TIME Mexico

Flames Engulf Mexico Oil Platform In Gulf, Killing 4 Workers

"There was nothing you could do but run," said Roger Arias Sanchez

(MEXICO CITY) — A huge ball of flames engulfed an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, killing four people and sending terrified workers leaping into the sea.

State-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said it had averted any significant oil spill following the blast, which also injured 16 workers, two seriously, and forced the evacuation of 300.

Pemex later said a total of 45 workers had received some form of treatment or health evaluation.

Firefighters were still working to put out the fire, which was consuming the oil that was on the platform, Pemex Director General Emilio Lozoya said late Wednesday afternoon, adding that efforts were “on the right track.” Ten firefighting and emergency boats were being used.

Speaking at a news conference in the nearby city of Ciudad del Carmen, Lozoya said the cause of the fire was still being investigated, but it appeared to be something mechanical.

Helicopters ferried workers with bandaged hands and faces and burn marks on their overalls to Ciudad del Carmen, where crowds of relatives of oil workers thronged outside hospitals.

A survivor of the blaze on the shallow-water Abkatun-A Permanente platform in the Campeche Sound said workers “jumped into the sea out of desperation and panic.”

“There was nothing you could do but run,” said Roger Arias Sanchez, an employee of Pemex contractor Cotemar who escaped the burning platform in an evacuation boat.

Many of the injured appeared to be Cotemar employees.

In a statement later Wednesday, Pemex said the accident “did not cause an oil spill into the sea, given that there was only a seepage, which is being taken care of by specialized vessels.”

The company said it had been able to cut off pipelines to avoid a spill, and suggested that the oil remaining in the pipelines was burning off.

Lozoya said the accident “would have a minimal impact on production, because this was a processing platform,” not a producing well. Production from nearby wells it normally serves could be rerouted to other processing platforms.

President Enrique Pena Nieto promised an investigation to “find whoever is responsible” and avoid such accidents in the future.

The Abkatun A platform largely serves to separate gas, oil and other petroleum products, and pump them to refineries onshore.

Previous spills from Mexican facilities have usually occurred at active offshore wells, not processing stations.

The Abkatun platform lies off the coast of the states of Campeche and Tabasco. It is farther out to sea than the platform involved in the last severe fire in the area, a 2007 blaze at the Kab 121 offshore rig.

That accident was caused by high waves that hit the rig, sending a boom crashing into a valve assembly. The blaze killed at least 21 workers and the rig spilled crude and natural gas for almost two months.

Mexico’s worst major spill in the Gulf was in June 1979, when an offshore drilling rig in Mexican waters, the Ixtoc I, blew up, releasing 140 million gallons of oil. It took Pemex and a series of U.S. contractors nearly nine months to cap the well, and a great deal of the oil contaminated Mexican and U.S. waters.

Pemex has had serious security problems in the past, mainly in its onshore pipeline network, where thieves drilled around 2,500 illegal taps in the first nine months of 2104 and stole more than $1 billion in fuel.

That problem got so bad that in February, the company announced it would no longer ship finished, usable gasoline or diesel through pipelines.

That apparently hasn’t stopped the thieves, though. On Wednesday, federal police announced they had seized three tanker trucks and 148,000 liters (39,100 gallons) of stolen fuel at several different sites throughout the country as well as locating two illegal pipeline taps.

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in March, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Matt Black‘s work from Guerrero state in Mexico. Black has documented impoverished indigenous communities in southern Mexico for years. This latest work captures communities affected by rampant crime and poverty, including the disappearance of the 43 students from a school in Iguala. The black-and-white photographs are extraordinary and the accompanying short-film, which includes a moving letter from a mother to his lost son, is definitely worth watching. The reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

Matt Black: Guerrero and the Disappeared (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Watch “The Monster in the Mountains,” a short film based on Black’s work in Guerrero.

Adam Ferguson: The Deadly Global War for Sand (Wired) These stunning photographs document sand mining in India.

Lynsey Addario: India’s Insurgency (National Geographic) Addario’s pictures capture mineral-rich eastern Indian states, plagued by poverty and a continuing Maoist insurgency.

Josh Haner: The Ride of Their Lives (The New York Times) A fantastic year-long project that follows three generations of one rodeo-mad family | More on the Lens blog

Yuri Kozyrev: Cuba (TIME LightBox) TIME contract photographer’s beautiful work from the Cuban capital.

Mathias Depardon: Gold Rivers (TIME LightBox) Construction of the hydroelectric Ilisu Dam in Turkey threatens a cultural treasure.

