MEXICO CITY — The capital had been bracing for the disaster for years.
Ever since it opened nearly a decade ago, the newest Mexico City subway line — a heralded expansion of the second largest subway system in the Americas — had been plagued with structural weaknesses that led engineers to warn of potential accidents. Yet other than a brief, partial shutdown of the line in 2014, the warnings went unheeded by successive governments.
On Monday night, the mounting problems turned fatal: A subway train on the Golden Line plunged about 50 feet after an overpass collapsed underneath it, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens more.
The accident — and the government’s failure to act sooner to fix known problems with the line — immediately set off a political firestorm for three of the most powerful people in Mexico: the president and the two people widely believed to be front-runners to succeed him as leaders of the governing party and possibly, the country.
told reporters through sobs. “I can’t find him anywhere.”
Hours later, her 13-year-old son, Brandon Giovani Hernández Tapia, was still missing.
told reporters gathered at the crash site on Tuesday. “The metro wasn’t built on its own — this flaw has been there for a long time and no one did anything.”
A total of 79 injured people had been taken to hospitals, three of whom later died, according to Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City. Among those hospitalized were three minors.
Mexico City’s water problems and its subway system, a key mode of transportation for the sprawling capital’s population of nearly 22 million.
In the aftermath of Monday’s disaster, two of Mr. López Obrador’s closest allies came under immediate scrutiny: Ms. Sheinbaum, the capital’s mayor, and Marcelo Ebrard, the foreign minister who was mayor when the new subway line opened. Both are presumed to be top contenders to run for the presidency when Mr. López Obrador, limited to one term, steps down in 2024.
The new line, which serves the working-class neighborhoods in the capital’s southeast, was built by Mr. Ebrard, who was mayor of Mexico from 2006 to 2012. He was accused by critics of rushing to finish construction before his term concluded in an effort to bolster his political legacy. Troubles emerged immediately.
In just the first month after the line was inaugurated, there were 60 mechanical failures on trains or on tracks, according to local media. Trains had to slow down over elevated stretches of track, because engineers feared derailments. About a year later, the city was forced to temporarily shut down part of the $2 billion line for repairs.
transport authorities reported “a structural fault” in one of the metro line’s supporting columns, which had affected its ability to support heavy weight.
In 2018, senators from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party called for Mexico City authorities to inform Congress about irregularities in the funding of the subway line’s expansion. In an official party document, the opposition lawmakers called the Golden Line a “symbol of corruption and the misuse of public resources that prevailed during that administration.”
The lawmakers cited a congressional inquiry into the faulty line which found that “the modifications to the basic engineering, to the original layout with the change of underground stations to elevated stations, severely affected the technical operating conditions” of the subway line.
Residents living near the scene of the accident said government workers had fixed the column shortly after the earthquake. But they expressed doubt about the quality of the reconstruction, after seeing how many shutdowns and maintenance issues the line had over the years.
Hernando Manon, 42, was walking home from work Monday night when he felt a tremor and heard a loud crash a few hundred yards up the street.
“There was a rumbling and then sparks. The lights went out, and we didn’t know what happened. Then we heard the sirens,” Mr. Manon said, standing just a few hundred yards from the site of the accident. “As we approached, we realized that the subway had collapsed.”
Families rushed to the scene, he said, hoping to find their loved ones and yelling at the police demanding to be let through the cordon they had erected around the wreckage.
2018-2030 Master Plan for the subway system detailed major backlogs to the maintenance of tracks and trains and warned that trains could be derailed on the Golden Line unless major repairs were undertaken. It is unclear whether those needed repairs were ever carried out.
Since becoming mayor of the capital in 2018, Ms. Sheinbaum, who is closely aligned with the president’s pursuit of austerity, has presided over cuts to spending on the subway system.
For a year, the city did not appoint a director of infrastructure maintenance for the subway system. Ms. Sheinbaum only filled the role last week.
two subway trains collided in Mexico City. Then in January, a fire ripped through the subway’s headquarters in downtown Mexico City, killing a police officer and sending 30 others to hospital.
