Filming bullfights is not worth dying for

The Huamantlada pits man against beast in potentially disastrous circumstances. The annual event, which takes place in the otherwise sleepy town of Huamantla in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, saw 24 bulls let loose in the town’s narrow, uneven streets to be confronted by locals and visitors alike – many of which had been drinking since early in the morning on what was a scorching hot day.

My loyal readers may remember the Huamantlada from last year – the film we made has proved one of our most watched and the coverage was one of the earliest missions of MexicoReporter.com – then known as NewCorrespondent.com. Well, this year I was back – for the Los Angeles Times this time around – and I wanted to apply my new video training to the event which had proved entertaining 12 months ago, although a little hard to watch. One man had died and there were 24 injuries during the 2007 event. Continue reading

Amateur bullfighting festival in Mexico ends with 23 injuries

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More than 20 people were gored or injured by bulls this weekend in Huamantla in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala after taking on one of the 24 bulls let loose into the streets as part of an annual festival.

The Huamantlada, which is often compared to the running of the bulls event in Pamplona, takes place every year in this small rural town. The comparison to the event in Spain is inaccurate – the bulls didn’t run anywhere. The town’s 17 central streets were transformed into huge pens for the half-ton animals, which were mercilessly taunted by the crowd and pelted with plastic bottles and beer cans.

Many of the men who challenged the bulls, matador-style, knew what they were doing and approached the animals with caution and capes. But many didn’t. The combination of alcohol, a screaming crowd and poor judgment was too much: 23 people ended up being carried away on stretchers by the Red Cross. Continue reading

Immigration explored as a concept in Mexico City exhibition

The video and photography exhibition Laberinto de Miradas – Labyrinth of Glances – that opened in Mexico City last month in the Cultural Center of Spain – features the kind of images that we are used to seeing in relation to immigration.

But the show also looks at migration and immigration as a concept, broadening out the typical notion we might have of the phenomenon of human migration and immigration.

Migration is “a middle-class Argentine woman, driven into exile by her country’s 2001 peso collapse. A Cuban man who bears the scars of jail time served for trying to flee to Miami. Hundreds of Brazilians of mixed ethnicities, body types and attitudes, mostly economic refugees from other parts of the country, all crammed into a ramshackle São Paulo apartment building, striving to co-exist (see photo, by Cia de Foto), writes Reed Johnson in this Los Angeles Times dispatch.

Watch the narrated slideshow below, made for the Los Angeles Times,  for some pictures from the show.

Mexico nightclub tragedy caused by inept police and an ignored youth, says youth advocate

P6232087This post was written for La Plaza, the Los Angeles Times Latin America blog.

A tragedy in Mexico City last weekend, in which 12 people were suffocated or trampled to death in a bungled police raid at the News Divine night club, was due to an inept police force and a lack of public policy directed at the city’s youth, says a sociologist and longtime activist for youth-related programs.

Héctor Castillo Berthier, who runs the youth culture center Circo Volador (Flying Circus) in Mexico City and has worked in youth programs for more than 30 years (pictured), said in an interview Tuesday with La Plaza that the capital’s police are not trained to deal with adolescents and young adults. That’s part of a wider failure to integrate young people into Mexico’s public and political life, he said.

“Mexico doesn’t have a defined public policy for its youth. They aren’t part of the public agenda or the political agenda,” said Castillo Berthier, speaking in his cluttered office in the run-down neighborhood of Lorenzo Boturini. Continue reading

Latin America promotes but doesn’t respect human rights

Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico have been strong on promoting human rights internationally and in supporting the UN human rights machinery during 2007.

But unless the gap between their policies internationally and their performance at home is closed their credibility as human rights champions will be challenged, according to this week’s report from Amnesty International on human rights around the world.

You can access the report here and click on the links at the top for specific country reports. Continue reading

Video: Illegal Border Crossing for tourists

This video was created to go with this Los Angeles Times report.

Illegal border crossing – for tourists.

La Caminata Nocturna, HidalgoVideo Coming Soon

Panting for breath, I waded through cow-pat flavoured mud, struggling to keep myself from slipping in the dark. “Vamanos, vamanos, vamanos!” urged my coyote, the Spanish name for people who smuggle migrants across the border into the United States.

The sound of La Migra’s sirens – also known as United States Border Patrol – sounded out behind me. Hands shaking, I stopped to catch my breath and watched the faces of the other migrants crouched in the dark, breathing heavily.

“We know you’re there,” boomed a crackling voice in English, tinged with a Mexican accent, over the loudspeaker. Gun shots rang out.

“What you’re doing is illegal. We have food and water. We can help you get back home.”

Only, no one wanted to go back home. Everyone was actually having a rather a good time. That’s because this wasn’t for real. We were pretend migrants, trying to cross an artificial border pursued by a fake Border Patrol deep in the Mexican state of Hidalgo for the bargain price of 100 pesos (US$10) rather than the thousands that Mexicans and Central American migrants crossing into the U.S illegally pay their smugglers. Continue reading

Leonora Carrington on Mexico City’s Paseo de Reforma

Leonora Carrington is a British surrealist artist from Lancashire who left Europe during the Second World War, on the run from the Nazis.

She finally settled in Mexico, and has produced an impressive body of work, some of which is currently on display on one of Mexico’s main thoroughfares – Paseo de Reforma.

Leonora Carrington exhibition, Mexico City

Click on the photo for more photos on Flickr

Arrest warrants issued for Cacho case

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, herself a victim of human rights abuses, listens to the tale of the friend of a prison inmate.Warrants for the arrest of five public employees involved in the illegal detention of journalist Lydia Cacho (pictured) have been issued in Mexico after the nation’s Supreme Court decided at the end of last year not to pursue legal proceedings against those involved in the case.

The Attorney General’s office, which represents a special office set up to investigate crimes against journalists in Mexico (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Contra Periodistas, FEADP), issued the arrest warrants. The names of those who are under arrest warrant have not been published, and it is not known whether Mario Marin, the governor of Puebla who was implicated in the illegal arrest of Cacho, is amongst them. Continue reading

Mexicans spending more on bribes

The fact that there exist official statistics on the amount and size of bribes paid in Mexico is perhaps indicative of the level to which corruption and the ‘informal economy’ is ingrained in Mexican Society.

The latest figures from Transperencia Mexico show that Mexicans spent 42% more on bribes last year than in 2005, splashing out a massive $2.6 billion. That’s an average of more than $24 for each of Mexico’s 105 million people.

A brief survey of friends shows that some have paid up to 500 pesos to policemen to get out of parking/ speeding and drinking infractions. But the best bribe story has to be a friend who got stopped for having a dodgy back-light, and gave the policeman such a hard time he eventually got off with just giving him a piece of gum as his payoff. Nice work.

For my part, I recall watching the TV news one afternoon. The newsreader was talking about how there is a problem in Mexico City with people dumping their trash on the pavement / sidewalk rather than leaving it in their house and bringing it out when the garbage guys pass by. It’s an offence, but it doesn’t carry a fine. He went on to say, on network TV, that the police were going to be of no help enforcing the law because there was no money in it for them – people weren’t going to pay a bribe if they weren’t eventually going to have to pay a fine. Such overt acknowledgement of the city’s system made me laugh.

There’s more on the nature of the types of bribes paid through this link – but it’s important to remember that the poll included tipping garbage collectors and other little ‘mordidas’ which in my mind, is more of a tip than a bribe. You decide.