Category Archives: International

Regulating mezcal, tequila and talavera pottery leaves Mexicans in poverty

Cinco de Mayo is such an appropriate day to write about mezcal, but not for the reasons you might think. It is important to remember that today is not Mexican Independence Day. It is a battle that the Mexican state of Puebla won between the French forces. And while this day is celebrated as a “booze-fest” in the United States, it is largely ignored in Mexico.

The battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 makes a proposed law to regulate mezcal, a spirited drink made from agave, much more poignant. A few years ago, Mexico had the “brilliant” idea of regulating its Talavera pottery. It is largely produced in the Mexican state of Puebla, though not exclusively.

The “Denominación de Origen” for Talavera, which is authenticity based on the location where it is made, was given to Puebla. It is claimed that the clay used to make this type of pottery can only be found there, along with its historical significance. While the historical significance may be a factor, the clay used for Talavera can be found in various states in Mexico.

Other states, such as Guanajuato, make this pottery as well. However, the Mexican government has refused to certify their pottery as “talavera”. The methods used to make talavera pottery in Guanajuato are the same as those approved by the governing body for Puebla’s talavera, and the clay is just as authentic. However, because of Guanajuato’s lack of official certification, their pottery can be purchased at a fraction of the cost than those sold in Puebla.

To date, only sixteen workshops in Puebla are certified to make Talavera. Which means only those who have the money and resources to put up with Mexico’s regulating bureaucracy, get the coveted certification and a special hologram that certifies the piece’s authenticity.

Not only has this regulation marginalized impoverished communities outside of Puebla and within the state itself, but it has also made it possible for the lucky few who have the monetary means, to set up shop and place a ridiculously high commercial price on the pottery itself. Talavera pottery made in Puebla have sky-rocketed over the years.

Which brings us to the issue of mezcal and the government’s recent actions to regulate it.

Mezcal consumers understand why the Mexican government is trying to regulate the product, in much the same way that its counterpart, Tequila, is now regulated. An avid Tequila or Mezcal connoisseur would know that there are some producers of said drinks that try to market the “watered-down” version as 100% pure agave. Some add water, while others mix in corn, sugar cane or other ingredients to fill their bottles. That is an issue that the Mexican government is attempting to change, at least on paper.

While the Mexican government boasts of its thriving regulated tequila market, the altered version of the drink, is still being sold in national and international markets by some not-so-honest manufacturers. In curving pirated versions of Tequila, the regulation process has not fully worked as intended. While the governing body for the regulation of tequila may “find” a producer or two who have tried to pass off their liquor as authentic, the law itself has done little to stop it. Corruption is rampant in Mexico and a few dollars from manufacturers will keep the whole thing “hush-hush”.

Like the talavera pottery “authenticity” recognition, the Tequila approval process has largely left impoverished communities marginalized from the entire process. Only those who can afford the arduous process of obtaining the desired authenticity seal of approval, have been able to obtain it and prosper from it. The rest? Not so much.

So why then, should the outcome of the proposed mezcal industry regulation be any different than the Tequila industry?

There are eight Mexican States that have qualified for “Denominación de Origen” for mezcal (DOM). These eight states include Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, San Luis Potosi and most recently, Zacatecas. And yet, even within these states, there are regions that are not included. Currently, mezcal is produced in 27 Mexican states. Those living within the 19 unrecognized states, would be most affected. Most live in indigenous communities who for centuries have distilled the spirited drink. The artisanal process is basically the same in all states that currently produce mezcal. Yet it seems that to the Mexican government, people with money and resources, are more important.

Oaxaca is obviously the mecca of mezcal and although it seems that Oaxacan producers are not in any danger of losing recognition, the “authenticity label” does not apply to some indigenous communities within the state. A region in Oaxaca that is not part of the government’s designated DOM includes the famous Sierra Juarez, where the nation’s former President, Benito Juarez, was born and raised.