At a news conference on Tuesday, both Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard faced harsh questioning from reporters. Publicly, at least, the two political heavyweights presented a united front.
“We are in agreement to get to the bottom of this and work together to find the truth and know what caused this incident,” Ms. Sheinbaum said.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” Mr. Ebrard said. “Like anyone else, I am subject to whatever the authorities determine, but even more so as a high-level official, as someone who promoted the construction of the line.”
Their rivalry has long been a subject of speculation by pundits, and on Tuesday, two of Mexico’s brightest political stars were in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
After the deadly subway train crash in Mexico City, public anger on Tuesday turned toward the city’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, and a former mayor who is now Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard.
Both are widely seen as possible successors to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“Absolutely nothing will be hidden,” Mr. López Obrador said at a news conference on Tuesday morning. “The people of Mexico must know the whole truth.”
But even as the president spoke, the political fallout was evident at his news conference. Both Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard faced harsh questioning from reporters: she for the possible failure to detect faults that led to the deadly crash, and he for overseeing the construction of a subway line plagued by accusations of mismanagement and corruption.
Publicly, at least, the two political heavyweights presented a united front.
“We are in agreement to get to the bottom of this and work together to find the truth and know what caused this incident,” said Ms. Sheinbaum, who avoided blaming any government figures for the accident.
Mr. Ebrard, asked whether he feared being held ultimately responsible for the tragic accident, denied any wrongdoing and said he would cooperate with the investigation.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” he said. “Like anyone else, I am subject to whatever the authorities determine, but even more so as a high-level official, as someone who promoted the construction of the line.”
Mr. Ebrard was mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012, and the subway line, known as the Golden Line, was one of the landmark projects of his administration.
The crash occurred a month before legislative elections that the governing party, known as Morena, is expected to dominate. Mr. López Obrador has a high approval rating throughout the country but is less popular in Mexico City.
Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard are both members of Morena, and both are vying to succeed Mr. López Obrador as president when his term ends in 2024.
Mr. López Obrador, who campaigned on improving Mexico’s infrastructure, has spearheaded ambitious public transportation projects since taking office in 2018, including nearly 1,000 miles of railway stretching across Mexico. He has sought to create a legacy through several landmark projects and, soon after taking office, stopped the construction of a half-built airport that a rival party had started to build for Mexico City.
Even though the construction was advanced and the government had spent billions of dollars on the airport, Mr. López Obrador scrapped it to build another airport at a different location, reimagining the project in his name.
Yet the president’s flashy projects have come at the expense of more urgent needs, including water infrastructure problems in a country increasingly burdened by droughts and Mexico City’s subway system, a key mode of transportation for the sprawling capital’s population of nearly 22 million.
The subway system in Mexico City, the country’s sprawling capital, handles more than four million passengers a day and is the second-largest in the Americas, after New York City’s. And when it was inaugurated in 1969, decorated with Aztec artifacts and Maya-style friezes, it was the pride of a nation.
But in recent years it has become a symbol of urban decay.
There was concern over the integrity of the elevated tracks and support columns on the stretch of tracks where Monday’s accident occurred after a powerful earthquake hit Mexico in September 2017.
The elevated infrastructure on the subway line — known as Line 12, or the Golden Line — was damaged, El Universal newspaper reported.
Later that month, some local residents told El Universal that they feared that the damaged infrastructure might collapse. The newspaper reported at the time that a column between the Olivos and Nopalera stations had suffered structural damage. It also reported that engineers were to conduct an ultrasound survey of the reinforcing steel in 300 columns along Line 12’s elevated portion.
fire ripped through the metro’s downtown headquarters, killing a police officer and sending 30 others to hospital with smoke inhalation. Six subway lines were temporarily knocked offline.
Opposition parties blamed a lack of maintenance for the inferno, and the conservative National Action Party filed a criminal complaint against Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and the head of the Mexico City subway.
two subway trains collided in Mexico City. Ms. Sheinbaum said at the time that one of the trains had apparently backed into the other. Video of the wreckage showed that the force of the collision had left one of the trains stuck on top of the other, according to Reuters.
