Western Sahara (S3.10)

S03E10 – Western Sahara Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Western Sahara, a disputed territory in North-West Africa. Home to roughly 550,000 people and bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the east, Mauritania to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara is partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied, and is often called ‘Africa’s last colony.’

Map of Western Sahara's position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

Map of Western Sahara’s position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

First colonised by Spain in 1885, the territory’s sovereignty has been fiercely disputed for decades, particularly since 1975, when Spain officially relinquished its claim over the region. Today it is alternately known as Morocco’s Southern Provinces or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, however, we’ll be referring to the region as Western Sahara throughout most of this episode. At roughly 260,000 square kilometers or 100,000 square miles, Western Sahara is about the size of the US state of Colorado or just slightly larger than the UK. The territory consists mostly of uninhabitable desert, and nearly 40% of its inhabitants live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, while up to 100,000 people from the region are currently living in refugee camps in neighbouring Algeria.

This episode, the Finale of Season 3, is our first Patreon-nominated and voted-on episode. Thanks to Erik Tastepe, in particular, for suggesting this interesting location and to all of you who voted. Join us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to have a say in the direction of future seasons or get access to various awards.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


In this episode, we carried out an extensive interview with Nick Brooks (@WSaharaProject), a climate scientist, who has worked over many years in Western Sahara, co-directing a project with archaeologist Jo Clarke. This “Western Sahara Project” has led to a recently-published book on the topic (see here). Nick also has a very interesting blog about his time spent there, the politics of the situation and related topics called “Sand and Dust”. Beautiful photo galleries of all the archaeological discoveries from the research project in the desert have been shared on Flickr.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

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Cuba: Part 2 (S2.06B)

S02E06b: Cuba (part 2) Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast we return to Cuba to bring its story from the Castro Revolution, right up to the modern day. As US-Cuba relations have been in the news this week, it’s impossible to keep up with all the twists and turns, but we do our best. If you haven’t already listened to Part 1 of this episode, we recommend listening to that first to see how we got here. Cuba is an island in the Caribbean Ocean, just 90 miles south of the US state of Florida. Cuba is home to over 11 million inhabitants. Cuba gained independence from Spain in 1902, but soon fell under US influence and became a playground for the rich and powerful; this was particularly true following the 1952 coup that brought Fulgencia Batista to power. Following a turbulent revolution which spanned almost the entire 1950s, the Communist Party of Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, took control of the country in 1965. Although poverty is widespread, modern Cuba has an outstanding health care and education system and relations with the US are currently beginning to thaw after a protracted embargo that has been in place since the 1960s. Since Cuba has an awful lot of history, particularly in the 20th Century, we decided to split this episode into two parts: this is the second part.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland and – as a new voice for regular listeners – we’re joined in this episode by  Erin Barclay in the USA. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle).

http://media.blubrry.com/80_days_an_exploration/content.blubrry.com/80_days_an_exploration/S02E06b-Cuba-2.mp

Table of Contents:

[02:20] Who is Fidel Castro?
[06:36] Castro starts his “July 26” Movement
[09:10] Exile in Mexico, meeting Che and the Voyage of the Granma
[12:28] Revolution!
[14:50] The ousting of Batista, victory for Castro
[17:38] Break
[18:12] Divisions within the revolution on the question of communism
[20:15] Courting the US, and the ‘communist closet’
[24:20] Che’s role in the world
[26:11] Refugees and Operation Peter Pan
[27:15] The Bay of Pigs invasion attempt
[35:26] US Trade Embargo begins
[36:57] The Cuban Missile Crisis – Armageddon averted
[44:00] Che leaves the stage
[46:03] ‘Castro really liked milk’, and other assassination attemps
[49:45] Cuba in the Soviet economic sphere – old cars
[51:42] “Los Frikis” punks
[52:42] Mariel Boat Lift
[54:03] Soviet Union falls, and the ‘special period’
[56:20] Medicine and oil
[58:31] Elian Gonzalez case
[60:21] Spies and political refugees
[61:07] Thawing of US-Cuba relations under Raul Castro
[64:10] What does the Pope have to do with this?
[65:30] Death of Fidel
[68:51] Trump’s evolving policies towards Cuba
[71:16] Sports! Baseball!
[73:00] Afro-Cuban traditions
[75:30] Some Cuban lunch

