Construction begins next month on a new barrier at the Border Field State Park in San Diego, across from Playas de Tijuana, where the U.S.-Mexico border meets the Pacific. The Union-Tribune reports that the new wall will effectively end the cross-border family meet-ups, volleyball matches, yoga sessions, and human cannonball stunts that have made this spot of Earth a completely unique binational social space that is internationally known and studied. The paper says:
Work in the park has begun. Visitors once could set up their chairs along the fence on the beach or on a dirt strip between the fence and the parking lot. Recently installed plastic mesh blocks access to all but the monument area and the lower section on the sand.
I've changed my mind. While watching the newly inflamed debate in Los Angeles right now over the actual, for-real, 100% factual boundary of what is Eastside and Westside, in a city that has always had trouble defining its boundaries to begin with, I think fluidity on those definitions from here on out is the way to go.
Let's relax a little, first off. At Jesus Sanchez's new blog, an anonymous commenter called him an "idiot" for the unpardonable crime of using the term "Eastsider" in his masthead. Total dick move, come on. This kind of discourse is convincing me that Eastside essentialists need to chill out. Here's why.
The boundaries and borders and cores and nodes of Los Angeles have and always will be shifting, like the city's very culture, its competing visions of itself. Lines are continually negotiable. From what we're learning today, an early east-west demarcation seems to have been given to streets radiating in both directions from Main Street in downtown. Later on came Western Avenue and Eastern Avenue, hinting at a subsequent shifting in the poles. Who knows when or how La Brea became such a powerful line in the sand. It doesn't really matter.
Because as L.A. grows and transforms, and it's always growing, always transforming, change is the only constant. That may bother some who maintain super-strict readings of its intra-regional borders, but well, what are you going to do? I say listen to Mike Kelley:
My personal belief is that the term East Side is just the vernacular of the particular group using the term. Its appropriate if the person receiving the communication understands what is being referenced since there is no official city designated East or West Side.
The root of the anxiety for some is of course the gradual gentrification of Eastside proper. But this is how we can avoid trouble. There must be uniform consensus that defining Eastside fluidly should not erase the traditional historical cultural "Eastside" of the universal imagination, the old-school brown capital.
Just school your friends: The true Eastside will always be east of the river, but the city is big enough to have different perspectives on where East and West begin and end today, in 2008, and moving forward.
* Photo above via LA Eastside.
The Mexico City-based artist, represented by Kurimanzutto, is at the Pompidou in Paris on Thursday night to present his video "La Discipula del Velocimetro," or 'Disciple of the Speedometer.' The new work focuses on a wealthy Mexican woman named Emma who hunts for thrills driving race cars.
* Miguel, spotted often at Covadonga with his dad, recently put out a book. For its release party in April, local art mavens gathered at the dimmed rooftop bar at gloriously go-go Hotel Sevilla, on Reforma.
* Above, pomp and patriots, via Poblanerias.
There are few traditions more prized in a Mexican culture jammed with traditions than the "Grito," the Yell or Call of Independence that sparked the war for liberation from Spanish rule in Mexico in 1810. It is re-enacted in plazas across Mexico and anywhere Mexicans call home. So it is with total outrage that Mexico is absorbing the bloodshed during the Grito in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, a week ago on Monday night.
Just as the governor Leonel Godoy rang the traditional bell and yelled the final 'Viva Mexico!', a fragmentation grenade blast ripped through the crowds gathered at Plaza Melchor Ocampo. Another followed a few blocks away. When the explosion struck, news footage catches a massive gasp and scream from revelers, who thought the boom was part of the show.
Eight people died and more than 100 were injured in the attack blamed, so far, on narco ring La Familia. Except that La Familia is denying involvement and expressing solidarity with the people of Michoacan. They're blaming the Zetas. The New York Times's next-day headline on the Morelia massacre noted prudently that the attacks occured in the president's hometown. Felipe Calderon's entire administration has been guided by a military-backed campaign of confrontation against inter-feuding cartels operating a US$50 billion industry. Michoacan is where Calderon began his offensive nearly two years ago. Random civilians had been caught in cross-fire but never directly targeted. The layers of symbolism of the attack are lost on no one.
There's already been plenty of officially fed speculation and false-alarms over who was truly responsible and with what intent. Who actually did it we may never know, but virtually all branches of Mexican society were quick to label the attack an act of "terrorism." News anchors on Televisa were practically draping themselves in Mexican flags last week. Morelia is still effectively militarized.
