Some of the work produced out of our office in Mexico City shows up on this compilation of highlights from VICE News' year.
Some of the work produced out of our office in Mexico City shows up on this compilation of highlights from VICE News' year.
Above, our VICE News documentary produced by the Mexico bureau, regarding the case of Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor who was investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires.
Our crew spent a week in BA investigating this case, with local producer Gaston Cavanagh. It was one of the more complex stories I've had to cover, because every time we reached what seemed like a reasonable conclusion about something, the next turn, the next interview, completely flipped it.
The assignment was also challenging because it dealt with the thorny themes of anti-Semitism, terrorism, the Kirchners, the opposition in Argentina (the left calls them "the right," but they call themselves "liberal"), and Iran. You decide where you stand on all that.
* Photo by Hans-Máximo Musielik.
Here's a link to my print feature in the January issue of VICE magazine, on the Raul Isidro Burgos Ayotzinapa Normal School, near Tixtla, Guerrero. Excerpt:
It's said as a slur, but it happens to be somewhat true. The Federation of Campesino Socialist Mexican Students, uniting the student leadership at 16 schools across Mexico, including the one in Ayotzinapa, formed in 1935. One of Ayotzinapa's best-known graduates, Lucio Cabañas, was national president of this group when he studied there. Cabañas would go on to form the Poor People's Party, a militant political organization with an armed wing. The group kidnapped politicians and operated a radio signal over a wide region in the Sierra de Atoyac.
The students believe in direct action today as well. Through their "Struggle Commission," for example, they take over buses and toll booths. Masking their faces, the Ayotzinapa students charge a flat 50-peso toll on any vehicle that passes, be it private, public, or a commercial passenger bus. We watched as they did this for a few hours one day at the Palo Blanco toll booth. Some motorists I approached in line said they supported the Ayotzinapa students, but about just as many said they were nothing but vandals and hooligans.
* With my homie Franco, an hincha for club Newell's Old Boys in Rosario, Argentina, May 2014. Photo by producer Raymundo Perez-Arellano.
There is no use apologizing. Intersections, like a lot of blogs that started in this long-forgotten blog big bang of 2005-2006, went into posting decline after the realization that it was impossible for me to keep up. Not while at the same time taking on a reporting and writing job with extremely demanding responsibilities and expectations.
When I was in the DF bureau of the LA Times, at least I managed to re-post my stories, most of the time. Since 2013, this has also become functionally impossible. Work just went from crazy to crazier.
After a year as editor of VICE México, in June of 2014, my boss asked me to step in and become Mexico bureau chief of VICE News. It was the kind of job I had never really thought about doing but at the same time knew I was capable of doing, so I said yes. With this, my year, and my life, changed.
By then, early summer, our office's Munchies Guide to Oaxaca (which we actually recorded in November 2013, produced by Santiago Fábregas and shot by Guillermo Alvarez), was finally live and cookin'. Munchies had also just posted my profile on food queen Diana Kennedy.
I was on my way to being a food host for VICE, and was still editing the Mexican edition of the print magazine at the time.
But after seeing and hearing good responses to my first hosting gig for VICE with the Oaxaca guía, the chiefs wanted to try me out on a serious news assignment. Right away, they sent me and a crew to Rosario, to investigate the drug war happening on the streets of an important port city in Argentina.
From there, other assignments in the field followed. I said "Yes" to whatever was asked of me — including yes to a trip that was decided on and carried out within hours of arriving to the office for a normal work day — dealing with the challenges as best I could, recognizing and representing, in a corner of my mind and in my own little way, for my beloved brown America.
During all this, I've had to keep up my main, most important duties, with a teensy staff: editing, translating, fact-checking, and publishing original news stories and features from across Latin America. The bureau staff and I have spent long hours working with reporters filing from Santiago to Tijuana, often under breaking-news pressure, just everyday hustling, getting stories up onto the VICE News site.
The stresses in 2014 were the steepest I've confronted since the start of my career. Then, in late September, Ayotzinapa happened. And the work got even more intense.
But I'm not gonna complain. I'm only looking forward. This year I plan on hosting more for VICE News in my role in the bureau, and I also hope to squeeze in some fresh field assignments with Munchies. There's more in store, and I want to thank all my readers and my community for staying strong with me and hanging on through all the madness and bullshit out there.
So, below, some highlights from my first seven months at VICE News. For all the stories I've written or co-written for News, click here. I'll have a post later — I hope! — all about our Ayotzinapa coverage.
The Rosario documentary I mentioned. Beautiful city, fucked-up story. This documentary, fixed locally by Gaston Cavanagh, made some waves among locals in Rosario and was cited in numerous subsequent news reports in the Argentine press.
Stopping over in Buenos Aires, we decided to check out the issue of paco, the BA streets version of crack, and a symptom of the economic malaise that has plagued the country since 2001.
A quick Munchies interlude in here, a tour of three classic Mexico City fondas. Mmmmmmm, ¿A que hora es la comida?
On September 11, we landed in Chile, to cover the demonstrations and street protests tied to the anniversary of the 1973 coup that brought down socialist president Salvador Allende and initiated the military dictatorship. Three days earlier, a bomb went off in a Santiago subway station.
At the Tolemaida military base, in Melgar, Colombia, our crew covered the 2014 Fuerzas Comando competition, a meet-and-greet for elite special ops teams from across Latin America. This documentary was produced as part of the VICE News "War Games" series.
This is the full-length version of our documentary on the horrible case of the missing students in Guerrero, Mexico. All the credit in the world for this work is to be shared with the committed and talented producers, fixers, photographers, editors, and administrators at the VICE México headquarters in Mexico City, and in particular, Rafael Castillo, Hans-Máximo Musielik, and Melissa del Pozo.
We really put in as a team the toughest hours and biggest risks many of us had ever seen in Mexico.
Me and the VICE News crew were also in Peru in late 2014, for a documentary that is coming up early this year. But that's another story ... 2K15 has begun. Stay tuned, and as always ... More soon.
Check out the official trailer for the Guide to Oaxaca I am hosting for MUNCHIES, the newly launched food channel at VICE. It's a quick taste of the five-part, hour-long series I recorded in November with colleagues Santiago F. and Guillermo A. from VICE México.
Yes, I tried the turtle eggs.
Photo by Marco Antonio Cruz.
Today marks 20 years since a previously unknown army emerged from the rain forests of the indigenous highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, and declared war on the government. It was a landmark day. Even in early 1994, as a 13-year-old middle-school kid living in Southern California, I knew something huge was happening in my parents’ homeland. And I started to pay attention.
That same day, the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA was going to launch the hemisphere into the age of the globalized economy, inducting Mexico into the club of developed nations. There was what seemed to be an infallible hope of more and better and cheaper goods would pour in from the United States. We were all supposed to be excited about it.
But the armed group that seized parts of Chiapas that New Year’s Day, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), had a much different point of view.
They declared war—specifically on an army dozens of times larger than theirs. The indigenous and poor of Mexico had apparently had enough. Under the autocratic regime of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), or “dinosaurs” as they were more colloquially known, exploitation, inequality, and neglect were the norm. Nothing was changing, and there was no potential for change on the horizon. Peaceful means of protest were no longer an option for the army that called themselves Zapatistas, in honor of the Mexican Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata who took up arms nearly a century before.
The new Zapatistas rightly suspected that NAFTA would do little to better their conditions, or could even worsen them. The guerrillas offered a wake-up call for Mexico, but also, I think, for all of Latin America and for Latino diasporas in the United States.
It was the first armed uprising in Mexico since the country’s “Dirty War” against leftist guerillas in the 60s and 70s (a period that’s been erased from Mexico’s official history, and thus is barely mentioned in the national narrative). It was also considered the first armed uprising in history aided and spread by modern technology and organized through the internet (the EZLN’s first declarations, which were distributed via fax). The guerrillas included men and women, mostly ethnic Maya Indians who spoke Mayan languages. They relied on a charismatic Spanish-speakingmestizo spokesman known as Subcomandante Marcos to send their message around the globe. In short time, Marcos’s pipe, machine gun, and ski mask quickly became iconic.
The armed EZLN rebellion lasted 12 days, costing roughly 100 lives, although that figure remains in dispute. A ceasefire was called, and peace accords began. Those went basically nowhere. A stalemate has hung over the two sides ever since, while political violence and disappearances in Chiapas continue to this day.
