Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

“FRIENDS AND FAMILY, MY REAL NAME IS MARÍA DEL ROSARIO FUENTES RUBIO. I AM A PHYSICIAN. TODAY MY LIFE HAS COME TO AN END.”

Under the alias “Felina,” physician Maria del Rosario Fuentes Rubio served as a citizen journalist who brazenly covered narco-cartel activity in the otherwise uncovered city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas.  Ms. Rubio was brutally murdered last week.

Journalists and bloggers in Mexico are forced to write in a paradigm that threatens their lives and the lives of their loved ones for reporting contentious issues involving corruption, politicians, the drug war and cartels.

There are pockets throughout Mexico- to include Tamaulipas-where journalists are not allowed to report any form of criminal activity.  Alfredo Corchado, an American foreign correspondent in Mexico, spoke at Columbia College about the privilege of protection he receives as a foreign correspondent. He explained that his Mexican colleagues are not able to write as freely or report on the issues that he is able to write about.

Corchado, whose life has been threatened several times, stated that even he had to flee Mexico because of the threats.  He stated that journalists throughout the country are forced to live in a media age that is ruled by censorship.

Due to increased cartel violence, journalists and bloggers are faced with the increased need to censor their coverage or completely cease reporting on issues related to the drug war.  In his book, Corchado tells the story of a local newspaper editor who is forced to censor his newspaper to avoid putting his family at further risk.  The editor’s brother was kidnapped and only released after the editor agreed to cease reporting on cartel activity.

Faced with death threats, would you continue reporting on contentious issues or would a threat be enough to silence you?  At what point does the line of need to report blur?  Is a story worth dying for?

Redefining the Lines

Global Voices Contributor Danica Radisic manages to write, run two NGO’s, runs a consulting company, parents two children, owns a bar and somehow finds time to squeeze a Skype call to offer advise to beginning journalists and bloggers. Ms. Radisic writes from Serbia where late night and early morning Skype calls are a part of her daily routine.

“This is what international journalism is all about . . . waking up a little earlier and staying up a little later. . .”

Q:  How did you get into journalism?

A: Well, I went to international schools throughout the world.  . . I had a fantastic history professor who taught a journalism course that left quite an impression on me.  He taught us how to read the news.  . .He taught us you had to have access to at least three sources to make some sort of an educated opinion. . .He taught us what journalism was basically and what it was supposed to be and what it was in reality.

Q:  What was your experience like when you first got started?

A:  I worked a lot with foreign journalist.  I literally clipped articles for them. . . No, I mean literally clipped articles. I started working with journalists and noticed what they were doing. I noticed that foreign journalists were able to get information out that local journalists were not allowed to or didn’t have access to wider audiences . . I not only translated the local newspapers to them, but explained the local context.

Q:  Why did you join Global Voices?

A: I have been there five-six years.  I joined Global Voices because they explain context. . .to a global audience . . . to a people who don’t know the background story.  Global Voices gives me the opportunity to vent in a safe venue.  . . It is registered abroad and can’t be shut down (referring to the governmental shut down of websites that aren’t cohesive with the government’s agenda).

Q:  Do you have any advice for a beginning blogger or journalist?

A:  Think it through.  She recommended that bloggers and journalists collaborate with each other.  She suggested that sometimes collaborating with a major foreign news organization could lead to a potential job as a journalist or provide a level of protection that writing independently doesn’t offer.  As far as bloggers are concerned, Ms. Radisic suggested that bloggers host their sites abroad using a “.com” domain.

Corchado, Cartels and Democracy: Mexican within

“We are building a community with the blood of our children,” said a Mexican man to reporter Alfredo Corchado following the brutal murder of his son.

Like millions of Mexican nationals, the man and his family could have rebuilt their lives in the United States.  Instead, this man and his family have dedicated their lives to preventing other children from having the same fate as his teenage son.  His son’s death will not be in vain, he says.  With a sheer brazen tenacity, the man declares war against the cartels that plague the country he knows as home.

Throughout his book Midnight in Mexico, Corchado describes the resilient spirit of Mexican people with daring spirits who believe against the odds in a world that does not yet exist.  He speaks of the first democratic president Benito Juarez, his colleagues who constantly challenged to see a different Mexico rising up, men who participated in the Bracero program and countless others who have sacrificed their lives for a better tomorrow.

Corchado describes them as bringing little more than hope and courage to the United States.   Even Corchado’s obstinate love for Mexico, his people and his homeland is manifested throughout the book.

Despite the on-going issues with the cartels, readers can’t help to dream of a better environment in Mexico.  There are millions of Mexican people who every day live their lives with dignity and a spirit that never stops fighting for their country.  People, including Corchado’s long-time girlfriend, Angela, who refuse to leave Mexico as violence and death tolls increase.  She pleads to Corchado,

“I need to tell these stories- if we stop- we only add to the silence that’s growing across Mexico.”

