Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Zongozotla, Mexico

A Pentecostal Preacher Outside his Afternoon Service

A man spreads coffee beans - the staple industry - to dry outside his house

In Febs, after a month in northern Mexico, I headed to the urban metropolis of Zongozotla, Puebla - home to 4000 people, and 13 Churches of various sects. With homies Deborah Bonello and Monica Campbell (and armed with a grant via the BBC to look at a different side of religion in Mexico), a rare chance to work together on something multimedia - Monica leading the reporting charge, me and D taking fotos and video respectively.

Zongozotla's main street

A man listens outside a packed Evangelical service

A preacher mid-service, at Zongozotla's newest Pentecostal church

I think it worked out nicely - nice work to the eds at PRI's The World for trying out something new, and setting it up nicely. Check out the whole thing here, and click on the photos to get into the rad videos, or listen to Monica's report below.

74-year old Juvencio Domingo looks for coffee beans on his plot

A family of converted Evangelicals come to work for the day on Juvencio's land

Men gather at the back of their Pentecostal service

Splattered around this blog post are a bunch of photos that did not make the cut for publication, but that I like nonetheless.

Socks hang in a drizzly afternoon in the highlands

An Evangelical minister steps out for a break mid service

Retired Evangelist Miguel Cano contemplates a question about his faith

Zongozotla at dawn

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

When the Circus Comes to Town

The pasero edges through the late afternoon traffic of downtown Mexico City. Four pesos to cram into these mini-buses that creep through the horns, exhaust, gray noise.

An old man in a brown sweater contorts through the standing passengers, offering cigarettes and gum from a wooden box under his solemn face. He's followed shortly by a young man selling cumbia disks from his backpack speakers. Morose faced commuters looking at the streets. People pile in and out.

Three clowns in yellow jump suits, big shoes, painted faces. One's juggling oranges, another's dancing and yelling back and forth to the third guy who inexplicably pulls a large red bag over his frizzy red hair, painted face and red nose, and keeps shouting nonsense.

Sweating, the bag guy comes down the line, asking for 'coperación,' as the other two continue. He comes back and shows the measly collection to his colleagues: a few 1 and 2 peso coins, nada mas. They react in surprised horror.

"Let's try something new," shouts one, feigning anger at the low return. The other two applaud in absurb clownliness. "Jokes!" More exaggerated clapping and some screams.

"What did the Burro say when the mouse stepped on his foot?"



Exaggerated laughter.

"Why did the cat say to the dog?"



Exaggerated laughter.

"What did the raton say to the putamadre pasajeros who didn't want to donate a few coins?"


"This is a shakedown mutherfuckers!!! [guns come out] Empty all of your fucking pockets, put it all the bag and shut the fuck up!!"

Exagerrated laughter, gunpoint collection of goods.

Three clowns exit stage right with a stuffed red bag and full pockets.

[NOTE 1: raton means 'rat' or 'mouse' in Spanish, but it is also used colloquially to denote any kind of common criminal. Making THAT a bit of a play on words...

NOTE 2: The skeleton of this story was told to me last week over cantina beers with some guys who cover nota roja, or crime reporting, for a major DF tabloid. Details added for fun, and cuz its a blog post]

San Judas Follow Up

With the Pope coming next week, lots of interest in religion in Mexico these days. So, after putting up some old photos last week, sent Global Post a quick email, and biked down to San Hipólito to do some interviews.

Here's the intro, or full link to the story here:

As dusk falls outside this city’s colonial-era Temple of San Hipolito, Daniel struggles to carry a life-size statue of San Judas Tadeo. He stumbles through a vibrant crowd of food sellers and believers who come out on the 28th of each month to pay their dues to the saint.

With slightly glazed, squinted eyes, Daniel, a 27-year-old beer vendor, tries to explain his devotion. He tugs nervously at his baggy black jeans and cocks his hat further to the side, before finally stammering a response.

“San Judas does favors for me, so I come down here. He makes sure I have work, and that I stay in good health. That’s why I bring him here, to say thanks.”

His friend Jesus (who, like Daniel, asked only to be identified by his first name) says he too owes a lot to the saint he’s been worshipping each month for the past six years.

“I was taking drugs, robbing people, walking down a bad path. I’ve turned things around, thanks to [San Judas],” Jesus says. “Two or three times, he’s fulfilled some important requests I made.”

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

San Judas Tadeo

Interviewing some vendors in the Metro this morning, I looked over. Two teenage guys caught my eye. The classic Mexico City look of "bad ass, light," they both carried statues chest-sized statues of San Judas, with wreaths and necklaces hung around them. Right. Its the 28th today.

The 28th of every month in Mexico marks the day of San Judas, the patron saint of lost causes. In Mexico City, thousands upon thousands go by the templo de San Hipólito to hear a service, and mingle with fellow creyentes. The metro - especially on the blue line once you get close to Hidalgo - fills up with "bad ass light," teenagers from all corners of the city, and most of all, families.

Although the Catholic church doesn't support San Judas worship, most believers who attend his service seem to also attend traditional Catholic masses with some regularity. In this sense, it is a bit like Santa Muerte worship (many have told me they also attend her service as well), though the two are by no means the same thing.

I've gone a few times to talk to people, shoot fotos and hang out at, and outside, the service. Its a really nice vibe. These are a few shots. Happy 28th!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Excerpt From A Speech

I'm not a huge fan of the whole obituary scene. But, the deaths of top-notch journalists Anthony Shaddid and Marie Colvin in the span of a week is a huge loss for journalism.

Reading David Remmick's piece on Colvin in the New Yorker this morning, the excerpt he included from a speech of hers in 2010 really caught my attention. The full speech can be found here - but you have to scroll down and click on the link with her name to expand it.

Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen, I am honored and humbled to be speaking to you at this service tonight to remember the journalists and their support staff who gave their lives to report from the war zones of the twenty-first century. I have been a war correspondent for most of my professional life. It has always been a hard calling. But the need for frontline, objective reporting has never been more compelling.

Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction, and death, and trying to bear witness. It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash. And yes, it means taking risks, not just for yourself but often for the people who work closely with you.

Despite all the videos you see from the Ministry of Defense or the Pentagon, and all the sanitized language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes, the scene on the ground has remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years. Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers children.

Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice. We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/02/postscript-marie-colvin-1957-2012.html#ixzz1n8KvLaUN

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Synapse of a Mañana

Across the street, walking out the door early this morning, a rotund man in his forties running full speed in his grey and red wool sweater. I just kinda stared, fiddling with both bike door in the blue-grey light. He bolted, picking up speed. He dodged a tamale cart, deftly cleared some kinda orange box strewn on the road, let out a whistle and disappeared behind the quick-moving delivery truck. The truck quickly passed, and he appeared behind it. He pushed his balding tuft of hair downwards - creating a final five-step burst of speed - jumped up, grabbed the bar, and slammed the edge of the truck with his open palm, spurring it onwards into the day.

I said "wow" loud enough that the 60-something woman with the frizzy hair and the frizzy dog looked me in the eye with their respective, quizzical stares.