Lynsey Addario: Afghan Policewomen Struggle Against Culture (The New York Times) A compelling series on Afghani women determined to make a difference.

Newsha Tavakolian: Stress and Hope in Tehran (The New York Times) These excellent portraits paired with insightful quotes give us a peek inside the minds of Iranians.

Eugene Richards: Lincoln (National Geographic) Richards’ photographs trail the assassinated president’s last journey home in 1865 and raise questions about his life and legacy.

Matteo Bastianelli: Young Syrian Refugee’s Journey Through Europe (MSNBC) The Italian photographer has documented a Syrian refugee’s life in Bulgaria and journey to Germany. | More on his agency’s website

TIME Immigration

How Mexican Immigration to the U.S. Has Evolved

Mexican Workers
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images Image of Mexican immigrants working with sickles to cut weeds along the side of a road outside of Chicago in 1917

Today's immigrants differ from those of the past in several key ways

This post is in collaboration with The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, which brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to use the Library’s rich collections. The article below was originally published on the Kluge Center blog with the title The History of Mexican Immigration to the U.S. in the Early 20th Century.

As a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress, historian Julia Young is currently researching a new book on Mexican immigration to the U.S. during the 1920s. She sat down with Jason Steinhauer to discuss the history of this migration and the similarities and differences to immigration today.

Hi, Julia. By way of background, could you provide an overview of the flow of immigrants from Mexico into the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries?

For almost a half-century after the annexation of Texas in 1845, the flow was barely a trickle. In fact, there was a significant migration in the other direction: Mexican citizens who left the newly annexed U.S. territories and resettled in Mexican territory.

Beginning around the 1890s, new industries in the U.S. Southwest—especially mining and agriculture—attracted Mexican migrant laborers. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) then increased the flow: war refugees and political exiles fled to the United States to escape the violence. Mexicans also left rural areas in search of stability and employment. As a result, Mexican migration to the United States rose sharply. The number of legal migrants grew from around 20,000 migrants per year during the 1910s to about 50,000–100,000 migrants per year during the 1920s.

This same period saw massive numbers of immigrants arrive in the U.S. from Asia and Eastern and Southern Europe. Were Mexican immigrants viewed similarly or differently?

There was concern among the U.S. public, as well as policymakers and the press, that “new” immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Asia were somehow different from previous generations of Western European immigrants to the United States—and whether their supposed differences posed a threat to U.S. society and culture. The so-called science of eugenics helped drive this concern—the notion that ethnic groups had inherent qualities (of intelligence, physical fitness, or a propensity towards criminality) and that some ethnic groups had better qualities than others. These beliefs tied in directly to concerns about immigration and immigration policy.

However, Mexicans were sometimes said to have certain positive qualities that made them “better” labor immigrants than the other groups. They were thought to be docile, taciturn, physically strong, and able to put up with unhealthy and demanding working conditions. Perhaps more importantly, they were perceived as temporary migrants, who were far more likely to return to Mexico than to settle permanently in the United States.

Does this explain why Mexico was exempted from the quotas in the Immigration Act of 1924?

Mexico (and in fact, the entire Western hemisphere) was exempt from the quotas in part because of the agricultural lobby: farmers in the U.S. Southwest argued that without Mexican migrants, they would be unable to find the laborers needed to sow and harvest their crops. In addition, migration from the Western Hemisphere made up less than one-third of the overall flow of migrants to the United States at the time. Finally, the perceptions of Mexicans as temporary migrants and docile laborers contributed to the fact that they were never included in the quotas.

Soon after the quotas, the Cristero War erupted in Mexico. What impact did this have on immigration?

Between 1926 and 1929, Catholic partisans took up arms against the Mexican federal government in protest against a series of laws that placed strong restrictions on the public role of the Catholic Church. In a country that was 98 percent Catholic, this provoked a furious response. Many Mexican Catholics were determined to go to war against their government until the laws were overturned.

The Cristero War had a twofold effect: first, it led to new waves of emigrants, exiles and refugees who fled the violence and economic disruption. Second, it politicized Mexican migrants in the United States around the Cristero cause. While not all Mexican migrants supported the Catholic side of the conflict, thousands did. They organized mass protests of the Mexican government from within their communities in the United States.

You’ve found evidence of a court case in Arizona that sheds light on this period. Could you tell us about it and why it’s significant to your research?

