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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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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There are millions of people just itching for a vacation right now, and Cancun wants to welcome visitors with open arms. However, there’s a huge problem with their plan. Most of the country is still in a severe phase of the pandemic – with all 32 states reporting daily increases in confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, even locals aren’t allowed to venture far from their homes and restrictions on shopping, dining, and exercising are still in full force.

However, the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has resumed his cross-country travels and is trying to portray a ‘new normal’ – the problem is little has changed to prevent further outbreaks.

Cancun is aiming to open its doors to tourists from June 10 – but it makes zero sense given the actual situation on the ground.

Quintana Roo, home to the famed beaches of Cancun and Tulum, will resume activities next week – according to the governor, Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez. The state, which depends heavily on tourism, has lost over 83,000 jobs in the last few months due to the pandemic, and with reopening the state could see an economic rebound. However, that entirely depends on the success and implementation of safety measures.

In a press conference, the governor said that tourists could start arriving in the Caribbean destination as soon as June 8th. He added that tourism is an essential activity and that there is no other of greater importance in Quintana Roo “and we are going to fight for it to be considered that way.”

He stressed during the public address that for the opening to happen by June 10th, protocols and hygiene measures must be followed to protect workers and tourists from Covid-19.

And he has good reason to reopen. According to a new survey by Expedia, ‘Cancun flights’ is one of the top 5 searches on the platform. In the same survey, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeres (all located in Quintana Roo) were announced as three of the most internationally sought after destinations.

Meanwhile, AMLO has launched a cross-country tour touting the lifting of Coronavirus restrictions.

Credit: Rebecca Blackwell / Getty

President AMLO also held his daily press conference from the state of Quintana Roo to mark the beginning of Mexico’s economic reopening and resume his tours across the country.

But this too makes zero sense. Yes, the government has mandated that states can begin lifting restrictions – if they’re no longer declared ‘red zones.’ However, every state in the country is still in the red, with many seeing peak infection numbers.

It’s just the most recent example of confusing messaging from the president.

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While AMLO is eager to get the country reopened and put Mexicans back to work, Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. Mexico has now recorded the seventh-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, with nearly 10,000 virus-related fatalities and almost 100,000 confirmed cases. Testing in the country is low and health officials acknowledge that the numbers are likely much higher.

The federal government unveiled a red-light/green-light system to implement reopening procedures state by state. But currently every state is still in ‘red-light’ phase – meaning stay-at-home orders are still in full effect – making AMLO’s messaging extremely confusing.

Time and time again, the president has downplayed the virus outbreak and has criticized stay-at-home orders for harming the economy.

Keep in mind, however, that non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico is still largely banned.

Since March, all non-essential travel has been banned between the U.S. and Mexico. However, that ban is currently set to expire on June 22. It’s possible both sides could extend the travel ban, but given AMLO’s rhetoric it isn’t likely he’ll keep the country closed to tourists for much longer.

However, it’s important to point that out even if you technically can travel – right now you really shouldn’t. In much of Mexico, confirmed Covid-19 cases are on the rise with many cities across the country just now entering it’s worst phase.

Tropical Storm Leaves At Least 20 Dead In El Salvador And Now Threatens The U.S. Gulf Coast

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Tropical Storm Leaves At Least 20 Dead In El Salvador And Now Threatens The U.S. Gulf Coast

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The 2020 Hurricane season is off to a very strong start – in fact, it’s a record breaking one. The season officially started on June 1st, however, we’re only on June 3rd and there have already been three named storms. Even before the season got started, officials were warning of an above average season and it seems their predictions are playing out.

Tropical Storm Amanda killed at least 20 people when it struck El Salvador, unleashing flooding and landslides.

After making landfall in El Salvador, Tropical Storm Amanda has been blamed for at least 20 deaths in the country. Officials there say that more than 7,000 people have been taken into shelters as the country attempts to recover from the devastating effects.

Torrential rains and strong winds destroyed hundreds of homes and left highways and roads out of service, stranding many in very dangerous situations.

Carolina Recinos, a senior aide to President Nayib Bukele, said the storm had dumped the equivalent of “almost 10 percent” of the annual rainfall on the country in a relatively short span of time.

Bukele declared a 15-day state of emergency to cope with the effects of Amanda, which he estimated to have caused $200 million in damage.

“We’ve never experienced this,” Maria Torres, whose house was damaged, told the Associated Press news agency. “The rain was so strong and suddenly, the water entered the homes, and we just saw how they fell.”

The storm came as the country of some 6.6 million people is grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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To date, El Salvador has reported 2,582 confirmed Covid-19 infections and 46 related deaths. It’s not been as hard hit as many other Latin American countries, but experts agree that the country is poorly equipped to handle any further strain.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented situation: one top-level emergency on top of another serious one,” said San Salvador Mayor Ernesto Muyshondt.

The country had already instituted some of the most strict lockdown measures across the region. Even a trip to the market is heavily regulated – you’re only allowed access depending on the numbers in your identity documents, and residents aren’t allowed to cross municipal boundaries, even to buy food or medicine.

The storm also lashed other countries across Central America.

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Both Guatemala and Honduras were also badly hit by the storm. In Honduras, four were left dead after they were swept away by rising flood waters. Meanwhile, several communities were left buried under feed of mud and debris and mudslides happened across the country.

Two people were also killed and two injured in Guatemala, where authorities reported 500 homes damaged.

After weakening, the storm has now reformed as Tropical Storm Cristobal and could pose a risk to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

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Tropical Storm Amanda weakened after impacting Central America and then entered the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s since reorganized into a new Tropical Storm – this time named Cristobal. This marks the first time in history that there have been three named storms so early in the hurricane season. Typically, the third named storm does not brew until way later in the season, occurring on average around Aug. 13

The weather disturbance is expected to move through the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, and is likely to severely impact the Mexican coastline in the coming days.

The storm is expected to take a northward turn, and it could gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico prior to reaching the southern United States coastline.