TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis Returns to South America

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Latin America’s first pope returned to Spanish-speaking South America on Sunday for the first time, beginning a nine-day tour that will take him to three of the continent’s poorest countries.

Children in traditional dress greeted Pope Francis at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre airport, the wind blowing off his skullcap and whipping his white cassock as he descended from the plane following a 13-hour flight from Rome. He personally greeted and kissed several indigenous youths waiting for him on the side of the red carpet.

The “pope of the poor” will highlight in his visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay his priorities of protecting the marginalized and the planet from injustice and exploitation.

In a speech in front of President Rafael Correa, he immediately signaled key themes: the need to care for society’s most marginal, ensuring socially responsible economic development and, turning to Ecuador specifically, defending “the singular beauty of your country.”

“From the peak of Chimborazo to the Pacific coast, from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you,” he said, praising Ecuador’s “singular beauty.”

The Pacific nation of 15 million is home to more than 20,000 plant species as well as the Galapagos Islands, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1535.

Thousands lined the motorcade route that would take Francis him to the Vatican ambassador’s residence, many hopeful the pope will have a calming effect.

Travel agency worker Veronica Valdeon called the Argentine pontiff “a light in the darkness.” “We are living difficult moments in our country,” she said, “and Francis brings a bit of joy.”

Francis is to preside over two big open-air Masses in his three days in Ecuador — one in the steaming Pacific port of Guayaquil on Monday, the other Tuesday in the capital on the site of the city’s former airport.

Francis’ stops later include a violent Bolivian prison, a flood-prone Paraguayan shantytown and a meeting with grass-roots groups in Bolivia, the sort of people he ministered to in the slums of Buenos Aires as archbishop.

Crowds are expected to be huge. While the countries themselves are small, they are fervently Catholic: 79 percent of the population is Catholic in Ecuador, 77 percent in Bolivia and 89 percent in Paraguay, according to the Pew Research Center.

Beyond the major public Masses in each country, Vatican organizers have scheduled plenty of time for the pope to meander through the throngs expected to line his motorcade route.

TIME Travel

This Hotel is Completely Made of Salt

It's located in Bolivia, in the middle of the world's largest salt flat

Ice hoteliers aren’t the only entrepreneurs at risk of having their property melt. In a cool new video interview for National Geographic, the manager of Luna Salada, a Bolivian hotel made entirely out of salt, explains how a rainy season can destroy bricks that must be changed out. But that’s the price you pay when you choose to build your hotel out of seasoning. The destination, which is located in the middle of the world’s largest salt flat, is carrying on a local tradition of salt construction. In addition to the actual walls of the hotel, all the furniture is built out of salt—everything from the chairs in the restaurant to the desks to the bed (they do give you a mattress though).

If you’re thinking about going, you should know that it’s a trip best suited for the adventurous traveler. Get there via a long train from La Paz or a long and bumpy bus ride. Although, if you like the idea of sleeping on a salt bed, a bus ride on unpaved roads probably doesn’t phase you.

You can check out the impressive and complex things the Luna Salada manages to do with salt below and reserve rooms (from $135) here.

This article originally appeared on FWx.com.

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TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 2, 2014

Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Bulent Kilic’s continuing coverage from the Syrian-Turkish border, where he has spent the last two weeks documenting the flood of mostly Syrian Kurdish refugees. The photographs make for a powerful portrait of desperation.


Bulent Kilic: The forgotten faces of war (MSNBC)

Narayan Mahon: New Nations, Living in Limbo (The New York Times Lens blog) An eight-year-long project on ‘unrecognized’ countries around the world, which will soon be exhibited at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Wisconsin.

Camera shy: the religious community that shuns the limelight (The Guardian) Sean O’Hagan writes about Jordi Ruiz Cirera’s beautiful, intriguing portrait of Bolivia’s Mennonites, which is published as a book titled, Los Menonos.

Editing images of ‘hell’, in close-up (AFP Correspondent blog) Roland de Courson writes about the decision-making process that goes behind sending graphic images to Agence France-Presse’s photo clients.

Alejandro Cegarra (Stories — Getty Images) Interview with this year’s Ian Parry Scholarship recipient, who is now a member of the Reportage by Getty Images Emerging Talent roster.

A Call for Social Change on Instagram (TIME LightBox) Open Society Foundations’ photography coordinator Annick Shen tells how the organization is using social media to advance its cause.

Is This Art Photography Any Good? (Vice) Humorous video of Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden judging art photography.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.


TIME Bolivia

Bolivia to Allow Children to Legally Work at Just 10 Years Old

Views From the Capitol As Bolivian Central Bank President Sees 5.5% GDP Growth This Year
Noah Friedman-Rudovsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bolivia is set to reduce the child labor minimum wage to 10 years old.

Supporters of a new bill say it will help reduce poverty, but human-rights activists aren't convinced

Bolivian lawmakers have approved new legislation that allows children as young as 10 years old to enter the workforce.

While the minimum age for child workers was previously 14 with no exceptions, the new bill is more flexible and allows children to start “working for others from age 12, which is allowed by international conventions, and self-employment from age 10,” said Senator Adolfo Mendoza, co-sponsor of the bill, reports AFP.

He emphasized that both the child and a parent or guardian must first voluntarily consent to the work and then seek permission from the public ombudsman.

Critics of the previous law argue that children younger than 14 years old must work to help support their families in the impoverished South American country.