The next month at the Misterios station, a railway coupler — a mechanism used for joining train cars — fractured en route to its destination. Although that incident resulted in no deaths, workers asked for more safety measures, El Universal reported.
Another derailment in 2018 sent shock waves through a suburb of Mexico City. A train carrying cargo ran off the tracks, and one of its cars crashed into a house, killing five people.
The most recent serious accident occurred in 2015, when a collision between two trains left 12 people dead. In 1975, another train collision at the Viaducto station killed 31 people and left more than 70 injured, according to El Universal.
After the 2015 accident, the German-based company TÜV Rheinland was hired to examine the circumstances that might have caused it and suggest improvements to technology. The company finished its work in 2017 and was not involved in looking into the strength of existing structures, a spokesman said.
“TÜV Rheinland supervised the development of improvement measures to remedy technical problems in systems engineering,” said the spokesman, Jörg Meyer. “Our activities at that time were not related to bridge infrastructure.”
A subway train derailed on Monday night in Mexico City after a concrete overpass partially collapsed, the government said, leading to reports of scores of injuries and scenes of tangled wires, twisted metal and tilted train cars that had fallen off an overpass.
The derailment occurred on Line 12 of the subway system at the Olivos Station in southeast Mexico City, Mexico’s civil protection agency said in a post on Twitter. The accident sent emergency teams scrambling to the scene and prompted a warning on Twitter from the Mexico City Metro, officially called Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, to avoid the area.
Videos of the derailment released by the government showed at least one orange-and-yellow one subway car hanging from an overpass.
reported that the crash occurred about 10:25 p.m. and left at least 50 people injured. Officials did not immediately release any reports of casualties.
said on Twitter that she was rushing to the scene.
The subway system in Mexico City, the country’s sprawling capital, handles more than four million passengers a day. It is the second-largest in the Americas, after the one in New York City.
CIUDAD DE MÉXICO — Alguien con un disfraz de Charlie Brown saluda frenéticamente. Una persona vestida de mono finge tomar fotos con una cámara de peluche. Un hombre mayor que acaba de recibir su segunda inyección de la vacuna de Pfizer toma un micrófono y comienza a cantar muy fuerte.
“Tengo 78 años, pero todos me dicen que parezco de 75 y medio”, decía el hombre alegremente, una apreciación proyectada en su aparente fuerza pulmonar, mientras entonaba con pasión una canción ranchera.
En un intento por mejorar el servicio al cliente, los centros de vacunación de la capital de México ofrecen ahora, además de los pinchazos, una serie de opciones de entretenimiento como bailes, yoga, actuaciones de ópera en directo y la posibilidad de ver a grandes luchadores de lucha libre con el torso desnudo haciendo el limbo.
virus en América Latina y los esfuerzos tropezados de vacunación en muchos de sus países. Las preocupaciones se han agravado recientemente por la rápida propagación de una variante del virus descubierta por primera vez en Brasil.
el tercer mayor número de muertes por coronavirus en todo el mundo, donde el gobierno se resiste a imponer confinamientos estrictos, por temor a los daños a la economía, y que no ha realizado pruebas generalizadas, argumentando que es un desperdicio de dinero.
Muchos creen que la única salida a esta pesadilla es la vacunación masiva, pero la campaña avanza lentamente. Sin embargo, desde mediados de abril el ritmo se ha acelerado a nivel nacional —y después de algunos desórdenes al principio— la capital del país ha mejorado la eficiencia de sus procesos de vacunación.
“Nos dimos cuenta rápidamente que no, que con la estrategia habíamos pensado no íbamos a poder atender a los adultos mayores con el nivel de calidad y servicio que ellos merecían”, dijo Eduardo Clark, quien ayuda a coordinar el programa de vacunación de la ciudad.
lucha libre con máscaras de colores, llamados Gravedad, Bandido, Guerrero Olímpico, Hijo del Pirata Morgan y Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
“Es un ratito de alegría”, gritó Silva para hacerse escuchar a pesar del sonido de la banda que tocaba en directo a unos metros de distancia, asintiendo al ritmo. “Reanima lo que uno tiene adentro”.
