Things That Matter

‘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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You Are Guaranteed To Hear These 18 Songs At Every Mexican Fiesta

Culture

You Are Guaranteed To Hear These 18 Songs At Every Mexican Fiesta

Anna Summa / PhotoShelter

Quinceañera, wedding, baptism, school dance hall – Mexicans sure know how to turn any and every occasion into a good time. 

And no fiesta is ever complete without a bopping playlist that can carry the dancing late into the night. 

Today, we’ve thrown together 17 classic songs that you’re likely to hear at any Mexican party. They should have ya (or at least dear tía Nora) throwing your hands in the air. 

Caballo Dorado – Payaso de Rodeo

We’re kicking off the list with this classic wedding / quinceañera number. 

‘Payaso de Rodeo’ to some, ‘No romper mi corazón’, to others. Whichever camp you’re in, there’s no not recognizing it once the DJ has his way. It’s a CALL TO ARMS – one that guarantees a stampede to the dancefloor and a whole lotta clapping, hopping and sliding. 

This country band may have been formed way back in 1986 but this masterpiece is destined to outlive us all. Just, watch your feet – if you get ran over, it’s your fault.

2. Luis Miguel – Cuando Calienta El Sol  

A forever classic from the sol de Mexico himself, perfect for parties under the hot sun, and for invoking nostalgic vibes of youth’s eternal-summer… yeah, and who’s ever forgetting that music vid? 

3. Selena Quintanilla – Amor Prohibido

Straight from the queen herself, this song is a bop and a half. It was famously inspired by the love letters of her abuela, a maid who worked for a wealthy family and ended up falling in love with (and marrying) their son. 

Seems like we’re all suckers for a good forbidden romance – it topped the US States Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart nine weeks in a row in 1994. 

4. Jeans – Pepe

The four teens of the original Pepe video may have grown up, but Jeans will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s a throwback to the days of innocence, bad hair, and those tummy butterflies from crushing on a classmate. 

5. Café Tacvba –  Ingrata

An anthem for every teen in the 90s who figured they were a rebel. This Mexican band straight out of Satellite were a bunch of teens at the time but boy did they just get us. 

6. Banda Blanca – Sopa de Caracol 

So no we may never truly know what they are saying, but this song was always guaranteed to get you up and grooving at any fiesta. 

7. Los Del Río – La Macarena

This Spanish one-hit wonder of the 90s needs no intro. Put it on any speakers, and the dance moves that follow are basically reflex. 

La Macarena made the rounds again in recent years when the internet realised what the lyrics were actually saying. Turns out, the song is all about a girl (Macarena) cheating on her boyfriend with two friends, whilst he’s off in military service. Can I get a #childhoodruined. 

8. Garibaldi – Banana

With refrains like ‘Mexicana like it (banana)’ and ‘Yo tengo una bolita que me sube y me baja’ (I have a little ball that goes up and goes down), Garibaldi’s Banana is, admittedly, no poetic masterpiece. 

What is IS though, is a Latin beat that’s catchy as hell and sure to get you dancing. Plus, what’s life without a little cheap innuendo.

9. Vicente Fernández – El Rey 

There comes a time in every respectable Mexican party when it’s time to break out the ranchera.

We were torn between this song and Chente’s Volver, Volver, but, well, it’s one of the best drinking songs of all time. Scoop up two amigos around the shoulders and bellow along: “PeRo SiGo SiEnDo eL rEy”

10. Los Angeles Azules – 17 Años 

Guaranteed to have even the oldest guests getting jiggy, the infectious rhythm in this song is not to be underestimated. 

No surprise really – Los Angeles Azules are the wizards of cumbia sonidera – a subgenre that fuses the 1950-1970s with synthy electronic 90s music.

11. Maná – Oye Mi Amor 

Here’s one from the Guadalajaran pop rock band Maná – the most successful Latin American band of all time. Like, 40 million albums sold worldwide, kind of successful. 

And this song? You might love it, you might hate it, but you most definitely, probably know the lyrics. 

12. Pedro Infante – Cucurrucucú Paloma

Maybe not a mainstay of your average houseparty, but we couldn’t resist. Tomas Mandaz wrote this Mexican classic in 1954, and it’s since been covered by the likes of Pedro Infante and Luis Miguel.

And boy is it a crooner. The cucurucucú mimics the sound of a dove, and is meant to signal lovesickness. 

13. Magneto – Vuela, Vuela

Whilst Vuela, Vuela is actually a cover of a 80’s French pop song, it’s also the song that helped skyrocket Magneto into the limelight. 

Dubbed by some as the Mexican Backstreet Boys, Magneto’s song hit the charts in the early 90s and flew as high as its namesake.

14. Los Tigres Del Norte – El Jefe De Jefes

This Mexican norteño band is famous for their ‘narcocorrido’ – music that glorifies drug trafficking. It’s a genre that’s actually illegal to play at live events in some Mexican states, which has landed the band a hefty fine in the past. Regardless, at parties the song’s a hoot.

15. Molotov – Voto Latino

An anthem for proud crowds of Latinx to roar along to, this Molotov song is a classic in its own right.

16. La Chona – Los Tucanes de Tijuana

An energetic and fast-paced norteño song from a band that’s been around since 1987. They started out playing in nightclubs, so there’s no surprise that it’s virtually impossible to not dance to this. 

