Culture

People Are Celebrating Mexico’s Planned Bill To Fine Companies That Copy Indigenous Designs

Much has been said and written about the material pillaging that indigenous communities in what is now the Americas have been subject to since Christopher Columbus “discovered” the continent. Mineral resources, agricultural knowledge and dignity: they were all taken in the name of “civilization”. These processes of abuse towards the original owners of a land that was never willingly ceded have continued well into today. 

Some goods are immaterial, which means that more than objects or places, they are cultural goods such as knowledge, practices and methods of doing things.

Credit: secadero_uno / Instagram

 Such an immaterial good are the designs that indigenous communities imprint on clothes, pottery and art. However, because there is no single author for these, creations are nor protected under intellectual property, which is how companies and designers take advantage and basically steal designs. These are not homages, but direct acts of plagiarism! 

But there have been people that have been profiting from traditional designs

Credit: Mexico News Daily

Zara, the massive Spanish retailer, has been accused of stealing designs both from indigenous communities and from independent designers. Indigenous groups from the Mexican state of Chiapas, for example, have said that the copycat designs affect their livelihood because potential customers, including tourists, can just go to the shops and get them.

As reported by Mexico Daily News, there is a discrepancy in the hours of labor that indigenous artisans invest in each garment and what they get paid, compared to the profit made by brands like Zara. as artisans “dedicate more than 50 hours to making each embroidered garment, selling them for 200 pesos (US $10). In contrast, Zara manufactures the same garment and sells it at 599 pesos ($32.)”

And let’s not forget that Zara and other international companies have been found to use abusive and exploitative production methods in other countries such as Bangladesh. Consumers are also to blame, as a representative for the advocacy group Impacto told Mexico Daily News: “There’s also a contradiction, because they pay high prices at a store but then don’t want to spend in an indigenous community.”

So if you visit Mexico or another developing country and you want to take the price down, regatear as they say in Spanish, when buying from a local artisan, well, then shame on you! 

And if we think a bit further, international brands like Zara sometimes profit from a global network of abuse and injustice.

Let’s not forget that six years ago a fatal collapse in Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza building, where brands such as H&M and Zara outsourced clothes manufacturing, caused deaths and revealed the industry malpractices that do not guarantee workers’ safety. Since then international brands have looked into their production processes, but problems remain. Needless to say, what Global South workers get is a minuscule amount compared to what US or Spanish workers would demand, so the profit on each piece is huge. All in the name of money, right? So the chain of mistreatment sometimes start with stealing designs and continues with paying super low wages to people that cannot afford not to be employed, even if it is under very precarious conditions. 

So the motion that is being considered in the Mexican Senate makes a ton of sense.

Credit: masdemx.com

The Mexican Senate is considering imposing a hefty fine to those who copy indigenous designs, which are de facto intellectual and cultural property that can make money, so there is a monetary value attached to them.

As reported by Mexico Daily News, “The proposal being discussed by the Senate culture commission would penalize the theft of indigenous cultural elements with fines up to 4.2 million pesos (US $218,000.)”

The proposal includes a legal framework through which indigenous communities can denounce cases in which they feel like their creative and cultural property has been stolen. The Senate’s cultural commission has focused on indigenous affairs since MORENA, the incumbent president’s party, got into power earlier this year. For all its controversial decisions, the current government has in fact done more to protect indigenous communities than previous administrations.

In some cases the copycat models are blatantly direct: such is the case of a chinanteco design copied by the brand Intropia and sold in over 170 euros. Other brands that have appropriated designs from indigenous communities from Chiapas, Oaxaca and other states such as Hidalgo are  Carolina Herrera, Dior, Isabel Marant, Nestlé, Madewell, Mango and Desigual. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has found at least 39 cases of this type of theft. If the proposal goes through, a database of designs of indigenous and Afro-Mexican designs will be created. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Things That Matter

This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Like students around the world, kids in Mexico have been forced to take school online or tune into programming on public TV in order to learn. But that’s just the kids who are lucky enough to have access to Internet or a TV. Many students live in rural areas and lack the adequate resources to continue their studies amid the global pandemic.

But thankfully, there are many good samaritans out there (aka compassionate teachers) who have invented their own ways to bring the classroom to kids wherever they are.

A Mexican teacher was gifted a decked out pickup truck by Nissan.

Since schools were forced to close last year in April, Aguascalientes special education teacher Nallely Esparza Flores, has been driving four hours a day to educate students one-on-one at their homes from her truck bed, outfitted with a small table and chairs.

News of her project spread across social media, eventually reaching the corporate offices of Nissan México. This week, the company surprised Esparza with the gift of a new pickup truck specially outfitted with a small open-air mobile classroom built into the truck’s bed.