Here it is referred to as narcoterrorism, and it catapulted in Morelia the narco war to an entire new level. The effects of this targeted, specified conflict aren't seen immediately on your street or your commute but they are there. Thousands of lives lost this year alone, with mounting tales of incomprehensible violence, and it's pretty clear who is winning.
Yet the war continues, with no apparent re-evaluation of strategy, and with the continued support of United States policy. And now the Morelia attack. Calderon is so far talking tough, calling for unity under his leadership and admitting to corruption and narco ties among the ranks of politicians. "Unity yes, but for what?" asked the Chamber of Deputies.
One week since Morelia, we are already witnessing in Mexico how terrorism, dealt with in improper ways, is breeding a culture of fear, opening the door for a politics of fear, or something even less pleasant. In other words, if things are bad now, chances are they may get a lot worse.
In honor of the autumnal equinox, from new TV on the Radio album "Dear Science," the video for the track "Golden Age." Via The FADER, which says the narrative has something to do with 2012. It's the hyper-cosmic subject that dare not speak its own name; that's come up in phantom form on Intersections a few times before.
If you ask me, TV on the Radio is a band that was somehow spawned by future all-plane intergalactic journeys. There is a kind of classical drama to their music. New York magazine notes in discussion of its third album: "They genuinely aspire to greatness. None of their peers can match their proficiency at bending and blending musical styles, fusing rock and jazz and soul and doo-wop and I could list ten more." * Link.
* Previously, "Get your future wedding party dance moves."
* Above: 'We want better treatment from the authorities,' by AP via OB Rag.
The Baja California state penitentiary in Tijuana is a square block of concrete that looms over the dusty flats of La Mesa. Among locals it is known as "La Peni." We used to go there when we were little to visit cousins and uncles who were locked up. Back then family-time at La Peni was basically a carnival. Because inmates are given next to nothing by the authorities, many made a living inside by setting up food stands and games and rides for little kids. La Peni has always been every man, and every family, for themselves.
Since Sunday, chaos and death has blanketed La Peni and the surrounding streets as male and female inmates rioted, leaving at least 19 dead, and immeasurable outrage and agony among relatives waiting to hear word on their loved ones inside. Numbers on the deaths have varied because for most of the week the scene has been a cauldron of absolute mayhem.
My mother, who has been inside La Peni as recently as a couple months ago, writes to me:
It is literally Hell. Women detained for three months for stealing diapers from a store. Water from the tap, if at all. Rotten food. Twenty people in a cell for six, the rest on the floor. How were they not going to finally pile up? Anyone who protests such injustice, they rip their head open with blows.
As the Union-Tribune notes, conditions at La Peni are truly horrendous, the most glaring disgrace being the facility's overcrowding. The paper says the first riot may have been sparked by the death of an inmate at the hands of guards. Women rioted on Wednesday. University of San Diego's David A. Shirk lays guilt for the tragedy squarely on the government: "It's the ugly stepchild of President Calderon's criminal justice reforms. There's been little attention in Mexico to penal system reform."
The U-T also published the names of Peni inmates transferred out after the disturbances and the names of those injured. "Who's going to answer for those 19 dead?" Mom writes. "The hundreds of injured they say are inside? No food or water for five days? The infrastructure destroyed. No guards. What impotence, not able to do a thing."
Conocí a Quetzal en noviembre 2007 cuando llegué a la ciudad y al instante nos hicimos cuates. Era facil juntarnos en domingos en el mercado para comer quesadillas y chismear -- éramos vecinos. Platicábamos sobre moda, música, ciudades, sexo, amores, cosas rudas, siempre de buen humor, siempre en apoyo mútuo.
Se me hace surreal y totalmente injusto que ya no esté con nosotros. No lo entiendo. Mis pensamientos estarán con su familia a diario.
Aquí comparto algunas fotos documentando un poco de nuestras adventuras en lo underground -- y above-ground -- de la Ciudad de México. Quetzal y la cámara eran amantes total. Dedico estas imágenes primeramente a su familia y también a sus amigos y al público.
* Previously, "Quetzalcóatl Rangel Sanchez, 1985-2008." ** Post editado.
