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,...it 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!