‘Mexican newspapers don’t explain Mexico’ says journalist

Mexican newspaper publishers sell only three million newspapers a day in a country with a population of 106 million. Most Mexican journalists will tell you that Mexican’s don’t read because Mexican newspapers have yet to get round to the job of ‘explaining Mexico’, according to Ronald Buchanan, a Scottish freelance journalist based in Mexico City.

OK, so it’s in Buchanan’s interest to say that as he is a regular writer for recently launched English-language newspaper the News in Mexico City, but he has a point. Newspapers here are rife with bias, personal attacks on politicians and partisan editorializing, making it hard if not impossible for Mexicans (never mind foreigners) to understand what’s going on. Continue reading

English Newspaper Hits Streets of Mexico, Pledging Independence

English Newspaper Hits Streets of Mexico, Pledging IndependenceEnglish language newspaper The News hit the streets of Mexico City today after a five year hiatus.

Its directors have promised a more independent tone this time around. In its prior incarnation The News kept its head under the parapet, preferring to keep its advertisers and powerful readers happy rather than rocking the boat.

Victor Hugo O’Farrill Ávila, owner and chairman of The News, said in the opening pages of today’s edition that the aim of the newspaper is to be ‘constructive and serious’, as his grandfather said some 60 years ago when launching the original form of the title in 1950.

But John Moody, chief executive of the paper, was much more bullish when he spoke to MexicoReporter.com a couple of weeks ago.

“I think that we’re going to be the only newspaper in Mexico that sells its readers and not paper and ink. I’m at the service of my readers and not my advertisers.” Continue reading

‘Mexican Government is main perpetrator of violence against journalists in Mexico’, says human rights expert

Dario Ramirez, head of Article19’s programme in Mexico‘The Mexican Government is one of the main perpetrators of violence against journalists in the country and complicit in its continuance,’ according to one of the country’s leading freedom of expression organisations.

Mexico is reportedly the second most dangerous country to work as a journalist after Iraq. But speaking to MexicoReporter.com last week Dario Ramirez, head of Article19’s programme in Mexico, was keen to dispel what he says is the generally held-belief that the main perpetrators of the violence are networks of organized crime.

“Let’s not fool ourselves and say that the perpetrators of the violence are the groups of organized crime, as the government wants us to believe.

“It suits the [Mexican] government that there is so much aggression against journalists,” said Ramirez. Continue reading

Mexico City premiere documents persecution of journalist

Los Demonios Del Eden premiered in Mexico City on Saturday night (29/09/07)

A documentary film documenting the experiences of persecuted Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho Ribiera premiered in Mexico City on Saturday night.

The film, which was shown as part of the DocsDF film festival, documents the series of events set in motion following the publication of Cacho’s book, Los Demonios de Eden.

Hundreds of people showed up to the premier, which was screened at Cinemex Insurgentes on Saturday evening. Continue reading

Lucha Libre Fighter Fuerza Guerrera Won’t Show His Face Without A Mask

Fuerza Guerrera is a famous Mexican Lucha Libre fighter who we met in the Latino American Gymnasio, Mexico City. He refused to be interviewed with his face showing – many fighters will only be seen in public wearing their masks. So we interviewed him from behind. Forgive my poor Spanish.

Conversation with a Nationalist Socialist in Mexico City

His belt clip is also an authentic issue from the German Army

La Lagunilla, one of the biggest markets in Mexico City, is a boiling mass of furniture, cheap jeans, cameras, shoes, tacos, antique fur coats, old photographs, contemporary art, beer stalls, BBQs and practically anything else that you can think of. Whilst ambling through the hundreds of stalls that spring up each weekend at the market, NewCorrespondent stumbled upon a number of stalls selling paraphernalia from the Second World War.

Not only was the store selling original and replica objects that are testament to one of the most horrific chapters in European history, but the store’s owner claimed to be a Nationalist Socialist himself.

This Story also appeared on NowPublic.

Here’s what he had to say:

AP = Augustin Perez
NC = NewCorrespondent

NC: What sorts of clients do you have? Do they come from a particular social class?

AP. We have all sorts – people from the lower classes to people who pay between 30 and 40 thousand pesos for a piece [40 pesos = $3,600 or £1,800].

NC: Is that the most you’ve sold things for?

AP: Yes, this is the most that I make. There are people with no money who just buy a little insignia for 30 pesos, little things, very cheap.

NC: What is the most expensive thing that you’ve sold?

AP: Various things – an official cap with a coat – we sold that for 40 thousand pesos.

NC: Where do these things come from?

