Art In Embassies Celebrates Serving Abroad …Through Their Eyes

Art in embassies


Art In Embassies
(AIE) is a program of the U.S. Department’s of State and Defense that promotes cross-cultural dialogue and understanding around the world through the visual arts, sponsoring dynamic artist exchanges. For five decades the public-private partnership program has played a big role in U.S. diplomacy. This month, in commemoration of Veterans Day, the AIE program announced the 12 “Best in Show” photographs featured in AIE’s 50th anniversary “Serving Abroad…Through Their Eyes photography exhibition.

Last year on Veterans Day, military, civil service and Foreign Service personnel were invited to submit photographs illustrating their life while serving abroad. Over 3,200 images were submitted, 161 finalists were chosen then the 12 “Best in Show” were identified.

“These photographs depict themes of friendship, places, faces, loss or triumph, providing a window on the complexity, diversity and courageous work performed by America’s heroes throughout the world,” said the U.S. Department of State in a release.

Today, AIE engages 20,000 artists, museums, galleries, universities and private collectors in more than 200 venues in 189 countries. Over 58 permanent collections have been installed in State Department facilities throughout the world.

See all the finalists here

In the video below we see artist Tom Gosford talking about the installation of his work in the U.S. Tijuana consulate, and a look at the Art in Embassies exhibition in the consulate.




The AIE 50th anniversary celebration features U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honoring five artists on November 30, presenting the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for their outstanding commitment to the program.

[Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State]

Crime In Mexico: Is Baja Safe For Travelers?

baja sunsetFifteen years ago, my brother who lives near San Diego took me to coastal Baja in Mexico and the experience has stayed with me ever since. We ate fish tacos, went swimming at a sublime, deserted beach and fell asleep on the beach to the sounds of the surf. In December, I’m heading west to visit my brother again, this time with my wife and sons, ages 3 and 5, but when I asked him to take me back to the same places we visited long ago he told me that it wasn’t safe.

“No one goes down there any more,” he said. “Those places are all ghost towns.”

And after contacting Budget, the company we’d reserved a car with at its LAX location, and being told that we weren’t allowed to take our rental car down to Mexico, I wondered if perhaps my brother was right.day of the dead in mexicoCrime in Mexico is serious business and anyone who suggests that safety isn’t a legitimate concern is kidding themselves. But I’ve been traveling to different parts of Mexico for years, including recent trips in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and I still believe that there are parts of the country that are safe to visit.

In March, I wrote a piece about safety in Puerto Vallarta in the wake of an armed robbery incident involving cruise ship passengers, citing crime statistics indicating that several U.S. cities have higher murder rates than Puerto Vallarta. The post generated nearly 100 comments, with readers deeply divided on the issue of safety in Mexico.

The U.S. Consulate in Tijuana has a useful page on how to avoid being a victim of crime in Baja with a host of common sense tips, such as stay sober and avoid traveling at night. The most recent State Department travel warning for Mexico, issued in February 2012, has the following segment on the safety situation in northern Baja.

You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Targeted TCO assassinations continue to take place in Baja California. Turf battles between criminal groups proliferated and resulted in numerous assassinations in areas of Tijuana frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours throughout the city. In one such incident, a U.S. citizen was shot and seriously wounded. According to the Government of Mexico, as of August 2011, the city’s murder rate was approximately 20 per 100,000. During 2011, 34 U.S. citizens were the victims of homicide in the state. In the majority of these cases, the killings appeared to be related to narcotics trafficking.

Most observers agree that southern Baja, including Cabo San Lucas is generally regarded as safe. But in an effort to help readers decide if northern Baja is safe to visit, I reached out to two writers with extensive experience there. Nikki Goth Itoi is the author of the indispensable Moon Guide to Baja, the guidebook you want to pick up if you are considering a visit to Baja. And Carla White, a resident of the Ensenada vicinity for ten years, is the editor of Baja.com , a terrific resource for anyone planning a visit to the region.

nikki goth itoi moon guidesNikki Goth Itoi, author of the Moon Guide to Baja

Mexico has gotten a lot of negative publicity due to the narco-violence there. How has that impacted Baja?

