Controversial Priest Wears Rocker Clothes, Rides a Chopper and References Rock Songs During Sermons

Adolfo Huerta Aleman, known to his parishioners as Father Gofo, is not your usual priest. He looks and dresses like a rocker, likes going to bars, loves pictures of naked women,smokes, swears, and tells jokes during his sermons. He’s probably not the only Catholic priest with odd hobbies, but unlike most, he’s open about them.

At one point in his life, Gofo wanted to enroll in the military. Then he thought about becoming a policeman, a firefighter or a teacher, but he ended up as a priest in the Mexican city of Satillo. He says his ultimate career choice was probably influenced by the values passed on to him by his religious family. But for him, entering the Church didn’t mean leaving everything he loved up to that point at the door. That included his love for rock culture, his passion for motorcycles or any of his vices. On the contrary, he decided to let his unique personality play a big role in his profession, as a way to reach those for whom conventional religion held no appeal. He continued dyeing the end of his black locks red, wore skull rings and bracelets in church, rode his chopper around town, and even referenced rock songs during Mass. Obviously, all that didn’t sit well with many of his conservative parishioners, but it got him closer to members of the community that would otherwise be inaccessible to the Catholic Church.

Adolfo-Huerta-Aleman

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Family Is Literally Living under a Rock in the Mexican Desert

For the last three decades, Benito Hernandez and his wife have been living under a huge rock, in Mexico’s Coahuila Desert, 80 kilometers from the US border.

Benito Hernandez started visiting the 40 meter diameter rock that now serves as a roof for his sun-dried brick home when he was just eight years old. He liked it so much that he decided to one day make it his home. Many 8-year-olds have crazy dreams, but Benito’s followed him into adulthood. 55 years ago, when he and his family first discovered the remote rock formation, a man could claim a piece of land by settling on it for long periods of time, so during the many years they spent working in the area harvesting the Candelilla plant, he beat off other who would claim the rock for themselves and 20 years later he finally became its legal owner. He could finally build his dream house under the boulder that fascinated him all this time.

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Milagros Caninos – A Haven for Mexico’s Disabled and Tortured Dogs

Milagros Caninos, or Miracle Dogs, is a very special canine shelter in Mexico City. For years it has been a true paradise for dogs suffering from terminal illnesses, are blind, paralyzed or have been tortured and abandoned on the streets of Mexico’s capital.

Patricia Ruiz, the founder of Milagros Caninos lost her pet dachshund, Clavo (Spanish for “Nail”) in 2004. She knew the meaning of his life – to love her and her family, to play with her children, to bring joy to their lives – but she couldn’t understand the meaning of his death. Like she would have done for any lost member of the family, Patricia posted a eulogy in the newspaper as a symbol of the love and respect she had for Clavo. After that, she started getting all these emails from like-minded people, who shared her pain at the loss of their four-legged companions, and that motivated her to become involved in rescuing animals. She first rescued one dog, then another, and so on, to the point where she needed a place to keep them all. Her eyes and ears were always focused on pain, so she ended up with a number of animals suffering from severe illnesses like cancer, were paralyzed, or had been tortured or drugged by humans who didn’t share her compassion. So she founded Milagros Caninos, a haven for dogs in extreme situations, in need of special care and attention. That’s when she understood the meaning of Clavo’s passing…

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Macabre Rituals – The Annual Cleaning of the Dead at Pomuch Cemetery

It’s fascinating how bizarre the rituals of the dead can get. The latest we’ve discovered is from Pomuch, Campeche, a small Mayan town in Mexico. In Campeche, the day of the dead, which is not unlike Spring Cleaning, is honored each year. On this particular day, families visit the cemetery to participate in the ritual cleaning of the bones of their loved ones. The squeaky-clean remains are then placed on display along with flowers and a new cloth for veneration.