“Today I feel like my labors and the help that we give each day to children and their families is unstoppable,” she said on Twitter Wednesday, sharing photos of her new vehicle. “My students no longer have to take classes in the full heat of the sun,” she said.

Nissan representatives said they decided to give Esparza the adapted NP300 model, 4-cylinder truck after hearing her story because she was “an example of perseverance and empathy.”

“When we learned about the incredible work of this teacher, we got together to discuss in what way we could contribute to this noble work,” said Armando Ávila, a vice president of manufacturing.

The mobile classroom is pretty legit and will allow Esparza to continue her good deed.

Esparza inside her new classroom.

The decked out Nissan pickup truck has three walls (the other is a retractable sheeting) and a ceiling made with translucent panels to protect teacher and student from the elements while letting in natural light.

It also has retractable steps for easy access to the classroom, electrical connections, a whiteboard and an easily disinfected acrylic table and benches that are foldable into the wall to provide space. The table also has a built-in plexiglass barrier to allow social distancing.

Access to education in Mexico is highly inequitable.

Esparza, like many teachers across the country, found that not all distance learning was equal. Many of her students in Cavillo were from poor families without internet access. So she used social media networks to keep in touch with such students via cell phones, but even that was not necessarily an available option for all — and not ideal. Finally, she decided to solve the problem by hitting the road in her pickup truck.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 58% of students in Mexico had a home computer – the lowest percentage among all OECD countries. And only about one third (32%) of the school computers in rural schools in Mexico were connected to
the Internet, compared to more than 90% for schools located in urban areas.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Sen. Ted Cruz Makes Quick U-Turn From Mexico After Outrage He Abandoned His Frozen Texas

Things That Matter

Sen. Ted Cruz Makes Quick U-Turn From Mexico After Outrage He Abandoned His Frozen Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz has faced a series of outrages since being accused of helping to incite the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The latest problem plaguing Sen. Cruz is his trip to Mexico while his constituents in Texas freeze during an extreme weather event.

Sen. Ted Cruz was caught boarding a flight to Mexico as Texans are left freezing.

Texas is being slammed with a historic extreme winter weather storm. Hundreds of thousands of Texans are without power for the fifth day in a row while the senator from Texas was heading off to Cancun. Critics are angered that Sen. Cruz would leave the state while his constituents are forced to boil water to survive one of the worst winter storms on record.

Politicians are calling Sen. Cruz out for leaving his constituents during a natural disaster.

The Castro brothers are speaking up as well. Texans are dying from the extreme weather after the power grid was overloaded from sudden demand. The power outages have lasted for multiple days and the death toll continues to climb from the freezing temperatures. So far, 24 people have died from the winter storm.

Part of the problem is that Texas has their own power grid separated from the rest of the nation in an attempt to avoid federal regulations. The decision was made in the 1930s after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the Federal Power Act. This allowed the federal government to oversee interstate electricity sales. However, Texas utilities did not cross state lines. This created an electricity island.

People are not letting the trip go unnoticed.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is responsible for overseeing the power grid and officials had a grim revelation about the power outages. On Tuesday, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness addressed the media about the power outages.

“We needed to step in and make sure that we were not going to end up with Texas in a blackout, which could keep folks without power — not just some people without power but everyone in our region without power — for much, much longer than we believe this event is going to last, as long and as difficult as this event is right now,” Magness said about the call to cut power to some customers as the icy conditions settled in on the area.

He further explained that some of the power outages could last for an undetermined amount of time.

This is not the first time Texas had weather-induced power outages because of winter weather. The state saw the same situation on a smaller scale play out in 2011. The winter storm in 2011 knocked out power across the state and yet Texas officials did not follow suggestions to prevent the current crisis.

A report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation called on Texas to “winterize” their energy infrastructure. The report highlights how the current infrastructure was not ready to take on the weather it experienced in 2011 and, according to The Texas Tribune, Texas didn’t heed the warning.

On Tuesday, 60 percent of Houston businesses and households remained without power because of the weather.

Sen. Cruz quickly booked a return flight to Houston after the outrage.

Facing mounting anger over his warm escape from Texas, Sen Cruz quickly U-turned back to Houston. He claims to have been accompanying his daughters to Mexico and not going on the vacation himself.

A flurry of tweets about the situation show a growing number of people who are skeptical of the senator’s statement. Ted Cruz was photographed with luggage both in Texas and coming back through the Cancun airport. The luggage has set off a debate about whether or not Sen. Cruz honestly went to Mexico to drop his daughters.

READ: Sen. Joe Manchin Calls On Senate To Expel Sen. Ted Cruz After Insurrection

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com