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

A massive thanks to Andrew Brogan and Crystal, two of the backers of our recent Kickstarter Campaign – thank you for making Season 2 possible. Thanks too to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Cuba: Part 1 (S2.06A)

S02E06a: Cuba (part 1) Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast we’ll be talking about Cuba, an island in the Caribbean Ocean, just 90 miles south of the US state of Florida. Cuba is home to over 11 million inhabitants, and is the second-largest island in the Caribbean after Hispanola. The country has been subject to numerous territorial disputes and conflicts throughout its long and complex history, but finally emerged into independence in 1902. Following a turbulent revolution which spanned almost the entire 1950s, the Communist Party of Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, took control of the country in 1965. Although poverty is widespread, modern Cuba has an outstanding health care and education system and relations with the US are currently beginning to thaw after a protracted embargo that has been in place since the 1960s. Since Cuba has an awful lot of history, particularly in the 20th Century, we decided to split this episode into two parts: this is the first part.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland and – as a new voice for regular listeners – we’re joined in this episode by  Erin Barclay in the USA. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle).

Table of Contents:

[03:28]  Early History – Taíno and others
[05:50]  In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and stuff happened
[09:25] Spanish Colony, ‘serfdom’ and Hatuey’s Uprising
[12:25] Slavery, Slave Rebellions and Pirates
[13:55] Trade monopolies and disputes
[19:00] Sugar boom and population imbalance, and Haitian influx
[20:39] Break
[21:10] “What could go wrong?” – just six revolutions
[27:52] Leopoldo O’Donnell and ‘The Year of the Lash’
[29:00 ] The Cuban Wars of Independence
[34:33] Sinking of the USS Maine and US entry into the war
[35:57] Break
[36:22] The Spanish-American War (and Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’)
[39:49] An independent Cuba, the Banana Wars and US Interventions
[43:45] World War 1 and, inter-war years and President Muchado
[46:42] Batista leads the Uprising of the Sergeants
[47:25] World War 2 ,Ernest Hemingway’s  ‘Crook Factory’, and the ‘St Louis Affair’
[50:58] America’s Playground and a handful of boring presidents
[53:52] Return of Batista: who needs democracy?

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

Thanks to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Uruguay (S2.05)

S02E05: Uruguay Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Uruguay, a small but prosperous country sandwiched between two massive South American powerhouses, Brazil and Argentina. Widely considered one of the most politically stable and progressive countries in Latin America, Uruguay is home to just over 3.5 Million people and almost ten times as many sheep.

By land mass, it is the second-smallest nation in the region. After a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay declared its independence in 1825. The country then stabilised until the 1950s, when political turmoil ensued.
In more recent years, Uruguay escaped the recession that spread throughout South America in the early 2000s, and has since emerged as a bastion of democracy, progressive policies and free speech.  

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle).

Table of Contents:

[02:12] Intro – Homer Simpson and trampy birds
[08:30] Horny dirty Europeans and laissez faire gauchoing
[15:00] The inevitable British interest
[18:08] Artigas uncontemplative – not a calm guy
[27:23] If you liked Artigas you’ll love many endless wars forever
[33:46] Colorados vs Blancos – mob on mob violence
[40:39] Flores – Warlords don’t like peace, shoot your gauchos
[49:30] Jose Batlle – Mr 20th Century Uruguay
[57:54] WW2 – neutral, until it’s over and then they’re totally against Hitler
[1:06:08] Old timey radio show on Uruguay… is a bit dismissive of poor women
[1:14:46] Pacheqism – NOT to be confused with pacifism, too much torture for that
[1:16:30] Alive – plane crash and things only get worse from there
[1:23:28] South America in the 80s, how do you think it’s gonna go – “Politics is finished, I’m the leader.”
[1:30:38] Modern day – cannabis, football, music and good times