Con las arenas de lucha libre cerradas por la pandemia, el gobierno ha dado un uso creativo a los enmascarados de la lucha libre, alistándolos para que hagan cumplir el uso de las mascarillas simulando que abordan a la gente y ahora con esto.
“Me gusta el hecho de que estén cooperando, solidarios con la gente”, dijo Francisca Rodríguez, mientras la silla de ruedas de su marido era momentáneamente requisada por un sudoroso Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
Rodríguez dijo que López Obrador, había hecho un trabajo “excelente” en la gestión de la pandemia, aunque reconoció que el presidente había recibido muchas críticas por negarse a vacunar a algunos trabajadores de los hospitales privados, quienes dicen que se les hace esperar más tiempo que los de los hospitales públicos.
“Hay una guerra mediática contra el presidente López Obrador en este momento”, dijo, enfáticamente. “Hasta los periódicos de Estados Unidos están atacando al presidente”.
A medida que la gente se vacunaba y entraba en la zona donde se les observaría para detectar reacciones secundarias, los enmascarados de la lucha libre estallaron en un cántico de “¡sí se pudo!”.
“Mis hijos me van a preguntar cómo era, entonces les voy a llevar evidencias”, dijo Luis González, de 68 años, quien grababa la actuación con el celular.
Cuando la esposa de González contrajo el coronavirus hace cuatro meses, él se sentó a su lado, abanicándola con un trozo de cartón para intentar que tuviera más aire para respirar. Tras 38 años de matrimonio, la vio morir en su casa, a la espera de una ambulancia.
González se sentó en la primera fila mucho después de haber pasado su periodo de observación, solo, viendo bailar a los luchadores.
“Se siente el vacío, más por las noches”, dijo. “Durante los días, es más fácil distraerme”.
MEXICO CITY — Someone in a Charlie Brown costume frantically waves hello. A person dressed as a monkey pretends to take photos with a stuffed camera. An elderly man who just got his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine grabs a microphone and starts singing very loudly.
“I’m 78, but they tell me I look 75 and a half,” the man said gleefully, the assessment supported by his apparent lung strength as he belted out a ranchera song with abandon.
In a bid to improve their customer service, vaccination centers in Mexico’s capital now come with a slate of entertainment options, including dancing, yoga, live operatic performances and the chance to watch large, bare-chested Lucha Libre wrestlers do the limbo.
The goal is to make the process as appealing as possible, said a woman leading a singing and dancing performance for people waiting for a shot at a military parade ground in Mexico City on a recent Wednesday.
virus in Latin America and the sputtering vaccination efforts in many of its countries. Concerns have been compounded recently by the rapid spread of a virus variant first discovered in Brazil.
At the vaccination center in Mexico City, women in white shirts led the crowd in various yoga poses that could be done in wheelchairs. Men performed tricks with a surprising number of soccer balls. A professional opera singer congratulated everyone.
the third highest coronavirus death toll worldwide, where the government resisted imposing strict lockdowns, fearing damage to the economy, and which has not tested widely, arguing it is a waste of money.
Many believe that the only escape from this nightmare is mass vaccination, but the campaign had been moving glacially. By mid-April, though, the pace has picked up nationally — and after some messiness in the beginning, the nation’s capital has gotten better at efficiently getting shots into arms.
“We quickly realized that with the strategy we had in place, we couldn’t attend to seniors with the level of service they deserved,” said Eduardo Clark, who helps coordinate the city’s vaccination program.
Lucha Libre wrestlers, named Gravity, Bandido, Guerrero Olímpico, Hijo de Pirata Morgan and Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
“It’s a little bit of joy,” Ms. Silva shouted over the live band playing a few feet away, nodding to the beat. “It reanimates what you have inside.”
With the pandemic closing wrestling arenas, the government has put the Lucha Libre fighters to creative use, enlisting them to enforce mask wearing by pretending to accost people and now this.
