Tag Archives: Mexico

Shot Across The Bow: Mexico Considers Boycott Of U.S. Corn

Rafael Avila harvests corn grown from seeds that trace their lineage to the Aztec and Maya cultures. In Mexico there’s a saying. “Sin maiz, no hay pais.” Without corn there’s no country.’ Despite that history, Mexico imports vast amounts of U.S. corn. (photo:Lorne Matalon)

MEXICO CITY — Every weekday, Antonio Godinez Vera turns imported American corn into feed for Mexican livestock. Some of that U.S. corn is also used to make tortillas, a staple of the Mexican diet. Corn is also a symbol of Mexico itself. Corn was born in Mexico 9,000 years ago. There’s even an expression here, “Sin maíz no hay pais,” meaning ‘without corn there’s no country.’ Legislation has been proposed in Mexico City to boycott U.S. corn in response to a suite of economic threats against Mexico voiced by President Donald Trump.

Corn mill owner Antonio Godinez Vera said a boycott of American corn would raise prices for Mexican consumers and damage the Mexican corn market. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

“A boycott could certainly hurt us,” Godinez told me in Spanish as the din of his corn mill echoed through a complex of machines and metal kernel grinders. Trucks laden with imported American corn sat in his lot. A boycott would also hurt U.S. corn growers from the Dakotas to the Midwest to Arizona, California and Texas. Mexico’s deputy economy minister Juan Carlos Baker told the Financial Times that negotiations are underway with Argentina and Brazil to offer them duty-free access to the Mexican market now enjoyed by U.S. growers under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).  As a candidate, Trump called Nafta the “worst trade deal” ever signed in this country.

Corn imported from the U.S. is used primarily in animal feeds but market uncertainty has historically translated into elevated prices for tortillas, a staple of the Mexican diet. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

Mexican Sen. Armando Rios Piter has proposed the boycott. “Corn is from Mexico, from my country. So right now it’s an important position in nationalistic way but also in terms of trade,” he said at the door of the Senate chamber.

Corn has been cultivated in what is modern-day Mexico for nine thousand years. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

 

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Mexico Midterms: Implications for Peña Nieto & US

The party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to retain its majority in the lower Chamber of Deputies. But numerous legislators who lobbied for his reforms will leave due to one term limits in Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

The party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to retain its majority in the lower Chamber of Deputies. But numerous legislators who lobbied for his reforms will leave due to one term limits in Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

A version of this story aired on the Texas Standard, a public radio collaboration led by KUT in Austin, Texas.

Here’s a link to a panel discussion on NPR member station KPBS, San Diego analyzing the results.

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — Midterm elections in Mexico, as in the United States, are a referendum on a president’s performance.

On Sunday, Mexicans will elect an entirely new congress along with 17 state legislatures and a host of governors and hundreds of mayors. The results will set the tenor for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s final three years in office.

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Lorne Matalon
President Enrique Peña Nieto greets citizens, Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Nov 28, 2013. His mandate will be strengthened or diminished in Mexico’s midterm elections and there are implications in the results for both Mexico and the United States.

Congressional representatives in the lower Chamber of Deputies are limited to a three-year term. Senators serve a single six-year term, as does the Mexican president.

The new congress will support, or stall, the second half of Peña Nieto’s term. And the election outcome has implications for United States-Mexico relations.

After a 12-year absence, Peña Nieto led his PRI party back to Los Pinos, Mexico’s White House, three years ago pledging to change the national conversation.

Eighteen months ago, Peña Nieto was hyping economic and political reform. Mexicans loved the message.

He had arrested the corrupt head of the politically powerful teachers union and he was crafting energy and telecommunications reform in an unprecedented attack against state and private monopolies. And he said he would confront corruption. But today, opposition election ads focus on one theme.

“Zero tolerance for corrupt politicians,” an opposition party’s radio ad exclaims. It castigates Peña Nieto, saying his anti-corruption rhetoric is hollow and cosmetic.

His presidency has been tarnished in the past year by violence and evidence of continuing corruption.

