Skip to content

The Metro Vampire

30 October 2014

It’s the time of the year for one of the better urban legends.

We have some strange names in Mexico City… a subway station named Cemeteries (Panteones) which is in front of several cemeteries… and with people carrying everything else on the subway, I wouldn’t be surprised some day to see a funeral procession, comoplete with “guest of honor” heading that way. But my favorite … and it’s the name of the neighborhood… is Barranca del Muerto… “dead man’s gulch” would be the literal translation.  It sounds like something our of a bad 50s western, but it’s a nice, suburban area.  There were a lot of dead men in the gulches back during the Revolution, when Emiliano Zapata’s forces occupied the area for a few weeks, and there was intensive fighting, and… there have been stories going back to the 19th century of body dumps there.

And, with the station logo being circling vultures, it’s the kind of place that if a creepy story isn’t true, it should be.

barrancaThe creepiest story, and one everyone believes, supposedly happened not too long ago … when Barranca del Muerto was the last stop on line 7.  A tired commuter took the last train and fell asleep.  He was in the last car, and woke up in a completely darkened car in the tunnel.  While figuring out what to do, he heard moans from the other end of the car.  One can, supposedly hear the moans of the unburied dead in Barranca del Muerto … and there are a couple of places on the Metro where one can hear some eerie sounds (which … given the strange geology of Mexico City might be … and probably are… natural phenomona)… and it’s an open secret that the last cars of the subway, late at night, are often where people hook up for clandestine quickies.  So, it’s quite believable that the commuter would see two men embracing and some soft moaning.

When the commuter approached the couple… to try to get their help in getting out of the car… he realized  those weren’t moans of pleasure, but a feeble attempt to say “soccoro!” … help me!

And… he was bleeding profusely.  But the other guy was not there to help… oh no.  Turing to face the commuter was a pale, pale, pale figure, with the face of a bat.  The commuter screamed, as he pried open the door of the car and ran towards the station.  Eventually, in the locked station, he was able to find a cleaner and … his babbling story making no sense… the subway police were sent to investigate.

Where the found… nothing.  Well, a dead homeless guy who apparenly had a really bad case of anemia.  And, of course, no police report exists.


Don’t fall asleep on the Metro!


Who were they?

29 October 2014

 As the saying goes “without corn there is no country”. Without our young people there is nothing.

Elena Poniatowska summed up her speech at the Zocalo last Sunday by saying:

We are facing a national catastrophe. In five states there are protests in support of the 43 missing students. Mexico is bleeding. The international community is shocked and now considers Mexico the most dangerous, non war-zone country for young people. Mutilated youngsters, youngsters without bodies, murdered youngsters. Indignation reverberates around the whole world. The mother of Guadalajara student Ricardo Esparza, who was attending the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato said that she would be pleased to receive her son’s body so that she could lay down flowers upon it. Isn’t her resignation monstrous? Or as Gloria Muñoz Ramírez asks, “To what point has government sponsored terror been embedded in the breast of society?” In the face of terror all that is left is the unity of the people who rise up and shout as they have done for days: “They were taken alive, we want them alive.”

The likelihood that these students are alive is slim. Beyond their names, Poniatowka tried to give some sense of who these students were, beyond a name and age:

images1. Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz, 20 years old, from Omeapa. Thin, a slender face with almond-shaped eyes nicknamed “The Korean”. Walks 4 kilometers on his way to school to reach the public transport and 4 more on his way home because he wants to be a primary school teacher in his hometown of Omeapa.

2. Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo, 21 years old, from San Antonio in the municipality of Cuautepec in the Costa Chica, nicknamed ” Amiltzingo”. Very affectionate, a member of “Activist House” in which students can enroll to receive political training. Inside the house the name of Lucio Cabañas resonates. The rich of Guerrero consider the students to be troublemakers because the hero they wish to emulate is the guerrilla Lucio Cabañas, who was also a teacher.

3. Marco Antonio Gómez Molina, 20 years old, nicknamed Tuntún of Tixtla. He loves rock gigs and particularly likes “Saratoga”, “Extravaganza” and “Los Angeles del Infierno”. He is also the classmate that always makes the others laugh in Activist House.

4. Saúl Bruno García, 18 years old, known as Chicharrón (Pork Rind). He’s a complete ‘disaster’, one of the students who tries to make you laugh until you cry, a big, friendly joker. He’s from Tecuanapa and is missing the ring finger on his left hand because it was chopped off by the mill when he was making tortillas. Saúl Bruno García shaved off everyone’s hair in the Activist House. A classmate had photos from the ‘shaving’ on his cell phone but the police took it off him.

5. Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, from Tixtla, 20 years old, according to his mother. He has a dimple on his left cheek. He likes working the land, sowing grains and vegetables because the resources provided by the state government for the 500 students is never enough.

6. Abel García Hernández, form Tecuanapa is a 19 year old country boy. He has a mark behind his right ear, he’s skinny and he is 162 cm tall.

7. Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz, 19 years old. Baptized as ‘el Frijolito’ (The Little Bean), he’s from the coast. A chatterbox, he’s always willing to help others. “El Frijolito” was the first to stand up to donate blood when requested in Tixtla to help a sick person.

mugshots8. Adan Abraján de la Cruz, 20 years old, farm worker. He’s from El Fortín neighborhood in Tixtla, a town that looks after the Community Police. He’s a member of the Pyrotechnics football team in El Fortín. His friends consider him a good footballer.

9. Felipe Arnulfo Rosa, worker from a farm in the Municipality of ayutla. He’s 20 years old. He fell head over heels when he was little and has a scar on the back of his neck.

10. Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz, baptized as “Pilas” (Batteries) for his intelligence. A hard worker, quiet and reasons better than others. He likes everything to be in its place. Emiliano was one of 20 first year students who enrolled in Activist House two months ago.

11. César Manuel González Hernández, 19 years old from Huamantla in Tlaxcala. A disorganized youngster, he has the nickname “Panotla” but he is also known as “Marinela” because once, in Jalisco, he got a lift in the van of the cupcake making company.

12. Jorge Alvarez Nava, “el Chabelo“, 19 years old from the municipality of Juan R. Escudero, Guerrero. He has a scar in his right eye and is calm. He never upsets anyone, never swears and is so patient that he is never rude to anyone. He’s one of the most sensitive students of Activist House. His parents wait for him on the sports field of the Ayotzinapa School and hug each other while they speak of him.

13. José Eduardo Bartolo, 17 years old from Tixtla. Student in his first year at the Rural School. His father is a bricklayer by trade and hopes that his son will be a professional.

14. Israel Jacinto Lugardo, 19 years old from Atoyac, nicknamed “Chukyto” by his friends. His mother holds up a poster with the face of her son and shows it to passing motorists on the Highway of the Sun. “He’s quite strong and has a scar on his head. His skin is light brown, his nose quite flat. He’s a good boy, he came with high hopes of studying.

15. Antonio Santana Maestro, nicknamed “Copy” because he’s a very good public speaker. He is well known in Activist House where the other students also attend. Copy plays guitar and likes video games. He plays playstation but what he loves the most is to read.

16. Christian Tomás Colón Garnica, 18 years old from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca. His father travelled as soon as the abduction of the 43 students was reported. I am a day laborer, I make 600 pesos a week maximum and that’s when there is work because sometimes there is none. My boy wants to be a teacher, that’s the profession that he wants but they put a brake on it, they put a stop to it. What are we supposed to do?”

17. Luis Ángel Francisco Arzola, 20 years old. His classmates call him “Cochilandia” but nobody knows why. He arrived with the nickname. He’s a serious young man, hard working and we are waiting for him here and we want him to know that we won’t stop until we find him.

18. Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarías, from Apango in the municipality of Mártir de Cuilapa. He is 23 years old and his classmates think of him as “already old”. His classmates are between 17 and 20 years old. In his town, Apango, he was a barber trying to get ahead. He’s a short guy, “awesome” according to his mates because he supports them, gives them advice, gives his all in exchange for nothing. He looked after his parents and siblings. He came to school sitting next to a classmate on the bus “but they started shooting and unfortunately he ran for one side and I ran for the other. He was arrested by the Iguala police, I managed to escape but since then I haven’t been able to find him…”

vivos19. Benjamín Ascencio Bautista, 19 years old, known as “greedy guts” because one day he ate, by himself, all the biscuits on the table at a conference. He’s originally from Chilapa. Before entering the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College he was a community educator in the National Council of Public Education. He trained volunteers to teach literacy in marginalized, isolated, rural and indigenous communities all over the country.