“I’m glad they are here cooperating, in solidarity with people,” said Francisca Rodríguez, whose husband’s wheelchair had momentarily been commandeered by a sweating Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
Ms. Rodríguez said Mr. López Obrador, had done an “excellent” job of managing the pandemic, though she acknowledged that the president had taken a beating for refusing to vaccinate some workers in private hospitals, who say they’re being made to wait longer than those at public hospitals.
“There is a media war against President López Obrador right now,” she said, pointedly. “Even American newspapers are attacking the president.”
As people were vaccinated and filed into the area where they would be observed for adverse reactions, the Lucha Libre wrestlers broke out into a “yes you could!” chant.
“My children are going to ask me how it was, so I’m going to bring them evidence,” said Luis González, 68, recording the performance on his cellphone.
When Mr. González’s wife got the coronavirus four months ago, he sat by her side, fanning her with a piece of cardboard to try to make more air available to breathe. After 38 years of marriage, he watched her die in their home, waiting for an ambulance.
Mr. González sat in the front row long after his observation period had passed, alone, watching the wrestlers dance.
“You feel the emptiness, especially at night,” he said. “During the days, it’s easier to distract myself.”
The piñata industry, dependent on social gatherings, has seen sales plummet. Some artisans, in a creative bid to survive, have added coronavirus figures to their lineups of superheros and princesses.
MEXICO CITY — The sight is jarring against the backdrop of smog and concrete that marks this part of Mexico City, a tangle of freeways and overpasses with old buses rumbling by and belching smoke.
But there, bursting like flowers amid the ashen buildings, they hang in row upon row: piñatas, painted every color, from bright fuchsia to midnight blue to Baby Yoda green. On the sidewalk, a Spiderman piñata stands beside Batman, while Mickey Mouse leans against Sonic the Hedgehog.
And included among the copyright-be-damned cartoon characters, superheros and doe-eyed Disney princesses is a more recent addition to the Mexican piñata repertoire. Painted lime-green with a gold crown, spikes erupting in all directions, the coronavirus glares at passers-by.
devastated whole communities.
“We Mexicans laugh even at death,” Mr. Mena said. “It’s become just another monster.”
Piñata makers, often close-knit families whose business depends on the social gatherings that have largely halted during the pandemic, have, like much of the country, suffered both financially and personally for the past year.
Mr. Mena said that his sales had plummeted, putting him in a dire economic situation, but that the personal losses had been even worse. Eleven members of his extended family have died of Covid-19, as well as more than two dozen others he knows of in the industry.
“It’s so hard for a lot of us,” he said. “It just never crossed your mind that there would be so many dead in so little time.”
updated its official figures, showing that the virus may have claimed more than 300,000 lives, an astonishing toll for the country of 126 million people.
The effect of the pandemic on the economy has been almost as ruinous. Last year, Mexico suffered its biggest annual economic slump since the Great Depression, and the financial fallout may push millions into poverty.
a piñata store in the city of Reynosa, near the U.S. border. He said he had gone from selling 20 to 30 piñatas a week before the pandemic, ranging from about $15 to $125 each, to just one or two some weeks.
Mr. Mena, in Mexico City, is the fourth-generation piñata maker in a family that he said had been in the business for almost a century. His great-grandparents, he said, were among the first to set up shop in this part of the capital.
“We are the piñata pioneers,” he said proudly.
Mr. Mena made his first piñata when he was just 6. On his work desk is a photo of him at 9, when he made some of his first large-scale piñatas in the shape of a seven-pointed star, a central part of Mexico’s Christmas tradition.
shut down at the end of March last year, sales dropped by 90 percent, he said. Five workers had to leave Mexico City after being furloughed.
To survive, Mr. Mena began improvising. Along with the coronavirus piñata, his shop began selling effigies of Susana Distancia, Mexico’s social-distancing superhero, as well as of Hugo López-Gatell, the country’s coronavirus czar who has been much maligned for vastly underestimating the pandemic’s toll on Mexico.
People “would beat him but because he wasn’t telling the truth,” Mr. Mena said of the López-Gatell piñata.
