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

Los Angeles plants are just like Mexico plants

The cacti in Los Angeles are exactly the same as those you see in Mexico. Even though you can step from the first into the third world and back across the United States – Mexican Border, what the land gives up and supports is the same.

I love these cacti – they look like Medusa’s hair, writhing out and into the air.

Frontline Club Journalism Award Winner: John D McHugh

Winner of the Frontline Club Journalism Award John D McHugh is interviewed at the Frontline Club, London, about his award-winning work from Afghanistan.

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Bribe culture in action

Corruption within Mexico’s law enforcement agencies is reputedly rife, and recent figures show that people here spent more on bribes last year than they did during 2005. But it’s always interesting to see hearsay happen, and yesterday I had the pleasure of witnessing the power of the bribe first hand.

Continue reading

Guns on buses and slain police officers

Photo by Gregory Bull for the Associated Press via the LATimes

HONORING THEIR OWN: Federal police officers salute three slain colleagues, including acting chief Edgar Millan Gomez, in Mexico City. Authorities suspect he was betrayed by someone who knew his movements, according to Mexican media reports. Gregory Bull for the Associated Press via The Los Angeles Times.

This week, Mexico City has been living up to its bad boy reputation. Heading down Paseo de Reforma after a trip to the LATimes office on Thursday, I crossed over the main traffic artery and waited for the bus. The sun was hot and high in the sky and I was wilting in my jeans.

I noticed sluggishly that the police had cut off the road just ahead of the bus stop, but that traffic was dripping through slowly in their direction. so I got on the next pesero.

But as the bus waited in line, a young police man came round the side of the police car blocking the traffic, his pistol drawn. I was astonished. He jogged up Reforma, past the side of my vehicle, his dark eyes scanning the traffic and the sidewalk. He was looking for someone. His colleagues back at the patrol car were shouting things and waving their hands, and the bus got beckoned forward.

But before we could drive around the patrol car onto the empty round behind, we were stopped again. This time two young policemen boarded the bus – one from the front door and one from the descent door on the side. Both of them had their guns drawn – not pistols this time, but the small machine guns that many of them carry down here. I was standing in the walkway of the bus, near the front, and as the officer stood next to me, asking one of the passengers to open his bag, his pistol sat on my hip. Continue reading

Video: Leonora Carrington, Paseo de Reforma, Mexico City – Los Angeles Times

Phantoms come, phantoms go. They swirl around Leonora Carrington, a tiny woman of 91 with a tart intellect and a posh British accent, as she sips Earl Grey tea at her kitchen table. They rise like black vapors from the pavement of Avenue Reforma in the Mexican capital, where a menagerie of Carringtons nightmarishly enigmatic sculptures startle pedestrians and spook passing cars….

This video was made to go with with this Los Angeles Times piece by Reed Johnson.

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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.