Monthly Archives: October 2009

Could the pitaya be the next pomegranate?

The fruit, the Red Pitaya, at a market place
Image via Wikipedia

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is the author a memorable poem about an artichoke, in which the vegetable is infused with military meaning but eventually emasculated by a shopper called Maria.

If I were a poet, I would probably write an ode of my own to the pitaya – the fruit of a cactus plant that is also known by the name “dragonfruit.” I first learned about the pitaya when I lived in Nicaragua in 1996. It was a scary-looking fruit on the outside with a spiny armor. But once you got past that tough exterior, the insides were dripping with a sweet magenta pulp that was loaded with tiny black seeds. Nicaraguans typically made the pitaya into a fruit juice, but sometimes slices of it ended up on salads and other food items.

Apparently there are a range of pitayas that grow around the Southern hemisphere, including Mexico, and this site reports that there are “several” that are from Nicaragua. Some other varieties have a white flesh and yellow exterior. It can also also be found in Vietnam and Malaysia.

I got to thinking about the pitaya recently because in one of my graduate classes we are looking at the company that produces POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. POM has funded a lot of research into the health benefits of the pomegranate and I would love to see the same thing happen with the pitaya  (this study seems to suggest that the pitaya also has high antioxidant potential). Like the pitaya, I found Nicaragua to be a country with a rough, complicated exterior. Once you got past that, though, the country – and the pitaya –  was full of surprises and wonders, which made it well worth the challenge.


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How social media is helping cross-border investigations

Facebook, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Being a former border reporter and an eager student of social media, I am always keeping my eyes open for ways that these two interests of mine intersect. A couple examples from this year demonstrate how social media is playing a role in cross-border investigations.

I previously wrote how a blog called the
The Stalker Chronicles apparently helped Tijuana law enforcement officials find the alleged stalker of actor David Caruso earlier this year. (Read details of the case in this Feb. 20 Associated Press story).

And now a story in The Guardian sums up why it’s a good idea to understand what’s public and what’s not in Facebook – especially if you are a fugitive hiding out in Mexico.

According to the story (which I first read in Mashable), Maxi Sopo fled the United States earlier this year after allegedly getting involved in a fraud scheme and learning that investigators were looking into his possible involvement. Rather than lie low online as well as offline, Sopo started updating his Facebook status with descriptions of the good times he was having in Cancun. One of his Facebook “friends” was a former justice department official who apparently met Sopo at a Cancun nightclub and had no knowledge of Sopo’s fugitive status, according to the story. Read The Guardian for more details, but I would venture to guess that Sopo’s updates from jail probably aren’t so pleasant.


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President Obama shares some dance moves with Mexican singer Thalia

Thalia is a well-known Mexican singer and former TV soap star. I remember watching her in the Maria la del Barrio series that was on Mexican television in the 90s in which  she portrays a trash picker rescued by a wealthy benefactor and  eventually finds true love after tearful betrayals and misunderstandings. In real life, Thalia Sodi Mirana married music executive Tommy Motolla.

In this video, she decorously dances with President Barack Obama for a few moments before concluding her song at the Fiesta Latina concert that was held at the White House on Tuesday.

According to The New York Times, the event will be rebroadcast Thursday on PBS stations as part of the series “In Performance at the White House.” It is also to be shown Sunday on the Telemundo network.

QUESTION: Was the president’s dance out-of-bounds? There seems to be a lot of chatter on the Internet about whether or not Michelle Obama looked annoyed or gave him the cold shoulder afterwards. Thoughts?

YouTube video from The Daily Beast.

Tijuana Tequila Festival this weekend

Tijuana Tequila Festival

Painted donkey-zebras not just in Tijuana


Tijuana’s painted donkey-zebras have some distant counsins – in a Gaza Strip zoo.

Here in Tijuana, visiting the famous donkey-zebras is a time-honored tradition for tourists to Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion. You get the family and friends together around the painted donkey, don some sombreros and ponchos, and SNAP – a photo is taken. The city’s unofficial mascots  were apparently painted with black strips as far back as the 1940s so that they could show up more clearly in the black-and-white photos.

Across the world, donkey-zebras are now appearing in the Marah Land Zoo, though in this case the painted stripes for educational purposes. The idea is to teach  Palestinian kids about zebras. According to this Reuters story, the donkeys were painted with women’s hair dye  using a paintbrush after it became clear that importing a real zebra would cost $40,000 or so.