Things That Matter

A Mexican Telenovela Actor Was Kidnapped At A Popular National Park And His Kidnappers Demanded A Ransome

2019 has been one of the most violent years in contemporary Mexican history. The new government headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised a new era of “amor y paz” (his words!) and “abrazos no balazos” (hugs instead of bullets) as a way to fight crime on a local and federal levels.

However, reality has hit hard and the year will likely end up with close to 40,000 murders. That is an overwhelmingly dark figure that will hang on the AMLO presidency like a bad omen. Besides murder, kidnapping has seen numbers raise as organized crime networks , among them drug cartels, look for alternative sources of revenue. A recent case put the spotlight on forced abductions and the government’s response to these as the victims were high profile and the crime took place in a popular touristy spot that is generally unlikely to be safety concern. 

El Nevado de Toluca is a snowy volcano that attracts climbers from all over the world.

Credit: Plan B Viajero / Instagram

It is located in the State of Mexico, which borders the capital Mexico City. The state has faced some pretty serious challenges in terms of security as it presents abysmal social differences, being home to some of the richest and the poorest of Mexicans. The state is home to Mexico’s thriving manufacturing boom, but also to some of the fiercest criminal groups, some of which have made kidnapping their modus operandi.

A group of tourists were kidnapped and the newly formed National Guard was called into action. One of the victims is French, which presents all sorts of diplomatic trouble.

Credit: Notigram

According to reports from El Universal newspaper in Mexico, last Sunday November 24 a group of tourists that were travelling by van to the upper section of El Nevado were intercepted by kidnappers. The tourists were travelling in two vans, a Jeep and a Toyota, according to reports. As one of the tourists is French, the event became an international affair which affects Mexico’s already battered reputation.

According to Fox News, French authorities have already joined the investigation: “The ministry said French officials were working closely with Mexican authorities to secure his return”. The fact that French authorities will get involved in the investigation is a sign of international cooperation, of course, but also a blow to the credibility of AMLO’s security cabinet and of the administration of State of Mexico’s governor Alfredo Del Mazo Maza, who has harbored some presidential aspirations and comes from one of the most powerful political families in the country. 

Mexican actor Alejandro Sandi is also among the victims.

Credit: Alejandro Sandi

According to Mexico Daily News, the victims have been fully identified: “Unofficial reports state that the actor was Alejandro Sandi, 37, who has appeared in a number of television series including the popular telenovela El Señor de los Cielos (Lord of the Skies). The French tourist was identified as Frederic Michel.”

The two men were kidnapped while their companions were left free by the criminals. According to MDN, this is what the witnesses stated: “The kidnappers forced her [Sandi’s companion] and another friend out of the car and escaped in it, taking the actor with them. Meanwhile, Mathieu Noirot Julien told police a similar story. He said that he and his friend Michel were riding in a Toyota truck when they were forced to stop. The kidnappers forced him out and took the truck with Michel in it”. 

The kidnappers have already asked for a ransom.

Alfonso Durazo, boss supreme of Mexican federal security forces, revealed that the kidnappers have already asked for a ransom, and that the case could end soon. Durazo did not provide further details other than stating that the right protocol had been activated. This sounds optimistic, but negotiations can hit a wall and kidnappings in Mexico are known to be lengthy, tortuous situations.

As noted, kidnappings have increased in relation to 2018. As MDN reports: “According to the National Public Security System (SESNSP), kidnappings have increased by 9% in the first year of President López Obrador’s administration. There were 1,273 reported kidnappings from January to October 2018, and 1,392 in the same period in 2019, amounting to 119 more cases during the new administration”. It is important to note that kidnapping victims are not only high-profile individuals: basically anyone is at risk. Kidnappings known as “secuestros express” have been a constant in Mexico City life since the 1990s: they consist in an abduction whereby the victim is taken from ATM to ATM until their accounts are completely drained. They are then left to their own devices in an faraway and isolated area in the outskirts of the city. 

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

Things That Matter

Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

When it comes to international happiness rankings, Mexico has long done well in many measurements. In fact, in 2019, Mexico placed number 23 beating out every other Latin American country except for Costa Rica. But in 2020, things looks a lot different as the country slipped 23 spots on the list. What does this mean for Mexico and its residents? 

Mexico slips 23 spots on the World Happiness Report thanks to a variety of compelling factors.

Mexico plummeted 23 places to the 46th happiest nation in the world, according to the 2020 happiness rankings in the latest edition of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. The coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on Mexicans’ happiness in 2020, the new report indicates.

“Covid-19 has shaken, taken, and reshaped lives everywhere,” the report noted, and that is especially true in Mexico, where almost 200,000 people have lost their lives to the disease and millions lost their jobs last year as the economy recorded its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Based on results of the Gallup World Poll as well as an analysis of data related to the happiness impacts of Covid-19, Mexico’s score on the World Happiness Report index was 5.96, an 8% slump compared to its average score between 2017 and 2019 when its average ranking was 23rd.

The only nations that dropped more than Mexico – the worst country to be in during the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg news agency – were El Salvador, the Philippines and Benin.

Mexico has struggled especially hard against the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Since the pandemic started, Mexico has fared far worse than many other countries across Latin America. Today, there are reports that Mexico has been undercounting and underreporting both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths. Given this reality, the country is 2nd worst in the world when it comes to number of suspected deaths, with more than 200,000 people dead. 

Could the happiness level have an impact on this year’s elections?

Given that Mexico’s decline in the rankings appears related to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic here, one might assume that the popularity of the federal government – which has been widely condemned for its management of the crisis from both a health and economic perspective – would take a hit.

But a poll published earlier this month found that 55.9% of respondents approved of President López Obrador’s management of the pandemic and 44% indicated that they would vote for the ruling Morena party if the election for federal deputies were held the day they were polled.

Support for Morena, which apparently got a shot in the arm from the national vaccination program even as it proceeded slowly, was more than four times higher than that for the two main opposition parties, the PAN and the PRI.

Still, Mexico’s slide in the happiness rankings could give López Obrador – who has claimed that ordinary Mexicans are happier with him in office – pause for thought.

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