AP: We get them all form the same circle of people, who like us are dedicated to collecting things from the Second World War. Some people a lot of the time don’t know what they have in their house, but they sell it. Original pieces have also come to me because people see that it has a Swastika and they don’t want it – in this way I’ve managed to get some Crosses of Honour from the German Army.

NC: Do you go to markets or private houses to get these things?

AP: Private houses and markets, this flea market specialises in antiques, there are other fleamarkets which have a lot of junk, lots of old metal – you can find really cool things.

NC: You go hunting through junk in el Bordo de Xochiaca, for example (another fleamarket)? Swastika keyrings are some of the more popular items

AP: There you can find everything, en la San Felipe (another fleamarket) you need to have a good eye for what you’re looking for and be able to recognize the original pieces. You find things that are of very good quality, that seem original, but they’re not.

NC: None of these pieces here are original?

AP: No, the only original thing that I have here is this photograph and this stamp. I always bring just one stamp (I leave the whole set at home so as not to damage it). The price of the item will change according to the state it’s in. What we see here is a replica of a German medal for man to man combat, it was one of the highest decorations, and not many wore it. After five fights of man on man combat in the war the army would award this medal. This is a replica; it sells for a hundred dollars.

In reference to this photo, the state of the piece influences the price. In this case photographs of the German Army are cheap, the price is between 15 and 25 dollars depending on the photograph. In the case of photos of concentration camps, or the SS…

NC: You have photos of the concentration camps?

AP: Yes, I have original photographs from Auswitch, not those that you’ve seen – actually photos of the camps.
Keyrings featuring Swatsikas are some of his most popular items

NC: How did you get them?

AP: The same – these pictures have been very well looked after, because they’re very fragile.

NC: How did you come to be doing this?

AP: When I enlisted in the Army, I made a friend (I was in Chiapas), and one day he showed me an insignia, which I liked a lot. And so we started to talk and he showed me his collection and from then he awakened in me a taste for these things. Before he introduced this to me I was ignorant of the reality of the things, and like all was against all of it. I didn’t know anything – like the whole world I hated the Nazis in my life I had never had contact with an original relic.

After some time I started to find original pieces and to investigate and came upon lots of rare books.

NC: Which books do you remember having read?

AP: The book “Global defeat” is one of the oldest that I’ve read, this is a really old item. The majority of people have read “The Diary of Anne Frank” – I think it’s a lie. Also “The ovens of Hitler”, “My Fight”, and when I read “Mein Kampf” for the first time, it was the commercial edition for the whole world, but compared to the original text it doesn’t have anything to say.

NC: Do foreigners buy things here?

AP: Yes, some do.

NC: Do you find that these things can be controversial?

AP: Yes, these things cause controversy, but there are a wide range of opinions. They are people who attack you even if they don’t understand things, but there are also people who attack you who do understand things. Personally, I enjoy discussing with experts even if they don’t agree with me. I can learn a lot from them, and am grateful to have a discussion with someone that knows what they’re talking about than with someone who says ‘this is racist, this is hate, this is bullshit.’ From the moment that a person starts to say this, they’re showing me their culture and the level of knowledge that they have. A real expert is never going to express things like that about art, collecting or other things.

I have some clients who are Jews, who buy a lot of things from me, to talk about this issue is really big, for a lot of people to be a Nazi is to wear a Swastika but behind all of this is an ideology and a way of thinking that if very different to what most people understand.

People who get it have read the Talmud, they’ve read the Torah, they know about Jewish customs and the Masons.

Strangely, the people who attack us here call us fascists, but the fascism of Mussolini is not the same thing as the National Socialism of Hitler. These people don’t know how to distinguish one from the other. In terms of fascism, many people think that it’s a new political idea, but fascism comes from old Roman Times. In Mexico, we have a strong sense of nationalism.

NC: Is there a fascist movement in Mexico?

AP: Yes, there is a fascist movement and national socialist movement in Mexico. The national movement that they’re driving here is concerned with patriotism, customs, traditions. Others groups exist that don’t understand how to apply National Socialism in Mexico. We have problems in Mexico with groups that claim to be Aryan, when here in Mexico they can’t talk about Aryanism because there is no such thing as a pure race.

NC: Are there groups in Mexico that consider themselves Aryan?

AP: Yes there are. It’s only a handful of people that because they’re quite white skinned, they think they’re Aryans.

Augustin Perez in his stall selling Second World War memorabilia, La Lagunilla, Mexico City

NC: What are your political beliefs?

AP: I’m a hundred per cent Nationalist Socialist.

After Augustin said this, an old man who was listening the whole time raised his arm in a Nazi salute, in agreement.

