Tag Archives: Michoacan

LOS ANGELES: Hell Restaurant

IMG_3062I was in Compton earlier today and came upon this restaurant on Long Beach Boulevard.

El Infierno Restaurant (English: Hell Restaurant), known for its excellent menudo, was named thus by its owner, a fellow named Andres, who comes from Apatzingan in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.

Apatzingan, you may know, is in a ferociously hot part of Mexico known as the Tierra Caliente, and known for its wild ways. Frankly, I was always afraid to visit and never did.

Andres said he named it for the heat of his native region, though Apatzingan lately has become a virtual war zone, as cartels fight each other and the military.

Anyway, El Infierno Restaurant has had some tumultuous times itself.

When it was in its original spot, in a strip mall elsewhere in Compton, it was burned down during the riots of 1992. Andres rebuilt. Then earlier this year, his restaurant was shot up and then someone crashed a car into it, gutting it with fire (see photo, right).IMG_3056

Andres blamed gang members who wanted to sell drugs and didn’t like his surveillance cameras (there to protect his business). A neighboring business owner said he didn’t treat customers well and some got mad. That seems hard to believe, but whatever the case, Andres moved to the newer, bigger, better location on Long Beach, which he shares with a cleaners. (See photo above)

(Reminds me of the time when, from a bus, I spotted a taqueria in Los Mochis, Sinaloa — Tacos Hitler — no lie).

The stories you hear in L.A. if you stop and ask….

Great menudo, too.

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Filed under Business, California, Culture, Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Southern California, Storytelling

PHOTOGRAPHY: More photos at Kaldi in South Pas

I have some more photos on display at Kaldi, the cafe in South Pasadena.

These shots are from Jaripo, a small town in Michoacan, which taught me a lot about immigration from Mexico. It was a big part of the introduction I wrote to my second book, Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration.

Check them out next time you’re in the area.

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MEXICO: Michoacan begins new anti-crime strategy

Jaripo, Michoacan

Mexico’s new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has begun a new strategy intended to coordinate federal, state and local police forces in the fight against the rampant criminality of kidnapping, robbery, exortion, murder that is the detritus of cartel wars.

Michoacan has been horribly affected by all this — with some areas controlled by squads of roving criminal bands against which the local police are powerless. In one town I visited often, residents tell me a cell from one of the groups disputing control in the state with what amounts to a roadblock at the entrance to town inquiring who is coming through and what their business is.

The state is among the first to receive funds, and federal attention, in EPN’s new plan, which will also include funding for help to the 68 municipios with the highest homicide rates — Tijuana, Culiacan, Juarez, Acapulco, and others.

Michoacan is a great state. I spent dozens of trips wandering through the state, looking for stories about, in those years, mostly immigrants, as so many Michoacanos have migrated to the US.

Those kinds of trips are now impossible due to the spread of the violence.

The idea of combining and coordinating police forces has some appeal — instead of the use of the military, as ex-president Felipe Calderon resorted to. Soldiers aren’t trained or prepared for police work, after all.

Problem is, that many police forces aren’t either.¬† I’m wondering whether local police forces can be effectively used at all. Or state forces, for that matter. They are not just corrupt in many cases. They are poorly funded, equipped, trained, educated.

This is why, after all, Calderon resorted to the military — something for which he was widely criticized. He had no other weapon at his disposal but soldiers.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had recently with a man in Los Angeles who is from a rancho near Apatzingan. He told me that he returned home and on two corners he saw headless bodies. Whenever a police issue arose, officers sent citizens to the cartel gunmen to get them resolved, as they were the real power.

It’s possible when this new strategy plays itself out, we all may understand better why Calderon acted in the way that he did.

 

 

 

 

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LOS ANGELES: The Plaster Vendor, or how I spent my Sunday morning

TJ Plaster -- the Naked Woman

What’s nice about the Los Angeles of today is that you can go out a meet folks with worthwhile stories almost without trying.

