Friday, December 14, 2007

Acapulco 2

Again, I find myself in Acapulco.

Not believing the hype of everyone that says Acapulco is just dirty and tacky.

Yes, it has large high hotels stacked on the beach, but that is all forgiven when you see the majestic mountains rising behind them.

I stayed with people in the old part of the town, where all the people go about their daily things and their traditions so you don't feel the bite of resort sterile-ness. You hear the dogs barking in the lanes and feel the heat on your back as you go to the tortilleria (tortilla shop/mill) and watch the old men calling out in gargled voices "bolillos, bolillos" (bread rolls) in the morning. But then you can also get your kicks on the beach lapping up in lovely restaurants and getting massages.

We did some cool things: A big old ship was ported in the bay, we visited that with Julio and his aunt (pictured). We also went to an old fort, amazing! All the trade with the Phillipines and the expansion of Spanish power in this area came through Mexico, as well as pirates, independence fighters and French invaders.
We also watched the famous and incredible divers who jump twice each day off the Quebrada (pictured). It's a great feat: think of people diving off the Gap in Sydney, and surviving unscathed. These guys do that, but two at a time, and with unforgiving surf below. It's awesome.

But definitely one of the best things was the sunset, and then walking down from the cliffs of the Quebrada in the evening we found ourself part of a pilgrimage walking through the streets and lanes down to the main square, for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (the national relgious symbol, Mary as an indigenous woman.. too much to explain here). The procession was awesome, very loco: letting off sharp amateur fireworks with everyone, that went dangerously close to telephone lines.. stopping local buses behind us in the street - they had to deal with it, the whole town was also processing, so it was normal... and the balmy zocalo (main square) full of people.

I DIDNT WANT TO COME BACK TO THE CITY! it was a short weekend away.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rudd joy!!

I have been logged into online election coverage for much of the last few days after voting at the australian embassy in mexico city the other day.

I am so ecstatic about the election result that I have decided to throw an australian theme party next weekend!!

Look at our cool invitation!

If anyone can suggest some typical aussie food to serve, let me know. So far I'm thinking vegemite, anzac bikkies and maybe a pavlova if I can pull it off!

On a more sentimental note, it just makes me so proud of australian civil society to see that we finally succeeded in getting Howard out! I feel far away and distant from fellow aussie campaigners, but when I look at emails of GetUp or see snippets of Hugh Evans popping up in election videos, it makes me so content to know that everyone is 'keeping it real' back home. I will be back at some point to join the fray.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

50th anniversary of the witches' market!

Sometime a few weeks back Julio and I went to check out the 50th anniversary of el Mercado de Sonora, a Mexico City vanguard of "brujeria" (witchcraft) and all things supernatural. This is the place that you go to buy black cats or wirey crows or sad looking creatures and then go and kill them in order to perform some magic. Or this is the place where you go to buy your herbs for concoctions of any sort.

Suffice to say, getting free tucker from any market stall, drinking fine tequila at midday and dancing away to mariachis and cumbia bands made foe a wonderful, wonderful day. And to top it all of, these very photos featured on thanks to Julio's editorial license..

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Death is Democracy.
At the end of it all, everyone:
black, white, rich or poor -
all the world ends up being skeletons.

Jose Guadalupe Posada

The Day of the Dead has come and gone, and I want it to be here again.

What joy and surrealism comes out of these two days (1 and 2 Nov).
Graveyards all around the country are flooded with people and offerings and celebration.
Crazy skeleton exhibitions are seen everywhere - Jose Guadalupe Posada, one of my favourite Mexican artists, came up with this skeleton figure in the late 1900s in his caricaturas of daily life and politics. Now everything becomes a skeleton, and offerings tie in the daily life of people who are now dead.

I have included a picture of the offering we made in our apartment: We included food that was liked by loved ones that have died. All offerings should contain the four elements, as Julio's aunt taught me: Air (hanging paper) Earth (flowers) Fire (candles) and Water (glass of water).

I have also included some stunning photos of the offerings on the UNAM (national university) campus - check out the Rectory Building and its amazing Diego Rivera murals!

Also we went to a great concert of two beloved trova singers in the Zocalo on the evening of the Day of the Dead - great stuff!

