Thursday, March 08, 2018

My day trip to Mexico

An excellent aspect of my present job (however long it lasts) is that I might occasionally make a case for a road trip that could culminate in a story for the paper.

Footnote: When the company succeeds in killing off the actual paper and going to an internet-only "property," it will be hard to shake referring to it as the "paper." But what will we call it then?

"The site?" As in, "Have you read the morning site yet?"

Or will we refer to it as "having a look at the screens?"

For now, we still have a paper as well as a site, and my editor said I could make the trip as long as I came back with a story, photos for an online photo gallery, and video to make a 1-2 minute watchable story.

The executives have noticed that reading is on the decline and people like to watch videos, so I'm being urged on to more "visual storytelling."

Well, I embraced all of it, worked my tail off, and came up with a package I rather like: not a bad story, some good photos, and a teeny documentary with footage captured on my mobile phone.

Click here to see it!

The plan was somewhat open. Go find the horseback riders, the cabalgantes, and see what happens.

The director of the Columbus, New Mexico Chamber of Commerce drove a van with me and a 3-person film crew that happened to be in town to make a documentary about the village of Columbus. Our idea was to drive south through Chihuahua until we met up with the cabalgantes who were making their annual 14-day trek to the United States border.

6 de Enero, Chihuahua, Mexico

On the drive down, we talked about the different perceptions of Pancho Villa in Mexico and the United States.

Then we found the riders, traveling next to the federal highway between Nuevo Casas Grandes and Janos. Locals from the town of Janos north of us had set up a welcoming party with food, drink, and music.

I was struck by how much the riders desired to talk. After riding for hours at a stretch and looking out across valleys, the men would beckon us over just to talk.

Oh, and they stuffed us with food: thick, spicy beef and pasta salad. One member of the film crew was vegan and abstained - everyone worried about her. Someone handed me a beer.

In a sense, the riders were very easy to interview, language barrier aside, because they spoke in monologues. Learning that I do not speak Spanish well but can follow, they would slow down for clarity and just keep going. The ride, how many years they had done it, friends they had made, horses that had died, and - when I asked - about Villa.

I asked one man why they called themselves "villistas" and he said it represented ideas that Villa said he was fighting for - justice and equality - even though the man was complicated.

There was much I could not translate because of time and the conditions when I made my recordings.

The takeaway is, I have to find time amid everything else to become proficient in Spanish if I want to do stories like this.

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