20. Alexander Mora Venancia, 19 years old from “El Pericón” in the municipality of Tecuanapa, Guerrero. Nobody could talk him out of his idea of becoming a teacher. He likes teaching. He started out helping in the countryside but he wanted to study… “I urge the authorities” says his father ” to do their work as it should be done, that there be no cover ups of the guilt of the Iguala Police and the town mayor who committed this massacre. Just as they were taken alive, we want them to be returned alive…”

21. Leonel Castro Abarca, farm worker from the community of “El Magueyito” in the municipality of Tecuanapa. He doesn’t have a nickname and to his friends “he is a serious person but with a sense of humor. He dreams of being a teacher to help his people move forward.

22. Everardo Rodríguez Bello, 21 years old. Originally from Omeapa. Known as “Shaggy” because he resembles Shaggy from Scooby Doo. An automotive mechanic qualified in the National College of Professional and Technical Education, he gets very angry at inequality, above all in the case of food. “If they give you six tortillas and him five, he protests”.

23. Doriam González Parral, from Xalpatláhuac, Guerrero. He is 19 years old. He’s short and “looks like a little kid” and consequently is called “Kinder”. He’s very funny and easy going. He has a brother at the school…The brothers entered together, their brotherhood is obvious and both of them were abducted together.

24. Jorge Luis González Parral is 21 years old and the older brother of Doriam, “The Kinder”. He is a serious classmate who has worked in several taco joints and although he liked the work he wanted to get ahead and decided to become a teacher just like his little brother Kinder. His nickname is “Charra” because he has a scar on his leg that looks like it was inflicted by a charrasca (type of musical instrument).

25. Marcial Pablo Baranda, 20 years old. He speaks an indigenous language and wants to be a bilingual teacher by the side of other bilingual teachers that come from even poorer towns. He’s short, good natured, cousin of Jorge Luis and Doriam and his friends call him “Magallón”, because his family has a musical group with that name which sings songs from his homelands, the Costa Chica. He spends his free time singing cumbias and playing the trumpet and drums.

26. Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza, from Xalpatláhuac. Belongs to the same group as Kinder. They call him “Chivo” (Billy Goat) and he’s serious, gets on well with everyone and almost never causes problems.

27. Abelardo Vásquez Peniten, originally from Atliaca, Guerrero. He likes football. In a recent match he scored several goals. Never causes any problems. He gains respect because he respects everyone else and doesn’t go around criticizing others. Apart from football he loves studying, “he grabs one book and then grabs another and another and another”.

28. Cutberto Ortíz Ramos from Atoyac. They call him “The Commander” because he has a certain similarity to the singer of norteño ballads. He has a very strong look, he’s strong, tall, friendly and relates to others well. He is very enthusiastic about the fields of crops and he loves to tell jokes about SpongeBob. He laughs and imitates SpongeBob’s laugh to perfection.

29. Bernardo Flores Alcaraz, farm worker, 21 years old. He has a mole on his chest which resembles a little cat’s paw. He has high hopes of becoming a teacher and helping children and adults who don’t know how to read or write. In the countryside there are a lot of people who lag behind in education and it is his hope to teach them. The 43 students went out to collect funds in order to be able to complete their practical teaching. It is not just that their lives are cut short and they are left to lie in their own blood.

30. Jesús Jovany Rodriguez Tlatempa from Tixtla, nicknamed “El Churro”. He is 21 years old, the oldest of four brothers and “the only support for his mother” according to his cousin who walked for five hours holding up a placard with his picture. He is a very generous young man who has been supporting his niece for a year because his sister is a single mother and he acts as a father figure. His cousin furiously demands his return just as she asks for justice for the many youngsters of Tlatlaya in Mexico State.

31. Mauricio Ortega Valerio de Matlalapa or Matlinalpa, from near “La Montaña”, 18 years old. He is nicknamed “Espinosa” because when his head was shaved – a tradition for first year students at the Ayotzinapa School – he had a certain resemblance to Espinosa Paz, the singer.

justicia32. Martín Getsemany Sánchez García de Zumpango, 20 years old. He likes to play football and supports the Cruz Azul club. All his family are looking for him. He has eight brothers and during the march in Chilpancingo on Wednesday the 22nd his relatives carried a blanket with his photograph.

33. Magdaleno Rubén Lauro Villegas, 19 years old. Known as “El Magda”, he’s a calm and generous classmate that is studying to become a bilingual teacher in order to be able to teach indigenous kids who don’t speak Spanish.

34. Giovanni Galindo Guerrero, 20 years old. Known as “The Spider” because he’s skinny and has his own unique running and jumping style as if he were hanging form spiderwebs just like Spiderman.

35. José Luis Luna Torres, 20 years old from Amilzingo, Morelos. His friends call him “Duck” because he looks like Donald Duck and has the voice of a duck. He is serious, calm, always speaks well, good natured, quiet and doesn’t cause much trouble.

