Things That Matter

‘La Brigada Feminista’ Faced Death Threats While Saving Lives After Mexico’s Earthquake

Credit: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee/ YouTube

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. :)”

We can’t wait!


READ: The Women’s March Inspired This Latina Comedy Producer To Organize Her Own March In NYC


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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Things That Matter

This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Like students around the world, kids in Mexico have been forced to take school online or tune into programming on public TV in order to learn. But that’s just the kids who are lucky enough to have access to Internet or a TV. Many students live in rural areas and lack the adequate resources to continue their studies amid the global pandemic.

But thankfully, there are many good samaritans out there (aka compassionate teachers) who have invented their own ways to bring the classroom to kids wherever they are.

A Mexican teacher was gifted a decked out pickup truck by Nissan.

Since schools were forced to close last year in April, Aguascalientes special education teacher Nallely Esparza Flores, has been driving four hours a day to educate students one-on-one at their homes from her truck bed, outfitted with a small table and chairs.

News of her project spread across social media, eventually reaching the corporate offices of Nissan México. This week, the company surprised Esparza with the gift of a new pickup truck specially outfitted with a small open-air mobile classroom built into the truck’s bed.

“Today I feel like my labors and the help that we give each day to children and their families is unstoppable,” she said on Twitter Wednesday, sharing photos of her new vehicle. “My students no longer have to take classes in the full heat of the sun,” she said.

Nissan representatives said they decided to give Esparza the adapted NP300 model, 4-cylinder truck after hearing her story because she was “an example of perseverance and empathy.”

“When we learned about the incredible work of this teacher, we got together to discuss in what way we could contribute to this noble work,” said Armando Ávila, a vice president of manufacturing.

The mobile classroom is pretty legit and will allow Esparza to continue her good deed.

Esparza inside her new classroom.

The decked out Nissan pickup truck has three walls (the other is a retractable sheeting) and a ceiling made with translucent panels to protect teacher and student from the elements while letting in natural light.

It also has retractable steps for easy access to the classroom, electrical connections, a whiteboard and an easily disinfected acrylic table and benches that are foldable into the wall to provide space. The table also has a built-in plexiglass barrier to allow social distancing.

Access to education in Mexico is highly inequitable.

Esparza, like many teachers across the country, found that not all distance learning was equal. Many of her students in Cavillo were from poor families without internet access. So she used social media networks to keep in touch with such students via cell phones, but even that was not necessarily an available option for all — and not ideal. Finally, she decided to solve the problem by hitting the road in her pickup truck.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 58% of students in Mexico had a home computer – the lowest percentage among all OECD countries. And only about one third (32%) of the school computers in rural schools in Mexico were connected to
the Internet, compared to more than 90% for schools located in urban areas.

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Sen. Ted Cruz Makes Quick U-Turn From Mexico After Outrage He Abandoned His Frozen Texas

Things That Matter

Sen. Ted Cruz Makes Quick U-Turn From Mexico After Outrage He Abandoned His Frozen Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz has faced a series of outrages since being accused of helping to incite the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The latest problem plaguing Sen. Cruz is his trip to Mexico while his constituents in Texas freeze during an extreme weather event.

Sen. Ted Cruz was caught boarding a flight to Mexico as Texans are left freezing.

Texas is being slammed with a historic extreme winter weather storm. Hundreds of thousands of Texans are without power for the fifth day in a row while the senator from Texas was heading off to Cancun. Critics are angered that Sen. Cruz would leave the state while his constituents are forced to boil water to survive one of the worst winter storms on record.

Politicians are calling Sen. Cruz out for leaving his constituents during a natural disaster.

The Castro brothers are speaking up as well. Texans are dying from the extreme weather after the power grid was overloaded from sudden demand. The power outages have lasted for multiple days and the death toll continues to climb from the freezing temperatures. So far, 24 people have died from the winter storm.

Part of the problem is that Texas has their own power grid separated from the rest of the nation in an attempt to avoid federal regulations. The decision was made in the 1930s after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the Federal Power Act. This allowed the federal government to oversee interstate electricity sales. However, Texas utilities did not cross state lines. This created an electricity island.

People are not letting the trip go unnoticed.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is responsible for overseeing the power grid and officials had a grim revelation about the power outages. On Tuesday, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness addressed the media about the power outages.

“We needed to step in and make sure that we were not going to end up with Texas in a blackout, which could keep folks without power — not just some people without power but everyone in our region without power — for much, much longer than we believe this event is going to last, as long and as difficult as this event is right now,” Magness said about the call to cut power to some customers as the icy conditions settled in on the area.

He further explained that some of the power outages could last for an undetermined amount of time.

This is not the first time Texas had weather-induced power outages because of winter weather. The state saw the same situation on a smaller scale play out in 2011. The winter storm in 2011 knocked out power across the state and yet Texas officials did not follow suggestions to prevent the current crisis.

A report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation called on Texas to “winterize” their energy infrastructure. The report highlights how the current infrastructure was not ready to take on the weather it experienced in 2011 and, according to The Texas Tribune, Texas didn’t heed the warning.

On Tuesday, 60 percent of Houston businesses and households remained without power because of the weather.

Sen. Cruz quickly booked a return flight to Houston after the outrage.

Facing mounting anger over his warm escape from Texas, Sen Cruz quickly U-turned back to Houston. He claims to have been accompanying his daughters to Mexico and not going on the vacation himself.

A flurry of tweets about the situation show a growing number of people who are skeptical of the senator’s statement. Ted Cruz was photographed with luggage both in Texas and coming back through the Cancun airport. The luggage has set off a debate about whether or not Sen. Cruz honestly went to Mexico to drop his daughters.

READ: Sen. Joe Manchin Calls On Senate To Expel Sen. Ted Cruz After Insurrection

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