National oil company Pemex struggles as oil production drops. Carola Hoyos reports from Mexico for the Financial Times. Filmed, produced and edited by Deborah Bonello.
Feb 3rd 2010: The remittances that Mexican migrants send home to their families from a recession-bound US has dropped by 14 per cent over the last year. Adam Thomson visited the small town of Sengio in the Mexican state of Michoacan to see how families and local businesses are being affected by the drop off in funds. Filmed and produced by Deborah Bonello for the Financial Times.
Feb 3rd: Marriage between same-sex couples in Mexico City will become legal in early March. But Adam Thomson explains how the new rules are proving controversial and opponents are planning to take it to the Supreme Court. Produced and filmed by Deborah Bonello for the Financial Times.
Agustin Carstens, the recently appointed governor of the Bank of Mexico, talks about his predecessor as well as future plans for the bank and its relationship with Mexico’s federal government.
Click here and here for the two videos produced for the Financial Times. Thanks to Greg Brosnan, of Streetdog Media, for being the second cameraman, and the FT correspondent here in Mexico, Adam Thomson.
Central American migrants have long passed through Tultitlán on their way north to the United States because the trains on which the migrants ride north pass nearby.
The mayor of Tultitlán says the number of migrants arriving has increased over recent months and wants them deported, but local activist Paty Camarena continues to fight for their rights.
Although Mexico is currently in the grip of the worst drought it has suffered since World War Two, houses flooded and streets turned into lakes this week when torrential rainfall lashed down on Mexico City and the neighboring State of Mexico.
Speaking to El Universal, Ramón Aguirre, director of Mexico City’s water system, said that although the rains won’t be enough to replenish reserves enough to stop current water rationing.
See the video for more.
Video: Mexico: heavy rains can’t beat the drought. Credit: Deborah Bonello
Crops are wilting in the countryside, and the capital’s water shortage has turned dire as Mexico grapples with its worst drought in more than half a century.
Anyone with even a passing interest in Latin American art and culture will have heard of Diego Rivera, the Mexican painter and muralist. Rivera, who is credited with being one of the founders of the Mexican muralist art movement, was also an active communist and the husband of the equally famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals in Mexico City, Chapingo and Cuernavaca here in Mexico, as well as in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. Mexico City’s Palacio Pacional, or National Palace, is home to some of the paintings that Rivera did under government commission, and those works are currently the focus of a restoration project by the federal government.
Diligent specialists are touching up missing color with watercolor paints, and using a weak alcohol solution to wash away dust and grime that the murals have collected.The restoration program is expected to be completed in September.
See the video for more.
– Deborah Bonello in Mexico City for the Los Angeles Times.
Video: Specialists restore Diego Rivera’s murals in Mexico City’s Palacio Nacional. Credit: Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times.
The Canadian Embassy in Mexico City’s posh Polanco neighbourhood has been descended upon by thousands of Mexicans since the Canadian government announced on Monday that Mexican nationals now need a visa to travel to Canada.
Since Tuesday, Mexicans from Mexico City and states outside of the Federal District (another name for the capital) have been lining up around the block clutching envelopes and bundles of documents that they need to apply for the new visa. It’s up to the officials at the Canadian embassy to decide who qualifies and who doesn’t.
Much like the visa process Mexicans who want to visit the United States have to go through, they need to convince embassy officials that they only plan to visit, that they have enough money to do so, and that they won’t overstay their approved period of time in the country.
I spoke to many of the people lining around the block yesterday morning. They were, generally speaking, a very well-heeled, middle class bunch. All of those that I spoke to had already booked their flights when the Canadian government introduced the new visa restrictions.
The Canadian government explained on Monday that the new visa restrictions were in response to a surge in refugee applications from Mexican nationals. Reading between the lines, the new visa restrictions were in response to an increase in what they judge to be fraudulent refugee applications from Mexican nationals. As the news release stated:
In 2008, more than 9,400 claims filed in Canada came from Mexican nationals, representing 25 per cent of all claims received. Of the Mexican claims reviewed and finalized in 2008 by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent administrative tribunal, only 11 per cent were accepted.