On January 1, 1994, no one knew how the Zapatista uprising would play out. But we all knew that Mexico—and a few generations of Mexicans—would never be the same again.
Marco Antonio Cruz, one of Mexico’s most respected photojournalists, managed a photo agency called Imagen Latina at this pivotal time. On the morning after word emerged that the EZLN revolt had begun in the mountains, Marco Antonio and a small group of journalists in Mexico City gathered at the airport and wrangled an airline to fly them to Tuxtla Gutierrez, the Chiapas state capital, after all routes there had been halted. He covered the earliest and bloodiest days of the EZLN conflict.
Today Marco Antonio is photography editor of Mexico’s storied investigative weekly, Proceso. The magazine has published some of the most memorable shots from the Zapatista movement.Proceso’s Mexico City headquarters is a modest, white-stucco house on a residential street in Colonia Del Valle. I recently visited Marco Antonio there to recall the EZLN revolt through the lens of the photojournalists who were there to document it.
“For many of photographers Chiapas is a state where the injustice, the neglect, has been historic,” Marco Antonio told me. “Much of what occurred after the triumph of the Mexican Revolution [1910-1920] never reached Chiapas. It’s been centuries and centuries of slavery and oppression.
“[Photographer] Antonio Turok had already been living there for 15 or 20 years, and my first trips were in the 80s when the Guatemalan refugees arrived. I also did a project about blindness in Mexico, so I went to communities in Chiapas where people were affected by blindness. I knew the situation. It is a place where people die from curable diseases. Something like this had to happen, and so, when it did, it really wasn’t all that surprising.”
In his dim office, the photographer went on to remember the fear that gripped him the first time he saw uniformed Zapatista casualties following their skirmishes with the Mexican Army, and then how he shared in the thrill that many of us felt years later upon seeing the Zapatistas’ caravan arriving before crowds of supportive civilians in the symbolic core of the nation—the Zocalo central square in Mexico City.
Here are 20 photographs that Cruz shared with VICE that tell us, paired with his commentary, the story of 20 years of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional.
“This is by Antonio Turok, he used to contribute to Imagen Latina, and lived in San Cristobal de las Casas. In the middle of the night on January 1, he came upon the arrival of the Zapatistas and the take-over of the municipal hall in San Cristobal de las Casas. They took the main city halls in the highlands and in the jungle, and the most important one was San Cristobal. And this photo, well, is an icon. It is part of the history of this country, the entrance of the Zapatistas.”
This photo of a photo shows my first apartment without roommates in Mexico City, 106 in the Edificio Victoria. It's where I wrote most of "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" and had some of the best, worst experiences of my life. Joven Will is how I called William Dunleavy, a friendly young punk from New York and New Jersey who I met one day in DF.
Will threw me off at first when he let me know he was taking photos of a family of dedicated punks who lived in La Paz, past Ciudad Neza. He was 19 years old yet had a totally clear vision of what "good" documenting meant and what it did not. It was almost like he was trying to determine my seriousness the first time we talked, not the other way around. This photos is from the night Will had his 20th birthday at my place. A bunch of wanderers from the Hotel Virreyes came by. It was just a senseless DF beer peda. Really fun.
Will eventually helped illustrate "Down and Delirious," and I'm super proud to say it.
The poster behind Will is a Foro Alicia response to a government-mass media campaign of demonizing young people during those intense months of 2008 (but really always). It says: Soy delincuente, tengo 20 años, soy joven, no tengo derecho a la educación, al trabajo, a la vivienda, a la saludo, y a muchas cosas más.
We were down with that. Anyway, all of this is to say, I know it's not anywhere near your birthday, but, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Will!
** Originally published in the print edition of VICE México, Nov. 2013:
* Fotos por Bénédicte Desrus.
Los hermanos Juan Luis y Pedro Poncho Vanegas Bravo, de 20 y de 17 años respectivamente, nacieron en la Ciudad de México y pasaron la mayoría de su niñez en condición de obesidad. Eran, como se dice con ternura en México y como siguen refiriéndose a sí mismos cuando hablan de sus vidas, “gorditos”.
A ellos los conocí este verano gracias a la fotógrafa Bénédicte Desrus. Ella ha documentado la obesidad global en su proyecto Globesity, que la ha llevado a conocer a personas obesas en África del Este, Egipto, Estados Unidos y México.
Bénédicte primero fotografió a los hermanos Juan Luis y Pedro en el Hospital Infantil de la Ciudad de México en 2011, cuando ellos enfrentaban los retos más difíciles de sus vidas. Como su obesidad estaba poniendo en riesgo su salud, los hermanos Vanegas Bravo fueron los primeros menores de edad en recibir cirugías bariátricas en un hospital público en México, con el fin de reducir el tamaño de sus estómagos y así combatir la obesidad.
Las cirugías venían con riesgos propios. Los doctores les explicaron que de cada diez pacientes, uno sufre complicaciones, y de cada cien, dos fallecen. Además, el papá de ellos, Juan ManuelVanegas, murió en 2005 por complicaciones relacionadas con su obesidad mórbida. La mamá de los chicos, Juana Bravo, nos dijo que su esposo padecía diabetes, y cuando se detectó una perforación en su colon, los doctores no pudieron alcanzar la herida y sanarla. Tuvo ocho operaciones antes de morir, a los 42 años. Uno de sus hijos tenía 12 años, el otro, ocho.
“Me di cuenta que si no bajaba, iba a terminar como él; iba a terminar muerto”, me dijo Juan Luis cuando lo visitamos por primera vez en su casa por el rumbo de Metro Camarones, en la delegación Azcapotzalco.
“Anduvimos buscando la cirugía por años, porque no nos la daban, porque yo era menor de edad y no nos podían operar en hospitales del gobierno”, dijo. “Pero uno de los doctores que hacía esa operación tenía un proyecto de operar adolescentes, y yo me presté. Básicamente como conejillo de indias”.
Ese doctor fue Francisco José Campos Pérez, reconocido especialista en el campo de cirugías bariátricas en adolescentes en México. Pero antes de saber cómo les fue a Juan Luis y Pedro, cabe mencionar que la situación que han enfrentado con su salud es una que enfrentan millones y millones de mexicanos, muchos de ellos desde chiquitos.
En México, el sobrepeso y obesidad (que son niveles diferentes del mismo problema) afecta a 32% de las niñas y 36.9% de los niños entre las edades de cinco y 11, según la Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición de 2012. Son unos cinco millones 664,870 niños con sobrepeso y obesidad en el país, según la encuesta.
Las cifras aumentan entre los adolescentes y más entre adultos. Ya casi alcanzando niveles de obesidad de Estados Unidos —el más gordo de los países desarrollados—, en México son aproximadamente 69.5% de personas mayores de 15 años que viven con sobrepeso u obesidad, dice la Organización para la Cooperación y Desarrollo Económico.
Ser gordo mata.
La diabetes, la enfermedad más relacionada con la obesidad, es la mayor causa de muerte en el país, bastante más que los homicidios, enfermedades cardiovasculares o accidentes vehiculares. Este padecimiento se ha convertido en el mayor asesino de los mexicanos de una manera exponencial desde los ochenta, lo revelan varios estudios nacionales e internacionales.
En 2012 las autoridades contaron más de 80 mil mexicanos que murieron a causa de diabetes (básicamente la suma de todas las ejecuciones relacionadas con la guerra contra el narco, en los seis años del último gobierno); y son más de 10.6 millones de mexicanos que ahora lo padecen. Peor aún, se calcula que para el 2030 serán más de 16.3 millones de mexicanos con esa enfermedad.
Las razones son variadas y muy cercanas a nosotros, como lo son el refrigerador y la tiendita de la esquina. Es la comida frita, la comida chatarra, el McDonald’s, la Coca-Cola y sus 12 cucharadas de azúcar, y tal vez las costumbres sociales que se pueden describir comomexicanas que llevan a uno a comer más y más: ofrecer más (para demostrar hospitalidad), pedirmás (para demostrar confianza), y consumir más cuando se te ofrece (para demostrar gratitud).
Juan Luis y Pedro empezaron a engordar a los tres años de edad, me explicó su mamá. “Era mucho comer y comer”, dijo la señora de 51 años un sábado que nos juntamos en el hogarVanegas para platicar y asar hamburguesas. “Yo me preocupaba”.
