A little decorum, please

January 28th, 2015

A warning to those who were brought up in a barn in the men’s room at cantina La Importadora, Benjamín Franklin 8, Colonia Escandón.

Labels: Mexico City

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Gloria in excelsis

January 11th, 2015


When I arrived in Mexico City in 1990, a performer named Gloria Trevi had recently become a big star. At the time, she seemed like the perfect antidote to the prefabricated pop idols here, who all had the same nose jobs and blonde highlights in their hair, all sang the same treacly love ballads, and were known as pendejos televisos (assholes from Televisa, at the time the only, and still the predominant, Mexican television network).

Unlike her contemporaries, Trevi sang about violence against women, unplanned pregnancy, machismo, religion, and homelessness; her anthem “Pelo suelto” was more or less an ode to liberation. Even to this day I would be hard-pressed to name a Mexican woman in mainstream show business who challenged the social and political hierarchy of this country the way that she did.


The plot thickened in the year 2000, when Trevi, her manager Sergio Andrade and a colleague of theirs known as Mary Boquitas were arrested in Rio de Janeiro on charges of corrupting minors. The prosecution’s side of the story was that Trevi and Andrade corralled teenaged girls with the promise of making them pop stars but in fact sexually enslaved them. Trevi would spend close to five years in jail (in Brazil and then Mexico) before she was cleared of all charges due to lack of evidence. 

Trevi’s version of events was that Andrade was a Svengali figure who had controlled her life — and her money, and her record deals, and everything else about her — since she was sixteen. Of course it was hard to square this story with the star’s public image as a fiercely outspoken, independent and street-savvy young woman. I suppose we will never know the true story.


Nonethless, a 28-year-old Swiss German named Christian Keller directed a movie with a certain interpretation of Trevi’s story, which came out in Mexico at the beginning of January and opens across the U.S. on February 21. It took Keller, 28, ten years to get the film made. Most of the delays were due to opposition by the singer herself, despite the fact that she sold Keller the rights to her story and gave him and screenwriter Sabina Berman 30 hours of interviews from which they crafted their story.


Gloria distills 20 years of the singer’s life into a little over two hours. It’s a funny, lurid and at times disturbing tale with fantastic performances by both Sofía Espinosa in the title role and Marco Pérez as Sergio Andrade. Even if in the end it is a little hard to swallow the portrayal of Trevi as close to a sainted victim, I would recommend the film to anyone who is interested in Mexican pop culture.


Meanwhile, since her release from prison in 2005, Trevi has cut various records and continues to tour in the U.S., all over Latin America and in Spain. Now a señora on the cusp of her 47th birthday, she remains as big a star as ever.

Labels: Mexico City



In the Guardian

December 10th, 2014


In the UK, the newspaper the Guardian asked me to contribute a piece about Mexico City for their “Urbanist’s Guide” series.  I don’t know why Word Press won’t allow me to insert links — if anyone can help me out with that, let me know — but here is the link to read it:



Labels: Mexico City



For truth, justice and peace

November 23rd, 2014


Some people read my post the other day and, for reasons that are still unclear to me, seemed to think that I was putting down protestors for taking to the streets as a reaction to the recent events in Ayotzinapa, and the government’s woefully wrong-footed and authoritarian response. On the contrary, I am glad that so many went to stand up and be counted on the 20th – at this point, at a certain amount of personal risk. The president of Mexico is trying, through misinformation, to paint the protestors as “terrorists,” so that the most easily manipulated will believe he is justified to send in riot police, and – if the history of the PRI is any indication – perhaps hoses, billy clubs and snipers, to silence them. The world will be watching.

What I really believe is that, right now, more than marching is necessary. I have lived in Mexico City off and on – mostly on – since 1990. What I have observed is that when people rise in public protest, the government resolutely ignores them until the people get frustrated and tired, and then give up. It is as if nothing has happened at all.

I was invited by a friend who works for an NGO to come this coming Tuesday, the 25th, at 10 am, at the Hotel Imperial, Paseo de la Reforma #64, Colonia Juárez, to an event called Diálogo para la paz social. It is free and open to anyone who is interested in peace, justice and truth in Mexico today. My friend said I could announce it here. I am including the entire text of the invitation in Spanish, for anyone who is interested. I hope to see you there.


Las y los mexicanos expresamos de muchísimas maneras el dolor, tristeza, hartazgo, indignación, enojo, y el deseo de actuar para cambiar actitudes y hábitos, transformar instituciones, políticas y estructuras y lograr una transformación de fondo del país, ante la situación de emergencia y profunda crisis institucional que vivimos.

Hay numerosas acciones y voces que exigen el regreso con vida de los estudiantes desaparecidos de Ayotzinapa, y buscan que se haga justicia completa y expedita por las muertes y desapariciones en todo el territorio nacional. Muchos exigimos y nos exigimos que nunca más se puedan presentar estas situaciones que hoy lamentamos profundamente.

