Things That Matter

Here’s What The Mexican Government Has To Say About A Venezuelan Fashion Designer Taking Indigenous Mexican Textiles

Getty Images / Carolina Herrera

Latinxs are often calling out some gringo brand for appropriating our cultura to make a buck, but now it’s a Latina designer who is facing criticism for stealing cultural styles.

The Mexican government is accusing the US fashion house Carolina Herrera of cultural appropriation, CNN reports.

According to Mexico’s Culture Ministry, the high-end brand’s patterns used in the Resort 2020 collection steals designs created by and that are meaningful to the country’s indigenous communities.

“For many years we have been trying to stop big brands and designers, who, in this disrespectful manner, take elements of indigenous cultures without approaching the communities or working with them,” Susana Harp, a senator from the ruling National Regeneration Movement party, said on Twitter, using the trending hashtag #MéxicoSinPlagio — “Mexico Without Plagiarism.”

The fashion house has described the collection, which features traditional flower designs, as taking “on the playful and colorful mood of a Latin holiday.”

“Inspired by the House spirit of alegría de vivir that is synonymous with the resort season, this collection is about visceral reactions of delight-eclectic patterns, unexpected silhouettes, pulsating energy,” its description reads.

In response to the mounting criticism, creative director Wes Gorden, who took over the position last year when Venezuelan-American Herrera, 80, stepped down, said: “There’s an undeniable Mexican presence in this collection. It’s something that jumps out at you, and I always intended it to be something latent as a way of showing my love for this country and for all the incredible work I’ve seen there. My admiration for the artisanal work has only grown as I have traveled to Mexico over the years. With this new collection, I have tried to highlight the importance of this magnificent cultural heritage.”

The Mexican people are, understandably, unsatisfied with Gorden’s response.

In the past, Herrera, who has dressed celebrities and high-profile figures like first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, has worked with the indigenous community on a bag collection, a history that Harp remembers and adds to her confusion as to why the house would now use these designs “without permission, without respect, without any economic consideration.”

“This is a matter of ethical consideration that obliges us to speak out and bring an urgent issue to the UN’s sustainable development agenda: promoting inclusion and making those who are invisible visible,” Mexico’s culture secretary Alejandra Frausto said in a letter to Herrera, as reported by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

He continued: “In these embroideries is the history of the community itself, and each element has a personal, family and community meaning,” he said. By looking at the collection, there’s no doubt that the designer takes Mexican heritage and flaunts it. They admitted it too.”

Often the target of cultural appropriation by the fashion industry, Mexico’s National Regeneration Movement party recently introduced protections for designs created by indigenous people.

The country’s public callout of one of the biggest global fashion houses is evidence that they mean business.

Read: 21 Times Celebrities And Brands Were Called Out For Appropriating Latino Culture

Meanwhile*, with everyone gearing up to travel for summer vacation, one Twitter user wants to give tourists an important reminder. Reyna Chabeli took to Twitter to stress the importance of paying Indigenous craftswomen what they’re worth.

Retweeting a tweet she made in November 2018, Chabeli shared a picture of her grandma Abuelita Chona and the gorgeous bordado she stitches by hand.

“As an Indigenous woman, she will only get paid $5 for this work, front and back.” Chabeli continued, “Most people can’t afford to start their own clothing business so they are literally the artists behind the embroidery. Natives return the finished pieces back to the merchants who pay them poorly.”

The bordados are as gorgeous as they are functional — combining skill and art in each piece. Craftswomen spend several hours working on each embroidered item; using a mastery that is honed over a lifetime. For Indigenous artisans, embroidery is just as much a connection to their history and heritage as it is their source of income.

However, the profit made on these Indigenous works often don’t match the labor put into creating them. Moreover, the artists themselves see even less of a payback.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

For example, Abuelita Chona is a Zapotec woman who lives in a small Oaxacan village three hours away from the nearest large town. It’s exceptionally expensive and difficult to regularly travel back and forth to sell her goods.