36. Julio Cesar López Patolzi, 25 years old from Tixtla. He doesn’t have a nickname. He is simply called “El Julio”. He’s a good natured and quiet guy, doesn’t cause problems, hangs out with just a few others but is always friendly.

37. Jonás Trujillo González from the Costa Grande in the municipality of Ticuí de Atoyác. Called “Beni” because his brother also attends the Ayotzinapa School but is in his second year and his name is Benito. Therefore that are known as the Benis. He is tall, chubby and gets on very well with his brother. They are quite similar although the younger one is taller and has fairer skin.

38. Miguel Ángel Hernández Martínez, 27 years old. His nickname is “Little Bota” because his older brother, who also studies in the school, is called “Bota” and so of course they gave him the name of “Little Bota” although he is of average height and weight. He is not at all disorganized, always friendly, healthy, good natured. He is polite, always willing to give a hand, available to others. He’s a young guy who shows a lot of solidarity with others.

39. Christian Alfonso Rodríguez, 21 years old, from Tixtla. Longs to be a teacher and likes folkloric dance. He is called “Hugo” because he always wears Hugo Boss t-shirts. His cousin, during the march on Wednesday the 22nd grew hoarse from explaining so many times that “he’s not just my cousin, he’s my friend…he’s a very diligent person, very dedicated to his studies and dance and it is unjust that someone who gives so much of himself and makes such an effort should suffer such tragic consequences at the hands of the government…”

40. José Ángel Navarrete González, 18 years old. He shares a room inside the school with two other young students in which there is not one piece of furniture, not even beds, just frayed sheets of rubber foam.

41. Carlos Iván Ramírez Villarreal, 20 years old. He is called “The Little Devil”. The truth is that he is good, doesn’t interfere with anybody, calm, he wants to be someone, but not the clown…”

42. José Ángel Campos Cantor, 33 years old from Tixtla is the oldest of the 43 disappeared students. Although he’s older he never takes advantage of the others. On the contrary he supports them in everything, he’s everybody’s friend..”

43. Israel Caballero Sánchez, originally from Atliaca, a small town halfway along the road between Tixtla and Apango. He’s called “Aguirrito”. He’s preparing himself to be a teacher in indigenous communities and when his classmates call him Aguirrito he complains ” Don’t be assholes, don’t call me that stupid name..”

(Translation by Peter W Davies for Latin America Focus)

Tlacaélel, a man of our time?

28 October 2014

Watching an old British travelogue the other night, I was rather annoyed by the way every every indigenous Mexican (and surviving indigenous custom) was described as “Aztec”.  The Aztecs themselves were simply the ruling class of the Mexica, the people of what is now metropolitian Mexico City.   Given recent events and revelations, though, perhaps that 1960s travelogue wasn’t completely wrong.

In lumping everything pre-Conquest with the Aztecs, we forget they were only an “Empire” for about 100 years, and that they were less an Empire in the sense of direct control over subject peoples as they were an economic and political “superpower” that wasn’t shy about using force to maintain access to needed (and merely desirable) goods and services,  or to maintain garrisons (what today we’d call “overseas bases”) to drive home the point that they can and would intervene when necessary, but prefered to rely on ideology.

And the great ideologue of the Aztecs was Tlacaelel, the very long-lived (1397 – 1487)  brother of Montezuma I.  Described as both an economist and a religious “reformer”, Tlacaelel’s greatest contribution to the Aztec hegemony was understanding that belief systems can be used for control.  While human sacrifice was always part of Mesoamerican religious practice, it was Tlacaelel who made it central to Mexica beliefs, and who — by whatever means necessary — forced the client states and subject people to accept the general principles of that system.

Tlacaelel not only invented the “flower wars”… the ritual fights between the “Aztecs” and their subjects … which their subjects were obliged to loose… in order to bring in captives, who were then sacrificed.  And, the subject people paid tribute in sacrificial victims.

Think of it as arms control… overwhelmingly, the sacrificial victims were young men, either warriors or potential warriors from the subject or client states.  In a world of human-powered weaponry, this removed the means of delivery of those weapons, and — incidentally — deprived clients and subjects of potential leaders who might become a threat to the central power.

Furthermore, part and parcel of his “reforms”, Tlacaelel reformed the educational system.  With special schools for the elites … in which the children of privilige learned not only the philosophy and science of human sacrifice, but the ethical justification for it… and a lesser education meant to provide technical skills needed by the state, and to inculcate the sense that one’s lot was to be sacrificed, to feed the system.