Ciudadanas y ciudadanos con visiones plurales de las soluciones posibles, y provenientes de regiones y sectores diversos, nos hemos reunido y reconocemos que nos encontramos en una emergencia humanitaria y en un momento crucial.

Creemos que para avanzar necesitamos llevar a cabo un Diálogo Social amplio en todo el país, en el que participen todas las diversas expresiones de nuestro México plural.

Este diálogo debe tratar de cómo buscar que en nuestro país se avance

• hacia la Verdad, evidenciando la mentira y la simulación, como único sustento posible de un futuro diferente, como la única base para lograr el nunca más.
• hacia la Justicia, igual para todas y todos, especialmente para las víctimas de todas las violencias, justicia social, justicia legal, justicia restaurativa, para terminar con la impunidad y la corrupción que están a la base de la profunda crisis que estamos viviendo
• hacia la Paz con base en la justicia y la verdad, frente a todas las violencias, con la colaboración de todos, en la que todos los actores, los grupos y los diversos intereses se encuentren, se reconcilien y colaboren para el bien general, sin exclusiones.

Este diálogo es urgentísimo. De no realizarse y tener resultados concretos de corto, mediano y largo plazos, permitiremos o fomentaremos los autoritarismos y las violencias, la persistencia de prácticas corruptas con impunidad y la desesperanza. Ante los riesgos de la polarización social por la vía violenta o de desmovilización por desgaste y cansancio, se requiere canalizar la indignación y el empeño por el cambio por la vía del diálogo y de la participación de todas y todos quienes queremos las transformaciones que necesita el país para que no haya nunca más muertos/as y desaparecidos/as.

Cada una de nuestras organizaciones tiene agendas diversas y propuestas específicas para la resolución de los problemas, pero proponemos privilegiar conjuntamente un proceso de diálogo que empiece ya, donde cada quien pueda presentar sus propuestas, encontrar coincidencias y definir conjuntamente cursos de acción. Se ha propuesto de manera ilustrativa que el diálogo gire tanto en torno a medidas inmediatas, de emergencia así como a medidas estructurales de mediano plazo, donde se pudieran incluir un estado de derecho basado en los derechos, el sistema de procuración de justicia, el control y rendición de cuentas de candidatos y partidos, las visiones de la seguridad, las propuestas de políticas incluyentes.

El proceso debe estar caracterizado por reuniones en las que unos grupos escuchemos a otros con los que no nos hemos reunido en el pasado y donde todos escuchemos las realidades planteadas por las personas y comunidades víctimas que sufren las violencias e injusticias. Creemos asimismo que el diálogo verdadero debe culminar en transformaciones reales, no puede quedar en palabras. Propondremos formas de organizar el diálogo para que sea ágil, incluyente y propositivo. No queremos diálogos y pactos cupulares. Este es un diálogo desde la sociedad, donde cabemos todos, incluyendo funcionarios y políticos.

Para establecer los lineamientos y mecanismos de un Diálogo Social incluyente y propositivo, iniciaremos un proceso de consultas con quienes han expresado mediante acciones o declaraciones solidaridad con los estudiantes de Ayotzinapa, con actores de sociedad, jóvenes, movimientos, comunidades, universidades, normales y otras instituciones educativas (personas con responsabilidades directivas, académicas, y estudiantiles), grupos de víctimas, empresarios, sindicatos, iglesias y campesinos, así como políticos, sin excluir a ciudadana o ciudadano que exprese buena voluntad y disposición al diálogo, especialmente con los diferentes espacios de coordinación y articulación que se están expresando en este momento. Nos comprometemos a evitar protagonismos y sabemos que no somos representantes de la sociedad, sólo tratamos de ser promotores del bien general y abrir un cauce propositivo para impulsar salidas de transformación para que estas situaciones no se repitan y para que la impunidad, la corrupción y la violencia sean enfrentadas con verdad, justicia y en la paz.

Proponemos una primera reunión organizativa el martes 25 de noviembre en la Ciudad de México de 10 a 15 horas, en el Hotel Imperial, Paseo de la Reforma 64, Col. Juárez, 06600, México, D.F. Habremos de tener procesos simultáneos en todo el país, de inicio nos comprometemos a animar el Diálogo Social en La Laguna, Cuernavaca, Acapulco, Chihuahua y Querétaro para propiciar participación regional, estas reuniones serán simultáneas, compartiremos los resultados con toda la sociedad inicialmente a través de la página www.redespaz.org.mx.
Invitamos a enviar sugerencias, dudas, críticas y/o apoyar la iniciativa a los correos y de los correos iniciativas@redespaz.org.mx y secretariaredpaz@centrolindavista.org.mx o directamente a aquellos de las personas promotoras.