Under the proposed law, NOM-199-SCFI-2015, mezcal producers who reside and produce the spirited drink outside of the DOM, will not be able to use the word “mezcal” nor include the listing of its main ingredient, agave, when marketed. Instead, they will be forced to use the irrelevant and antiquated term, komil, which does not describe the spirited drink at all.

In short, Mexico says it wants to prevent piracy but in the process, it is smashing the least fortunate of its people. Aside from government overreach, the Mexican government is once again trying to profit off the backs of its indigenous inhabitants. This cinco de Mayo, there is nothing to celebrate in Mexico. Instead, using the hashtag #SeLlamaMezcal activists want to raise awareness of Mexico’s racist and discriminatory proposition.

 

Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui sought her own demise

Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui thought of herself as invincible. Many of her followers believed that whatever she said was true, regardless of the facts. She and some colleagues of hers, arrogantly assumed they could blatantly use a privately-owned company’s logo and reputation as a backdrop for the newly formed website: MexicoLeaks, without the company’s consent. How wrong they were.

In the United States, Hispanic journalist, Jorge Ramos may be thought of as influential but just because some consider him as such, does not mean he is correct every time he expresses his opinion. And express himself he has, as he publicly demanded for Aristegui to be reinstated.

Aristegui’s fellow colleagues were allegedly fired from MVS Communications for illegally using the company’s logo in promoting their own project: MexicoLeaks. Aristegui demanded their return or she would not return to work. Seeking demands by threatening to leave, is not tolerated in most countries, so why should this case be the exception. Make no mistake, Jorge Ramos would have been fired from Univision had he ever used those same tactics.

MVS Communications merely accepted her resignation. However, for many months now, she and her followers are making a public storm over her own decision to resign. They claim there was a conspiracy by the current Mexican administration to get her fired.

Their reasoning? A report that she and her fired colleagues concocted regarding the Mexican President’s, Enrique Peña Nieto’s house, which they have labeled “The White House”. He and his very famous actress wife, Angelica Rivera, purchased neighboring homes and have illustriously designed it, sparing no expense it seems. Although it is a minimalistic design, costs are estimated to be about $7 million U.S Dollars. That in itself, is a lot of money to spend in one of the poorest countries in the world. But Peña Nieto’s income and most importantly, his wife’s income, merits the spending.

Detractors, including Aristegui, have denounced that they are using the country’s limited resources to build the house. However, because of Carmen Aristegui’s lack of investigation before the story was published, many were led to believe that it was the Presidents house, when in fact it was his wife’s, acquired before their marriage.

Mexican First Lady, Angelica Rivera, began her acting career at a very young age. Thanks to television contracts and retransmission consent agreements from many successful shows and telenovelas, along with sponsorships and advertisements she starred in, she was able to make the fortune she has today. Yet, many are accusing her and her husband of unfounded corruption, that Carmen Aristegui and her two journalism colleagues, seems to have made up.

There may have been some level of corruption in the granting of millionaire contracts to former associates but this is not the first time this has been done, either in Mexico or elsewhere in the world. Sure, it may not be the right thing to do but to single out an individual because of ideological differences is just plain wrong.

Many believe that leftist-leaning activists are attempting to destabilize Mexico and the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto since he took office. Last year’s excuse was the Ayotzinapa case, where 43 students went missing in the state of Guerrero. A state that is governed by the leftist opposition, PRD. Instead, supporters of the leftist party and some so-called journalists, laid the blame squarely at the current President of Mexico, who’s government and political party had nothing to do with the events that occurred in Iguala, Guerrero last year.

And now, the ping-pong issue is regarding the fired journalist, Carmen Aristegui. Many accuse the Mexican President of ordering her removal from the airwaves. Yet, it is clear that Aristegui presented her own resignation. Otherwise, MVS Communications would have had every right to fire her.

Oaxaca’s teachers union CNTE 22 a mixed bag of vandals, thieves and communists

If there was any doubt that the communist party has infiltrated itself into the teachers’ strike and the socialist movement currently overwhelming the state of Oaxaca, those doubts can be laid to rest.

