Evolutionary Conservation


, , , , , ,

wildlifebridgeThe Netherlands

With the destruction of many natural environments and many species driven close to extinction, conservation biologists used to think that the answer to saving at least some of this precious land and endangered species was to create National Parks and Protected Areas. In many cases this believe has worked, but it does not necessarily apply to all cases around the world.

This model has been in place for a few decades now but has been unable to stop illegal poaching and many species are still at risk because of the vast territories that are hard to police.  In addition, other problems have been identified such as the clustering of marked territories preventing wild life to roam in a natural way.

One of the most evident problems is the unbalance of the ecosystems as the individual populations of species are altered because of the artificial creation of borders or boundaries in these reserves. After millions of years of evolution, nature has adjusted itself so that all species are interdependent on each other for their survival, as cruel as it sometimes seems to be when killing another specie for survival, is just how each individual species rely on each other and in some cases even partner to obtain food or protection. If one specie is affected, the rest will suffer and the ecosystem becomes unbalanced and deteriorates.

Wildlife has been in migration mode for millennia. You just can’t set a boundary and expect animals within these boundaries to thrive and flourish because their populations begin to inbreed and slowly decline in numbers and health.


With the implementation or better said, with the reinstatement of natural corridors around the globe, animals are able to continue their migration patterns and maintain healthy populations and thrive the way they are supposed to. Here in North America, the Yellowstone to Yukon Y2Y is a great example of how the grizzly bears, caribou, lynx, golden eagles and native cutthroat trout populations are rebounding.  The same happens with the Florida Wildlife Corridor protecting the panthers and bears. Around the world the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative in Australia, The Jaguar Corridor from Mexico to Argentina, and the Kenyan and Tanzanian Corridors are just a few examples of how we should protect wildlife.

Because of human population explosion in the last fifty years, the pressure on natural resources, the environment and natural fauna, the planet has suffered tremendously. After all these years, some communities around the world are turning around this trend. They have realized that this destruction cannot continue if we are to survive as a specie and as a planet, and now are protecting the environment and learning to co-exist with the animal world. One example of this is in India, despite having the second largest population on earth and having exterminated most of its fauna, in the Gujarat region where only twenty or so individuals of Asian Lions existed a few years ago, they now number over 400 thanks to the community’s ability to coexist next to this magnificent creatures. The community tracks lion movement around towns while protecting their crops with the lions help. At night time when the deer come to eat and destroy the crops in the town’s fields, the locals know where the deer are and sound a bell indicating the lions that dinner is served and where to go. The lions move in and hunt a few dear for dinner, the rest of the deer depart while the locals watch the spectacle assisted with some bonfires just a few meters away from the lions-partners in crime. For the most part lions stay away from town, even if they come in, people know to stay away from them and ignored them, even if someone is hurt or killed, which is very rare, they are just left alone. A unique relationship has developed between lions and people, revealing a story not of continual conflict as we might expect, but one of survival and tolerance, this is because of a change of attitude of these communities. Examples like this can be seen around the world and are an encouraging sign that we can change for the better.


Not only people have this attitude of coexistence, but animals seem to have evolved in the same way. What a better example of this, when a mama bear and her two cubs decided to take a dip in Lake Tahoe last week much to the delight of tourists around them.

“Let’s just hope it’s not too little too late”



Why Leaders Need Courage

The comfort zone is the easiest place to fall in!


“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill

The Roman historian Tacitus once said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Today we might translate that to something like “always playing it safe makes it much harder to succeed.”

Leaders need courage to make decisions that followers won’t make. They need courage not to just steer the ship but to set it’s course, sometimes heading into completely uncharted territory. Leaders need courage to stand on principle when non-leaders will sacrifice those principles in order to compromise. Leaders need courage to do what’s right, not just what’s popular.

Leaders need courage to take risks.

Here is an interesting thought. Those who have the courage to take risks and those who don’t experience the same amount of fear in their life. It’s just that a leader…

View original post 246 more words

Pisco and Alta California II


, , ,

Obtaining the recipe for the Pisco Punch turned out to be quite and endeavor for Guillermo Toro-Lira, many twists, turns and false leads. Research took them-he and wife Brenda- to Salinas, Monterey and the San Francisco Public library many times looking at archives and talking to people that had some information of the evolution of San Francisco’s early days, traditions  and of its fine establishments.

