Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Mexico’s year in review: The top uplifting, fun and wacky stories of 2023

While we’ve covered plenty of “hard news” and “bad news” at Mexico News Daily this year, we’ve also reported numerous stories that made us laugh, brought a smile to our faces, warmed our hearts, and even left us scratching our heads in bewilderment.

We hope that you, our readers, have not only been well informed about events in Mexico in 2023, but amused and entertained at times as well.

To bring you this second 2023 “year in review” article (read the first on the year’s biggest business stories here) we got out our virtual fine-tooth comb and looked back at all the stories we’ve published this year to find the amusing ones, the uplifting ones, the inspirational ones, the heartening ones, the gratifying ones, the strange ones, the surreal ones, the “only in Mexico” ones.

That job, as you might imagine, was quite time-consuming so naturally we got hungry, and as a result more than a few food articles caught our attention. For good measure, we threw a couple of those into this quarter-by-quarter compilation, whose most apt description might simply be México mágico.

Q1: A surreal identity crisis, ‘cocaine hippos’ and enamored elephants  

While the arrest of alleged drug trafficker Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán on Jan. 5 isn’t the kind of story we want to highlight here, without it we wouldn’t have had one of the more bizarre news events of 2023 — Ovidio claiming during an extradition hearing that he wasn’t the son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, while acknowledging in the same hearing that the imprisoned drug lord is indeed his father.

Feral hippos near former residence of drug lord Pablo Escobar
Feral hippos, descended from those owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar, were relocated from Columbia to a new home in Mexico early this year. (UC San Diego)

Another curious story we covered early in the year that also has its origin in the drug underworld was the (as yet unrealized) plan to transfer to Mexico 10 “cocaine hippos” once owned by the late Colombian capo Pablo Escobar.

Still on the subject of large mammals, we were happy to hear that two rescue elephants had apparently developed an amorous relationship at an animal sanctuary in Sinaloa, and even happier to read that gray whale numbers had risen dramatically in Baja California Sur.

There were a few other animal stories that brightened our days in early 2023: the rescue of a beached dolphin on the Yucatán coast, the official recognition in the Senate of Mexico’s famous “Rescue Mission” dog team and the blessing of pets at Mexican churches on the feast day for Anthony the Great, the patron saint of animals.

In a shift from creatures great and small to mythical ones, AMLO, as President López Obrador is best known, gave plenty of people a chuckle when he shared a photo on social media of what he said appeared to be an alux, a mischievous woodland spirit in Maya folklore.

A dark blurry photo of an animal or human in a tree, next to a photo of a stone carving
The president shared the photo of a supposed alux (left) along with an ancient carving depicting the mythical creature. (Andrés Manuel López Obrador/X)

Joseph Sorrentino also amused us in early 2023, explaining in one article how he mastered the art of the two-minute shower, and providing a lesson on the pursuit — and attainment — of happiness in another.

Q2: A toast to Modelo, a meth surprise and counterfeit Coke 

We raised our glasses mid-year when Modelo Especial cerveza became the top-selling beer in the United States, and also celebrated two expats’ completion of an epic road trip through all 32 of Mexico’s federal entities.

Photojournalist Anna Bruce got our adrenaline pumping with an exciting story on Lucha Libre wrestling, while MND culinary expert Janet Blaser whet our appetites with more enticing recipes, including ones for mango hand pies and an alluring pitaya (dragon fruit) margarita.

The second quarter of the year also gave us some curious drug-related stories: liquid methamphetamine disguised as tequila (now that would make a dangerous margarita!), and more meth hidden among a shipment of a licit — and infinitely healthier — product: Brussels sprouts.

Other criminals attempted — but ultimately failed — to get away with making and distributing counterfeit Coca-Cola. The Real Thing? “Possibly cloned,” said Mexico City authorities.

Lucha Libre fighter in Oaxaca
In May, photojournalist Anna Bruce gave us a peek into the world of lucha libre. (Anna Bruce)

We also got a healthy dose of humor in Q2, with Sarah DeVries giving us an amusing take on her fellow immigrants to Mexico and an entertaining account of the varmints that frequent her home.

Q3: The (really) big cheese, alien corpses and a delinquent Chucky doll

Mexico News Daily has a proud history of covering the setting of new Guinness World Records in Mexico, and 2023 was no different. On Sept. 1, we reported that a 558-kilogram ball of quesillo, or Oaxaca cheese, had been made in Pijijiapan, Chiapas, setting a new record in that niche Guinness category.

