Champion Mexican swimmer struggles to get funding to compete

Dunia Camacho Marenco is a world champion swimmer who holds eight world records and has won 58 medals – 28 of them gold — in nine World Championships.

She also has Down Syndrome. The Mexican athlete is the reigning world champion in her sport’s Female Down Syndrome category and proudly compares herself to the most decorated Olympian of all time, American swimmer Michael Phelps.

“I’m the ‘Chica Phelps’,” she said. “I always swim very hard and very fast.”

Her mother Maria Guadalupe Marenco Herrera says the sport is a tremendous help to those with her daughter’s condition.

“Sport helps people with this type of disability a great deal,” she said. “In their growth, in their life goals, they become focused. They develop greater physical capabilities and better concentration.”

Yet her daughter is now facing a fight outside the pool as she depends heavily on government funding to compete for Mexico on the global stage.

But the money hasn’t appeared for more than three years, forcing Dunia and her coaches to seek the charity of friends and family.

She is now training to compete in the 10th Down Syndrome World Championships in Australia in October.

As Dunia waits on the funding to represent Mexico there, she is depending on national authorities to recognize the importance of her fight.

I produced this package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Entrepreneur profiting from seaweed invasion

On Mexico’s Caribbean coast an entrepreneur is doing his very best to stop an annual plague which threatens the region’s vital tourism industry.

April 1 every year is known as the start of sargazo season when many pristine white beaches in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatán are smothered by an unwanted arrival – seaweed.

The problem is year-round but particularly prevalent at this time of year when thousands of tons of the micro algae are washed ashore up and down the region’s coastline.

Businessman Dave Sanderson has moved to the area from his native Canada to run Ocean Barriers, a company dedicated to keeping the beautiful blue waters as free from sargazo as possible.

I produced and helped film this package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Mayan rapper helps bring ancient language to life for new generation

The word ‘Maya’ conjures up images of ancient pyramids, intricate art, and colourful vibrant dance – but you probably would not think of rap music, with artists prowling the stage and spitting lyrics in Mayan.

Led by a desire to learn more about his own culture, and inspire others to do the same, for the past decade the musical artist Pat Boy has become a figurehead for this niche musical genre – Mayan rap.

“I speak about the daily lives of Maya as they are today and of their ancestors, traditions and customs and the life I live as an artist and a young person,” Pat Boy says.

The ‘Pat’ in Pat Boy means ‘to create something new’ in Mayan, and the artist believes he has a duty to preserve and foster pride in the ancestry he shares with his contemporaries.

We caught up with him performing a show at a Maya cultural festival in Mérida.

His music is in no way out of place amid the more traditional customs, says the event’s organizer, who is delighted to have him as an ally promoting the Mayan language to a new generation.F

“People like him, using that type of music, do it to motivate young people, just as we are trying to do, to take an interest in and to master the Mayan language,” said Karina Abreu Cano, the coordinator at the Institutional Center for Languages.

“It’s clear he inspires them and makes it interesting to his generation.”

Around six million people speak varying forms of Mayan as a native language, though they remain very much the minority in a country dominated by colonially imported Spanish.

Mayan rap is one way for an ancient culture to reinvent itself in an often hostile contemporary world.

I scripted and produced this package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Mexican fishermen dump nets to mine pink salt

In the early mornings just inland from the beaches of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, a group of former fishermen head out to work in some stunning lagoons.

They’ve exchanged their nets for buckets and work mining salt – specifically, pink sea salt, a naturally occurring commodity in this region which is now fetching top dollar.

The vivid hues of the lagoons offer more than just a gorgeous vista as they are now providing a living for the collective which works them – the first to do so in the area for 20 years.

I produced and helped film this package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Compost scheme aims to solve top Mexican beach resort’s garbage problem

Nineteen years ago Tulum, on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, had a population of about 7,000. Now, it’s more than 30,000.

Its expansion has left local infrastructure lagging, causing issues with waste disposal.

“We saw that there were 180 tons of garbage being produced in Tulum, the municipality, every day, which was ending up in an open-air dump site,” said Mauricio Jervis, a local chef and the owner of Woolis Farm. The sight prompted him to take action.

“So that led me down a path to find out how much of that 180 tons was organic waste, and it turned out to be about 60 per cent during the high season, so out of 180 tons, that’s 100 tons a day of organic waste,” said Jervis. “And I said, ‘ok, let’s concentrate on this, let’s solve this.’”

He asked local tourism businesses to separate their food waste and he developed a compost operation on his farm on the outskirts of town. Now the farm’s produce, grown in the rich soil of his compost, comes full circle and is served in his restaurant.

It’s a renewable solution that 40 companies have gotten behind.

Tulum’s population continues to grow at a rapid pace but for this town to remain a sustainable eco-destination, green initiatives will be essential in order to preserve the area’s natural charms and its appeal to the tourists driving that growth.

I produced this package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Discovery of ancient Mayan cave helps rewrite history of Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá is a city built by the ancient Maya in the jungle heart of the Yucatán Peninsula.

The Temple of Kukulkan pyramid draws millions of visitors every year and to this day the abandoned city continues to give up secrets to archaeologists.

The Balamku Cave was uncovered just last year within the ancient city, revealing a treasure trove of ancient Maya artefacts in a project led by archaeologist Guillermo de Anda.

“This cave, Balamku, is going to help us to rewrite the history of this city,” he said.

The team found incense burners, water carriers and pots and evidence of religious ceremonies.

Initial studies say the find indicates a period of drought in the city.I

It was abandoned by the Ancient Mayans more than 600 years ago and they left behind evidence of a highly-advanced culture with knowledge of astronomy, economics and agriculture.

