Tohui Panda and the¨Mexican Madonna¨

ZOO BORN: Tohui panda (July 21, 1981 — November 16, 1993) was the star of Mexico City´s Zoológico de Chapultepec in the early 80s, inspiring several kids songs and a tv program.



There hadn´t been a fatal animal attack story in the news for a while, which is why Tilikum´s killing of his Seaworld trainer last week dominated the headlines.

For me it brought to mind that terrible exploitation movie Orca (1977). And renewed international interest in the debate about captive animals who, like humans, probably don´t take very well to incarceration.

But the issue is more about the exploitation of captive animals for our benefit. A beer company used to make money off of Shamu, and when the theme park business stopped making much money, it was sold.

I´m sure this caused some headaches in the boardroom of the Blackstone Group, too, which had just purchased Seaworld from that beer company just a few months ago in a $2.7 billion deal. Business, before the accident wasn´t so hot and according to the Wall Street journal, the acquisition was

…the largest private-equity deal of 2009 and one of the largest since the financial crisis began more than two years ago.

On a more personal note, this incident recalls my 6th grade trip to the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, Michael Jackson,  the tiger mauling in San Francisco, Bo Derek and Tohui, the Panda of Chapultepec Zoo.

Tohui, which in tarahumara  Nahuatl language means ¨child,¨ became something of a pop culture phenom back in the 1980s here in Mexico City. On a global level, it was the first time, outside of China, that a giant panda was born and lived in captivity. Mexico has one of the most successful panda breeding programs in the world.

The panda was a sensation, becoming the city´s mascot and main zoo attraction, and also a marketing wonder, with an anime movie and a hit pop song.


The song, ¨El Pequeño Panda De Chapultepec,¨ (1982) was a huge hit for Yuri, a singer from Veracruz who first came on the scene with a solid Spanish version of Debby Boone´s ¨You Light Up my life,¨ you can listen here. Yuri is considered one of Mexico´s greatest pop stars. Appearances in Playboy (rather tame, but you can see here, here and here)  led to her being dubbed the ¨Mexican Madonna,¨ something that inspired U.S. tabloid media.

Continue reading “Tohui Panda and the¨Mexican Madonna¨”

San Diego MC in Mexico City

Lord Mzderio was deported to Mexico from San Diego last year. He wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons, but told me his aim, now that he was in D.F., was to make it big in the Mexican rap game.

RAP CULTURA event in Mexico City. Mzderio says this flyer has his name spelled wrong.

The 20-something performer, who rhymes in Spanish, told me the only thing he found troubling about Mexico City, so far, was that his choices for cholo fashion leaned heavily toward L.A. It’s nearly impossible for him to find Padres stuff. Something gangster that didn’t rep that pinche city up north.  He says he’s an S.D. gang member.

We had a quick chat after he performed in a virtually empty hall located at a goth club near El Centro Historico, on Puente de Alvarado in Col. Tabacaleraon, turning it into a rap showcase for Mexico City’s elite underground rappers. Those who had paid some dues.

Mzderio regaled me with tales of being locked up in the county jail, and how he was deported after he got out.
He had just arrived some months ago in the city, and was now living in Ecatepec, about 14 miles north of Mexico City.

What happened to Mzderio is possibly what happened to about 300 people in Texas on Friday.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

Of the total, about half of the immigrants had convictions for violent crimes or drug offenses.

So, they say.

Large scale deportations like that are carried out by a branch of Homeland Security called, ICE. It was created in 2003 as a response to 911. Now, it’s part of a plan to rid the U.S. of as many people (“aliens” as they say) from Mexico and Central America, as well as other places,  by 2012.

The Dallas piece went on to add:

Secure Communities has come under scrutiny for the relatively low number of persons caught who have been convicted of violent crimes – or what’s known in ICE as a “level one” offense.

These ICE tactics seem pretty flawed. The Washington Post goes on to say:

The immigration databases that the Secure Communities program taps are not infallible. They list only foreigners who entered the United States on a visa or who were caught trying to sneak in but later released. Those who have never crossed paths with immigration authorities are not singled out — the same as U.S.-born citizens.

Describing ICE’s mission in 2008, the said:

The “golden measure” of ICE’s success, according to a 2003 statement by Anthony S. Tangeman, director of the Office of Detention and Deportation, is the removal all “aliens.”