“Los llevaba a nadar, al futbol, tae-kwon-do, lo que hubiera. Mi error fue que teníamos un refrigerador dúplex y cada quince días lo llenaba de carnes frías. Si se te antojaba algo en la semana, en el refrigerador había”.
En fotos, los hermanos lucen felices y activos, pero definitivamente, se nota cómo van engordando a través de los años. Son un par único. Juan Luis es moreno, y en las fotos se ve cómo de niño le encantaba el escenario y el performance; ahora es bailarín de danza “árabe gótica”. Del otro lado, Pedro es blanco, más reservado en sus fotos, y a él le han gustado los deportes desde pequeño. Ahora juega como centro en una liga de futbol americano.
Ya para su adolescencia, los hermanos Vanegas eran enormes. Sus cuerpos llenaban los retratos de familia. En el punto más extremo de su obesidad, parece que sus formas están infladas con aire.
“Tú no te das cuenta de qué tan gordos son tus hijos”, dijo la señora Juana. “Cada que entraban a la escuela, yo les mandaba a hacer sus pantalones. No me daba cuenta que eran talla 38 cuandotenían seis años, o 40 cuando tenían diez. No sabía cómo revertirlo”.
Después de la muerte del papá de Juan Luis y Pedro, la familia Vanegas empezó a buscar ayuda. Hubo consultas y más consultas, entrevistas, listas de espera, especialistas de todo tipo. Juan Luis pesaba en el momento más crítico de su condición unos 146 kilos. Tenía 15 años. Pedro tocó los 138 kilos a los 14. Tenían que hacer algo.
En 2009, a Juan Luis le aplicaron una manga gástrica en el Hospital General Rubén Leñero, de la Secretaría de Salud del Distrito Federal. En esta cirugía el estómago es reducido entre 60% y 85%, dejando una “manga” de estómago donde cabe menos comida. Juan Luis bajó hasta 105 kilos, pero su cuerpo se aferró. La capacidad de su estómago se acomodó, creciendo de nuevo, y así volvió a subir de peso.
** Originally published at Vice México:
Efectivamente, Mal del Puerco tuvo una breve laguna no anunciada, por lo cual les debo disculpas. Debo decirles que todo fue por la culpa de algo que comí; un caso verificado de esta columna, una cosa real.
No entraré mucho en detalle (ese abuso se los guardo para una futura columna). Sólo les comparto mi descubrimiento: los males del estómago que frecuentemente acompañan la vida en México son un riesgo que yo al final acepto y ante el que nunca pienso rendirme.
Estas cosas ocurren en ciclos, lo cual nos permite después de un Mal del Puerco prolongado reconectar la mente y las manos con las esquinitas olvidadas de la cocina. Así lo hice después de mi más reciente infección; me enfoqué de nuevo por un rato en desayunar y cenar en casa, con lo que había. Fueron días de ser un total Susie Homemaker.
A mí nadie me enseño a cocinar. Nunca he tomado una clase, ni un taller de pan o tamales o lo que sea. Pero al vivir al rascuache en la Ciudad de México, al igual que millones de personas, creo que fue imposible no aprender cómo armarse unas comidas gratificantes. Hay mercados por todos lados, y cosas baratas a la venta en la esquina de tu casa, como montoncitos de aguacates criollos (diez pesos), o una bolsa de guayabas que está a la venta sobre una camioneta por tu rumbo, que también cuesta diez. En mi época más oscura en el DF, cuando en el edificio Victoria del Centro, a mí y a mis vecinos cuates nos iba mal con la lana y peor con los vicios, hasta llegábamos a comer sándwiches de mantequilla.
Fue de risas, te lo juro.
Los ciclos van evolucionando y las situaciones cambian. Después de conocer la cocina de necesidad, y después de fallar enormemente muchas veces cuando busqué horizontes extremadamente ambiciosos para mí (nunca le atiné a los frijoles, al arroz), me di cuenta que hay productos muy básicos y económicos que uno siempre puede tener en casa para comer rápido y rico a cualquier hora.
En mi caso, mis productos favoritos de esta categoría son:
Jamón o tocino
Tortillas de harina
Granola o cereal
Quesos e.g. fresco, Oaxaca, Chihuahua
Frutas de temporada
Hierbas, e.g. romero, albahaca, pápalo
Pimienta y sal
Queso panela: De un puesto en el Mercado Juárez, y listo para la sartén.
De ahí, me paso a los productos o guisados preparados que uno puede comprar de los señores de los mercados o de los viejitos que se ponen afuera, por las entradas. Siempre llevo el ojo escaneando por estos:
Nopalitos preparados: Cuando vienen con cilantro, cebolla, etcétera; te lo dan en cantidades de pesos que tu gustas, de diez o 15 es suficiente por un par de días. Para ensaladas, huevos, etcétera.
Verduras para cocer: Puede ser una mezcla de elote, papa, zanahoria, calabaza y cebolla. Puede ser solamente mucho champiñón con coliflor. Estas mezclas baratas que puedes encontrar en muchos mercados le entran en sopas, caldos y ciertos guisados asiáticos que a veces se antoja intentar.
Salsas preparadas: Roja o verde, de diez o 15 pesos el vasito o la bolsita. Deliciosas sobre huevos, quesadillas, carnes… yummy.
Chorizos: Ya saben lo esencial que son los chorizos, especialmente los toluqueños, para este Susie Homemaker. Bien cocinados, en casa, alimentan con ganas. Y se me hacen más saludable que el pollo mutante que ofrecen como healthy por todos lados.
Chicarrón: Cuando puedo lo recojo de puestos que únicamente huelen a puro cuero de puerco gloriosamente dorado —no a aceite quemado, a carne muerta de misterioso origen, ni a gas—. Es un buen snack para la hora de trabajar, bueno también en tacos, así acompañado solamente por guacamole (súper fácil de armar en casa también). YUM!
Y ya estamos listos. A cualquier hora, se puede comer rico. Ahora les comparto una muestra de los secretos de mi cocina de refugio de los males.
El sándwich de desayuno casero, con manzana.
Cocínate unas lonchas de tocino. No hay falla.
Pon un huevo en la sartén, échale pimienta y sal, déjalo cocinar un rato, y luego cúbrelo con una rebanada de queso manchego. Flip. Que se cocine el queso directo sobre la sartén. Flip.
Tuesta tu pan, ponle un poco de mostaza dijón si quieres, y corta una manzana gala o fuji en rebanadas largas. Combina los ingredientes (el huevo, luego el tocino, luego la manzana) entre tu pan tostado. Listo. ¿Y el jugo y el café?
Caldo de verduras a la natural.
Pon agua a hervir en un olla. Corta un ajo y tíralo al agua. Échale de tu mezcla de verduras preparas. Tírale un cubo de caldo de pollo. (¿Un chile verde picado quizás?) Que se cocine todo. Y listo. Acompaña con pan tostado o bolillos. Ni carne, ni nada, es perfecto para relajar el estómago.
Mi tortilla española-azteca, o tortilla mestiza.
Hace poco pasamos una noche con mucha hambre pero mucha hueva de salir o guisar algo complicado. Entonces tomé nopales y los puse a cocer en una sartén. Luego mezclé seis huevos en un tazón con tantitita leche. Sin dorar los nopales bastante, derramé el huevo sobre los nopales y los dejé cocer sin tocar para que tome forma el mestizaje.
Sobre los huevos, agregué pedazos de tres tipos de quesos, a la verga. Fresco, manchego, y un queso Chihuahua artesano que encontré en Comidas Bebidas y Revistas en la San Miguel Chapultepec y que me tiene obsesionado. ¡Mega-flip! ¡Que no se rompe la forma de la “tortilla”!
Ya dorado, esponjoso, se convierte seductor el asunto. A la tortilla le faltan papas, pero no hay pedo, aquí en Anahuac las condiciones son saludables para un popurrí del nuevo mundo. Dobla la tortilla y sirve. Cubre la tortilla con queso fresco de nuevo, y de la salsa roja que estabas guardando. Acompaña con vino (de mezclas de uvas, por favor).
A brindar por mi raza.
El postre pacheco: la quesadilla con zarzamora.
Cuando caen los antojitos de la medianoche, o por un postre pacheco, saca una tortilla de harina, ponle de tus quesos, y abre esa cajita de zarzamoras de veinte o triente pesos que recogiste en la calle.