Instead, women like Abuelita Chona work for merchants, receiving garments, embroidering them and usually sending them back. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give these Indigenous artesanas much financial freedom. They’re only given a fraction of what their work is worth without regard for the labor they put in. These women also have no recourse to ask for more.

This isn’t the only way that the work of Indigenous artists is undervalued. Tourists play a major part as well.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

As Chabeli explains in her retweet, tourists who travel to places like Oaxaca diminish the income of Indigenous artisans even further. In haggling and attempting to get the lowest price for these wares, visitors cut into the take-home profit of the workers.

Worried about missing a sale opportunity, many artisans will just agree on that lower price. However, the merchants who initially provide the items are in charge of the money. Ultimately, they will get every cent they feel entitled to at the detriment of their workers. So, thrifty buying might save tourists a few bucks but it will do so by taking money out of artisans’ pockets.

Another layer to this conversation is the lack of value placed on Indigenous labor.

Twitter / @_levyana

As Chabeli and other Twitter users point out, tourists are willing to spend their money on luxuries and travel. It’s because we place value in these things. We feel like they’re worth the investment because we desire them. We never try to haggle at the airport or resort because we respect the value attached to these things.

Yet, when it comes to locally made goods — especially goods made by Indigenous folk — we think we can get a better deal. We desire the products for their beauty, uniqueness but don’t always want to pay a fair price. In trying to get a lower price for those souvenirs, we’re showing Indigenous artisans like Abuelita Chona that we don’t value them.

Of course, not every tourist is out to lowball Native artisans when they hit up local markets. Still, Chabeli’s reminder is justified.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

We can support women like our talented Abuelita Chona by buying local and. buying Indigenous. Also, by following Chabeli’s example and calling out problematic treatment of wage distribution. What we are given in return is definitely worth price.

*The last portion of this article was reported on by Samantha Chavarria

The World Is Not Ready For This Man’s Talent And Looks Bu Thank You Anyway

Entertainment

The World Is Not Ready For This Man’s Talent And Looks Bu Thank You Anyway

It has been more than a decade since Mexican actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna established themselves as power players in the Hollywood game. Other Mexican actors like Kuno Becker have also broken into the United States mainstream, but they are few and far apart. The new kid on the block is actor Luis Gerardo Mendez, an actor that has done it all in a few years: he has made indie films, a highly successful Netflix show, one of the most successful Mexican movies of all time and now films with Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and the new Charlie’s Angels team of kickass queens. 

He was born in the state of Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Contrary to what some might believe, not every Mexican actor comes from the capital Mexico City! Luis Gerardo was born in the city of Aguascalientes on March 8, 1982. 

Remember how Jude Law seemed to be on every single movie released in the early 2000s? Well, that is what the very prolific Luis Gerardo is for the Mexican film industry today.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

From the beginning of his career, he has been willing to work with anyone who wants to tell a story. He has collaborated with first-time directors such as Ivan Morales, whose film Sincronia is available on YouTube (it is a delightful film about love and loss). He has taken on peculiar projects such as Camino a Marte, where he plays an alien trapped in a human body. He doesn’t shy away from challenges, ever. 

BTW, you just can’t miss his Netflix film Time Share (Tiempo compartido).

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Time Share (2018) is a dark comedy that explores the sect-like practices of the tourism industry and how it lures clients to get lifelong commitments to spend holidays in particular all-inclusive resorts. Filmed in Acapulco, it starts as a comedy of errors and soon becomes a much darker film: a true indictment of capitalism and its deathly methods for controlling people through impossible dreams and promises of achieving a higher social status.

Fame and fortune no se la ha subido a la cabeza and he remains humble and con los pies bien puestos sobre la Tierra.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

We love his Instagram account, where you can follow his daily life (how cool is this shot from a nightclub toilet in grungy Berlin?), from his trips to life behind the sets of his movies and TV shows. 

