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

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee/ YouTube
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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Maria Felix Refused Roles In Hollywood Until She Established Her Career In Mexico

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Maria Felix Refused Roles In Hollywood Until She Established Her Career In Mexico

@MARS0411 / Twitter

María Félix is one of the most recognizable actresses of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, probably because her career spanned 47 films made in Mexico, Spain, France, Italy, and Argentina, as well as Hollywood. She was a feminist icon and well-known for refusing roles that portray Mexicans as anything less than complex characters with full personhood.

Affectionately known as María Bonita y La Doña, Félix overcame truly Hollywood-level plot twists in her life, including kidnapping and being widowed not once but twice, to get to where she went.

Félix had eleven siblings.

CREDIT: @aresluoga / Twitter

That’s right. Her poor mother, Josefina Güereña Rosas, raised a dozen children. Her father, Bernardo Félix Flores was a military officer and descendent of the Yaqui indigenous people.

María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña was born in Álamos, Sonora, Mexico in 1914.

CREDIT: @agguman / Twitter

The Aries star was born on April 8, but because her birthday was reported to the Mexican government on May 4, her government IDs recognize her birthday almost a full month later. Google honored her actual day of birth with this doodle.

Félix refused to change her name to meet Hollywood anglo standards.

CREDIT: @astolenparadise / Twitter

Producers tried to persuade her to use the name Diana del Mar or Marcia Maris, but she refused. She actually insisted on María de Los Ángeles Félix but conceded to shorten it, so long it was still her name.

As a child, her mother sent her brother Pablo to a military academy after fearing they might have an incestuous relationship.

CREDIT: @aresluoga / Twitter

Literally, I have no doubt that this is just a classic case of Mexicana mami catastrophizing melodrama that probably just made their fraternal relationship a tad awkward.

After her family moved to Guadalajara, she was crowned Beauty Queen.

CREDIT: @_LAluv / Twitter

That was when she met Enrique Álvarez Alatorre, a cosmetics salesman, and her eventual first husband. They were married for six years and had Félix’ only child, Enrique.

Félix was a receptionist at a plastic surgeon’s office in Mexico City.

CREDIT: @Mkeenan4371 / Twitter

After she returned home to Guadalajara, she couldn’t take the chismosa about her divorcée status. She took Enrique to Mexico City with her and the two lived in a guest house.

Félix had to plan an elaborate scheme to kidnap her son back from his father.

CREDIT: @Soledad_Haren / Twitter

One day, Enrique’s father came to visit him and just refused to give him back. The story goes that her soon-to-be second husband Agustín Lara helped her plan the recovery, which included tricking the boy’s grandmother and kidnapping Enrique back.

When is someone going to make a movie out of that?

Félix was afraid that Lara was a cocaine addict.

CREDIT: @lambo_balmain / Twitter

Once, she found a piece of paper with white powder in it and decided to actually snort it. She was curious, okay. Nothing happened. It was sulfathiazole powder, which is used to clean cuts.

Lara was a famous composer that immortalized Félix, penning her first nickname “María Bonita” in song.

CREDIT: @BeatriceMarge / Twitter

They divorced two years later because of Lara’s abusive jealousy. In Félix’ autobiography, she wrote that he even once tried to kill her in a fit of violent jealousy.

She was discovered while walking down the street in Mexico City.

CREDIT: @grisellepreston / Twitter

Director and filmmaker Fernando Palacios spotted her and immediately asked if she wanted to make movies. He started bringing her to his film circles and even to Hollywood.

She turned down Hollywood’s offer to make it big, saying she wanted to begin her career in Mexico.

CREDIT: @aresluoga / Twitter

This is a woman who was so sought after, she had her pick of the litter to debut. She chose a female lead role directed by Miguel Zacarías, El Peñón de las Ánimas.

She got the Doña Bárbara gig because the novelist was obsessed with her.

CREDIT: @MARS0411 / Twitter

Rómulo Gallegos met her at a luncheon in Club Chapultepec and became infatuated. He decided she would be the only one that could play “my Doña Bárbara.” She’s been known as La Doña ever since.

Over ten years after filming El Peñón de las Ánimas alongside her then enemy, Jorge Negrete, they united and fell in love.

CREDIT: @OfficialCLM / Twitter

Allegedly, Negrete asked her, “I’m curious, who did you sleep with to get the starring role?” and she responded with “You’ve been in the business longer, so you must know who you have to sleep with to be a star.”

Over a decade later, they reunited in Argentina, fell in love and got married. He was sick at the time and died just 11 months into the marriage.

Diego Rivera was obsessed with her.

CREDIT: @firmeprincess / Twitter

In her autobiography, she writes that he “loved me hopelessly for nearly ten years.” He would send her cards with toad-frog drawings and wrote to her as the Holy Virgencita de Catipoato. He’d joke that he was the pope of his fake Marifeliana religion.

Félix’s home in Tlalpan had over 100 animals on the property.

CREDIT: @llcastro90 / Twitter

Rivera himself sent 80 rattlesnakes from Oaxaca. She had 14 dogs, most of whom were strays that she took in from the street. She also had 600 fruit trees and 18 employees that worked the grounds alone.

Her son, Enrique, tragically died of a heart attack in 1996.

CREDIT: @pa_recordar / Twitter

At the time, he was himself an actor in film and television. In her autobiography, she wrote of how much she adored him:

“Enrique is a very gifted man, with admirable common sense. He’s my best friend. I have so much fun with him. He’s not a ‘mama’s boy,’ as many believe. Self-employed, fight like being independent. He has his own career, his audience, his poster and assumes his responsibilities without relying on me.”

Her last husband died of lung cancer just months after her own mother died.

CREDIT: @girlindodgerblu / Twitter

She fell into a deep depression for a long time. The only thing that helped her be happy again was horses.

She focused the rest of her life on her stable of horses.

CREDIT: @agguman / Twitter

The stable became famous in France, and her Spanish named horses (María Bonita, Mayab, Zapata, Chingo and Vera) competed in derbies. It was there that her late husband was buried and where she’d stay for many years.

She was famous for her jewelry collection.

CREDIT: @EABR05 / Twitter

This very snake necklace was commissioned from Cartier Paris and is entirely encrusted with 178.21 diamond carats. Cartier has even debuted a La Doña de Cartier collection full of reptilian inspired fine jewelry.

Félix had a lock of gray hair that she only showed in Doña Bárbara.

CREDIT: @ricardoisaac3 / Twitter

She hid it in every other movie and even in photos. It was passed down to her by her father.

María Félix died on her birthday in 2002.

CREDIT: @dearmilano / Twitter

She was 88 years old and died in her sleep in Mexico City. She was buried alongside her son and parents in the family tomb.


READ: 7 Quotes from La Doña María Félix that Will Get You through the Week

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