While researching my book I kept coming across mentions of a man named José Gándara, a Mexican immigrant who tried to start a Catholic revolt from the U.S.-side of the U.S.-Mexico border in 1927. He was eventually caught in Tucson, where he was subsequently put on trial. In the Library of Congress Newspaper and Periodical collections, I found two Arizona newspapers that documented the case: the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star. Both had extensive coverage of the Gándara trial, which was quite dramatic — Gándara had plotted with an exiled Catholic bishop from Mexico, along with numerous other Mexican migrants, and he had enlisted the support of members of the local indigenous Yaqui community. The plot was uncovered by agents working for the U.S. Department of Justice.

During the trial, Gándara’s lawyers — who were prominent Catholics from El Paso — mocked the Mexican government and made eloquent arguments in his defense. In the end, though, Gándara was convicted of arms smuggling and fomenting revolution. He served some time in jail, although he was eventually able to get his sentence commuted, thanks to some powerful supporters within the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. His story was important because it demonstrated how far some Mexican immigrants were willing to go in order to fight the Mexican government during the Cristero War years.

Fascinating. And shortly after that, the Stock Market crashed and altered Mexican immigration once again.

Yes. At the onset of the Depression in 1929, entire industries dried up, and the need for immigrant labor decreased. Many Mexican migrants found themselves suddenly impoverished and tens of thousands of rural workers went back to Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were also deported under unofficial “repatriation” policies led by federal, municipal or city authorities.

As you listen to immigration debates in the 21st century, what strikes you as being similar and what strikes you as being different from debates in the early 20th century?

I’m often struck by the similarities. Some of the rhetoric and debate about immigration, particularly immigration from Mexico and Latin America, echoes that of the 1920s. It’s not uncommon to hear people describe current migrants as “too different” from the majority culture, as being unable to assimilate or acculturate.

At the same time, immigration today has features that are historically unprecedented, and we shouldn’t make too many direct analogies. For example, immigration is much more diverse today. Migrants from Latin America during the early twentieth century came almost exclusively from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and (to a lesser extent) Cuba. Today, immigrants come from every country in Latin America, and even migration from Mexico has diversified: people come not only from the historical sending states in the Mexican heartland, but also from Mexico’s gulf coast, from the southern states, and from other areas that sent few migrants before the 1980s and 1990s. That means that Mexicans, and Latin Americans more broadly, are creating truly new communities in the United States – communities based around a pan-Latin American identity, as opposed to a regional homeland identity. I think that will be one of the most fascinating areas of research for future historians.

Julia Young is an Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. Her book “Mexican Exodus: Emigrants, Exiles, and Refugees of the Cristero War” will be published this fall.

TIME animals

Canadian Tourist Fatally Injured by Jumping Whale in Mexico

A gray whale during its travel by the Pacific ocean coasts, Mexico March 5, 2008
Alejandro Zepeda—EPA A gray whale during its travel by the Pacific ocean coasts, Mexico March 5, 2008

Two other injured tourists were taken to hospital

(CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico) — A Canadian woman died from injuries sustained when a gray whale crashed into a tourist boat as it returned from a short excursion out of the resort city of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

Two other passengers were injured in the accident, which took place close to the beach around 11am on Wednesday, according to a statement released by tour company Cabo Adventures.

“The captain had to make a movement to avoid a whale that surfaced just in front of the boat,” the statement said. “The whale hit one side of the boat, leaving two people injured and another passenger hurt who, unfortunately, later died in hospital.”

Port director Vicente Martínez said the woman was 45 years old. Some reports said she was 10 years younger. The collision happened on the Pacific coast side of the Baja California Peninsula. One reported version said the whale jumped out of the water and landed on the boat filled with 24 people, including the crew.

The confusingly worded statement from the tour company appeared to suggest that the victim fell into the water during the collision. Once she was pulled back into the boat, it said, she immediately received mouth to mouth resuscitation from another tourist who happened to be a qualified nurse before naval rescue paramedics arrived and took her to the hospital.

Two other injured tourists were also taken to hospital – one was later discharged and the other’s life was not in danger, the statement said.

Cabo San Lucas promotes whale watching among its major attractions, promising tourists safe and awe-inspiring encounters with the huge docile mammals that every winter migrate thousands of miles from Arctic waters to warm shallow lagoons off the Mexican coast where they breed.

The fatality happened on the same day that Mexican authorities announced a particularly high number of gray whales had gathered in the area during this year’s season, which runs from mid-December to the end of April.

The National Commission for Natural Protected Areas said its census indicated a 10% increase on last season, making it one of the highest migrations registered during the last two decades.