Some of the finds of this research included the history of Pisco itself. How did Pisco come about? When the Spanish colonized South America, they brought with them their vines from Europe and soon after started producing wine of great quality. After this occurred, the Spanish wine producers started complaining about their sales decrease because of the competition from local producers of wine and King Phillip II of Spain prohibited the production of all wine in all the Viceroyalty of Peru. As ingenuous as Peruvians are, soon after they started producing Pisco, which is a distilled spirit and did not directly compete with the wine importers.

Another find was that during the Gold Rush of Northern California, Peru established the first consulate of all of South American countries in San Francisco and was one of the first in the world.  It was founded in 1849 when the brigantine of war Gamarra anchored in this coast carrying documents sent by President Ramon Castilla, to protect the interests of Peruvians during the gold rush. It happens that many Peruvians came to the gold rush in ships from Callao Port in Lima, because they were expert miners compared to other migrants that did not have a clue when it came to mining techniques. Peru and its ancient civilizations have been mining for millennia. Worldwide, today Peru is # 2 in Silver and Copper production and 6th in Gold, among other minerals. Mineral exports represent 60% of all exports.

Along this research they came across information that perplexed Guillermo and his wife Brenda many times. For instance, what we now know as the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. in Fisherman’s Wharf, was founded by an Italian chocolatier, Domingo Ghirardelli that migrated from Lima, Peru to San Francisco in 1849. He started his business in 1852, had nine children and was married to Peruvian Carmen Alvarado Pimentel.

Another interesting fact found during the research was that many people of the Americas of the 1800’s traveled to Peru to attend university at the second oldest university in the Americas,  Universidad of San Marcos in Lima founded in 1551- oldest is the Universidad Autonoma of Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic founded in 1538. Back in the day, San Marcos University was considered top notch and it produced many famous intellectuals. Because of extended political instability in Peru in the last 150 years, this public university is not even the shadow of what it once was. It has been over politicized and its quality has diminished considerably. Perhaps, now with the new political and economic winds blowing in Peru right now after a positive Presidential election this last Sunday April 9th, that the overall situation in Peru will improve to the point of where it once stood as a prosper nation and as the amazing millenary culture that it is. With this in mind, many old institutions and industries can regain the leadership that they once had. That is the hope of the vast majority of Peruvians, despite still having a strong communist and terrorist presence in parts of the territory that have only proven to be a generator of poverty and mediocrity, but that hopefully will soon be eradicated by the new policies of wealth creation with “real” inclusion.

By the 1870’s Pisco Punch was the most demanded drink in all of San Francisco. But it remains a mystery on why to this day this is something that vanished from San Francisco culture and that it could have been San Francisco’s trade mark drink. The most logical explanation is that the recipe was well guarded by just one man and that the National Prohibition Act of 1919 which lasted thirteen year was the culprit to extinguish this tradition and preference. The recipe was carefully guarded by the Bank’s Exchange owner, Duncan Nicol or Pisco John as he was known. He got this nick name from another funny anecdote in Guillermo’s research which happened when the telephone lines were installed in the city in 1903 and the assigned number in the Bank Exchange was 3246, but also needed a name as a prefix to the number which in this case was John- John3246.  So, when people called and did not remembered the number they would tell the operator please John of the Pisco, which soon was abbreviated to “Pisco John. “

It is only now that because of this research and because of the recent popularity and reintroduction of Pisco that this story is coming to light. In addition, many Peruvian restaurants in San Francisco now offer Pisco. Coincidentally, today the most famous Peruvian restaurant in San Francisco, created and operated by famous Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio-considered father of the present successful positioning of Peruvian Cuisine worldwide- restaurant La Mar,  sits just five blocks from the original Bank Exchange location. This is not mentioned in Guillermo’s research, it is my own observation of this coincidence. If you look at the map carefully, you’ll notice that the Bank Exchange was located in the corner of Montgomery and Washington Street where the Transamerica pyramid is today- on the map the street on the right towards the bay is Washington and the waterfront is Montgomery Street- restaurant La Mar is located five blocks away almost in straight line following Washington St. towards the water front to Pier 1-1/2. Thus, the Bank Exchange was at the water’s edge in its time and so does La Mar today in what is now landfill. I know for a fact that La Mar serves great Pisco and Pisco Sours. I am intrigued if they prepare the famous Pisco Punch concoction? That is something that I will have to find out in my next visit.