In an open display of their Marxist agenda, Oaxaca’s teachers’ union CNTE 22 has allied itself with the extreme leftist organization. Billboards repudiating the President of Mexico’s educational reforms, have been stamped with the communist seal of approval, consisting of the hammer, sickle and five pointed star symbol all over the state of Oaxaca.

The powerful teachers’ union CNTE 22 refuses to implement the conditions set forth by the 2013 federal educational reform of Mexico’s current President, Enrique Peña Nieto. The new law minimizes the bargaining power of the teachers’ union in addition to requiring teachers and students alike to be tested for competency. More than 40% of Oaxaca’s teachers do not have the credentials required to teach. Many of them never completed high school. However, with the protection of the CNTE 22, they have managed to “teach” and remain on the payroll at taxpayers’ expense.

Last year, striking teachers refused to return to the classrooms for more than four months while still being paid. School children were left without an education in Oaxaca and many parents hired teachers from another local union to fill-in, SNTE 59. When they did, new teachers and parents from some schools discovered that their children had never been taught the Mexican national anthem.

“We don’t know the words to the Mexican anthem,” said Leticia Diego, a student, apologizing to a visitor one recent morning. About a dozen seventh-graders then shyly sang the leftist anthem, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated.” (WSJ)

The latter is a popular revolutionary cry commonly used by communist-affiliated organizations in dissident marches against the government. In addition, students were being taught guerilla tactics rather than a formal academic education in several schools in Oaxaca.

Since then, the rivalry among these two unions has escalated.

In late August, members of the CNTE 22 union, looted the building where their union rival SNTE 59 kept cases of school supplies that were ready to be given away for free to school kids. They also stole furniture, cleaning supplies and electronics from the warehouse. Inside, they had tied up and kidnapped the lawyer that represents SNTE 59 union members. All of this was done because the CNTE 22 claimed that they wanted the schools back from their rivals. Same schools that they abandoned for months when they were on strike with pay, ignoring pleas from parents to return to the classrooms to teach their children.

Earlier in the summer, members of the striking teachers’ union and the leftist social group APPO who brought about unrest to Oaxaca in 2006, vandalized the Guelaguetza Auditorium and threatened to ruin the festivities for all. The most recent act of vandalism from the CNTE 22 and its supporters was yesterday during another one of their scheduled protests.

Since the 2006 protests in Oaxaca, the CNTE 22 has cleverly used street vendors to promote their cause. Because of this, the wonderful festivities that locals and tourists enjoyed at the Zocalo during the month-long Christmas season, from the beginning of the Posadas in mid-December to the day of the Epiphany in January, are long gone.

Prior to this incident, street vendors had month-long fixed stands selling foods, handicrafts and trinkets at the Zocalo. Lights surrounded the town’s square and the ambiance was breathtaking as the three wise men were raised high above the trees, decorated in lights, welcoming everyone at the entrance of the Zocalo. Since then, you still get the lights, the nativity scene and one night with the radishes, but overall the Christmas season festivities at the Zocalo in Oaxaca City are dead.

It is a real shame that the street vendors, who are among the poorest of its residents just trying to make a living during the Christmas season, are no longer legally allowed to sell their products at the Zocalo. Everyone in Oaxaca is suffering the consequences of the CNTE 22’s current and past practices. Yet, the incompetency of the state government in failing to separate the street vendors from the teachers’ union and bring about resolution to this situation is also at fault.

The governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cue, not only is fearful that the incidents of 2006 will resurface, but he won his position in 2010 on the platform to punish government officials of the former governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, who the CNTE 22 claims aggravated what took place against the striking union members and their socialist counterparts. After an American journalist was killed during those protests, then President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, stepped in and sent in federal forces to restore peace in Oaxaca.

The CNTE 22 claims it is defending the rights of not only its teachers but the poorest children in the country. However, if the powerful teachers’ union was really looking out for the best interest of their students, they would be in the classrooms teaching. Some schools, particularly in the rural regions of the state where the poorest children live, remain closed. Teachers have continued to be on strike with pay at taxpayer’s expense while the children of Oaxaca suffer.