17. Elvis Crespo – Suavemente

Sultry and sexy, this song is pure Latin rhythm heaven. Not only is it perfect for making eyes and swinging hips across a dancefloor, it also helped popularize merengue music. 

18. Ramón Ayala – Tragos Amargos

Contested by some as the ultimate drinking song, would any list of Mexican party songs be complete without some Ramón Ayala to top it off? 

READ: 13 Songs That Made Us Do Silly Dances We Couldn’t Help But Love

What Is Pulque And Why Do People Either Love It Or Hate It?

Culture

What Is Pulque And Why Do People Either Love It Or Hate It?

Oscarlemuss / Instagram

Along with tequila and mezcal, pulque is the one of the most iconic Mexican alcoholic beverages. Its origins ago deep in history and speak of the indigenous past and present of the country.  This is what you need to know about this mythical drink that is making a comeback as a mainstream road to indulgence. 

So what exactly is pulque anyway?

 Pulque is beautiful in its simplicity. The drink is the fermented sap of the maguey or agave plant. It has a thick, gooey consistency that takes some time getting used to. It has a milky color in its pure state, but many pulquerias add fruit juices and honey to make it a curado or flavored pulque. This is how journalist Emily Sargent described pulque in The Times: “sweet, thick, syrupy agave juice served inexplicably in pint-jug portions”.

It was known as octli by the Aztecs and is surrounded by fascinating myths.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

Pulque has been drunk for at least 1,000 years. The Aztecs believed that the liquid collected at the center of the succulent known as maguey was actually the blood of Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey. It was also believed that if you got drunk on octli a rabbit would possess you. There were 400 rabbits known as Centzon Totochtin, and they were the children of Mayahuel.  Up to this day, some pulque drinkers spill some of their drink to the floor as an offering to Mother Earth. The word pulque is Mexican Spanish, dating in print to 1877. 

Pulque is a key element of Mexican popular culture.

Credit: Instagram. @celsotours

In particular, pulque is a constant in visual memories of the Mexican Revolution. Salud

There are even B-movies that honor pulque culture!

Credit: La Pulqueria / Videocine

In the 1970s and 1980s, low-quality films known as sexy-comedias-mexicanas showcased pulque culture in various films. The most famous is La Pulqueria, directed by Victor Manuel Castro and featuring la creme de la creme of Mexican comedians and the most famous boxer in Mexico’s history, Ruben Olivares. 

Pulque is now being consumed by Mexicans of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

For decades, pulque was associated with the lower classes, which speaks of the sad but inherent racism that permeates Mexican mestizo culture. For example, it was common to see homeless men drunk on pulque featured in Mexican cinema. The drink has made a huge comeback in the past 15 years, and pulquerias, traditional dens where people meet to drink pulque, are popular amongst city dwellers of all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Pulque production is mostly artisanal and “organic.”

Credit: Instagram. @estampas_de_mexico1

Rather than being distilled as with tequila and mezcal, the elixir that emanates from the maguey is left to be fermented. First, the sap is extracted from the center of the maguey and then placed in 50-liter barrels called tinas. After than, mature pulque, known as seed pulque, is added to jump start the fermentation, which takes from one to two weeks. The pulque maker needs to consider factors such as the weather and the quality of the sap to determine the exact fermentation period that stops the pulque from turning sour and undrinkable. It is more art than science. 

Pulque is the product of a long, natural process.

Credit: Instagram. @cocinafacil

Pulque is a labor of love. Each maguey plants needs to mature for at least 12 years before the sap can be extracted. After that, it produces sap for only one year at the most. That is a long wait, but the benefits are worth it. 

And hey, it brings some health benefits too!

Credit: Instagram. @bandita_chilanga

Of course you need to drink it in moderation, but pulque does bring important nutritional benefits. An academic paper states that for some Mexicans “pulque was the third most important source of iron (non-heme form), ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and other B-vitamins”.  Carnales, it’s science! 

Pulquerias usually have creative names.

Credit: Instagram. @semahernandez

Great names include “My Office”, “Memories of the Future”, “Drink and Go”, “I’m Waiting for You Here at the Corner”, and  “The Recreation Center of Those Across the Street”. A true testament of Mexican everyday creativity and knack for humor.

The state of Hidalgo is pulque heaven.

Credit: Instagram. @mexico_desdeadentro

Even though pulque is produced across the country, particularly the areas surrounding Mexico City, the state of Hidalgo takes the crown as the most prolific. There are about 250 pulque haciendas in the state. 

In Tlaxcala, the state government has organized a tour called “la ruta del pulque.”

Credit: Instagram. @enriquenoriega

You can visit different production sites… and perhaps be possessed by a rabbit if you drink a bit too much!

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to pulque-drinking receptacles!

Credit: Instagram. @nilsbernstein

You know how people get snobbish when you drink white wine with a red wine glass? Well, that is not the case with pulque, which you can enjoy in basically anything that holds the nectar from the gods. Each pulqueria has its own style when it comes to serving methods. 

You can even drink it directly from the plant when it has been naturally fermented.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

Yes, even a used Coke bottle will do! Just look at this pulque master!

Or you can also drink it straight from a maguey leaf.

Credit: Instagram. @oscarlemuss

Can you think of a more Instagrammable way of doing this? We can’t!

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