Posts Tagged ‘mexico’
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.
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.
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.
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”.
An exhibition honoring lucha libre legend El Santo opened in Mexico City late last month, marking the 25th anniversary of the fighter-turned-film-star’s death.
El Santo’s first famous silver mask, which he made himself out of pigskin, is one of the many precious items on display in the small show hosted by the art gallery in the Universidad Iberoamericana in Lomas de Santa Fe.
His silver leather boots, old comics starring the fighter, and some of the cloaks he wore in the ring can also be seen encased in glass in the exhibition.
El Santo, also known as the Silver Mask, was Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, born in Tulancingo in the state of Hidalgo on Sept. 23, 1917. He began fighting in the lucha libre when he was 18 years old. Before the debut of El Santo in 1942 in the Arena de Mexico — lucha libre’s temple in Mexico City — Guzman fought using a number of other names including Hombre Rojo (Red Man) and Murcielago (the Bat).
But the creation of El Santo was when Guzman really came into the spotlight, and his wrestling performances caught the attention of film-makers, who made the fighter the star of at least 50 motion pictures.
The exhibition is small but perfectly formed. However, its location is puzzling. What is a show about one of Mexico’s most famous and universally-loved personalities doing in a basement art gallery that is tucked away in one of the country’s most exclusive and expensive private universities?
Lucha libre is famous for being the sport of the people, beloved by el pueblo mexicano, and “las luchas,” as they’re affectionately called here, continue to be an affordable and frequent family outing for Mexicans throughout the country.
Not only will few people be aware of this new show dedicated to El Santo because of where it is, but it’s also not easy to get to. The Iberoamericana campus is about an hour’s drive from downtown Mexico City, and the campus is heavily-guarded.
The show was inaugurated last month by El Hijo del Santo, who is Jorge Guzman and El Santo’s son. He is a professional and popular lucha libre fighter himself now, and was the only one of the legendary luchador’s 11 children to follow in his footsteps. The younger Guzman studied communications at the Iberoamericana University, according to the biography on his official site, before stepping into the ring as a pro, which might explain why the show is there.
But, strolling around the near-deserted exhibit on a weekday afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel that the quality of the homage will go largely unappreciated by many of El Santo’s fans because of its nearly hidden location.
Image: A sculpture of El Santo’s silver mask in the form of a punching bag welcomes visitors to the exhibition in honor of the legendary luchador at the Universidad Iberoamericana. Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times. See more Lucha Libre related photos here on Flickr.
Attacks on the Press 2008: Carl Bernstein on Self-Censorship of the Press from Meredith Megaw on Vimeo.
Here in Mexico, we keep our eye on the frequent press-freedom reports that come out, given the high levels of violence against journalists in the country and the culture of impunity that abounds.
The organization ranked Mexico among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists:
“Growing violence associated with criminal organizations has made Mexico one of the world’s deadliest countries for reporters. Since 2000, at least 24 journalists have been killed, eight in direct reprisal for their work. Seven other journalists have disappeared since 2005.”
“Powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, gangsters in Brazilian slums, paramilitaries in Colombia,and violent street gangs in El Salvador and Guatemala are terrorizing the press. Self-censorship is widespread.”
The U.K.-based Frontline blog begins on a positive note about Colombia’s journalists, remarking that “according to the Foundation for Liberty and Freedom of the Press, no Colombian journalists were killed in 2008 for the first time in 23 years.”
But it goes on to say that a total of 130 journalists were killed in Colombia in the past 30 years. The CPJ reports:
“While violence in Colombia has eased in the last four years, it remains one of the world’s most murderous countries for the press. Forty reporters, photographers and editors in all have been killed since 1992, and the country has the highest per capita rate of unsolved journalist murders in Latin America.”
And 2009 has already got off to a bad start for Colombian journalists, continues Frontline.
According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, Maria Eugenia Guerrero, a Colombian journalist, was found dead on the outskirts of the Ecuadorian city of Tulcannear earlier this month,
“[Guerrero], who was working for the Integracion Estereo station in the southern Colombian city of Ipiales, was brutally assaulted and killed and her body was left in a remote area outside Tulcan. … The body, according to the forensics report, showed signs of sexual assault, and it is presumed the journalist was killed in a violent manner because a portion of her skull was not found and had presumably been detached as a result of a severe blow.” link
Take a trip to the cinema in Mexico anytime soon and you’ll probably see an ad campaign that scolds the Mexican public for buying pirated movies.
