Archive for category Culture
09/12/12 – On Saturday, September 8, the Trans-Border Institute (TBI) hosted the screening of the film “Al otro lado” (“To the Other Side”) as part of the border region film series, “Ambulante Border: New Perspectives on Gun Policy, Arms Trafficking, Violence and Immigration, Freedom of Expression, and Violence Towards Journalists.”
Produced and directed by Natalia Almada, the 2005 documentary narrates the story of 23-year-old Magdiel, a Mexican fisherman that dreams of having a better a life. Through Magdiel’s story, the movie shows that the reason many Mexicans want to migrate to the United States is for a better future–for the opportunities to study and to improve their economic conditions by finding better-paying jobs–even if it means crossing illegally.
Not only does the film focus on immigration, it weaves in topics of drug-trafficking and day-to-day realities that many Mexicans face. Given the economic hardships and lack of opportunity present for many Mexicans, and the difficulties one endures if attempting to cross the border, the movie shows that many turn to drug trafficking as a source of income and resources to solve their financial problems. This ever-present reality in Mexico is often captured in the popular “corridos,” a type of Mexican music that has embraced the narco-lifestyle and that narrates, for example, the stories of average Mexicans struggling to survive and to overcome financial hardships, even if that means crossing the border without documents or drug trafficking. The film relies on such “corridos” to help tell their story, as well as showcase their importance in Mexican culture and the influence that drug-trafficking has had on this genre of music and thus on Mexican culture.
In sum, “Al otro lado” explores these broader topics of immigration, economic hardships, drug trafficking, and “corridos” through its protagonist, Magdiel.
While Cinco de Mayo may be more heavily celebrated in the United States its roots and celebration seem to one of contradictions. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration commemorating the Mexican militia win over the better equipped French in 1860, the 5th of May and is mostly celebrated in the United States. Many people in the United States either do not know or believe it is the celebration of Mexico’s independence day. Many Mexican’s do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo and are not aware of how big vastly celebrated it is in the United States.
What is Cinco de Mayo? Cinco de Mayo is a celebration to commemorate Battle of Puebla. The battle erupted after Emperor Napoleon III had sent French troops to Mexico to regain control over the former Spanish colony and place Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as its ruler. At the Battle of Puebla the Mexican militia lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French forces. They eventually lost the war though and Maximilian became the emperor for three years before Mexico reclaimed its independence.
So, why is Cinco de Mayo so heavily celebrated in the States as opposed to Mexico? There have been several reasons put forth to explain this phenomenon. One explanation involves the American Civil war that was fought between the Union and the Confederacy. The French seeing that the U.S. was too internally weak to oppose foreign conquest of its strategic neighbor, took the advantage to colonize Mexico. The Mexican Americans sided with the Union because the French sympathized with the Confederacy who was trying to keep slavery and elitism. Mexican Americans thus fighting for the Union could see the war with the French and the Confederacy as a single war with two fronts; a war for democracy and freedom. After the Battle of Puebla was won, California newspapers published headlines congratulating and praising Mexico’s victory. After the implementation of the United
State’s Good Neighbor Policy, the celebration started expanding to act as a bridge between cultures and celebrating Chicano power. After becoming a celebration of empowerment and community, U.S. corporations were eager to tap into the expanding U.S. Latino market. Thus came about the commercialization of Cinco de Mayo the expansion of the uninformed drinking holiday that is celebrated throughout the United States as opposed to Mexico.
In Mexico City, authorities are considering a law to end bullfighting, as Mexican public opinion seems to be divided. The arguments for not pursuing the ban are that bullfighting has a long tradition in Mexico and is considered an art form. It is also argued that the ban could hurt the local economy. It is true that bullfighting has been a long tradition in Mexico; it dates back some 500 years back to when back to when Spain colonized the country. It is also said Mexico is the second most important bastion for bullfighting in the world, but with over 9,000 bulls killed a year and other countries outlawing bullfighting (Barcelona, Chile and Argentina) it is can be seen why the movement has progressed.