Tijuana is a much more interesting place now for visitors because it’s become a city for locals. All the tourism dried up, so now it’s a local scene. There are galleries, cafés, artsy places that don’t just cater to people from San Diego popping over for the night. It’s not as Americanized.

What safety tips do you have for visitors to Baja?

In terms of safety, all the basics apply. Be careful where you go. Don’t go out late at night. Don’t go to the red light districts. Be as inconspicuous as possible. Stay in well-lit places and don’t drive at night. It comes down to common sense in traveling to a foreign country. There’s going to be petty crime and that kind of stuff happens.

You have two young boys, ages 6 and 4, would you hesitate to take them to northern Baja right now?

No, I wouldn’t at all. I’m planning that trip right now.

Some would call you crazy, right?

People have this sense that Mexico is to be avoided, period. Rosarito is a ghost town. But those who live down there think there’s a comeback in the making in northern Baja and it’s centered on food and wine.

People have to do what they are comfortable with. If you’re worried about safety and headlines you saw in the news, you’re not going to have a good time. I don’t try to win people over.

beach in baja stormy dayCrime in Mexico is covered in the U.S. media more than crime in U.S. cities is. If you look at crime data for major U.S. cities, the numbers are lower in Baja. If they’re not comfortable, some are better off staying in San Diego, but Baja has a lot to offer.

The people are very warm. The hospitality is wonderful. Between the eco travel opportunities and the food, wine and cultural opportunities, there’s a lot to discover in Baja. So if you are intimidated by Tijuana, go east and use one of the quieter border crossings. You can also go in a caravan – with a group, there’s always safety in numbers.

You spent time traveling alone and also with your kids researching the book in Baja. Did you ever have any safety issues?

I’ve never had any issues whatsoever. We’ve been pulled over for questionable reasons in Tijuana, but it’s always been fine.

carla white baja.comCarla White, editor of Baja.com

You’ve lived just outside Ensenada for ten years. Is Northern Baja safe?

We are very aware of the articles that come out about safety in Mexico and we roll our eyes. We watch the San Diego news down here and we look at the U.S. and go ‘wow,’ the crime that goes on up there is so random. I have friends and relatives in L.A. and Orange County who won’t come down here because they’re afraid. It’s difficult to explain to them that we find it safe here. They think we’re crazy.

Have you ever been robbed or had any other safety issues there?

I had an ATM issue in Rosarito a couple years ago. Someone tried to grab my card. I was robbed. I went to the police and they were very responsive, in fact, the Rosarito government was very responsive as well. But this same kind of thing happens in the U.S.

Did the thief drive you around and make you withdraw money at various ATMs?

No. He didn’t have a gun. I walked into an ATM booth and I had already put my pin code in and a young, nice looking guy at the machine next to me said, ‘Oh, here, let me help you with that.’ And I told him I didn’t need help. And he was very aggressive and out of the corner of my eye, I saw another guy approaching the booth, so I actually abandoned my card and just got out of there. For me, it was personal safety first. They were able to withdraw $2oo or $300 from my account.

What about other people in your social circle. Have any of them been robbed or had other security issues?

About two years ago, there were some burglary issues up and down the coast. But there were no violent attacks that I’m aware of.

How would you compare the safety and crime situation now compared to a few years ago?

Things definitely got worse when the economy hit the skids a few years ago. I can’t speak to Tijuana as much; I’m more familiar with Rosarito and Ensenada. Tourism from the U.S. just stopped and that may have inspired some of the crime that happened. I’ve lived here for about 10 years and I’ve felt safer here than I’ve ever felt in the U.S.

Recently we’ve seen things improve. We’ve seen more tourism – not necessarily from the U.S., but from Mexico and Europe, and an upswing in the economy. And the government has stepped in and has been very sensitive to travelers and tourists.