Purchasing any of the millions of pirated DVDs and CDs available at an estimated 50,000 “puestos” or open-air street stalls doesn’t, apparently, make one a great ethical shopper. In fact, it reflects badly on your character. That’s according to the campaign by Canacine (Camara Nacional de la Industria Cinematografica), an association that protects Mexico’s film production and distribution industry.
The ad currently running across cinema screens features three young middle-class girls hanging out in one of the girl’s bedrooms. Two of the girls are playing on the Internet, and the third discovers a pirated movie while browsing her friend’s bookshelves.
“Does your dad buy you these movies?” she asks her friend, a disgusted look on her face.
“Yeah, so?” says the friend.
“Que chafa!” the other girl exclaims, which roughly means, “What a cheapskate!”
The two friends then go on to taunt the other girl and accuse her of having a Papa Pirata (Pirate Papa) before the screen cuts to a line of text that says: “Buying pirated movies says a lot about who you are.”
The advertising campaign launched in December, and is an attempt to tackle the enormous problem Mexico has with pirated products. The International Intellectual Property Alliance says that around 90% of motion pictures sold in Mexico are pirated. At most street stalls, 20 pesos (around $1.38) buys you a pirated movie, and 50 pesos ($3.45) buys you three. In shops, the price of authentic movies on DVDs starts at around 100 pesos (nearly $7).
Piracy in Mexico is “entrenched” and “the sheer dimension of the piracy problem in the Mexican market remains severe and unchanged,” the IIPA says in its annual country report for Mexico (pdf file).
Growing Internet penetration is also increasing illegal music and movie downloads in the country.
Copies of “Che, the Argentine” were selling at black-market street stalls before the film’s official release in Mexico. You can already buy “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke, at a puesto near you, even though the film is yet to come out south of the border.
The seven or eight times I have seen the anti-piracy ad aired in the last month in Mexican theaters, it always elicited snorts of laughter from cinema-goers.
Maybe they’re amused by the running of such a campaign in cinemas when clearly, the people who go out to the movies are not the worst piracy offenders.
Or perhaps it’s just that piracy is such a normal part of Mexican life that the idea of getting rid of it seems ridiculous. Audaciously, many pirate-movie vendors flog their wares outside cinemas. There is always a woman selling pirated films outside the Cinepolis Diana on Avenida Reforma, and when leaving the parking lot of the Cineteca Nacional in the Coyoacan neighborhood (the city’s most important venue for art and foreign cinema) you can rely on finding a young man and his pirated movie stall specializing in — you guessed it — art and foreign film.
As if that weren’t enough, the indifference of Mexico City’s street cops speaks volumes about the attitude of the government towards piracy. You can frequently spot the city’s police perusing the pirated movie stalls, looking for something to take home and enjoy after a hard day on the job.
Image: Pirated goods are widely available on the streets of Mexico City. Taken from a video still by Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times.
Young animal rights activists took to the streets in central Mexico City on Sunday, chanting “Corridas de toros — vergüenza nacional (bullfights — a national shame).” They were protesting the hundreds of bullfights that take place here in Mexico.
The march was attended by about 800 people, most of them in their late teens or early 20s. It began at the Hundido Park on Avenida Insurgentes at midday, a few blocks from the Plaza de Toros Mexico, the biggest bullfighting venue in the country and one of the largest in the world with capacity to seat 48,000 people.
The protesters walked just a few blocks north, taking up a lane of traffic. Many of the motorists driving by honked in support.
Mariana Hernandez, a 20-year-old biology student clutching a sign that said “Ya Basta! (Enough, already)” said, “The bulls that they kill are living things. They shouldn’t kill them for fun.”
“The more of us that are here, the better,” said Manual Hernandez, 19, another protester. “This is the second year that I’ve come here and there are more of us every time.”
Many of the activists that we spoke to mentioned 11-year-old apprentice matador Michel “Michelito” Lagravere, who in January killed six calves in the bullring in Merida, southern Mexico.
“It’s such a cruel act and that a child of this age is promoting this type of activity and being treated like a hero is really bad. He killed six calves — in reality, that’s six children,” said 28-year-old Israel Arriola, another activist taking part in the march.
The protest was organized to coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the Plaza this week. Bullfighting was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s and nowhere is it more popular outside of Spain than in Mexico.