Organización Nombre
Academia E Paolo Pagliai
Acapulco por la Paz Rosa María Gómez
Acción para el Bienestar Ciudadano con Derechos Humanos y Democracia Juan Pedro Barbosa Garcia
Asamblea Nacional Popular Felipe Edgardo Canseco
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir Aidé García Hernández
Cauce Ciudadano, A. C. Carlos A. Cruz Santiago
Central Ciudadano y Consumidor, A. C. Gerardo Rodríguez Sánchez Lara
Centro de Derechos Humanos Juan Gerardi (La Laguna) Antonio Esparza
Centro Lindavista Adalberto Saviñón
Centro Tepoztlán, A. C. Mauricio de Maria y Campos
Comisión Episcopal Social/Dimensión Justicia, Paz y Reconciliación Patricio Sarlat Flores
Jimena Esquivel Leautaud
Convergencia Digital, A. C. Mateo Lejarza
10 Estudiantes Claustro de Sor Juana
Fundación Flor y Canto, A. C. Alberto Athié
Grupo Víctimas por sus Derechos en Acción (La Laguna) Silvia Ortiz
INCIDE Social, A. C. Clara Jusidman
Enriqueta Cepeda Ruiz
Alfonso Celestino
Instituto de Acción Ciudadana para la Justicia y la Democracia, A.C. Claudia Cruz
Instituto de Estudios Superiores para la Paz y el Desarrollo (Cuernavaca) José Antonio Sandoval Tajonar
Investigación, Organización y Acción Comunitaria Altepetl AC /
Oscar Rey Meneses
Laguneros por la Paz Miguel Valdés Villarreal
Passec Ricardo Govela
Sociedad en Movimiento Alberto Núñez Esteva
Pedro Javier González
Gabriel Funes
Antonio Alonso
Transformación Personal y Social – Querétaro. Ramón Mendoza Z.
Universidad Loyola del Pacífico
Estudios de Paz Enrique Pasta Muñuzuri
Xenia Paola Trujillo
Eréndira Cruzvillegas (Oaxaca)
Federico Vázquez Calero (Ciudad de México)
Marcos Villa Corrales (Puebla)
Sergio Salvador García García (Ciudad de México)
Jesús Cantú Escalante (Monterrey)
David Pérez Ortiz (La Laguna)
Rogelio Gómez Hermosillo (Ciudad de México)
Jorge Aceves Belmonte (La Laguna)
Juan Noé Fernández Andrade (La Laguna)
Jesús Mendoza Zaragoza (Acapulco)
Alberto J. Olvera (Xalapa)

Labels: Mexico City



Moment of truth?

November 18th, 2014

graven image

I would like to continue to post jolly observations about Mexico City and my progress as a writer. But the truth is that no one around here is feeling very jolly these days. It’s complicated. When I first noticed the enormous public outrage about the kidnapping, torture and, most probably, murder of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, last September, I kind of wondered why everyone was reacting so strongly. Among the people expressing their shock and rage were many of my own friends. I couldn’t help but ask myself, where have these people been for the past ten years? Asleep, like Rip Van Winkle? Don’t they know that in Mexico people are murdered and disappeared every day, victims of a state – politicians, the police and the armed forces – that colludes with drug cartels and gangsters, or are the gangsters themselves?

Some people said that what made the Ayotzinapa incident different is that the victims were young people studying to become teachers. That sort of logic makes me uneasy. Back in 2010, on one of my cases as a mitigation specialist, I had to travel twice to Ciudad Juárez. In the Monday morning newspapers, they would report on how many people had been murdered over the weekend. The victims were equally innocent – waitresses who worked in a nightclub, or guys who worked in a taco stand – murdered because their bosses had not paid their tributes to the local extortionists. No one rallied around the waitresses or taco guys. But their murders were no less unjust than those of the students.

Finally, I – and many others, I think – have come to see Ayotzinapa as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Numbering in the tens of thousands, Mexicans are protesting en masse all over the country, and huge demonstrations are planned for this Thursday, the anniversary of the Mexican revolution. People are protesting against a government that has been all about selling a false image about nonexistent social and economic progress to the rest of the world. A government dedicated to crony capitalism disguised as political reform. A government that, at least for a while, convinced conservative institutions such as the World Bank and the Woodrow Wilson Center that there is an emerging middle class in the country – a social class that exists only in their collective imaginations.

It is difficult for me to imagine where Mexico will go from here. What worries me is that, while there is a long tradition in this country of public protest, there is virtually no civic culture. There is no understanding of how citizens can work, however slowly, stubbornly, and perhaps even inadequately, to make changes in government. (It also troubles me that, as far as I can tell, impeachment does not exist in the Mexican political process.) What I have seen happen before is that protest movements rise up. The government reacts insufficiently, or not at all, waiting it out until the protesters get tired, and ultimately the movement dissipates and then disappears.

While I don’t think there is any reason to be optimistic, I hope against hope that this time will be different.

Labels: Mexico City