Things That Matter

Authorities Are Investigating The Tragic Death Of A Couple In Front Of Their Son While On Vacation In Guerrero

New grisly details have emerged out about the murders of a Utah couple that left their 12-year-old son injured on the side of a road in Mexico. Paul Nielsen, 52, and his wife Janet Vázquez, 44, were traveling through the state of Guerrero early in the morning on July 18 on their way to a vacation they had planned in Zihuatanejo, a popular tourist spot. But some point on their way there, the couple was attacked, shot, and killed. Their son, Kevin, was in the car with them, but CNN says he was not shot. 

Many are looking for answers and wondering how this could have happened.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

According to a family statement, the couple was being followed by three vehicles and shortly after they were being chased after. When Vasquez realized they were in danger, she shouted and Nielsen accelerated the vehicle with the assailants opening fire on them. Nielsen would lose control of his car and crashed on the side of the road. The attackers would pulled him and his family out of the car, robbed them and placed them in another vehicle. 

“They were driving on the highway when three vehicles began chasing them and Kevin said that his mother shouted that they were going to assault them,” Nielsen’s daughter, Priscilla, said in a statement to the New York Post. “Our dad accelerated. Kevin heard shots fired, our dad lost control of the car and it went off the road.”

While it’s still unclear at what point Nielsen and Vazquez were killed, a statement explained that the couple was driven to another area where their bodies were dumped on the side of the road.

“Our family is absolutely devastated over the loss of our dad,” Nielsen’s family said in a statement, adding they received a call notifying them of his death back in July 18. “We were very close to him. His family was his world, and he wasn’t just our father, he was one of our best friends.” 

Now investigators hope that the couples son, Kevin, might have some answers that will lead to finding potential suspects.

Credit: @ksl.com / Twitter

Their 12-year-old son is still “very traumatized” by the events and is still trying to recount all of the events that happened that day. Kevin was reportedly left on the side of the road, injured, and tried to flag down passing motorists but didn’t receive help until state police arrived. 

The U.S. Department of State said in a statement on Tuesday that the agency was “aware of reports of the death of an American citizen in Guerrero, Mexico,” but have yet to identify Nielsen or Vasquez by name.

“The State Department has an active travel advisory for certain areas of Mexico, including the state our dad was planning on driving through,” the family said in a statement. “Though he was usually a careful person, he must not have seen that advisory and that ignorance had tragic results that will affect all of us for the rest of our lives.”

Nielsen split time between the U.S and Mexico as Vasquez was his second wife.

Credit: @ottawasun.com / Twitter

Vasquez and Kevin both lived in Mexico and Nielsen spent time traveling between Utah and Mexico to see his family. According to CNN, the couple had a faith-based marriage. Their marriage was not legally recognized so immigration rights weren’t an option. This led to Nielsen splitting his time between Utah and Mexico to see Vasquez and his son. 

“Immigration was not a reasonable option so our dad split his time between Mexico and Utah,” Nielsen’s family said in a statement. “Our dad was the only member of the family, either in Utah or Mexico, who was bilingual, but despite that Kevin always had a soft spot for my little sister, who’s 7.”

As more details come are revealed we can only hope for the best for the family. Nielsen’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday in South Jordan, Utah.

“He loved people and though he sometimes came across as shy in public, those who knew him well saw a warm, playful and intelligent man. He loved riddles, and we often discussed problems and ideas together over the dinner table. He touched so many lives and has many friends and loved ones that are struggling with his loss.”

READ: Puerto Rico Governor Tries To End His Government’s Crisis By Appointing New Secretary Of State But Will It Be Enough?

Mexico Knows How To Celebrate And Día De Muertos Celebrations Are Extra Special, Here’s Where You Can Join In On The Celebration

Culture

Mexico Knows How To Celebrate And Día De Muertos Celebrations Are Extra Special, Here’s Where You Can Join In On The Celebration

Here’s one thing we know: Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.

The rituals are rife with symbolic meaning. The more you understand about this feast for the senses, the more you will appreciate it. And with celebrations taking place across not just Mexico, but also major cities throughout the US, here’s everything you should know about the major holiday.