Nelson Vargas Basáñez, the former head of Mexico's national sports commission, took to the public in heart-wrenching fashion this week the nightmare of losing a child to kidnappers. Vargas held a teary press conference pleading for the authorities to solve the case of his missing daughter Silvia and calling for all of Mexican society to help in his search. Photographs of the man grimacing before images of his daughter were plastered all over the front pages of the dailies on Thursday. The family has a webpage for Silvia and has rented a billboard on Reforma to deliver their message.
Watch video of the press conference at El Universal. Silvia Vargas, 18, was kidnapped from her 2001 Ford Escape on her way to school on the morning of September 10, 2007. Her parents re-parked the car this week on the spot where it was found a year ago in the hopes that new witnesses will come forward.
* Previously, "Fall-out from the Fernando Marti case: 'Let them rot!'"
In popular lore high school reunions are worth nothing more than a groan and a laugh. Over Labor Day, while in self-imposed exile here in Mexico, I regret missing my 10-year high school reunion with the San Diego SCPA Class of 1998. From the photos and emails, it sounds like it was basically a chill weekend-long kick-back. Now that's style.
High school is the culture that begins to form you, for better or worse. For me, it was about the border, it was about hip-hop and R&B, it was ultimately about cultivating an openness to all styles and approaches. Looking back, SCPA's ghetto-glam artsy-fartsy pre-Obama post-racial Class of '98 was an exceptionally tight and diverse city-kids crew. And it sounds like everyone is pursuing their dreams with true gusto -- even the dude who ended up doing porn. No one's mad at cha!
Last week Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivered his second annual "Government Report" to the Congress, and to the customary analysis and critique in the papers and punditry. But for the general citizenry's convenience, Los Pinos also has a YouTube channel, where the president's direct-address sub-reports are now viewable -- and open for comments.
Above is Calderon's report on the security situation in Mexico. The president, a PAN man, focuses on enforcement successes and offers cursory regrets for the thousands of lives lost in the country's internal narco war since he took office. Watch when he mentions Zenghli Ye Gon and makes a point to refer to him as a "citizen of Chinese origin."
* Previously, "Mediocrity of Message: The march against insecurity."
Kurimanzutto's website is lately featuring a favorite YouTube clip once a week by one of its many prominent artists; the current pick is by Daniel Guzman. The gallery, one of the most cutting-edge in the capital, is set to open a permanent space in San Miguel Chapultepec in November.
"All of us are immigrants," Mexico City photographer Federico Gama surmises in this Reed Johnson piece about "Laberinto de Miradas," or "Labyrinth of Glances," a photo and video exhibit that recently passed through Mexico, D.F. "All of us are in a search for something. We would like to be on another side."
Indeed, taken together the images in the show argue that immigrants are people who cross not only national borders but also urban borders and cultural borders and sexual borders, making for the deliriously globalized world we know today. Gama's contribution to "Laberinto de Miradas" is a set of images from his project Mazahuacholostakopunk, about heavily marginalized indigenous youth in Mexico City who combine and layer several codes of borderless rural and urban dress in the shaping of their identity. (See Gama's photostream for more.)
"Laberinto de Miradas" just closed at the Centro Cultural España in the Centro Historico of Mexico City, but much of the exhibit exists permanently online at its web site. Check it out. The images are set to travel next to Guatemala, followed by Miami, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. Come to think of it, it'd be cool if the show eventually made it to Los Angeles, America's brown capital.
* Image above by Sergei Camara.
This is what I meant when noting, purely as conjecture, that maybe Glass Candy echoes a creepy backbeat by Kano in its track "Etheric Device." It's almost like I don't verification I just like the idea. Kano of course are kings in Italo Disco, a lost subgenre of dance music that has been creeping into the contemporary electro lexicon lately. It's "Another Life." Don't worry about the girls in the plastic-bag cages or if Glen White has trouble looking into the camera. The man has moves, the jam sizzles.
Italo is cousins to the HI-NRG culture that is still celebrated, religiously, at the legendary Patrick Miller nightclub in Roma and at one-night masivos in convention halls in rougher areas of the capital.
The image above is from the NYPL Digital Library, via BibliOdyssey, which has lots more links tagged Mexico to really wonderful historical prints. You can examine many of them up close at the permanent prints drawers at the Museo Nacional de Arte or in temporary shows that pop up at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico. Some show "villages" that are now complete engulfed by the metropolis: Iztacalco, Iztapalapa, Tacubaya ...