It might sound like a shady scam, but starting this December, all a Mexican citizen will need to enter Canada is an email address, a passport, and a credit card. Well, you’ll need what’s called an Electronic Travel Authorization, but that can be purchased for $7 Canadian with a valid credit card.
The announcement for the visa workaround came last June, when Canadian Prime Minister, and political dreamboat, Justin Trudeau met with Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Canada’s conservatives have expressed concern over this policy change, however, the percentage of Mexican’s seeking asylum in the country has dropped from 25 percent to less than 1 percent in the last four years. Trudeau’s party has kept the line of dialog open with Mexico over the years, and when the two leaders met this last June, Trudeau had this to say, “Canada and Mexico are more than just friends. We are partners. And it’s what we share as partners and friends that I’d like to celebrate.” Say what you want about EPN, it’s nice to hear a little love between countries right now.
And let’s not forget that time Justin Trudeau and EPN went jogging together.
Cases of COVID-19 are drastically devastating Indigenous communities across the globe. In Western Canada, this truth is quite alarming particularly because of how the rates have vastly risen in these communities. In fact, according to Canada Public Health and Indigenous Services data, “The rate of reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations living on reserve is currently 40% higher than the rate in the general Canadian population.” Even more shocking, “The COVID-19 case fatality rate among First Nations living on reserve is about one-third of the case fatality rate in the general Canadian population.”
Still, despite all of this a wealthy Canadian couple had the temerity to lie about their residency and occupation. All in an attempt to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine meant for First Nation residents.
Rodney Baker, 55, and his wife Ekaterina Baker, 32, flew out to the community in Whitehorse last week. Whitehorse consists of approximately 100 people, most of whom belong to the White River First Nation. Upon arrival, the Bakers allegedly told members of the mobile vaccination clinic that they were employees of the local motel. Once they received their shots they flew back to Whitehorse on their private plane.
The community became suspicious of the couple and someone eventually reported them to Yukon authorities. Investigating officers were able to track the couple down at the Whitehouse airport according to Yukon’s Minister of Community Services John Streicker.
The Bakers are now facing two charges under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act.
The charges include failure to self-isolate and failure to abide by a travel declaration. Yukon, where White River First Nation is located, has had a low number of cases per capita compared to the rest of Canada. Anyone who enters the area is supposed to requires anyone entering the territory to quarantine for 14 days.
According to VICE, “The maximum possible penalty under the act is $500 plus a $75 surcharge per charge—meaning a maximum of $1,150 each—and/or up to six months in jail.”
News of the couple’s actions has led to Rodney Baker’s resignation as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. According to VICE, “Baker’s former position netted him $10.6 million in salary and compensation in 2019.”
In a statement about the incident, White River Chief Angela Demit said that she was “deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes.” Demit went onto underline the fact that the First Nation community was selected for priority vaccination because of “its high concentration of elderly people, limited access to healthcare, and remote location.”
The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer has described the Bakers’ “deception” as extremely selfish.
“It’s the height of selfishness,” Dr. Brendan Hanley said about their behavior.
In a statement about the incident, White River First Nation said in a press release that “White River First Nation is particularly concerned with the callous nature of these actions…as they were in blatant disregard of the rules which keep our community safe during this unprecedented global pandemic.” They also called the penalties that the couple will face insufficient.
We love it when someone is going about their day and suddenly become ephemeral celebrities thanks to a photographer who was there in the right place at the right time. Such is the case of a Mexican mariachi who was immortalized while he was walking amidst a snowstorm in the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Latin American musicians, mainly Mexicans and Peruvian folk singers, have migrated all around the world and make a living showcasing the cultural richness of their countries. They often have to survive for years as street performers, but many of them have found a way to build a musical career from scratch. It is common to see mariachis and Andean musicians in squares and plazas all around the world, particularly in Western European cities such as Madrid and Paris.
So this is the photograph that made its rounds in social media and turned this mariachi into an online celebrity.
Just look at him, super regal walking as if he was strolling down the streets of Durango or San Miguel de Allende. There is a mythical quality to the photo. The way that he is carrying his guitar case reminds us of Antonio Banderas in Desperado. His gaze, serenely looking at the snow-covered floor, is reminiscent of old Westerns. But above all his white and red mariachi suit makes a perfect contrast with the environment. The onlookers on the background also give this great image a bit of drama. We just want to print and frame it, eh!
The image reminds us of the work of great photographers of the seemingly mundane such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or the Mexican great Manuel Alvarez Bravo. The photo was captured by photographer Cameron Frazier during a shooting to promote the 17th anniversary of this mysterious mariachi’s band… Yes, we know you want to find out who he is and we are keeping you en suspenso!
But who is this mysterious mariachi?!
When the photograph became viral due to its mythical quality, the question was who on Earth was this amazing musician. Well, his name is Alex Alegria and he has Oaxacan heritage. He has a mariachi band called Los Dorados and he has been living in Canada for 23 years. He has employed non Mexicans in his mariachi band, showing that music is universal and that when there is passion involved it doesn’t matter where you are from. Everyone owns music, right?
Alex arrived in Canada when he was only 20 years old as an international student. But he decided to stay and has made the Pacific coastal town of Vancouver his home. He plays with his band twice a week in two restaurants. He discovered his passion for mariachi music when he became a street performer, as Mexico Desconocido found out. He used to work in a factory and was at risk of depression, but Mexico’s most famous musical genre helped him regain his passion for life and improve his mental health. His band is made up of 12 musicians, only three of which are Mexican. The rest come from Canada, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine and China.
Such a diverse group! We love it! They have played in various consulates and embassies in the United States and Canada. And the white and red colors on the mariachi suit? You guessed it: they are an homage to the Canadian flag. This is a great example of the wonders that can happen when multiculturalism is promoted and celebrated, as is the case with Canada and its inclusive migration policies from which a lot of Global North countries could learn.
You might not be aware, but there are professional mariachis all around the world.
In the United States one only has to Google “mariachi near me” to find multiple listings. European cities are the same: mariachis are constantly sought after to play at parties, embassy events and all sorts of social gatherings. Even as far as Australia there are Mexicam musicians who have migrated and made a living out of singing classic tunes like “El Rey” and “La Puerta Negra.”
As Hector Patricio, founder of Fiesta Viva in Sydney, explains: “Traditional mariachi is a type of music that is strong, loud, and represents us as Mexicans. It is joyful and sad at the same time. People in Australia love it. 80% of my bookings are made by white Australians. We work with the best talent agencies. Mariachi music brings happiness and sadness together. We even play at funerals. We migrate to work hard, we always find a way to make things happen. Us Mexican migrants are constantly tested and we have to make it happen through hard work and dedication.”