martes, 21 de abril de 2015

Up Helly Aa, the Viking Fire Festival in Scotland!

Hello everyone! I would like to share with you a very interesting topic about a huge Scottish celebration not widely known for us, called “Up Helly Aa”.

Up Helly Aa is a traditional fire (yes, fire!) festival that originated in the 1880s in the Shetland town of Lerwick, Scotland. Since then, the festival has been an annual occurrence for centuries, taking place on the last days of January.

But where did this remarkable practice come from?...

Marking the end of Christmas and New Year, this carnival is a celebration about Shetland history based in an older Yule tradition of tar barreling, when squads of young men dragging barrels of burning tar through town on sledges, making disasters and mischiefs. Over the years, the tradition became more and more elaborate, introducing Viking themes, music, dances, torch processions and a replica of a Viking Galley to be burned!

Today the Up Helly Aa every year show us how a thousand of streetlights are off and the streets shrouded in darkness when nearly a thousand torches are simultaneously lit and the procession sets off for the site where the Viking galley is then burned. Can you imagine that magical picture?

But before that, all squads (each about 20 men) spend the whole night visiting twelve festival halls. They present a dance routine or other specially rehearsed act for the hall’s community host group, dance with one of the host ladies then leave.

Honestly I think the interesting and awesome fact here is that the Scottish people can see how around 900 costumed "guizers", complete with winged helmets, sheepskins and axes and shields, goes to the streets to recreate the town's ancient past.

They can revive their history every year giving to the people a deep sense of belonging and make a very realistic travel to their roots.

I leave with you a video, enjoy it! :)...

domingo, 19 de abril de 2015

Problems after the rainbow: Another atrocious tale of rape.

South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world because it grants equality and protection to homosexual families, allowing them to adopt, serve in the military, change their legal gender and so on. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with the people respecting what is written. In some parts of South Africa they are highly discriminated and practices as “Corrective rape” are disturbing the population. This phenomenon is getting more common. Men ensure to “cure” lesbians sexual orientation by raping them.

"After everything we're going to do to you, you're going to be a real woman, and you're never going to act like this again". That’s what one of the four rapists of Mvuleni Fana said to her after they beat and rape her. She was walking her way home from football practice. She survived but others victims haven’t got the same luck as her. In the last 15 years, 31 women have died because of this and in the majority of the cases there are not punishments for the rapists. In fact, South Africa has the highest level of rape assault in the world affecting directly women, lesbians and transgender woman.

The country has to be faithful to what they proclaim and keep the promise of the post-apartheid era: be a “Rainbow Nation” where everyone is free and equal. It’s a big step approving these laws but if the government it is not giving the people the same rights and protection, Where’s the credibility?

Why is this in our human traits? It’s becoming something natural? What it’s in the mind of the rapist when he commits this horrendous act?

These are acts of hate and misogyny. It’s time to end with the rape culture. It can’t keep exploding in the news every day. This has to be stopped! 

viernes, 17 de abril de 2015

Jack the Ripper (England Culture)

 Jack the Ripper

Hi guys!

Let me tell you about something that really caught my attention when I was researching about England and her culture, the famous Jack the ripper.
You may think that this man was not even real, but it turns out it was one of the most cruel serial killer in the country, specifically in London, terrorizing an entire people that can’t even go out to the streets because of the fear in their hearts.
Obviously it is hard to believe, but let me tell you this mysterious and exciting story from the beginning.

I was researching 1 topic in general, which it was about the culture and the people of London when suddenly I notice that people in the 19th century (Victorian era) was so scared of walking in the streets of London, why? It was all because of a man known as Jack the ripper. From the moment I read that, the curiosity ran through my veins and I couldn’t help investigate this man.

Jack the ripper (as people called it) was a serial killer that to this day remains anonymous, in their murders were involved most of the time female prostitutes.

Nobody could ever solve the mystery and nobody could catch jack, but, what has all this to do with the culture of England? , beyond the fear of the people at that time, the media spread the story of jack all across the country until this man became folklore in England and an inspiration for a lot of movies and biographies. 

Nowadays the story of Jack the Ripper is recognized in every single place of the Earth.

Do you think that the legend of this man impulse London to be a tourist place and also at that time to be the cause of so much fear in the people? 