san fran map

After many hours of research from Guillermo, the recipe he came for Pisco Punch is the following:




Gum Arabic

Gum Syrup

Simple Syrup

The actual concoction preparation is another story and an arduous process, including macerations and alterations. Not even this research believes that all the ingredients and processes are complete. There is a brief explanation of the assumed process in Guillermo’s book and should be followed as reference to prepare the famous Pisco Punch.




“Wings of Cherubs” The Saga of the Rediscovery of Pisco Punch, Old San Francisco Mystery Drink By: Guillermo Toro-Lira


Google Images






Pisco and Alta California I


, , ,

I knew that Peru and California had a common history that went back to the Gold Rush era of the 1840’s. But recently thanks to the General Consulate of Peru in San Francisco and especially of Guillermo Toro-Lira which directed a play at the Alcazar Theater in downtown San Francisco about the history of the introduction of Pisco -brandy of Peru of ubiquitous grape- to Alta California, that I was exposed to a much earlier relation between my native Peru and my current residence of California.  I was surprised that it went back for that long and that merchant ships that sailed up and down the coast transported among other things, Peru’s native distilled drink.

pisco tinajas

Pisco Tinajas

Not only did Pisco made its way during the Gold Rush to the Bay Area, but it was already enjoyed in the shores of Alta California since the late 1700’s when Limean navigator and explorer Don Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, explored Bodega and Tomales Bay just north of the Golden Gate and co-discovered the entrance to San Francisco Bay in 1775. During his maiden voyage and other ships that followed from the Spanish Armada, Pisco was among the goods that were transported. If you consider that the first distillery in the Americas was established in 1684 at the Hacienda La Caravedo-currently producer of Pisco Porton in Ica, Peru- one has to ponder that shipments of the distilled grape and wines were being shipped from the Port of Pisco and Port of Callao in Lima since these times.

Way before the Panama Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad, most intercontinental commerce was done via shipping lanes up and down the coast that came primarily from South America. At the time, Lima the capital of Peru and its port, Callao, was the epicenter of the Americas for the Spanish Colony in the Pacific Coast because of its geographical position. Ships that came from the Tierra del Fuego passage at the bottom of South America travelled north stopping along the way at different ports and the first Spanish ships to make it to North America introduced foreign goods to this part of the world. Initially the Spaniards did not find enough riches in metals in North America compared to what they found in South America and Mexico and did not colonize but after the British and Russians started showing up, the Spaniards started colonizing with what we now know as Presidios and Misiones which are all over California today.

San Franciscans have long enjoyed Pisco and shipment arrivals were quick news in downtown San Francisco after the Gold Rush of 1849. After the Gold Rush, San Francisco established itself as a legit urban area and its cosmopolitan style quickly grew and many establishments took root in the Downtown we now know. Well almost, in fact the bay front used to go all the way to where the Transamerica building stands today, todays bay front is landfill where ships used to dock. Just next to the Transamerica building area in the Montgomery block is where the Bank Exchange bar was established in the 1850’s and where its owner and sole proprietor Duncan Nicol sold its famous Pisco Punch.

bank exchange

Duncan Nicol far left

Pisco Punch was a sensation in this new world and a recipe that only its owner knew. This bar quickly became a gathering location and one of a very active night life, where rowdy parties were the norm fueling Can Can dancing and raided by police in more than one occasion. The punch was so potent that one writer of the day wrote “it tastes like lemonade but comes back with the kick of a roped steer.” Others said “it makes a gnat fight an elephant.” Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine wrote in 1937: “In the old days in San Francisco there was a famous drink called Pisco Punch, made from Pisco, a Peruvian brandy… Pisco punch used to taste like lemonade but had a kick like vodka, or worse.”            *More to come on this journey of Pisco and San Francisco.