Some even argue that there seems to be a culture of violence coming from the drug war and that bullfighting contributes to it. The petition circulating on change.org states, “There is no art or culture when a sentient animal is mobbed by a gang of men, confused and terrified, repeatedly stabbed with spears, harpoons and a sword, exhausted and dying from his wounds and blood loss.” About 1,000 animal rights activist staged a demonstration for the proposed law in front of City hall in Mexico City this past Sunday. They showed up partially clothed, dripped in fake blood and imbedded with imitation barbed darts to represent the killing of bulls that takes place during a bullfight. The bill is to be heard by the general assembly in the third session which ends the 30th of April. The demonstration took place simultaneously with other states states in Mexico; many bullfighters fear the law expanding across the country. Colombia, Peru and Ecuador also have deep rooted traditions of bullfighting.
04/04/2012- Last week (March 26-29), the Trans-Border Institute was proud to put on its fifth Border Film Week. Building on past Border Film Week success, this year’s BFW was an especially exciting event because this was the first year where the event was truly bi-national. Partnering with the Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana, TBI held the Film Week as a shadow event on both sides of the border.
Some of the highlights from the event include a visit from actor Jose Yenque for the screening of “Miss Bala” on the opening night of BFW. Tuesday, documentary filmmaker Isaac Artenstein presented 25 years of documentary footage centering around the border region. On Wednesday, Mr. Artenstein held a four hour documentary workshop where participants were able to work with the equipment in the production studio at the Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Wednesday evening’s festivities opened with the BINACOM student showcase, where student videos were presented. Submissions came from students at both San Diego City College and California State University, Northridge. After the showcase, there was a “Work in Progress” panel discussion with filmmakers Lisa Franek, of the San Diego Media Arts Center, and Russel Redmond and Jennifer Silva Redmond, of Work With Me Films. The evening concluded with a viewing of “A Better Life” starring Oscar Nominee Demián Bichir. For closing night on Thursday, the documentary “Presunto Culpable” was shown both at USD and the Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana. Two of the directors of the film, Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete, went with TBI staff, including Director David Shirk, to Tijuana for the film screening.
03/27/12 The Pope arrived in Leon, Mexico this past Saturday. Upon his arrival he took a 20-mile ride in his Pope Mobil to “Colegio de Miraflores,”a Catholic school run by nuns. Here the Pope stayed for three days before moving onto Cuba. Several people have come to understand the reason for the Pope visiting Mexico and Cuba is to address the changing environment in the two countries. As the Pope spoke out against Cuba’s Marxist ideology on his flight to Mexico and after speaking out against the drug war upon his arrival in Leon, people understood his visit to be politically motivated.
Mexico’s current President Felipe Calderon is member of PAN, the party most identified with the Roman Catholic Party. Their candidate for the 2012 Presidential elections is Josefina Vazquez Mota; she is currently behind in the polls. Her campaign has concentrated on calling to parents, especially to mother’s (or senora’s as she claims to be and embraces) to protect their kids from falling into the drug violence. The Pope had similar talking points in his speech at the Catholic school he arrived to. He called for the adults in Mexico to “protect and to care for the children.” The Pope had previously focused his attention shortly after he was elected in 2005 on calling for the end of the narco-church; a relationship where the church takes donations from unknown sources and asks no questions. His message to the adults of Mexico also did not resonate well with many critics who saw it as ironic because they claim the Vatican protected Marcial Maciel for decades. Maciel was a pedophile abuse offender born in Mexico and founder of the Legion of Christ order; he died in 2008. Since being elected the Pope has sat down with abuse victims in every country, except during this trip to Mexico despite public outcry. A spokeman for the Pope said no Mexico Bishop’s requested such an encounter.
The visit is hoped to reinvigorate Mexico though, the second largest Roman Catholic nation in the world. Mexico had once been almost universally Roman Catholic, but now has dropped to 83% of the total population. In exchange for the Pope’s support he has said he wants changes to Mexico’s constitution to allow for religious education in public schools. There has been a separation between church and state in Mexico since 1855.
Tuckmen, Jo. “Pope’s visit to Mexico, refocuses attention on narco-church relations: Priest have tp report suspicious donations to their dioceses, but the power of the drug cartels means it is not that simple,” The Guardian, March 22, 2012.
(03/02/12) The National Chamber of Tequila Industry (NCTI) proposed a ban that would restrict distillers outside of the five-state boundary from using the word “agave” to market their drinks. This can be seen in similar light to when Mexico claimed exclusive right to the term “tequila.” They did so because they said it was considered to be a geographical appellation of Mexico. Mexico gained exclusive right to the word because they signed onto several treaties to protect their products in international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, NAFTA, etc. Now the Mexican Government owns the name “tequila.” New producers who want to use “tequila” to market their drink must obtain permission from the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI). The IMPI has given their support to the NCTI for to ban the use of the word agave now.