A quesadillear; la zarzamora va casi al final, pero definitivamente dentro de la quesadilla sobre la sartén. Y listo. La combinación de la tortilla calientita, el queso derretido, y el ataque de sabor de la zarzamora pone a descansar cualquier mal.
** Originally published at VICE México, July 5, 2013:
A pesar de que llevo años pasando por los mismos locales de tacos de la calle López, nunca le había puesto mucha atención al chorizo verde que de repente saltaba al ojo detrás del vidrio de un taquero. 'Ira nomás, es verde, solía ser la reflexión, y punto.
Un domingo de esos desolados y nublados, donde no le encuentras sentido al día, pasé de nuevo por Tacos Juanitos, unos tacos por allí en la hermosa calle de López, y me paré. Me puse a ver y de veras reflexionar sobre este chorizo verde frente a mí y me pregunté: ¿Porqué no lo he probado?
Juanitos es solo un pasillo junto a una nevería y al lado de un chakabar de chela-reven. El local se especializa en despachar chicharrón, pero para la hora del taco, tienen todas las carnes ya identificadas como provenientes del Valle de Toluca: cecina, cecina enchilada, obispo (vean futura columna), queso de puerco, chorizo y chorizo verde.
* Chorizo verde asándose.
Primero pedí uno de cecina: prudente, lo reconozco, pero la táctica es importante porque lo básico de un puesto de tacos siempre revela la calidad de todas sus demás opciones. En Juanitos, el compai que prepara tacos los decora con papas a la francesa y con salsa de aguacate bien aguada y bastante picosa. El taco básico cecina fue un hit total.
"Uno verde", pedí, actuando lo más chillax que pude.
El compai me lo pasó. Mordí el taco, y el sabor me hizo sacar un Guaooo!! enorme entre mordidas, lo cual quebró mi pose de toluqueño.
* Foto por @demomilton.
El chorizo verde sabe a su color: vegetal, por su coloración natural de perejil, cilantro, y chiles serranos y poblanos. A la vez, es aromáticamente dulce, por la mezcla de almendra, piñón o nueces. También aparece una que otra pasa dorada, y, según mi sospecha, canela. Al mismo tiempo, el verde es definitivamente carnoso, salado, el puerco molido con ajo, los chiles, una mezcla tan sustanciosa como la de su carnal, el rojo.
En realidad es una cosa espectacular. Me obsesioné.
En poco tiempo, conocí el local Ricos Tacos Toluca, en una esquina a cuadra y media de Tacos Juanito, también por López. Este lugar —inocuo, sensible, para comer parado—prepara los mejores tacos que conozco en la Ciudad de México.
No es choro. De hecho, hay que discutir el tema, porque de igual forma aquí se ofrecen carnes al estilo embutido de Toluca, y eso para el chilango debe ser medio desconcertante, ¿no? Embutido significa básicamente ser atascado, lleno de algo, lo cual se presta a varias interpretaciones anológicas a la que vivimos entre el DF y Toluca, ¿apoco no?
En Ricos Tacos Toluca, el señor Oliver y su familia preparan las carnes toluqueñas que ellos mismos elaboran. Tienen sus chorizos, verde y rojo, colgados detrás de un vidrio como collares para un Rey Gigante de Carne; el queso de puerco dentro de su canastita hecha a mano, donde las grasas de la cabeza del puerquito quedan bien guardadas; y el obispo, otra mutación de la gastronomía de Toluca que descubrí por primera vez por la Peralvillo y que nunca olvidaré.
* Foto por @euniceadorno.
Pido uno verde. Que sean dos.
En Ricos Tacos Toluca —que empezó como un puesto en la calle hace más de diez años, dice el señor Oliver, cuando el ambulantaje reinaba en López— también tienen sus papas fritas. Pero además de eso ofrecen cebolla asada, frijoles de la olla, y una salsa roja en molcajete de una calidad impactante, una cosa que roza la perfección.
A veces pido mis tacos campechanos, mezclando el verde y rojo, o el verde con cecina. A veces los pidos para llevar.
Así es, chorizo verde, en la pura intimidad.
Cuando lo compro, me lo llevo en cantidades pequeñas de un cuarto o medio kilo, de allí mismo en Ricos Tacos Toluca. Lo preparo sólo en la mañana para el desayuno, volviendo un poco romántico lo que tengo con el chorizo verde.
Consigo unos nopalitos, huevos y tortillas de harina, y preparo una receta inventada que le puse Chorizo Verde Scramble.
Primero, el verde a la sartén. So cute.
Se pone a bailar a la carne, se va cociendo y luego le echo los nopales.
Agrego unas gotas de aceite de olivo pero en realidad la babita de los mismos nopales funciona como aceite y rifa bastante. Los sabores se unen.
Aparto unos huevos, les echo tantita leche y los bato. Luego, a la sartén. Se cuece todo, los huevos cerrando fila para lograr nuestra meta. No se asusten; es como un omelette, pero más conceptual.
Se calientan las tortillas, el café y si tienes, una salsa roja con chile de árbol para hallar el equilibrio de colores y sabores. Decoro el Chorizo Verde Scramble con un poco de queso fresco. Y a comer. El sabor de la carne de puerco, las notas vegetales, dulzosas, la textura de las almendras, es todo un carnaval. En el contexto nopalero, sube la unión hasta a otro nivel.
Solo, en par, o combinado, el chorizo verde sigue sorprendiendo y deleitando, como un buen amante que sabe a puerco, nuez, cilantro, canela y papas fritas.
** Dos de verde en Ricos Tacos Toluca. Calle López con Puente Peredo, Col. Centro.
** First published at ABC/Univision. Go here for full video; introduction below:
A couple years ago I went to a magazine party near the ritzy Polanco district in Mexico City. Polanco isn't a place where I would necessarily hang out on a weekend night, but friends from L.A. were in town to DJ at a party. As we were leaving -- tipsy, hungry, and not exactly flush with cash -- the taco gods smiled. We stumbled upon a true D.F. sidewalk taco spot.
The stand was surrounded with people and crackling with energy at four in the morning. It had all the good meats -- bistec, pollo, chorizo -- a full barrage of salsas, queso, and all the Mexican Coke or Boing de guava that your heart could desire. And it was just steps from Polanco's embassies and trendy antros that cater to people who like $15 martinis. I was in heaven, and left a bit ashamed by my own stereotyping. Time and time again, this megalopolis of 20 million people reminds me that one can never hold on to assumed truths about any neighborhood's profile.
Because at the end of the day, everyone in Mexico is a taco lover. No matter your class or zip code, Polanco happens to be an epicenter of excellent street food. In that spirit, here's a hands-on take, if you will, of some of those offerings. As you will see, street food in Polanco can be as delicious -- and as precarious -- as anywhere else in DF. Brunch at the corner, anyone?
* Previously in Intersections, "A taco's taco in Polanco."
** Gracias, Diana O. Cave!
** The following is an excerpt of an English/Spanish-written draft of a piece published in the February 2013 issue of Gatopardo magazine, 'El fin de un ciclo.'
* See original post here.
Sábado 15 de diciembre de 2012
[11 Ix o 22.214.171.124.14]
El punto clave de información that we aquired on this stop was that in the town of Ticul, south of Mérida pero antes de Oxcutzcab, vivía un maestro de los garabatas, como se llaman los guaraches en Yucatán. Jorge Coronada, one of the healers we met at Kambul, told us el maestro Jose Ortiz made the best shoes on the peninsula. We drove off.
A place often reveals itself to you by the character of its roads, and in Mérida, there was a prominent but never menacing police presence all along the city’s periférico, a modern highway lined with factories and government compounds. We passed our first of many state police checkpoints, there to help maintain Yucatán’s proudly held rank of safest state in the country. In the town of Uman, the street I took to reach the center suddenly turned one-way against me in the opposite direction. A kid on a motor-bike taxi coming in the correct direction took one look at me as he drove past my dash and sneered, "Vete a la verga, vato." I laughed it off as the capricho of a local angry teen with a mean streak. One can never truly say about a people, "They are so kind, they are so welcoming," because there's always at least one or two exceptions.
