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.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Culture

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Jon G. Fuller / VW PICS / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It is important to be a responsible tourist. This means following rules, acting responsibly, and not violating sacred places. That is something one tourist learned the hard way when she climbed the Pyramid of Kukulkán in Chichén Itzá.

Here’s the video of a tourist running down the steps of the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the most iconic examples of Pre-Hispanic architecture and culture in Mesoamerica. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. In 2017, more than 2 million visitors descended on the site.

Of course, #LadyKukulkan started to trend on Twitter.

You know that Twitter was ready to start calling out this woman for her actions. According to Yucatán Expat Life Magazine, the woman was there to honor her husband’s dying wish. The woman, identified as a tourist from Tijuana, wanted to spread her husband’s ashes on the top of the pyramid, which it seems that she did.

The video was a moment for Mexican Twitter.

Not only was she arrested by security when she descended, but the crowd was also clearly against her. Like, what was she even thinking? It isn’t like the pyramid is crawling with tourists all over it. She was the only person climbing the pyramid, which is federally owned and cared for.

The story is already sparking ideas for other people when they die.

“Me: (to my parents) Have you read about #ladykukulkan?
My Dad: Yes! (to my mom) When I die, I want you to scatter my ashes in the National Palace so they call you “Lady Palace,” sounds better, no?” wrote @hania_jh on Twitter.

READ: Mexico’s Version Of Burning Man Became A COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event Thanks To U.S. Tourists

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

Things That Matter

These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a slight change in strategy in combatting the country’s endemic violence, Mexico continues to see a staggering degree of violence plaguing communities. Although the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised sweeping changes that would help pacify the country – violence has continues to spiral out of control, reaching record levels in 2020.

No where is this more evident than in the communities that have lost dozens or even hundreds of loved ones. Many of these communities have formed search brigades to help try and find their loved ones (or their remains) but they’re also getting creative with the ways in which they work to remember those they’ve lost.

A search brigade publishes a recipe book containing their loved ones’ favorite foods.

A group of women who came together to help locate the remains of their loved ones, have worked together on a new project to help remember their loved ones. Together, they have created Recipes to Remember, a book of favourite dishes of some of the missing. Each dish has the name of the person it was made for and the date they disappeared. It was the idea of Zahara Gómez Lucini, a Spanish-Argentine photographer who has documented the group since 2016.

The women are known as the Rasteadoras, and they’ve literally been digging to uncover graves of Mexico’s missing. Now, they’re finding ways to help remember those who have gone missing. The book is a way to strengthen the community and as one of the mothers told The Financial Times, “the book is a tool for building ties.”

“This recipe book is very important because it’s an exercise in collective memory and that’s very necessary,” says Enrique Olvera, the chef and restaurateur behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York and a sponsor of the book. “It enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food and brings us, the readers, closer … It weaves empathy,” he told the Financial Times.

Many of these women came to know each other as they searched for their missing loved ones.

The women – who are mostly housewives in their 40s and 50s – literally scour the nearby grasslands, deserts, and jungles with shovels in hands hoping to make a discovery.

Their “treasures” are among the more than 82,000 people recorded as having disappeared and not been located in Mexico since 2006, when the government declared a war on drug cartels, unleashing terrible, seemingly unstoppable violence. Notwithstanding Covid-19, 2020 may prove to have been the deadliest year on record. As of November there had been 31,871 murders, compared with a record 34,648 in 2019.

Their stories of loss are heartbreaking.

One of the mothers, Jessica Higuera Torres, speaks of her son Jesús Javier López Higuera, who disappeared in 2018, in the present tense. For the book, she prepared a soup with pork rind because “he loves it — when I was cooking, I felt as though he was by my side.”

On the other hand, Esther Preciado no longer cooks chile ribs, her recipe for her daughter’s father, Vladimir Castro Flores, who has been missing since 2013. “That one’s just for the memories now,” she says.

“You get addicted to searching,” she adds. The 120 or so Rastreadoras have found 68 people, but only about a quarter of those are their missing loved ones. She acknowledges many victims may have got into trouble because they sold or used drugs; others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mexico’s missing person problem continues to plague the country.

Since taking office in 2018, the government of President López Obrador has stepped up efforts to locate missing people and identify bodies. It says the number of reported disappearances for 2020 was trending down. But the government acknowledged in November that in 2019, a record 8,804 people had been reported missing and not been found.

According to official data, Mexico has counted 4,092 clandestine graves and exhumed 6,900 bodies since 2006. Sinaloa is notorious as the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, once Mexico’s most powerful drug baron, now locked up in a maximum-security jail in the U.S. The city of Los Mochis, where the Rastreadoras are based, is currently in the grip of Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as El Chapo Isidro.

The Rastreadoras acknowledge that they’re on their own, turning to the authorities for help is not an option. As shown in the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014, which rocked the country, municipal police have a terrible reputation for being infiltrated by cartels. “They won’t help us — they’re the same ones who are involved,” scoffs Reyna Rodríguez Peñuelas, whose son, Eduardo González Rodríguez, disappeared in 2016.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com