Last September, in the most shocking incident, 43 students were taken off buses in a small town in southern Mexico and murdered, allegedly on orders from an elected mayor. The mayor allegedly ordered his local police to hand the students over to assassins who may have been told the students were members of a rival cartel.

Peña Nieto was widely criticized for a slow and inept response to the crisis triggered by those murders. The slaughter was and is still seen as a symbol of the historical nexus between government and organized crime inside Mexico.

More recently in April, criminals murdered 15 police officers, shot down a military helicopter and set at least 15 banks on fire. One news report in Mexico called it an “unprecedented attack.”

And in May the government was again on the defensive after a shootout that left that 42 purported cartel members and one policeman dead.

Some Mexicans have stated publicly that they believe the dead were executed, a contention based on preliminary forensic data compiled by families of the deceased.

“Making change without spilling blood isn’t easy,” said Raul Acosta in Spanish.

He’s a retired political science professor. He said Peña Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderón also wanted change that ended in violence. Calderón thought he would stabilize Mexico by confronting organized crime. It didn’t work.

The violence seen today has its roots in Calderón’s war.

Now, Acosta said the biggest obstacle facing all parties isn’t disdain, it’s apathy.

“People have no motivation to vote,” he said. “There’s general discontent out there.”

Roberto Grado, a local leader of the opposition PAN party in Chihuahua, agrees.

“People are despondent,” Grado said in Spanish. “They don’t have faith in any political party.”

That’s also because in the last three years, there have been a series of allegations of corruption raised against every party.

The voices of political analysts are echoed by people on the streets of this northern Mexico state. Alan Salvador Andrade is a clothing distributor in Ojinaga.

“I don’t trust them, they’re all the same,” he said of politicians in general.

His worst fear, he said, is that nothing will change and that violence and corruption will continue to scar Mexico.

“I’m afraid of what’s going to happen,” he said looking ahead to the vote.

In some states, some voters have said they will not participate in the election. And in some regions, election supervisors have said they are afraid to staff polling stations because of actual or implied threats of violence from any number of disaffected interests.

There’s currently a movement to annul or destroy votes by leaving ballots unchecked. Activists have blocked roads urging drivers to annul their votes to signal dissatisfaction.

Salvador doesn’t like that strategy.

“Our vote is the most important weapon that we have to change this situation,” he said.

Turnout in midterm elections in Mexico is notoriously low and this time around may be even more so. National polls suggest flagging support for Peña Nieto.

“There is a story here for us in the United States,” said Andrew Selee.

Selee is a Mexico and Latin America specialist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He said there are fundamental questions the U.S. hopes are answered on Sunday.

“Is Peña Nieto going to come out of this election strengthened? Is he going to come out being seen as a leader who has a mandate, who has control of congress, in which case he’s in a very strong position to look at some of the international issues including issues of economic opening with the United States, issues with migrants in the United States and lot of things that have to do with our country,” Selee said.

There are other issues of importance to the U.S. For one, American energy companies are also monitoring this election campaign. They’re eager to enter Mexico’s domestic energy sector.

Peña Nieto helped change Mexico’s constitution to allow foreign companies in. He overcame the opposition of Mexican nationalists who maintain that outsiders have no place in Mexico’s energy market.

If the Mexican president is rebuked at the polls, some of those companies will undoubtedly revisit and refine their plans for their prospective operations in Mexico.

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Boquillas Two Years Later: Economy Rebuild Garners Binational Support

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signs an update to the 1999 U.S.-Mexico Wildfire Protection Agreement with her Mexican counterpart, Juan José Guerra Abud, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) on her left. (Lorne Matalon)

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signs an update to the 1999 U.S.-Mexico Wildfire Protection Agreement with her Mexican counterpart, Juan José Guerra Abud, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) on her left. (Lorne Matalon)

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BOQUILLAS, Coahuila — A border crossing that’s seen as part of a template to rescue damaged, rural economies along the Rio Grande has marked its second anniversary.