The bad thing about the Day of the Dead is it brought on a big wave of sickness for me - I have only just overcome a horrid week of stomach upset and shocking flu! I definitely get sick more seriously here than in Australia.

Hope everyone enjoys the photos!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Blogs in Waiting

Dear Readers,

I am dying to sit down with a long swig of time on my blog, with much to write and reflect - The Day of the Dead, general vignettes of my life or any other trivialities that I delight in posting here.

An apology on my part for not posting more as of late. We have just gone on a month in our new place and we STILL do not have internet up and running.. long story ... apparently although we are right in the centre of town and surrounded by embassies, wireless cables are still not covered in our street.. we are looking at options and figuring it out this week! Argh I hope!

I have just whiled away a long weekend with an annoying vomiting stomach thing. Not fun, and not something I wanted for a much awaited few days for R&R and fun. Oh well!

In anticiipation of more lyrical and informative posts.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

new apartment!

Wow what changes! Now living with julio in the top right hand corner apartment of the flat pictured above. and isnt our street lovely!

The address is:

Río Po 68, Depto 14
Colonia Cuauhtémoc
06500, México, DF

Cuauhtémoc was the last Aztec emperor, (not Moctezuma as commonly thought.) Cool hey ? We are living in the neighbourhood of the young warrior emperor who was killed fighting the Spanish invasion.

So, now that you all have the address I am expecting floods of letters and lovely packages arriving at my doorstep (I fully realise the irony of this given that I have a stack of envelopes sitting on my kitchen table waiting to send to Australia).....
Anyway, I challenge you all - the only packages I have received in all my time away have been from my mummy.

Will post interior photos in a little while, when we get some of our final frames sorted our for our walls. But right now, at a month in, the apartment is looking lovely.


photos from september 15-16 Mexican Independence Day. Viva!!

More text very soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

for avid fans of on the road... an update

It has been a while between posts... but life seems to keep throwing me new challenges and changes.

As of the last status update, I have changed my job and started working at a highschool teaching rich unruly mexican kids. It's incredibly challenging and discipline a big stumbling block, but I suppose it's all a learning experience and they pay me well. But I reitterate, very challenging.

I am still in my human rights internship in the mornings and the evenings - all in all lots of running around.

And! Julio and I have just found the most perfect apartment and are moving in together in a few weeks.

More updates and photos very soon! Missing Australia, but I always hold it close in my heart.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the glass man on the metro

So, this guy got onto the metro this morning, and I at first didn't think anything of him. Hundreds of people earn a living on the metro selling pens, pirated cds, chewing gum, the latest publication of the mexican criminal code, maps, prayers, you name it.
But this guy was different. He appeared in our carriage, shirtless, his protuding belly swaggering through the train, and (on seeing the back of him), his spine caked with dry blood. Hmmm, I thought - what sort of speech will he make for us.

So, he opens up with the usual pitch (Buenos días señores usuarios, disculpa la molestia etc etc - 'excuse me passengers, sorry to disturb..) . and then he explains to us he is going to perform a great feat for us. He whips the fabric swag he is carrying off his back and chucks it on the ground to reveal a bag of broken glass from coke and sprite bottles. And then he proceeds to flip backwards on his back so that it smashes on the glass, once and once again. And apparently the great feat is that he only comes away from this slightly scathed, after earning his bread and butter doing this all day.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


This is what you get for being a lonely planet wannabe and trying to take an 'idealyic shot' of mexico.

A photo of an old codger standing up as if to take a shit.

Pardon the crudeness!
He he.

Centre Prodh, teaching english and all in a days work

I have about a month under my belt now of my new routine - early 6am or pre 6am mornings to arrive at english classes at 7:30am, all day of my HR internship and evening classes to give as well at times. I have just started doing classes from 7:30 to 9am, internship 10:30 to 5:30 and then another class 7 till 9pm! Sufficed to say I get home at 10pm exhausted every night.
Those around me had to at first put up with some caturwauling and whinging that came from my change of routine.
But after a few weeks of accommodating myself, I've stopped to look around... and you realise that practically all of Mexico works like this. And then you shut up your whinging and just get on with it.
Whether it's the mexican unis that start classes at 7am, the man in the street who travels every day from the outskirts of the city to sell his tacos, is a nation of hard workers, tryng to make a decent living. And sleeping an average of 5-6 hours daily on a national average! (by my estimate).