The Canadian authorities have their reasons, but what still seems odd to me is that they should announce the new visa restrictions just two days before they came into force, throwing thousands of Mexican travelers into panic and dumping an enormous workload onto the embassy staff here in Mexico City. The usual working hours for visa issues is 8am to 1pm but staff have been working into the early evening over the last few days to cater to the demand for the new visa.
Watch the video for more on how Mexicans feel about the new visas.
Video by Deborah Bonello, created for the Los Angeles Times.
Deborah Bonello reporting for MexicoReporter.com
My breath is tearing out of my lungs and my leg muscles are screaming for a reprieve. I just scaled a 60-degree hill coated in thorny brambles and poisonous plants whilst being pounded by rain. In the dark. I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but it did. Later that night, my fellow journalists and I were kidnapped by masked guerillas who jumped onto our bus.
Our only comfort? That none of this was real. But it could have been, which is the point of the survival course 18 journalists who live and work in Mexico attended last week in Toluca, just outside of Mexico City.
During the five day survival program, the journalists dodged tear gas and Army tanks and learned how to survive in the wilderness. The psychological stresses were addressed, too; they learned strategies for dealing with emotions.
In Mexico these days, that may be the most important lesson of all.
“Once in Apatzingan a cameraman and I were taken,” says Miguel Garcia Tinoco, a 40-year-old journalist and owner of the Notivideo video news website based in Michoacan.
“They took us to talk with a drug-trafficking boss on a street in Apatzingan, and they wanted to make us write what they wanted, what they wanted to communicate.”
This group of traffickers gained infamy three years ago when they tossed the severed heads of six enemies onto the dance floor of a nightclub.
“They wanted us to publish an explanation of why they’d murdered those six people. What we told them was that we couldn’t make a decision in terms of what we published or didn’t publish in the newspaper – that it was up to the editor. And in the end my editor decided not to publish anything at all.”
Antonio Ramos Tafolla, a 58-year-old reporter in the same state as Garcia, was kidnapped and beaten up by a group he says he was never able to identify.
“It limited me and the boldness that I had before to write. It limited me but it didn’t shut me up or stop me thinking, but I have more reservations now.”
Some don’t get granted any conditions. Ramos said that a colleague of his went missing two years ago and has never reappeared. Garcia says the same of two other fellow journalists in Michoacan. They are three of the eight journalists currently listed as missing in Mexico.
It’s not only reporters covering Mexico’s drug traffickers and organized crime networks that run the risk of reprisals. These journalists recounted tales from covering everything from car accidents, massacres and assassinations, to shoot-outs, kidnappings and election campaigns.
Run-ins with the federal police, the army and local governors are common for any reporter who questions local power networks.
“Sadly, the army has seen us, to a certain point, as enemies,” Garcia said.
“They close their operations and don’t let us film, they don’t let us into some crime scenes to get information … And they also take away our gear and they assault us.”
Back in the classroom Dr. Ana Zellhuber gives the journalists some practical guidance in dealing both with people who have just come out of emergency situations, as well their own emotional reactions to tough circumstances.
“You’re not heroes,” she says. “You’re reporters. Everyone has a duty to perform – do yours. Don’t turn yourselves into one of the victims.”
Stories unfolded in the classroom. One of the four women on the course, a reporter from Tijuana, talked about the time she was approached by a man who said the Mexican Army had massacred people in his town.
She didn’t know what to do because as the man told her his story she knew she was going to cry but she worried that crying would draw attention to herself.
“There are no wrong emotions,” said Zellhuber. “And there are always emotions.”
Monica Franco is a 31-year-old journalist working in Puebla.
“Intimidation is a daily reality for us,” she told me.
“We’re not just intimidated by the police – we’re intimidated by government spheres, by press officers, intimidated by politicians and by civilians who now don’t see us as allies.
“A lot of co-workers end up losing the point of why we’re here, which is to inform and give a voice to those people who don’t have one. And that’s what leads a lot of people to see us as enemies of society.”