The symbolic importance of the crossing that links Big Bend National Park in Texas to Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila, was heralded by a visit from cabinet secretaries from the United States and Mexico. The United States ambassador to Mexico was also on hand.

After 9/11, security concerns translated into enforcement of laws that had rarely been largely overlooked before. That meant the age-old practice of walking across this sinewy slice of the Rio Grande was banned.

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U.S. Junk Cars Sustain A Local Microeconomy In Guatemala

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A version of this story aired on Texas Standard from KUT Austin.

 

MARFA, Texas — Old cars that have little resale value in the United States are being towed in caravans that begin in California, Arizona and Texas and end up in Guatemala.

The cars are also loaded up with old bicycles, recycled car batteries and clothing that have been jettisoned in the United States.

The vehicles are fixed up in Guatemala and sold across Central America.

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Mexico Consulates Issue Birth Certificates To Undocumented Migrants In The US

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Mexico has ordered its consulates to issue birth certificates to its citizens living illegally in the United States.

The move follows President Barack Obama’s executive action granting temporary reprieve from deportation to several million undocumented Mexicans.

Herlinda Lujan with her Mexican birth certificate at the Mexico Consulate at Presidio, Texas. In a major policy shift, Mexican consulates are issuing birth certificates to its citizens living in the United States regardless of their U.S. immigration status.

Herlinda Lujan with her Mexican birth certificate at the Mexico Consulate at Presidio, Texas. In a major policy shift, Mexican consulates are issuing birth certificates to its citizens living in the United States regardless of their U.S. immigration status. (Lorne Matalon)

Mexican officials say they wants to help undocumented migrants apply for a variety of programs, including immigration applications, triggered by Obama’s decision. And those programs require identification, starting with a birth certificate.

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The Political Calculus: National Guard On The Texas Border

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The United States Congress is wrestling with competing visions on border security, including the possibility of a federal deployment of the National Guard to the border.

But in Texas, where political angst over border security is a water cooler issue, the National Guard is deploying on the Texas-Mexico border for the third time since 2006.

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The U.S.-Mexico border, where Presidio, TX meets Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

President George W. Bush sent the National Guard to four border states that year. Four years later, President Barack Obama extended that deployment.

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BBC World Service Interview: Riding La Bestia

bbc_world_service_logo Many Central American migrants looking to cross into the United States transit Mexico on a network of cargo trains collectively known as La Bestia, which means “the beats” in Spanish. The migrants choose this option over walking overland but La Bestia is a risky trip too. Marauding gangs extract extortion fees, woman are routinely abused and raped and many people have been tossed from the train for refusing to comply with demands, losing limbs or their life.

Shadows move across the tracks as La Bestia, a cargo train known as The Beast, approaches from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas into the state of Veracruz.(Lorne Matalon)

Shadows move across the tracks as La Bestia, a cargo train known as The Beast, approaches from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas into the state of Veracruz. (Lorne Matalon)

BBC World Service anchor Julian Worricker interviewed Lorne Matalon live from London about Matalon’s experience reporting on La Bestia. You can also find Matalon’s photographs from his coverage here.

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Fracking On The Border: NY Court Ruling May Affect Outcome

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This story was also featured by Inside Energy, a public radio collaboration at Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver.

 

The Big Bend of Texas, so named for the way the region hugs a massive bend in the Rio Grande, is renown for its desert landscapes, open spaces and tranquility. But parts of it lie within the oil-rich Permian Basin, the nation’s highest producing oil field thanks to fracking technology.

Mexico is drilling at least 29 exploratory wells across the border from the Big Bend and saying it wants to jumpstart fracking operations there.

Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country's highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)

Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country’s highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)

Fracking requires massive amounts of water. And a NY State Court of Appeals ruling may be of comfort to citizens in Texas concerned about the possibility of fracking in the Big Bend.

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Making Deals With Informants: US Visas And The Juárez War

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In this Fronteras Desk web exclusive, Lorne Matalon speaks with Jason McGahan, the author of a report for The Daily Beast news site entitled, “U.S. Visas Helped Fuel The Juárez Drug Wars.”