But isn't it a wonderful thing to be young and willing to work yourself hard?

Now that I have gotten over the initial shock of the new life (after six months of laziness on exchange!) ..I am facing it straight on, getting up and coming and goin, and realising that the millions of lives struggling to make their way in this city do NOT funnily enough combine to make it a trampling rat race, but rather you feel lifted up and carried by the collective journeys of so many dreams travelling around you. And you feel people caring for people - understanding that at the end of the day they have their aunt, their brother, their friend to look after and share life with. The infallible Mexican community identity always comes through. The truth that is felt so strongly in this country is that the people around you are the most important part of your life.

My internship at Centre Prodh ("Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez" Human Rights Centre) is challenging, interesting and extending me a lot.
A lot of my time is spent on research and documents - as of late I have had some thrills of researching and drafting report to submit to the World Organisation Against Torture's Annual Conference, which was hugely interesting and consuming. The main case I used was one that centre prodh is working on, on the rape and torture of many women in a police operation in San Salvador Atenco in the state of mexico last year (among which 211 people were arbitrarily detained). It is also exciting as I am often filling out questionnaires for UN Special Rapporteurs and documents for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The internship involves other things too - like establishing international links etc...It really feels like my studies are being put into practice, which is very fortunate.
The internship is in spanish, in that we all speak spanish and use documents in spanish, but being in the "international area" I am often writing in english and translating too. I still get nervous when I submit documents to my supervisor, a wonderful mexican activist who I already totally idolise!

Two weeks ago the Secretary General for Amnesty International, Irene Khan, made a high-level visit to mexico. Centre Prodh is one of the strongest links AI has in mexico, so we were heavily involved in assiting the visit. It was exciting, and lots of press! Also nerve-wracking though, as I met the whole Amnesty "Mexico Team" from London, and found myself go all quiet as all I could think of in their presence was "One day I want your job!". Ha ha.

Anyway, that is a bit of a rundown for now!
The photos of above are of Irene Khan in a press conference in mexico city, and of the entrance and carpark to Centre Prodh.

Lo de Oaxaca

Oaxaca - a grave humam rights situation that has continued to be a disgrace in mexico for over a year. The city was the site of huge repression - hundreds of arbitrary detentions, torture and deaths in june, october and november last year. This year, the build up to the annual cultural celebration called the Guelaguetza was very tense. It is the one of the most important cultural celebrations in mexico - when all of the regions of oaxaca state come together to dance and celebrate in a performance that asks for a good harvest season. Last year it was cancelled due to security reasons.

In response to social movements in the lead up to the Guelagetza this year, there were arrests and wounded people as evidence of 'keeping law and order'. the governor of the state, Ulises Ruiz, is a true repressor.
But to cut a long story short, after a lot of thought on the political and safety considerations of our actions, Julio and I ended up going to the Guelaguetza. With press passes we were treated very well by the state tourism authorities and the event itself was absolutely breathtaking. Despite our reluctance to legitimise the oaxacan government, portraying the guelaguetza as a success... at the end of the day and my many ponderings (including much involvement on the facts in my human rights internship), we were in beautiful, beautiful oaxaca. And the many punters who had travelled far and wide to participate in the Guelaguetza were smiling. May Oaxaca find peace and justice.

Mexican Food and drink!!!

I have been meaning to post about food for a while.

Mexican food is not what most people in australia would think. Go to a mexican restaurant in sydney and you are mostly served with burritos, enchiladas and enchiladas overflowing with generic cheese.
Nup. Here is the real thing: dishes full of spirit and flavour: cochinita de pibil, mole poblano, pozole, panbazos, albondigas al chipotle, tacos al pastor, hauraches... the list goes on. I can't think of a time when I have seen burritos on a menu here. And the care and pride that goes into food preparation.. from your average taco man on the street corner to homemade food. It is important!
I have also included some photos from a mezcal (like tequila except stronger and better in my opinion) factory - the worms and all!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

LA PRENSA (the press)

My way of life in mexico seems to be so tightly meshed with the media, the press. Being a journalist in mexico is a different ballgame than in australia. In 2006, Mexico had the highest number of press killings after Iraq ... 2nd highest ranked press killer in the world! Since the year 2000, almost 40 journalists or reporters have been killed or 'disappeared'. A lot of this has to do with the problem of drug cartels throughout the country, with journalists getting caught in the cross fire. Severed heads have been hung outside newspaper offices and grenades left in press rooms.