Franco hits on an interesting point. Some of the journalists that have been killed here in Mexico over the last few years (see here for more numbers) were targeted as a direct result of reports they’d filed.
But in Mexico, where training is in short supply, wages are pitifully low and reporters aren’t protected or helped by their employers, it’s easy to see how they themselves can fall prey to corruption.
Franco says that someone broke into her home in Puebla. The burglars only stole journalism gear, nothing else.
“Instead of helping us we were intimidated by the police and told that due to our jobs, they could break into our homes, she said.”
They never learned who did the break in, Franco says.
“We just put up a stronger gate on the front door.”
Article 19 and the Rory Peck Trust organized the survival course, which took place between May 17th – 22nd in Toluca, Mexico.
Mexico’s “Museum of Drugs,” buried up on the seventh floor of the Defence Ministry, isn’t open to the public. The installation was designed as an educational tool for military personnel who have been tasked with fighting Mexico’s narco-trafficantes and organized crime networks. It explains the methods that drug traffickers use to get their product around and out of the country, as well as the strategies that the army employs to try and stop them.
You can’t have failed to notice that Mexico is in the grip of a swine flu outbreak. Schools, museums and theaters are shut, people have been warned by the government not to kiss or shake hands when they say hello, and around half the people on the street are walking around wearing surgical face masks.
But the swine flu outbreak isn’t just taking its toll on people’s health. Local businesses are also starting to suffer as customers stay away. Watch the video for more.
It wasn’t hard to imagine what the real crucifixion of Christ might have been like if you were anywhere near the populous, working-class neighborhood of Iztapalapa in Mexico City last Friday.
Nothing was left to the imagination in what is one of the world’s biggest Passion plays. Holy Week, or Semana Santa, sees the staging of a number of scenes from the Bible on the streets of Iztapalapa, including Palm Sunday and the Resurrection. But none are as dramatic as the reenactment of Good Friday.
An estimated 2 million people descended on Iztapalapa on Friday to witness the 166th annual crucifixion, this year of Diego Villagran, the 18-year-old local playing the role of Jesus.
The sheer number of people taking part in or watching what was well-organized chaos was similar to portrayals of the crucifixion one might have seen in films such as “Ben-Hur” and Mel Gibson’s controversial “The Passion of the Christ.” Babies and young children sat atop their parents’ shoulders, crammed into crowded streets and pushed up against police barriers as some of the 4,000 actors in the street play bayed for the blood of “Christ”.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s ubiquitous street vendors showed no shyness in taking advantage of the religious event. They were everywhere, flogging sunhats, bottled water and stamps of the face of Jesus, while offering to imprint the faces of those willing to pay five pesos.
The heat of the April sun, combined with the severe water shortages that the borough also experienced over the week, made the setting feel uncomfortably real. When the blood-soaked “Jesus” staggered past, surrounded by a jeering crowd that kept pushing him to the ground and laughing, it was hard to resist the urge to wade in and save him from his violent destiny.
But Villagran was well prepared for his ordeal. He has been in training for the role since January, when he was selected during a casting process from 20 young men from the neighborhood (watch the video above, filmed over a period of three months, to see Villagran prepping for his big day).
Playing the lead made Villagran into a temporary celebrity here in Mexico, and he says he has had at least one media interview a day since he was given the role.
Over the last few months in the build-up to his big week, Villagran trained daily on the Cerro de la Estrella, a steep hill that doubled as Mount Calvary on Friday. His preparation included dragging a 190-pound cross around a 2.5-mile running track and doing push-ups with a brick on his back.
But he also said that he had to do some spiritual preparation for the role that included, naturally, regular visits to church, but also what he described as “finding himself, within himself,” and asking himself at every step of the process why he was doing it.
“It doesn’t scare me to play this role – it makes me feel proud and gives me confidence,” says Villagran, who is unusually tall for his 18 years and stands head and shoulders above most of the men in the neighborhood.