Unlike tequila though, “agave” is the name of a plant and not a product. Tequila is the only alcoholic beverage made with Blue Agave, grown in the officially demarcated area within Mexico and is banned to five of the 31 states in Mexico. Agave is a plant. Distillers complain though that distillers outside of the tequila region are interfering in their market by using the word agave. They are in a sense saying the trending market of “100% agave” used as a sign to mean quality is bringing competition and “in-authenticating” tequila with cheap knock offs. This is increasingly problematic since “gringos” have become bigger consumers of tequila than Mexican’s and cannot typically tell the difference.
On Friday, February 17, 2012, Charlie Minn’s new documentary, “Murder Capital of the World,” premiered in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Minn is the director of a number of other documentaries such as “8 Murders a Day” and “A Nightmare in Las Cruces.”
“Murder Capital of the World” calls attention to the fact that there have been thousands of murders in Cuidad Juarez, and it concentrates on the events that took place in Juarez in 2011. Some of the highlights of the new documentary include the pot smuggling operation, the chaos at Cereso Prison, Police Chief Julian Leyzaola, Mayor Hector Murguia, the violence spillover, and the 2012 presidential election.
According to an article from Borderzine, Minn’s films are made to stick up for the “voiceless,” to represent them, and to give them “a voice.” The interviews focus on the plight of the innocent victims, which makes the documentary more human, and steers away from choosing sides. Minn believes a major reason why no one knows there is a problem in Juarez is because of discrimination, and he states, “I think after violence, discrimination is the second biggest problem in our world and the film sticks up for the innocent Mexican people.”
The film will show for a minimum of a week in El Paso and Las Cruces before expanding to other cities.
For more information on the film go to, www.murdercapitalfilm.com.
A new global phenomenon is proliferating across the world, known as “Anonymous” or “Anon” for short. Anonymous is a group of anonymous individuals without a leader or any actual organizational structure who work to take down what they believe to be corrupt institutions by hacking into, defacing and protesting their targets means of communication. The media has labeled them, “hacktivist” (a portmanteau of hacker and activist). Their lack of structure, anonymity to the public and anonymity within the group itself and their ability to still coordinate their attacks make them difficult to combat.
They were originally derived from a group of young individual looking to play pranks with the ability to hide in the shadows of anonymity (to learn more about their history click here). After several public and online stunts though, it seems other began to look at anonymity not so much as a way of hiding but as forum to surpass censorship and expose corruption, while avoiding prosecution. With the radical idea of Anonymity as a tool for influence, they took to the Middle East during the Arab Spring to shut down several government websites in Tunisia and Egypt. They also claim responsibility for restoring the Internet back to the Egyptian people during their revolution.
Anonymous’ recent actions have been able to make national and less often, international headlines. Recently they have defaced the Prime Minister of Poland’s website page after signing onto the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA). They have threatened to release archives of stolen emails concerning a controversial U.S. raid in Iraq in response to a call they intercepted from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to take down Anonymous hackers. In Greece they have protested on the justice ministries website proclaiming to the Government, “You have joined the IMF against your people’s acquiescence, you have so introduced a new dictatorship upon your people’s shoulder’s and allowed the bankers and the monarchs of the EU to enslave them both economically and politically.” Less recently, they have even attacked Brazil’s largest bank sites to call attention to the countries corruption and inequality. Thus with everyone having the ability to be anonymous, speaking every language and knowing everyone, it seems only inevitable that they show up in Mexico.
Anonymous operations in Mexico have been aimed against the government and the cartels. Anonymous began operations in Mexico on the 15th of September, the independence day of Mexico. One of the biggest hits came to the website of the Defense Ministry. Their video message was clear, “We demonstrate to the government and drug trafficking groups that we will not allow more violence and insecurity and let them know Mexican Anonymous.” Their message drew a parallel calling it the independence of the Federal Government and not of the people because while officials are celebrating, they continue to drown out the voices of the people who continuously helplessly live enscribed in the terror of organized crime. The following awareness campaign for Mexico consisted of “paper storm,” an international campaign that encourages member to take to the streets of their cities with paper flyers. It was then found out that during a paper storm, one of the members of Anonymous was kidnapped by the Los Zetas cartel while posting flyer’s around Veracruz. In response Anonymous posted a video to Los Zetas, threatening to release the information of all the taxi driver’s, journalist, newspapers, and police officers who have and continue to collaborate with them. After several published concerns from Mexican and US intelligence officials that Anonymous’ act would not so much lead to the arrest of the collaborators as intended, but make them targets of the Los Zetas competing cartel’s. They soon decided to revoke their plan of action.
