Things That Matter

Mexican Border Officials Arrested A Texas Woman Trying To Bring Gifts To Children Stuck In Border Camps

While millions of people were celebrating Noche Buena, Christmas, Chanukah and the other winter holidays this season brings, thousands remained in limbo because of the harmful immigration and amnesty laws that the United States has enacted under the Trump administration. Families separated from each other for months with no word on when they might reunite with their loved ones had no reason to celebrate. Older children caring for the babies and smaller children imprisoned alongside them tried to make the week slightly more festive — a difficult task for kids who should be enjoying the holidays themselves. 

Although there was no shortage of donation offerings throughout the year, the US government has turned away gifts of money and item donations to benefit detained migrants. While the winter holidays seem like an ideal time to revoke this policy, it was only redoubled — at least for the United States. Migrants stuck in south of the border because of the “Remain in Mexico” plan would hypothetically be able to get these much needed donations. 

Keeping this in mind, one Texas mom headed south with a car full of gifts and items for those in need but what she got in return was much less than holiday cheer.   

The Monday before Christmas, Anamichelle Castellano headed out of Brownsville with her car loaded with 300 individually-wrapped presents. The gifts were intended to be passed out to children at the make-shift migrant camps in Matamoros, Mexico. Castellano was travelling with an unnamed woman in her car and her husband and young daughter following in a second vehicle — also coming to help pass out gifts. 

However, instead of being able to drive through, her car was required to undergo a total x-ray scan because of the wrapped boxes and it picked up something that alerted border police. Apparently, Castellano’s husband had gone hunting sometime before and had left a lone carton of bullets in the car’s glove box. 

“Her husband had put them in there a long time ago and forgotten all about them,” Castellano’s mother, Mary Lopez, told local Houston, Texas news station KTRK.

Due to this small amount of ammunition, both women were arrested by Mexican police on the Gateway Bridge crossing from Brownsville into Matamoros. 

Castellano was charged with possession of ammunition and both women were held until late Monday night. Though they were released after only one day, the pair faced serious scrutiny while in custody. According to Castellano’s dad, who talked with local KTRK, jailers and prosecutors were threatening in nature when they addressed his daughter and the other volunteer. 

“[They were] kind of threatening her with federal prison, federal this and federal charges and we believe this is all a big set up where they’re trying to see what they can get out of it,” her father, Genaro Lopez, explained.

Castellano’s husband, Jehu, also experienced this severity. Mr. Castellano described to local KTRK that he had contacted a prosecutor in Matamoros while is wife was still in jail but the attorney “refuse[d] to compromise to anything even though it’s something so minor…he [was] not bending.” Mr. Castellano also explained that defense attorneys he contacted also wanted “ridiculous amounts of money, in the thousands” in order to help his wife. 

Though she has been released, Castellano will have to return to Mexico to face the courts about her ammunition charge.  

Castellano herself was a bit baffled over the entire run in with the law. 

In an interview she gave to KTRK once she was freshly released, the attempted gift-giver was genuinely surprised that what she saw to be a simple mistake escalated into an arrest by Mexican police. 

“I mean, I’m dressed as Mrs. Claus. I’m here bringing gifts to children. Certainly they could see that this was not a criminal smuggling attempt but, unfortunately, they didn’t see it like that.” 

Another thing the Texas mom wanted to focus on in her brief interview is the danger of the migrant camps. As Castellano explained to KTRK, the International Bridge where the migrant camps are set up is a dangerous area where girls and woman have gone missing. She attributed the peril that these migrants face to the new “Remain in Mexico” plan that the Trump Administration has forced onto the Mexican government. 

“As an America, as a human, I just can’t see that this is the right way to treat refugees. This is not how I would want to be treated.”

Her time being detained unfortunately delayed her ability to spread gifts to the migrant children of Matamoros but Castellano and her family were able to pass out needed products like diapers, soap, and other important goods.

This wasn’t the first car-full of toys Castellano has driven down for the detained children of these camps. The deliveries are part of her non-profit the Socorro Foundation. The South Texas organization helps migrant families get supplies, shelter, food, education and connects them with those who can help them through the migration process. The organization aims to remember immigrants all year, not just during this most festive time. We encourage you to do the same.

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Mexico Wants American Tourists Despite Ongoing Covid Pandemic

Culture

Mexico Wants American Tourists Despite Ongoing Covid Pandemic

VV Nincic / Flickr

Covid-19 has ended a lot of stuff for a lot of people. The most obvious change has been to international travel, especially for Americans. As the virus has spread widely across the U.S. countries have put a halt to allowing American tourist within their border, but not Mexico.

Covid-19 has severly depreciated the American passport.

Once capable of unlocking so many countries, the U.S. passport is no longer helping Americans travel abroad. Instead, the American passport has now become a hindrance for global travelers. Most countries have placed restrictions on American tourists making the U.S. passport one of the weakest.

The countries banning the U.S. are doing so because of the state of the virus in the country.

There have been more than 7 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 200,000 deaths from the virus. The U.S. remains the worst hit country and the global epicenter of the deadly virus. Many blame the lack of a national strategy to properly close down, test citizens, and contact trace those who have been exposed as the reason the virus has been so devastating in the U.S.

The various travel bans have kept families apart.