Of course, we’re living in the 21st century, where our God is not Huizapotchli, but the Dollar, and where the purpose of education is not to convince us that we must give our lives if the sun is to rise in the morning, but rather that we must work constantly to keep the dollar strong and healthy.  Why would there be a phoney war against the people… given that we think in terms of exports and imports, not sun gods?  Why would anything think killing off the young, and future leaders, might be a means of preventing challenges to the system? Why… that would be unthinkable… wouldn’t it?

I keep on walking….

27 October 2014

Sombrero tip to Yucatan Living for this four minute video tour of Mexico’s national parks, conducted by Margarita, la diosa de la Cumbia.


Still think they’re alive?

26 October 2014

Abandon hope, all ye who see this:

¿Habla Espanglish?

25 October 2014

Spanglish is not random. It is not simply a piecemeal cobbling-together, a collecting of scraps of random vocabulary into a raggedy orphan of a sentence. It has logic and rules, and more interestingly and importantly, it embodies a constantly shifting and intimate morphology of miscegenation. It is the mix of my husband’s innate Mexicanness and my innate Americanness, of my adaptive Mexicanness and his adaptive Americanness, in Spanish and English morphemes that come neatly together and apart like so many Legos into new and ever-changing constructions.

Sarah Mendedick on Spanglish, the language not of Cervantes*, nor of Shakespeare. Perhaps Spanglish is the language of “Mexican Americans too Mexican to be American and too American to be Mexican,” but it is a language of more and more American and Mexican familias:

At home, Jorge’s and my Spanglish has leveled the Scrabble playing field. For his güero, there’s my lonely. For my standard, there’s his deudas. The tiles intersect, English’s short consonant-stacked words overlapping with Spanish’s euphonious roly-poly vowels. Into and out of one and the other we slide, unconscious of how we have assigned parts of ourselves to one side or the other, to one idioma or the other. Unconscious of how each of us has become tangled up in both, until we are in Mexico and we miss beer and the woods, then back in Ohio and we miss corazón, calor humano, vida. Until the middle of a sentence, when I realize I cannot write the word “firework” when what shot into the southern sky was a cuete, loosed by a cuetero, an old man in an untucked white shirt who carries a passel of cuetes and stops to light them one by one, their sparks soaring up from between his cupped bare hands.

Living on the Hyphen, Oxford American.

* ¿Porque no?:

In un placete de La Mancha of which nombre no quiero remembrearme, vivía, not so long ago, uno de esos gentlemen who always tienen una lanza in the rack, una buckler antigua, a skinny caballo y un grayhound para el chase. A cazuela with más beef than mutón, carne choppeada para la dinner, un omelet pa’ los Sábados, lentil pa’ los Viernes, y algún pigeon como delicacy especial pa’ los Domingos, consumían tres cuarers de su income.

(Transladado al Spanglish por Ilán Stavans)

A silly, silly man

24 October 2014
Adrián Rubalcava Suárez apparently is into cos-play:  in his case, dressing up like a U.S. Marine, and prancing about looking ferocious.  Which I suppose is rather harmless, but Adrián Rubalcava Suárez — A PRI delagate for Cuijimalpa in the Federal District, doesn’t like it when the media publishes photographs of Adrián Rubalcava Suárez at play.
While this photo of Adrián Rubalcava Suárez pursuing his eccentric hobby is oneAdrián Rubalcava Suárez posted on his own facebook page,Adrián Rubalcava Suárez has … uh… issues with another photo… specifically this one …
cuajimalpawhich was published in Sin Embargo in connection with a story on Adrián Rubalcava Suárez and other supposedly “Green Party”  officials (the Greens and PRI are allied)  who enjoy hunting, and other not-so-green activities in their spare time… of which they seem to have plenty.
It seem Adrián Rubalcava Suárez doesn’t have the time to complain about the photo himself, but that

Adrián Rubalcava Suárez does have the time to send a lawyer (or a guy claiming to be a lawyer) to Sin Embaro to make threats and send demands that Sin Embargo take down publication of this photo:
and this one…

Sin Embaro speculates that Adrián Rubalcava Suárez, hoping to be the PRI candidate for Jefe de Gobierno (Federal District Governor) in the next election wants to keep his private life private.  But, then really, can Adrián Rubalcava Suárez honestly expect to be a candidate for public office, without photos like… oh…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 504 other followers