He is a true supporter of Mexican cinema.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Luis Gerardo had one of the leading roles in the super successful film Nosotros los Nobles (The Noble Family), which tells the story of an upper-class family that suddenly sees its fortune evaporate. Luis Gerardo often collaborates with new and emerging directors and often takes an active role in the production. He believes in and loves the industry which saw him become one of the most recognizable of Latino filmmaking. 

We will always remember his character in Club de Cuervos, Salvador Iglesias Jr, Chava pa los cuates.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Some actors are always linked to certain characters, and that is the case of Luis Gerardo, who played the extravagant and frankly kinda dumb Chava Iglesias in the Netflix show Club de Cuervos, which explored the world of Mexican professional soccer. Mendez revealed himself as a comedic genius, navigating the thin line that separates slapstick and high-quality comedy. He gave an apparently shallow character multiple layers of both dramatic and comedic depth. 

We mean, no one has worn a vest better.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Chava Iglesias was so ridiculously full of himself that it was uncomfortably fun to watch! He left us plenty of memorable moments, such as successfully hiring the best soccer player in the world out of pure necedad!

He is an animal lover.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

The actor collaborates with PETA Latino, particularly in a campaign to treat domestic pets as they deserve: with care and respect. He particularly cares about dogs that are left alone in rooftops all day, a common practice in Mexico. 

He has his own collectible figurine!

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Once you have a Funko POP! toy made a tu imagen y semejanza you know you have made it! 

You can’t miss Bayoneta either (it’s on Netflix).

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

The outstanding boxing drama Bayoneta is also available on Netflix. It tells the sad story of a has-been fighter from Tijuana that makes a living in Finland by training young boxers. He gives a deep, challenging performance that was physically tough.  

His movie Murder Mystery has been one of the most watched Netflix originals.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

Yes, of course, it is mainly because of his costars Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, but Mendez’ film was watched by more than 30 million people in the first three days after its release. That is much more than what many theatrical releases get. Streaming services are truly revolutionizing how movies are produced, distributed and watched, and are giving actors like Mendez a platform in which they can explore different genres. Netflix is very fond of Luis Gerardo, and we are sure we will see more of him in the years to come. 

Next up, a crazy scientist in the girl-power action film Charlie’s Angels.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

He will play a minor role, but he will give comedic relief to the highly anticipated remake directed by Elizabeth Banks. We just can’t wait to see him in this! 

His next project deals with US-Mexico relationships: Half Brother sounds truly amazing.

Credit: luisgerardom / Instagram

In an exclusive interview for Mitú, the film’s producer and writer, Eduardo Cisneros (one of the leading Latino voices in the industry), said about the actor: “When Jason Shuman and I started fleshing out this story, I immediately thought of Luis Gerardo, because there aren’t many people out there with all the qualities the role required. First of all, he’s a gifted actor, capable of giving a layered dramatic performance, but at the same time, he’s immensely adroit at comedy. We needed a redoubtable leading performer, the kind people come to expect from a Focus movie, but also someone who had a great appeal within the Mexican and Latinx moviegoers. We approached him at the early stages of the project, and little did we know he had a personal, almost autobiographical, connection to the story. So it was almost kismet. He came on board not only as a star but as an executive producer, so we are lucky to have his input and artistry in this movie”. 

Cisneros explains what this movie is all about: “Luis Gerardo Méndez stars as Renato, a successful Mexican private aviation entrepreneur based in San Miguel De Allende, who is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher, played by Connor Del Rio. The two very different half-brothers are forced on a road journey together masterminded by their ailing father, tracing the path their father took as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico to the US.  The central idea of the movie is the need for learning how to see things from your neighbor’s perspective, which is kind of an allegory for what we’re going today in our global society.”

