Things That Matter

Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

One of the biggest assets of the great and complex country known as Mexico is the creative and even ludic way in which people reuse materials. This is done on an everyday basis. You just have to go to a traditional mercado to see, for example, Barbie doll dresses made with scraps from old clothes. Need a swing for the backyard? No worries, that used tire will do! 

But sometimes this sort of creativity extends to public works that set a good example that other governments can follow. 

Introducing the world’s very first eco-highway! Recycled plastic on the road! 

Credit: Mexico News Daily

The state of Guanajuato in central Mexico is home to the first ever highway paved with recycled materials. The effort is modest at the moment and involved a 4 kilometer stretch that required 1.7 tons of plastic. The stretch communicates the municipalities of Irapuato and Cuerámaro. If we don’t continue to implement solutions like these, the only highway that we will be paving as humanity is a highway to climate hell!

The number of plastic packages required to accumulate 1.7 tons will surprise you!

According to Dow Plastics Technology Mexico, the 1.7 tons of eco-pavement equal up to 425,000 plastic packaging units. The development of the highway plastic was a private affair that involved the companies Dow, Vise, Surfax, Lasfalto and Omnigreen, and its use in the highway was championed by the federal body Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT). Regardless of the politics that are surely involved in the project (governments loooove to take credit for this sort of initiatives and present themselves as super eco-friendly), this project sets a great precedent. 

And the new recycled material is much more durable too!

Credit: Inhabitat

Through a press release, Dow praised the durability of the new eco-material, which could become the standard in the years to come: “This new technology not only offers a possible solution to the management of plastic waste, it also theoretically prolongs the life span of highways by 50% compared to conventional asphalt. The advantage of using recycled plastic products is that they can be used on all types of highways, not only in high-performance products, which can extend the life span of any paved road”.

It is important to note that the world at large is facing a crisis when it comes to the management of recycling materials. Many developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand traditionally send their plastics to China to be recycled. However, China is no longer accepting them and a lot of plastic is either being stored (a costly and not very useful solution) or, worse, it ends up in landfill. This was a pilot study, but it will surely at least trigger the curiosity of other governments and companies. And remember: they both love good PR, and what could be better PR than being eco-friendly in these times of true environmental distress? 

Mexicans have done some other pretty cool eco-friendly things with roads!

Credit: Elite Readers

If you have been to Mexico City chances are that you have been stuck in traffic. If the traffic lasts for more than, say, 45 minutes, chances are then that you are in the infamous Periferico. This artery, which connects the city’s Sur y Norte, was so busy that the government decided to build a second floor on top of it. This was a very controversial project then championed by now president AMLO.

A new project, Via Verde, is creating vertical gardens on the pillars that support “El Segundo Piso”. This is intended not only to provide a pretty view for tired drivers, but also to alleviate some of the air pollution caused by the thousands of cars that cross “El Peri” every day in what is perhaps one of the world’s busiest commutes. We only hope that CDMX becomes a truly green megalopolis… 

And don’t forget the nopal leather made by a duo of Mexican superstars!

Credit: The Mind Unleashed

A few days ago this wonderful invention made its rounds on the media: Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez, two Mexican inventors, have created an alternative to plastic faux leather by using nopal, a cactus variety that is as delicious to eat as it is durable when used as a material. If this vegan and eco-friendly is commercialized on a large scale it will not only provide more fashion alternatives to vegans, but it will also have an impact on the cattle industry, which is one of the main culprits of climate change. The material is also much more breathable than plastic faux leather… seriously, that things makes you sweat like there is no tomorrow!

The World’s First 3D Printed Neighborhood Is Being Built In Mexico For Families Who Earn $3 Per Day

Things That Matter

The World’s First 3D Printed Neighborhood Is Being Built In Mexico For Families Who Earn $3 Per Day

New Story Charity / Facebook

Silicon Valley has become the global epicenter for the development of new technologies, but for every great development when it comes to benefiting humanity, there are hundreds that just seem, no offense, just a bit silly and unnecessary. 3D printing has become the latest real revolution in the tech industry, as it allows objects that are originally designed digitally to become a real physical object.

Of course, people have mainly used 3D printing to make banal objects like toys and chocolate, but this technology has also been used for amazing purposes such as rebuilding old objects studied by archaeologists or printing body parts for disabled patients. So a new initiative in Mexico that caters for the most vulnerable. 

But what is 3D printing exactly? And how on Earth can you print a house?

The technology is not new. In fact, most of the basic knowledge around it was achieved in the 1980s, but it sort of faded away. The increased capacity of processors has triggered a 3D printing revolution. 3D printing is basically laying layer upon layer of any given material, which is generally some sort of plastic but has included substances such as chocolate (yes, really!) and in the case of 3D printed houses, cement.

The home-building process with giant printers becomes so much quicker and ultimately cheaper, as manual labor is kept to a minimum and materials are very basic. Another advantage is that errors are kept to a minimum so homes are safe particularly in regions that are prone to natural disasters such as flooding or earthquakes. Materials can be carefully chosen and issues such as leaks become minimal due to the tightness of the construction. 

A community in Mexico will get these 3D printed houses and that is just awesome.

Millions of Mexicans live in extreme poverty, and some of them survive in makeshift homes made out of wood, plastic, tin and basically scraps. This puts them in an even more vulnerable position as floods, fires or any other disaster can basically leave them with nothing at any point. Developers in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco have built the first two of the 50 printed houses they are aiming to complete by the end of 2020.

Brett Hagler, CEO and co-founder of New Story, the nonprofit building the community, told CNN: “These families are the most vulnerable, and in the lowest income … and they’re living on about an average of $3 a day.”

And he continued: “They’re living in literally a pieced-together shack that during the rainy season, it will rain and it will flood their shack. Some of the women even said that the water will go up to their knees when it rains, sometimes for month.”

Rains not only bring financial ruin, but also lead to epidemics of life-threatening conditions such as cholera or dengue, which is spread by the mosquitoes that thrive in stagnated water. We also love how the design keeps some traditional elements of houses in the area. Well done, everyone.

This might be the future of affordable housing, and it has been made possible by cooperation between great minds and hearts on both sides of the border.

Credit: CNN / YouTube

When great minds and generous hearts get together good things happen. These houses are the result of binational cooperation between US companies and Mexican nonprofits (yes, people from these two countries can and have done great things together).

As CNN reports: “New Story is a nonprofit that helps families in need of shelter. It has built more than 2,700 homes in South America and Mexico since it was founded in 2014. This is the first homebuilding project it’s done with 3D printing. The nonprofit paired up with ICON, a construction technology company that developed the 3D-printing robotics being used on the project. ÉCHALE, a nonprofit in Mexico, is helping find local families to live in the homes.”

See? Great things really do happen when political differences are set aside and we find our common humanity. The lives of families in this new 3D printed neighborhood will really improve and instead of merely surviving they will get on living. 

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?