Although a big guy, Villagran is still boyishly handsome, and he was striking in the role of Jesus. But he says that acting isn’t something he’s planning to pursue, adding that he’s more interested in becoming an engineer at the state-owned oil company Pemex.
“Since I was little, I’ve watched the procession, and I always wanted to see myself there – I always wanted to play the main role,” says Villagran.
“And now that they’ve given me the chance, I’m going to make the most of it.”
Well, he certainly did.
Video: Diego Villagran trains for the role of Jesus on Iztapalapa’s Cerro de la Estrella. Photo image: A video still taken from the above film. Click here for more images on Flickr. Video and photographs by Deborah Bonello
Traffic on Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma was blocked briefly last Friday afternoon by an actor in the role of Jesus.
Wearing a long white robe over jeans and sneakers and carrying a cross fashioned roughly out of wood, ”Jesus” took a tumble on a pedestrian crossing on the traffic artery in front of the U.S. Embassy while on his way to Calvary Hill.
But Friday’s performance wasn’t part of Mexico’s traditional Semana Santa (Easter week) activities, which are now in full swing. The depiction of the crucifixion of Christ in the tradition known as the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, had a cross-border purpose.
Organized by pro-immigration activists, the street performance depicted Jesus as a Mexican migrant, and as the actor walked around dragging his cross, others wearing T-shirts emblazoned with ICE (U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion, Mexico’s national migration agency) flogged him from behind shouting, “Walk, wretch, walk!”
One of the organizers was Elvira Arellano, who shot into the spotlight in both the United States and Mexico in 2006 after she took refuge in a Chicago church to avoid being deported back to Mexico. Click here to read more about Arellano’s case.
Arellano was eventually deported, leaving behind her 10-year-old son Saul, who was born in the United States after she had crossed the border illegally from Mexico.
“It’s very sad that the migration policies treat us as though we were basically terrorists or criminals,” Arellano said in an interview after the protest.
“We’re just families looking for a better life. We want to live better and we all believe we have the right to look for work opportunities. Unfortunately, we don’t find those opportunities here in Mexico, which is why we go looking for those opportunities in the United States.”
Arellano, who was accompanied by protesters carrying signs that said “Stop the Deportations” in English and Spanish, implored Mexican as well as U.S authorities to show more respect for migrants’ human rights. As we reported last year, tens of thousands of Central Americans traverse Mexico illegally each year on their way to the U.S. border. Migrants have been maimed or killed hopping aboard freight trains. Others are robbed or raped.
Often, they are arrested and held in squalid cells or denied medical care. In hundreds of cases, Central American families never hear from their relatives again.
“Mexico’s National Migration Institute is complicit with the U.S immigration authorities because here in Mexico they ignore the rights of migrants who come from Central America,” Arellano said.
Thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally every year.
See the video for more.
Image: A Mexican man playing the role of Jesus takes a tumble in front of the U.S embassy Friday during a street theater performance depicting Jesus as a Mexican migrant. Click here for more images on Flickr.
You may remember Eufrosina Cruz from this Column One article last year by Hector Tobar and Maria Antonieta Uribe. Cruz is a 28-year-old indigenous woman from the state of Oaxaca who is an activist for the rights of indigenous women. Cruz rebelled against the restrictions of her own community, where Zapotec is the native language, to become a college-educated accountant.
We caught up with her in Mexico City earlier this week during an event in which she launched a foundation, called Quiego, that she says will dedicate itself to providing shelter, education and work opportunities to indigenous women from poor, rural communities.
See her introduce herself here.
Speaking at a packed news conference about the women of her rural community, Santa Maria Quiegolani, in the southern highlands of Oaxaca, Cruz said: “Because we’re in the mountains, no one hears us, no one listens to us.”
She explains in the video below why she decided to speak out against some of the traditions and customs of her community in a cause that has gained national recognition.
I asked her whether she saw a conflict between her struggle and that of other indigenous communities to gain recognition and respect for a way of life that is often quite different from mainstream Mexico.
The most famous indigenous struggle here in Mexico is embodied by the masked guerrilla, Subcomandante Marcos, who led the Zapatista army out of the jungle in 1994 in a short-lived uprising.
