When a teacher’s strike in Oaxaca, Mexico brought government occupation to the provincial capitol in 2006, the resulting protests resulted in paramilitary forces opening fire into a crowd that October. Three were killed: local activists Esteban Zurrita and Emilio Alonso Fabian, and Brad Will, an independent American journalist who was covering the protest. Will’s death brought increased international scrutiny to the area, but not nearly enough. Brian Conley’s Alive in Mexico continues the work of its respected predecessor Alive in Baghdad in giving microphones and video equipment to local citizens interested in telling their own story and the story of their homeland to an international media that has had little room for their voices. From covering Brad Will in Oaxaca to Zapatistas in Chiapas, Conley’s team of journalists, locals, and pro-bono crewmembers began to fill that void in November 2006 (one month after Will’s death) with an alternative media cinema verité approach that’s part stirring exposé and part unifying cultural education.
The five- to ten-minute installments are released usually one to three times each month – sometimes more, sometimes not at all. Each one features or dissects a specific event, cause, or cultural issue with a focus on empowerment. The variety of subject matter will blow you away. And so will the research that goes into each installment. A few past topics covered include murals of resistance, an overview of healthcare, analysis of urban culture, and protests, protests, protests. The time it takes for each episode to be made is evident in the polished but understated editing, translations, informative text slides, and sound mixing. Some feature interviews and voiceovers; some are silent testimonials where the video can speak for itself, but never do the interviewers or videographers intrude. The journalistic emphasis in Conley’s sites is always on subjects rather than journalists. (Unless Amy Goodman has something really enriching to add to the mix, you will never see her on film here. And it goes without saying that Katie Couric won’t be appearing in an episode—or Oaxaca, for that matter—anytime soon either.) It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in learning about the issues of contemporary Mexico outside of presidential politics and NAFTA; it’s worth watching. Watch it.
I refuse to play favorites with this site. None are any less stimulating or worthwhile than the rest. That said, the episode on political murals discusses one of Mexico’s enduring artistic and revolutionary legacies whose contemporary descendants rarely get attention. The episode on the Oaxacan march for women’s rights covers a human rights violation almost never covered by even the alternative international press: the persecution of women by both men and police in Mexico that have resulted in widespread “disappearances.” The episode on indigenous healthcare in Chiapas is informative and well researched. You know what? You should just watch them all.