The custom applies to anybody who dies in Campeche, ranging from young to old. Every corpse is buried for three years and then, on the Day of the Dead, the bones are dug up, cleaned and transferred to a wooden crate. The waiting period of 3 years is important because the bones need that time to dry out. The wooden crate is placed on permanent display in the cemetery. From then on, people go to the cemetery to pay their respects and clean the remains every year. Nov 1st is the day dedicated to dead children, known as the Dia de los Niños (Day of the Innocents), and Nov 2nd is for everyone else. The custom of cleaning the remains of dead relatives is said to date all the way back to Mayan practices – when the skulls of ancestors were retained and worshipped. The significance behind the ritual is to help people deal with the pain of losing a loved one. It is also believed to keep families together. The most important belief, however, is that a relative whose remains are poorly taken care of can become angry and wander through the streets. Read More »

Experience Life as an Illegal Alien at Mexico’s Border-Crossing Theme Park

Ever wondered what Mexican emigrants go through trying to illegally cross the border into the United States? Well, now you have the opportunity to experience it for yourself at Eco Alberto, an Illegal Border Crossing Theme Park.

Located 100 kilometers from the US border, and about two hours away from Mexico City, the small town of El Alberto has become one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions. Seven years ago, 90% of the local population had crossed over into the US in search of the American Dream, and the small settlement had become a modern ghost town. Life was simply too hard in El Alberto and almost everyone decided to try their luck across the border. But that all changed when the Eco Alberto Park was inaugurated in the vicinity of the small Mexican town. Now, El Alberto has a population of around 3,000 and draws in thousands of tourists every year, all eager to experience the unique activity that put this place on the map.

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Poo Wifi – A Machine That Exchanges Dog Poo for Free Wifi

Stepping in dog poo is said to bring good luck, but for most people it’s one of the worst things that could happen as they walk through the city. Owners not picking up their pets’ droppings is a global problem, but a Mexican Internet portal has come up with an invention that might just inspire people to do the right thing. It’s called Poo Wifi and it’s pure genius.

Walking through the park trying to avoid every dog poo that comes in your way is an almost impossible task, but it wouldn’t be a problem if owners would just clean up after their pets. So Internet portal Terra has teamed up with ad agency DDB to create something that would motivate people to actually pick up their dogs turds. After some brainstorming, they came up with Poo Wifi, a machine that offers a free wifi connection in exchange for dog poo. So after they’ve picked up the droppings, people can drop the bags in a special box on top of the machine, after which the machine offers a number of minutes of free wifi, depending on the weight of the poo. Obviously, large dog owners will get more free wifi, which makes sense since their dogs’ droppings are the messiest.

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La Pascualita – The Corpse Bride of Mexico

La Pascualita or Little Pascuala is a bridal mannequin that has “lived” in a store window in Chihuahua, Mexico for the past 75 years. That is quite a long time for a bridal gown shop to retain a mannequin, but then the dummy has a rather strange history behind it. According to an urban legend, La Pascualita isn’t a dummy at all, but the perfectly preserved corpse of the previous owner’s daughter.

For years, the story of La Pascualita has been drawing loads of visitors, including media personalities, from all over Mexico to Chihuahua. Now, people from South America, the US and Europe have also started paying visits to the corpse bride. People smudge their noses up against the shop window, staring at the dummy, trying to figure out if she is real or not. They are taken in by her mesmerizing gaze and realistic-looking features. Most people walk away convinced that she has to be real.

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Maquech Beetles – Mexico’s Controversial Living Breathing Jewelry

The Maquech Beetle can make any nature lover or animal rights activist scream in horror. Entomophobics (creepy-crawly-haters) would probably run as far away as possible from this kind of jewelry, and for good reason, as every Maquech is actually a live bejeweled insect. As hard as it may be to even conceive wearing bugs as accessories, they are something of a fashion statement in Mexico.

I kid you not, just watching a video of the Maquech brooch is giving me the jitters. I don’t get how people can stand it on their bodies, but jewelry enthusiasts in Mexico have been flocking at stores to buy these ‘pet-cessories’ since the 1980s. The brooch is actually a part of a centuries-old Mayan tradition of decorating wingless beetles from the Yucatan Peninsula. Gemstones and gold are glued on the beetle’s body which sounds like a cruel process which has been denounced by animal activists in the past. The insects themselves are pretty harmless and docile, quite perfect to play the part of living jewelry. Each one has a decorative safety pin attached to it with a 2-inch-long chain leash. When pinned to clothing, the beetles can wander around, but can never get away.

