Things That Matter

Authorities Suspect That Gang Violence Is Behind The Horrific Fire Bombing Of A Nightclub That Left Dozens Dead

In yet another deadly attack in Mexico, at least 28 people were killed Tuesday night due to a suspected arson attack at a bar in the Mexican state of Veracruz. According to the Washington Post, perpetrators locked the doors and emergency exits of the well-known “White Horse Nightclub” and then promptly set the building on fire with gasoline bombs.  

“They arrived in several vehicles, with rifles and pistols. They threatened the security guards at the door and took control of the entrance,” a witness told the AFP.

“The White Horse Nightclub”, a table-dancing bar, is a well-known gathering place in the working-class city of Coatzacoalcos where the main industry has long been oil and oil refining. The deadly inferno ravaged through the bar killing the 28 people and injured more than a dozen others. Images taken in the aftermath of the attack showed the bodies of women burned to death among a charred interior. According to Yahoo News, many of those who perished in the fire were dancers. Videos on social media showed dozens of people grouped together and embracing one another outside the burned down bar. 

“My niece starting dancing here a few months ago. She was a single mom, and she wanted to give her daughter a better life and go back to school,” Maria Vazquez, whose 22-year-old niece Sugedy perished in the bar fire, told the AFP.

Law enforcement believes that the deadly fire might have been caused by a gang dispute between rival groups. At this time, there is one main suspect that has been identified. 

Credit: @ajplus / Twitter

As of now, law enforcement is following leads that a suspect is a man who had been recently arrested but then subsequently released. Veracruz Gov. Cuitláhuac García said at a news conference that a key suspect has been identified as a man known as “La Loca” but would only call him as Ricardo “N″ due to officials no longer giving the full names of suspects. García says that the man was previously detained back in July but was then let go within 48 hours after being turned over to the state prosecutor’s office.

“The criminals went in, closed the doors, the emergency exits, and set fire to the place,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a morning news conference discussing the tragedy. “This is the most inhuman thing possible. It is regrettable that organized crime acts in this manner.”

President Lopez Obrador criticized the state attorney general, Jorge Winckler Ortíz, who was appointed by a previous, rival administration, for having released some of the suspects behind the attack who had previously been in custody this year.

Veracruz has become a central battleground area in the long Mexican drug war that started back in 2006. The area is also considered a hotbed of violence where Mexico’s rival drug cartels have been known to engage in illegal activities. Tuesday’s deadly attack is similar to one that happened back in April on another bar in Veracruz in the city of Minatitlan that killed 13 people.

Tuesday’s attack was one of the worst mass killings since President Lopez Obrador took office in December pledging to help Mexico by battling corruption and inequality in the country. This comes as homicides have reached record highs this year already. 

Credit: @XHNEWS / Twitter

President Lopez Obrador has frequently called for the end of the senseless violence that has plagued the country for the last 15 years. But so far, the number of murders has only continued to rise after hitting record levels in 2018.

Tuesday’s deadly attack adds to the record year of violence in Mexico, which has already registered 14,603 homicides from January through June. The Mexican government under President Obrador has faced challenges in stopping the senseless violence that has taken the lives of thousands of innocent people caught between a deadly drug war. 

“The fact that 2019 is on pace to be the most violent year does not come out of nowhere. We have seen how violence has been progressively increasing,” said Francisco Rivas, director-general of the National Citizen Observatory, a research group, told the Washington Post. “The president says we are improving, but we are worse than ever before.”

No arrests have been announced so far in the investigation. The Veracruz public security secretary and the prosecutor’s office are still looking into more leads at this time. 

READ: Bolivia’s President Wants To Be Reelected For A Fourth Time But He Could Send His Country Into A Political Crisis

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

Things That Matter

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

ChilangoMX / Instagram

Like most countries that depend heavily on coal energy and on manufacturing to keep its productive wheels running, Mexico is deeply affected by the environmental damage that many industries cause. Added to local production, Mexico has also been the site of maquilas, factories set up by foreign investors who are lured by cheaper labour and by lax tax regimes, as well as by looser rules when it comes to environmental impact. Both industry and public opinion need to be better informed of the toxic hot spots in the country.

Mexico sits at an strategic political and commercial position, and industrial powerhouses such as the United States and Canada, whose companies have set shop in the other member of NAFTA, by far the most disadvantaged. 

The toxi-tour caravan will travel the country for ten days in total, December 2-11.

Participants include environmentalists and scientists from both Mexico and overseas. The objective is to raise awareness and to denounce the companies that cause most damage. Perhaps shaming is the first step towards change. Besides Mexicans, there are representatives from the United States, Europe and other Latin American Countries. 

The journey began in El Salto, Jalisco, where a polluted river has led to cancer and death.

Credit: Regeneración radio

In this site industrial pollution of the Santiago river has caused the death of more than a thousand people due to cancer and kidney failure. People from cities in the United States affected by pollution in places like Flint, Michigan, can surely relate. A river is generally a propeller for economic development and productive activity, as well as a source of an increasingly scarce commodity: water. However, this river is basically poisonous now and has brought death to those who live nearby. 

The caravan will visit sites were more than three million people have seen their health diminished by pollution.

