"It's like an open secret," Charles Bergman says about the subject of our cover story ("Wildlife Trafficking,"). "Nobody talks about it very much. But it seems to be everywhere." Even so, tracking the traffickers was no day at an Ecuadorean beach. "There just wasn't anybody I could call up and say how should I go about finding people in the backcountry. I really had to do it myself, one step at a time, to get deeper into the jungle and see what's really going on." Bergman, who teaches literature and creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, first got interested in the problem as a Fulbright scholar in Ecuador in 2006-2007, where he spent many months in that country's rain forests before continuing his research in Brazil, Guyana and Mexico. "This is a large problem," he says, "and we need to start paying more attention to it. It's a problem that people know about but haven't really prioritized. All the local folks I met on the ground just feel they need some sort of larger commitment to help them rehabilitate animals that have been confiscated and also a commitment to regulate the illegal trade."
Francine Prose has great range. The author of several well-received novels—including Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award—she also writes about art, travel and, as she puts it, "whatever sort of grabs my interest at the moment." Her most recent book is Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife, which makes a persuasive case for Anne Frank's diary as an artistic, as well as human, triumph. For Smithsonian, Prose has written about the artist Caravaggio and the less-visited western coast of Japan, where tradition prevails. For this issue, she reports on her favorite Mexican city ("Savoring Puebla,"), home to one side of her daughter-in-law's family and the place where Prose's granddaughter, Emilia, was baptized in the summer of 2008. Prose arrived having heard that Puebla has the best food in Mexico. "And it really does," she says. "It's extraordinary. And I didn't know how beautiful the city is—the culture and the architecture. I was thrilled." Prose enjoyed just walking around Puebla's streets or wandering in the zócalo—the town's central plaza. "It's one of the most beautiful and relaxing public places of any I've visited in Mexico. You're surrounded by these gorgeous colonial churches and architecture, and then they're selling SpongeBob SquarePants balloons. It's a great place to hang out."