Things That Matter

As Violence Rages On In Tijuana, One City Newspaper Has Started Publishing A ‘Deathometer’

The border town of Tijuana has long been a hot spot of criminal activity due to the proximity with the United States. This port of entry is one of the busiest border crossings in the world. The city is also a convergence point for migrants from all over the world who wish to get to the United States, and criminal gangs, sometimes aided by corrupt authorities, have taken advantage of this situation. These factors, of course, brings numerous challenges when it comes to achieving a much needed and wished for stability. 

But illegal markets for drugs, prostitution and all sorts of illicit activities have made security a real challenge for tijuanenses. And today the consumption of meth has boomed in Tijuana. Drug related violence in Mexico is usually attributed to external markets, but today Tijuana is facing what experts call a meth epidemic. Academics blame this surge in the local market for the ever-increasing body count in the city. 

Murder numbers have not been lowered by the authorities and the bloodshed seems to have no end.

Credit: Balacera Sacude

Regardless on who sits in the presidency (casualties of the cartel wars have not gone down during the Andrés Manuel López Obrador administration, as many had hoped), criminality is hard to curb in Tijuana. Since the days of the once untouchable Arellano Félix brothers, two of the most powerful drug lords in Mexican history, networks of corruption and crime have dug deep roots into the city’s political and social life. This has made it an inhospitable territory for anyone who dissents, from activists to journalists who are constantly targeted.

Today, a Tijuana newspaper even has a Deathometer: there have been 1,800 murders in 2019 alone.

It might sound as a joke to some, but a Deathometer is an indication of hopelessness, an acknowledgement that the savage dogs of war will continue to be fed. A Deathometer is a sort of acceptance of defeat.

As recently reported in an investigative journalism piece in The Guardian, 2019 has been a particularly deathly year in the city, with murders expected to reach 2,000 by the time 2020 arrives. As the Guardian reports: “Tijuana has seen a methamphetamine-fuelled murder epidemic which produced a record 2,518 murders in 2018 and looks set to cause even more this year”. In Mexico overall, there are 100 murders per day on average. Those are wartime statistics. 

Women, men… no one seems to be safe.

Tom Phillips visited Tijuana for a week to write his piece in The Guardian. And he encountered a grisly scenario in just his second day. He writes: “At 6am a man’s body was found dumped in the eastern neighbourhood of EmperadoresAt 11.35am a decomposing pair of legs were spotted on wasteland in the city’s south. And at 2.45pm an unidentified killer barged into a home on Calle Tamaulipas, pulled out a gun and brought an unidentified male’s life to an end”.

This is the daily life of a city of 1.3 million inhabitants and other handful of millions of visitors per year. The authorities have stated that the murder rate has not affected the vibrant and growing economy, but critics say that this is basically tapar el Sol con un dedo (covering the Sun with a finger, a traditional Mexican saying). 

The high cost of impunity: only 10% of crimes end in actual sentencing.

Crime and impunity are like two monsters that feed off each other. In Mexico, about 90% of crimes go unpunished. This is a scandalous statistic that puts into question the efficacy (if any at all) of the judiciary system. Sometimes criminals are found and then set free due to a lack of evidence, corruption or fear of retaliation.

The AMLO government is predicating a strategy based on fixing the social fabric of the country to fight crime. “Abrazos no balazos” (hugs, not bullets) has been used as a mantra when it comes to the new government’s approach to crime. However, as the bloodshed in Culiacan to liberate Ovidio Guzman (El Chapo’s son) and the wave of killings in states like Guerrero and Michoacan have proved, so far this strategy has proven ineffective. 

Let’s not forget that for years Tijuana has been used as a frat boy playground by gringos.

Of course, the influx of American tourism is not the only or most important culprit for the inestability in Tijuana, but it is certainly a factor. Thousands of US citizens cross the border every year to party hard and with very little repercussions. This has led to a constant demand for drugs, but also to human trafficking and child abuse.

