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Mexico's extravagant mausoleums

Watch El Velador (The Night Watchman) - Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.

This is a trailer of a well-regarded new documentary, El Velador (The Night Watchman) from Natalia Almada. I hadn't heard of it until I was on a radio show following her this week. The documentary focuses on Humaya Gardens, a cemetery filled with huge mausoleums of slain drug lords in Culiacan. It was shown this week on PBS. I visited the cemetery two years ago and wrote about it here. We were all nervous when visiting the place. Almada is brave to hang out there long enough to make this documentary. By the way, I see that the New York Times gave the documentary a very positive review in July. And Roger Ebert is also effusive in his praise.

Update: The documentarist, Natalia Almada, has just won a MacArthur "genius" grant. Along with 22 other MacArthur fellows, she'll have $500,000 to sustain her for future endeavors.


A politician's daughter steps in it

It is more than likely that Sofia Covarrubias’s father has taken her to the woodshed.

She may be only 14 years old but she’s caused quite a stir. And it is because she is the daughter of one of Mexico’s state governors, Marcos Covarrubias of Baja California Sur.

Yesterday, Sofia took to Twitter – okay, that gives you an idea of what is to come. Mix a teenager, a political family and Twitter and you get dynamite. We’ve seen it before here and here. Hundreds of Twitter users are piling on with their criticism of Sofia Covarrubias.

Sofia made fun of young Mexicans who cross the border to San Diego and don’t have money to go to one of the fanciest shopping malls in southern California, Fashion Valley, ending up instead at the more downscale Plaza Las Americas.

Here are translations of her two tweets including of her #esdeindigenas hashtag:

“#itssoindian to get excited when you go to the usa and post thousand photos of each step you take without going to fv hahahah :)”


“haha there’s always some Indian who gets all excited about going to ‘plaza las americas’ haha”

Today, her father admitted that he’d had a good talking to with his two daughters, saying that the household had instilled in them “good education, with principles and values” and that family members try to be “humble and treat equally all those around us.”

But then he told the citizenry and Twitter users to lay off his daughters.

“I share these experiences with you because my daughters, who are 13 and 14, are confronting unprecedented public scorn because of an unfortunate commentary,” he said.

It’s not the first time the Covarrubias family has caught flak in social media. Two months ago, when members of the family posted Facebook photos of their vacation in London, where they flew first class, attended Olympic events and shopped at luxury stores, the trip quickly became a trending topic in social media. See here and here for photos.

Jumping off waterfalls in Costa Rica

If you want to get a taste of surfing, bungee jumping, leaping from atop waterfalls, then this video from Dominical, Costa Rica, is for you. I thought it was really well-done, worth five minutes of your time. It's made by two videographers from a production company in NYC called Blue Kite Cinema. That's all I know.


In Oaxaca, a haven for transvestites

One town in Oaxaca is a safe haven for gay and transvestite men. It is Juchitan, and Deborah Bonello of Global Post takes a look at the "muxes" -- as I believe the transvestites are called in the indigenous Zapotec language. Given the prevailing machismo in Mexico, this is a curiosity. This article here suggests that Zapotec mothers like having "muxe" children because, unlike daughters who wed and leave, gay sons remain at home and "promise eternal company." After saying the muxes "live with complete tolerance," it goes on:

In Juchitán people believe that boys are born facing up and girls are born facing down. Therefore, a family knows immediately when a muxe is born- a boy born facing down.


March of the migrants

President Felipe Calderon has been in the United States this week speaking about migrants. No! Not those migrants. Migrating monarch butterflies. Calderon yesterday attended a premiere of a new IMAX 3D movie on the incredible 2,500-mile journey of the monarchs, which have wintering sanctuaries in forests in Michoacan state. The website of the film is here.


Will Bono accept the Aztec Eagle?

Bono1President Felipe Calderon is in Washington and New York this week and on his agenda is the bestowing of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico’s highest award to foreigners, on several individuals.

It’s still not clear to me if U2 singer Bono will be one of them.

The backstory dates to an incident at a U2 concert in 1997, and touches on the sons of a former president and the sense of entitlement that Mexican VIPs wield.

Last Friday, Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa said she’d spoken with Bono and told him of the decision to give him the award.

