Caravan migrants willing to ‘climb that wall,’ claim asylum to get jobs

As thousands of Central Americans travel north in caravans toward the U.S. border, several of the travellers explained that they’re having trouble getting a job in their home country or that they want a better one.

For that reason, they’re willing to go to great lengths to apply for asylum in the United States.

“People come with the hope of breaking the wall [at the border], and they are going to break it, through faith in God,” said Moises Esu Vidal Sanchez, 24, (pictured above).

He worked as a taxi driver in the Honduran capital of San Pedro Sula, but embarked on the journey to escape personal issues.

“My mother passed away and there is nothing there for me now,” he said.

Traveling with a group of five male friends, he said he was willing to settle in Mexico.

“I like Mexico and I’m pleased to be here,” he said. “Everywhere, there is work—if you search for it, there is work.”

That doesn’t mean, however, he agrees with the United States limiting immigration.

“He [President Donald Trump] has to open the border, so all the world can pass,” Sanchez said.

I contributed reporting and photos to this piece, the full version of which can be read here at theepochtimes.com

Mexico’s Day of the Dead gets underway with procession for deceased children

Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations honor those who’ve died by remembering them and the lives they lived. 

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock visited the town of Tultepec north of Mexico City to find out how locals celebrate in their own special way with a march in memory of deceased children.

I produced this digital video about the ‘Farolitos’ parade, posted here on the CGTN America Facebook page.

For families of ‘the disappeared’ in Mexico, the search goes on

Members of a collective for families of the disappeared, Rastreadoras por la Paz, on a search around Los Mochis, Sinaloa

Miriam Báez Murillo is a rarity in Mexico. The fact that her son was forcibly ‘disappeared’ isn’t rare at all—there are more than 37,000 people on the official register of disappeared persons.

What is rare about Murillo is that she is ‘lucky’ enough to have actually found the remains of her son, José Manuel Herrera Báez, who disappeared at the age of 26 on May 27, 2017.

Criminal gangs, police, and the army, sometimes at the behest of local authorities, have been abducting people with virtual impunity in frightening numbers since the country’s drug war was militarized in 2006.

Murillo is one of the less than one per cent of families of people on the ‘disappeared’ registry who have had the remains of their loved ones found and formally identified.

That’s 340 people, or 0.91 per cent, of the 37,485 on the official list.

José Manuel Herrera Báez, son of Miriam Báez Murillo

Báez disappeared after he was allegedly arrested by municipal police at the home of his girlfriend, in the city of Mazatlán in the northwestern Pacific state of Sinaloa.

His remains were found about six months after he disappeared, in a field outside the city by a ‘colectivo’ on one of their búsquedas, or searches.

There are dozens of such groups across Mexico comprised of kin of the disappeared. They search for their lost family members, they say, while the authorities do nothing.

“The people who find their loved ones in this way, we cannot understand the immensity of it, because we always have hope of finding them alive,” Murillo said, recalling the day she heard her son had been found.

“The sadness is enormous and that’s something we have to cope with.”

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com

Hurricane Willa live hits

As Mexico braced itself for what was expected to be one of the strongest storms to hit its Pacific coast, I joined Canada’s CTV News Channel to discuss preparations for Hurricane Willa.

I also reported on the impact of the storm with a follow-up appearance the next day:

The hits can be seen here and here on the CTV News Channel Facebook page.

Pet-sitting app DogHero takes off in Mexico

Hailed as the Airbnb for pets, DogHero is taking off in Mexico, a country where man’s best friend is number one.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock talked to a pet owner and her sitter.

I produced this digital video which was posted to the CGTN America Facebook page.

Despite love for pet dogs, Mexico has highest number of stray dogs in region

Pet dogs are extremely popular in Mexico. 

In the evenings the parks of Mexico City are teeming with dog walkers often stopping to chat with other owners they only know through a shared passion for their pets.

But there is a dark side to this picture of harmony between man and his best friend.

According to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, 70 percent of Mexico’s estimated 18 million dogs live on the street, either born as strays or abandoned by their owners.

The country has the largest number of street dogs in Latin America.

Dog Angie is examined by veterinary doctor Jose Carlos Hernandez Trejo at the Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

The most recent figures from Mexico City’s department of health estimate there are 1.2 million strays roaming the streets of the capital alone.

The Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional is a small shelter in Venustiano Carranza, one of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs.

Tucked away in the shadows of a raised subway track it does its best to give a second chance to the small fraction of the city’s strays fortunate enough to end up there.

Jose Carlos Hernandez Trejo, 26, is a veterinary doctor at the clinic, which receives support from local animal charity the Antonio Haghenbeck Foundation.

Achilles the cat in his cage at the Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

It is Trejo’s job to give all new arrivals a medical examination, administer any appropriate vaccinations, and carry out sterilizations, an important way of controlling the stray dog population.

The shelter currently has around 40 cats and dogs living in cages laid out across a concrete courtyard but that can rise to 80 at certain times of year.

“There are periods when there are going to be a lot more animals abandoned—February, March, April, and up until May,” Trejo said.

He speculates that the reason is that many people receive pets as Christmas gifts in December, and then later abandon them.

The courtyard at the Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

“People think they’re a thing or an object, not a living being that needs food, water, attention, washing, and plenty of care.

“Later they don’t understand when it goes to the bathroom or bites their child. They generate problems and then they end up here.”

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, a dog without a name in a cage at Dog at Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

The pride and perils of working in Mexico’s fireworks capital

Claudia Urbán is one of the lucky ones.

On the afternoon of Dec. 20, 2016, she was working her stall at the San Pablito fireworks market in the town of Tultepec, about an hour north of Mexico City, when tragedy struck.

Explosion after explosion ripped through the dozens of stands at the market, where up to 300 tonnes of fireworks are thought to have been on sale.

Claudia, whose family has been making fireworks for four generations, ran for her life.

“I heard the explosion and I ran out, but when I did I saw a black cloud of smoke which had enveloped us and many lights,” she said.

Claudia Urbán outside her home in Tultepec, 01.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

“I didn’t have time to do anything and when I turned to look for my friend at the next stand, she wasn’t there.

“So I ran, and I ran, and I ran, until I came to the fence. But the smoke was everywhere, so I ran for the exit. I don’t remember how or when I got to the road.”

The cause of the initial explosion that afternoon, at the height of the firework-selling season just five days before Christmas, is still unknown.

That day, 42 people lost their lives, either killed instantly by the blasts or succumbing to their injuries later in hospital.

“It is a painful experience we still haven’t recovered from. It hurts us still,” Claudia said.

Clouds gather over an outbuilding at a workshop in La Saucera, Tultepec, 02.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

The tragedy was the worst to have ever struck Tultepec in terms of loss of life—but it is just one of 55 explosions connected to the town’s firework industry to have been recorded since 1998, according to a list compiled by the Mexican newspaper Excelsior.

These incidents have resulted in 119 deaths in a town with a population of just 120,000 people.

Yet the industry in Tultepec is growing.

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, Juventino Luna, Tultepec town hall’s representative with special responsibility for the fireworks industry, with some ‘bomba’ fireworks at one of the town’s regulated workshops, 01.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

Many still without a home one year after Mexico earthquake

A year on from a devastating earthquake that struck Mexico City and killed dozens of people, hundreds of buildings in the capital are still uninhabitable and many of their former residents remain homeless.

At 1.14 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2017, the anniversary of another devastating quake in 1985 that claimed tens of thousands of lives in Mexico City, a 7.1 magnitude tremor shook the center of the country, killing about 370 people.

In the capital more than 430 buildings either collapsed or have been demolished in the 12 months since, according to Plataforma CDMX, a government body set up to survey and categorize structures following the quake.

More than 1,000 buildings that are still standing remain at high risk of collapse according to data gleaned through reports and structural analyses filed on the Mexico City government portal by affected residents, many of whom have been forced to abandon their homes.

A demonstrator reaches for the sky during an emotional protest in support of the damnificados of Multifamiliar Tlalpan and across Mexico City, 19.09.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

Movements in support of “los damnificados”—”the victims” or “the people who have suffered a harm,” as those made homeless by the quake call themselves—have sprung up across the capital.

One of the most prominent are the damnificados of Multifamiliar Tlalpan, a housing development in the south of the city which was once home to 500 families, according to citizen watchdog group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity.

During the earthquake, housing block 1C of the development collapsed completely, killing nine people and trapping 18 others who had to be rescued.

