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 Indigenous Village In Mexico Trains Their Children As Soldiers To Combat Gang Violence

Things That Matter

This Indigenous Village In Mexico Trains Their Children As Soldiers To Combat Gang Violence

via Getty Images

In the town of Ayahualtempa, Mexico, in the state of Guerrero, reporters see a shocking image whenever they visit. Children armed with guns, trained to defend themselves. The disturbing scene is meant to be shocking. The village of Ayahualtempa is under constant attack. A prominent heroin “corridor”, they are the victims of violence and carnage at the hands of gangsters and the cartel.

In order to gain the Mexican government’s attention, the Ayahualtempa villagers dress their children up as soldiers. Then, they invite the media in.

Ayahualtempa
via Getty Images

When reporters arrive, the children of Ayahualtempa dutifully line up and put on a performance. They march, they show how they would shoot a gun from one knee, or from flat on their bellies. They tell reporters that their mock-violent performance is “so the president sees us and helps us,” as a 12-year-old child named Valentín told the Associated Press.

Because the Mexican government doesn’t protect Ayahualtempa, the display of child soldiers is a form of protest for the small indigenous village. The people of this remote region of Guerrero want protection from the National Guard, and financial help for widows and orphans who have been made so from organized crime.

The villagers don’t trust local authorities, and for good reason. Guerrera is the Mexican state in which 43 teaching students were abducted and killed in an event that is known as the “Iguala mass kidnapping”. Authorities arrested 80 suspects in connection to the event. 44 of them were police officers, working in conjunction with a network of cartels.

Although the demonstrations function largely as a publicity stunt, violence is very much a part of these children’s lives.

via Getty Images

Parents train their children to walk to school with loaded guns, ready to defend themselves against violent gangsters.

The attention-grabbing antics have, to some extent, worked. On one occasion, the government donated some housing material. On another, benefactors gave the community’s orphans and widows scholarships and houses. But as soon as the periodic media storms die down, the federal government continues pretending Ayahualtempa doesn’t exist.

The hypocrisy of the government’s response is frustrating to many. “We’ve normalized that these children don’t eat, are illiterate, are farm workers. We’re used to the Indians dying young, but, ‘How dare they arm them!’” said local human rights activist Abel Barrera to the AP, with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

As for now, until the government moves to protect the community, they say they will continue their demonstrations. “They see that the issue of the children is effective for making people take notice and they think: If that’s what works, we’ll have to keep doing it,” said Barrera.

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Spanish Voiceover Actress For Jessie From Pokémon Dies And Fans Mourn

Entertainment

Spanish Voiceover Actress For Jessie From Pokémon Dies And Fans Mourn

Pokémon fans in Latin America are mourning the death of Diana Pérez, the Spanish-language voice of Jessie of Pokémon’s Team Rocket. The voice actress has been voicing the character since 1997.

Diana Pérez, the voice actress of Team Rocket’s Jessie, died at 51.

Lalo Garza, a famed voice actor in Mexico, confirmed the death of the Pokémon voice actress.

“Rest in peace Diana Pérez, a strong, cultured, intelligent, and very talented woman. You are good now, friend. Nothing hurts anymore. Have a good trip,” reads the tweet.

Pérez has been a staple in the Spanish-language Pokémon fandom for decades.

Pérez was more than just he voice of Jessie. The voice actress was the voice of multiple anime characters including Luffy in One Piece and Kagura in Inuyasha. In recent years, Pérez had started branching out to directing, producing, and other branches in the entertainment industry.

Pérez’s death is being mourned by Pokémon fans outside of the Spanish-language fandom.

Sarah Natochenny is the English voice of Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon series, Jessie’s mortal enemy. The death of Pérez has impacted the larger Pokémon community. Pérez was a pivotal part of the Latin American Pokémon community for decades and her loss has devastated fans.

Descansa en paz, Diana.

There have been no plans announced for a replacement to voice Team Rocket’s Jessie. No official cause of death has been released either. Our hearts and thoughts go out to Pérez’s family and the greater Pokémon community mourning her passing.

READ: I Was Today Years Old When I Found Out This Mexican Pokémon

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