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Dwarf Bullfighters – Human Exploitation Meets Animal Cruelty

It sounds cruel when I write about it, but watching a bunch of dwarfs running around with calves that match their size could invoke quite a bit of laughter. There’s nothing cute about this however, the fighting is quite real and dangerous. Thankfully, the calves and the men are usually unharmed.

Wondering what I’m talking about? Meet the bullfighting dwarfs of Mexico, a group of short entertainers who are by no means ashamed of what they do. The sport, for obvious reasons, has earned the title of being one of the most controversial in the world. Animal lovers say it’s cruel. Human rights activists agree. Critics worry about stereotyping. But there’s no denying the fact that it provides a steady means of income for those who otherwise would find it very difficult to get a job. Since employment discrimination is pretty widespread in Mexico, the dwarf community has actually benefited from the bullfighting shows. More often than not, the bullfighters are laughed at, and although this is the main purpose of their act, they would also like to be respected for what they do.

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Cholombians – Mexican Kids with Crazy Hair-Styles

Picture this hairstyle – the back of the head shaved, with a rat tail left at the bottom. The hair at the top of the head cut short and spiky, always trimmed. Long emo bangs covering the forehead. The highlight of it all, long sideburns that start at the top of the head going all the way down to the chin. The side burns are literally glued to the cheeks with copious amounts of hair gel. And the finishing touch – a small cap perched neatly on top of the head.

Quite a sight, isn’t it? What I’ve just described to you is the Estilo Colombiano, the hairstyle adopted by the Cholombians of Monterrey in northern Mexico. They are quite well known for their meticulous style of dressing, and the pride they take in their cultural heritage. The cumbia, music brought over from Colombia, is something they are equally famous for. The people of Monterrey have been in love with this music ever since the 1960s. Several Cholombian street vendors sell trinkets that are imported from Colombia – paintings, key chains, flags, hats, t-shirts and bumper stickers, but the most popular of the items are mixed tapes of cumbia. The cumbia of Monterrey has developed a style of it’s own.

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Mexican Woman Has Live Grenade Lodged in Her Face

Karla Flores, a 32-year-old street vendor from Culiacán, Mexico can consider herself after she survived being shot in the face with a live grenade.

On August 6, 2011 Mexico’s “Miracle Woman”, as she’s come to be known, was selling seafood on the street when all of a sudden she heard an explosion. As she turned around to see what had happened, the woman was hit in the face by an object, and the powerful impact caused her to fall on the sidewalk. She felt a burning sensation in her face and when she touched the point of impact with her hand there was a lot of blood. Karla passed out after that, but luckily for her an anonymous passerby took her in his car and drove her to the nearest hospital. There she woke up and when the doctors asked her about the wound Flores told them she thought a stone hit her. But their investigations would reveal it was something a lot deadlier than a stone.

From the x-ray and tomography, doctors could tell some sort of projectile was stuck between her superior and inferior jawbones, and military experts called on the scene identified it as the live explosive head of a fragmentation grenade. It had been fired with a grenade launcher, causing the bang Karla heard, but it didn’t detonate when it hit her face. Still, the grenade was extremely dangerous, just one wrong move and it could go off killing everyone in a 10-meter radius. The hospital’s patients and staff were evacuated, and something had to be done to help Karla, who could barely breath with the projectile locked in the side of her face.

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Last Two Speakers of a Dying Language Refuse to Talk to Each Other

Ayapaneco is a language that has been spoken in Mexico for hundreds of years, but it’s now in danger of becoming extinct as the last two speakers refuse to to talk to each other.

