‘La Brigada Feminista’ Faced Death Threats While Saving Lives After Mexico’s Earthquake
mitú spoke recently with Ana Bretón, Digital Producer on the Emmy nominated “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” You may remember her as the founder and lead organizer of La Marcha de Mayo, which we reported on back in April. The march was held in May and its main focus was to bring awareness and visibility to Latinos and immigrants in this ever-charged political climate exacerbated by the Trump administration.
Recently Bretón and the Full Frontal team went down to Mexico to do a segment on “La Brigada Feminista,” a women-led feminist group who helped dig people out of the rubber after the recent earthquake that demolished Mexico City. Not only were they doing this tireless work, but they were also being harassed for it just for calling themselves feminists. It was harsh.
Check out the video above to hear their story and check out the interview below for some insider information on how this amazing story and reporting all went down direct from the source.
Here Samantha Bee and producers Laura Walker and Ana Bretón (1st and 2nd from the right, respectively) pose for a photo with members of “La Brigada Feminista.”
Credit: Ana Bretón
These four members of “La Brigada” spoke candidly with Samantha Bee about their experiences in the aftermath of the earthquake. These women experienced extreme harassment, from death threats to attempts at doxxing, which is using personal or private information to maliciously make public. For that reason they wanted to remain anonymous, and the show and its producers obviously wanted to respect their privacy as much as possible.
Below is mitú’s interview with Bretón, edited for clarity.
Whose idea was it to go to Mexico to report on the Brigada Feminista?
“It was originally my idea to cover the Brigada Feminista. Full Frontal has a great office culture where anyone from any department can pitch stories for the show. I’m part of the digital team at Full Frontal, and we don’t normally work on field shoots, but really wanted to highlight these incredible Mexicanas, so I pitched it!”
How did the group come to the show’s attention?
“As soon as the September 19th earthquake happened in Mexico City, I was completely glued to Televisa. My grandfather still lives in the DF, so I was worried about him, and of course, everyone in the city. I was reading earthquake coverage and came upon a short blurb about the Brigada Feminista. I was shocked, because I had no idea of the work they were doing. I, along with everyone else, was either watching the search for the trapped little girl, or reading about the cute rescue dog. Those two stories were everywhere. I sent the article about the Brigada to everyone I knew. I thought they were so cool! I also immediately put together a pitch about the Brigada Feminista for the show.”
Why was it important to report on this group and this issue for you all?
“Overall, the show really puts an importance on women’s stories. We’ve covered the amazing all-women Pershmerga army in Iraqi-Kurdistan, interviewed women who’ve navigated North Korea, chatted endlessly with Masha Gessen, who is an incredible journalist from Russia – to name a few… But I think this is the first time we’ve covered Latinas, which made me really proud and excited. Sam was immediately down to cover the Brigada, too. She really wanted the world to see how strong and brave these women were (and are) and how poorly they were treated – just because they were trying to save people from under the rubble of an earthquake!”
What was it like as someone who was born in Mexico City to return and see it all after the earthquake?
“Producing this piece was a surreal and emotional experience for me in so many ways. First of all, we filmed in the exact places I grew up in (If you watch the piece, you can see Samantha walk in the mercado I would go to as a kid). So I was already feeling the full-circleness of it all. On top of that, we would drive around the city and see the immense damage from the earthquake. Many people are still not able to go back to their homes and are living on the streets. That was heartbreaking to see. So it was a really, really fine balance of trying not to ugly cry while directing Sam. I feel like I accomplished this about 80 percent.”
Walk me through how it all went down from how the show responded to the earthquake initially, to planning the trip, working with La Brigada, setting up in Mexico, the emotions on set and afterward, the reception you all got once the piece aired – everything you can share.
“I’m not going to lie, producing this piece was extremely hard. Because there was so much hate toward the Brigada Feminista, they were incredibly hesitant to talk to us at first. This is completely understandable because they had been receiving death threats and threats of being doxxed, so they wanted to stay out of the spotlight. It took many long conversations with them for them to agree to be on the show, which I’m really grateful for them for. I also have to credit Mardi, one of the women in the piece, for being on the ground in Mexico and talking to the group on my behalf. I’m extremely grateful for her. The group really inspires me. I feel like they represent the strength and fuerza of Mexico. The women have all seen the piece and were really proud of it as well.”
What’d your parents say about it?
“My parents loved it! They were so proud. They’ve shared it across all of Facebook.”
What were some of the interesting, funny, or emotional moments that happened off camera while there?
“One of my favorite things that happened was getting to see our crew experiencing Mexico City for the first time. None of our crew members had been there before. I think everyone thinks Mexico is going to be a certain way. But they really ended up falling in love with the city- they’re already talking about going back there on vacation. I hope everyone gets the chance to go to Mexico City at least once in their lives.”
How does it feel, and what is it like to work on a show that focuses on women-centric and Latina stories like these?
“I’m incredibly grateful for Sam (and our co-producers Miles Kahn and associate producer Lauren Walker) for valuing the voices of Latinas and bringing them to the forefront. It’s important that Latinas see themselves represented in the media, especially on our show, which is all about politics. It’s not only important for Latinas to see themselves represented, but it’s also important for the rest of the population to see the weight Latinas have in politics around the world, especially in this political climate where one vote can change an election. I’m really proud, as a feminist and a Mexican, of being able to work on a show that values their stories. Spoiler alert: There are more Latin-centric segments to come. :)”