Things That Matter

Let’s Revisit The Times Four Salvadoran Men Skateboarded From El Salvador To The US To Flee Gang Violence

Exactly three years ago this week, Rolling Stone published a piece detailing the extent four guys went through to flee the gang violence surrounding them in El Salvador. The four men crossed thousands of miles north to the U.S. with skateboards as their main form of transportation.

Known as the four skaters, or patinetos, Kelvin, Rene, Kevin and Eliseo all told writer Levi Vonk their harrowing stories of how they had formed a brotherhood through skating, one they were willing to trust while migrating north undocumented.

Vonk talked to NPR’s Latino USA about how he was living in Mexico at the time as a Fulbright Scholar and encountered these four skaters whizzing by on their boards. He was at a migrant rights’ march at the time in Oaxaca.

“They wanted to go to LA because it’s the land of skaters and glitz, and they heard it had jobs, and they heard it had good skating,” Vonk told Latino USA.

Kelvin was the oldest of the group, 27 at the time, while the other skaters were all 20. Skateboarding had allowed for the four skaters to escape the pressures of living under gripping violence, but it was also a risk that surrounded them on the streets.

“It’s discouraged by the gangs who run the areas. It’s discouraged because they see it as a threat to their power within the neighborhoods,” Vonk said.

“For many of the skaters that’s what it was all about—was actively choosing a life that isn’t about violence,” Vonk added. “That isn’t about extorting others, it isn’t about harming others.”

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The four friends had had enough with the gang violence when several local skaters ended up in the hospital in March of 2015. They grabbed the little money they had, a change of clothes and started their journey north from El Salvador in the dead of night, skating 350 miles to the southern tip of Guatemala. It took them about a week to make it from San Salvador to the southern tip of Mexico, according to Rolling Stone. They slept in church shelters or on the street, and receiving free food from other skaters.

“That’s how we break borders with skating,” Kelvin told Rolling Stone. “We can connect with other guys practicing our sport.”

Kelvin also said local Mexican skaters protected them and invited them to party with them, and that they had ‘nothing but love for their Mexican brothers.’

Once the four skaters made it to Mexico, Kevin and Eliseo were apprehended in Mexico City by immigration officials and put back on a plane to El Salvador.

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The remaining guys took buses north through Mexico with the little money their families sent along. They managed to make it to the U.S. border, but the easy part of the journey wasn’t over yet.

Vonk wrote the two skaters got their skateboards taken away by coyotes, but they were able to cross into the U.S. with their help.

The article ends with Rene and Kelvin waiting it out at a coyote’s house and a follow-up piece was never written leaving the story unfinished.

In the NPR interview, audiences were told a little bit more about the whereabouts of the four skaters at that time: Eliseo and Kevin were trying to make it north again, Kelvin was at a coyote’s house in Texas and Rene had been detained at the Rio Grande Detention Center.

“When skateboarding started, they broke the rules because they were prohibited from skating,” Kelvin told Rolling Stone. “There are some that still think that skating is bad. But it’s better to be on a skateboard, breaking barriers, breaking the law because, in reality, the world shouldn’t have borders.”

Read the full Rolling Stone article here.


READ: This Three-Year-Old Latino Skateboarder Takes Slams And Gets Buck In This Vid

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This Mexican College Student Is Going Viral For Breeding the Largest Bunnies In the World

Things That Matter

This Mexican College Student Is Going Viral For Breeding the Largest Bunnies In the World

Photo via yakinkiro/Instagram

Look out Bad Bunny. There’s another breed of bunny in town that’s taking the internet by storm. A college student in Mexico recently went viral for the oddest thing. He has genetically engineered a strain of rabbits to be the largest in the world.

21-year-old Kiro Yakin has become a viral sensation after internet users have seen him with pictures of the giant bunnies he genetically engineered.

Yakin, a student at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla on the Xicotepec campus, is studying veterinary and animal husbandry. He began his experimentation by breeding two unique rabbit types together. The Flemish Giant rabbit and other, longer-eared bunnies that Yakin happened to notice. As a result, his monster-bunny was born.