It was early evening by the time we arrived in Ticul. The sky was clear and a sea of stars shone brightly above. The moon was regal, the roads one long line of darkened forest from point A to B. This town was like most others we’d come to see in Yucatán. It contained a market, a bus station, cell-phone and clothing and shoe stores, and low stone houses that looked as though they could have been built twenty or two hundred years ago. The towns that dot the plain of the peninsula are all centered around a plaza with a church that often looks built to repel a siege. In fact, many of them were. The churches in towns like Tizimin, Muna, and here in Ticul were built tall, with few windows, and with massively thick walls. They are reminders that the Maya of Yucatán resisted the Conquest forcefully and for generations more than the Aztecs.
In Ticul, which 19th Century traveler John L. Stephens described as "the perfect picture of stillness and repose," I drove into the dusty center of town, made a right, and pulled up alongside a middle-aged man sitting outside of a shoe store. I told him we were looking for Mr. Jose Ortiz, the shoemaker. The man was about sixty years old. He had white hair and unusually clear green eyes. "He is my father," he replied, and offered directions.
A few blocks back, on the same street, we came across Mr. Ortiz's taller. There was a small hand-painted sign attached to a wooden post, marking the front of a house. The door was open and the only illumination inside was a single flourescent bulb attached under the shelf of a work table, bathing the room in a humming pale blue light. No one was inside. We knocked and called, knocked and called. In the window to the street, Christmas lights were draped over an altar to the Virgen de Guadalupe. The lights were the kind that come with a device that plays carols in a single tone in a loop. We inched inside and waited. Old photographs, signs, maps hung from walls appeared as though they hadn't been touched in decades. It was clear that Mr. Ortiz's taller was a special place. I felt good just standing there. A woman passed on the street and asked us who we were looking for, and a minute later Jose Ortiz Escobedo came strolling our way.
He was a very slim old man in trousers and a work shirt. Mr. Ortiz had a handsome brown face and a sharp triangular nose. He greeted us kindly and we introduced ourselves. We expressed interest in taking a look at his offerings of garabatos, but at first it was a little difficult to comprehend what Mr. Ortiz was saying. He said he was 90 years old. His words blended together and his sentences came in mixed clauses. His Mayan accent was strong – the swirling yet chopped castellano that simmers at the front of the mouth and pops with K's and Q's.
Mr. Ortiz explained that he would be unable to sell us any pair of the leather sandals that hung on his wall. They looked like delicate but sturdy objects. He said any he had "would hurt your feet." He only makes garabatos to fit a foot right, he said. I tried on a shoe and it fit perfectly, but Mr. Ortiz absolutely insisted he would not sell us anything not made to fit – not even a belt, although I tried. For a minute, it was impossible for us to comprehend the possibility, that unlike in Mexico City, money couldn't buy everything, and everything wasn't for sale.
We asked Mr. Ortiz if he heard anything about the supposed prediction of the end of the world, and he said it was nothing, and although he hadn't been to Mérida in more years that he could remember, he concluded in between other thoughts: "Si se acaba el mundo, me voy a Mérida."
Mr. Ortiz was born in the house where we stood and his father was born there too. He has worked as a shoemaker for 75 years. He married at 22. His wife is still alive, and they have the same age, 90. He had eight children, but only five survive today. He told us he had 12 great-great-grandchildren.
He explained to us the Maya translations of certain words – che for madera, eck for estrella. He said the Maya of Yucatán always say what they mean, no matter how blunt. He said he belonged to a stubborn people. And, being a man of his age, Mr. Ortiz didn't demure while elaborating.
"Porque los mayas, lo que ven, eso dicen," Mr. Ortiz said. "Lo que hablamos ahora es amestizado, no es la verdadera maya. La verdadera maya es ofensivo, ofende a la mujer."
"El apedillo que tengo yo no es maya … me llamo Victor Jose Ortiz Escobedo. Es español … Y a pesar de que soy maya porque nací en la tierra maya, nuestro estilo es maya, solamente el apellido no es."
We talked about life in Ticul, and asked what he ate to stay so healthy and alert. He eats chaya, lechuga, espinaca, rábano, chayote, no mention of meat. He moved about the room freely, using his arms to emphasize thoughts. "Tengo que trabajar," he said. "Si se acuesta, envejece mas pronto."
I asked again if he saw any meaning in the "end of the world" as supposedly predicted by the Maya. Mr. Ortiz explained: "El sistema de ellos termina. El sistema de los otros, ahorita, es lo que va terminar, y empieza lo de los mayas."
* Printed with permission of Gatopardo magazine, c/o editor Guillermo Osorno.
* Above, screen shot, via BBC Magazine.
How do you guys rip YouTubes now that Zamzar succumbed and doesn't anymore? Cuz I need the entire audio to this hour-long fashion collection video musicalized by mi hermano Total Freedom, "Meat Fashion Show A/W 2013 - Believe."
Ash's mixing is, like, prime material. Call it trap, rave, hoodie gothic, whateva; his style has become recognizable by ears alone. Particularly in awe of the track that starts at about minute 38. Deaaaaaaamn. (Clothes are good, too.)
A major reportaje on the afromestizo musical profile of Mexico, by producer Marlon Bishop, via Afropop on Public Radio International. Bishop travels to Guerrero to check out the chilena tradition, to Mexico City for the danzón, and to Veracruz and Los Angeles to examine the new-generation son jarocho craze.
It's an involving, rich podcast. See more here for blog posts with clips related to self-declared criollo musical culture.
I've held a long-running discussion on race in Mexico in recent years on Intersections, highlighting previous documentary projects, easy but telling race-tricks in contemporary social science in Mexico, and bringing some pop-media attention on pop Mexican blackness.
I remain ambivalent about the application of U.S.-style racial goggles on the reality of race as it's lived in Mexico today.
I was struck, for example, by an academic voice in the Afropop audio who says "naming the beast" is needed to "fund the beast," suggesting that afromestizo people in Mexico need more "resources" that have been denied to them because of their race or color.
That is totally an American racial-politics thing to say, and would register as flat-line discourse to many Mexican thinkers, of many classes and colors, I can assure you. All kinds of poor people in Mexico have been neglected by the state, in a complicated long-running saga of injustice in Mexico that is simply more complicated than a black-and-white vision.
Additionally, I remain unsure who gets to be Afro-Mexican. Or even, who wants to be? Mexicans call themselves mexicanos first, and many find little use in sub-categorizing ourselves in the U.S. manner. Yes, there are some serious race conundrums at play here, and racism in the mass media is still so prevalent. But U.S. race relators don't necessarily have the smarter hand, or the better model.
So what is? Let's keep discussing, and in the meantime, enjoy the podcast and the dope music! * Gracias por el tip, Nati! * Post edited.
* The following is an excerpt. Gatopardo is on newsstands in Mexico now.
Sábado 15 de diciembre de 2012
[11 Ix o 126.96.36.199.14]
Finalmente conseguimos aquí una información clave. En el pueblo llamado Ticul, al sur de Mérida, un poco antes de llegar a Oxkutzcab, vivía un experto en garabatas, como se le llaman a los huaraches en Yucatán. Uno de los curanderos que conocimos en Kambul, Jorge Coronada, nos dijo que el maestro José Ortiz hacía los mejores zapatos de la península. Nos lanzamos para allá.
Un lugar se revela por el carácter de sus caminos: a lo largo del periférico de la ciudad de Mérida —una vía moderna repleta de fábricas y oficinas de gobierno— era común la presencia de la policía, fuerte aunque nunca amenazante. Pasamos por uno de los varios retenes que se instalaron para seguir manteniendo el orgullo de Yucatán: el estado más seguro del país. Al llegar a Umán tomé una calle que nos llevaría al centro, pero se convirtió en un camino cuyo sentido era opuesto al que veníamos. Del otro lado venía un joven en un taxi-motocicleta y cuando nos pasó me miró con desdén y me dijo: "¡Vete a la verga, vato!". Pensé que nunca se puede decir de un lugar que "la gente es tan amable y tan acogedora", porque siempre hay excepciones.
Cuando llegamos a Ticul ya era de noche. El cielo estaba despejado y un mar de estrellas brillaba arriba con intensidad. La luna estaba majestuosa y los caminos entre la selva oscura eran largos y rectos. Este pueblo era como los demás en Yucatán: tenía un mercado, una estación de camiones, zapaterías, tiendas de ropa y de teléfonos celulares, además de casas de piedra de un piso que parecen haberse construido hace veinte o doscientos años. Todos los pueblos de la llanura de la península son iguales; están edificados alrededor de una plaza con una iglesia que parece un fuerte. De hecho, muchas funcionaron como tales: las iglesias de pueblos como Tizimín, Muna y Ticul son altas, con pocas ventanas y están construidas con muros de ladrillo de grandes dimensiones; un recuerdo del pasado, cuando los mayas se resistieron a la conquista española por generaciones —mucho más tiempo que los aztecas.
