Category Archives: Photos

Saving Mexico’s most totemic chilli

A plague of whiteflies descended on the Martínez family’s fields of yellow, red, and deep purple chilhuacle in southern Mexico two decades ago. Chilhuacle is the star chilli in several versions of Oaxaca’s signature dish ­– mole – and cooks had long paid a premium for the chilli’s unique smoke and citrus flavours. But its cost was about to climb higher.

The chilhuacle is not important to filling Mexican bellies the way corn and beans are. It is important for different reasons, closer to how halva marks death in some Muslim cultures or Easter eggs mark resurrection in Christianity. At Day of the Dead and other festive occasions Mexicans eat black mole, a sauce whose smoky, ashy flavour centuries-old texts ascribe to chilhuacle.

The chilli’s cultural weight attracted a Mexico City chef and a Oaxaca plant biologist, who began visiting Félix Martínez and other growers in the region, the Cañada de Oaxaca. Since then, a loose-knit mix of locals and outsiders have financed planting costs, worked with growers to develop pest-resistant production methods, and even begun experimenting with growing chilhuacle elsewhere.

This feature and photos were first published by Rethink Magazine: [html] [pdf] and appears in Spanish at Revista HojaSanta: [html].

Danish Electric Bike-Sharing Dodges Failure

Copenhagen’s public electric bikes are kind of a pain to get started: they are heavy and their coaster brake prevents riders from kicking the pedal around to a convenient starting place. The business side of the operation has also had a rough start, marked by delivery delays, bankruptcy, and restructuring. Once you do manage to push the bikes to a start, however, their 250-W electric motors kick in and they are a breeze to power around Copenhagen’s well-marked and protected bike lanes.

It may not have been electricity, but something has also boosted the Copenhagen bike-sharing program: Usage grew from just 169,000 rides in 2015 to 933,000 last year and the program, called Bycyklen, is on track for similar usage this year. That might be just enough to keep Bycyklen from falling over. Continue reading

Trial and error in a Mexican beach town

When general store owner Melchor Villanueva leans on his countertop he can see his whole world under his hands. The counter’s glass surface displays photos of his community: young soccer players, teens in their coming-of-age quince años finest, and bandanna-wearing fishermen. Many descend from survivors of Hurricane Janet, which in 1955 killed a third of the population of Xcalak, a beach town on the Mexico-Belize border, and destroyed the town’s coconut plantations. “It left only sand,” Villanueva recalls. Continue reading

Recopilando el testimonio genético de los muertos de la Guerra Civil española

En una zanja profunda hasta la cintura junto a la Autovía 1 de España, una docena de voluntarios con guantes de goma cepillan arcilla oscura que cubre restos de huesos humanos. Sus rodillas se apoyan sobre cojines de espuma, y una carpa blanca los protege del sol del verano boreal. Es julio de 2011; 75 veranos después de que en España estallara una guerra civil que llevó a los huesos de 59 personas a ese suelo.

A pocos pasos de la zanja, los voluntarios sostienen micrófonos frente al murmullo de los ancianos de la localidad de Gumiel de Izán, en la región centro-norte de Castilla y León. Esos ancianos, que albergan recuerdos de ejecuciones sumarias en ese sitio, bien pueden ser los hermanos menores, los vecinos y los hijos de los que están en esa tumba. Pero al momento de la exhumación, nadie lo sabe a ciencia cierta. En lugar de ello, los voluntarios documentan y recogen los restos físicos, y consiguen y graban las memorias imperfectas que fueron suprimidas durante cuatro décadas de dictadura.

Tales sitios se encuentran esparcidos por toda España, desde las Islas Canarias hasta La Mancha y las Islas Baleares. Las estimaciones recientes sugieren que alrededor de 2.000 fosas comunes pueden guardar los restos de hasta 150.000 víctimas de apresuradas ejecuciones durante la guerra. Continue reading