Claudia Ortega, 25, a coordinator at Animanaturalis.org, one of the organizations behind the march, said a survey conducted by the nonprofit group found that 75% of Mexicans are against bullfighting, but that very few act on their views.
“Each year, 250,000 bulls or horses die in bullfighting or related activities” worldwide, she said. Ortega expressed hope that protests such as Sunday’s might encourage more Mexicans to speak out.
Pasteleria Suiza in the trendy Condesa neighborhood in Mexico City put its own spin on the traditional Rosca de Reyes.
The bakery stuffs the oval-shaped cake, eaten by Mexicans on January 6th to remember the Three Wise Men, with a delicious, sweet cream.
Hundreds of Mexicans flock to the shop to buy the Roscas, which are then taken home to be shared with family and friends. Watch the video for more.
A group of Honduran men and women came to Mexico looking for their missing loved ones earlier this year. They claim that there are nearly 600 Honduran migrants who are missing in Mexico who disappeared whilst crossing Mexico to get to the United States.
Their visit coincided with a report that was published by Mexico’s federal human rights commission that alleged attacks against Central American migrants trying to cross Mexico were increasing.
Ada Marlen was 17 and already the mother of two children when she set out from her home in Honduras to seek work in the United States. That was in 1989; her family hasn’t heard from her since.
“Nineteen years ago my daughter started her journey, in search of her American dream, and to this day I don’t know anything about her,” said her mother, Emeteria Martinez.
The 70-year-old was among a group of 15 Hondurans who traveled to Mexico recently to search for missing relatives and draw attention to the perils Central American migrants face en route to the United States.
Tens of thousands of Central Americans traverse Mexico illegally each year on their way to the U.S. border. The trek, which can involve perilous journeys by boat and through isolated countryside and mean city streets, often ends unhappily.
Emeteria Martinez, 70, from Honduras holds a photo of her daughter Ada Marlen, who disappeared nearly twenty years ago during a visit to Mexico City. Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times
Julio Cesar, a 19-year-old metalworker, crawled on his knees for five hours to reach the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Surrounded by four of his friends, who had to physically support him in the final meters as he scaled the steps of the huge church, Cesar was fulfilling a promise.
“I asked the Virgin to look after my children,” he said, his young face burned red by the sun on this December day. His prayers were answered, he said, and this was his act of thanks to her.
Cesar was one of an estimated 7 million Mexican Catholics who made the annual pilgrimage to the basilica in Mexico City this week. Today is expected to bring the largest numbers of people to the spot that tradition holds is where the Virgin de Guadalupe, Mexico’s most revered saint, first appeared.
Bertin Nava, a salesman, and his girlfriend Mayra Sanchez, a hairdresser, both from the working class Iztapalapa neighborhood of Mexico City, walked hand in hand towards the church. Each of them had a small statue of the Virgin tucked under an arm.
“This is a family tradition. My father started coming when I was small and started the custom of coming every year, walking from the house to here,” said Nava.
He and Mayra had been walking for six hours. Nearby, Ricardo Lozano walked for two and a half days from Atlixco, in the central state of Puebla. He arrived Thursday. He had a thick blanket rolled and tied to his back, and walked gingerly on feet rubbed raw by his boots.
But he was in high spirits.
“I have a strong faith and wanted to make the journey to the Virgin,” he said.
Two churches actually stand on Tepeyac hill in the north of Mexico City, known as La Villa de Guadalupe – the old and the new basilicas. Both were besieged by visitors Thursday, many of them with heavy, wooden-framed effigies of the Virgin tied to their backs.
The show of faith was a formidable sight.
Image: Julio Cesar, a 19-year-old metalworker, crawled on his knees for five hours yesterday to reach the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City. Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times. Go to Flickr to see more photos of the annual pilgrimage.
Mexicans might be encouraged to do a bit of soul-searching today by a United Nations campaign, which has declared December 9th International Anti-Corruption Day.
Why should Mexico be particularly interested? Because, as we reported today, more than 5,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence so far this year – that’s more than double the toll for that time period in 2007. Although a lot of the violence is being put down to infighting within the drug gangs, corruption within Mexico’s police force and legal branch is also a major obstacle to bringing down the powerful drug networks.
President Felipe Calderon‘s government is currently undergoing a probe called Operation Cleanup, which has resulted in a number of ugly discoveries within its ranks. As Tracy Wilkinson reports in the dispatch linked above: “Mexican law enforcement has also suffered its worst corruption scandal in a decade, with dozens of senior officials and agents accused of accepting money to pass secrets to traffickers.”