But first, what exactly is Día de Muertos?

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth.

Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.

It’s such an important part of the Mexican identity, that UNESCO has recognized it.

Thanks to efforts by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, the term “cultural heritage” is not limited to monuments and collections of objects. It also includes living expressions of culture—traditions—passed down from generation to generation. In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today Mexicans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds celebrate Día de los Muertos, but at its core, the holiday is a reaffirmation of indigenous life.

One of the most popular places to celebrate Dia de Muertos is in the Mexican city of Oaxaca.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

In Oaxaca, you’ll find spectacular markets selling festive items from which locals construct their Day of the Dead altars—look for sugar skulls and specialty food items like black mole. Oaxaca schools have contests for homemade altars, and the city goes all out with elaborate creations like sand tapestries. You’ll also find spontaneous carnival-like processions in surrounding villages and neighborhoods, like Etla.

Ever since the movie Coco, the villages of Michoacán have been ground zero for tourists wanting to experience Dia de Muertos.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

One of the most moving Day of the Dead celebrations takes place each year in Pátzcuaro, a municipality in the state of Michoacán about 225 miles west of Mexico City. Indigenous people from the countryside converge on the shores of Pátzcuaro Lake, where they pile into canoes, a single candle burning in each bow, and paddle over to a tiny island called Janitzio for an all-night vigil in an indigenous cemetery.

The crew of Disney’s Coco also said that the lakeside village served as inspiration for the film, and after visiting I can totally see why.

If you’re in Mexico City, you need to visit the network of canals in the south of the city called Xochimilco.

Take a nighttime ride through the canals of Xochimilco capping with a show narrating the legend of la llorona (The Weeping Woman). This year the spectacle will take place between October 5 and November 18 and will be celebrating its twenty-five years on stage. Also, this event is the only of its kind that has won multiple awards for its efforts in preserving a piece of Mexican history, recognized in 2008 by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Also near Mexico City, is the pueblito of Mixquic which has an incredible and authentic celebration that many say is among the country’s best.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Mixquic, located in the Tlahuac Delegation of Mexico City (southeast of the Mexico City center) has been swallowed up by the megalopolis’s urban sprawl, but retains the ambiance of a rural village with strong indigenous roots. Street stalls are set up in the days before the celebrations. A procession through town with a cardboard coffin leads the way to the cemetery where a candle-light vigil will take place.

Or you can hang out in the city and watch the massive parade.

This year marks the third edition of the Día de Muertos parade — a celebration full of iconic folklore associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

As every year, you can awe over decorated floats, José Guadalupe Posada’s classic catrinas turned into giant marionettes, and Day of the Dead-themed balloons. Contrary to popular knowledge, this parade was not a norm in Mexico City until the release of the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre; in the film, Bond casually weaves through the parade before changing into a suit and pursuing his targets. The scene made an international impact, and Mexico City saw an opportunity to boost tourism while finding a new, fun way to celebrate their beloved holiday.

Meanwhile, in the US, Los Angeles is home to one of the largest celebrations in the world.

You’ll find a traditional Day of the Dead celebration in Los Angeles, on vibrant Olvera Street, home of one of the city’s largest Mexican marketplaces. This area upholds many festive Mexican traditions, commemorating the holiday with face painting, theatrical performances, altar displays, nightly candlelit processions, and more.

While just a few miles away, there is a two-day celebration that takes place at the Hollywood Forever Cemtetary that attracts more than a quarter million people. At L.A.’s most photogenic Day of the Dead celebration, the cemetery grounds are covered with art exhibitions, dance rituals, musical performances, children’s arts and crafts projects and food vendors (and crowds) aplenty. You’ll see altars to the dead created by community artists, and can either watch or participate in the calaca (skeleton) costume contest. This year’s theme honors sacred migrations and the monarch butterfly.

Chicago is another US city that knows how to celebrate the beauty of Dia de Muertos.