500 Years After The Conquest Of Mexico Began, Descendants Of Both Cortes And Moctezuma Meet

Things That Matter

500 Years After The Conquest Of Mexico Began, Descendants Of Both Cortes And Moctezuma Meet

The scars of the Spanish colonization of what is now known as Mexico are still fresh in the racial, social and political relationships that shape the Latin American country. Current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has continuously demanded Spain and the Catholic Church to apologize for the many crimes perpetuated against indigenous populations during La Conquista and La Colonia, periods in which the European colonizers imposed their will by brute force, enslaving the original owners of the land.

A recent event brought together two of the direct descendants of the Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortes, and the conquered Aztec emperor, Moctezuma. The meet up was organized by filmmaker Miguel Gleason, who is making a documentary about the conquest. They met at a church were Cortes is buried. 

Yes, it has been 500 years since Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, fell, but the episode still resonates with today’s Mexicans.

Contrary to other countries that were born out of European invasions, such as New Zealand, the indigenous population in Mexico has not been fully assimilated into political life, and many decisions are made for them in the higher echelons of power.

The story of the conquest is still seen as an us versus them, and even for Mexicans who are casually racist against indigenous people on an everyday basis there is a tinge of historical resentment against the Spanish.

It is important to point out that the Conquista was brutal: it was not the joyous founding of a new country, but a bloodshed that saw the indigenous population wiped out by guns and diseases such as smallpox for which they had no antibodies. It was cruel. To add insult to injury, they were also conquered ideologically and religiously by envoys from the Catholic Church that were hand in hand with the Spanish Crown. 

Un abrazo that is worth a thousand words… but are they empty words?

With much fanfare, surrounded by cameras and reporters, two men shared an embrace 500 years after their ancestors first met in 1519 and changed the history of the world.

Federico Acosta, a Mexican man whose family is directed down 16 generations to the daughter of Moctezuma, met with Ascanio Pignatelli, an Italian citizen related to Cortés’ daughter. Pignatelli’s family held one of  the conquistador’s noble titles, but sold it over 150 years ago. This was a heartfelt moment, but perhaps is was too naive. The event was covered by the Mexican and international media, but one should wonder the impact it could really have beyond the wow factor. Acosta said: “It’s not that there were good people and bad people. It’s that, that’s the way things were done”. Excuse us? 

This was a tender media moment, and it is an ideal scenario in terms of reconciliation. But how much can an act like this actually mean?

Pignatelli told Acosta: “I want to ask your forgiveness for all the bad things that happened. We need to leave the past behind us. Today is a day for leaving all the bad things in the past”.

This apology sounds all fine and dandy, but what does it mean for today’s world?

Acosta said: “We are the fusion of two cultures, the European and ours. We are the result of that meeting, the vast majority of us have Spanish and Mexican blood”.

And what Acosta said is true. Today’s Mexico is made up of a melange of heritages that extends far beyond Spain and the Aztec Empire. On the indigenous side there is Olmec, Mixtec, Maya, Tarahumara and many, many other ethnic groups that are often forgotten and still live under precarious conditions, akin to colonial times. On the European side, there have been German, French, Portuguese, European Jewish and all sorts of migrations. So Mexican identity is much more than an Aztec/Spanish dichotomy. 

Now AMLO is asking for an apology… again.

Pignatelli’s apology is something that the current Mexican president AMLO would like to hear from the Spanish Crown. His government’s ideology is based on a look into history and the many debts accumulated towards the marginal sectors of Mexican society. Among them, of course, are indigenous Mexicans.

He said: “I still ask the king of Spain and Pope Francis, humbly, that they apologize for the abuses committed during the conquest and the colonial domination”. This would be a merely symbolic act, as economic elites dominate the country regardless, oftentimes, of race.

Also, this view perpetuates the us vs them political imaginary that perhaps ends up not being very productive at all. But then again, AMLO’s ideological postulates are based on a revisionist approach to history. 