Noe Ramirez Mandujano, for example, a veteran federal prosecutor who headed an elite organized crime unit known by its initials in Spanish, SIEDO, was arrested in November on suspicion of passing intelligence to drug gangsters based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, reported Ken Ellingwood.
A TV spot from the United Nations campaign marking today can be seen below, and shows how corruption is the responsibility of everyone, not just law officials. Few Mexicans and foreigners living in this country can honestly say that they haven’t in some way sanctioned a corrupt system, even if it’s something as small as paying off a policeman to get him out of one’s hair or tipping the garbage collectors for collecting the trash.
As we reported in April, Mexicans paid the equivalent of about $2.6 billion in bribes last
year, according to the nonprofit group Transparency Mexico. That’s 42%
higher than two years earlier and an average of more than $24 for each
of Mexico’s 105 million people. Much of the money went to fix parking tickets, get garbage collected
or secure parking spots from the legions of informal attendants who
block off spaces and charge for them.
Almost everyone who lives in Mexico shares blame because so many turn a blind eye to the corruption of others. So it’s smart of the spot to focus on individual responsibility.
On a side note, activism for a reduction of corruption around the globe is based around the U.N.’s Convention Against Corruption, which of course, Mexico has signed and ratified. The 2003 Convention was opened for signing by participating states in Merida, Mexico.
Posters such as the one here popped up on bus stops and billboards along my route to work across central Mexico City last week.
They feature men well known in Mexico — journalists, sports personalities, actors and singers — asking that their fellow males stop beating up and abusing women.
The captions on this poster say: “From man to man, more respect, let’s learn to listen to and work with women. Let’s be more fair, more like men,” and “Punches? Against a woman? Never!”
The campaign is being run by the National Women’s Institute in conjunction with last week’s International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Now, it is great to see men on the side of treating women fairly in Mexico. Amnesty International reports that nearly one in every four women in Mexico has suffered either physical or sexual aggression at the hands of an intimate partner. Some of the posters for this campaign claim that one in every two women is a victim of physical, emotional or sexual violence.
But it’s interesting that the minds behind this campaign chose to put men at the front of it. Do Mexican men need to be told by other Mexican men to stop beating up and abusing women? Is it not enough that women denounce the high levels of abuse and violence against females all the time? Apparently not.
The idea behind the campaign, says the accompanying press release, is to fortify values and attitudes that favor eliminating violent behavior toward women and discrimination against them. But the message that some might take away from this is that only men have the necessary weight and authority to do so.
The campaign is running on television, radio, print media, public transportation and the Internet and in other major cities across the country until Dec. 31.
Photo: A poster from an advertising campaign called “Men Against the Violence” from the National Women’s Institute in Mexico. Credit: National Women’s Institute website, http://www.inmujeres.gob.mx
Still on the doggy theme of last week, a documentary screening in Mexico City over the weekend focused on how Mexico deals with the thousands of stray dogs roaming its streets. And no, it did not paint a pretty picture.
La Cineteca Nacional, the city’s most important venue for art and international cinema, played host to the Saturday-night screening of “Companions to None (Companeros de Nadie),” the first full-length documentary from Dallas-based director Bill Buchanan.
The hourlong film is an unflinching commentary on the overpopulation of stray dogs in Mexico, who even outnumber us humans in some regions. Macho culture, argues Buchanan, goes some way to explaining why Mexicans are so reluctant to sterilize their male dogs. There is a common belief in Mexico, according to his narrative, that sterilizing a male dog will make the dog “gay.”
Without a doubt, the most impressive thing about the film, shot on digital video, is the access Buchanan gets for his lens. In a series of gruesome shots that even the most hardhearted will find difficult to watch, Buchanan’s camera captures the method used to rid the streets of the thousands of unwanted stray dogs in Mexico -– electrocution.
“That took a year to get permission for,” he said in a telephone interview this week.
He also documents a training class in which vets are instructed on how to carry out a more “humane” form of euthanasia via injection, the footage of which is simply heartbreaking.
Although “Companions to None” leaves little doubt about the brutality to which stray dogs are exposed on the rough streets of Mexico, Buchanan is realistic in his approach to the issue in a country where poverty and human suffering are rife. He wisely tackles the theme as one that affects, as well as reflects on, Mexicans, arguing that control over the dog population in Mexico is a public health issue, as well as a moral one — an argument that is very compelling.
