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Mexico hopes new women’s pro soccer league will boost its national team

June 26, 2017

Santos Laguna’s new women’s side will compete in the 16-team league.

Yuliana Adriano started playing soccer at age 7 at her parent’s ranch in Esmeralda, a village with 2,000 inhabitants in the northern Mexican state of Durango. She dreamed of playing professionally one day, but understood that would be unlikely since there was no professional women’s league in Mexico.

After leaving home to receive a better education and play for a school team, Adriano was called up to Durango’s state all star team, although they only trained and played together sporadically. And yet Adriano continued to improve. By the time she became a teenager, Adriano was a bonafide talent. And coincidentally, at that exact same time, the Mexican soccer federation announced the formation of the Liga MX Femenil, a 16-team league that kicks off on July 29. Adriano, 14, was signed by the league and assigned to the Santos Laguna team.

“We’re going to put a lot of effort in so that they make the women’s league equal to the men’s one,” Adriano said with a smile. “I’d love for us to have the same wages and all the things that they have. We’re going to show them that being men doesn’t make them better than us.”

14-year-old Yuliana Adriano scored the first goal in the history of Santos’ women’s team. (Photo by Kim Tate/Santos Laguna)

This is the first women’s competition in Mexico to mirror the men’s Liga MX, with each season split between Apertura and Clausura tournaments. The only structural difference is that the clubs will be divided into two eight-team groups, with the top two from each group going through to the playoff semifinals. The first final will take place in December.

There are still many hurdles for the league to overcome—particularly with regard to wages, broadcast rights and sponsorship—but the hope is that the league will help raise the level of the women’s national team and create opportunities for girls like Adriano to fulfill their potential…

Click here to read this story in full at VICE Sports

Corbyn surge raises hopes that Mexico might soon have a friend in No. 10 Downing Street

June 25, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn met Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Tabasco last Christmas.

When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outperformed expectations in the UK’s recent general election, he upended the country’s political culture and energised a generation of young supporters.

But his achievement also sparked a wave of optimism among activists in Mexico, who are starting to hope that they might soon have a friend in 10 Downing Street.

Britain’s Conservative government has forged close ties with Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto administration, which has been tainted by corruption scandals, worsening violence and accusations of spying on journalists and activists.

And while Theresa May has sought to appease Donald Trump, who has threatened and offended Mexico at every opportunity, Corbyn has become an unlikely source of inspiration for Mexican activists.

Corbyn, whose wife, Laura Álvarez, is Mexican, often speaks at solidarity events organised by London’s Mexican community. He has, in parliament, condemned Mexico’s media censorship and human rights abuses, and led demonstrations against Peña Nieto’s state visit in 2015 while the British government was signing controversial oil deals.

Corbyn also wrote to Mexico’s ambassador to express “deep concern” over the disappearance of 43 students abducted by police officers in southern Mexico in 2014.

Omar García, who escaped on the night his classmates from the Ayotzinapa college were attacked, met Corbyn and his wife while touring Europe last year to raise awareness about the situation in Mexico…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian

Drug cartels, mining firms and peyote tourism are threatening Wixárika culture

June 16, 2017

A Wixárika elder looks out at the sacred lands of Wirikuta at dawn.

As dawn broke on a sacred mountaintop in northern Mexico, a group of indigenous pilgrims dragged a sacrificial calf into their stone circle and slit its throat. They then dipped candles in the warm blood still gushing from the animal’s throat and lit them, creating a circle of light.

The heart was next. The tribesmen cut it from the calf’s chest, cooked it in campfire ashes, and ate it as a gesture of respect for the dead animal.

Aukwe Mijarez dips candles into the warm blood of the sacrificial calf.

The ceremony was a plea to the tribe’s gods to defend their ancestral lands from transnational mining companies and their people from displacement at the hands of predatory drug cartels. The Wixárika have inhabited this region of northern Mexico that stretches across four states to the Pacific coast. Today, the Wixárika number 45,000, and they worry that these emerging threats signal the erasure of their culture.

Ceremonies like this one are fueled by peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus sacred to the Wixárika, or Huichol, people, and vital in facilitating conversation with their gods. But thanks to a booming illegal peyote tourism industry nearby, even that part of their culture is in jeopardy.

Dawn breaks over the mountains where the Wixárika believe the sun was born.

The Wixárika have taken practical measures against these existential threats but they believe they need divine intervention to ensure their survival. VICE News accompanied the indigenous group’s leaders on their annual pilgrimage to the Cerro Quemado, a cactus-covered mountain in San Luis Potosí where they believe the sun was born. This year’s voyage took on added urgency as it came just days after two Wixárika activists were murdered in nearby Jalisco state.