“Anonymous” refuses to lay dormant on all issues it sees threatening though. Their knew fight, which governments everywhere seem to be pursuing is establishing stricter intellectual property (IP) rights. IP rights seem to be making headline everywhere because whistleblower’s like Wikileaks and Anonymous (who often work in ‘sync) have brought it to the public’s attention. The common theme when establishing stricter rules of law on IP rights has been the amount of power if gives the authorities to censor, incriminate, and fine individuals. Recently Senator Frederico Doring proposed a law that could fine individuals over 100,000 dollars (one million pesos) for online copyright infringement. Anonymous responded by blocking access to the Mexican Senate and Interior Ministry websites. Critics say the proposed law is similar to a bill introduced in the United States known as SOPA that faced a mutiny of opposition after it was publicly advertised, eventually leading to its failure. Anonymous has not necessarily been able to create any direct action but they have been able to change the national conversation. Though their plan of action against Los Zetas cartel was abandoned, the cartel obviously found them a big enough threat to kidnap one of their members as a means of intimidation to Anonymous members. As for the government the only thing they can do is try to enforce stronger internet policies, but with the public opposition and whistleblower’s like Wikileaks and Anonymous looking to inform the public it seems unlikely, unless a law passes in the utmost secrecy. This too seems highly unlikely though as gettingt ride of hacktivism and anonymity are like trying to get ride of your shadow, for Anonymous always claims “We are anonymous, we are legion, we don’t forgive, we don’t forget, united as one, divided as zero, expect us.”
Four years ago, the Al Día Foundation created the Félix Varela Awards to celebrate Excellence in American Journalism on U.S.-Latino Issues. This year, Al Día has collaborated with the School of Communications and Theatre (SCT) at Temple University, and the school’s Journalism Department, to relaunch the Félix Varela Awards. The announcement was made on January 26, 2012, by the Chairman of Al Día, Hernán Guaracao, and the SCT Interim Dean Thomas Jacobson. The four awards to be presented will be: best feature writing, best blogging, best documentary, and best photojournalism, on Latino and Multicultural Issues in the United States. The Awards honor Father Félix Varela, who was a prominent American intellectual of Latino origin, and who published, in the city of Philadelphia, one of the first Spanish-language newspapers in the United States.
Temple University’s Journalism Department Chair, Andrew Mendelson, is quoted on the SCT’s website saying, “The awards build on the department’s mission of emphasizing communities underserved by mainstream media.”
The recipients of the awards will each receive a gold medallion of Father Félix Varela, as well as a $10,000 cash prize, the largest prize in its category. Entries for the awards are due by August 31, 2012. The ceremony will be held November 16, 2012.
For more information, visit www.felixvarelaaward.com.
The world celebrates Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s legacy today. Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez was born in 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico. Rivera is recognized as the person who exposed Mexican art to the rest of the world. As a muralist, he believed in making art that was accessible to the masses.
Google honors Rivera with a Google Doodle that demonstrates his unique style. The National Council for Culture and the Arts (Conaculta) in Mexico City honors his 125th anniversary as well, stating that Rivera was an outstanding member of the Mexican muralist movement. His work can be seen on different buildings in Mexico and all around the world including in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York. Additionally, Rivera’s birthplace in Guanajuato was adorned with flowers. “It is an important day for Mexicans and for Latin American art because Diego Rivera is wont of its principal exponents,” said the director of the Museum at the house of Diego Rivera. Experts consider Rivera to be “one of the most important plastic artists of the 20th century.” Not only is he famous for his artwork, but also for his important role in the political and cultural life in Mexico and as an outspoken member of the Mexican Communist Party. In 1950, he won the National Prize for Sciences and Arts in Mexico. He died 7 years later on November 24.