According to Yakin, his experimental bunnies grow up to 22 pounds  Flemish Giant, while the average Flemish giant weighs 15 pounds. But make no mistake, Yakin’s bunny experiment was no accident. “It takes an average of 3 to 4 years to reproduce this giant species,” he told Sintesis.

Yakin’s ultimate goal is to breed a rabbit that can grow up to 30 pounds. “I am currently studying genetics to see how to grow this breed of giant rabbits more,” he said.

Yakin, who has had a soft spot for rabbits since he was a child (pun intended), now cares for a whopping fifty giant rabbits out of his parents’ home.

Luckily, his parents are supportive enough of his dream that they support their son (and his bunnies) financially. “I have the financial support and support of my parents to buy food a week for all 50 giant rabbits,” Yakin told Sintesis.

But he also admitted his project has a long way to go. “So far I have not set aside the time or budget that is required to start the project more seriously,” he said.

The only thing that’s preventing Yakin from committing all his time and energy to creating even bigger bunnies is–what else?–money.

Photo via yakinkiro/Instagram

Although he already submitted a proposal to his university to try and expand his research, as of now, he is self-financed. However, Yakin makes a bit of extra cash by selling the giant bunnies to private customers.

His ultimate goal though, is to open up a large, professional farm where he can breed and cross-breed his bunnies to his heart’s content.

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Congresswoman Norma Torres Is In A Twitter Feud With El Salvador’s President And Neither One Is Backing Down

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Congresswoman Norma Torres Is In A Twitter Feud With El Salvador’s President And Neither One Is Backing Down

Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) has been one of the most outspoken critics on the root causes of migration to the United States, calling out corruption and neglect from Central American nations.

The Guatemala-born Congresswoman said the issue stemmed from failing to address the root causes of immigration in the Northern Triangle. While she claimed that the Obama administration made strides in Central American intervention (years later, it has little to show for), she did address the many reasons why people from the region made the difficult decision to leave their countries. 

“The poverty we see here in our own communities, you know, in comparison to the poverty that has been caused by climate change issues, severe droughts in the region, the fact that there is no infrastructure for the indigenous populations,” Torres told NPR in 2019

She continues to lay blame on those same nations and she’s making some apparent enemies in the process, including El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele who has been engaged in a bit of a Twitter feud with the congresswoman.

The California congresswoman is feeling the heat from El Salvador’s president.

President Nayib Bukele and Democratic Rep. Norma Torres have been exchanging very undiplomatic barbs on Twitter for the last few weeks. And now, El Salvador’s president is urging voters in a California congressional district to vote out its U.S. representative in the latest back-and-forth spat between the Central American head of state and one of Congress’ most vocal critics of the region’s leaders.

Torres, who was born in Guatemala, took the first show when she retweeted a disturbing video released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection showing two toddler sisters being dropped into the U.S. by smugglers straddling a 14-foot-tall border wall. The two were picked up by U.S. agents and given medical attention.

Along with a link to the video, Torres tweeted — in Spanish — that the incident is “a great shame for the governments of #Guatemala #Honduras #ElSalvador their compatriots deserve governments that are truly committed to fighting corruption and narco[trafficking]!”

Well, her tweet didn’t sit well with the president.

El Salvador’s Bukele, an avid Twitter user, hit back fast with his own Spanish-language tweet. “Look ma’am, did you read that the children are from ECUADOR and not from EL SALVADOR? Also, this happened on the border of Mexico with the United States. What does El Salvador have to do with this?”

The Salvadoran president then told Torres that she should buy some glasses with a portion of her “financier’s checks.”

But Bukele, at 39 the youngest president in Latin America, is extremely popular. He is often seen wearing a backward baseball cap and sports clothes, and his Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas) party won big in last month’s legislative elections, taking control of the national legislature.

Torres, one of Bukele’s leading critics, kept up the tweet for tweet — this time in English — calling the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border the result of “narcissistic dictators like you interested in being ‘cool’ while people flee by the 1000s & die by the 100s.”

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