But problems securing a wide distribution for the film may obstruct the diffusion of what is an important message. Buchanan said American networks such as Animal Planet, Discovery and HBO passed on broadcasting the documentary and that a deal with TV Azteca –- one of Mexico’s two main commercial broadcasters –- fell through.
Appearance on the other main TV network, Televisa, is possible, but it would depend on Buchanan and his team finding a sponsor first, which they haven’t yet. They have, however, signed a deal with LAPTV (Latin American Pay TV), a network that is a joint venture by Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and DreamWorks.
Such caution from the commercial TV world is understandable. “Companions to None” makes for some hard watching, and it isn’t exactly “entertaining” programming. Likewise, the majority of cinemagoers are often seeking escapism, not a cold, hard slap in the face, so interest from commercial cinema networks in Mexico is likely to be low.
The film has, as least, been made and is easily accessible to those who want to see it. The worthwhile activism that these sorts of documentaries represent often amount to preaching to the converted. But whereas it may not provoke the “fundamental shift in attitudes” of Mexicans toward stray dogs that the filmmakers are hoping for, it does at least bring into the spotlight a sorry tale of suffering and abuse that is impossible to forget.
You can watch the trailer for the documentary at the website http://www.companionstonone.com.
Photo: Dr Meredith Silverstein holds a puppy that had just been euthanized via injection in Monterrey, Mexico. The animal quickly falls asleep, and then its internal organs fail. Credit: http://www.companionstonone.com.
Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH is its Spanish acronym) appealed to authorities over the weekend to investigate thoroughly the recent killings of a number of journalists here, and to put an end to the impunity for those who murder members of the profession.
Since 2000, 45 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to the latest missive on the issue from the human rights body. Those who cover organized crime are especially at risk.
The appeal from the CNDH follows the recent murders of Miguel Ángel Villagómez Valle, editor of the newspaper La Noticia, in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán state; David García Monroy, columnist from El Diario, Chihuahua; and José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, from El Diario in Ciudad Juárez, in the state of Chihuahua.
The largest number of killings of journalists has been in Tamaulipas, where nine cases were recorded since 2000. Six journalists were slain in Chihuahua, and four in each of the following states: Veracruz, Oaxaca and Michoacán.
The CNDH also refers to the recent attack on the offices of the Culiacán newspaper El Debate earlier this month, which it said was an attack on the fundamental rights of the newspaper’s workers. Two grenades were thrown at the offices in the early hours of the morning of Nov. 17. No one was hurt.
Towards the end of last week, the global non-profit Reporters Without Borders issued a statement appealing to the international community, and especially the United States and Canada, to grant asylum to journalists fleeing Mexico.
Violence against journalists in Mexico has become increasingly intense over the last few years. In 2007, Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report that the country in 2006 was second only to Iraq in dangers for journalists.
Today, the CNDH said that it “deplores…the lack of results from investigations to identify and apprehend those responsible.”
As we hinted at earlier in the week, guerrilla-knitter Magda Sayeg of KnittaPlease.com hit the streets of Mexico City to take on her biggest challenge yet. It was her task to cover an entire bus with knitting, as is her style, and we caught up with her just as she was completing her task.
Organ grinders get in on the tagging action
Mexico City’s Zocalo isn’t immune to Sayeg’s touch
You can read more about KnittaPlease in the Art issue of Inside Mexico, which you can download here.
Images by Deborah Bonello.
Edited November 20th, 2008, 1:18pm local time. Link to Inside Mexico added.
Reports are surfacing this morning that the offices of the Culiacán newspaper El Debate were attacked with two grenades early Monday. The explosions, which shattered windows but caused no injuries, happened at around 1a.m when two youngsters wearing white shirts threw the grenades at the main entrance to the offices, reports La Jornada.
The area has been cordoned off by the Army.
El Debate is the largest newspaper in Sinaloa and “fairly aggressive in its organized crime coverage”, according to BorderReporter.com. As Tracy Wilkinson reported earlier this year, the city of Culiacán is the birthplace of Mexico’s multi-million dollar drug trade and home to some of the major players in Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.
El Debate is not the first newspaper to be targeted with grenades in Mexico, where attacks against journalists and the media – especially those who cover organized crime – are depressingly frequent. More than 30 reporters have died or disappeared in Mexico since 2000, the group Reporters Without Borders says.
