February 20 1524. The Commemoration of the death and defeat of a Mayan Prince in a Critical Juncture of Globalization

Title: The Clash.<br /><br />By: Alfredo Gálvez Suárez.<br /><br />A depiction of the battle of 1524 in which the Spanish conquistadores defeated the Army leaded by Tecum Umam.
Title: The Clash.
By: Alfredo Gálvez Suárez.
A depiction of the battle of 1524 in which the Spanish conquistadores defeated the Army leaded by Tecum Umam.

The term Globalization refers to what many different historians considered a process of interrelation (or unification) of the world. It was a process of cultural, political and economic relations that for the first time in history united all mankind.  One of these critical events of unification and clash of cultural and political relations took place in  February 20 1524.  This day is commemorated by Guatemalans to remember the leaders and events of the “The battle of Llanos del Pinal  ((The Society of Geography and History of Guatemala documented that this battle actually took place on February 12 1524) which took place in the vicinity of the K’iche’ Mayan city of  Xelajú (located in today’s mountainous area of Guatemala in Central America).

tecun-uman

In this battle, the K’iche’ Rajpop Achij Tecum Umam (Guatemala’s National Hero and K’iche’ Mayan Captain of the army) commanded an army of 72,000 warriors (as narrated by the Chronicler Francisco de Fuentes y Guzmán) that fought against the invading hordes of the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his indigenous allies from the territories that are today the South of Mexico. While the invaders defeated the K’iche’ army, the chroniclers of this battle remembered Tecum Umam as the glorious warrior and miraculous hero that started to be referred in the narrations with epic roles and anthropomorphic abilities.

After this battle that “tainted all the neighbouring rivers red of blood” the Spanish conquistadores continued their invasion in the following month of the city of Q’umarkaj (also known as Utatlán). This secured for them the hegemony over the other less powerful cities of IximcheMixco Viejo, and Zaculeu that were located in the Southernmost part of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

The aftermath of this battle concluded six years later with the Quauhquechollan alliance of the conquistador Jorge de Alvarado (brother of Pedro de Alvarado) and their Nahuatl allies from the city of Quauhquechollan that gave the Spanish and absolute control of large part of Mesoamerica.

By the beginning of the Spanish conquest the territory of Mesoamerica the Mayan Civilisation was already extinguished and dozens of different indigenous tribes leaded by  caciques, warriors and priests controlled weaker and less advanced forced-labor societies.  This enabled the conquest of the territories to be fast and easy.

Just a decade later, by the 1540s, the new elite that ruled this forced-labor societies had already established itself with a mixed Spanish-Indigenous head in control and started the process of acculturation, integration, evangelisation, assimilation and reeducation of a society that went from a tribalist type of life into a mercantilist economy ruled from a metropolitan and global Empire with its head 5,400 miles away in the city of Madrid.

Since 1524, Mesoamerica joined the global community of trade, commerce, acculturation and universalisation of traditions and costumes.  This is an important junction that should be remembered by all of us.

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Why is Copernicus relevant to our understanding of Globalization?

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We are constantly bombarded with media reports on globalization in terms of its increasing process and potential effects on our lives. What is meant by this concept and why should we be concerned with its impact? The developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia should be interested in it because of the opportunities and threats offered by globalization (also known as globalisation).

The mother of this globalization is Science and the activator is her daughter Technology (both affectionately called science and technology). The most visible manifestations of “globalization” are in the economic and communications spheres. And one of the fathers of Science is our friend Copernicus.

In two sentences his contribution to Science and Globalization is:

  • Copernicus broke open the medieval idea of an enclosed, Earth-centered universe.
  • He set the stage for all of modern astronomy.

And why does this matter?

He lived at a time when people believed Earth lay enclosed within crystal spheres at the center of the universe. Can you picture the leap of imagination required for him to conceive of a sun-centered universe? The publication of Copernicus’ book – De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) – just before his death in 1543, set the stage for all of modern astronomy. Today, people speak of his work as the Copernican Revolution.

Post-data: Copernicus wasn’t the first to conceive of a sun-centered universe. Early Greek philosophers also spoke of it. It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle, however, who proposed that the heavens were literally composed of 55 concentric, crystalline spheres to which the celestial objects were attached. In Aristole’s model, Earth lay at the center of these spheres. Thus Earth lay – fixed and enclosed – until Copernicus published his version of a heliocentric universe.

Is Globalization finally saying “STOP!” to the Catholic Church?

https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicworldreport.com/Content/Site140/Articles/05_01_2009/724PopeBenedict_00000000427.jpgAfter only seven years as Head of the Catholic Church, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is an astonishing news.  This may be a message on how Globalization affects such global organization.  The election of Pope Benedict XVI followed all the rules of the Church but did not listen to the “new” rules imposed by globalization: which include good advertisement, global awareness, and above all intercultural appealing to standards of ‘universal friendliness and empathy’, among others.  I wrote an article titled “Parishes Fail to Market Catholicism to Hispanics (pdf available here)” (National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 43, No. 12 2007) discussing how the Catholic Church has failed to Market Catholicism among Hispanics.