Read next: Wild Beaver Colony in England to Be Set Free After Being Cleared of Disease

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME movies

Meet Mexico’s First Bond Girl

Stephanie Sigman Spectre Bond Girl
Jeffrey Mayer—WireImage/Getty Images Actress Stephanie Sigman arrives at the FX's 'The Bridge' Season 2 Premiere at Pacific Design Center on July 7, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif.

Actress Stephanie Sigman is starring in Spectre

Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman has joined the cast of the upcoming James Bond film, Spectre.

Sigman, 28, will play a character named Estrella, though the exact details haven’t been revealed according to the official 007 site. The actress joins a cast that includes Daniel Craig, who reprises his role as James Bond, and supporting members Christoph Waltz, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux.

Sigman is best known for her roles in the Academy Award-nominated Miss Bala (2011) and Norwegian film Pioneer (2013). She’s also appeared in the TV series The Bridge (2013) and Narcos (2015).

Spectre will be released Nov. 6, 2015.

TIME weather

Mountain Climbers Discover Frozen Corpses on Mexican Peak

Aereal view of the Citlaltepetl volcano or Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America in Veracruz State, Mexico on June 1, 2014.
Alfredo Estrella—AFP/Getty Images Aereal view of the Citlaltepetl volcano or Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America in Veracruz State, Mexico on June 1, 2014.

The bodies could be the victims of a 1959 avalanche that killed three people

Mountain climbers in Mexico stumbled onto a scene from The Walking Dead this week after they found two corpses sticking out of a glacier on Mexico’s tallest peak.

Inclement weather prevented officials from digging out the remains of the bodies on the Pico de Orizaba volcano, the Weather Network reports, but a second attempt was made Friday.

Authorities believe the bodies could be the victims of a 1959 avalanche that killed three people and that a third corpse could be in the area. Many relatives of other missing climbers have contacted officials about identifying the bodies since the climbers’ shared their discovery. Clothing that may have been preserved in the ice could help forensic experts determine the identities of the deceased climbers.

[Weather Network]

TIME Mexico

Mexican Police Grab Latest Zetas Leader in Wealthy Suburb

Soldiers escort a man identified as Omar Trevino Morales, leader of the Zetas drug cartel, in Mexico City, March 4, 2015
Eduardo Verdugo—AP Soldiers escort a man identified as Omar Trevino Morales, leader of the Zetas drug cartel, in Mexico City on March 4, 2015

Omar Trevino Morales, widely considered to be the most important leader of the Zetas drug cartel, was captured by Mexican police and soldiers

(MEXICO CITY) — Mexican police and soldiers on Wednesday captured Omar Trevino Morales, widely considered to be the most important leader of the Zetas drug cartel that once carved a path of brutal bloodshed along the country’s northern border with the U.S.

National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said at a news conference in Mexico City that the man known as “Z-42″ was arrested in a pre-dawn raid in San Pedro Garza Garcia, a wealthy suburb of the northern city of Monterrey.

A simultaneous raid on another street in the same suburb reaped Carlos Arturo Jimenez Encinas, allegedly Trevino’s finance chief, Rubido said.

Tomas Zeron, the attorney general’s criminal investigations chief, called Trevino “one of the most dangerous and bloodthirsty criminals in Mexico” and said he faced at least 11 criminal counts including drug trafficking, organized crime, kidnapping and oil theft. He also said Trevino faced a pending extradition request from the United States.

The Mexican government had offered a 30 million peso ($2 million) reward for his capture on weapons and organized crime charges.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration offered a $5 million reward for his capture, saying he was wanted for drug trafficking. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement, “The Zetas represent the worst in global organized crime: violence, intimidation, corruption, and brutal killings. Today’s arrest strikes at the heart of the leadership structure of the Zetas and should serve as yet another warning that no criminal is immune from arrest and prosecution.”

The suspect is the brother of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, described as the most bloodthirsty leader of Mexico’s most violent cartel. Miguel Angel was arrested in July 2013, almost a year after Mexican marines killed the Zetas’ other biggest leader, Heriberto Lazcano “El Lazca.”

Rubido said Omar, 38, took over leadership of the Zetas after his brother’s arrest and immediately became a target of their investigation.

The hunt for him caught a break in February when authorities observed someone matching Trevino’s description at one of the houses around Monterrey where Jimenez Encinas, the alleged finance chief, was known to hold meetings, Rubido said. Surveillance was increased until Trevino’s identity was confirmed. Authorities discovered he was moving with a smaller than usual security detail to draw less attention.