READ: 8 Times Netflix’s ‘Club De Cuervos’ Reminded Us How Intense Sibling Rivalry Is

Mexican President Lopez Obrador Is Bringing Sweeping Budget Cuts Causing Some Concerns

Entertainment

Mexican President Lopez Obrador Is Bringing Sweeping Budget Cuts Causing Some Concerns

lopezobrador / alexa_morenomx / Instagram

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has brought sweeping changes to the country since he took office last year. Whether it’s crime reform, government overhaul or even cutting his own salary. But according to the Washington Post, Lopez Obrador has also slashed the budget of the Mexican Olympic Committee. The cuts are a huge blow to the day-to-day operations of the sports organization which will now no longer be able to offer food, lodging, and medical services at its central sports training complex.

The budget cut is just the latest to come from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador administration which has already cut back on other services such as government jobs, researchers and archaeologists.

Credit: Twitter/@membarba

The call for more budget cuts comes as a surprise to some as Lopez-Obrador, a self-described leftist, has consciously spent less on government-funded efforts. In just the first seven months on the job, the administration has pushed efforts to reduce spending, which even includes Lopez-Obrador’s own salary and plans to sell off the presidential plane.

The Mexican Olympic Committee says it doesn’t have the $4.7 million needed to operate the Olympic sports center in Mexico City with full resources due to these cuts. The sports complex has various track and pool facilities that include a gymnasium and velodrome. Just this year alone, government funding for sports is about 25 percent below last year’s spending.  

Critics of these budget cuts say the government is spending the same amount of money but instead reallocating it to different areas and needs. This has resulted in fears that the cuts will result in not having enough money to perform and essential tasks and duties. 

President Lopez Obrador has described his new financial plan as “republican austerity.” This is causing some concerns in Mexico. 

Credit: Twitter/@emposts 

Besides just athletics, there is increasing stress for other civic services. Researchers and archaeologists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History told the Washington Post that almost 200 employees have been cut since the year began. These latest announced cuts have renewed fears of more layoffs coming in the near future. 

“We have gone from republican austerity to Franciscan poverty,” Joel Santos, head of the researchers’ union at the institute told the Washington Post. Many of these employees are scarcely paid and are on temporary contracts, which already places a big burden on their pay and livelihood. 

Throughout the government spectrum, there has been visible cuts and elimination of positions like consultancy and management positions. All while thousands of more public servants have resigned or quit altogether. 

Some of these funds being cut are essential to certain projects being worked on throughout Mexico. 

Credit: Twitter/@marybsheridan

While Mexico’s budget, $5.8 trillion pesos ($304 billion), may look similar to last year, it just means that Lopez Obrador is putting it to use in different areas. These decisions are well in his power and are following his budget plan that he crafted back in December. 

“There is money,” Valerie Moy, an economist told the Washington Post. “It’s just being redirected to the president’s social and infrastructure projects, some of which appear to be almost whims that lack sound research to determine their viability or potential negative impacts.”

There are some concerns that these cuts are being made without proper consideration. Finance Minister Carlos Urzua left his position just last week due to what he says is the public policy decisions the administration is doing “without sufficient sustenance.”

“It’s what the president decides, what the president wants — and that’s what’s done,” Moy said.

There is no say when or what will be cut next but it may have a huge effect on things bigger than sports. 

Credit: Twitter/@vfelbabbrown

Back in May, Mexico City was hit with severe smog that was caused by nearby wildfires. Experts say that the looming air pollution could have been prevented if it wasn’t for the budget cuts to environmental services that deal with this type of detection.

“All of these activities could be seriously compromised if the austerity measures are applied indiscriminately,” Mexico’s Science and Technology Consultative Forum said in a statement this year. “If that happens, it would be an irredeemable setback in Mexico’s effort to achieve robust national development, and would make us even more dependent on what occurs beyond our borders.”

READ: The Peso Plummets After Mexico’s Finance Minister Quits And Calls Out Corruption In AMLO’s Government

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