsidy is shown by comparison: between 1751 and 1810, the city received the sum of 20,912,677 Spanish dollars, the equivalent of some 2 trillion dollars today.

Sir Bernard Desjean, Baron de Pointis, Jean du Casse 1697. Raid on Cartagena (1697) The city recovered quickly from the horrible takeover of Drake and kept growing. The port now seat of the Inquisition in the Caribbean (with Lima's and Mexico's the only 3 seats in America), many public buildings and servants, its importance was confirmed. Desjean's plans were far more than pillage: it was an invasion by all means. The muscles of King Louis XIV were decided to take over the decaying Spain of the Austria dynasty and Cartagena de Indias was his entry. The altruistic purpose of the invasion, not pirate entry was shadowed by the governor of Saint-Domingue (today's Haiti) Jean Baptiste Ducasse who brought his soldiers just to steal and finally the original plan ended as pirates and thieves again destroying the city. In any case, the entry wasn't easy, because of the recently finished first stage of walls and forts which slowed and made costly the victory. While Desjean only asked for 250,000 Spanish dollars in ransom, Jean du Casse stayed a few months later and dishonoured the promise of the Baron of respecting the churches and holy places and left them with nothing. The city again, lost everything. The XVIII century begins.
Other important events in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were:

Sixteenth century:

The brother of the founder, Pedro de Heredia, Alonso de Heredia founded Mompox, with the name Santa Cruz de Mompox to honour the actual governor of the province, José de Santacruz who was about to make another unjust Residencia to his brother, planned by his enemies in the city. Residencia successfully overcame by Heredia who later Residenced Santacruz for his greed in the expedition made by him to Urabá in late 1537.
In its typical decentralised and autonomistic state policy, Spain put in Cartagena de Indias many offices that are normally in the Capital of the area in question (in this case, not in Bogota). This are:
1. The Royal Houses of Customs: Technically the Main directorate for Customs policy in New Granada and its dependencies. Today's Cartagena de Indias's mayors office is there.

2. The Royal Houses of Accountance: Most of its competence was in the State Finance area, making it analogous to a Ministry of Finance or a Secretary of the Treasury. This office was in today's Mapfre House (La Inquisicion Street)

3. The Royal Mail House: More developed in the eighteenth century, began in 1540 and stayed permanently in the City until 1821 when renamed, delivered most of the post in New Granada and to Europe. Today's SUDEB house occupies its original place.

4. The Royal Consulate of Commerce of Cartagena de Indias: A privately-run institution with public charter, the Consulates of Commerce were express courts for trading quarrels and to promote trade and development in its area. Until 1790 was the only in the area, then succeeded by Caracas (1790), Mompox (1793), Panamá (1798), Santafé (1805) and others.

Jean Baptiste du Casse and his brigands damaged the military invasion of New Granada of Louis XIV under the Baron of Pointis by ravaging the city and turning into pirates.5. The Hospital of the Navies: First and Only military hospital in the area, and until the foundation of the San Juan De Dios Hospital in Bogota the only in New Granada, in its first floor a Poor People's Hospital worked until was developed the San Carlos Hospital in 1730 and the Poor people's was opened up in the Santa Clara convent. The Hospital worked in today's Naval Museum, the poor's Hospital in its first floor and the later ones in Gastelbondo Street (San Carlos), and today's Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel (Poor People's Hospital of Santa Clara of Assisi).

6. Royal Headquarters of the Regular Armies of Cartagena de Indias: In New Granada, like in most Spanish America, military presence was at least nule and when present was quite concentrated in the important hubs: Havana, Mexico City, Lima, Panama and Cartagena de Indias. The only regular (always present) army in New Granada has its headquarters in today's Judges Offices in Cuartel Street. This made Cartagena de Indias also the seat to something similar to a Ministry of Defense in a modern country.

During the governorship of Rafael Cápsir an interesting event occurred in the city: the "Cessatio a Divinis". The nuns of the Santa Clara convent, who grew richer than the Franciscan friars from donations and more intelligent investments of those wanted to become independent of them in the financial area. The Archbishop agreed with the petition of the nuns but the Franciscans protested and made party with the Governor and he decided to storm the Convent, while the Archbishop forbade the head of the Franciscans to say mass (Cessatio a Divinis). The nuns wanted to reverse their petition but the Archbishop was already exalted and persuaded them to continue. The city was terribly distressed by the conflict which saw daily fights in the streets between the partidaries of each faction (Something similar to Menéndez's "Spain in the XVI-XVII century was a friarish democracy."). The conflict ended finally with the tutelage of the Franciscans over the nuns ending, but the archbishop was banned from the city.

The Portuguese Company of Cacheu, dedicated to slave trading is closed down by the Crown because of accounting fraud and tax evasion. The famed slave company was stationed on front of today's Marquis de Valdehoyos house (Calle de la Factoría).
The monk Pedro Claver began his ministry of the enslaved in Cartagena, work that gained for his name the Sanctity in the late nineteenth century.
The Township Palace and Governors House was finished.

Francis Drake entered in the city after the failure of his uncle Hawkins and destroyed the cathedral. The fame of this prosperous city turned it into the plunder site for pirates and thieves; the legions for the country’s defence soon became insufficient, which is why the kings of Spain decided to approve the construction of castles, forts, and walls that surrounded the city.

