Ayotzinapa: The Scandal of Mexico’s Disappeared Students

Header photo from Ayotzinapa Somos Todos, a very useful resource for finding out more and helping to spread the word about this crisis.   On the 26th September 2014, 43 student teachers training at  the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were disappeared in the city of Iguala in Mexico’s Guerrero state, after peacefully taking over several buses and protesting to highlight the lack of governmental support for rural schools and education. The students are still missing. But the most surprising fact of this case is the fact that it sparked nationwide protests and international solidarity. Because in Mexico, these disappeared students are far from a rare case. Between 2006 and 2012, it is has been estimated that 26,000 Mexicans were forcibly disappeared. How do 26,000 people disappear in such a short amount of time? And that is likely to be a significant underestimation, given that numerous states either did not collect or provide data. You would imagine that nationwide kidnappings and presumed mass murders on that scale would be something the international community would pay attention to, or at least there would be national outrage. But both Mexico and the wider world have been turning a blind eye to this vast campaign of terror. It was only in September, with the disappearance of the 43 students, that things began to change. Almost immediately, protesters took to the streets, and rather than it all blowing over in a few days, as the government expected, the campaign just continued to grow. From outcry in Guerrero, the cause was taken up by social groups all over the country. On placards, posters, and a...

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Does Anyone Care?

I spent a long time wondering about writing this post. It doesn’t fit neatly into travel, film or literature, though it is about a modern, worldwide, filmed phenomenon which I could conceivably shoe-horn into one category or another. However, there are certain times when you just have to speak your mind on a current issue, and being the creator of a blog gives you that power. This is one of those posts, prompted by the Ice Bucket Challenge sweeping social media.  Firstly, I should state  that I will refuse to participate in this challenge, should I be nominated. This is not because I am averse to having an ice-cold bucket of water thrown over me (well, actually I am, a bit), and it’s not because I don’t want to donate to charity – quite the opposite in fact. You see, I have a personal connection with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), losing my grandfather to the illness three years ago. It is known in the US as ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Over a fairly rapid period of time, the sufferer loses the ability to walk, stand, move, speak, eat and breathe. Their motor neurones stop functioning properly, so messages from the brain don’t get to the parts of the body they should. Friends and family watch the person they love, who just a few weeks earlier was climbing and felling trees and building a church hall, brick by brick, deteriorate with terrifying speed, until they are confined to a motorised wheelchair, and fitted with feeding tubes and catheters. My Grandad was 69 when he was diagnosed, but he was not...

Greenwich and the Old Royal Naval College

This guest post comes from Dan Perdomo, a blogger who enjoys discovering underrated parts of London. Enjoy!  I was lost in London; and not for the first time. This was my fifth time in London since moving down south and I had decided to wander around Canary Wharf. I was walking along the Thames Path which should have led me to the O2 Arena… but I must have gone in the wrong direction. Ending up in Isle of Dogs (I had no idea where that was in relation to The O2’s location) in a park called Island Gardens, I stumbled upon a view across the river that made my jaw drop. Little did I know I was looking at the Old Royal Naval College. The grand buildings looked enormous, even from across the Thames. I looked up and down the river but couldn’t see a bridge in sight in which I could cross to get a closer look at the palace. Heading for the exit to try and find the nearest tube station, I saw a domed entrance with a sign saying Greenwich. I entered, not really knowing what to expect, and after walking down some stairs I found myself in an eerie tunnel with no light at the end in sight! Luckily, there was an end. I exited through a similar domed building and laid eyes on a huge ship – is everything huge in Greenwich, I wondered. I had heard of Cutty Sark but did not know it was a ship – and it’s a beautiful one at that. Towering above me, it reminded me of something...

A Walk on Hampstead Heath

I have been living in London for a month now, and while I love the rush of the city, after one trip too many on an overcrowded tube, pounding from dreary pavement into sweaty metal box, I needed some fresh air. So to Hampstead Heath I went. On a sunny Autumn afternoon, it was the most glorious place in all of London. I had heard of Hampstead Heath of course, even seen it in films, with that iconic view of London in the background. But what surprised me, as I walked up a track, kicking through the first of the Autumn leaves, is how so much of the ‘Heath’ is actually much more like a forest. To me, a heath conjures up sparse, open land with maybe the odd scrubby plant, but the area called Hampstead Heath is mostly woodland. It took hardly any time at all to be completely lost among trees, squelching through mud, not a single sound of the city to be heard. Birds chirruped, leaves rustled, the odd twig snapped underfoot. Occasionally, I would meet somebody else along one of the muddy trails, but they too were dressed in suitable attire for a woodland walk, and it felt like I had been transported back into the deep English countryside. With golden rays of late afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees, it was almost impossible to believe that I was still in the middle of a metropolis. It bears no resemblance to any kind of city park – it is natural and wild. Finally, after tramping round the woodland with little sense of direction, I emerged...

On Moving to London and Writing

A hard-to-categorise post, an outpouring of thoughts, my need to write. And a bit about moving to London.    I’m not the first person to move to London to seek their fortune, and I certainly won’t be the last. Ever since Dick Whittington slung his posessions over his shoulder and made for the streets paved with gold, people have flocked to this city. The fortune I’ve come for is not necessarily monetary – though as any struggling creative-type will tell you, a little of that wouldn’t go amiss – rather, I’m in search of new opportunities. London has more of, well, everything, than anywhere else in the country. More variety, more noise. It has history in spades, sitting comfortably alongside the fast-paced, glass-fronted modernity. I love walking through London, discovering hidden corners just off streets I know well, finding places of peace in the busy centre, or searching out a busy hub. Funnily enough, it’s the latter I seek to write – there is something about a hum of background noise and a creative venue which seems to help me focus. My favourite place of all to write is the Southbank Centre, and in fact, that’s where I am now, working to the sound of chatter in a dozen different languages, occasionally looking up to see how the setting-up of a Mexican fair is coming along, just below me in the Clore Ballroom. A couple of men are sawing and nailing pieces of wood together, and a Spanish-speaking contingent has arrived to direct proceedings. It’s raining outside, so the bright lights and warmth are attracting passers-by like bees to a...

Pin it Forward UK

My obsession with pinterest began quietly. It was intrigue at first; a couple of people I knew were using it, so I asked one of them to invite me. What I found was a site like no other, one which didn’t require endless hours of reading, but which was simply as many pretty pictures as I could wish for. I didn’t even think about linking it to my other online exploits at first, although if you visit often you will notice that I have had pinterest buttons on here for some time now. No, originally, it was just a little corner of the web for me to escape to at the end of a busy day, a place where I could simply dream. I have always made collages and scrapbooked, so pinterest seemed like a natural online progression. I think my first board was one simply called ‘Lovely things’ – and it remains one of my favourites. As soon as I began to discover wonderful travel photos on there, I set up a board called Travel– which is a jumbled but rather gorgeous board with everything I love about travel: quotes, travel inspiration, photos of evocative items, and of course some of the places I’ve been. To prevent it from getting totally confused, I also have a board called My Someday Places, which is my visual bucket list. If possible, pinterest has increased my wanderlust – I can easily while away an hour just pinning and sighing: ‘oh, I need to go there!’ I was, I thought, a fairly anonymous pinterest user. Loyal, yes, blogger, yes, but really just...
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