To boost sales, Mr. Ramírez, the shop owner in Reynosa, also decided to diversify his store’s offerings. He began learning how to bake cakes, while his sister learned how to make arrangements with balloons.
“If we don’t have work in one thing, well, let’s help by making something else,” he said.
But despite the ingenuity of these craftsmen, sales have risen little, and the Mexican government has given businesses next to nothing in terms of stimulus to get by.
Sitting between a Wonder Woman piñata and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, Mr. Mena wiped away tears as he recalled how things got so desperate last summer that his clients and neighbors began adding food parcels to their payments for piñatas to help him, his family and other piñata makers who supply his business get by.
“People already knew us, thank God, good people,” he said. “They helped us.”
The family had hoped sales would pick up around Christmas, usually the busiest season, but in mid-December, the capital entered another lockdown and the store was forced to close. Still, far from being bitter at the authorities, Mr. Mena said he understood the need to “sacrifice our earnings for the good of the people.”
The enforced slowdown brought on by the pandemic has also given him more time to appreciate the craft of creating piñatas. “We’re going to make them with more patience,” he said. “Going back to creating and teaching and feeling that love for what you do.”
In Reynosa, Mr. Ramirez, who recently became a father for the first time, is also experimenting with new types of piñatas, the inspiration for which can often be personal as well as from popular culture.
“I’m a dad, and I have a daughter, so now I have to make piñatas that are more cute,” he said.
While the present situation remains grim, Mr. Mena is feeling more optimistic about the future. With vaccines rolling out, although slowly, he believes his business, and the centuries-old industry he is so proud of, will finally start to recover.
“Like a phoenix from the ashes,” he said, “the piñata trade is starting to pull through.”
MEXICO CITY — The pink paint of her stairwell is peeling, the black metal banister chipped, but Samantha Flores is as sharp-witted as ever amid a profusion of climbing plants and bursting red flowers.
At 88, the Mexican transgender icon remains elegant, funny and at times flirtatious, sitting at a small round table on the landing outside her tiny Mexico City flat where she has received callers, at a safe distance, throughout the pandemic.
After nearly nine decades as a socialite, a manager of a gay bar, an L.G.B.T.Q. advocate, and much more, Ms. Flores has a large community of longtime friends and neighbors who come knocking.
“Without my friends, I wouldn’t be who I am,” she said.
But as Ms. Flores well knows, many seniors are not so lucky. And so there is one part of her world that she’s aching to get back — the drop-in center she founded and runs to help older L.G.B.T.Q. adults combat their isolation. It was the first organization of its kind in Mexico.
Vogue Mexico last June, and was later featured in a campaign for the fashion house Gucci.
But for Ms. Flores, the glamour and attention are just new platforms to talk about what’s most important to her — Vida Alegre, and the rampant discrimination still faced by Mexican trans women, which often makes sex work their only means of making a living.
“It’s society’s fault that trans women have to work on the streets,” she said. “They aren’t given any other option.”
When coupled with machismo attitudes and widespread gang violence, discrimination can also be deadly for trans women in Mexico, which regularly ranks among the most dangerous countries in the world for transgender people. Few are lucky enough to live as long as Ms. Flores has.
But luck, it seems, has often been on Ms. Flores’ side.
Born in the city of Orizaba in Veracruz state in 1932, Ms. Flores grew up in a house with a yard full of orange, guava, lemon and avocado trees. She described her childhood as idyllic. Her family was tacitly accepting even then of what she called her effeminate nature, she said.
“I couldn’t pass by unnoticed, ” Ms. Flores recalled.
But behind her back, there were always whispers from neighbors and schoolmates, Ms. Flores said, and after graduating from high school, she couldn’t wait to leave Orizaba.
“What I wanted was to get out of that damn town and away from those damn people,” she said. “I realized that I was criticized and singled out for being queer.”
Ms. Flores moved to Mexico City, where she began dipping into the capital’s nascent gay scene of the 1950s and ’60s.
“For me, it was freedom,” she said.
