Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is an NPR international correspondent covering South America for NPR. She is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Previously, she served a NPR's correspondent based in Israel, reporting on stories happening throughout the Middle East. She was one of the first reporters to enter Libya after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising began and spent months painting a deep and vivid portrait of a country at war. Often at great personal risk, Garcia-Navarro captured history in the making with stunning insight, courage and humanity.

For her work covering the Arab Spring, Garcia-Navarro was awarded a 2011 George Foster Peabody Award, a Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club, and an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Alliance for Women and the Media's Gracie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.

Before her assignment to Jerusalem began in 2009, Garcia-Navarro served for more than a year as NPR News' Baghdad Bureau Chief and before that three years as NPR's foreign correspondent in Mexico City, reporting from that region as well as on special assignments abroad.

Garcia-Navarro got her start in journalism as a freelancer with the BBC World Service and Voice of America, reporting from Cuba, Syria, Panama and Europe. She later became a producer for Associated Press Television News before transitioning to AP Radio. While there, Garcia-Navarro covered post-Sept. 11 events in Afghanistan and developments in Jerusalem. In 2002, she began a two-year reporting stint based in Iraq.

In addition to the Murrow award, Garcia-Navarro was honored with the 2006 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for a two-part series "Migrants' Job Search Empties Mexican Community." She contributed to NPR News reporting on Iraq, which was recognized with a 2005 Peabody Award and a 2007 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton.

Garcia-Navarro holds a Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations from Georgetown University and an Master of Arts degree in journalism from City University in London. Lourdes is married to Times of London journalist James Hider. They have a daughter and they sometimes travel together for work and always for play.

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It happened slowly at first. The reservoir's water level dropped, so the resort extended the boat launch ramp.

Then they had to add another extension.

Eventually, the water dropped so much that business dried up — along with the lake.

"For this coming weekend, there's not one reservation. This business was 98 percent dependent on the water. Now that the water's gone, the customers are gone as well," says Francisco Carlos Fonseca, the manager of Marina Confiança.

As you walk into the office of Brazilian Sen. Ivo Cassol, there is a giant picture of him on the side of the door. A Bible sits on his office coffee table and pictures of his family adorn the walls.

He's charming, with a wide, toothy smile and a firm handshake. "Darling," he calls me.

Why are we meeting Ivo Cassol?

Recent scientific discoveries show that the Amazon rainforest might control the climate for much of South America. The theory could mean even more disastrous ramifications for the fragile ecosystem if deforestation continues unabated.

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Brazil isn't lying to the world about how bad deforestation is in the Amazon. But it is, according to the very people employed by the government to protect the rain forest, "misleading" the international community.

According to the government figures, the rate of deforestation is down dramatically over the past decade. And there's a general consensus this is true. But critics say the numbers don't tell the whole story because so much of the Amazon has already been damaged or destroyed. And the country is still losing about 2,000 square miles of jungle each year.

They call it the "burning season" in the Amazon, and when we arrive in Brazil's western state of Rondonia, it's on fire.

A thick, acrid smoke permeates everything, making it difficult to see. Fire, people say in Rondonia, is part of the culture of the state: The ash from the burned trees is the only way to make the land fertile, argue some. Others say fires are also started to simply clear land for cattle. Or to make space to build a house. Fire allows people to eke out a living off the land in the rain forest.

In this part of the Amazon rain forest, they call it "the war over wood."

It has front lines.

One of them is here, in Machadinho d'Oeste in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia.

The self-described "Guardians of the Forest" defending the land don't look like fighters, at least when we first meet them. But they are pitting themselves against criminal logging gangs that have infiltrated their protected reserves.

It's a place where girls can play volleyball. They can do ballet (of course).

But soccer is a no-no.

That's the way it goes in Brazil, the country that famously loves soccer. There was once a legal ban — from 1941 to 1979 — noting that "women will not be allowed to practice sports which are considered incompatible to their feminine nature."

That law is no longer on the books. So things have changed. Brazil has a women's national team (although there's only room for a few elite players). The Brazilian player Marta is an international superstar.

You find out you are pregnant. You're happy. What do you do next? Well, if you are Brazilian, you immediately book a photographer who will preferably shoot you in scenic Rio de Janeiro.

And if it's Saturday in Rio's parks and beaches, it's pregnancy portrait day.

Beatriz Costa Vasconcelos, who is heavily pregnant, is standing in the middle of the forest wearing a lace shirt that's open to better show off her bare belly.

On a Saturday morning, in a group of Rio de Janeiro's notoriously violent shanty towns, or favelas, heavily armed pacification police stand on one side of the street, on the other side, protestors call for them to withdraw.

On the protest side, Mayse Freitas lists the people she knows who have been injured or killed in shootouts in the area recently.

"I'm a mother and a grandmother," Freitas says. "I don't want my children or grandchildren to be next."

My parents are Cuban and Panamanian. I grew up in Miami. I travel broadly in Latin America but reside in Brazil, which speaks Portuguese, not Spanish.

So what am I?

