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The Guardian’s best winter sun destinations for 2018

November 28, 2017

Rincón de Guayabitos is popular among Mexicans but draws relatively few foreign tourists.

As the sun was setting on my first day in Rincón de Guayabitos, I was surprised to see humpback whales surfacing to clear their blowholes within sight of the shore. Like the whales, I come back every year, drawn by Guayabitos’s superb seafood and its warm and gentle waters.

A small town halfway up Mexico’s Pacific coast, Guayabitos is a cheap, authentic and lively destination that draws many domestic tourists but relatively few foreign visitors. Mariachis and indigenous Huichol musicians roam the sands, offering to serenade sunbathers for a modest fee, while passing vendors sell ceviche, coconuts and tropical fruits. Others offer exquisite skewers of freshly caught tuna, or prawns grilled in a smoky marinade and doused with hot sauce and lime juice – don’t leave without trying them.

The sunsets in Guayabitos are always spectacular.

The best place to stay is Cabañas del Capitán, a colourful beachside hotel with two pools, an outdoor jacuzzi and immaculate palm-lined gardens…

Click here to read the rest of my entry and nine other winter sun destinations chosen by The Guardian 

Guadalajara city guide: what to do, plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

November 11, 2017

Pare de Sufrir is Guadalajara’s best mezcal bar.

Far from Mexico’s well-trodden tourist trail, the colonial city of Guadalajara is one of this vast nation’s most overlooked destinations. In the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest metropolis, and the birthplace of two of its most emblematic exports: tequila and mariachi music. It is sunnier and less overwhelming than Mexico City, while offering better value for money and a more “Mexican” experience than gringo-orientated resorts of the Yucután peninsula.

Proud Tapatíos, as Guadalajara’s 4.5 million residents are known, take hospitality seriously and love to showcase the very best of their culture. The city’s historic centre houses its most obvious attractions, such as the twin-towered cathedral and the labyrinthine Mercado San Juan de Dios, Latin America’s largest indoor market. The stately Hospicio Cabañas, a former orphanage with fiery murals by José Clemente Orozco, is Unesco-listed and worth a visit, along with the Zapopan district’s imposing stone archway and majestic 17th-century basilica.

Guadalajara is home to several spectacular cathedrals and basilicas.

Once considered one of Mexico’s most Catholic and conservative cities, Guadalajara has grown increasingly progressive and is now famed for its gay scene. Its cultural heart today is lively Colonia Americana, with its weekend street markets and free concerts held on broad avenues lined with palms, jacarandas and colonial mansions.

Every turn reveals more bars, cafes and restaurants that combine to make Guadalajara’s culinary scene arguably its strongest selling point. From humble taco stands to high-end establishments, visitors can gorge on a broad range of traditional dishes and strange beverages that are often unique to this corner of the country.

Palreal is famed for its delicious lonche de pancita.

Thomson flies direct from Gatwick and Manchester to the nearby resort of Puerto Vallarta from under £500 return, with some real bargains to be had if booked last minute. Guadalajara also serves as a cultured and palate-pleasing excursion from Mexico’s lush Pacific coast…

Click here to read this travel guide in full at The Guardian

Santa Muerte: The rise of Mexico’s folk saint of death

October 31, 2017

Father Daniel Santana’s Mass at the Santa Muerte temple follows traditional Catholic patterns.

With readings, hymns and communion, Daniel Santana’s Sunday service could pass for a traditional Catholic Mass, if it were not for the cloaked skeletons and skulls that surround him.

The ceremony takes place at a modest temple to Santa Muerte, the Mexican folk saint of death, in a rundown area of Guadalajara, the nation’s second biggest city.

Despite a reputation as a death cult for criminals and drug traffickers, Santa Muerte has surged in popularity and taken on an increasingly prominent and polemic role in the Day of the Dead festivities held every 1 and 2 November.

Santa Muerte is popular among marginalised groups like migrants and the LGBT community.

Also known as the Bony Lady, the followers of Santa Muerte say her appeal lies in her non-judgemental nature and her supposed ability to grant wishes in return for pledges or offerings.

“It’s a widely misunderstood faith. It’s not a satanic Mass,” says Mr Santana, a lifelong devotee who has officiated at Santa Muerte temples across Mexico since 2010.

“She gives people what they want and when they finish their cycle of life here on earth she comes for their souls,” Mr Santana adds. “She’s just fulfilling God’s orders.”

A Santa Muerte devotee since she was a child, Isabel asked the priest to bless her unborn daughter.

Reclaiming the Day of the Dead

According to Andrew Chesnut, author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, this is the fastest growing religion in the Americas, with an estimated 10 to 12 million followers worldwide.

Mr Chesnut says more and more devotees have started incorporating Santa Muerte into Day of the Dead celebrations over the past five years.

Although many Mexicans see no connection between the two, both are thought to stem from Mictecacihuatl, an Aztec goddess who presided over a festival of death every August…

Click here to read this feature in full at the BBC


Mexican comedian brings stand-up to female prisoners

October 19, 2017

Sofía Niño de Rivera in a standup workshop behind bars (photo by Yara Cavazos)

Best known for her Netflix shows and stand-up tours, Sofía Niño de Rivera is one of Latin America’s leading comedians.

The 35-year-old from Mexico City has long been making audiences laugh, but she recently embarked on a more serious mission: supporting vulnerable women in Mexico’s notoriously dangerous prisons.

In a bid to help female inmates overcome frustration and depression, Sofía gave 10 stand-up workshops in the Mexican capital’s vast Santa Martha Acatitla penitentiary over the summer.

The project came about after her cousin, Saskia Niño de Rivera, asked her to do a benefit gig to raise funds for Reinserta, a charity she runs to improve conditions in Mexican jails.

The comedian accepted but wanted to do more than just raise money. They agreed that stand-up workshops could help inmates to use comedy as an emotional release for the benefit of their mental health…

Click here to read this feature at the BBC

Years of corruption revealed in Mexico’s quake aftermath

October 13, 2017

I recorded the voiceover for the English version of this France 24 news report on the role that corruption played in the recent earthquake damage in Mexico City. 

Outrage greets Mexican feminism panel with 11 participants – all of them male

October 3, 2017

When a pink flyer promoting a feminism conference at Mexico’s biggest university was posted on social media this week, it did not take long before people noticed something was amiss.

The lineup featured two panels with 11 participants – and all of them were male. It was, as one woman tweeted, the graphic description of “mansplaining”.

The lopsided lineup provoked outrage on Twitter, reigniting debate about the representation of women in Mexican society and the role of men in feminist movements in a deeply machista country where seven women are murdered every day.

“What’s next? A conference on racism with only white people?” asked another Twitter user…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian

Viva México podcast Episode 9: Raised Fists and Rubble

October 2, 2017

In episode 9 of the Viva México podcast we discuss the impact of the devastating earthquake that killed over 300 people in Mexico last month. We also speak to Susana Ochoa, a local activist and congressional candidate, about the response to the earthquake, the importance of feminism in Mexican politics, and the growth of the grassroots Wikipolítica movement.

If you want to help the victims of Mexico’s earthquake, please donate to this initiative organised by Mexican actors Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, or to the Cruz Roja, Mexico’s Red Cross.