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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Another International Brand Has Been Accused Of Copying Indigenous Mexican Designs

Entertainment

Another International Brand Has Been Accused Of Copying Indigenous Mexican Designs

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Although it comes as no surprise, it’s still as frustrating as ever that an international fashion brand has ripped off traditional designs of Indigenous cultures. This time, it’s an Australian label that appears to have copied the designs of Mexico’s Mazatec community.

Although the company has already pulled the allegedly copied dress, the damage appears to have been done as many are rightfully outraged at their blatant plagiarism.

Australia’s Zimmermann brand has been accused of copying designs from Mexico’s Indigenous community.

Mazatec people from the Mexican state of Oaxaca have expressed their outrage over yet another attack on their traditions. They claim that an Australian company – Zimmermann – has copied a Mazatec huipil design to make its own tunic dress. The dress, which was part of the company’s 2021 Resort collection and retailed for USD $850, has since been pulled from the company’s website due to the criticism.

Zimmermann is an Australian fashion house that has stores across the U.S., England, France, and Italy. While the huipil is a loose-fitting tunic commonly worn by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women across Mexico.

It’s hard to argue that the brand didn’t deliberately copy the Oaxacan design.

Credit: Francoise CAVAZZANA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

When you look at the Zimmermann tunic dress alongside a traditional huipil, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. The cut of the Zimmermann dress, the birds and flowers embroidered on it and its colors all resemble a traditional Mazatec huipil. 

Changes made to the original design – the Zimmermann dress sits above the knees and unlike a huipil is not intended to be worn with pants or a skirt – are disrespectful of the Mazatac culture and world view.

The Oaxaca Institute of Crafts also condemned Zimmermann and called on the brand to clarify the origin of its design.

For their part, Zimmermann has pulled the dress and issued an apology.

Zimmermann subsequently issued a statement on social media, acknowledging that the tunic dress was inspired by huipiles from Oaxaca

“Zimmermann acknowledges that the paneled tunic dress from our current Swim collection was inspired by what we now understand to be a traditional garment from the Oaxaca region in Mexico,” it said.

“We apologize for the usage without appropriate credit to the cultural owners of this form of dress and for the offense this has caused. Although the error was unintentional, when it was brought to our attention today, the item was immediately withdrawn from all Zimmermann stores and our website. We have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again in future.”

However, it’s far from the first time that an international brand has profited off of Indigenous designs.

Unfortunately, international fashion companies ripping off traditional garments and designs – especially those of Indigenous cultures – is far too common. Several major companies have been accused of plagiarism within the last year.

In fact, the problem has become so widespread that Mexico created a government task force to help find and denounce similar plagiarism in the future. Among the other designers/brands that have been denounced for the practice are Isabel Marant, Carolina Herrera, Mango and Pippa Holt.

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The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Things That Matter

The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Hector Villas / Getty Images

Since the very beginning of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has largely downplayed the severity of the crisis. Despite record-setting deaths across Mexico, the president continued to hold large rallies, rarely uses face masks and continues to be very hands on with his supporters. Many of his detractors grouped him in with Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jaír Bolsonaro in his poor response to the pandemic.

Mexico’s President AMLO has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing light symptoms.

In a tweet on Sunday evening, AMLO revealed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. From his official Twitter account, he said his symptoms were mild and that he was receiving medical treatment.

“I regret to inform you that I have contracted Covid-19. The symptoms are mild, but I am already receiving medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will move forward,” Lopez Obrador wrote.

Despite his diagnosis, the president plans to continue business as usual. He plans to continue with his duties from the Palacio Nacional, which include conducting a planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine Monday. He added on Twitter, that “I will be conducting all public affairs from the National Palace. For example, tomorrow I will take a call from President Vladimir Putin, because irrespective of friendly relationships, there is a possibility that they will send us the Sputnik V vaccine.”

AMLO has taken a very hands off approach to his country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

AMLO, 67-years-old, has rarely been seen wearing a mask and continued to travel extensively across the country aboard commercial flights – putting both his health and those around him at risk.

He has also resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on so many Mexicans who live day to day. And because of that, Mexico has one of the highest death rates in the world. Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, AMLO removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly showed them off.

“The protective shield is the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” AMLO said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.”

In November, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, urged Mexico’s leaders be serious about the coronavirus and set examples for its citizens, saying that “Mexico is in bad shape” with the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to experience the worst effects yet of the global health crisis.

Credit: Ismael Rosas / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Thanks to a lack of national leadership, Mexico is one of the 17 countries that has reported more than one million cases of Covid-19. Since early October, newly confirmed cases and deaths have been reaching record levels, with recent daily numbers some of the highest since the beginning the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has recorded at least 1,752,347 Covid-19 cases and 149,084 people have died from the virus in the country.

In hardest-hit Mexico City, nearly 30 public hospitals report they have reached 100% percent capacity, and many others are approaching that mark. The city’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has urged residents to not go out unless absolutely necessary. In December, Mexico City and the state of Mexico were placed into “red level,” the highest measure on the country’s stoplight alert system for Covid-19 restrictions. The tighter measures included the closure of indoor dining, with only essential sectors like transport, energy, health and construction remaining open.

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