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.

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.

Tultepec: Fireworks mecca whose inhabitants risk death for their craft

A Tultepec resident looks on as smoke rises from yet another explosion in the town’s designated fireworks making zone

Fireworks have been dazzling spectators at celebrations across the world for centuries and in Mexico they’re highly popular way to mark a special occasion.

The town of Tultepec outside Mexico City is built around the fireworks industry, passing on the skills of hand making the explosives from generation to generation.

But this has come at a price, with dozens of people having been killed in fatal accidents while making or selling fireworks.

Despite this many in Tultepec are still willing to risk their lives to support their families and uphold the town’s reputation as the fireworks capital of Mexico.

Correspondent Alasdair Baverstock traveled to the town to find out more.

I produced this short documentary for CGTN America, which you can watch here.

Check out my written piece on the story.

Migrants rush border in Tijuana with no US-Mexico asylum deal in sight

Tensions at the U.S. border with Mexico have escalated, with some Central American migrants trying to breach the crossing between Tijuana and California.

Observers say it’s a bid to pressure the U.S. to hear their asylum claims, as Alasdair Baverstock reports.

I produced this package for CGTN America.

English proficiency is ‘down’ in Mexico

English proficiency is down in Mexico according to recently published statistics.

It’s a trend that English teachers in the country see as worrying for the next generations’ future.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports from Downtown Mexico City.

I produced and filmed this Facebook Live for CGTN America.