Benedict XVI was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. Today, February 11, 2013, Benedict announced that he would resign the papacy, effective February 28, due to age and ill health.

His health may be have been an issue.  However, it seems to me that the real problem started when the Papal conclave of 2005 elected him above the other contestants for the Pope position without taking notice of all the changes that institution has gone through centuries.

Currently, Catholics are 17.77% of the total population in Africa, 63.10% in the Americas, 3.05% in Asia, 39.97% in Europe, 26.21% in Oceania and 17.09% of the world population. (Further information: Catholicism by country)

Distribution of Catholics by World Region, 2004, 2025, and 2050
Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Source: Author’s calculations based on data from PRB’s World Population Data Sheet 2004 and accessed at http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org.

Globalization is slowly forcing them to adapt to this new demographics and the election of a Latin American (a Mediterranean look would suffice) or African Pope could bring some new Fresh air to this archaic institution.  The Latin America region already represents 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25 percent in its European heartland.

In 2005 among the “popeable” (one who might become pope) where also the cardinals Carlo Maria Martini, who died last year and obtained 40 votes in the first ballot versus the popular Italian cardinal Camillo Ruini who also was a contestant for the position in that initial ballot.  Cardinal Ruini has been very active in the mass media and was one of the cardinals who most often appeared on Italian television, newspapers and magazines.  I would suppose that his election as a new Pope in the Conclave of cardinals that will choose the next pope in mid-March is very high.  Camilo Ruini is very popular among the “Reformer” side of the Catholic Church as the news inform (he is also more photogenic and could appeal to the Hispanic followers easily).

Lets see what happens in March, 2013 with the new Papal Conclave.  Meanwhile, I share with you a documentary on the new face of this Eurocentric organization that is finally (slowly) changing its own look!

The Catholic Church and Africa

A Satellite’s View of Ship Pollution and globalization

Cargo-Ship650The geographical hotspots of the world are all related to economic trade and global exchange of political interests. Places such as the Panama and Suez Canals have always been in the Western media. However, from an economic and strategic perspective, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world in the 21st Century. The history of this Strait’s geopolitical relevance goes as back as 400 years of history.

For centuries the strait has been the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It has been controlled by the major regional powers and also by the mayor global power during different historical periods. In 2011 hundreds of thousands of containers in more than 60,000 vessels crossed its waters carrying about one-quarter of the world’s traded goods including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.

In order to understand which is the geopolitical importance of the Strait of Malacca for the Chinese government we need to overview the current geopolitical dynamics and economic investments in the region.

The following image from NASA clearly depicts what are some of the IMPRESSIVE negative externalities caused by the transport of global goods in the region and opens the door for discussing

  • How can we fix this?
  • Who should fix it?
  • Can it be fixed?
  • Can we reduce the future impacts in the area?
  • What solutions are available?
A Satellite’s View of Ship Pollution

Color bar for A Satellite’s View of Ship Pollution
acquired 2005 – 2012 download large image (2 MB, JPEG, 1800×1800)

Elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide pop out over certain shipping lanes in observations made by the Aura satellite between 2005-2012. The signal was the strongest over the northeastern Indian Ocean.

Data from the Dutch and Finnish-built Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite show long tracks of elevated nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels along certain shipping routes. NO2, is among a group of highly-reactive oxides of nitrogen, known as NOx, that can lead to the production of fine particles and ozone that damage the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Combustion engines, such as those that propel ships and motor vehicles, are a major source of NO2 pollution.

To learn some more on the importance of the Strait of Malacca and the value of this shipping lane you can read the essay I wrote titled “The Strait of Malacca as one of the most important geopolitical regions for the People’s Republic of China. Download (.pdf)

Satellite images of negative externalities caused by Globalization

I always keep track of the images from space taken by NASA.  They usually have impressive “natural hazards” photographed with the highest technology available.  However, sometimes the natural hazards to humanity are not caused by the natural cycles of Earth.  In those cases, it is humans who have created hazards for themselves and people die.  Now, why would we create things that harm us so much? Why would we support and contribute to such terrible things?  A good explanation is the one given by economists with the complex and difficult term negative externalities.

A negative externality is a spillover of an economic transaction that negatively impacts a party that is not directly involved in the transaction. The first party bears no costs for their impact on society while the second party receives no benefits from being impacted. This occurs when marginal social cost is greater than marginal private cost (MSC > MPC).

The case of pollution in China elucidates very well how the market-driven approach to correcting externalities by “internalizing” third party costs and benefits fails to work in a globalized economy.  For example, by requiring a polluter to repair any damage caused. But, in many cases internalizing costs or benefits is not feasible, especially if the true monetary values cannot be determined.  In fact, our technological gadgets and thousands of products imported from China are the cause of the hazardous health conditions in that country.  We as consumers are part of this chain by buying the products. How can we do something?

I would suggest that the best way to participate in a positive way is to continue creating awareness of the failure of the government of China to protect the lives of the Chinese people.  It is at the end of the day the responsibility of that government to protect the life and property of its citizens, not ours.  We as consumers can only morally sanction them and stop consuming their products whenever possible.