I was in the area once called South Central L.A. (now South L.A.) and came upon a guy named Rogelio in a truck selling plaster statues to passers-by on Vermont Street: Snow White, bulldogs, snakes, Mickey Mouse, and this naked lady pictured here, among other things.

He buys them in Tijuana and brings them in.

I stopped to chat. He didn’t let me take his photo, but I shot other stuff.

He said sales of plaster was weak. “Enough to eat, but not well,” he said. “No meat.”

Rogelio is from Apatzingan, Michoacan. He was 16 in 1970 when he arrived in LA about 1 pm one day. He had a job by midnight.

Apatzingan is in Mexico’s Tierra Caliente, a particularly violent place, even before the latest nastiness. He went home a Plaster bulldog with furmonth ago to visit family. The police refer all problems to the local drug cartel — a pseudo-Catholic group of drug traffickers called the Knights Templar. Wonder how anyone would want to remain a cop under such conditions — or join the force at all.

At one corner, he said, there were two groups of headless bodies.

Still, he said he wants to return. This apparently has something to do with the fact that after 42 years in the country, he’s unable to find work that feeds anybody.

This, seems to me, is what LA is right now. If a Mexican immigrant has spent his time here learning new skills — English, welding, painting — he has a better chance of rolling with the economic bad times. But many people did not, assuming that the few skills they always had would be enough, as work had always been so plentiful that you could find a job in a few hours.

Those are the folks who are more likely to be leaving LA — some for other parts of the US, but mostly for Mexico, as it’s cheaper to be poor in Mexico, particularly if you have a place to live.

I told him about Craigslist as a place to put advertise his statues, and told him to give me a call if he needed help.

He said his daughter has a computer, but that maybe he’d call.

Hats

 

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DRUGS: Narco “canonized”

I guess it was only a matter of time, but … Nazario Moreno, deceased leader of La Familia Michoacana, the narco-Catholic drug cartel now finding itself on hard times due to his death and that of others in the structure, has apparently been “canonized” as a folk saint.

Folk saints are nothing new to Mexico. Juan Soldado is the unofficial patron saint of migrants. Toribio Romo, a priest from Jalisco, holds a similar position. Jesus Malverde, who likely never lived at all, began as patron saint of the poor mountain folks in Sinaloa who became, in turn, the drug traffickers who made the state famous and turned Malverde into the patron saint of narcos.

Michoacan has also been fertile ground for strange religious movements — witness the community of New Jerusalem under excommunicated Padre Nabor in another part of the Tierra Caliente. (I wrote about New Jerusalem and Malverde in my first book, True Tales from Another Mexico.

Moreno, though, was particularly bloodthirsty, and considered a messiah by his followers. One of his nicknames was “El Mas Loco” — The Craziest One. Who knows? Maybe in Apatzingan, Michoacan — an area known for violence, heat, and dope — that’ll be what recommends him to the faithful.

 

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MEXICO: La Michoacana Popsicles changes name due to drug violence

This is a sad story. La Michoacana — the logo drawn up by a young marketing executive from the town that invented the fruity paleta — is changing its name because the state of Michoacan is too associated with violence.

Alejandro Andrade, a great guy, who I interviewed several times in Tocumbo, Michoacan, years ago, said he’s changing the name of the little Indian girl that has been the national logo for the ice cream shops invented and perfected by Tocumbans over the decades.

The new name will be La Tucumbita. Michoacan is just too violent a name to associate with a sweet thing like ice cream and popsicles, he’s quoted as saying.

In my first book — True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx — I told the story of the folks from Tocumbo who invented the Michoacana popsicle shops that are ubiquitous throughout Mexico.

The photo is from the years when the state was known for other things besides insane violence, beheadings, and wacko Catholic drug cartels. Above is a photo of Alejandro from happier times, and the popsicle monument that stands outside the town.

 

 

 

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