Deputy Javier Zavaleta, co-sponsor of the bill, said he hoped it would help eradicate extreme poverty in the landlocked nation. “Extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor,” he told AFP. “So our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

But human-rights activists disagree.

Jo Becker, children’s-rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, called on Bolivian politicians to abandon the bill in early 2014. “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” she said.

“Poor families often send their children to work out of desperation, but these children miss out on schooling and are more likely to end up in a lifetime of low-wage work,” she added. “The Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”

The bill has now been sent to Bolivian President Evo Morales and is expected to be signed into law.

TIME photography

Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the World

The day that marks the onset of summer is always cause for celebration—and every country observes it differently

TIME Bolivia

Bolivian Mayor Caught On Camera Groping Woman

The clip, which was was broadcast on Bolivian television, is just the latest in a series of incidents showing the mayor making unwanted advances on women

The mayor of Bolivia’s largest city was caught on camera groping and kissing women – again.

Percy Fernandez, the Mayor of Santa Cruz, is seen in a new video placing his hand on the thigh of Mercedes Guzman, a journalist from a local television channel.

But this is not the first time that the mayor, recently called by President Evo Morales “the best mayor in Bolivia,” was caught making unwanted advances on women. At least two other instances of his sexual harassment were caught on camera in the past. Two years ago, footage showed him twice touching the bottom of his female City Council president, and in 2010 he forced a kiss upon a female engineer while inspecting a bridge.

“[We consider this] an expression of violence against all Bolivian women, especially because the mayor’s actions have happened before,” said Marcela Revollo, a Bolivian lawmaker.

After increasing public outcry, the 75-year-old mayor sent a video to Santa Cruz media in which he apologized to the journalist for the incident.

“I’m worried that I might’ve disrespected you while you were performing your duties. I apologize again to you and your dignified family,” Fernandez says on the video.

But opposition lawmaker Revollo said that the apology was not enough. She has filed a complaint accusing Fernandez of sexual harassment, sexual violence and discrimination.

TIME closeup

Pictures of the Week: January 10 – January 17

From Muslims celebrating the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad and Egyptians voting in a contentious referendum to Fashion Week in Berlin and a fluorescent frog in the U.K., TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

From Muslims celebrating the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad and Egyptians voting in a contentious referendum to Fashion Week in Berlin and a fluorescent frog in the U.K., TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME closeup

Pictures of the Week: November 2 – November 9

From President Obama's reelection and Superstorm Sandy's aftermath to a deadly earthquake in Guatemala and a train cemetery in Bolivia, TIME presents the best photographs of the week.

From President Obama’s reelection and Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath to a deadly earthquake in Guatemala and a train cemetery in Bolivia, TIME presents the best photographs of the week.

TIME closeup

Pictures of the Week: September 21 – 28

From the NFL touchdown controversy in the U.S. and Israelis observing Yom Kippur to China's first aircraft carrier and surfing with dolphins in Australia, TIME presents the best images of the week.

From the NFL touchdown controversy in the U.S. and Israelis observing Yom Kippur to China’s first aircraft carrier and surfing with dolphins in Australia, TIME presents the best images of the week.

TIME photo essay

Dust to Dust: The Mythical Graves of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Photographer Nick Ballon captures the intersection of fact and fiction in the Bolivian town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are said to have died.

When photographer Nick Ballon traveled to Bolivia last October to take pictures of San Vicente, the town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are said to have been killed in 1908, he went to the museum dedicated to that history and saw the guns that belonged to the legendary outlaws. Much later, when he had returned home to London and began to write his captions, he sent a picture to a firearms expert for confirmation that the Smith & Wesson pictured was actually the gun in question. The answer came back: No. But, says the photographer, that’s kind of the point.

“The thing that interested me most is that the myth carries on even though there’s huge evidence that Butch Cassidy and Sundance didn’t die there,” he says. “People still tell the stories.”

Ballon first heard the story last summer. The photographer is half Bolivian and travels to the country every year to see his family, so he keeps an eye on news out of Bolivia. He read a film was being made about the legend—that Cassidy and Sundance ended up in San Vicente at the tail end of a streak through South America that began May 1, 1905, when they left their ranch in Argentina to escape the Pinkerton detectives on their trail, that they robbed the payroll of the silver-mining company that owns San Vicente and were killed in a shoot-out shortly after—and was intrigued by the tourists who will make an arduous trip to a distant town despite the fact that the town’s claim to fame is tenuous.

The blur of fact and fiction is the open secret of San Vicente. A grave said to be Cassidy’s was exhumed and DNA tests proved once and for all that it was a different man’s body. In reality, though the outlaws passed through the town, they probably died many years later, in North America. Ballon says that perhaps they encouraged the myth of their deaths as a way to disappear and leave their criminal lives behind.

That sense of mystery and myth informed the pictures that Ballon made: landscapes that create a sense of atmosphere and still lifes that add character, specific and ambiguous at the same time.

“It was about trying to create a sense of who they were and where they were, because that’s what I know. They were there and they traveled these trails and they spent this time in Bolivia,” says Ballon. The photographer trekked the trails where Butch Cassidy would have ridden and rode the same trains. The rock formations, eerie and barren, look just as they would have looked over a century ago, when the Sundance Kid first saw them. And the sense of isolation is magnified because—appropriately enough—there is no one there.

“The project for me was not about creating a factual document of what actually happened, because there are so many versions of what happened,” says Ballon. “That was the strength of the project for me: all the mystery behind that, the fact that everyone has a story to tell.”

Nick Ballon is a London-based photographer. See more of his work here.

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