The 1994 revolt, which lasted all of two weeks, demanded the recognition of indigenous rights. As Tracy Wilkinson reported last year about a speech Marcos made, the uprising was also “aimed at dramatizing the bleak living conditions, poverty and alienation of Mexico’s indigenous population.”
But does Cruz’s struggle to improve the lot of women in these communities undermine the struggle by Marcos and others to gain recognition and, in some cases, autonomy for indigenous traditions and customs?
Article 25 of the state constitution of Oaxaca establishes the rights of groups such as the Zapotecs to elect municipal officials according to the “traditions and democratic practices of the indigenous communities.” But women living, for example, in Cruz’s community are lucky to complete grade school, and the roost is ruled by a male-only assembly. Cruz’s sister was married off to a stranger when she was 12 years old.
Here are her thoughts on the issue.
Last week, I was invited to speak at the University of Texas Pan America about this website, MexicoReporter.com, violence against journalists in Mexico, the drug war coverage and how new technologies are contributing to the journalism beast. So I went.
The day started with a panel discussion about media coverage of the “drug war” in Mexico. I can’t help but put those two word in commas because, well, it just makes it sound so dramatic. Although it IS dramatic — the violence I mean — it’s not like the whole country is at war. Far from it.
The panel was filled by three representatives from local media, as well as three journalists from Mexico – none of whom spoke great English so a lot of the discussion was lost in translation.
The panel session was rather like a lot of television news – about a mile wide and an inch deep. It was frustrating because it focused so much on the current border violence plaguing the line between Mexico and the United States, without delving any deeper.
As I said pointed out during the discussion, the drug-related border violence between Mexico and the United States is really just the head of the beer – the violence is present in many of the country’s states and failing to report that misrepresents the problem.
Failing to report the U.S’s seemingly insatiable appetite for narcotics — which is the main driver between the illegal trade — is also problematic. One of the speakers described the responsibility of the U.S for the drug violence problems in Mexico as a “school of thought.” I’d say it’s a hard fact, not a theory. People buy fair trade coffee but then roll up a joint or have a few lines of coke at the weekend — chances are they haven’t stopped to think much about where their drugs come from and at what price in the same way that they worry about the origins of their coffee.
There was also a lot of concern over whether the border violence is “spilling over” into the United States. There was a lot of difference of opinion over that issue, and not one that I could apply any of my own experience to being based mainly in Mexico City. What I DO know that the Los Angeles Times (full disclosure: I spend the majority of my time working for them) has reported drug-related incidents spilling over into the United States here and here.
It’s also been reported by the LATimes that the drug cartels are moving in on the people smuggling business.
The other thing the television reporters during the event in Texas were especially were keen to talk about was what they see as the similarity between Mexico with the Iraq and Afghanistan.
That was a hard one for me to sit still through. Although the drug-related violence around Mexico is widespread and brutal, there are also huge swathes of the country — Mexico City being one of them — where you wouldn’t even know that there was a “war” on between the drug traffickers, as well as between them and law enforcement .
It’s my understanding that the vast majority of the 7,300 or so people that have been killed in drug-related violence since the start of 2007, when Calderon’s offensive began in earnest, are either law enforcement agents, drug traffickers or people involved in some way with the drug trade. Innocent civilians have been caught in the cross-fire, but they’re in the minority.
The media coverage of the drug war shows us how now more than ever, in these times of media accountability and economic hardships, we have to balance information and news provision with a need to entertain and engage audiences.
Everyone wants to report accurately, but they also want good ratings / reading figures / hits. Good reporting takes time and money — the internet means that news rolls now, there ARE no deadlines. Blood and guts gets more viewers / readers. In a time and cash-poor world, its understandable that alot of coverage focuses on the blood and guts of the illegal drug story. Understandable, but is it forgivable?
“Los Que Se Queden” (Those Who Remain) scooped the prize for best Mexican documentary at the closing of last week’s Guadalajara International Film Festival.