Residents and parents are fed up and have pleaded for help. The general public wants to minimize the union’s powers and instill the educational reforms of the federal government in Oaxaca. Legislators have set a deadline of October 15th. Although, to ensure that peace is maintained in the state, it would be a good idea to send in federal troops as of now.

Influx of Central American illegal immigrants in the US is no accident

For the past few weeks, the U.S. has seen an influx of women and children illegally cross their borders. Many of them running away from poverty and violence in their respective Central American nations. This situation is not new.

Central America has been riddled with violence and poverty for decades. Nothing drastic has happened in Central America within the past few months that would have forced a flood of residents away from their respective homelands. However, with the promise of immigration reform by President Obama, many have been swayed to come to the United States.

Many analysts are wary that the current White House administration knew nothing about the arrival of so many immigrants. Albeit many reports over the last few months of trains overturning and hundreds of Central American immigrants killed on “La Bestia” in Mexico earlier this year, the Obama administration claims to have been taken by surprise. Or were they?

President Obama did promise to act on his famed immigration reform with or without the support of Congress. Some wonder whether this influx is a tactic by the administration in order to maneuver and force the deadlock-driven Congress to act upon immigration reform. Was this what the president meant?

What the White House administration may not have considered was that their strategy would somehow get too hard to handle, even for them. In the mists of it all, the American people would not stand by quietly.

In Murrieta, California, where a bus load of immigrants were set to arrive, many Americans were on hand protesting and blocking buses from entering their city. And it worked, if only briefly.

Americans have the right to protest and prohibit buses full of illegal immigrants from entering their towns. Since the influx began a few months ago, the federal government has authorized planes to fly non-processed immigrants to other U.S. states using taxpayer money. Many argue that those same plane rides could be used to deport them back to their country of origin.

Now the Obama administration is asking for $3.5 billion dollars to deal with this crisis that many believe was caused by this president to begin with. One only has to wonder what CIA agents have been doing in Latin America long after rebels and dictators were overthrown.

Whether its gathering intelligence information or meddling in other governments’ affairs, a CIA agent’s job is to mingle among the people. And some have speculated that spreading rumors, whether real or not, is among them. Some may be in the interests of the U.S. government, foreign governments or business investors. This strategy is especially powerful when the people are reluctant to be swayed.

In poverty-stricken countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which is where the majority of woman and children coming to the United States are from, it doesn’t take much to convince them that the US is opening their borders to them. And one false or purposeful rumor is all they need to leave everything behind, cross several borders and attempt to pursue the so-called American dream.

Congress is seeking to set conditions with the president’s proposed billion dollar immigration package, such as securing and sealing the borders. Many citizens agree that sealing the border is a necessity and conditions should be set, as it is taxpayers who will be paying the bill.

Televisa’s Quiero Amarte telenovela fans cause a flurry on social media

In a few weeks, Televisa’s telenovela Quiero Amarte, starring Christian de la Fuente and Karyme Lozano, will be coming to an end in Mexico. Good will triumph over evil, boy gets girl and everyone will be happy right?

Last month, a banner supporting the #PorUnFinalDeMaxConConstanza cause of Televisa’s telenovela Quiero Amarte, appeared in front of the TV network’s studio in Mexico City. The banner was made by fans supporting the couple.

Wrong. Some fans want the fairy tale ending to end with a slight twist.

Fans have been flocking social media, sending tweets and comments to the writers and the producer to change the ending. Many would love to see the fairytale ending but with the antagonist, Constanza.

Using the hashtag #PorUnFinalDeMaxConConstanza they have been able to sustain a following and are gaining more sympathizers for their cause; including Christian de la Fuente, who tweeted his support.

While the story began with a powerful message of love between the parents of the main characters, somewhere along the line, the love story of the main characters, Max and Amaya, was lost.