One night in 1964, Ms. Flores was invited to a costume party, and together with a few friends, decided to go in drag. She chose the name Samantha for her persona after Grace Kelly’s character in the film “High Society,” which featured music by Cole Porter, her favorite singer.
“I liked Samantha because of the double meaning,” Ms. Flores said. “Bing Crosby called her Sam, which can also be short for Samuel.”
The host of the party was a friend of Ms. Flores, Xóchitl, then one of the most famous trans women in Mexico, who Ms. Flores says, had connections to the rich and powerful that allowed her the freedom to hold extravagant parties for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
“She was the one that opened the door for trans women,” Ms. Flores recalled.
Little by little, Ms. Flores appeared in public as Samantha until, eventually, she was Samantha.
“I became myself, I found my true personality,” she said.
Soon, Samantha Flores was a staple of the Mexico City club scene.
“She was always a very, very elegant woman,” recalled Alexandra Rodríguez de Ruíz, a transgender rights activist and writer who was a teenager when she started going to gay clubs and encountered Ms. Flores. “Always wearing beautiful dresses and always accompanied by handsome young men.”
Back then, Ms. Rodríguez said, being part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Mexico was even more dangerous; the police would regularly detain trans women on the street or raid gay bars and confiscate their belongings.
“There was a lot of persecution,” she said. “Sometimes, if they were bad cops, they would take you to someplace and rape you or beat you.”
But Ms. Flores said she managed to avoid trouble. Whether it was that she could easily pass as female or because of her friendship with the well-connected Xóchitl, she was never bothered by the police.
Still, Ms. Flores said she felt uneasy being a trans woman in Mexico, and decided to move to Los Angeles. For several years in the 1970s and early ’80s, she lived between Mexico and L.A., where she worked managing a gay bar, among other ventures.
By the time she came back to Mexico full-time in the mid-’80s, the AIDS crisis was in full swing.
“My best friends, my most beloved friends, they died of H.I.V.,” Ms. Flores recalled. “I lost count — if I said 300, I wouldn’t be exaggerating.”
Seeing the crisis facing her community inspired her to become more of an activist.
“I became a fighter,” she said.
At first, Ms. Flores volunteered at an AIDS charity, and later began raising money for children with H.I.V. and women facing violence in northern Mexico, collecting funds at theater performances, including “The Vagina Monologues,” which ran in Mexico for years.
Then, a few years ago, a friend of hers suggested that she create a shelter for older L.G.B.T.Q. adults.
“That’s when the spark was lit,” Ms. Flores said.
It took years of wading through the Mexican bureaucracy and finding the right venue, but eventually she was able to secure rent on a one-room building on a busy street in the Álamos neighborhood. Vida Alegre now stands there, the building painted bright blue with a rainbow flag out the front.
The community has grown to some 40 people, about half of whom are straight and go there only for the company.
“It’s empathy and being together,” that brings people in, Ms. Flores said. “Abandonment and loneliness have fled.”
Besides reopening Vida Alegre, Ms. Flores has one other wish.
“I’m waiting for Prince Charming on his white horse and silver armor to come and serenade me,” Ms. Flores said. “I’ve been living here for 35 years, with the windows open, waiting for him. But he still hasn’t come.”
MEXICO CITY — Hundreds of women marched on Mexico’s seat of government Monday, some carrying their children, others blowtorches, bats and hammers, prepared for a confrontation they hoped would force the country to tackle rampant violence against women.
The International Women’s Day protest was fueled by anger at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has backed a politician accused by several women of rape in a country that suffers some of the world’s worst rates of gender violence. Despite a rift within the governing party over the issue, Mr. López Obrador has supported the politician ahead of June elections.
As the protesters gathered around the national palace — Mr. Lopez Obrador’s residence and the seat of government — their ire was focused on a metal fence that had been erected to protect the building from being overrun. Women wearing black balaclavas pulled down parts of the barricade as the police fired volleys of flash-bang grenades into the crowd, causing several small stampedes.