As Corchado describes in his book, the climate in Mexico is still violent and many governmental and media organizations have been infiltrated by the cartels, but there are still organizations and individuals who are dedicated to providing a different alternative to the Mexican people.  There are universities where students are encouraged to embrace progressive and democratic views.  There are programs in southern Mexico where local missionaries help meet the needs of Central and South Americans who are trying to make it to the United States.  And, there are still families and individuals who are still trying to create their own Mexican Dream within the world they find themselves in.

The past is past.  What matters the most is this present moment and what people as individuals choose to do with it.

The Tenth Muse in Chicago

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the train the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”  ― Frida Kahlo

Although Frida Kahlo is known as a revolutionary artist by many and is often seen as a Mexican heroine to feminine liberation, there is a little know seventeenth century poet and philosopher who lived and challenged the views of her society long before Kahlo.

Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, a 17th century nun, wrote about love and religion in a time when most women were not educated and the idea of feminism had yet to be conceived.

One of her more notorious poems, Phyllis, caused many to question her sexuality.

But, Phyllis, why go on?

For yourself alone I love you.
Considering your merits,
what more is there to say?

That you’re a woman far away
is no hindrance to my love:
for the soul, as you well know,
distance and sex don’t count.

How could I fail to love you,
once I found you divine?
Can a cause fail to bring results,
capacity go unfulfilled?

In Celebration of Sor Juana’s legacy the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago will be hosting the Sor Juana Festival from October 10-19th.

The Sor Juana Festival is a celebration of female artists born on either side of the Mexican border. It is believed that Sor Juana, a seventeenth century poet and philosopher, was the first feminist in the Americas.  As a part of the series several performing artists will showcase their work.

Do you have a favorite poet who you wished more people knew about? If so, please feel free to share their name in the comment section.

Under the Same Moon

Following the death of his maternal grandmother and caregiver, 9-year-old Carlitos begins the journey from southern Mexico to Los Angeles, California in search of his mother, Rosario.  Along the journey, Carlitos is swindled by a coyote (a term used to describe a person who smuggles people into the United States), deported and forced to work illegally to pay for a bus ticket to Los Angeles.

Like the fictional character, Carlitos, depicted in the film Under the Same Moon, thousands of Latin American children have left their native countries in search of their relatives living in the United States.  Motivated by better wages and a chance to provide their children with a better life thousands of immigrants risk their lives to make the perilous journey to the United States.

Until the recent crisis with the Border Children most people where unaware of the plight these children face when they’re left behind. They are at risk at being smuggled, abused or forced to engage in criminal activity as a means of survival.  Due to their age, some children, like Carlitos, simply want to be reunited with their parents and do not understand the sacrifice that is being made.

In hopes of giving their children a better life both in Mexico and the United States, millions of Mexican nationals have left their homes in search of the American Dream. As of 2013, there are an estimated 11.4 million Mexican born immigrants living throughout the United States.  Of those 11.4 million roughly 5.8 million (slightly more than half) are undocumented.

People of Mexican descent account for more than 1.1 of the 1.4 million Hispanics living in Chicago, according to a Pew Research Study.

De aqui o de alla?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare‘s Juliet spoke these words in the late 16th century.  Shakespeare understood the parallels between a name and one’s identity.  A rose, or any object from that matter, does not lose its value or essence simply by the name one chooses to call it.  

The essence, beauty and scent of a rose lied in itself and not how the outside world saw it.  Would a rose cease to smell sweet or lose its beauty if it were referred to as a “window, boots or loquacious?”  Of course not.  

Similarly, my place of birth qualifies me as an American citizen, but I am no less Mexican because I was born hundreds of miles east of Mexico. Growing up in the United States I felt a sense of longing for the country my parents left behind.  I dreamed of walking in the plazas on a Thursday night, longed to be serenaded when I came of age and imagined celebrating Dia de Los Muertos in November.  But, none of those dreams ever came to fruition.  When my parents left Mexico our family lost a piece of our Mexican heritage. 

Growing up American meant embracing the erroneous idea that Christopher Columbus discovered America and that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day.  It meant assimilating to a country where the history of my country was commercialized by margaritas, fajitas and a Mexican celebration that is four months shy of Mexican independence from Spanish rule.  It meant feeling less American for loving “my people” and “my country,” but not Mexican enough for growing up in “El otro lado (Spanish phrase referring to the United States ‘the other side’).”  There is a cultural identity crisis begging the question, “Where are you from?  Are you from here or from there?”

As a first generation American, your roots are close enough to Mexico to feel connected to your country, but far enough removed to feel as though you don’t belong.  You grow up with a gaping longing for home and never understanding what it is you’re missing.

So, what do you say when people ask where you’re from?  Do you identify your race, ethnicity, where you were born or the place you consider home?