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 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.

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

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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

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