I was really lucky to spend a number of weeks helping out the Mexican rep for the global network, Reporters Without Borders. Every week, or a few times a week, new incidinces of death threats, dead reporters or other suspicious events would come to light.

When Hugo Chavez in Venezuela closed Radio Caracas Television, a very old and established private TV station, about a month ago - it was HUGE in the press here. Features, front pagers etc. There were massive protests from all walks of society in Venezuela.
I was really against what Chavez was doing - the arbitrary nature of him shutting down this TV station was very shocking, and then he started spouting off at other media groups in venezuela, threatening them. Sure, RCTV is a private conglomerate, maybe its like Channel 9 is australia. Chavez hated it as it criticised his government.
But he went too far when he made a low dig at Reporters Without Borders and said that the organisation was supporting 'global economic imperialism', just because RSF had expressed concern over press freedom in venezuela. Keep your pants on Hugo! More and more, he seems like an outdated lost demagogue in my eyes. Seriously, get with it man.

Another funny thing about the press is that I was part of a report done by my friend on the Channel 11 news the other night, about the death penalty. He recorded me saying things about australia's and singapore's stance on the death penalty. The funny thing is that he also took footage for his 'file tape' on my comments on John Howard. I believe I said at some point that Howard was the puppy dog of George Bush. Holy cow, if that airs in the next few months when federico reports on the aussie election.... ASIO wont be happy!

And added to all this, I'm dating a journalist. Bloody hell, call me Lois Lane.

Innovative policies in Mexico City

This is a photo of Marcelo Ebrard, governor of the Federal District of Mexico City (he governs as many people as John Howard does), showing off the city government's new policy to reduce arms possession.

If you own a weapon in Mexico City, and you turn it into the authorities, they give you in exchange: an XBox player, a desktop computer or cash.

Cool, hey? This is Ebrard with the 1000th weapon that has been handed in.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

........And back to the Rat Race

30 mins to move 500 metres in a jam packed microbus, the speakers of the vehicle blaring with the blunt sound of a tuba and the repetition of a singer wailing for his lost woman.
Surrounded by men on all sides whose mothers never taught them not to stare at strangers. Whities with green eyes. Yes, get over it hombres. Just get over it.

How I am supposed to know that that place leads me to another microbus which leads me to the back of beyond? Could you please give me more directions that 'yeah, that one, over there?'.

Please dont push, let people get off the metro first before others get on. A man falls flat on his back on the metro platform as people clamber to get out. This hardly stops the pace as the streams of bodies keep climbing on.
I'm running late. man this city is stuffed up.

That's a morning.

But in other good news Mexico smashed Paraguay 6-0 in the quarter finals of the Copa America on Sunday night.

The Much-Anticipated Wedding in Acapulco

I have just come back from a wedding of luxury in Acapuclo, mexico's emerald pacific resort. It was the much anticipated wedding of Julio's best friend Eduardo. Julio was the 'Padrino' of alcohol.. that is to say, as the best man for the wedding he had to foot the bill for all the grog. They share the financial pain for all manner of extended family and friends here!

Acapulco has attracted a name of over-development, trash etc... but really it continues to be dazzlingly beautiful. The sort of place that has always been popular, and always will be. And avoids being the scummy gringo land that Cancun is.
As I sat under the stars on the beautiful bay of Acapulco, I was reminded a bit of Sydney - two gorgeous pieces of headland and a stunning harbour. Acapulco was the first of all mexican resorts, populated by Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, John Wayne and even JFK (we stayed where they stayed!). Now the foreigners seem to flock to Cancun or Los Cabos up north, while Acapulco still shines brightly.