In May last year, Cambio in the Northern State of Sonora closed its doors after two grenade attacks and what its editor said was a failure on the part of the Government to protect its 250 employees. In October 2007, journalists of the Oaxacan newspaper “El Imparcial del Istmo” resigned out of fear for their lives following the killing of three of the newspaper’s employees and repeated threats after the newspaper reported the finding of a grave containing seven corpses.
In February 2006, the offices of El Mañana newspaper in Nuevo Laredo were attacked by men wielding grenades and assault rifles. A reporter was left paralyzed and the paper later announced that it
would cease producing investigative reports on drug trafficking.
It turned out to be an unusual book launch. Scheduled to begin at 5pm yesterday afternoon in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, the authors Salvador Frausto and Témoris Grecko (both of them journalists) were to present their profile of Jorge Serrano Limón – Mexico’s most prominent Catholic fundamentalist and anti-abortion campaigner.
But when we arrived, attendees of the event were loitering outside on the sidewalk. “No hay luz,” they explained with a shrug. There was no electricity. That’s not unusual in Mexico City, only generally power cuts affect whole blocks. Last night, the light was only out in the Centro Cultural de Foco where the launch was scheduled to take place.
The organizers joked that it was sabotage, and friends of the authors reported that cables had been deliberately cut.
But we weren’t put off. At around 5:30pm we all shuffled into the building carefully, guided by candlelight into our seats. We sat in the darkness waiting for the presentation to start.
“Serrano Limón is a fundamentalist who thinks that the modern world is wrong,” stated Roberto Blancarte, a professor and investigator at the Colegio de Mexico and a specialist on religion. The organizers were sitting in front of a black backdrop on which had been mounted a simple, wooden cross.
And then, as Blancarte spoke, the light returned. An electric spotlight suddenly illuminated the speakers, cutting through the darkness like a celestial beam. The audience applauded.
“He epitomizes the right. He summarizes in brief what is a bigger phenomenon,” said Blancarte.
“El Vocero de Dios: Jorge Serrano Limón y la cruzada para dominar tu sexo, tu vida y tu país”, which translates loosely into “God’s spokesman: Jorge Serrano Limón and the crusade to dominate your sex, your life and your country”, is an in-depth look at the life of the conservative activist, who, according to the authors, “has influenced the Mexican public sphere for the last 20 years.”
The rhetoric of Serrano Limón is steeped in Catholicism’s most conservation traditions. A devout Catholic who claims to serve God, he at one stage considered the priesthood but instead opted for married life.
Frausto and Gecko report that he has opposed works of theater and art exhibitions, pitted himself against lawmakers and film directors, and planted himself in opposition to the use of condoms, the morning after pill and the legalization of abortion.
Mexico City is the only part of the country in which abortion is legal. Serrano Limón was at the frontline of a anti-abortion campaign earlier this year to overturn legislation implemented in April 2007 which decriminalized abortion in Mexico’s capital.
Blancarte said during last night’s presentation: “The problem is how much resonance he has with many people.”
To many Mexicans, Serrano Limón is a religious fanatic and moralist. In 2005, he was accused of diverting public funds in an incident that became known as the “tanga scandal”. His anti-abortion organization, called Provida, was fined 13 million pesos for spending public money on expensive watches and women’s underwear.
But the controversial activist has a broad base of support from many people in Mexico, as well as from the Roman Catholic Church and the more conservative strands of Mexico President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party.
Although Serrano Limón wasn’t there to defend himself last night, we were told by the authors that he has read the book. His supporters produced the following video in response, in which Serrano Limón says that he is a truly happy man who loves his wife, his children and his job. He describes himself as a common man, like any other, with faults and defects, but as someone who has taken the decision to defend his ideals.
“El Vocero de Dios: Jorge Serrano Limón y la cruzada para dominar tu sexo, tu vida y tu país” is published by Grijalbo, Random House.
– Deborah Bonello and Los Angeles Times investigator Cecilia Sanchez in Mexico City. This post was written for la Plaza, of the Los Angeles Times.
Magda Seyeg is a Texan artist who tags – but not with graffiti. She and her collective of guerrilla knitters – who you can touch base with at KnittaPlease.com – place knitted stuff on door handles, park benches, statues, lamp posts and virtually anything else standing in the street.
This week, Seyeg hit the streets of Mexico City to do one of her biggest jobs yet – wrapping a bus in her trademark knitted tags. Here’s some photo evidence, and watch this space for a video-profile of the artist coming real soon…..