Things That Matter

This Firefly Forest Is A One Of A Kind Destination And It’s Just Outside Mexico City

Have you ever travelled somewhere on the advice of someone else? No advertising, no nothing – just the idea of a great experience? Well, the little town of Nanacamilpa in Mexico has had so many tourists stop by, it’s stoppedadvertising its main tourist draw to try to slow the flow of people into the hamlet. And, do you know why there are so many people coming to Nanacamilpa? Fireflies.

There’s more to this story than just bugs.

Instagram / @mexicotravelchannel

What Nanacamilpa promises is more than just seeing some insects in action. Well okay, actually, that’s exactly what it promises. Past the farmland that borders Nanacamilpa is a blanket of forest – and that’s where the fireflies can be found. It’s hard using just words to bring justice to the event that is firefly viewing. But suffice to say that if it’s the middle of the night, and all you’ve got for light is the night sky above you, seeing these tiny critters seemingly suspended and glowing all around you is an otherworldly experience.

If you plan on visiting the fireflies, you’ll need to follow a few important rules.

Instagram / @axlrz

Generally speaking, there is an etiquette for viewing fireflies. No talking, and no use of lights. That’s right, you’re not to use your phone while you’re out chilling with the fireflies: no taking selfies for the clout. Whether visitors obey these rules is another story – they’re only really enforced by requests from the local tour guides that take groups out to see the fireflies. And while, for the moment, the presence of people haven’t seemed to bother the fireflies too much, it remains to be seen what the long term impacts of this environmental tourism will have on the Nanacamilpa firefly population. 

Where the locals are concerned, the fireflies have had quite a positive impact on the community.

Instagram / @mexicosorprendente

If you were to visit Nanacamilpa just five years ago, you would have found the place pretty much empty. The only people in the area would have been locals. Nowadays, roughly 100,000 tourists visit between mid-June to mid-August to catch a glimpse of the area’s friendly fireflies, which has served as a windfall for what was previously a chronically poor region. In just 2013 alone, 51,000 visitors came to Nanacamilpa. Two years later, that number jumped to 77,000 – and most visitors were coming through the July-August period.

Firefly tourism has completely changed the lives of nearby residents forever.

Instagram / @fido.travel

In fact, for a while there, the locals struggled to keep up with the influx of travelers. 2013 saw food shortages in the Nanacamilpa restaurants, and any accommodation in the area had been completely booked out. This was fixed pretty quickly, though – hotels began appearing around town, and even in the forest. And, registered tour operators burgeoned from the four existing in 2012 to 33 in 2019. Which is just as well – last year saw 91,000 visitors to the fireflies! They’ve now become the state’s second most important draw, behind cultural tourism. Needless to say, business is booming, and firefly tourism has changed the lives of Nanacamilpa locals for the better.

But, there is a downside to this influx of tourists. 

Instagram / @solracmarban

It’s never so cut and dry with these kinds of things. As much as it’s great that Nanacamilpa is seeing money come its way, environmental scientists have expressed concerns about the impact visitors might have on the fireflies. However, there’s so much that’s unknown about the fireflies, that it’s hard to make any concrete judgments about what’s best for the little glowing bugs. It’s yet to even be determined what kind of impact light and chemical pollution has on the fireflies – or if they have an effect on them, at all.

Sadly, with so many visitors, the firefly population is under threat.

Instagram / @enmodoavionmx

That being said, there is a major threat to the Nanacamilpa firefly population that everyone should know about: the female fireflies … can’t fly. We know – it’s in the name, firefly. Anyway, obviously both females and males are needed for the fireflies to continue populating the region with their glowing butts. The risk in the females being unable to fly is that it’s a lot easier for unsuspecting visitors to accidentally step on the tiny fireflies. Even worse – without the ability to fly, they don’t have the capacity to easily escape from harm.

It’s not all bad news, though. Firefly tourism has become important in other countries, such as Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia. It’s entirely possible that, even though different variations of fireflies live there, they may have developed their own model for balancing conservation with tourism. Let’s just hope that something more substantial can be implemented in Nanacamilpa to protect the fireflies, before it’s too late.

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?

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Things That Matter

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Celia Lucero

For years, conservative minded people in Mexico have defended the full frontal war that then president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa waged against the drug cartels from 2006 to 2012. This war continues today and has seen almost half a million people killed, countless abuses, displacement of whole populations and a diminished image of Mexico locally and abroad. Those who align with the supposedly incorruptible stance that Calderón took against organized crime claim that he was just doing a job that previous presidents had failed to do.

During this period government forces fought mainly Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, as well as new organizations in the state of Michoacan such as La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios. Strangely, the Sinaloa Cartel was left largely untouched and even expanded its operations during the Calderón presidency.

A recent high profile arrest could shed some light on why the war against the cartels has developed in a way that up until recently seemed to benefit the powerful organization built by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán and his compadre Mayo Zambada. As The Guardian reports: “A 2010 analysis of crime figures by NPR found that only 12% of people arrested, prosecuted or sentenced for drug, organised crime and weapons offences had ties to the Sinaloa cartel”. This is peculiar, to say the least. 

Genaro García Luna, Calderón’s security chief, was arrested in the United States.

The charges emanated from the recent trial in which El Chapo Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison. The authority  claims that García Luna, who was infamous for the many human rights abuses that the State’s forces committed under his command, received generous bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel to warranty that their operations would not be threatened.

If true, this would be corruption at the highest levels of government and would justify fears that Mexico has become a Narco-State in which global trafficking networks are the de facto decision makers. He led Mexico’s federal investigation agency from 2001 to 2005. From 2006 to 2012 he served under Calderón as secretary of public security. So yes, cannot get more powerful than that! 

García Luna was the architect of the federal police, a force which coordinated with the Army and the Navy to fight the cartels.

If the allegations are true, it could mean that the whole State apparatus was created with a hidden agenda in mind, which would put the legitimacy of the institutional framework of Mexico during the FCH presidency on serious scrutiny. After the former security chief was arrested,  US attorney Richard P Donoghue said: “García Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel while he controlled Mexico’s federal police force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico. Today’s arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes.”

Of course, Calderón was quick to say he wasn’t aware of this happening

Former president Calderón, who is attempting to create his own political party alongside his wife Margarita Zavala, took to Twitter to say he was unaware of García Luna’s dishonest ways.

If this is the case then it would amount to the worst kind of incompetence on Calderón’s part. If he was indeed aware, however, well it would spell political and possibly legal disaster for him. Either way, this arrest could probably mean the end of Calderón’s political life.

By the way, he once said that nothing happens without the president knowing about it. The accusations are damning.

As summarized by The Guardian: “According to the indictment, cartel bagmen twice delivered briefcases containing millions of dollars to García Luna. In 2018, former cartel member Jesús Zambada testified at the trial of the Sinaloa kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that he personally made at least $6m in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. In exchange for the bribes, the Sinaloa cartel obtained safe passage for its drug shipments, inside details of police investigations, and information about rival drug cartels, the indictment said.”

We wonder how many heads will fall as the ugly truths revealed during El Chapo’s trial keep resurfacing. 

Remember the Netflix show El Chapo? Well, it sort of showed these acts of corruption in an eerily similar way.

Credit: Netflix

As more information surfaces after the now legendary El Chapo trial, we stand in awe at how accurate the Netflix-Telemundo show was. In it, Calderón’s government strikes a deal with the Sinaloa Cartel through a shady political operative who had García Luna’s exact same job? Coincidence or was it un secreto a voces?