If your mind has wandered to quesadillas, you’ll need some tortillas! Haven’t got any? Paula Michelle De Jesús Marcos could get them to you fast — the 12-year-old won the annual Carrera de la Tortilla (Tortilla Race) in Tehuacán, Puebla, in August, carrying three kilograms of tortillas on her back as she ran the five-kilometer course.

Andy Altman-Ohr continued his third-quarter coverage of Mexican uniqueness (¡como México no hay dos!) with a report on the presentation in Congress of what a journalist and self-described ufologist claimed to be 1,000-year-old corpses of extraterrestrials. We’re still scratching our heads about that one.

The arrest of a “Chucky” doll in Monclova, Coahuila was a similarly intriguing — and incredulous — story, while we marveled at the calmness of a woman who watched on in silence as a black bear devoured the picnic lunch she was sharing with her son in Monterrey.

Chucky doll in handcuffs
A giant “Chucky” doll ended up in handcuffs after its own was arrested for threatening behavior. (TerrorActo/X)

Among the “good news” stories we covered in Q3 was the rescue off the coast of Colima of an Australian man who spent three month at sea in a damaged boat with only his dog Bella for company.

Mark Viales‘ uplifting story on a women’s softball team from a small Yucatán town, whose members play barefooted and in traditional garments called huipiles, also made us smile, while an AMLO-themed birthday party in México state, was interesting to say the least.

Joseph Sorrentino returned to entertain us with a story of off-road adventures in southern Mexico City, while Sarah DeVries gave us the “star-rating system” we never knew we needed — one to Mexico’s hit-and-miss baños, or bathrooms.

Q4: A compassionate cop, a surfing dog and Mexican memes

“What a generous and compassionate act” and “So glad they recognized this super MOM!” were among readers’ comments on a heart-warming story we published in November about a police officer who was promoted after breastfeeding a hungry baby in Acapulco in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis.

Earlier in November, we reported on a giant Day of the Dead altar that was set up in Michoacán to honor the life of a deceased centenarian who was apparently the inspiration for the Mamá Coco character in the 2017 animated film “Coco.”

Continuing on the subject of honoring Mexican grandmothers (and great-grandmothers at that!), Gabriela Solís this month passed on three recipes and secret tips from her 99-year-old abuelita. The article — featuring recipes for frijoles refritos, enchiladas and chilaquiles — became one of the most popular pieces we’ve published this year.

It’s hardly Mexican, but if you’re too busy to cook, you could just grab a doughnut — or even several dozen, as federal officers did in Puebla, last month. While the police may or may not have been hungry, their visit to three doughnut stores in San Martín Texmelucan was strictly for law enforcement purposes — allegedly counterfeit Krispy Kremes were on sale.

Selling fake doughnuts is one way to fall foul of the law, and singing Mexico’s national anthem incorrectly, believe it or not, is another. But existing (rarely enforced) penalties are too lenient, according to a Morena lawmaker who proposed harsher ones. One of our readers described her proposal as “absolutely loco,” which sounds about right.

A photo of plated enchiladas
MND writer Gabriela Solís abuela’s enchiladas (and frijoles refritos, and chilaquiles) were a hit with readers earlier this month. (Unsplash)

Any instrumental accompaniment to Mexico’s himno nacional would no doubt be error-free if it were provided by a group of young musicians from a small village in Oaxaca who had the trip of a lifetime touring France this year. Gordon Cole-Schmidt told us their inspiring story in an article headlined “From violence to virtuosos in Oaxaca.”

Equally talented, albeit in a very different way, is Covid the surfing dog, who was given her memorable name after she was abandoned on a Veracruz beach during the pandemic.

Another marine-based “good news” story we covered in the final quarter of the year was the success of sea turtle conservation efforts in Baja California Sur. Let’s hope that success continues.

In Q4, we also began two new series that hopefully both entertained you and taught you some valuable Spanish. Sarah DeVries became our trusted translator of Mexican memes, while Paulina Gerez took on the role of MND Spanish teacher, offering language lessons on themes such as “the world of Mexican laughter” and a day at a Mexican fair.

We hope you enjoyed reading our quirkier stories this year, and perhaps found a few here that you missed. We’re already looking forward to another year of weird, wonderful and distinctively Mexican stories in 2024!

By Mexico News Daily chief staff writer Peter Davies ([email protected])

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