Other nations went into mush stricter lockdowns that the U.S. and got a handle of the virus. European countries have gotten the virus under control after months and the U.S. continues to see a large number of new cases daily.

One of the countries allowing Americans to visit is Mexico.

Mexico is heavily reliant on the money made from the tourism industry. According to official statistics, the tourism industry is the third-largest contributor to the country’s GDP. Major tourist destinations like Cabo and Cancún saw dramatic dips in tourism leading to national and local figures to sound the alarm. According to The Washington Post, the questions was posed about when to allow the tourists from the U.S. back, not should they.

Los Cabos is one of the hardest-hit tourist destinations.

The tourist destination saw a severe decline in tourists during one of the busiest times of the year. According to The Washington Post, the resort city has lost 80 percent of its revenue because of Covid-19. The virus has brought financial devastation to people across the world and the cities they live in aren’t immune to failing themselves.

“It’s life or death for us,” Rodrigo Esponda, the head of the Los Cabos tourism board, told The Washington Post. “There’s nothing else here. No industrial production. No farming or commercial fishing. It’s tourism or nothing.”

Yet, Los Cabos should be a warning sign to the rest of Mexico.

Cases in Baja California, the state where Los Cabos is located, saw new Covid case numbers triple from 50 a day to 150. The increase in infections is to be expected as the state rolled out the welcome mat for Americans coming to visit the resort town.

“There are some residents who say, ‘Why put my family’s life in danger by inviting more visitors, restarting more flights?’” Luis Humberto Araiza López, tourism minister of Baja California Sur, told The Washington Post. “It’s a delicate line between trying to support public health and economic growth.”

Despite this, there are some countries that Americans can travel to.

The countries Americans can travel to without Covid restrictions are Albania, Belarus, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Zambia. As the world continues to open up, Americans who travel abroad are waiting for the U.S. government to get the virus under control. Until then, the U.S. passport is not the same it used to be.

READ: The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

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You Can Order A ‘Taco Vacuna’ And ‘La Cura’ At This Covid 19-Themed Taqueria

Culture

You Can Order A ‘Taco Vacuna’ And ‘La Cura’ At This Covid 19-Themed Taqueria

Tacovid: SaborViral / Facebook

Pandemia. Brote. Vacuna. La Peste. Although you may find these terms in a glossary about the Covid-19 outbreak, that’s not what these words actually refer to. Instead, they’re options on the menu at a Mexican taqueria called “Tacovid: Sabor Viral”, a perhaps surprisingly very successful Coronavirus-themed restaurant.

Although to many having a Covid-themed taqueria may seem morbid or disrespectful or perhaps gross – I mean who wants to order a plague taco? – the taqueria is making light of a very serious situation with humor. Something that several other businesses have done since the pandemic began.

”Tacovid: Sabor Viral” is the Mexican taqueria going viral – pun intended – for its Covid-themed menu.

Ok…virus-themed tacos don’t exactly sound appetizing. Especially, as we’re still in the midst of a very real pandemic. But one 23-year-old man in the Mexican city of León, who was forced to close down his dance studio because of Coronavirus, is counting on a Covid-themed restaurant – and so far he’s been surprised by its success.

Brandon Velázquez converted his dance academy into a taquería at the end of July, and given that Mexico and the rest of the world was – and is – in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic decided to call it Tacovid Sabor Viral.

“I had to close my dance academy during the pandemic [but] then an opportunity arose to return to the same place, however, people still did not go out for fear of getting infected.” he told the newspaper El Universal.

“I had always wanted to open a taqueria and, at the end of July, the opportunity to do so occurred. It was how I took advantage of the moment to create this business with a coronavirus theme,” he added.

Items on the menu are named after – you guessed it – the Coronavirus and don’t sound like anything you’d willfully choose to order.

The young entrepreneur detailed the name of each dish, taking full advantage of the Coronavirus theme.

“We have around 12 different dishes, among them are the ‘Tacovid’; we have ‘Forty’, ‘Quesanitizing’, ‘Pandemic’, ‘Outbreak’, and many others. The price varies depending on the dish you order,” he told El Universal.

In addition to themed dishes, the servers also fit the Coronavirus-theme.

When the pandemic hit Mexico, the government urged Mexicans to observe “su sana distancia” and the now common mascot – Susana Distancia – was born.

“In the restaurant, a waitress dressed as a nurse with the name of ‘Susana’ takes orders and works the tables, referring to the healthy distance campaign that was implemented as a precautionary measure,” he says.

To his surprise – and honestly mine as well – the taqueria has been very successful.

Brandon told El Universal that he’s been pleasantly surprised by the support he has received from customers. “I’m surprised because we have had really good sales, despite the circumstances, we have had a lot of support by the community and we’ve already expanded to have two locations.”

“Customers are funny about the theme we are using in the business, and they are delighted with the dishes we are offering. They enjoy it and have a good time,” added Brandon.

Things are looking so good for Brandon and his Covid-themed taqueria, that he’s looking to expand the food business and add new dishes to the menu. “There is always the idea of new names for other dishes that we want to include in the menu.”

Brandon also said that he’s looking to build out a business model so the restaurant could expand to other parts of the country as a franchise.

Apparently, people are really into Covid-themed foods, as this isn’t the first place that a shop as cashed in on the pandemic. Back in April, a panadería was selling out of Covid-themed baked goods so quickly, they couldn’t keep the shelves stocked.

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