The story began with De la Fuente’s character, Max, in love and engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Constanza, played by Adriana Louvier. Constanza was confused not only by the lies that her professor instilled in her but by his obsessive love for her. He managed to break up their wedding, assuring Constanza that Max had been unfaithful to her with another woman, Amaya (played by Karyme Lozano).

Apparently Max becomes “in love” with Amaya after saving her from drowning and caring for her while she was trying to escape from her cheating husband. Nothing happens but apparently Max and Amaya are now in love.

Forward a few months later and Amaya marries Max’s brother in the name of “revenge”, sacrificing the “love” she said she had for Max. Amaya’s character lost a lot of credibility with many fans because of this.

Faithful telenovela watchers of Quiero Amarte, have taken to social media to have their voices heard. For weeks now, they have been stepping up the ante in their quest to have Max live happily ever after with his first girlfriend, Constanza.

Constanza, who has since moved in with Max and pregnant with his child, is not perceived as an actual villain. Most fans would agree that she was actually a victim of intrigue by her former lover and professor. A lie that separated the true love that Max and Constanza had for one another they claim.

We’ll soon find out if the writers and producers have a change of heart and gives them the fairytale ending they want to see.

The overall story of the telenovela, Quiero Amarte, is good. Some slow parts could be edited out to move it along but the storyline is very well written and the characters have been given proper depth.

Quiero Amarte boasts of an international cast and takes place in the beautiful and indigenous Mexican state of Chiapas. The production has done a marvelous task of depicting traditional dress-wear in Chiapas, it’s main agricultural influence (coffee) and has alluded to the issue of immigration with the neighboring country of Guatemala. All relatable elements with U.S. Hispanic audiences.

TV ratings for Quiero Amarte in Mexico may not reflect it entirely, but it is one of the best telenovelas of 2014. The telenovela ends June 1st in Mexico. No word yet as to when or if Univision will retransmit for U.S. audiences.

International news sites publish incorrect pictures of Pippi Longstocking

Over the weekend, the news broke that Tami Erin, an actress who portrayed Pippi Longstocking in the eponymous 1988 film, was arrested and charged with DUI.

However, the bigger story is not that Tami Erin was arrested, but that renowned international news sites published this story with incorrect images of the actress. Fans of the 1970’s cult classic Pippi TV movies have expressed disgust by the error made on behalf of so many news agencies, blogs and websites.

One of these was the UK’s Daily Mail, who mistakenly portrayed Swedish actress, Inger Nilsson in their article with a caption that reads: “Child star: Erin played the beloved children’s book character in the 1988 film The New Adventures Of Pippi Longstocking.”

A Canadian news site, eCanadaNow, made the same mistake and used the same image of Inger Nilsson the Daily Mail used in their article with a caption that reads: “tami erin arrested”.

To some, Pippi Longstocking is just Pippi Longstocking, right? Wrong!

To legions of fans of the original movies, the error is not acceptable. One fan expressed her sentiment with the following: “I feel INSULTED they confused INGER NILSSON for Tami Erin! There’s NO comparison!”

To add insult to injury, this is not the first time news sites have displayed the incorrect images of the actresses that have played Pippi. Most sites often confuse the two and more often than not, Inger Nilsson’s image gets plastered all over the media.

Earlier this year, Italian blogs PinkBlog and Miticult also published the incorrect Pippi Longstocking actress, mistaking Inger Nilsson for Tami Erin. As did AsianTown.net, an Asian web community site registered in Vietnam, that publishes blogs and news articles from all over the world.

The Argentinean news site MinutoUno, also featured Inger Nilsson in an article published last August regarding Tami Erin. In addition to that, they posted the 1970’s Swedish movie not the late 80’s U.S. version where Tami Erin starred.

Tami Erin only played Pippi Longstocking once, in the U.S. version in 1988 that was a box office disaster.

On the other hand, Swedish actress Inger Nilsson played Pippi Longstocking a record four times in the following TV movies: Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes on Board, Pippi and the South Seas and Pippi on the Run.