At least 62 police and 19 civilians were injured by late Monday evening, according to Mexico City’s security branch.
an average of 10 women were killed in Mexico every day, and there were some 16,000 cases of rape. An investigation by one news site, Animal Politico, found that from 2014 to 2018, only about 5 percent of all sexual assault allegations, including rape, resulted in a criminal sentence.
It is that impunity that has enraged Mexico’s feminists, leading some groups to embrace violence as a tactic to force the nation to pay attention to their demands.
“We fight today so we don’t die tomorrow,” women chanted Monday as they marched across the city to the national palace. Others declared, “The fault is not mine, not because of where I was or what I was wearing.”
Over the weekend, activists spray-painted the barricade around the palace with the names of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or supposed admirers.
filled the capital’s streets after several grisly assaults against women sparked public outrage, including the killing of a 7-year-old girl who was found disemboweled in a body bag.
A day later, tens of thousands of women stayed home from work in a nationwide strike to protest the violence.
accused of sexual assault by several women. The candidate, Félix Salgado Macedonio, is running for governor in the state of Guerrero, pending a party poll to confirm his candidacy.
On the morning of Monday’s protest, the president again accused conservative groups of co-opting the feminist movement, and claimed that women’s marches had begun only after he took power. He pointed to his own government as a commitment to his struggle for equality, the first cabinet in Mexican history to have half the seats filled by women.
Mr. López Obrador defended the wall his government erected around the national palace. And he said that while he supported the feminist movement, he would not tolerate the violence or the vandalism seen during the women’s march last year.
Ms. Granados and her daughter said the wall felt out of keeping for a president who says he is a man of the people.
“Look, I don’t agree to destroy monuments or damage, right?” Ms. Granados said. “But it is also clear to me that a monument is not worth more than the life of a girl.”
MEXICO CITY — President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has never been short of criticisms about his predecessor’s legacy. But he has reserved a special contempt for the sweeping overhaul that opened Mexico’s tightly held energy industry to the private sector.
He has called the changes a form of legalized “pillaging,” the product of corruption and a resounding failure. He has suggested that some foreign energy investors are “looting” the nation and that Mexican lawyers who work for them are guilty of treason.
He is now formalizing his most aggressive attack yet on the measures.
In the next few days, a bill that would strengthen the dominance of Mexico’s state-owned electricity company is expected to become law. The measure, which was recently approved by Mexico’s Congress with the forceful support of Mr. López Obrador, would also limit the participation of private investors in the energy sector. Both effects are central to his long-held aim of restoring energy self-sufficiency and safeguarding Mexican sovereignty.
Mexico’s dependence on foreign hydrocarbons was highlighted last month when a winter storm in Texas led to the interruption of natural gas deliveries from the United States, the source of most of the natural gas used in Mexico. Mr. López Obrador pointed to the ensuing blackouts as evidence of the need to lower dependence on foreign energy.
international business groups and even Mexico’s antitrust watchdog.
Many critics see the bill as a political gambit to excite the president’s base ahead of midterm elections in June, through which Mr. López Obrador hopes to turn his party’s congressional majority into the supermajority needed to make changes to the Constitution.
Opponents of the legislation say that it would not only fail to resuscitate the energy sector or help achieve energy independence but that it would also violate Mexico’s international commitments to reducing carbon emissions, run afoul of trade agreements and further chill foreign investment in Mexico just as the nation is struggling to regain economic momentum amid the pandemic.
The legislation also threatens to throw another wrench into the relationship between the administrations of Mr. López Obrador and President Biden, which got off to a rocky start when the Mexican president became one of the last world leaders to congratulate Mr. Biden on his election victory.
the cancellation of a $13 billion airport project in 2018 and the blocking of a partly built brewery in northern Mexico last year.
Following the Senate’s approval of the new law this past week, the peso dropped to a four-month low against the dollar. And a Reuters poll suggested that the currency could be in for an erratic few months in part owing to concerns over the energy overhaul.
“Investment levels are dropping, and nobody wants to invest here,” said Israel Tello, a legal analyst at Integralia, a Mexico City-based consultancy group. “Legal uncertainty is the most lethal weapon against investment.”