AP: I am going to repeat to you the words of the Furher: “The National Socialism is not an imported product. But National Socialism changes because it has to adapt to the country in which it is being practiced.” We don’t have to speak German, or practice German customs or traditions to be national socialists – we have our own customs in this country.

NC: Why did you leave the army?

AP: I finished my contract, and also the psychological impact of the army was very difficult. The things you see…war isn’t easy. In theory to shoot a gun at another person is something anyone can do. Anyone can take a gun and shoot it, but in practice it is something terrible, although the person that you have killed serves political reasons, in terms of humanity it’s horrible to kill someone. I was in active combat, 17 objectives in my service documents. My specialty was large weapons like rifles.

At this time, a young, thin white man arrived and Augustin told us that he is a client who collects rare insignias and caps.

One Man Dies and 24 are Injured in Huamantla’s Amateur Bullfighting Festival

One man died and 24 people, including one women, were injured in Huamantla’s amateur bullfighting festival in Mexico this weekend.

Each year, the small town of Huamantla in the state of Tlaxcala celebrates the day of the Virgin Mary by creating brightly-coloured designs and draping the streets in colour. But it’s the amateur bull-fighting event that follows the solemn religious procession rather than the local craftsmanship which makes the headlines.

Thousands of Mexicans – both locals and tourists – flock to the town either to sit in the stalls and watch their fellow country-men tempt death, or to challenge the bulls themselves.

The smell of wet paint is still in the air from the wooden hoardings which were erected the night before to protect the crowds from the marauding bulls, two of which are let into each of 18 streets in the town. Entire families from old men and women through to tiny babies made themselves comfortable before the spectacle began and paid for prime position.

Street vendors paced along the outside of the hoardings selling umbrellas to keep off the sun, nuts, soft drinks, ice-cream souvenir T-shirts, sweets, hats and fake, fuzzy bull’s horns.

Next to me, a couple of young men discussed some business matters as they supped from enormous, special edition bottles of Sol, one of the sponsors of this annual event. The heady mix of alcohol, hot sun and adrenalin creates a dangerous environment in which it’s very easy for things to go badly wrong, and many of the young men and women milling around in the midday sun are already drunk.

Suddenly a scream goes up, and the bulls are upon us – or so it feels. It’s the first time your humble correspondent has been so close to a 500 kilo, angry panting bull that is being mercilessly taunted by the frantic crowd, and with every pass its sweaty flanks brushed against the wooden hoardings – 50 cm between me and certain death.

The black beauty began by pacing the road, sizing up its adversaries. As it trotted along the side of the hoardings, people standing in the road scattered in every direction, some of them leaping onto the hoardings, others finding tiny gaps to squeeze through in the wooden barriers to get themselves out of harm’s way.

Taunters are all around – every man and his wife screamed at the animal as it stood bewildered and sweaty in the centre of the road. The first serious adversary arrived, dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt sporting a silhouette of a proudly standing toro. He dragged his feet behind him in the dusty road as he eyed his challenger, the bull switching his eyes from the solitary Mexican to the crowd and back again – unsure of who to focus on.

The aspiring matador opened his old, dusky pink cloak – probably passed down to him from a former glorious matador family member, or perhaps picked up in a junk shop – and the battle begins. The bull, already tired from running, plunged for the cloak and the Mexican matador moved graceful to the side. This exchange went on for some time, the bull alternating his attention between his adversary and the maddening crowd.

Finally, in an act of triumph, the Mexican kneels whilst making eye-contact with the enormous animal standing before him, reaching out and to the side to touch the tip of the bull’s horn before retreating in victory.

He will live to boast the tale – others won’t be so lucky.

Snorkelling a Cenote in Tulum

Dos Ojos ('two eyes')The Maya Riviera down on the Caribbean Mexican Coast is home to some of the country’s best kept secrets – cenotes. Cenotes are underwater caves, and there are more than 150 forming part of the network along the Riviera. You can dive or snorkel them, and I had a commission to write a piece for CNN Traveler about the experience. Inside each cenote are huge formations that are created by the rain leaking through the rock above. Each formation grows 1cm every five years!

Clementi, a builder by trade, waits for work in Mexico City’s Zocalo

Clementi, a builder by trade, touts for work on the Zocalo, Mexico City

Clementi is one of the many tradesmen to make his living from the edges of the Zocalo in Mexico City. A builder by trade, he awaits potential clients on the outside of the fence that rings the Cathedral.

People come to the square to contract builders, he explains. If they employ him, Clementi then contacts a group of men who work beneath him and they go to work at the client’s house.

Clementi is flanked by plumbers, electricians and other professionals who tout for work in this way because, they say, there are no steady jobs for them in their profession.

‘I’m too old now to work for the major companies,’ says Clementi.