And yet while these ruins of ancient cities may be abandoned, modern-day Mayan culture is alive and well in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Mario Dzul is Maya and after years of saving, he finally has enough to build his house, which he’s doing in the traditional style.

“I’m proud of being Maya, and I want my culture to survive, that’s why we’re doing this,” Dzul said.

As archaeologists continue to discover the secrets left behind by an ancient civilization, they are looking at the roots of a culture still going strong in the 21st Century.

I produced and helped film this news package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Businessman builds houses from seaweed plaguing Mexico’s Caribbean coast

On Caribbean beaches, a brownish seaweed is driving away tourists who provide an economic lifeline for many communities.

Sargasso is washing up on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, which is home to the world-renowned beach resorts such as Cancún and Tulum.

The plants stain the pristine white sand, smell dreadful as they rot in the hot sun and, worst of all, chase the tourists away.

But one local man has discovered tourism isn’t the only reason to clear the beaches – he’s building houses with seaweed.

Omar Vázquez Sánchez discovered that by allowing the plant to biodegrade and then mixing it as a primary ingredient in a traditional adobe, or mud brick, that the resulting material was durable and weather resistant.

“Sargasso is strong. If you try to rip it apart, it’s hard,” said Omar. “So that’s why I started putting the clay with sargasso and it worked.”

Away from the all-inclusive resorts, the Yucatán peninsula is one of the most marginalized regions of Mexico, with 42 per cent of the population living in poverty.

These bricks, made from the seaweed that local authorities can’t get rid of fast enough, could be a path to better living standards for the peninsula’s rural communities.

Monica Gomez now lives in one of the seaweed houses, after a community outreach program built it for her family.

“When it’s cold outside, the house is warm, and when it’s hot outside, the house is cool,” said Monica. “Now I have a place to live with my kids and I don’t have to live with my mother.”

Local authorities say it may take a while before seaweed brickmaking is profitable.

“It’s very expensive to remove this seaweed from the beaches, so it will be great if the brick-making enterprise can reach a point at which it’s a sustainable business, that can pay for the seaweed’s removal from the beaches,” said Oscar Alvarez Gil, Quintana Roo environment minister.

For the tourism industry that can’t happen soon enough – last year, the state of Quintana Roo removed around 150-thousand cubic meters of seaweed from the beaches alone.

Thousands of tons more remained in the water.

I produced this news package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Mexico’s ‘fireworks capital’ hosts world’s best pyrotechnicians for annual show

Tultepec’s economy is based almost entirely on the manufacture and sale of pyrotechnics.

Every year spectators and industry professionals from across the world attend the fireworks exhibition in the Mexican town, with many coming to compete for the crown of top pyrotechnician.

This year, Tultepec’s annual event drew fireworks industry leaders from Europe and South America.

Many consider the town north of Mexico City to be the pyrotechnics capital of the Western Hemisphere and while a number of deadly fireworks accidents have cost dozens of lives in Tultepec, the town’s industry and passion for fireworks continues to draw big crowds.

This year’s annual festival was a chance to showcase its latest innovations to the world and for visitors to experience the cutting edge of pyrotechnics technology.

I produced this news package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

Hundreds of vehicles auctioned in Mexico government austerity drive

Black SUVs, escort motorcycles and an armoured car used by Mexico’s previous president – all have been up for sale at a public auction.

The country’s new leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, says neither he nor his administration needs them.

He hopes to raise more than five million dollars from selling the road-going vehicles and a series of helicopters and airplanes – money which will go towards funding a National Guard, AMLO’s flagship idea to improve Mexico’s dire security situation.

On Saturday and Sunday (February 23 and 24), hundreds of people gathered to bid on the fleet at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base north of Mexico City.

“We are going to save money through tackling corruption and save money through putting an end to the luxuries and over-spending of the government,” the president has said.

He continues to fly on commercial airlines, has turned the presidential residence into a museum and accepts only 40 per cent of the salary of his predecessor.

These measures are popular but Esteban Illades, who edits the Nexos political magazine, is waiting to see concrete results.

“Mexicans are very happy with the actions he’s undertaking there, and by doing that and by changing that, he’s saying things are changing,” he explained.

“He hasn’t yet completed 100 days in office, but we’ve yet to see something that’s remarkably different in terms of public policy, that is in terms of actual actions that he’s undertaking as a president, instead of just symbols that he’s performing.”

A second auction of the helicopters and airplanes is planned for April, which will include the presidential jet.

I produced and helped film this news package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

‘El Chapo’ legacy will live on thanks to wife, his ‘Chapito’ sons, cartel’s acceptance in Sinaloa

Left to right: Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, his wife Emma Coronel Aispuro and son Jesus Alfredo Guzman-Salazar

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán has finally been convicted of running a massive drug smuggling operation as head of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel – but even though he will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, but experts believe the story is far from over.

Journalist and author Malcolm Beith, who has covered Mexico’s efforts to combat organized crime for more than a decade, has written a book on the hunt for El Chapo, and attended the kingpin’s trial in Brooklyn, thinks we’ll be hearing more from the kingpin in future.

“He’s off to jail, no doubt, for life but he’s got kids who are now American citizens; he’s got a wife who’s legally here; he’s got lawyers,” he told Fox News.

“They have already threatened to sue people in Mexico for defaming his name.”

America Armenta, a reporter for El Debate newspaper, based in the Sinaloan capital Culiacán, says that partly through the help of his wife Emma Coronel, who has been a fixture at his 11-week trial, El Chapo remains “very well seen” by many in his home state.

Read the full story at