A firefighter taking part in the demonstration at Multifamiliar Tlalpan, 19.09.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

A number of the 2,000 people who once lived in Multifamiliar Tlalpan haven’t been able to find permanent housing, surviving under tarpaulins in a makeshift camp at the edge of the development.

With the rest of the blocks declared uninhabitable, residents are still waiting for work to be carried out in order to make them safe.

A demonstration to call attention to the plight of the damnificados on Sept. 19 stopped all five lanes of traffic northbound on Tlalpan, one of the busiest roads in Mexico City.

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, firefighters and demonstrators link hands at a demonstration at Multifamiliar Tlalpan in Mexico City on the first anniversary of the devastating 19S earthquake, 19.09.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

Arrival of Diego Maradona puts spotlight on Mexican second division team

Diego Maradona speaks to the press after winning his first match as the new manager of Los Dorados in Culiacán on September 17 (Reuters)

The arrival of a football legend with a reputation as a troublemaker has thrust a second division Mexican team into the spotlight.

Wherever Diego Maradona goes he is guaranteed to attract attention and his latest attempt to resurrect his coaching career has certainly brought that to Los Dorados.

The team, named after the Mexican term for a type of golden dolphinfish, is based in Culiacán, the capital of the north-western state of Sinaloa.

Long the cradle of illicit drug production and trafficking in Mexico, Sinaloa is home to the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest and most feared criminal organizations in history.

After the announcement on September 6 that Maradona would be taking over as Los Dorados’ technical director, the state is also home to one of the greatest footballers to have ever graced the game but also one of the sports’ most divisive figures.

In his homeland of Argentina, the 57-year-old is still revered as a hero for his performances in the country’s 1986 World Cup-winning team, which won the tournament hosted by Mexico.

The diminutive forward is credited with inspiring an unfancied group of players to glory with his brilliance, culminating in victory over West Germany in the final at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

“His reputation in Mexico is generally good,” said Tom Marshall, a journalist based in Guadalajara who has covered Mexican football for eight years.

“Mexico is where he crowned his career, playing in 1986 like he did….Even at the recent World Cup he was saying he loved Mexican football and Mexico was his favourite team and that he was a Mexico fan.”

But that great victory in 1986 also showed Maradona’s dark side when he deliberately used his hand to score a goal in a quarter final game against England.

The man himself later dubbed it the “Mano de Dios,” or “Hand of God” goal, and it remains probably the most infamous example of cheating in the history of sport.

Read the full article at theepochtimes.com

UNAM students protest violence by ‘porros’ on campus

It may have been a daunting task, but the group of a dozen or so students seemed determined to scrub the graffiti off the side of the most famous building on the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), while wearing surgical-style masks to avoid inhaling the pungent mix of water and paint thinner.

“We are for freedom of expression, but not like this,” said Karen Aketzali García Miranda, who joined the clean-up group on Sept. 7 at the end of a tumultuous week at the largest and most storied university in Latin America.

Earlier that week, on Sept. 3, a group of students from one of UNAM’s many affiliated schools and colleges held a demonstration in front of the rectory at UNAM’s main campus.

A young girl rests on a ‘Made in CU’ (Ciudad Universitaria) sign in the shadow of the Biblioteca Central on Sept. 7, 2018, amid the calm of UNAM’s main campus just two days after a protest against university officials drew 30,000 people (Tim MacFarlan)

The gathering in the south of Mexico City was small, with the students intending to present a petition with a list of seven demands to UNAM Rector Enrique Graue Wiechers.

According to reports, about 40 people arrived at the protest site in cars and proceeded to attack the students with sharp weapons, large sticks, stones, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails.

Fourteen protestors were injured, including two who sustained serious injuries—one of whom is thought to have been stabbed.

The attacks were carried out by members of so-called “porros,” mercenary groups also known as “grupos de choque,” or “shock groups.”

Volunteer student cleaners belt out UNAM’s famous ‘Goya’ chant in front of the Biblioteca Central (Tim MacFarlan)

These gangs of young men are often officially registered as students but have a darker purpose than getting a degree.

They are heirs to a long history of attackers, allegedly acting with the tacit approval of authorities intending to crack down on protests.

Read the full story here at epochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, Miguel Ángel Romero Castillejos, 18, helps with the voluntary effort to scrub graffiti from the walls of the Biblioteca Central at UNAM (Tim MacFarlan)