In order to resist these attacks, during the 17th century the Spanish Crown hired the services of prominent European military engineers to carry out the construction of fortresses, which are nowadays one of Cartagena's clearest signs of identity. This construction took 208 years, and ended with some eleven kilometres of walls surrounding the city, the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, named in honor of Spain's King Philip IV and its most decided public servant in the construction: Gov. Pedro Zapata de Mendoza, Marquis of Barajas, constructed to repel land attacks, equipped with sentry boxes, buildings for food and weapons storage, underground tunnels;

The complex was completed with: 1. The San Sebastián del Pastelillo Fort: in today's neighborhood of Manga, called del Pastelillo (the cupcake) because of its low altitude to avoid being affected by the Castle of San Felipe whose cannons may have destroyed it if made taller. The fort replaced the first defense of the city: The Tower of Boquerón, a medievalesque tower that dominated the bay and city, similar to Torre del Homenaje in Santo Domingo, but round.

2. The Santa Cruz de Castillogrande Fort: in today's neighborhood of Castillogrande, specifically in the Naval Club, a cross shaped fort which controlled the entry in the inner bay.

3. The San Juan de Manzanillo Fort: smaller than its brother in Castillogrande, in order to not crossfiring it, but in the opposite side of the strait.

4. The San Luis de Bocachica fort: Beautifully finished cross shaped fort, an exponent of the renaissance military architecture, dominated alone the Bocachica strait which lead to the ocean but was destroyed by Vernon in the XVIII century, only some remains are over some places of Bocachica, near its successor, the San Fernando fort.

John Hawkins intended to invade the city in 1568. The San Fernando de Bocachica fort: Built nearer to the sea than its older brother, the San Luis, it was more modern and state-of-the-art, being more roundly shaped, with space for more musketeers rather than massive cannons, and fare more neoclassical and delicate in its outer layers, revealing the tendency in military architecture in the eighteenth century.

6. The San José de Bocachica batteries: Built with the new plan of the San Fernando Fort, was designed to point to the line of flotation of the ships, and that's why its almost under sea level.

7. The Angel San Rafael Battery: A masterpiece of the history of military architecture, its the only exponent in the world of "inside defense" The battery has few cannons to the outside, only the necessary to support the defense of San Fernando but its use was to attract the sieging forces to enter in a tunnel that appear as accidentally opened 500 meters away from the fort, so they are attracted to take it easily to siege the castle of San Fernando. When the tunnel ends, it enters to a dry moat inside the battery and where if fully equipped more than 400 muskets are pointing just at the first entrance, the design of the "devil holes" where the muskets are, avoid to the invader to see them and death is automatic. No one ever intended catch the trap but to prove it tests were done with cattle in the late eighteenth century and the theory was confirmed. Recently the battery, a jewel of the crown in the military architecture history, was rebuilt after years of abandon.

8. The Santa Barbara Battery: Designed near the tunnel entrance to Angel San Rafael was a small battery used as a decoy and to support fire to the Bocachica system, its most important object was to attract the siegers to the mainland so they can see the tunnel entrance and die at the Angel San Rafael death moat. The Santa Barbara battery disappeared with the years, only its founding stones remain over the seas.

9. The Batteries of Chamba and Santiago: Mainly designed as support batteries for San Luis fort, but after the destruction of it by a resented Vernon he brutalized ever more these forts that had the unfortunate luck of being in a very deep sea area which made easy to destroy from a small distance. Ruins remain of both in the oceanic shore of the Tierrabomba Island, no plans exist to rebuild them.

10. The Batteries of Mas, Crespo and the Revellín of El Cabrero.: Destroyed by erosion and the desperate efforts of the nineteenth century administrations to dynamize the city's building industry were support forts for the massive San Lucas and Santa Catalina fortresses in the city walls.

Crates and crates of these Spanish dollars dwelled in Cartagena de Indias to be distributed throughout the empire.11. The walls of the old city. 11 km of walls, more than 20 mini forts within it, 4 auxiliary doors, only one bridge-fort to connect the city to the mainland.

Explanations are unnecessary: when the defenses were finished in 1756, the city was simply impossible to take over. There is a legend, that when reviewing the costs of the defenses of Spain in Havana and Cartagena de Indias, in an effort to reform the chronic spending of his predecessors, Charles III of Spain, in his famed ironical style said while taking his spyglass: "This is outrageous! For this price those castles should be seen from here! (Peninsular Spain)."

Louis XIV dreamt with taking over the city and invade New Granada but failed.Cartagena was a major trading port, specially for precious metals. Gold and silver from the mines in New Granada and Peru were loaded in Cartagena on the galleons bound for Spain via Havana. Cartagena was also a slave port; Cartagena and Veracruz (Mexico) were the only cities authorized to trade with black people. The first slaves arrived with Pedro de Heredia and they worked as cane cutters to open roads, in the desecration of tombs of the aboriginal population of Sinú, and in the construction of buildings and fortresses. The agents of the Portuguese company Cacheu distributed human 'cargos' from Cartagena for mine exploitation in Venezuela, the West Indies, the Nuevo Reino de Granada and the Viceroyalty of Perú.

On 5 February 1610, the Catholic Monarchs established from Spain the Inquisition Holy Office Court in Cartagena de Indias by a Royal Decree issued by King Philip II. The Inquisition Palace, finished in 1770, is still there with its original features of colonial times. When Cartagena declared its complete independence from Spain on November 11, 1811, the inquisitors were urged to leave the city. The Inquisition operated again after the Reconquest in 1815, but it disappeared definitely when Spain surrendered six years later before the patriotic troops led by Simón Bolívar.