Credit: National Museum of Mexican Art

Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art celebrates the Day of the Dead with a special presentation, called Día de los Muertos Xicágo. Families are invited to upload a photo of a loved one they want to remember, which is then projected onto the museum’s exterior during the one-day celebration. Other highlights include a community altar display, traditional foods, face painting, and live performances.

And in Arizona, the city of Tucson has one of the country’s most powerful displays of celebration.

Credit: Rebecca Noble

Tucson‘s All Souls Procession and All Souls Weekend are held just after the Day of the Dead. With more than 150,000 participants walking in the two-mile-long procession, it’s one of the most powerful Día de los Muertos celebrations in North America. Events include a communal urn burning, cultural performances, and art installations.

El Chapo Is Rumored To Have A Billion Dollar Fortune And Now His Family Wants To Use It To Fund A University For Indigenous Students

Things That Matter

El Chapo Is Rumored To Have A Billion Dollar Fortune And Now His Family Wants To Use It To Fund A University For Indigenous Students

www.thedailybeast.com

El Chapo may have just been sentenced to multiple life sentences for crimes committed by his drug empire. His alleged billion dollar fortune is being fought over by both the US and Mexican governments. But the former drug lord’s family is hoping to use a large portion of El Chapo’s fortune to fund a university in his home state of Sinaloa.

The drug lord’s family announced that they would launch a university in the drug lord’s home state of Sinaloa.

José Luis González Meza, a lawyer for Joaquin Guzman, revealed in September that “El Chapo” wants his money to go Mexico’s indigenous communities. In an interview, he also said that Guzmán’s family will receive financial support from a range of foundations in order to open the university in the ex-narco’s birthplace.

It will be designed by Guerrero painter Hugo Zúñiga and have several different faculties, he said.

It looks like Mexico’s President is also supportive of the initiative.

González said that he was hopeful that President López Obrador would make the time to travel to Badiraguato and preside over a groundbreaking ceremony during his tour of Sinaloa this weekend.

“What we’re hoping for is that . . . he’ll go to Badiraguato and along with Chapo’s mom, María Consuelo, he’ll lay the first stone and the work to build the university will finally start,” he said.

The president said in February that his government was committed to the establishment of a new public university in the town that will specialize in forestry, while this week he pledged to extend the agroforestry employment program Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) to parts of the country where illicit crops are grown, including Badiraguato.

But the university is just one of several projects the family wants to develop to benefit the country’s marginalized communities.

Another project will involve the family overseeing the revival of a chain of affordable food markets that will sell meals at 50 percent below cost.

The stores will sell cheap food, coffee, tequila, beer and mezcal. Similar stores had existed during the days Joaquín Hernández Galicia ruled over the powerful oil workers union.

El Chapo’s family want the Mexican government to finance the project through two trusts allegedly left behind by Hernández Galicia. He died in 2013 after spending nine years in prison after troops stormed his home and arrested him on manslaughter and weapons charges in 1989 in what the government described as a crackdown on corruption.

The last plan will develop a pharmaceutical industry which will provide affordable medicine to Mexico before expanding its service throughout Central America.

González Meza claims the family is wanting to ‘provide low-cost food and medicine for Mexicans’ and is not concerned with making money for themselves. Both the association and pharmaceutical company will be headed by farmers and indigenous people.

All of this depends though on when, if, and how much of El Chapo’s fortune is seized by the US and Mexican governments.

El Chapo wants his entire fortune, which is estimated in the billions of dollars, to go to Indigenous communities across Mexico. However, his wishes aren’t likely to be granted according to government officials.

Prosecutors will not disclose how and where they will seek this fortune, but the former head of anti-money laundering for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Duncan Levin, gave the Observer an insight into how they might proceed.

“Forfeiture is part of a sentence,” says Levin. “If there are assets in the US, they can go right after those assets.” He adds that a US law from 1957 provides for any asset partly funded by criminal money to be seized in its entirety. “The way they did business was very pervasive,” he says. So that any business in which the Sinaloa cartel is found to have invested is fair game.

But, according to Levin, “the vast bulk of assets are likely in Mexico” and the search for them “would be greatly helped by working with the Mexican government”, despite current political tensions.