Not for nothing was called Pisco Punch, it had its kick



“Wings of Cherubs” The Saga of the Rediscovery of Pisco Punch, Old San Francisco Mystery Drink     By: Guillermo Toro-Lira


Google Images




Oil and the new world economy


, , , , , , , , ,

It’s been over a year that oil prices have been declining and are at the lowest point they have been in twelve years. This has brought many complications especially to economies that depended on this commodity and particularly on dictatorship states that took advantage of large revenues of capital when the price was at $110 per barrel to perpetuate themselves in power while financing its corruption and populist practices acting as Robin Hoods of the poor. Which in reality the only thing they have accomplished is to increase the government officials bank accounts and have brought their economies to the brink of collapse now that the price is as low as it is and their fictitious economies can no longer sustain themselves.

Such is the case of Venezuela which after attempting of being South America’s revolutionary state and influencing most of the countries in the hemisphere with cheap, free oil, and dirty money, the inevitable has arrived and the Bolivarian Revolution is collapsing. No more free oil or dividends, no more allies to hold the revolution and it is just a matter of time for Venezuela to change governmental officials, and hopefully return to a legal democracy.

The trend in recent elections around South America is the departure from the Venezuelan model and its corrupt practices and more towards free electoral practices with efficient fiscal management. Such is the case of Argentina which has made severe corrections to its model in a recent change of government. Peru is having elections in April and so far everything indicates that a responsible government will take office, Guatemala has changed directions recently as well for the better. Cuba just restarted relations with the US in an effort to avoid calamity with its economy in shambles and no more assistance from Venezuela or the hay day of the Soviet assistance in the last century and Ecuador seems to be following in the same direction where more democracy is demanded and better fiscal practices, away from populist impulses, exploiting in many cases an electorate that lacks education and adequate judgement when electing officials.

In other parts of the world, Russia is cutting down benefits for its citizens and people are getting unrest and are questioning the corruption installed in power for a long period of time-Russia is 50% oil dependent for their income and are taking a blow with current prices and more bad news to follow for this country.

ISIS is taking a hit as well from above in the form of bombs and with low crude prices, recently they don’t have enough cash to finance the terror crescendo that was happening just a few months ago and all the bravado that they were displaying. Sure, they still are a threat but they are losing steam.

Most recently the situation looks dire for many oil producing countries, there is just too much production and less consumption around the globe especially by China. In addition to the regular producers, Iraq has reported growth in their production in the last year and Iran which is the 4rth largest producer will soon be contributing with more production now that sanctions have been lifted. In the U.S. some of the surge in the increase in production from fracking in the last few years have taken a hit and some companies are starting to go bust. Another downside to the low price is the loss of jobs related to the oil industry but that is compensated with growth in the economy thanks to more disposable income to the middle class. Overall this is good for everyone and most people are stoked about this trend and spending more.

Of course the oil industry, coal producers and the stock market are in complete shock and say that this is all bad. It is all bad for them because they use to live extremely good from the rest of us making the big bucks but those days are over. There is a shift in the U.S. and world economics and the scale is moving more towards in benefiting the majority and not just a few which has created the huge income inequality issue. In addition, those countries, states and cities that are leaning towards clean energy will be the last ones laughing and today there are great examples of this already happening. The least dependency of fossil fuels is the only way forward to save the environment and to create a more balanced world economy.

The world is slowly uniting to save our planet and restore economic balance



The Miracle of a Body

Be thankful, patient, and embrace yourself and others close to you in this New Year

Dreaming the World

SolsticeNew Years Eve; outside, a dramatic sunset. The weather has turned chilly and damp, almost seasonal, and there are finally a few inches of snow on the ground. This evening we will visit with friends, bringing in the New Year with games, food, and a good fire.

I began writing this in daylight and must turn on the lights in order to finish. The New Year comes about ten days after the solstice. By now, the days are perceptibly longer, and the sun, and the year, seem renewed. Even so, most nights darkness falls well before five.

View original post 750 more words