Mariana Zapata

I am a Colombian-American writer who has worked and traveled around the world. My interests lie in travel, culture, oral history, and women's issues.
Atlas Obscura

When Giant Sequoias Were Sacrificed for Traveling Sideshows

During the second half of the 19th century, when traveling sideshows were all the rage, the so-called wonders of the world were taken from city to city to be gazed upon by spectators aching to see bearded ladies, tattooed men, and other “curiosities” that often fed the colonialist fantasies of the Western mind. But among many of the attractions included in such shows there was, at one point, an unlikely protagonist: the giant sequoia of the Sierra Nevada.
Slate Magazine

During the Civil War, Vaccination Was Not Easily Achieved, so Many Soldiers Took a DIY Approach

Bullets fly, the cold creeps in, and your body is so malnourished that you can barely walk. You know that if smallpox gets hold of you, you don't stand a chance. You look at your fellow soldier's pus-filled lesion and realize there is only one way to survive the smallpox outbreak in your unit. You breathe in deeply, cut your arm open with your rusty pocket knife, and fill the wound with the liquid coming out of your comrade's pustule.
Atlas Obscura

Add a Surrealist Touch to Your Thanksgiving With These Dali Recipes

Salvador Dali once claimed that “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” It was perhaps because of this that he decided to bring surrealism to one of the art forms he most admired: cooking. In 1973, he published the wonderful, confusing, and delectable cookbook Les Dîners de Gala—a title referring both to his wife, who went by the name Gala, and the lavishness of the dishes he included.
The Huffington Post

Watch What Camp Life Is Like For Children Who Are Allergic To The Sun

Summer camp is a great American tradition. And one completely out of reach for the so-called “children of the night” — the name given to kids who are allergic to the sun. This rare condition, xeroderma pigmentosum, makes summer camp, or any daytime outdoors activity, painful and even fatally dangerous. Luckily, there is a place that seeks to reclaim the tradition for children afflicted with XP: Camp Sundown. Opened in 1995, the camp is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, as it continues
Atlas Obscura

The Sleepy Peruvian Town that Comes Alive Each Year to 'Please the Virgin'

On any other day of the year, Paucartambo is a small, tranquil Andean town where a fly doesn’t repose on a windowsill undetected. But if you venture down there from Cuzco any time between July 15 and 18, you will stumble into a festival marked by an incessant blaze of color and music. The rhythm of folkloric dances floods the crowded streets. Masked colonial characters wear impossibly detailed costumes that often depict hand-embroidered patterns and images of nature and religious figures.
Atlas Obscura

Rock 'n' Roll and Military Dictatorships Almost Destroyed Argentine Tango

In the 1940s, Argentina was tango and tango was Argentina. Born in the marginalized outskirts and upscale brothels of Buenos Aires, the musical genre slowly but surely seeped into the very roots of the country’s culture and took a strong hold. Fathers would spend years teaching their sons how to dance, singers like Carlos Gardel were national figures, and social gatherings were always accompanied by the sound of the tango concertina, the bandoneon. Then, two disparate but hugely significant things arrived: a series of military dictatorships and rock ‘n’ roll.
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