The film, which we featured on La Plaza on Friday, was made by Mexican directors Carlos Hagerman and Juan Carlos Rulfo and is an intimate study of the families and homes left behind in Mexico by the migrants who head north.
Gerardo Tort’s road trip movie, “Viaje Redondo” (Roundtrip), also featured on La Plaza last week, was awarded the prize for best Mexican fiction feature. One of actresses who stars in the picture, Teresa Ruiz, who plays Lucia, won the best actress prize in the category.
“La Teta Asustada” (The Milk of Sorrow), a Peruvian film by director Claudia Llosa, won the prize for best Iberoamericano fiction feature. Magaly Solier, who stars, won the prize for best actress in the category. The film is about a young woman who had been born as a result of her mother’s rape.
For a full list of winners at this year’s Guadalajara International Film Festival, go to their web page here.
See the video for a review of “Los Que Se Queden” (Those Who Remain).
Peter Gabriel, the musician and activist, implored Mexico President Felipe Calderon to show “real political will, muscle and budget” in investigating the hundreds of unsolved murders of young women in the border town of Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua Friday.
Speaking to a packed press conference through a translator, and flanked by Mexican film star Diego Luna and musician Saul Hernandez from the band Jaguares, Gabriel said that he asks no more young women have to suffer the same fate as more than the 300 girls and young women who have been murdered in the border town since 1993.
He also asked that “all those families who are still suffering an enormous pain have the chance to find out the truth of what happened to their kids, to their family members, and to get some kind of justice and reparation.”
Towards the end of the press conference, Gabriel was asked what he thought about the current levels of drug-related violence in Mexico and whether Calderon’s military strategy would be a success. The drug war in Mexico has killed more than 7,000 people since the beginning of 2008 — read more about it here.
Gabriel answered that a new, global approach was needed to fight the illegal drug trade, and that, in his opinion, legalization of drugs is the obvious solution.
“I would rather the doctors were administering the drugs than the drug traffickers,” said the musician.
Peter Gabriel is a prominent human-rights activist, and in 1992 founded the nonprofit group Witness, which uses video and online technologies to bring human-rights violations to light.
A press release from the federal government about the meeting between Calderon and Gabriel reported that “President Calderón pledged to combat any abuse of authority and to promote the repairs of damage to victims. At the same time, he confirmed his government’s will to combat impunity. He said that federal forces are collaborating with the local authorities to solve the cases of feminicides.”
See the video for footage from the press conference.
It’s an old formula. Throw together two feisty characters from different sides of life’s tracks and let the sparks fly. It might be an old strategy but it still works, as demonstrated by “Viaje Redondo” (“Round Trip”), Mexican director Gerardo Tort‘s road-trip chick flick currently competing at the Guadalajara International Film Festival for best Mexican feature film.
Tort chose two virtual unknowns to play the leads in the movie, although it’s unlikely that either Cassandra Ciangherotti (Fer) or Teresa Ruiz (Lucia) will remain in the shadows for much longer after their performances.
Fer and Lucia are thrown together at a service station after Fer, a skinny, middle-class hippie chick from Mexico City, accuses Lucia of stealing her wallet.
Lucia is what here in Mexico would be called ruda. A single, teenage mom brought up in the working-class neighborhood of Acapulco, she’s not impressed by Fer’s class-based assumptions, nor her yin-and-yang musings and references to “spiritual energies.”
But fate has plans for the two girls, who are both on their way to track down their various love interests. After Fer’s car breaks down they’re forced to spend two nights together, during which they break down each other’s pretenses and barriers, baring themselves in, yes, you’ve guessed it, more ways than one.
There’s a rather predictable girl-on-girl love scene toward the end of the movie. Not only was it completely out of character, especially for the working-class, conservative, Virgin-of-Guadalupe-loving Lucia, but it didn’t contribute to the story in any way. It feels almost like the scene was thrown in there because the two girls are so young and pretty — well, it’d be a shame not to see them kissing, right?
But that aside, the narrative holds together well and the viewer can’t help but develop a fondness for both Fer and Lucia in their separate searches for true love.
