In fact, little is known about the owners and operators of the casino, despite initial reports (later contradicted) that said emergency exits in the establishment were blocked, contributing to the high death toll of 52. The dead included one pregnant woman, and over the weekend, as families buried their loved ones, another large demonstration against violence and insecurity took place in Monterrey (link in Spanish).
The demonstration ended in scuffles for some as activists made competing calls for the resignations of the Monterrey mayor, the Nuevo Leon state government, and President Felipe Calderon (video link in Spanish).
Nuevo Leon authorities said the investigation into the arson blaze is ongoing. On Monday, Gov. Rodrigo Medina announced the arrest of five men suspected of being involved in the attack. The suspects were identified as Zetas, the drug gang that is seeking control over Monterrey in a campaign that has spread fear and violence in the affluent industrial city.
Authorities said they were eager to speak with Raul Rocha Cantu, a Monterrey businessman identified as one of the owners of the casino. One newspaper said the casino owners had not complied with an extortion demand of 130,000 pesos a week, or about $10,000 -- common deals that often lead to brutal attacks against bars and other businesses in Monterrey.
In a series of interviews since Friday, the casino owners' lawyer, Juan Gomez Jayme, said attorney-client privilege would not permit him to divulge where Rocha was or whether he would present himself to Nuevo Leon authorities as they have requested (link in Spanish).
Gomez defended the establishment, saying the casino operated lawfully under municipal, state, and federal regulations. Yet questions were raised almost immediately about word of blocked emergency exits, which were reported by the chief of civil protection in Monterrey after firefighters put down the arson blaze.
Really, the song gives about as much if not better detail on what happened than your average news story. He sings that the cause of the shooting was a checkpoint set up by the "gobierno militar," then calls for safety at sporting venues for the sake of the children.
Chatter began popping up on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Virtual groups formed. Mexicans living abroad united around a feeling of desperation over a climbing death toll and reacted to a growing sense among Mexicans at home that the government was losing control of the situation.
The demonstrations not only showed that many Mexicans abroad were up-to-date with developments back home, they also offered a window into the large numbers of Mexicans making lives in other countries besides the traditional migration magnet of the United States.
Due largely to its historical migration relationship with the United States, Mexico is identified as the leading exporter of migrants worldwide according to the website Peoplemov.in, which uses open data sources to tabulate bilateral migration patterns. The World Bank also places Mexico as the highest source of human emigration on the planet (see the bank's data chart titled Bilateral migration matrix). The bank says 11.5 million Mexicans lived abroad as of November 2010, with 10.3 million of them in the United States.
By comparison, 2.2 million Americans live outside their country, with 452,182 of those U.S. citizens living in Mexico, the World Bank says.
Greetings from City Heights, Eastside San Diego. I'm back in town because on Saturday a special event is happening at Sweetwater High School in National City: the re-inauguration and re-installing of the P.U.E.D.O. mural from the old National City Public Library.
With the tireless work of David Avalos and Juan Parrino, who helped lead the mural project in 1981, the city was able to locate the mural, allow Avalos to prepare it for re-installing, and find it a home, inside the new library at Sweetwater, which is celebrating the opening of several new buildings. (Here's a mention of the event in a Union-Tribune daybook note, and at the Sweetwater website.)
I look forward to meeting some of the then-student artists who worked on the mural -- who now must be adults with student children of their own -- and thanking them for such a vital, beautiful, and historic piece of public art in the South Bay of San Diego [...] here on the Pacific.
* Location: Sweetwater High School, 2900 Highland Ave, National City, 91950 / 4 p.m. / Aug. 6. * Post edited
A few weeks ago, I took a late Friday night bus from Mexico City to Queretaro to visit friends.
I spent the weekend relaxing at bars, cafes and restaurants. I took a day trip to an officially designated "pueblo magico," Bernal, where an ancient stone monolith is a regional tourist draw. I finished the weekend in a crowded "college-style" bar to watch a big soccer match for Mexico over a BBQ hamburger and a Mexican lager, with U.S. school pennants hanging overhead.
Queretaro is welcoming and clearly prosperous. Over two days, I met Mexicans who had moved there from Chiapas, Veracruz, Guanajuato and elsewhere.
"Why do you live here?" I asked a guy outside a bar one night.
"They pay better than in Veracruz," the fellow replied. "And, well ... it's safe, right?"
The exchange stuck with me. Contradictions abound in Mexico, especially when it comes to the country's current overall stability.
Mexico's economy is growing at a healthier pace than that of the United States and has a lower official unemployment rate (5.3%) than its northern neighbor (9.2%), though the joblessness rate is deceptive because it doesn't include millions of Mexicans who work in the poorly paid informal economy as sidewalk vendors, day laborers and the like.
Yet, at the same time, Mexico is home to more than 52 million people living in poverty, nearly half the national population. That figure is up by 3 million from three years ago, according to an independent government study released Friday and reported in The Times. Overall, Mexico's recovery from the 2009 global recession is among the slowest in Latin America, a disappointing figure after a decade of free-market policies under federal governments led by the National Action Party, or PAN.
In other words, realities on the ground in Mexico are often more complicated and contradictory than the headlines or government propaganda can tell us.