Matalon also speaks with College of William & Mary Professor George Grayson, the co-author with Sam Logan of “The Executioner’s Men: Los Zetas, Rogue Soldiers, Criminal Entrepreneurs and the Shadow State They Created.”

A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)

A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)

Grayson has chronicled other examples of U.S. authorities paying informants inside the Mexican underworld.

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Story originally published at The United States Department of Agriculture has rescinded a 2012 ban on inspectors working at what was until two years ago the largest single point of entry for Mexican cattle into the United States. The lifting of the … Continue reading

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Juarez Cartel On Trial In El Paso: A Conversation With Jason McGahan

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A recently concluded trial in El Paso, Texas, has revealed the inner workings of how the Juarez Cartel used sophisticated communication technology to orchestrate murders, while United States law enforcement and intelligence operatives eavesdropped on calls between the killers. This came out while the prosecution was making its case against Arturo “Benny” Gallegos.

On Tuesday investigative reporter Jason McGahan was interviewed by Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon about his work on this case.

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Americans, Mexicans Helping Indigenous Tarahumara

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Private Mexican & American citizens are in the Sierra with the Tarahumara now as the planting season begins. Famed for their prowess at ultra long distance running, the Tarahumara are losing arable land & the capacity to grow their own food. Outsiders are supplying the Tarahumara with protection, food and & high quality seeds for next year.

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Tarahumara Governor Pal Ma in a cornfield beside her home, Talpa, Chihuahua, Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

SIERRA MADRE, Chihuahua, Mexico — As the summer planting season begins, American and Mexican citizens are helping one of Mexico’s most isolated indigenous groups — the Tarahumara of Chihuahua. They face the twin challenges of poverty and corruption; illegal loggers and violent criminal organizations steal their arable land and plunder the mountains.

A tractor donated by a family from Texas tills a field that is 10 hours by road from the U.S.-Mexico border. Corn planting season has started in the Sierra.
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Brothers’ Murder and Border Violence

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In El Porvenir, Mexico across from Fort Hancock, Texas, drug cartel battles for control of the long-established smuggling route have triggered multiple killings on the Mexican side, most recently the murder of two brothers. The violence rarely spills across the border, but the psychological impact does. Lorne Matalon reports for Fronteras.

In El Porvenir, Mexico across from Fort Hancock, Texas, drug cartel battles for control of the long-established smuggling route have triggered multiple killings on the Mexican side, most recently the murder of two brothers.

Gap in the border wall at El Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico and Fort Hancock, Texas.

Gap in the border wall at El Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico and Fort Hancock, Texas.

The violence rarely spills across the border, but the psychological impact does.

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The Personal Cost of Extortion in Mexico

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has shifted the national conversation away from an intractable drug war and towards the economy. Despite Mexico’s insecurity, its economy is still a major player in Latin America. But some business owners working on the border are finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the cartels.

OJINAGA, MEXICO – There has been a major increase in the number of businesses reporting extortion attempts in Mexico, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico (PDF).

The Chamber’s new survey says the number of its member businesses reporting extortion is already twice this year what it was in 2012.

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Building A Tourism Cooperative In Northern Mexico

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This live-to-tape interview broadcast from Boquillas, Coahuila, Mexico looks at the challenges faced by outsiders who say they are here—funded by tax money of the US, Canada & Mexico—to improve life in the village.

In April, we reported on a formal border crossing re-opening in West Texas. For years, thousands of tourists flocked to the tiny village of Boquillas Mexico, propping up their local economy.

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Workers gather straw and foliage beside a casita under renovation. The United States looms in the background across the Rio Grande. (Lorne Matalon)

Then, Sept. 11, 2001 happened. The border was unmanned, and in the name of national security it was sealed. The closed border was a crippling blow to Boquillas’ economy.

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Long Awaited Border Crossing with Mexico Opens

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On this program, we catch up with Ernesto Hernandez of the Washington DC based Solimar International. That company was awarded a $100,000 contract last year to help Boquillas Mexico prepare for the border reopening. Hernandez discusses the challenge faced by outsiders who are trying to establish a community-owned tourism cooperative.

