Murky business: A hunt for answers as children fall sick around Mexico lake

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AGUA CALIENTE, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Eduardo Baltazar is the youngest person in the tiny Mexican village of Agua Caliente to have a kidney transplant, undergoing the life-saving surgery a month shy of his 13th birthday.

The boy is one of many victims of a health crisis in the western state of Jalisco that environmental experts are linking to water and air pollution, despite denials by the government.

A University of Guadalajara investigation into the 950 residents of Agua Caliente on the shores of Lake Chapala has confirmed what locals have known for years – chronic kidney disease has reached epidemic levels and is hitting children hardest.

Read the complete article at The Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Mexican church seizes on St. Jude to counter Santa Muerte cult

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GUADALAJARA, MEXICO — A few days after a group of armed men kidnapped her 27-year-old son, María set up a shrine to St. Jude Thaddeus at her home in Guadalajara, western Mexico.

“I keep photos, candles and holy water at the altar,” María said. “That’s where I plead to God and let my emotions out.”

Faced with stiff competition from the cult of Santa Muerte — a heretical saint who personifies death — Mexico’s Catholic Church has seized on the popularity of St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations.

Read the complete article at National Catholic Reporter

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High-tech manufacturers fear robots and Nafta renegotiations

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Had Leonardo Castro been born two decades earlier, he would almost certainly have migrated north to the US in search of better opportunities, he says. Instead, the 31-year-old was able to build a career as an aircraft test engineer in his native Mexicali.

Mr Castro works for Honeywell Aerospace, a subsidiary of the US industrial conglomerate, as part of a 350-strong testing and development team at its Mexicali research centre.

Read the complete article at The Financial Times

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Fintechs could take 30% of Mexican banking market

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With long queues, high fees and low cash machine coverage, Mexican banks have a reputation for poor customer service. A recent Gallup poll found that more than three in four customers were indifferent to, or unhappy with their bank.

This is creating an opportunity for new fintech — financial technology — challengers. They are focusing in particular on people who have not had access to banking services before.

Read the complete article at The Financial Times

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The narco-trafficker next door

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Gabriela Navarro, who lives in an exclusive gated community in southern Guadalajara, suspects three locals of having ties to one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels. She bases this belief on their unconventional working hours, unexplained wealth, and fondness for narcocorridos—folk ballads that glorify drug traffickers.

All, she says, are from Sinaloa, the mountainous home-state of drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the ruthless Sinaloa Federation, one of the largest criminal organizations in the world.

Read the complete article at The Daily Beast

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How a skeleton folk saint of death took off with Mexican transgender women

Santa Muerte in San Juan de Dios Market, Guadalajara

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Betzy Ballesteros, a 26-year-old transgender sex worker, keeps a shrine to Santa Muerte, the skeleton folk saint, in her home.

Surrounding the statue are candles, candy and the grainy photos of several friends who were murdered and abandoned — people such as the transgender woman whose mutilated body was stuffed into a suitcase and dumped by the roadside on March 11. (A 43-year-old suspect has been detained, but authorities have still not released details of the victim’s name or occupation.)

Read the complete article at USA Today

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City of Song – vallenato music in Cartagena

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The humidity was the first thing I noticed as I stepped from the plane in Cartagena, Colombia. The bear hug embrace of the Caribbean air was so implausibly powerful that it was difficult to believe that locals didn’t still find the weather a daily shock.

The second thing I noticed – in the airport, on the taxi ride to the hotel, on the streets of the city center – was another of the colonial city’s features that was almost as persistent: the music that was everywhere, at all times of the day. Reggaeton, cumbia and salsa all had their listeners, but it was vallenato that ruled. Open a door or window in Cartagena and chances are vallenato comes pouring out.

Read the complete article at Travel Mag

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America’s soccer migrants: the US footballers crossing Mexico’s border – video

I worked as a fixer on this video for The Guardian.

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Rex Tillerson promotes US ties during Mexico trip

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Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, struck a conciliatory tone during a visit to Mexico, saying the neighbouring countries had an opportunity to upgrade their economic relationship.

Read the complete article at The Financial Times

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BBC interview about the fireworks explosion in Tultepec, Mexico

Interview for the BBC radio show “Good Morning Scotland.”

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