Sure, there is tackiness and resort style cursive font written on every concreted surface, and Hooters and fast food overload... but all of this seems to be overcome by the stunning mountains that surround the bay, the dramatic views and the laid back people.

Beach weddings in Mexico have a lovely style to them - all the men wear light elegant white shirts and the women hold hand fans to their faces during the proceedings.

Endings, New beginnings and rebeginnings

Semester finished at the end of June with planeloads of exchange students going home to France, Canada and the USA.. tearful airport goodbyes, farewell parties and all of a sudden there was no uni, no exchange.
Now there is me, life in mexico, living 'like a mexican'. New friends, boyfriend, new internship, teaching english and scaling the city from top to bottom to give classes.
Early mornings and appointments and rushing to and forth and computer fatigue and LIFE... after what was in reality a 6 month holiday!

The short story of what I am up to:
I recently moved out of the wonderful community that was Atardecer en La Condesa, the restaurant and home that I lived in for 6 months, and I am currently living in the apartment of my friend Federico... but I will be moving back in with Mari, Jesus and everyone at the end of the summer!

I have started an internship at the Miguel Agustìn Pro Juarez Human Rights Centre ('Center Prodh', a really respected human rights NGO here. The internship is great - I am working in the international relations area, on international law stuff, preparing documents for international NGOs on the human rights situation in mexico. I decided to take this internship over Amnesty International Mexico... long story, but I decided that although Amnesty has the 'name', the office here was not able to offer me the knowledge and experience I was looking for at the moment. And Center Prodh is the only mexican Human Rights org with UN consultative status.
Anyway, sorry if this is all a bit short-handed, readers, but it comes on the back of many such explanatory emails. Just thought I better put an update here, for those of you who are wracking your brains trying to figure out what the hell I am doing!

Anyway, here are two good photos :
One of Jessie's last days at Atardecer, gathered around with the clan.

Goofing around with the latest gang of ragamuffins I have found myself with:
Julio, me, (behind)
Katleen and Carlos (in front)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hibernation in Chiapas

Here I am, taking recluse in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Seat of the 1994 Zapatista uprising.
Giving thanks for everything that has come my way - a wonderful exchange in mexico city, fantastic experiences. Gaining strength for everything to come. Whether I start at Amnesty International doing an internship as planned, or win another position that I have applied for...whatever happens. Here I am, hiding away from the world that in the next couple of weeks will leap forward and grab a hold of everything that I have been working towards. Weeks and weeks of interviews, investigation and looking 'forward'. Now, a pause in the proceedings. It is wonderful to spend a few days appreciating the beauty of things around me, only to know that waiting at home is a life that I can sink my teeth into.

Here I have posted some of the interesting grafitti in SCLC.
Translation -
'La Lucha es diara!' - 'The struggle is daily'
'Nuestros sueños no caben en sus urnos' - 'Our dreams don't fit in your ballot boxes'. Wow. This last quote blew me away. After the 1994 uprising and a lot of rancor between the Zapatistas and the army, (as well as considerable public outrage) - the government negotiated a series of accords to recognise indigenous rights. To cut a long a notorious killing of innnocent civilians and a flip'flopping in approaches... in 2001 the parliament finally voted indigenous clauses in the constitution. But what could have been great strides building on the San Andres accords turned out to be lightweight provisions that did not allow for autonomy, concrete measures for protecting indigenous resources etc. This vote was supported by all parties, including the left party, PRD. So many of those in the Zapatista movement felt betrayed by the whole political class of mexico. and thus their dreams dont fit in the ballot boxes.
This is also why many people say that since 2001, the 'left' in mexico has died.

When I arrived in San Cristobal last night, the light and fresh air in the mountains swept right into my throat so that I welled up with a deep gratefulness. It's like you're carried away from the clanging pulse of DF, and dropped into a safe cradle here in the mountains. The smell of pine needles shot me straight into feeling I was in guatemala again. The highlands always make me pensive, quiet, reflective, humble. A perfect place to read - all the human rights policy that I need to get on top of, and finally paying my homage and finishing 100 yrs of solitude. And other pieces of writing by Julio. my new love. more to come on that, but I feel so lucky right now that spurting out crass declarations hardly feels apt. I think I have blabbed to enough sources anyway!