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Radio Station Revives Mayan Culture

December 14, 2012

By Brenna Goth for the Arizona Sonora News Service

Rosendo Pablo, founder of Radio Xob'il Yol Qman Txun, stands in front of the station. Pablo founded the radio after returning to Todos Santos from the United States. (Photo by: Brenna Goth)

Rosendo Pablo, founder of Radio Xob’il Yol Qman Txun, stands in front of the station. Pablo founded the radio after returning to Todos Santos from the United States. (Photo by: Brenna Goth)

TODOS SANTOS CUCHUMATÁN, GUATEMALA – There’s a new road to Todos Santos.

It used to be an uncomfortable daytrip from the departmental capital of Huehuetenango to this one-street town, tucked between mountains in northwestern Guatemala. The highway is mostly paved now, and those 17 miles of switchbacks climbing 10,000 feet only take an hour or two.

Those mountains protected Todos Santos and kept it nearly impermeable to the outside influences that caused other Mayan groups to lose their language and customs dating back to Spanish colonization. Separated by those 17 miles, Todos Santos was once a world away.

Today, Todos Santos is looking more like the rest of the world.

Delivery trucks cart in trays of Pepsi-Cola and Gallo beer for people to enjoy with their chicken, beans and tortillas. People stop into competing Tigo and Claro cell phone shops to buy more credits to text their friends. Teenagers walk around in their traditional red-and-white striped pants paired with shirts that have “Hollister” and “Guess” emblazoned across the chest.

Read more at the Arizona Sonora News Service.

Juárez journalists recognized for courageous reporting

December 12, 2012

By Shahrazad Encinias for Arizona-Sonora News Service

Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (right) and Sandra Gallegos Rodríguez (left) accept their Zenger Award. Photo by Josh Morgan

Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (right) and Sandra Gallegos Rodríguez (left) accept their Zenger Award. Photo by Josh Morgan

Sandra Rodríguez Nieto and Rocío Gallegos Rodríguez are two of many reporters in Ciudad Juárez that weren’t prepared to cover what was known as one of the most dangerous places in the world for a journalist.

There have been more than 70 media workers killed in Mexico since 1994, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Among those murdered were two of Rodriguez and Gallegos co-workers at El Diario de Juárez – reporter Armando Rodríguez Carreón and photographer Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco.

“Journalists in Mexico have paid a very high price in telling the truth,” Gallegos said. “The death of Armando was the hardest.”

As journalists there is always a risk, Gallegos said. “We began to remove the curtains of the murderers,” Gallegos said. She said reporting and revealing what was happening around Juárez was an adrenaline rush. She said the good part about being a journalist is the ability to tell what happened.

“The hardest part about being a journalist is becoming the victim,” Gallegos said.

But that wasn’t an option for both Rodríguez and Gallegos. They made a commitment to journalism and to themselves to uncover the truth. “It’s important to stay committed to yourself,” Rodríguez said.

At 17, Rodríguez began her career with the newspaper. Prior to her role as investigative reporter, her focus was urbanization of the city. As the violence increased, she said she couldn’t think of anything else, but to expose the realities of Juárez It was her duty to report on the corruption, the innocent victims, the violent deaths, murders, kidnappings, military involvement, lack of politician interest, and the fear of the people.

“When you have such a big story in your town you don’t think, you just get over it (death threats),” Rodríguez said.

To protect the staff at the newspaper local news stories print without a byline. Mexico is rated eighth in the impunity index, with 15 unsolved cases of murdered journalists, according to the CPJ database.

Both women are “still working and putting their life at risk,” said David Cuillier, Director of UA School of Journalism, during the Oct. 11 panel titled, “Journalists Under Fire: Censorship and Coercion along the Mexican Border.” Rodríguez and Gallegos shared their expertise on the panel, and fielded questions from aspiring journalism students.

They were also in Tucson to receive the John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Awards. Since 1954, the UA School of Journalism has awarded a dedicated journalist “who would fight for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know.” This year both women and the investigative reporting team at El Diario were awarded.

Gallegos said she is honored to have received the award. But to her there is more to the accolade. “The truth is that I don’t look to get an award when I’m out working on a story,” Gallegos said. “For me now, this means to continue the struggle and keep on fighting for this. It’s an honor to receive a Zenger award, especially what the award represents.”

Rodríguez put her life on the line for her reporting, and she is thankful it was all worth it, she said.

“I personally see it (the Zenger Award) as an inspiration that recognizes the degree of compromise… this makes me look back at critical years where no one paid attention to us (Juárez)… There are seldom times in the world where there is justice, and not often in the world of journalism is there recognition. Its sacrificed work,” Rodríguez said. “To have this type of recognition is recognizing that compromise awards and that passion for your work makes a difference.”

Once the corruption and violence exploded there was no other option then to cover it, said Rodríguez. “The natural answer is ‘it’s our job,’” Rodríguez said. “We weren’t trained for this at all.”

Illustrating Operation Streamline

Seventy migrants captured by Customs and Border Patrol, or apprehended without papers inside the United States, are sentenced every day for jail and deportation in Tucson, Ariz through Operation Streamline. Within 48 hours, they are rushed past a judge and deported. Some defense lawyers and advocates say Streamline is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Operation Streamline is a specialized court hearing of mass sentencings that began in 2005 during the George W. Bush administration. In 2011, it cost Tucson an estimated $56 million for legal and security staff alone. ST McNeil and Josh Morgan enlisted the help of graphic artist and University of Arizona assistant professor Lawrence Gipe to illustrate the story of Tucson’s jury-less court. Sketched in charcoal, they are the first ever public images of Operation Streamline.

Loving & Living Mariachi: Teacher’s life infused with all things mariachi

By Serena Valdez

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Rafael Moran plays the guitarron with his students at Wakefield Middle School in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Josh Morgan)

Rafael Morán didn’t originally envision his life immersed in mariachi. But it is this art form that has given him his career, his favorite hobby, and a second family.

As a mariachi teacher at Wakefield Middle School for six years, Morán, 25, infuses tradition, heritage and culture into his classes while using music as a “motivation to keep the spirit alive,” he says.

He doesn’t view teaching as his job—instead he sees it as his passion, something he loves and does 24/7.
And he doesn’t exaggerate when he says 24/7. In addition to teaching 16 classes at Wakefield, Morán also directs two youth groups, Mariachi Nueva Melodia and Mariachi Inspiración, in the evenings with his wife, Jasmin Fimbres. He is also part of the professional mariachi group, Mariachi Sol Azteca, for which he performs almost every weekend.

“I think that’s what sets me apart from the other teachers,” he says. “What I do on the weekends is the same as what I do Monday through Friday.”

Born in California but raised in Tucson, Morán had always been about sports: basketball, baseball and football. It wasn’t until he attended Tucson Magnet High School that mariachi entered his life. Morán first chose to take a jazz dance class because he heard it was easy. But when the syllabus clearly stated black spandex pants as part of the class dress code, he immediately switched to mariachi.

“You weren’t going to catch me in spandex pants,” Morán says with a small laugh.
Read more at El Independiente