[Previously, "Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, Part 1."]
Un viajero del siglo XIX, John L. Stephens, describió a este pueblo como "el perfecto retrato de quietud y descanso". Íbamos en el coche por el centro polvoriento, cuando giré a mi derecha y enseguida me detuve junto a un hombre de mediana edad, que estaba sentado afuera de una zapatería. Buscamos al señor José Ortiz, el zapatero, dije. Aquel hombre tendría unos sesenta años, el cabello blanco y unos extraños ojos verdes y cristalinos. "Él es mi padre", contestó y explicó cómo llegar a su casa.
Unas cuantas cuadras atrás, sobre la misma calle, nos topamos con el taller del señor Ortiz. Había un pequeño letrero pintado a mano junto a un poste de madera que marcaba la fachada de la casa. La puerta estaba abierta, y dentro se veía todo iluminado por un foco fluorescente pegado a una mesa de trabajo, que bañaba la habitación con una luz azul pálida. No había nadie adentro. Tocamos y llamamos a la puerta, tocamos y llamamos. En la ventana de la calle se veía una serie de luces navideñas que formaban un altar a la Virgen de Guadalupe, de esas que vienen con música de villancicos con un solo tono. Poco a poco nos fuimos metiendo y esperamos dentro. Viejas fotografías y mapas colgaban de las paredes, como si no hubieran sido tocados por décadas. Estaba claro que el taller del señor Ortiz era un lugar especial. Me sentí satisfecho por estar ahí.
[Previously, "Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, Part 2."]
Una mujer pasó por la calle y al vernos preguntó qué estábamos buscando. Un minuto después, José Ortiz Escobedo llegó y se acercó a mí y mis compañeros.
Era un hombre viejo y muy delgado que vestía pantalones y una playera de trabajo. Tenía un rostro bien parecido, moreno, y una nariz triangular puntiaguda. Nos saludó con amabilidad, y pudimos entonces presentarnos. Queríamos ver, le dijimos, las garabatas que vendía. Al principio fue un tanto difícil comprender lo que decía. Tenía noventa años de edad. Su acento maya era fuerte —el turbulento y entrecortado castellano, que hierve en la punta de la boca para luego estallar en sus cus y kas.
El señor Ortiz explicó que no podía vendernos ninguno de los huaraches de piel que colgaban en la pared. Parecían objetos delicados, pero resistentes. "Te pueden lastimar los pies", dijo. Ortiz sólo hace sandalias a la medida. Dijo que podría tomarnos la talla y tendríamos que regresar mañana o el día siguiente, si así lo deseábamos. Me probé un calzado y me quedó perfecto, pero el señor Ortiz insistió en que no nos vendería ni un solo par que no estuviera hecho a la medida. Ni un cinturón, además, aunque también intenté llevarme uno. Por un momento me resultó imposible entender que, a diferencia de la ciudad de México, aquí el dinero no podía comprarlo todo.
[Previously, "Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, Part 3."]
Le pregunté si había escuchado algo acerca de la supuesta predicción de los mayas sobre el fin del mundo. "Si se acaba el mundo, me voy para Mérida", concluyó.
El señor Ortiz, que no había ido a Mérida en muchos años, nació en esa casa donde estábamos parados, lo mismo que su padre. Ha trabajado como zapatero por más de setenta y cinco años. Se casó a los veintidós, y su esposa aún está viva y tiene la misma edad, noventa. Tienen ocho hijos, aunque sólo sobreviven cinco, y doce bisnietos, dijo. Se puso a traducirnos ciertas palabras mayas como che para madera, o eck para estrella. Los mayas de Yucatán siempre han dicho lo que piensan, dijo. Y como él es un hombre de edad, no fue nada tímido para enunciar lo que pensaba. "Los mayas lo que ven, lo dicen —dijo—. Lo que hablábamos ahora es mestizado, no es la verdadera lengua maya. La verdadera es ofensiva, ofende a la mujer".
"El apellido que tengo no es maya… Es español… Y a pesar de que soy maya porque nací en tierra maya y nuestro estilo es maya, el apellido no lo es".
Le preguntamos qué comía para estar tan sano y despierto: chaya, lechuga, espinaca, rábano, chayote, nada de carne. Se movía por la habitación libremente y usaba sus brazos para hacer énfasis en sus ideas. "Tengo que trabajar —dijo—. Si uno se acuesta, envejece más pronto".
Cuando le pregunté de nuevo sobre el significado del "fin del mundo", contestó que "el sistema de ellos termina. El sistema de los otros, ahorita, es lo que va a terminar. Y empieza lo de los mayas".
[Previously, "Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, Part 4."]
* English-language posting is forthcoming ...
** Originally published at World Now:
MEXICO CITY -- Questions are dogging police this week after nearly 100 people were detained and at least 100 others injured -- two seriously -- during hours of raucous demonstrations in central Mexico City as Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in as president of Mexico.
In scenes captured on video or transmitted live via Internet streams, demonstrators with their faces covered clashed Saturday with federal police officers outside the San Lazaro legislative chamber as Peña Nieto took the presidential oath of office. Later, more clashes erupted around the Palace of Fine Arts downtown between demonstrators and local police.
From there, masked "anarchists" rampaged through the central city, vandalizing hotels, restaurants and banks. The attacks caused more than $1.7 million in damage, authorities said.
"This was an attack on the city," Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said of the protesters who damaged businesses. "They had nothing to do with the day's events."
Ebrard and Mexico City Atty. Gen. Jesus Rodriguez said at police headquarters that at least three anarchist groups had planned the attacks on businesses "for weeks."
Two men were still hospitalized Tuesday, one critically, after being hit during the protests by what activists claim were police projectiles.
Juan Francisco Kuy Kendall, a 67-year-old theater director, was in a coma after he was hit in the head with a projectile outside San Lazaro during Saturday's confrontations, reports said. Further details about his condition were not known.
University student Uriel Sandoval Diaz, 22, was also struck with a projectile at San Lazaro and may lose sight in his right eye, doctors said.
Activists and rights groups are now raising questions about the police operations, claiming that dozens of people were arrested without cause.
YouTube videos show what are described as arbitrary detentions in the historic center of Mexico City. Municipal police are seen rounding up a man who was walking near a taco stand and another man in a suit.
The rights group Reporters Without Borders is calling for the release of two Romanian freelance journalists who were detained while covering the demonstrations.
At least seven Mexican journalists suffered injuries or some form of aggression while covering the street protests, the free speech group Articulo 19 said in a statement.
The Mexico chapter of Amnesty International also released a statement urging authorities to respect the rights of those detained.
A spokesman for Mexico City's police declined to answer specific questions about the protests or discuss Saturday's operation.
A spokesman for the federal police did not return calls.
On Monday, Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, who until recently was chief of police in Mexico City and joined the Peña Nieto government as an operational chief at the federal level, said the clashes were "totally directed" by several anarchists groups.
He said 10 or 12 federal officers were injured Saturday.
The confrontations between police and a variety of protesting groups -- including teachers, students and others -- appeared to set a troubling tone for future relations between leftist organizations in Mexico and the first presidency under the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, since 2000.
As early as 7:30 a.m. Saturday, protesters made the first of several attempts to storm the San Lazaro chamber, but they were repelled by federal officers using tear gas and high-pressure water, videos show.
Afterward, clashes erupted at various sites near the National Palace, where Peña Nieto gave the first speech of his government before foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and the vice president of China.
Similar but smaller demonstrations were also held in other cities in Mexico. In Guadalajara, protesters gathered outside the annual International Book Fair to denounce the ascent of Peña Nieto to the presidency. Police arrested 27 people there; they were freed Monday night after paying fines, reports said.
On Monday, more than 2,000 people marched through central Mexico City calling for the release of more than 60 "political prisoners" who remain in custody and are now facing vandalism charges.
* Cecilia Sanchez in The Times' Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.
** Originally published at World Now:
Maria Guadalupe Garcia usually spends two hours traveling from her home in southeast Mexico City's Tlahuac borough on bus and microbus to reach the city's west side.
