Things That Matter

It’s Back To School Season In Mexico And Kids Are Being Asked To Turn On The TV

Thanks to the Coronavirus, many families morning routines are totally out of whack. And that’s becoming ever more apparent as back to school season ramps up and parents are having to play teacher and principal and counselor while also maintaining their work/home lives.

Mexico – which among the many countries that have cancelled in-person learning for this school year – is betting on TV and radio to deliver an education to all students. However, the burden is already being felt by parents who are turning to neighbors and abuelos for help.

Mexico has said no to in-person learning thanks to the Coronavirus but they’re trying to come up with solutions.

Mexico’s government has decided against in-person classes this year, deeming the Coronavirus too big a threat. Therefore, the country’s 30 million students will all be forced to learn remotely, usually from their own homes with family helping out as impromptu instructors.

Officials say the Coronavirus – which has killed more than 60,000 Mexicans amid the nearly 600,000 confirmed cases – is far too dangerous to allow kids back into the classroom.

One student told CNN that “It’s good we’re still having class. But I’m sad because I was going to start high school and meet new people.”

At home learning is tough even in well-developed countries. But in places like Mexico, where only 56% of households have Internet access and many students live in rural, poorly equipped Indigenous villages, it’s a monumental task. So if the law requires all Mexican kids to be offered a public education, the government has decided the best way to do that is over the airwaves, with 93% of households having a television.

In the meantime, the burden on parents, already high during any normal school year, will dramatically increase this year. If kids are going to make progress, parents in the home will be the primary driving force.

Teachers are becoming part-time actors as the government enlists there help to educate the country’s 30 million students.

Credit: Marcos Ugarte / Getty Images

Many of the country’s teachers have been called upon to join the growing ranks of online teachers. In TV studios across Mexico City, teachers are being dressed and having makeup put on for their on-camera closeups.

For many, it’s a big change. Teachers often develop close relationships with their students – they’re used to setting up their classrooms, hugging kids on their first day of school, and knowing about their interests, passions, and areas that need more focus.

Inside a brightly lit studio at Mexico City TV station Channel 11 last week, fifth grade teacher Omar Morales squinted as a young man with bright purple hair applied makeup to his face. Omar Morales told CNN, that “It’s challenging. It’s no longer 40 kids in a class where I know their names, passions, their favorite games. Here, I’m locked in a set, but I know there’s millions of kids out there who still need that knowledge.”

Morales is part of an ambitious government plan to record a comprehensive set of lessons for all grade levels pre-K through high school and then broadcast them on TV. It has worked out agreements with different TV channels to broadcast that content, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, with different grade levels at different hours.

The curriculum the government is sharing over the airwaves is meant to mirror that taught in public schools had they not been forced to close thanks to the pandemic. Music class and physical secrecies is also included in the televised offering, with gold-medal-winning diver Rommel Pacheco encouraging children to stretch.

The government has turned to TV and radio to help make sure the education gap doesn’t grow wider amid the pandemic.

Mexico already suffered from an extreme education gap – meaning that rich kids often received a far better education than poor kids, who were also often from rural or Indigenous communities. This was a major problem long before the pandemic.

For example, relatively wealthy Mexico City saw a 92% secondary, or high-school level, education enrollment rate as of 2019. In the much poorer state of Chiapas, that rate stood at only 59%.

But experts fear that the pandemic could greatly exacerbate the issue – and many acknowledge that TV and radio can’t solve underlying inequalities in the education system. You don’t need to be an education expert to conclude that wealthier students with internet access and the ability to interact with a teacher, even remotely, might fare better than those who get their classes the same way they watch cartoons.

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Mexico Wants To Be The Hub Of Latin America’s Space Industry And This Is Their Incredible Plan

Things That Matter

Mexico Wants To Be The Hub Of Latin America’s Space Industry And This Is Their Incredible Plan

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Getty

Although the world is still struggling with how best to contain the Coronavirus pandemic, many governments are forging ahead with long term goals and development programs.

One of the most important to new programs to launch in Mexico is central to its economic and scientific future – its future in space. Together with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (some of which already have their own independent agencies), Mexico is looking to become the leader in the region when it comes to space research and exploration.

The country recently announced its intentions for just such an agency, that they hope would be based in Mexico with foreign capital providing the seed money to get the project off the ground.

Mexico announced its intention to head up a Latin American and Caribbean space agency.

Mexico has launched an ambitious new project – creating a Latin American Space and Caribbean Space Agency that would facilitate the sharing of satellite images and aims to observe the planet. The agency would be dedicated to earth observation, satellite image sharing and multi-sector dialogue.

The project was presented by Javier López Casarín, Honorary President of the Technical Council of Knowledge and Innovation of the Mexican Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AMEXCID). López Casarín attended the meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where he presented the project for the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency, an entity that will be at the same level as other agencies (think NASA and the European Space Agency) of world space research with which it hopes to exchange information.

As part of the same meeting, the Latin American coordinators highlighted the role of Mexico in charge of the presidency of the community of Latin American states and appreciated the proposal to create a joint space agency.

Mexico has had a space agency of its own since 2010 but they’re looking to expand the operations.

Mexico has had its own space agency, the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, since 2010. Plus, several other countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have their own similar departments that over see satellites, information gathering, meteorological date, etc.

Mexico’s space agency has been tasked with carrying out study programs, research, and academic support, however, its duties have never included the aim of space exploration with its own infrastructure.

One of the agency’s key objectives is to help increase internet connectivity across the region.

In 2019, the Agencia Espacial Mexicana announced it was developing its space program around the needs of Mexican society – that it would be for the social benefit.

Among other techonoligcal solutions, the government has made it a core principle to help expand access to Internet across the country. By merging various space agencies into one, this increased Internet connectivity will likely spread to other countries in Latin America.

Internet connectivity rates vary from around 27% in El Salvador to close to 80% in Brazil – so bringing that wide gap is seen as critical for sustained development in the region.

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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