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

Some of the music we used in this episode, and other music we recommend:

Thanks this week to Nick Ison and Eoin Byrne, who backed our Kickstarter campaign. Your t-shirts should be on their way to you already. Thanks to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Panama (S1.03)

Audio: S1E03 Panama

In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Panamaa central American nation most famous its canal that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Located strategically on the tiny isthmus between Central and South America, control of this valuable trade route has been competed for by multiple powers throughout its fascinating history. The country is dominated by a central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide. Today, Panama is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the east, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital, Panama City, is home to nearly half of the country’s 3.9 million people. If you’re unfamiliar with the geography, just imagine the two continents of Central and South America hanging onto one another by a thread – Panama is that thread.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Ireland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Please leave us a review on iTunes, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter or drop us an email if there’s anything you’d like to say.

Some things you might want to read/listen more about:

  • Archaeological findings at various sites are described in the National Geographic article “‘Golden Chief’ Tomb Treasure Yields Clues to Unnamed Civilisation” by James Owen
  • The following video on YouTube shows the Ngobe Balseria traditions, including the sport which involves men throwing sticks at the legs of other men, while dressed in women’s clothing:
  • Some of the early colonists of significance: Rodrigo de Bastidas, who founded the first European settlement on the American mainland;  Vasco Núñez de Balboa,  who crossed the isthmus.
  • The Cimarrons of Sixteenth Century Panama“, an article by Ruth Pike (The Americas, 2007, vol. 64, no. 2, DOI: 10.1353/tam.2007.0161) gives a lot of detail on rebellions by African and African-descended escaped slaves in Panama, inlcuding “el rey negroBayano
  • We mentioned piracy a few times, as in important aspect of trade in the area in the early colonial period. Some well-known pirates who had an impact on Panama were Sir Francis Drake who sacked Nomre de Dios on the Carribean coast of Panama (1572) and the Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan who marched across the isthmus and sacked Panama City in 1713. The ruins of the old city are still there and the world remembers Captian Morgan today mostly for the brand of rum named after him!
  • BBC History has an article on “The Darien Venture” by Dr Mike Ibeji, describing the disasterous exploits of the Company of Scotland expedition, planned by William Paterson, bankrupting much of the country in the process
  • Richard Halliburton holds the Guinness World Record (from 1928) for lowest toll paid to pass through the Canal due to his low tonnage
  • The winding history of the Canal construction from the initial Frech attempt by Ferdinand de Lesseps to the intervention of US President Theodore Roosevelt (reknowned for his ‘robust masulinity’) is summarised here (PBS)
  • This article from PBS’s American Experience website desribes the contributions of militarty doctor William Gorgas to fighting yellow fever and malaria in the Isthmus of Panama as part of the canal works (and essential to its completion)
  • Notable political figures in Panama’s 20th century history: frequent president and fascist-sympathiser Arnulfo Ariasde facto leader and Maximim Leader of the Panamanian Revolution Brigadier General Omar Torrijos (if you get to make up your own title, make it a good one)
  • The Stuff You Should Know Podcast has an episode on “How the Panama Canal Works“, which is worth a listen
  • Trans-Americas Journey’s channel on YouTube has an accelerated video of the entire transit through the Canal, while this timelapse video shows a day of traffic through the Miraflores Locks – they are incredible and the only way to get a sense of the scale of the Canal
  • Some of the traditional music used in the episode comes from here.
  • The gruesome  torture and murder of Manuel  Noreiga’s opponent, nationalist Hugo Spadfora, is detailed in In The Time of Tyrants by R. M. Koster and other places – it is exemplary of the brutality of his regime
  • The full playlist played to force dictator Manuel Noreiga out of the Papal Nunicature during Operation Just Cause is detailed in the post-operational report, archived in George Washington University’s National Security Archive; an account of the event on the blog No Fear of the Future
  • Website Fun-With-Words has a history of Panama’s palindromes, in particular: “A Man, a Plan, a Canal – Panama
  • Fiesta” by Alfredito Payne is a cool funky Panamanian song