Deportations doubled in the last 10 years according to this Medill report. The article goes on to point out that Mexicans are always the majority of the targets.

Mexican nationals have had the highest rate of removals throughout the decade, making up more than 80 percent of total deportations in 1999. However, this share dropped to about 70 percent in 2008, with other nationalities making up more of the total.

In Lord Mzderio’s case, whether for right or wrong, he’s here in Mexico now, and can share his passion for writing raps with another generation of Rap Kids, who need role models in a sea of Punks, skater kids, Chavs, Emos, Rockers, Fresas and Rastas.

Photos and interview from January 8, 2010.

El Hijo Del Santo Uses Moby

Not the most aggressive entrance music.

Moby’s “Signs of Love” doesn’t make me think tough thoughts. El Hijo Del Santo has a legacy to live up to, he should really bring it with a little more aggression.

A charged crowed watched a scion of Mexican wrestling royalty one night, last month (A legacy of branding): El Hijo Del Santo. The son of El Santo, who fronted Sunday magazine, “Dia Siete” earlier this month. His series of holds or llaves, which they’re called in Spanish, look straight silly today; not that 50 years ago they looked any more real. It’s just nice to have that flavor, he uses moves his dad taught him probably. There was a family resemblance in that *camel clutch he used to win the match.

update: UK Sun talked to Hijo del Santo in 2008.

Is it true your father is buried in his mask?

Yes, it is true. When he died our first option was not to tell anybody and to keep it in the family but my brothers and I decided it wasn’t fair to keep him from his fans, so we decided to release the news nationwide. For the funeral, it was important for people to see him in his mask as they were not going to see Rodolfo Guzman, but El Santo, so yes, he was buried with his mask on.

Video, top, from Jan. 31, match promoted by Los Perros Del Mal in Mexico City .

*What a perfect camel clutch looks like.

Thriller Parkita for Michael

The skull and bones can’t be denied for its popularity here in Mexico City. That video is from an opening lucha match last month; they always start with the smaller guys. For lucha fans, La Parka , who spins, sometimes pop-locks and knee hops to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as it blasts from the arena speakers, is the man when it comes to the skull and bones wrestling suit. But wait, that’s not La Parka in the video, it’s Mini Parkita–not to be confused with the deceased La Parkita. And neither should be confused with one of the most famous luchadores of his generation, Adolfo Tapia, who for legal reasons (had nothing to do with infringing on MJ) changed his name to L.A. Park. The “ORIGINAL” according to the word stenciled down both wrestling boots. More on that later.
La Parka

At least one thing is constant: Michael spitting that eight-letter word every time one of these luchadores walks into the ring.

Graphic from

Moyenei x Baby Bump x Roco at Foro Alicia

Moyenei shows that it's not only M.I.A who can rock a crowd with a baby bump.

That’s Roco’s baby in Moyenei’s stomach. As a musician, he’s about as famous as you can get in Mexican protest-pop. It should help Moyenei’s career down the line as well. She came to fame in Chile as a singer in the all-girl crew Mamma Soul. You can check one of their video’s here. There’s also a good page of information, here.
Moyenei tried to bring that all-girl formula to Mexico a few years ago, and well, if you read her interview in my last blog post, you know how that ended up.

The Alicia was packed last Thursday night (Oct. 22) for the presentation of Fermin Muguruza’s Checkpoint Rock: Songs from Palestine
, which was followed by music performances. The crowd grew restless with Moyenei’s singing and started to chant FERMIN! FERMIN! You could tell the mix of Spaniards in the crowd of mostly Mexicans. Muguruza’s brand of ska/punk and dub is much in appreciation in these parts. What’s mind boggling is that he sings in Euskara, or Basque language, and none of what he was saying seemed lost to anyone who was there. The power of music with a message.

The doc, for what it was worth, had its obvious political leanings. It was a 100% Palestinian p.o.v. You can read La Jornada’s take on it. One of the gems of the movie was a short piece on Palestinian femcee, Safaa Arapiyat. I have no idea what she’s saying, but her swagger is kind of tough on the mic. Take a listen and watch her ham it up in a recording session.