Credit: Notimex

The rest of the Toxi-tour stops include Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato; Apaxco, México state; Atonilco de Tula, Hidalgo; Tlaxcala; Puebla; and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The journey will conclude in Mexico City on December 11. As you may lmow, Mexico City is deeply affected by high levels of pollution. Its high altitude and the fact that it is nested in a valley make it prone to elevated pollution levels that have damaged the upper respiratory tract in millions of its inhabitants.

In the photo we can see the cement manufacturing plant of Apaxco, which releases fine particles that have caused upper respiratory tract issues for both the workers and the people living near the factory. Imagine breathing grainy, minuscule cement dust day in, day out. Another big issue is the unlawful disposal of waste in landfills which end up pumping chemicals into the soil and rendering it sterile. 

The organizers have a pretty clear idea of who is to blame for the environmental crisis in these places.

As Mexico Daily News reports: “The Toxi-Tour will “denounce United States, Canadian, German, French, Spanish and Mexican companies” that cause environmental damage, said Andrés Barreda, a representative of the National Assembly of Environmental Victims, which organized the caravan.”

Yes, Mexican companies share the blame, but the fact that Global North companies have caused physical damage to the land and people of a previously colonized nation brings back memories of colonial times and trauma. So for these companies the lives of Global South countries are less valuable? It would appear that is the case. This is afforded of course, by corrupt authorities. The caravan will also get political and will engage local community leaders and people that have been affected or displaced by industry.

As Mexico News Daily reports: “In Tlaxcala on Friday, caravan members will learn about the community proposal to clean up the Atoyac–Zahuapan river basin, while on Saturday they will visit contaminated areas of Puebla city and speak with locals who have been dispossessed of their communal lands.”

Mexican history is a history of dispossession, and environmental violence is another way in which those in power have decimated the productive capabilities and future survival of communities that live and die by a deep attachment to the land and nature. 

Schools In Mexico’s Yucatan Have Made Mayan Language Classes A Requirement And Here’s Why That Matters

Culture

Schools In Mexico’s Yucatan Have Made Mayan Language Classes A Requirement And Here’s Why That Matters

Child-Aid.org

Sometimes there are big, big steps towards inclusivity in Latin America, a region that is still defined by colonial structures in which the indigenous is frowned upon and often looked down at. Indigenous languages, for example, are always at a clear and present danger of becoming extinct due to the imposition of Spanish (or Castillian, as people who speak other languages in then  Iberian Peninsula call it) as the main language and often the only way to be part of the productive force. However, the southern state of Yucatan is taking a big step towards acknowledgement of the original owners of a land that was never ceded. 

Schools in Yucatan have taken an important step towards real cultural inclusion and diversity.

The State Congress of Yucatan has just made it mandatory to have Mayan language instruction in primary and secondary schools. This is a great step towards true inclusivity in a state that has long benefited from Mayan culture when it comes to tourism and areas such as culinary tradition and art. According to census data, more than 570,000 people in Yucatan speak Mayan, so areas of the state are actually fully bilingual.

The census authority in Mexico has pointed out that the prevalence of Spanish has affected the numbers of people speaking Mayan. “Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the percentage of people that speak Mayan in the state has been decreasing constantly and drastically in recent years,” the agency INEGI warned, as reported by Mexico Daily News.

Change will not come quick, however, as reported by the same outlet: “One reason for going slowly might be a shortage of teachers. Education authorities said in September there was a shortage of bilingual — Spanish and Mayan — teachers. The state said it would attempt to remedy the situation by introducing a “seed group” of 20 primary-level bilingual teachers who would pass their skills on to at least another 40 teachers in a process that would fan out and prepare more teachers to help meet Mayan instruction goals”. 

Mestizo Mexicans have a contradictory relationship to the country’s rich indigenous past.

There is no denying that there is a systematic and everyday racism in Mexican society. From government programs that inadvertently look down on indigenous Mexicans to the actual word of “indio” being used as an insult in everyday vernacular, there are manifestations of this type of discrimination on a constant basis and oftentimes people are not often aware.

This is no doubt part of the colonial heritage in Mexico, particularly when we consider that there was actually a caste system in place with Europeans at the top and indigenous people at the bottom. This discrimination is alive and well, and can be seen in different facets of Mexican society.

At the same time, however, institutionally ancient civilizations, particularly the Maya and the Aztec, are seen as the foundation of the country and a source of pride. The history of these groups is taught in schools and when Mexicans travel abroad usually the first thing they brag about is the glorious indigenous past and how the Spanish destroyed it all. There is a sense of nationalism emanating from the past glory of these civilizations. Sadly, this doesn’t always translate into how indigenous communities are treated. That is why including Maya in the curriculum is a BFD! 

The Maya were amazing scientists, poets and overall a very advanced civilizations compared to their European counterparts at the time.

The Maya civilization was not only advanced in the material aspects of life such as irrigation and construction, but they also reached a very sophisticated level of conceptualization. For example, their number system included the zero, a feat that might seem very simple and almost banal, but that requires a high level of abstraction and a very high level of mathematical intelligence. They also had a deep understanding of astronomy and the ways in which the stars and the Earth’s rotation affect crops and daily life. Hey, maybe we can learn something from them in these times of climate change crisis.