Candelario Valdez tends bar, Boquillas, Mexico (Photo: Lorne Matalon).

Candelario Valdez tends bar, Boquillas, Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

On this program, we catch up with Ernesto Hernandez of the Washington DC based Solimar International. That company was awarded a $100,000 contract last year to help Boquillas Mexico prepare for the border reopening. Hernandez discusses the challenge faced by outsiders who are trying to establish a community-owned tourism cooperative.

Hear the effect outsiders coming is having on Boquillas and learn how Solimar views the villagers it is trying to help.

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A Texas-Mexico Border Crossing Opens

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Catarino Oreste Vasquez, 70, says residents of Boquillas, Mexico, yearn for visitors now that the border crossing has reopened.

Catarino Oreste Vasquez, 70, says residents of Boquillas, Mexico, yearn for visitors now that the border crossing has reopened. (Lorne Matalon)

Boquillas, Mexico, a riverside hamlet of 90 people, sits a minute by foot across the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park in Texas, a boundless tapestry of rock and high desert. Mexicans used to cross to work, buy supplies in the park or visit family. Americans would wade across the river to savor Mexico for a few hours. The border, at least here, was an abstract one that people on either side ignored. But that was before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afterward, this part of the border was sealed.

The only thing entering the U.S. along this emerald sliver of the Rio Grande was the sound of 62-year-old Victor Valdez singing. His voice echoed across the canyon, his corridos telling stories of lost love and the fight to survive in a harsh, beautiful land.

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KRTS Crosses into Mexico at Boquillas, and then Back Into Texas…Legally

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013: This morning, Marfa Public Radio news reporter Lorne Matalon was among the first to cross at the new international port of entry between Big Bend National Park, Texas, and Boquillas, Mexico.

After more than a year of wrangling, between officials in the United States and Mexico, this pedestrian crossing has now opened officially. KRTS spoke to residents of Boquillas, Mexico, about their joy and relief for the port opening.

On this day, in which this new border crossing opened, there was a immigration rally in Washington D.C. in a gathering called “All-In For Citizenship.”Previous KRTS News reports on the border opening were filed in March 2013, November 2012, and even back in January 2011. Lorne Matalon also filed a Fronteras news report in January 2013.

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Formalizing A Border Crossing At Boquillas

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[audio:http://lornematalon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Boquillas_Final_audio.mp3]

 

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas — A formal border crossing with Mexico will open soon, linking Rio Grande Village — located inside Big Bend National Park in Texas — and the village of Boquillas, Mexico. Documents have now been sent to the government printing office, one of the final steps before a new border station opens. This story is part of the Fronteras Desk project, a reporting initiative led by a consortium of NPR stations in the southwest.

A Mexican citizen paddles his canoe from the northern shoreline of the Rio Grande into Coahuila, Mex. near Boquillas.

A Mexican citizen paddles his canoe from the northern shoreline of the Rio Grande into Coahuila, Mex. near Boquillas.

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People on either side used to cross freely to exchange goods and services. But after 9-11, the United States declared all informal crossings such as this one illegal. There are hopes on both sides of the border that this legal border crossing will bring economic revival.

The border may be sealed at Boquillas, Mexico. But the solitary sound of a Mexican man singing — his name is Victor Valdez — soars across the river. He asks, “Want to hear another song?”

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Mezcal Production Drawing Mexicans Back Home

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An unexpected rise in the popularity of a relatively undiscovered traditional indigenous drink is bringing some people home to a remote village in southern Mexico.

Distilled mezcal is filtered into a storage drum.

Distilled mezcal is filtered into a storage drum.

SAN LUIS DEL RIO, Mex. — It’s after midnight at Bar Añejo in Manhattan. Añejo means ‘aged’. On this night–in this place–it means “the nectar of a Mexican plant that’s been lovingly grown, and you’re about to sip it.”

“We’re having a midnight mezcal de Oaxaca….”

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