This may seem an irrelevant question to many, but as the American presidential season kicks into high gear there's been a lot of confusion about how to refer to people alternately called Hispanics or Latinos.

Here is an eye-popping statistic from Brazil: 1 percent of the population controls almost half the land. The country is one of the most unequal places in the world in terms of land distribution. And one reason is colonial-era laws that are still on the books.

At an office in central Rio de Janeiro, where real estate sales in this area get notarized, the notary reads to us a list of families who are owed a percentage of all real estate transactions in certain parts of the city.

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Thousands of people took to the streets in Brazil today in a nationwide protest against the government.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Portuguese).

If you want to get a sense of how complex racial identity is in Brazil, you should meet sisters Francine and Fernanda Gravina. Both have the same mother and father. Francine, 28, is blond with green eyes and white skin. She wouldn't look out of place in Iceland. But Fernanda, 23, has milk chocolate skin with coffee colored eyes and hair. Francine describes herself as white, whereas Fernanda says she's morena, or brown-skinned.

Unlike most art exhibitions, this one starts with a prayer.

A heavyset 77-year-old woman with girlishly pinned blond hair stands behind a table. An array of colored chalk and oil paints fan out in front of her. She puts her head in her hands and concentrates.

Her demeanor changes.

Then, to the sound of eerie music, she begins to draw. Her hands are nimble and decisive, and very quickly, something begins to take shape: a face with a bright green 19th century hat.

After 18 minutes and change — they timed it — she is finished. She signs the work, "Renoir."

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Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, and it's expanding, if you look at waistlines. Almost half the country is now considered overweight. Compare that to 30 years ago when the rate was half that.

It's a common problem in the developing world, where rising prosperity often means greater access to processed food.

One woman in Brazil is trying to change the direction the country is going. But it hasn't been easy.

Bela Gil is the daughter of one of Brazil's most famous singers, Gilberto Gil. She's quick to say she has zero musical talent.

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Brazil hosted the World Cup last year. Next year, it will host the Summer Olympics. On Sunday, though, the country played host to another international gathering of talented competitors: the Rubik's Cube World Championship.

This past weekend, hundreds of "speedcubers," as they're known, descended on Sao Paulo from over 40 countries, to take part in three days of intensive competition.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four reads.

From Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, an NPR international correspondent who covers South America:

It's summer right now and I'm sure you've noticed them: small, insidious buzzing — mosquitoes. In Brazil, they are potentially deadly. It's the place where the mosquito-born virus dengue fever is most prevalent.

Enter the Zapping Racket. As the name implies, it is an electrified tennis racket that kills mosquitoes.

I know, right? Genius.

There is a joke among Brazilians that a Brazilian passport is the most coveted on the black market because no matter what your background — Asian, African or European — you can fit in here. But the reality is very different.

I'm sitting in café with two women who don't want their names used because of the sensitivity of the topic. One is from the Caribbean; her husband is an expat executive.

"I was expecting to be the average-looking Brazilian; Brazil as you see on the media is not what I experienced when I arrived," she tells me.

A typical Uruguayan asado, or barbecue, is made up of vast racks of prime cuts of beef, pork or chicken roasted on a grill next to — not on top of — a wood burning fire.

At parilla restaurants across the capitol Montevideo, the asados are pretty epic; the fatty cuts sizzle and then get slapped onto your plate, oozing with juice.

But if you want to grab a salt shaker and add a bit of extra salt to your meal these days in the Uruguayan capital, you can't.

It has been almost a year since the World Cup in Brazil. The party is long over, but the country is still dealing with the hangover — in the form of "white elephant" stadiums and unfinished infrastructure projects. They come at a time when the country faces economic woes and the prospect of another expensive mega event: next year's summer Olympics.

The most expensive World Cup stadium — located in the capital, Brasilia, and with a price tag of $550 million — is being used as a parking lot for buses.

The tiny nation of Uruguay is fighting a big opponent – the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Their legal battle is over tough anti-smoking legislation enacted in Uruguay which Philip Morris is trying to overturn.

But Uruguay has found some unlikely allies – a group of former Philip Morris workers.

When six Middle Eastern prisoners were freed from Guantanamo Bay prison and given refuge by the tiny South American country of Uruguay in December, they were grateful.

But four months later, four of them are camping outside the U.S. Embassy protesting as inadequate the deal they've been offered in exchange for permanent asylum.

Three small tents have been pitched on the smooth green lawn in front of the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay's capital.

Known for her outrageous costumes and beautiful voice, Brazilian performer Carmen Miranda was the highest-earning woman in Hollywood in the 1940s.

I meet Joao Jesus outside the local labor tribunal in the Brazilian town of Itaborai, east of Rio de Janeiro.

"This morning I wasn't able to give my kids breakfast," he says, in a way that suggests he can hardly believe it himself.

Financial crises often get spoken about in the nameless, faceless lingo of "world market downturns" or "changing patterns of consumption" — but the crisis engulfing Brazil and its state oil company, Petrobras, has names and faces.

A badly abused Peruvian bear named Cholita is coming to a sanctuary in Colorado. Animal Defenders International announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expedited the request and she will be on her way next month.

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