Week on the Border

by by Rick Salame & Alex Sammon


They have no visas and don’t pay customs. This winter there were some 60 million of them: Monarch butterflies, flying south into Mexico for some fun in the sun. They’re perhaps the only border- crossing demographic to see a drop in numbers over the past couple decades. A March 14 statement by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) confirmed that this winter’s migration was 59% smaller than last year’s and the smallest in 20 years. No one taught these butterflies political geography, so the main reason for the drop in Mexico’s winter population lies outside its borders.


According to Dr. Chip Taylor of the University of Kansas, American farmers’ increased use of the herbicide glyphosate has dramatically reduced the prevalence of milkweed, the monarchs’ dietary staple, in their Midwestern summer habitat. The result is
a dramatic decrease in the butterfly population, which threatens ecosystems across the continent, as well as Mexico’s ecotourism industry. Plus, searching the sky for a massive swarm of orange butterflies is just about the only thing that could make the four-hour wait at San Ysidro Border Inspection Station bearable.

Mexico has done its best to protect the itinerant butterflies; the government launched a highly successful anti-logging campaign in 2003 to protect the monarchs’ winter habitat. The campaign coupled police patrols with programs intended to involve rural residents in the ecotourism industry. But alas, Mother Nature hath made the butterflies migratory, meaning that Mexico can’t do much about the problem without the cooperation of the United States in restocking the Midwest with milkweed. “The conservation of monarch butterflies is a responsibility shared by Mexico, the US and Canada,” said Omar Vidal, director of World Wildlife Fund-Mexico, in the March 14 statement. “Mexico is doing its part. It is necessary that the US and Canada also do their part and protect the habitat of the monarch in their countries.” Mr. Vidal underestimates the extent of American apathy when it comes to butterflies.

The United States is more than happy to cooperate with the Mexican government in managing the flow of people and drugs across the border, but butterflies are just not on the political agenda. The fact remains, however, that the border between Mexico and the US is wide open for all sorts of crossings. Maybe it’s time for the two governments to start talking more often, before the little orange lepidoptera fall through the diplomatic cracks, somewhere near El Paso. —RS



Lucha Libre is huge in Mexico. And it’s about to blow up in the States.

This week marked the signing of a massive promotional deal between the league of masked Mexican wrestlers and American in- vestment group FactoryMade Ventures. FactoryMade intends to inte- grate Lucha Libre into the American sports and entertainment world, with a series of live events and pay-per-view television displays.

Lucha Libre is Mexico’s second most watched sport after soccer, with 1,000 live events annually, five hours of television programming per week, and millions of tickets sold. That’s not to mention the tele- vision viewership of over 52 million that tunes in to see a world of wrestling in which weight class is irrelevant, and the athletes compete not just for physical superiority, but for a handful of winnings. These spoils include the ability to remove the mask from the loser (mascara contra mascara), the right to shave the loser’s head (mascara contra cabellera), and the right to literally end the losing wrestler’s career (mascara contra carrera). The stakes are incredibly high and the hair- care is remarkably questionable.

Following in the footsteps of Jack Black’s memorable performance as Nacho Libre in the movie of the same title, FactoryMade believes exporting this phenomenon across the border to an American audi- ence is a no-brainer. Despite the incredible saturation of the live wrestling market the rival World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) (two matches a day, everyday), FactoryMade seems to think there’s growth potential. They’ve even booked events at New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

If nothing else, Lucha Libre should provide an intriguing al- ternative to the WWE. With tired icons like Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, predictable stunts like the chair smash, and a racially ho- mogeneous cast of wrestlers and viewers, there seems no reason more progressive wrestling fans would not turn to Lucha Libre, whose cast of 250 colorful characters includes a homosexual wrestler in drag (Cassandro, “Queen of the Ring”). There’s even a “mini estrellas” division, designed for wrestlers fewer than five feet in height.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the two leagues can live in harmony, Lucha Libre certainly brings a bit more diversity to the table. While the WWE caters to a primarily white, Midwestern and Eastern audience, the Lucha Libre franchise seems to have its sights set on Mexican-American populations on the West Coast. In any case, a little more stylized wrestling has never done anyone any harm. —AS