This is a good (and very unfortunate) example of how globalization without an objective code of values becomes a zero sum game.  I share with you the information regarding how dangerous has become the air in the surroundings of Beijing and Tianjin,

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Air Quality Suffering in China

acquired January 14, 2013download large image (7 MB, JPEG, 5000×6400)
acquired January 14, 2013download GeoTIFF file (47 MB, TIFF)
Air Quality Suffering in China

acquired January 3, 2013download large image (8 MB, JPEG, 5000×6400)
acquired January 3, 2013download GeoTIFF file (51 MB, TIFF)
acquired January 3 – 14, 2013download Google Earth file (KMZ)

Residents of Beijing and many other cities in China were warned to stay inside in mid-January 2013 as the nation faced one of the worst periods of air quality in recent history. The Chinese government ordered factories to scale back emissions, while hospitals saw spikes of more than 20 to 30 percent in patients complaining of respiratory issues, according to news reports.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired these natural-color images of northeastern China on January 14 (top) and January 3, 2013. The top image shows extensive haze, low clouds, and fog over the region. The brightest areas tend to be clouds or fog, which have a tinge of gray or yellow from the air pollution. Other cloud-free areas have a pall of gray and brown smog that mostly blots out the cities below. In areas where the ground is visible, some of the landscape is covered with lingering snow from storms in recent weeks. (Snow is more prominent in the January 3 image.)

At the time that the January 14 image was taken by satellite, ground-based sensors at the U.S. Embassy in Beijingreported PM2.5 measurements of 291 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Fine, airborne particulate matter (PM) that is smaller than 2.5 microns (about one thirtieth the width of a human hair) is considered dangerous because it is small enough to enter the passages of the human lungs. Most PM2.5 aerosol particles come from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass (wood fires and agricultural burning). The World Health Organization considers PM2.5to be safe when it is below 25.

Also at the time of the image, the air quality index (AQI) in Beijing was 341. An AQI above 300 is considered hazardous to all humans, not just those with heart or lung ailments. AQI below 50 is considered good. On January 12, the peak of the current air crisis, AQI was 775 the U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor—off the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scale—and PM2.5 was 886 micrograms per cubic meter.

  1. Resources

  2. Air Pollution in China: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  3. China Air Daily. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  4. U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  1. References

  2. Associated Press, via Yahoo News (2013, January 14) Beijing warns residents after off-the-charts smog . Accessed January 14, 2013.
  3. NASA (2010, September 22) New Map Offers a Global View of Health-Sapping Air Pollution.Accessed January 14, 2013.
  4. NASA Earth Observatory (2012, March 23) Satellites Map Fine Aerosol Pollution Over China.
  5. The New York Times (2013, January 14) China allows media to report alarming air pollution crisis. Accessed January 14, 2013.
  6. Yahoo News (2013, January 14) China’s air pollution problem slideshow. Accessed January 14, 2013.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

Walmart’s Irrational “buy American” Campaign

Walmart-Stores-home-offic-007

Walmart‘s latest push to Buy American and Hire Veterans is irrational.  In a world of interconnectedness in which products from pencils to airplanes are produced with parts and components made all over the world the “buy American” argument falls into pieces.

In today’s world mass consumption economy there is not a single product that can be claimed to be “national” or “unique” without ignoring the intertwined network of global production.  If your argument is “yes” there is such a thing as “100% national” or “100% American” then I will still be able of arguing against your position.  Why?  Because the economy of the United States of America is not only part but dependent on the global economy.

By 2012, only about 32 cents for every dollar of U.S. debt, or $4.6 trillion, was owned by the federal government in trust funds, for Social Security and other programs such as retirement accounts, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The largest portion of U.S. debt, 68 cents for every dollar or about $10 trillion, is owned by individual investors, corporations, state and local governments and, yes, even foreign governments such as China that hold Treasury bills, notes and bonds.

Foreign governments hold about 46 percent of all U.S. debt held by the public, more than $4.5 trillion. The largest foreign holder of U.S. debt is China, which owns more about $1.2 trillion in bills, notes and bonds, according to the Treasury.

In total, China owns about 8 percent of publicly held U.S. debt. Of all the holders of U.S. debt China is the third-largest, behind only the Social Security Trust Fund‘s holdings of nearly $3 trillion and the Federal Reserve‘s nearly $2 trillion holdings in Treasury investments, purchased as part of its quantitative easing program to boost the economy. (Data via: How Much U.S. Debt Does China Really Own?)

So, the next time you think you are “Buying American“, I invite you to reconsider how irrational such an argument is.

How Obama Won: Showing the Electoral Shifts through Visual Animation

obama_animation.jpg
Animation is a little used, yet very strong visual cue, which possesses the unique quality that it can be added to most other existing visual cues (like color, shape, size, etc.), without loosing their pre-attentive characteristics.

The NYTimes infographic “How Obama Won Re-election” is therefore one of the very few visualization examples that uses animation in a way that it conveys meaningful and quantitative information. Here, the speed and length of the motion of each dot corresponds to the relative strength with which the population of a US county “shifted” from voting Democratic to Republican, or vice versa.

Notably, it is also one of the few infographics that have been featured so prominently on the New York Times homepage.

VIA: Infosthetics