Other U.S. based entertainment websites, such as TMZ and the NY Daily News, displayed the correct images of Tami Erin as Pippi in their articles.

French bakery in Chiapas Mexico accused of discrimination never apologized

On November 12th, in the city San Cristobal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas,an indigenous student was discriminated against and barred from entering the premises of theFrench bakery, Oh la la! Her name is Rosa Liberta Xiap Riscajche, known as Ali Roxox, and her classmate Monserrat was a witness to this heinous act.

Monserrat immediately posted what happened to her friend on Twitter, which sent a wave of criticism towards the French bakery.

Far from apologizing, the management of Oh La La! Pasteleria Francesa sent out a “press release” via their Facebook page stating that there was a misunderstanding and that they wanted to clear things up. Yet, a public apology never came.

The French bakery blamed the incident on one employee instead of taking full responsibility for the incident which only made things worse. Employees are the “face” of a company and do not act alone. Apparently this company had no code of conduct in place and now the owners wanted no part in the incident that discriminated against an indigenous student.

After weeks of negative publicity, Oh La La Pasteleria Francesa recently deleted the press release from their Facebook page and have closed the public comments section as well. A swift apology would have helped to clear things up much smoother for everyone involved, to say the least.

Yet as critics wait, still no apology in sight.

This has not deterred critics though. They have taken to continue their criticism of the business by posting comments under existing pictures on the company’s facebook page.

The bakery’s Trip Advisor rating had also suffered temporarily because of this. However, Trip Advisor has deleted all the negative comments that had been posted since the incident occurred. Google has not deleted the negative comments and ratings of this bakery.

The management claims that they are not racists because they feed their left over bread to indigenous street children daily. Sure, they give them handouts, but what about respect? A real public apology is still necessary.

Ali Roxox sent out her own press release in which she expressed regret for the incident and condemned the discriminatory actions of those who marginalize the indigenous poor. She hopes that what happened to her stops and expects a public apology from Oh La La! Pasteleria Francesa in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas where she suffered the aggression.

It is said that the french are very proud people and frequently hold their nose and scoff at critics. If this holds true, Mexico’s resentment towards the french and foreigners will only grow.

Mexican citizens are already furious by last year’s release of french national Florence Cassez, a woman accused and convicted of kidnapping and torturing her victims while living in Mexico. The backlash against the french increased and the incident with the french bakery in Chiapas, isn’t helping matters either.

With no public apology in sight from Oh La La! Pasteleria Francesa, towards an indigenous woman who only wanted to consume and buy some french pastries, who knows how long this business will remain open.

Public sentiment seems to be: No public apology, No business.

Mexico’s 80´s Spanish pop group icon Flans to tour USA in 2014

Flans was one of the first musical groups in Mexico to transform Spanish music from the stereotypical regional music that the country is often identified with to the more mainstream pop music that is well-known worldwide.

Their music began playing on U.S. radio stations a few months before the three group members, Ilse, Ivonne and Mimi were introduced to the Mexican public and the world in 1985.

What started out as a plea on social media by fans of the trio is now a reality. Twenty-eight years later, they´re reliving that magic for their fans.

Last Saturday, they relived that magic in Acapulco, Guerrero Mexico. And while the venue was not full, that did not deter fans from singing along endlessly to all of their classic songs. There were even some repeat fans that have followed them throughout this 2013 “Hoy Por Ti Tour” since their return last April.

Songs like “Bazar”, “No Controles” and “Timido” brought down the house Saturday night at the Imperial Forum in Acapulco. The show lasted about two hours and the girls did not waste any time pleasing their audience.

The opening act was a group called The StandUps who sang five songs, in an attempt to woo over Flans’ fans. Only one song “Gigante” was sung in Spanish and was frankly the best song of the five they sang.

According to news sources online, Flans will release a new album in the coming year and will be touring Mexico and the United States. Dates are yet to be determined, so stay tuned.

 

Mexico’s former Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete disappoints in her acting debut

Televisa and Univision simulcast Premios TV Novelas live for the first time