Of the areas in Northern Baja that are frequented by tourists, are there any you would advise people to be more cautious in than others? Or avoid entirely?

bajaNot really. I even love Tijuana. It has the best restaurants and is a fun, interesting place. But I wouldn’t be hanging out in the bars there after midnight! A tip that I would give any traveler is to stick to the toll roads, especially at night. I would use the same precautions in Baja that I’d use anywhere in terms of doing things after dark. As far as specific locations, I think I would stay in the main, touristy areas.

What about Ensenada?

I feel very safe in Ensenada. I’m not a bar scene person but I feel comfortable in Ensenada after dark. You just have to keep your eyes open.

So for Americans looking for a safe beach getaway in northern Baja what do you recommend?

I would highly recommend Ensenada. There are great hotels and it’s super sensitive to travelers’ needs and desire for safety. And I don’t not recommend Rosarito Beach.

A good outcome to all the bad press Mexico has gotten in the U.S. is that it created a hyper-awareness here, so I think tourists can feel safe here as long as they pay attention to their awareness and surroundings.

What about police shakedowns in Baja. Are they still a fact of life?

A lot of people have had occasions where they’ve been pulled over and it turned out to be a shakedown. I would say that was happening quite a bit about six years ago. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve had nothing like that happen recently, nor am I aware of it happening to anyone else in my community in many years.

But if you are pulled over, is it best to pay the bribe or insist on going down to the police station?

It seems easier to pay $20 and go on your merry way but you need to tell them to take you to the nearest police station. Maybe you were really speeding and it was a real ticket but you’re better off either way. A lot of Americans go down to Baja and think, ‘Wow, I’m in another country. I can do whatever I want here.’

Some people think they can drink themselves into a coma and then hit the road, and it’ll be fine because this is Mexico. But the bottom line is that if you are pulled over, the best bet is to go to the police station. And ask for their identification. If it’s a scam, you’re calling their bluff. And make sure you have insurance and have your paperwork with you.

Note: There is no definitive answer to the “Is Baja safe” question. If you talk to people who have gone there and were robbed, the answer is ‘no,’ it isn’t safe, and if you talk to people who have gone and enjoyed themselves the answer is ‘yes’ it was fine. As our experts said, every traveler needs to decide what they are comfortable with.

[Photo credits: Flickr users Ani Carrington and uteart; Nikki Goth Itoi and Carla White]

Texas authorities urge students to avoid Mexico


As spring break draws near, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued a warning that advises college students to stay away from Mexico. The warning cites ongoing drug cartel violence as the main reason to avoid going south of the border, but also mentions criminal activity including homicides, gun battles, kidnappings, carjackings, rapes and more.

Popular resort destinations such as Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Tijuana are not exempt from the warning, which states these areas “can be havens for drug dealers and petty criminals.” Although the DPS acknowledges that many travel to Mexico without incident and that the Mexican government has made strides battling the cartels, it encourages travelers to carefully research any planned trips and always check the U.S. Department of State website for up-to-date information on security issues in Mexico.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of State issued a new Mexico travel warning that advised against nonessential travel to areas within 16 Mexican states. According to U.S. Department of State numbers, 120 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico during 2011, a number that has increased dramatically since the tally was at 35 in 2007. All U.S. citizens living or traveling in Mexico are advised to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Round the World in 80 Sounds – Latintronica

Welcome back to Gadling’s newest weekly series on music, Round the World in 80 Sounds. Europe and North America are not the only place for great dance music these days. Increasingly music fans, DJ’s and dancers the world over are looking south of the border to the dynamic and growing electronic music scenes in countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. The forward-thinking sounds coming from these countries are strongly rooted in traditions of the past, blending local folk music styles with modern instruments and techniques to create a distinctly modern hybrid. It’s an energetic, fun and authentic musical experience any curious traveler will want to check out on your next visit.

The genre of electronic music began in American cities like Detroit and Chicago in the 80’s, springing to life as the Disco scene began to fade. Ever since, the music has been a fixture in the North American and European nightlife scenes. But it’s taken longer for the music to take root in the rest of the world. Only in the last 10 years have home-grown electronic music scenes started to blossom in regions like Asia, Africa and particularly in Latin America. In Argentina, a style called Digital Cumbia has risen to the fore, while in Mexico bands like Nortec Collective infuse traditional Mexican Norteño music with modern style. Meanwhile in Brazil, a slew of artists like Gui Borrato are bringing electronic music to a growing army of fans.