The rocky Cerro Quemado mountaintop serves as an altar for the pilgrims’ elaborate offerings.

Miguel Vázquez, a prominent land rights activist, was fatally shot by gunmen believed to work for the Jalisco New Generation cartel in the town of Tuxpan de Bolaños on May 20. His brother Agustín was killed after visiting him in the hospital that night…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE News

Viva México Episode 5: The Walls Within

June 16, 2017

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, the first indigenous woman to ever run for president in Mexico, tells us what she hopes to achieve through her campaign. We also discuss the murder of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez with Adrian López, the editor of a newspaper in Sinaloa.

‘Mexico needs healing’: the first indigenous woman to run for president

June 12, 2017

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez will represent the Zapatista movement and Mexico’s National Indigenous Congress.

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez has always had a gift for curing people’s ailments, an ability she attributes to her close connection with the earth.

Born and raised in Tuxpan, a slow-paced town in western Mexico surrounded by scrubby hills and fields of sugarcane and maize, she began offering herbal remedies to sick neighbours at the age of 20 after noticing the government’s indifference to local health problems.

“Back then, there was a shortage of doctors and medicine and the health department had no answers,” said Patricio, an indigenous Nahua. “But we have so many plants and so much knowledge from our elders. My grandmother would give us special teas to cure stress, coughs or diarrhea, and they worked. So I thought: why not give herbal remedies to those who can’t afford medicine?”

Now a 53-year-old mother of three, Patricio is renowned for preserving traditional indigenous medicine. But she is about to embark upon a much more ambitious mission: healing a country that has been torn apart by rampant violence, political corruption and economic inequality.

Mexico’s National Indigenous Congress – a broad coalition of native ethnic groups – and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) have nominated Patricio to represent them in next year’s presidential election.

If they gather enough signatures to ratify her nomination, she will become the first indigenous woman ever to run for president in Mexico…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian

One of Mexico’s most revered journalists was gunned down outside his office

May 16, 2017

Javier Valdez was the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico this year.

One of the most experienced and respected journalists to have covered Mexico’s brutal drug war was murdered in Sinaloa, a state plagued by narco violence, on Monday.

A brave and tireless reporter, Javier Valdez Cárdenas was shot 12 times after leaving the offices of Ríodoce, a newspaper he founded and edited in Culiacán, the state capital. He was the sixth journalist murdered this year — a seventh would follow before the day was done. Over 100 have been killed since 2000.

“The Mexican government condemns the murder of Javier Valdez. My condolences to his family and companions,” President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted. “I reiterate our commitment to freedom of expression and the press, which are fundamental to our democracy.”

The president said a special prosecutor’s office for crimes against freedom of expression would investigate the killing, but observers are doubtful the government is truly willing or able to ensure that justice is done. From 2010 to 2016 that office received 798 complaints of aggressions against journalists, securing just three jail sentences, a 99.7 percent impunity rate.

Valdez’s death occurred less than 48 hours after 100 gunmen abducted seven journalists in the lawless southern state of Guerrero. The assailants stole equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars before releasing the reporters, who were covering violence in the region.

Jonathan Rodríguez, a reporter at a weekly newspaper in western Jalisco state was also shot dead on Monday evening. His mother, Sonia Córdova, who also worked at the paper, was hit too and is in a critical condition…

Click here to read this article in full at VICE News

Click here to read my interview with Valdez from earlier this year

AQ Survey: What should be the future of the US–Mexico relationship?

May 6, 2017

Manuel Jacobo, 30, indigenous rights activist

“Economically, I think Mexico shouldn’t continue to be so dependent on the U.S. We need to look for new alternatives to make our country more sustainable. But it’s complicated because many of us have family in the U.S. I think we need more dialogue, because otherwise there are families that are going to go through what people in Germany went through with the Berlin Wall, with relatives on both sides who won’t be able to see each other.”

Francisco Lugo, 46, street food vendor

“It’s always been a relationship of ups and downs, but we’ve always been dependent on one another, like a mother and child attached by the umbilical cord. It’s better to be friends than enemies, but I think the Mexican government should show some character and take a stronger stance to defend our country. We can be self-sufficient. We have everything we need here in Mexico, but we’re too used to depending on the U.S. I think we should focus on consuming Mexican products and strengthen our ties with other countries.”

Mariela Ramirez, 24, primary school teacher

“I think the relationship should be even and consistent, with both countries working together instead of going their separate ways. But I don’t think Trump is open to dialogue. He just wants everything to be how he says it should be…”

Click here to read the rest of this survey at Americas Quarterly