"He said that he feels very honoured and very pleased with this decision, and that Mexico is a country that he loves and admires," Espinosa said according to this article.

But when Los Pinos emailed information about Calderon’s trip over the weekend, Bono’s name wasn’t on the list of those who will receive the award. Instead, it is going to Klaus Schwab (founder of the World Economic Forum), Susan Segal (president of the Council of the Americas), and Magdy Martinez-Soliman, the former U.N. resident coordinator in Mexico.

Just a mix-up? Maybe not. El Universal’s political gossip column says this morning that Bono declined to attend the ceremony, which I believe is to be Tuesday.

Seems that hard feelings still linger from what happened at a U2 concert at the Foro Sol in Mexico City. It was then that the sons of then-President Ernesto Zedillo scored complementary tickets to the concert, then tried to leave through a restricted area.

After a dust-up, one of the bodyguards of the Zedillo sons hit U2 security guy Jerry Meltzer in the head with a gun barrel. A car in their convoy then ran over security chief Jerry Mele, nearly killing him. Mele never worked again.

Bono demanded an apology from Zedillo, who invited him to Los Pinos for what was reportedly a tense meeting. Zedillo blamed U2’s security crew for putting his sons’ lives in danger. Bono demanded a public apology, which was not forthcoming.

U2 stayed away from Mexico until 2006, and returned last year. It seems, though, that he has little taste for rubbing elbows with Mexican authorities.


Raising Mexico's profile abroad

Brazil Mexico_NostI’ve been based in Mexico since early 2010, and in that period President Felipe Calderon has not offered a single press conference in Mexico City that I’m aware of.

He’s occasionally taken a question or two while traveling abroad. Very few, though. And in reality, Calderon seems press shy. This hurts Mexico.

I bring this up because President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto is now on the fifth day of a trip across Latin America. He’s leaving Chile as I write this and flying to Argentina. Like him or not, Pena Nieto is raising Mexico’s profile abroad, fulfilling a campaign promise. (He's seen here while in Brazil with his wife, the television soap opera star Angelica Rivera.)

Large media are giving him extensive coverage during stops in Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. And he’s speaking with journalists along the way. While in Brazil, the magazine Epoca published a long interview with him, and this morning El Mercurio (the national newspaper of Chile) published an interview. A press release from his people said he also met with a group of Chilean editors this morning. 

In Buenos Aires tomorrow, Pena Nieto is offering a full-fledged press conference. Let’s see if this kind of exposure to journalists will continue after he takes office Dec. 1.


Take the MexiQuiz!

How much do you know about Mexico? For some people, the answer is "not much."

Getting head-of-state treatment

He won’t actually be president for another 10 weeks or so, but President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto is already getting treatment befitting a head of state.

His transition team seems as much in control as Los Pinos, the presidential palace, and his appointees are already roaming various secretariats taking measurements and asking for documents.

Flying aboard a Mexican navy plane (see!), Pena Nieto left yesterday on a six-nation tour of Latin America. He was in Guatemala Monday and is now in Colombia. He’ll go on to Brazil Wednesday, then continue to Chile, Argentina and Peru.

Mexico, of course, has the longest transition between elections and inauguration of any country in the hemisphere that I am aware of. Pena Nieto was elected July 1 and won’t take office till Dec. 1.

It first caught my attention last week. Pena Nieto’s office issued a statement on Sept. 12 lamenting the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the killing of the U.S. ambassador. The statement came just shortly after the foreign secretariat issued its own.

Check out the photo above of Pena Nieto with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, each nation’s flag in the background. Pena Nieto was whisked through the city in a convoy “similar to those offered actual presidents, according to Guatemalan functionaries,” the El Universal newspaper said. It sent a correspondent along with Pena Nieto, almost as if he already were head of state.


Long live chiles en nogada!

This is Mexico's Independence Day. Streets are quiet as people rush to be with their families or crowd into city and town squares for the traditional "Grito de la Independencia." In the Mexico City area, restaurants often serve the dish you see above: chiles en nogada. It is patriotic, after all, with the colors of the national flag. But it is also extraordinarily flavorful, or as my fellow blogger over at Mexico Cooks! notes, enough to make you stand up and yell, "Viva Mexico!"



This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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