Ready to open your ears to one of Latin America’s most interesting musical trends? Keep reading below…Digital Cumbia in Argentina
Call it whatever you want – Electronic Cumbia, Digital Cumbia or just plain fun – the fact remains: a steady stream of good times and great music has been broadcasting from Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires now for several years. Centered around the city’s now-legendary Zizek Club, it’s a new musical movement based around Cumbia, a traditional South American musical style featuring strong rhythms and instruments like Claves, accordions and drums. Electronic Cumbia takes this traditional style to the next level, injecting it with synthesizers, hip-hop beats and gangster-style rhymes. Check out the video below and make sure to visit one of Zizek’s weekly parties the next time you make it to Buenos Aires.

Norteno and Mexican Techno
For Americans, Tijuana is not much more than a hedonistic border town. A place for those looking for a night of entertainment and cheap prescription drugs. But as it turns out, there’s a lot more going on south of the border these days, including a thriving music scene. A collection of DJ’s and producers call Tijuana home, tapping into Northern Mexico’s vast wealth of Norteno music for inspiration.

Norteño, a style of Mexican “polka” with lots of noisy horns and plenty of strong rhythms, has gotten a modern rework by Mexican electronic acts like Nortec Collective, who remake Norteño with a into a uniqeuly modern style. Along with Mexico City-based musician Mexican Institute of Sound, these artists are part of a growing electronic music movement based on Mexico. Check out this 2005 tribute to Tijuana by Nortec Collective:

Brazil’s Exploding Pop Scene
Of all the great music happening these days in Latin and South America, none is as dynamic as the exploding music scene in Brazil. Considering Brazil’s long and rich musical history, from Bossa Nova to Samba and Caetano Veloso, the current wave of innovation comes as no surprise.

Electro Rock bands like Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS) have earned consistent international attention, with their catchy, danceable rock sound. In the realm of dance music, Brazilian producer and DJ Gui Boratto has been rocking the international club scene since 2007. These Brazilian electronic music innovators take their cues less from traditional Brazilian sounds, instead applying a distinct Brazilian interpretation to the global music scenes abroad in Europe, North America and beyond. Have a listen to Boratto’s 2007 single, “Beautiful Life:”

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk 010: Paragliding, Tijuana, USS Midway, Stone Brewery & surfing the Bruticus Maximus!


GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 10 – Click above to watch video after the jump
Travel Talk has hit double digits!! To celebrate, we have an incredible lineup of adventures from San Diego, California – including a short dash over the border to Tijuana, Mexico!

This week we talk about Kim Jong-Il as a fashion icon, a new great way to hail a cab in NYC, and share a book that covers how to travel by freight ship! We have an answer in the debate of whether or not sarcasm exists in every culture, and of course we’ll show you pictures of the disruptive Eyjafjallajökull (Icelandic Volcano) that has shut down flights throughout Europe this week.

Stick with us as we try paragliding for the first time, learn how to brew beer from the masters at Stone Brewery, and do our best to surf the Wave House’s Bruticus Maximus. We’ll also take a peek onboard the USS Midway and show you how tourism has affected Tijuana in the past 5 years. Enjoy!

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
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Links
CabSense iPhone App – ‘the smartest way to find a cab’.
Amazing pictures of Eyjafjallajökull in action – Boston.com Big Picture.
Kim Jong-Il noted as world fashion icon.
Read the book! Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.
LiveScience article on sarcasm.
Interested in hang gliding?? Check out this movie about the history of the sport!

Hosts: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea
Special Guests: Ken Wright, Bill Liscomb, Bob Puetz, & Vern Jumper.
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea

Special Thanks:
Torrey Pines Gliderport/ Stone Brewery, Escondido / Wave House San Diego / USS Midway Museum


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Music:

Stone Brewery
“Got it Made (Burn L.A.)
the Pacific
http://myspace.com/thebixbyknolls

All other music used in partnership with nonstopmusic.com