Just after 3 a.m. Wednesday, federal police and soldiers moved on both locations, Rubido said. Four additional men were also arrested. All six were walked across the tarmac from a military plane at Mexico City’s airport and loaded into armored personnel carriers.

The Zetas was originally a gang formed by deserters from an elite army unit and left a trail of brutality, bloodshed and mutilated bodies across northern Mexico during turf battles with the rival Gulf cartel. But much of the violence along Mexico’s northeast border now is due to internal battles among Gulf cartel factions.

“The truth is that this is a group that has been fragmented,” Javier Oliva, an expert on the drug war at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said of the Zetas. “Their influence is now more on a local level, in townships” rather than the broad, multi-state trafficking corridor they once controlled.

But Oliva said that doesn’t mean the Zetas and their internal fight to determine a replacement for Trevino Morales won’t turn bloody. He said gunmen or second-tier operators who were active under Trevino Morales may now seek to replace him.

“One would hope that the federal and state governments have taken precautions to avoid this arrest from causing more violence,” Oliva said.

The capture of Omar Trevino Morales follows Friday’s arrest of another big cartel leader, Servando Gomez, known as “La Tuta.” Gomez allegedly led the Knights Templar, a pseudo-religious drug gang that built up control of many sectors of the economy in the western state of Michoacan before it was weakened by an uprising of citizen vigilante groups and a stepped-up federal security campaign.

The two arrests provided much-needed good news for the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has been battered by a series of scandals in recent months.

“The government needed to show that some of its policies were successful,” said Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University. “And in this case, without doubt the strategy against the drug cartels is going well.”

Like Servando Gomez, Omar Trevino Morales was captured without any shots being fired.

The Trevino Morales brothers took proceeds from their U.S. drug sales and laundered them by purchasing American quarter horses. That scheme was led by Jose Trevino Morales, a third brother. A jury in Texas found Morales guilty in May of investing $16 million of drug money in the buying, training and racing of horses across the Southwest United States.

TIME Mexico

Mexican Mayor Grilled for Lifting Girl’s Dress While Dancing at Birthday Bash

“When one is happy, and the women are happy, one doesn’t calculate"

A mayor in Mexico has found himself in hot water after videos emerged of him lifting a young woman’s dress and exposing her underwear in front of thousands of people.

During his lavish 44th birthday party on Mexico’s Pacific coast on Saturday, San Blas Mayor Hilario Ramírez Villanueva chose to momentarily disrobe the woman in front of 50,000 revelers. He also drew criticism for the event’s costs, which reportedly neared $100,000.

“When one is happy, and the women are happy, one doesn’t calculate. It’s not an excuse, but I do ask for forgiveness from my friend Rosita,” Ramírez Villanueva told Mexican television.

Ramírez Villanueva is no stranger to controversy, having confessed to pilfering “a little bit” of public funds in 2014. However, he later called that incident nothing more than a party joke: “If I were a thief, I wouldn’t have been elected mayor twice,” he said.

[AFP]

TIME Mexico

Mexico Captures Drug Lord Who Led Knights Templar Cartel

Servando Gomez Martinez, aka La Tuta, in Mexico City in June 2009.
Secretaria de Seguridad Publica/AFP/Getty Images Servando Gomez Martinez, aka La Tuta, in Mexico City in June 2009.

Servando "La Tuta" Gomez had been on the run for over a year

A Mexican federal official says federal police have captured Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, one of the most-wanted drug lords and who once terrorized western Michoacan state.

The official says Gomez was captured early Friday in the capital city of Morelia without a shot fired. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Gomez was the leader of the Knights Templar cartel, a quasi-religious criminal group that once ruled all of the state, controlling politics and commerce. He evaded capture for more than a year after the federal government took over the state to try to restore order.

TIME remembrance

Mexican Singer Ariel Camacho Dies in Car Accident Aged 22

The 22-year-old was on tour promoting El Karma

Mexican singer Ariel Camacho died in a car crash Wednesday on a highway outside Sinaloa, Mexico.

The 22-year-old was on the road promoting a deluxe edition of his latest album El Karma when he was involved in a highway collision, reports Billboard.

“My heart is broken by the loss of Ariel Camacho,” said Angel Del Villar, president of the Regional Mexican label. “I knew he was going to transform the genre in Mexico and the United States. Millions of people would have become fans and would have gotten to know the man I did.”

As the frontman of the band Los Plebes del Rancho, Camacho performed in the Sierreno musical style, featuring acoustic guitars, bass and accordians played by a musical trio. El Karma was released by DEL records, amassing Camacho a loyal fan base for his soft vocals and adroit guitar-playing.

[Billboard]

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