Rocking with his soon to be baby mama. Roco and Moyenei at Foro Alicia Thursday, Oct. 22
Heavy Reading: It was the type of event at the Alicia where book in Spanish by Chomsky were being sold near the ticket counter.

It was the kind of event where anti-establishment reading materials and books in Spanish by Chomsky were being sold.

Cholo Rap: From California To Neza York

Pabellon Lindavista, Ticoman, Distrito Federal; October 18 2009    Photo Courtesy: Isela Martinez
Pabellon Lindavista, Ticoman, Distrito Federal; October 18 2009 Photo Courtesy: Isela Martinez

A hard-core rap concert takes place in a mall, just upstairs from a movie theater. No police presence to speak of and very light, but focused security.

Mexican rap (if it’s any surprise) thrives with its own sub-genres. You get the political message from a group like Advertencia Lirica, aging thug wisdom from MC Luka, the spirit of hipster D.F. gets a boost from Mood-Fu, and Pato Machete keeps heads nodding in his post-Control Machete years.

Nothing I’ve heard from groups like Kartel Aztlan or Cartel de Santa prepared me for a showcase of Chicano-style rap that I saw Sunday headlined by Kartel de las Calles along with acts like Neza’s El Plata Ramirez.

Rapper Plata Ramirez performing in Ticoman, October 2009
Rapper Plata Ramirez performing in Ticoman, October 2009

This was gangster culture as pop culture that I was witnessing (there was one vender selling Nike Cortez, Joker Brand bandanas, Dickies pants and dark sunglasses — a certain type of Mexican-American Apparel and the look of the SoCal cholo.)

Hip-hop culture is being used here to create an identity where rasta, emo, goth, punk, or sporting tight jeans and a colorful scarf just won’t cut it.

KDC rap crew take a breather after a quickie performance. Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009
KDC rap crew take a breather after a quickie performance. Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009

Concert-goers came from nearby places such as Naucalpan, Iztapalapa, Ecatepec, La Raza, and of course, Neza York (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl) taking the bus or train in to commune with their peers.

Entrance to Pabellon Lindavista in Ticoman (D.F.) where the rap show was held. October, 2009
Entrance to Pabellon Lindavista in Ticoman (D.F.) where the rap show was held. October, 2009

There were young men and women with bandanas, jerseys emblazoned with “Los Angeles” in gothic text, “Sureño”, or the always ominous number “13” (as in the Mara kind) scrawled on their shirt backs, their necks, arms and hands.

Writing about the globalization of thug culture and cholo culture in Mexico is nothing new. I’m actually glad it’s been covered before.

Cholos grew out of Chicano, or Mexican-American culture, and found their greatest expression in East Lost Angeles.

Cholo style was most definitely a result of the Mexican immigrant experience in the southern U.S. as opposed to a style found in Mexico itself.

Wrote Jeremy Schwartz in a blog post about noted Mexico City photographer Federico Gama’s pictorial on Neza York cholos in the late 90’s.

Gama’s is a fascinating piece of work and you can see more here, following his bio.

Fans show their approval with distinct hand signs, or just mimicking L.A. gang culture? Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009
Fans show their approval with distinct hand signs, or just mimicking L.A. gang culture? Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009

It can seem like aping the culture created in Southern California, but without the high potential for danger associated with venues exclusive to gang-friendly crowds. Still, how can you judge how peer groups want to express their identity? Besides, with every “carnal” or “güey” that I heard, I realized this was Mexico’s young generation making cholo rap their own.

Rapper Tetos gave a controlled performance. Ticoman, D.F.;October 18, 2009
Rapper Tetos gave a controlled performance. Ticoman, D.F.;October 18, 2009

Here’s Teto’s set.

Plata Ramirez had good energy:

Sombras Urbanas also did their thing:

For more on other performers that played on Sunday check out:

Nasion Sureña Mexicana (NSM)

Loco Nueces



And for more info on cholo rap on it’s home turf, check out:

Chola rappers

Chicano Rap Mag

Looong list of Chicano rap artists

And what some of the smarter folks have to say about it.

IF that’s not enough, download this mixtape for healthy dose of Mexican rap:


Wow. Huge lapse in the blogging. Sorry about that, my (very) few keeping count.