Linguistic Diversity in the United States

First of all, I chose this language issue to show you the linguistic diversity produced by the long-ago migrations to the United States. Immigration to the United States caused a whole variety of different languages to be spoken there.

To possess an official language is of great importance within a country because it would be the language the whole nation will use for many purposes, such as, legal, educational, administrative, etc. In this context, English is the most spoken language in the United States, but is not official at the federal level . However, many states independently have modified their own legislation which declare English as their own official language.

The second most spoken language is Spanish, followed by approximately 300 other languages​​. This reflects a great beauty that lies in its cultural diversity. In this fashion, the linguistic variety in this country gives a sense of belonging and defines their identity, making it a multicultural and multilingual country.

As in many places, there are people for and against the formalization of English language in the U.S.A. On one hand,  some of the reasons for not formalizing the English language are: the social value of foreign languages knowledge, a belief in tolerance for linguistic diversity, and the cultural freedom of those who come from another country. On the other hand, the ones who are for this formalization believe that the English language may unit people as a nation, and also that the linguistic assimilation of only one spoken language is beneficial to the social order and wellness.

Now, how do you think the formalization of a language may influence the country's identity?

Do you think that the U.S.A would lose its freedom and multicultural identity if it formalizes English as an official language?

Here I leave you with a web site where you can identify the different spoken languages in the U.S.A.

jueves, 16 de abril de 2015

The struggle for a flag

When I think about a country, one of the first things that it comes to my mind is the flag, but when the conflicts go beyond religion and political perspectives, even this symbol becomes a subject of discussion.
While I was searching some information for Ireland’s map, I realized that Northern Ireland is the only one constituent country of the United Kingdom that doesn’t have its own flag. My confusion got bigger when I found out the many different flags that can be used.
Saint Patrick’s saltire was representative of the Kingdom of Ireland, but when it was divided, the Republic of Ireland adopted The Tricolour and started to use the flag of Ulster to represent the north province. In 1953, the Government of Northern Ireland stablished the Ulster Banner as the official flag, but in 1973 the parliament was abolished and so it was the flag. Since then, the ‘’Union Jack’’ has been the official emblem. Nowadays, the Ulster Banner represents Unionists (Protestants), but Republicans (Catholics) prefer the flag of the Ulster Province. 
Although the differences, I found out that the red hand of Ulster, which represents the bloody hand of a member of the O’Neill family, it seems to be the one who symbolizes Northern Ireland without any complaint, because it’s the result of an ancient legend about how a man became king.
Something that caught my attention was the fact that even the sports have been affected by this confusion, for example, the national football team uses the Ulster Banner, but the rugby team shows the Four Provinces Flag or the IRFU Flag.

So, what flag should I use to represent this country without being rude to anyone? This disagreement has caused street protests, fights and even more polarization.

Saint Patrick's saltire and the Union Jack

The Flag of Ulster

 The Ulster Banner

 The Four Provinces Flag of Ireland

The IRFU Flag

By Carla Menares

miércoles, 15 de abril de 2015

The official animal of Scotland – Where myth collides with reality.

In my research of general information about Scotland I found out that their official animal is the unicorn. I know it’s hard to believe at first and it’r certainly not a common choice considering that is one of the main figures on the Royal Coat of Arms of the country. But as every fun fact there is an explication.

The lion and the unicorn are heraldic symbols appearing in the full Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, where the lion represent England and the unicorn represent Scotland. In Celtic mythology the unicorn symbolizes purity, healing power, joy and masculinity meanwhile the lion represent courage, royalty, leadership and honor.

This combination dates from 1603 after the dead of Queen Elizabethh I and according previous arrangements made by the Privy Council, James was proclaimed King of Scotland. He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scot, and great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of Englad and Lord of Ireland witch gave him the uniquely opportunity to eventually accede to all three thrones. James I combined the unicorn with the lion on the coat of arms but still used a different version of his Royal Arms only in Scotland and this distinction in Royal protocol continued post the Acts of Union of 1707. This was a powerful symbol as it was regarded that the lion and unicorn were mortal enemies.

Scotland is not the only country who has a mythical creature as it official animal, but I notice that we are so used to think ‘rationally’ that we found hard to believe that this facts are real and sometimes we even laugh about them.

What is socially accepted as real and what is not? 

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom used in Scotland

Rayen Moran.