On Tuesday, Garcia, 60, was one of the first riders of a new subway line inaugurated by the mayor and Mexico's president. She said she expects that those two hours of commuting will be reduced to 45 minutes.
"It's going to benefit us so much," Garcia said, standing with her husband, Angel Hernandez, on the platform of the Mixcoac station. "Now, we'll go with calm."
The 12th line of this city's moving hive of a subway system -- the loved and loathed el metro -- opened to the public in what leaders called the most significant and complex public-works project in recent Mexican history.
The new Line 12, or Gold Line, cost about $1.8 billion and is a capstone for the administration of outgoing Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. The line also represented an unprecedented test for engineers, planners and politicians who had to fend off vigorous protests and legal challenges from some residents.
For riders, the line makes a crucial alteration to the transit landscape of Mexico City: It adds a lateral connection across the southern end of the metro map, crisscrossing four lines and creating transfer points where previously none existed.
The line also connects Tlahuac, a large, semirural expanse on the southeastern end of the metropolis, to the subway grid. End to end, Mixcoac to Tlahuac, the line stops at 20 stations across 15.5 miles of tunnels and elevated tracks.
More than 380,000 people are initially expected to use Line 12 daily. Overall, nearly 4 million passengers ride Mexico City's subway every day, making it one of the largest such systems in the world.
"This is an immense project for Mexico City," Ebrard said. "It is the longest line and turned out to be most complex. We are very proud of our engineers, our workers."
President Felipe Calderon said he was proud the federal government supplied funds for Line 12, meant to commemorate the 2010 bicentennial of Mexico's independence.
"It was worth it," Calderon said. "This ... is a sustainable solution to the problems of mobility and transport in Mexico City. Moreover, it minimizes the impact of pollution on the city, and that's fundamental."
By noon, smiling, cheering riders were joining the inaugural train on which Calderon and Ebrard briefly rode. An hour later, at Mixcoac station, commuters were already moving about the transfer point as hardy residents of this city do: earphones in, bags held close, eyes alert to the journey ahead.
* Photo: Juana Cisneros, 59, and Jose Hernandez, 52, were among the first riders of the new Mexico City subway line, Line 12, on Tuesday.
(You're not supposed to do this anymore in D.F., but oooooh ... just for old time's sake, like it's the year 2002.)
This is Parque de los Dinamos in southwestern Distrito Federal.
The bottom part where most visitors gather is not much. And like with other big parks on the outskirts of the city, there is a petty and sometimes-violent crime issue at los Dinamos that should be noted.
But anyway, it's the woods, it's the mountains, and in crowded chilangolandia, it's a sigh of relief.
Additionally, the pulques are good.
These are curados of piña con guarana and an apio. Both were excellent.
Dobler is a street artist in Taxco, Guerrero, who paints mural portraits of people on their stoops and corners in the middle of the night. His work creates startling visual scenarios when the street-person represented returns to a regular spot and orbits around the mural.
In one instance, Dobler painted an indigenous woman vendor of artesanías. When the woman saw herself represented visually on the wall behind her usual puesto the morning after Dobler struck, she began attempting to wash it off. Passersby tried to stop her, telling her the portrait was beautiful, but the vendedora was adamant. She removed it.
More at La Crónica Biónica.
This is the mercado in Tizimin, a stop between Valladolid and the port of Chiquilá. The mercado is easily one of the coolest structures I think I've ever seen in Mexico. It is circular; concentric rows of stalls are separated in meats, produce, produce, and meats again. Tizimin is known for its meats. But not for this building, unbelievably.
The design makes the market feel airy, inviting, even logical; those are qualities that would rarely be used to describe a mercado in Mexico, where stalls are usually crammed into a dense maze system. The circular design also permits the room to be flooded with natural light all day. Noise bounces around soothingly.
I found a circular market online in Coventry, Britain, and one Givry, France. Any others? In Tizimin's case, it feels like one of those rare "perfect" buildings, in terms of its properties of harmony, and I'm glad I got to see it.
It was a Saturday. We asked vendors when the market was built, or who designed it. The most we got was that it was about 50 years old. If so, the mercado would have been built during the boom of spirited Modern architecture in Mexico, chronicled by enthusiasts such as Mario Ballesteros.
What brilliant young Maya architect snagged this PRI era contract and came up with harmony? Is the form a reference to prehispanic Maya design? Or is it by the architect who did TAPO? Serious Investigations.
Here's the extended clip of an interview I did with the charming Yarel Ramos of mun2 some weeks ago in Mexico City about a subject that touches us all -- ha! -- the state of the Mexican pegoratives of pocho and naco.
Enjoy. And ... Pochos Unite!
* ADD: I'm inspired on this subject by the work of historian Claudio Lomnitz.
Watch the video above, I implore you. Support, ponder, and bear witness. A democracy in Mexico cannot survive without the women and men you see here.
** Originally published at World Now:
They were images that could not have been scripted with any more dramatic irony. Come to think it, it looked quite a bit like a network-produced telenovela. Just gone painfully wrong.
During the latest wave of demonstrations against the results of the July 1 elections in Mexico, protesters in Mexico City on Saturday converged on a colonial church downtown and began chanting and shouting from the outside while an actor's wedding took place inside.
The wedding of comedian Eugenio Derbez and actress and singer Alessandra Rosaldo was being aired live on the Canal de las Estrellas, the entertainment channel belonging the dominant media conglomerate Televisa. Televised weddings are a customary practice for a channel that tends to employ Televisa personalities' real lives as fodder for programming.
Protesters who had gathered by the tens of thousands in central Mexico City apparently got word of the televised event and dozens marched to the church from the Zocalo main square, reports said.
"Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!" the protesters shouted.
The chanting was audible over the Televisa live feed, making for excruciating footage as the bride and groom attempted to stick to their vows while the ruckus was heard loudly and clearly. See unofficial video here and a longer clip here.
There were no reports of arrests or injuries. But the incident stood out as an uncontrollable and spontaneous hijacking of air time in a tense period for Mexico's political and media establishment. Demonstrations have continued in several cities in rejection of apparent president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Activists have rejected the election results due in part to widespread reports of vote-buying by the PRI. They are also targeting Televisa, which controls nearly all of Mexico's television channels in a duopoly formed with second network TV Azteca, and which they accuse of giving favorable coverage to Peña Nieto and the PRI for years.
Derbez, known for his role on the slapstick program "La Familia Peluche," is presumably enjoying his honeymoon and has not made public comments since the wedding. But on his Twitter account, the actor retweeted a message from a supporter claiming Derbez did not support Peña Nieto in the election and the demonstrators were "sheep."
Televisa's breezy newscast report on the Derbez-Rosaldo wedding does make a mention of the protesters, perhaps in acknowledgment that their shouting could not be ignored or edited out.
Separately, in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, a man identified as a member of the PRI was arrested and jailed after he pointed a pistol at election protesters from a restaurant balcony in the capital city of Xalapa during Saturday demonstrations.
Juan Pablo Franzoni Martinez, a PRI activist and restaurant investor, was detained and dragged away by police as his pants were coming down, creating embarrassing images that were then promptly ridiculed on Twitter. Authorities in Veracruz said Franzoni was booked on charges of threatening the protesters and for illegally carrying a firearm.
There's plenty of video circulating of that incident, too.
** Originally published at Vice.com:
We’re now less than two weeks away from Mexico’s presidential election, and at this point, few people would have expected that the otherwise unsurprising democratic process of voting would be accompanied by scenes of rabble-rousing students chanting and singing along with mariachi bands outside the studios of Mexico’s leading television network.
These scenes, part of a nascent student movement known as #YoSoy132, are now becoming regular features on the nightly news in Mexico. Imagine that, young people protesting media bias and media manipulation by the thousands in a country with little precedent for such collective grievances against corporate big media.
A lot of people here are pretty excited with this development.
It all started on May 11, when candidate Enrique Peña Nieto visited the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City for what was supposed to be a friendly meet-and-greet with the student and academic community. Instead, over the course of his visit, Peña Nieto suffered a humiliating and disastrous few hours of abuse from what looked like a spontaneous student protest. It got messy.
Peña Nieto came for a normal campaign stop, to deliver a speech and answer questions before an auditorium. The thing was going nominally well until students who had managed to slip in protest signs past a security check could no longer contain themselves. According to video, photos, and accounts of the event, the shouting started after one lone guy with a poofy haircut and a lot of attitude stood up silently holding a hand-drawn sign that read simply, TE ODIO. “I hate you.”