Shout to Google for keeping me somewhat relevant, and for the kind soul who shared a post on Bocafloja with their Myspace posse.  Let’s keep this rap en Español convo going.  I really believe that the next frontier of hip-hop is going to be popular rap in a language other than English (or French). As our Latino population grows (while not at the same time as our ability to speak Spanish) I think people will come to appreciate the different mix of ideas and the stretching and pulling of rap music in the form of other tongues.  Maybe I sound crazy, but if you told a B-Boy rapping in a cipher circa 1985 New York that one day, not only would the South run rap, but also Chicago and even England a little bit, they would laugh you out of the Bronx. Now hasn’t that come to pass?

With that said, I want to keep everyone interested in my explorations of hip-hop culture out here in Mexico, which I hope explains the title of this here post. I attended an automobile expo this past weekend (July 3rd-5th, 2009) in Santa Fe, known as the business-y part of Mexico City. Utterly amazing architecture in this part of town. I learned two things at the expo that had nothing to do with the ‘car girls’ running around, 1.) Hip-hop isn’t going away here. And, 2.) Although it’s not the money-making operation it once was and sometimes can be here in the U.S., there’s still a culture with deep roots and dedicated practitioners.

Now, the car show existed long before rap. And somewhere along the line, hip-hop culture became infused with car culture and now the two are one.  Of course cars and sex have always gone together, so somewhere hip-hop gets tossed into the mix.

In this installment of Automobile Erotica and Rap, I’ll just give you a little sample of what went down at the 3rd Tuning expo in Mexico City this weekend.

Rapper Zw (pronounced Swoo) from the Iztapalapa/Neza crew Manicomio Clan was there to show his freestyle skills.

Reggaetoneros/rappers 330 Studio showcased their blend of styles after a wet bikini contest. What’s car show without the wet bikinis?

More later in the week….




Chilangos will be happy when they can go back to their favorite cafe and plug in their laptops or sit around babbling about Freud and smoking a pipe on a Roma streetside. Everyone would agree, swine flu and any of its derivative paranoia has jumped the shark.

  • There’s nothing like waking up to the nightmare that you can’t even kick back in you favorite cafe. Losses are mounting, but for some reason, things won’t be back to business as usual until May 6, or later.
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  • I’m not sure if cubrebocas will ever be officially trendy. But surgical masks as fashion seemed to be the most boring story of the outbreak.
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  • Cinco de Mayo celebrations (what’s it all about, really?) should be in full swing in most parts of North America. Some folks might be celebrating during the plane ride from China.
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    Continue reading “SWINE FLU JUMPS THE SHARK”


    There’s at least one person close to me who I hope takes this commercial very seriously. Just because you don’t feel sick, doesn’t mean you’re not infecting others around you. Contain your germs, please.

    This entire week-long catastrophe known as the swine flu epidemic brought to my mind proto-political rap group Public Enemy on several occasions. I really don’t know why. Just check some of my previous blog post titles you can see.
    Other than the bit of reporting I did for publication, I’ve been indoors mostly. That hasn’t necessarily been my choice either. The fun parts of town have been relatively quiet by order of the local government.
    Although there are any number of private soirees tonight, Mexico City is officially on lockdown this weekend. Most major events were cancelled once again, and as I was told by a friend, a talking head on a PBS news show was thanking the people of Mexico for enduring shut-down mode for the sake of all humanity, which again, brought to mind this P.E. gem:

    Continue reading “STILL PUBLIC ENEMY #1”



    I ventured down to the southern-most areas of Mexico City for an assignment for an NYC publication.

    After seeing a guy and his dad talk to Milenio in front of Mexico City’s federal respiratory hospital, I decided it might be a good idea to see if they were swine flu victims. One of them was and just getting out of the hospital, the other gentlman was his dad. They were telling the TV newsman that they had just gotten stuck with a big medical bill.

    Somehow, my PNC (Photog In Crime) Deanna Dent, a rising young photojournalist and multimedia reporter convinced the guy, his dad, and the guy’s wife to allow us to drive with them 30 minutes to their house to witness the son’s homecoming. What followed was sad and really all crunchy, corny and sweet. Its was a reminder that this virus, as grave as it may seem, isn’t a total killer.

    Continue reading “SWINE FLU VS. FORMER BOXER”