After surviving the Spanish invasion, numerous natural disasters and famine, the old language of Ayapaneco could soon become only a memory as the last two remaining speakers grow old, and seeing there aren’t any young Mexicans eager to learn a dying tongue. 75-year-old Manuel Segovia and 69-year-old Isidro Velazquez live only 500 meters apart in the village of Ayapa, but the don’t get a long very well. Some of the locals say it’s because of an old feud, but most of them think it’s just because they don’t have very much in common. Velazquez is a little irritable, while Segovia is more stoic and doesn’t get out of the house much.

Manuel Segovia, who claims he has no animosity towards his neighbor, used to speak in Ayapaneco with his late brother, who passed away about 10 years ago, and now uses it with his wife and son, who can understand him but can only speak a few words themselves. Together with the National Indigenous Language Institute, he has tried to hold classes for young people willing to learn Ayapaneco. He even bought notebooks and pencils himself, but even though the classes started out full, pupils would just stop coming.

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Guarachero Boots – When Long Is Simply Too Long

They’ve only been around for about a year, but these ridiculously long Mexican pointy boots have already become a major fashion trend at dance clubs and rodeo dance floors around northern Mexico.

The guys at Vice heard about the unusual footwear and journeyed to the Mexican city of Matehuala, in the northern state of San Luís Potosí, to learn more about it. Apparently the trend started about the same time the music known as “tribal guarachero” became popular among the youth of the area. A combination of pre-Hispanic and African sounds, Colombian cumbia and modern house music mixed by young DJs, tribal quickly became the favorite dance music of young Mexicans who soon began organizing dance-offs in clubs and at rodeo festivals.

At first, everyone wore normal size cowboy boots, but at one point people started making them longer and longer, until it got out of control. It turned into a competition between ranches and neighborhoods over who had the longest, pointiest boots, and before long contests for the best chuntarito boots were organized. Much to the dissatisfaction of many fellow Mexicans who see the new fashion as a latino version of the “Jersey Shore” trend, fans of tribal guarachero kept making even longer boots and highlighting them by wearing skinny jeans. Some say they’ve seen guys wearing seven-foot long boots.

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The House of the Beautiful Flowers – A Retirement Home for Prostitutes

Casa Xochiquetzal (The House of the Beautiful Flowers) is a retirement home for prostitutes, established in Mexico City’s  Tepito neighborhood, that got it’s name from the Aztec goddess of love and women.

The center was founded in 2007 by a former prostitute, Carmen Munoz, impressed by the old sex workers she saw sleeping in the streets. And it wasn’t easy at all. It took years of lobbying for her to get the support of the government and local media. Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador, mayor at the time,  gave her a dilapidated 18th century house, which she transformed into what is now home for 23 old prostitutes, with available accommodations for 45 women. They have to fulfill one condition, other than the obvious one, being a former sex worker, and that regards their age – women have to be at least 60 years old. Interestingly enough, even if they aren’t required to, many of the prostitutes choose to continue practicing their job.

In most cases, they have been sold as young girls or even as children and forced into prostitution, thereby no contact with their families has been kept. Although most of them can still work, the money is very little, compared to what younger women earn, and this makes it impossible for them to survive by themselves, so Casa Xochiquetzal comes as somewhat of a blessing.

Although they display a lot of joy and seem to have a lot of fun together, almost every one of the old prostitutes hides a trace of sadness, especially when it comes to their children who barely remember they exist, much less come to visit them at the House of the Beautiful Flowers.

This story is part of a documentary that CNN made for the launch of VICE magazine in Mexico. Bernardo Loyola, producer of this documentary, confesses he found this weird and quite “different”, but nevertheless, he was impressed by the power these women have to continue with their lives, no matter the difficulties. For him, the visit at the House of the Beautiful Flowers was a turning point that totally changed his perception of prostitution.

 

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Scouts Create Giant Scout Badge in Mexico City

Hundreds of young Mexican scouts gathered in the main square of Mexico City, on Sunday, August 30, to create what may be the largest scout badge in the world. The outline of the scout lily was traced beforehand, and the scouts had to fill the entire design with over 1.65 million differently colored used metal cans. Not only is this the largest scout badge ever created, but it also sends a strong message about the need to recycle.


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