I’m on the hoof, but wanted to report on some of the films I’ve seen so far here at the Guadalajara International Film Festival.
Firstly, I caught Rabioso Sol, Rabioso Cielo(Raging Sun, Raging Sky) directed by Julian Hernandez, trailer above. Excellently shot — with a very photographic eye — but sexual content over style and practically no script meant it wasn’t much of a turn on.
The excellent Viaje Redondo (Roundtrip) by Gerardo Tort — I can’t seem to find their trailers online but here’s their web page. Two girls from totally different Mexican worlds end up on an unintended roadtrip together, and both end up much better off than when they started.
Today, I was delighted to finally catch “Los Que Se Quedan” (Those That Remain), a documentary about the worlds and families that the thousands of Mexican migrants living in the United States leave behind. Much more to come on that but you can check out the film’s web page here for now in the meantime…
The music of Mexico’s drug trade has taken a beating lately. As we reported from Tijuana last year, some radio stations south of the border have stopped playing the songs and promoters have banned the music from many public events. Nightclub owners ask bands to turn down narcocorrido requests.
Richard Marosi wrote: Narcocorridos still draw legions of fans, despite government
efforts to squelch the music. Calor Norteña played the song about
Villarreal only because of repeated requests from hard-drinking
bar-goers. But it was a momentary exception to a backlash that has
succeeded like none before in changing people’s attitudes toward the
music, say members of several bands, nightclub owners, concert
promoters and government officials.
They describe a growing dislike, even revulsion, for music that critics
say celebrates the people terrorizing a community that has suffered at
least 207 violent deaths this year. Attendance at narcocorrido concerts
has dipped; bands say audiences request the music less and less,
preferring dance and romantic tunes that take their minds off the
But Mexican artist Cristina Rubalcava wasn’t put off by the controversy. After writing a song for los Tigres Del Norte about the controversial 670-mile fence project along the U.S.-Mexico border, she got to listening to some of the band’s narcocorridos and created a mural that illustrates phrases from more than 40 of their canciones. Watch the video for more.
In El Alberto, a small village over 1000km from the border between Mexico and the US, tourists can pay to experience what it’s like being an illegal migrant. MexicoReporter.com accompanied the Guardian’s Jo Tuckman to film the video for her piece on the fake border crossing, where participants try to enter “America”.
Garcia Bernal, star of films such as “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “Babel” and “Amores Perros”, is to be the recipient of the Guadalajara Prize which recognizes the contributions of a person from Latin America to international cinema.
The film star isn’t just a pretty face — Garcia Bernal is also the co-founder of the documentary film festival Ambulante with his close friend and fellow actor Diego Luna. Ambulante just finished its fourth run in Mexico and has traveled to many parts of the world including the United States, Britain, Ireland
The statement from the Guadalajara film festival (pdf) commends Garcia Bernal for his “tireless concern for films”, adding; “Gael Garcia Bernal is the executive producer along with Diego Luna of Canana Films, a company founded by Pablo Cruz with the goal of bolstering Latin American production and lending support to new filmmakers. Films such as Como Voy a Explotar by Gerardo Naranjo, Sin Nombre by Cary Fukunaga and Sólo Quiero Caminar by Agustin Diaz are part of this company’s productions.”
Well done Gael, but given that he is being commended for many of the initiatives he has done jointly with pal Diego Luna, it’s hard to see why Luna isn’t getting the prize too.
Image: Gael Garcia Bernal at the opening of this years Ambulant documentary film festival in February. Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times.
In a country with such a rich artistic heritage of mural-ism, graffiti is a popular past-time for many of Mexico´s youth.
Last week, Henry Chalfant – a photographer and filmmaker who has focused his career on documenting the form of street art — paid a visit to el Faro, a community arts center in the working class neighborhood of Iztapalapa, Mexico City. The event was organized by Graffitarte, a Mexico City-based arts group.
Some of the young people who came to the event were there specifically to see Chalfant — others just wanted the chance to graffiti in peace in a city where space for their form of expression is limited. Watch the video for more.