She Was Body-Shamed During The 2016 Olympics And Has Now Been Named Mexico’s Best Non-Professional Athlete

Entertainment

She Was Body-Shamed During The 2016 Olympics And Has Now Been Named Mexico’s Best Non-Professional Athlete

alexa.morenomx / Instagram

In 2016, Mexicana Alexa Moreno traveled to Rio de Janeiro to compete for her country in the Olympics. Mexico rooted for her as she impressively competed in the uneven bars, floor exercise, beam, vault and more, earning 31st place. Meanwhile, instead of being deeply impressed by her skills, Mexican Twitter trolls body-shamed her. Not for long. Some people around the world rallied to her defense and pointed out her superior athleticism.

In fact, Mexico just awarded Moreno with the Premio Nacional del Deporte, naming her the best non-professional athlete in the entire country.

In a video shared to Twitter, gymnast Alexa Moreno thanked her supporters.

Credit: @alexa_moreno_mx / Twitter

“Thank you for this recognition and thanks to all who have supported me on the way to get here,” she captioned the video. “Today, I was informed that I was the winner of the Premio Nacional del Deporte. I’m very shocked. The truth is that I didn’t imagine this would happen at all,” she told her fans in the video. “It’s a huge surprise. It’s very gratifying. Yes, I’m very, very happy. There’s nothing else to say but thank you to everyone. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of my journey. There’s been an entire circle of people around me. It’s not just me. It’s not just my job. I want to thank all the people who believed in me, for believing in me. Thank you very much.”

Moreno is the first Mexican woman gymnast to medal at a world championship.

@alexa_moreno_mx / Twitter

Moreno became the first Mexican woman to medal at a world championship just last year, when she earned bronze on vault. Last month, Moreno competed in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Her performance on vault qualified her for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo!

Moreno’s supporters emoji-clapping all over Twitter.

“HONOR TO WHOM HONOR IS DUE,” tweeted sports journalist Jocelin Flores in Spanish. “Alexa Moreno, the first Mexican to climb the podium of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship, is the winner of the 2019 National Sports Award, Non-Professional category.” One mother tweeted at Moreno to say in Spanish, “Congratulations! You are a great role model for the children of the country.”

“The most deserved,” tweeted Twitter user Sebastián, “I think she’s already established herself as the best Mexican gymnast of all time.”

When the haters were hating, some people were creating beautiful illustrations of Moreno.

Credit: Jose Acosta / Facebook

Moreno signed up for gymnastics when she was just 3-years-old. “Mexico needs people who prove that everything is possible,” Moreno told CCTV America in 2016. “You need to believe in yourself and fight to be able to do things that no one has ever done before.” Moreno is just 4’11” and 99 pounds. As the haters started deleting their tweets, Alexa Moreno went viral for all the fan art her inspirational performance generated.

We hope all the Mexican niñas are watching and being inspired by Moreno.

Credit: @kaleidoscopao / Instagram

“I can’t believe the criticism and bullying of #AlexaMoreno,” one Mexican woman shared to Instagram, along with a video of her routine. “I see this routine and I applaud it, it excites me, it inspires me. This girl is a champion and an example to follow. I was a gymnast and BELIEVE ME it is very difficult to reach that level in this country where the support for gymnastics is almost nil. How can it be that instead of being proud and encouraging we are the first to trash her?!?! What kind of country are we? How do we intend to train valuable athletes if we are the first to throw them down?!?!”

Even though Moreno did nothing to achieve her beauty, we have to say, she’s so beautiful.

Credit: @danpichardo / Twitter

Of course, we should all be talking about how 23 years of regimented, back-breaking athleticism has made her Mexico’s best gymnast. That takes the kind of athletic work that many of us will never know. Moreno is also “drop-dead gorgeous” as my mom would say. Not that it matters.

Felicidades a la favorita de México!

Credit: @publisportmx / Twitter

We are rooting for you, Moreno! The medal that qualified her for the 2020 Olympics scored at a 14.508, less than one point behind the infamous U.S. gymnastics gold champion Simone Biles. Mexico has never taken home a medal in gymnastics. With Moreno competing on behalf of México, we’re high-key rooting she becomes the first Mexican to climb up on an Olympic podium to medal in gymnastics. Let the haters hate. Mexico loves you, Moreno, and so do we.

READ: A Mexican Gymnast Who Was Body-Shamed During The 2016 Olympics Just Qualified For The 2020 Games