The shouting and chanting grew. Peña Nieto sought an escape. More protesters were waiting for him outside.
The candidate with the movie-star looks and soap-opera star wife was chased through the halls and courtyards of “the Ibero” by choruses of “Murderer!” and “Coward!” as students protested his handling of a 2006 dispute with campesinos in the town of San Salvador Atenco during his term as a state governor. The shouting and chasing grew overwhelming. Peña Nieto hid briefly in a restroom with his team, trying to find a good way out. Video of the moment shows Peña’s eyes wide and hollow, his forehead tense, lips curled up with fear.
By the time it was all over, Peña Nieto was literally run off the Ibero campus. As he ducked into a dark SUV, one reporter managed to ask him what he thought of the protests against him. “It’s not genuine,” he responded with a meager smile, and took off. And with that, the 2012 Mexican presidential race—the race that Peña Nieto was supposed to win without breaking a sweat—took a major shift.
The Ibero incident put the Peña Nieto campaign in damage-control mode. The next day, suggestions that the demonstration was staged by outsiders was repeated by his campaign chief, a few sympathetic Ibero faculty, and just about every provincial and vaguely corrupt newspaper that implicitly supports Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
This turned out to be an enormously foolish move. The students responded by uploading a video of 131 of them staring into their MacBook video cameras and repeating their names and their student ID numbers while flashing their Ibero ID cards. The PRI has spent many millions of dollars on its campaign to win Mexico’s presidency, but what followed was a media coup that no amount of cash or army of consultants could have stopped. Among Mexico’s active Twitter-verse, the hashtag soon appeared: #YoSoy132. “I am 132.”
It’s worth noting that this kind of brouhaha was very unexpected for Ibero. It is one of the swankiest schools in the country, the kind of place where a slick, media-savvy politician like Peña Nieto should normally be made to be feel right at home. Hell, the Ibero produces Peña Nietos. I know, because a lot of my friends are recent graduates. Even they were surprised by what happened on May 11, but not entirely. Any decent school always has room for progressive thought and action, and while the Ibero probably costs more per year than what millions of Mexicans make in an adult life, there was an undercurrent of “enough is enough” in the anti-Peña protest that seemed blind to class or social boundaries. By the following weekend, a classic grassroots social-media movement had taken off.
#YoSoy132 demonstrations broke first in Mexico City. Tens of thousands streamed through the central corridor and gathered at the Angel of Independence monument to make it known that they, too, were opposed to the PRI regaining power.
The party ruled the country for much of the 20th Century until 2000 with a potent mix of strategies that ultimately boils down to power-by-any-means necessary. It has a widely documented history of vote-buying, fraud, collusion with drug traffickers, censorship, intimidation, election-stealing, and often fatal repression against dissidents—from the assassination of top party figures such as Luis Donaldo Colosio in 1994 to the outright massacres of student protesters in 1968 and 1971. Peña Nieto says the PRI under his candidacy is a new party, and that his campaign should not be faulted for the party’s “errors” of the past.
In 2012, as the July 1 election day nears and the PRI remains ahead in the polls, the students aren’t having it.
#YoSoy132 demonstrations were also held in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Durango, Zacatecas, Tlaxcala, Aguascalientes, Veracruz, and many other cities in Mexico. Smaller protests in show of support of #YoSoy132 have also been reported among the wide Mexican diaspora in places like Chicago, Barcelona, Madrid, San Francisco, and before the White House in Washington, DC. Students at more than 35 universities and colleges across Mexico have joined the movement. What’s significant is that they’re forming a private- and public-university horizontal coalition that hasn’t been seen in Mexico with such force since the late 1960s. As thousands join their demonstrations, there’s a sense of collective dissent against the return of the so-called “dinosaurs” of the PRI, and collective disgust at the arguably biased role that the major media companies are playing in the process.
Now, this is not the Mexican Spring. It’s not a movement meant to topple the government. It’s actually stated a sort of incongruent political position: Against a presidential candidate but not in support of any other. For all we know, Peña Nieto has already won the 2012 election in Mexico. He’s about 15 points up; heart-on-his-sleeve leftie Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and incumbent party conservative Josefina Vazquez Mota, who’s all about keeping military on the streets against drug cartels, are so far splitting the anti-PRI vote.
Even if Lopez Obrador or Vazquez Mota pull off a wild upset in the end, #YoSoy132 will seek to keep the movement up, asking for media reform against the duopoly of Televisa and TV Azteca, which evidently represent an extension of the greater status quo in Mexico—all neatly symbolized by Peña and the PRI. Therefore, the natural questions are: Can it? Will it? Could it?
** Originally published at World Now:
MEXICO CITY -- The campaign for the front-runner in Mexico's presidential election is producing reality TV-style documentary videos that show him kissing and flirting with his wife, eating ice cream and returning home after a day on the campaign trail to hug his daughters.
The videos constitute a new level in the blurring of lines between politics and pop media in Mexico, and appear to be energizing support among voters.
Enrique Peña Nieto, galloping toward the July 1 vote with a double-digit lead over his two main rivals, would be the first president from the former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the 21st century. The PRI, often labeled through its history as quasi-authoritarian, was booted from power in 2000.
The videos primarily star Peña Nieto's wife, telenovela actress Angelica Rivera, and are narrated from her perspective under the title, "What My Eyes See, and What My Heart Feel" (links in Spanish). In them, she follows her husband to campaign events and chats with him between stops in clips that feel like journals or diary entries.
One ends with Peña, 45, and Rivera, 41, arriving home and letting the viewer in on plans for an evening of dinner, bathing and bedtime. In another, he samples local ice cream. Here's a new clip from a stop in Villahermosa, in the state of Tabasco:
The videos are meant to show an informal, intimate side of the couple, who married in 2010 after the sudden death in 2007 of Peña Nieto's first wife, Monica Pretelini, while he governed the central state of Mexico. The clips have garnered thousands of views on YouTube and "likes" on Facebook. There, Rivera's public page frequently posts casual snapshots of her and her family.
Political advertising in Mexico's two most recent presidential campaigns, won by Vicente Fox in 2000 and fellow conservative Felipe Calderon in 2006, has moved steadily toward a more U.S.-style media approach. The PRI's effort this year takes the current social-media orientation of Mexican politics to a new level.
Peña Nieto personifies the trend, making some political commentators bemoan the nature of the 2012 race. In a Jan. 27 column in the daily Reforma, author Juan Villoro called Peña Nieto a "political hologram" and a "tele-candidate."
"There is no election today that is not decided in the media," Villoro wrote. "Trusting in this precept, the PRI has chosen a telegenic candidate. The problem is that he appears to have little more than luminous wrapping."
U.S. officials in Mexico have been watching Peña Nieto's rise for years, noting his telegenic qualities since the start, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. One of those cables from 2009 relays a description of Peña Nieto as "a pretty face with nationwide appeal, but lacking in substance and political savvy."
His strongest detractors early on were apparently concentrated within his own party, the leaked cables show. In another from 2009, contacts inside the PRI told U.S. officials that they believed Peña was "paying media outlets under the table for favorable news coverage, as well as potentially financing pollsters to sway survey results."
His campaign has carefully guarded his public appearances, and the videos in "What My Eyes See, and What My Heart Feels," although edited with an unscripted, chop-and-cut flair, are no different.
During his first campaign stop in the city of Oaxaca, for example, Rivera's video diary showed an upbeat Peña Nieto greeting supporters at the city's central plaza but no images of the crowds of demonstrators who had gathered to protest the PRI machine.
The party isn't alone in pumping funds into sleek documentary-style video spots.
The campaign for Josefina Vazquez Mota, candidate for the conservative National Action Party, released a video Wednesday documenting her visit that day to the prestigious Tecnologico de Monterrey university.
In it, she speaks to students in an auditorium, then responds to a protestor who yells at her from the audience. The nature of the protestor's complaint, however, is not specified, and neither is the candidate's response, for that matter. Instead, the video ends with a crescendo of music and the candidate calling over applause, "Do not tire of truth! Do not tire of liberty!"
Photo: Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, center, and his wife, actress Angelica Rivera, left, during a campaign stop in Papantla, Veracruz, on April 13. Credit: Peña Nieto campaign