Archive For October 12, 2021

Monument honoring indigenous women to replace Columbus statue in Mexico City

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Monument honoring indigenous women to replace Columbus statue in Mexico City

A statue of a female figure unearthed in Veracruz state has been chosen as the inspiration for a sculpture to replace one of Christopher Columbus in Mexico City. The new statue will be three times the size of the six-foot original.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology photo via AP

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology photo via AP

MEXICO CITY — A replica of a mysterious pre-Hispanic sculpture of an Indigenous woman was chosen Tuesday to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus on Mexico City’s most prominent boulevard.

The statue was unearthed in January in the Huasteca region, near Mexico’s Gulf coast. It’s known as “The Young Woman of Amajac,” after the village where she was found buried in a field. But nobody really knows who the stone sculpture was supposed to depict.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said at the time the statue was similar to depictions of a fertility goddess of the Huastec culture. But institute archeologists also said she may have been a member of the elite, or part of the governing class.

The replica will be as much as three times the size of the six-foot original, which is being displayed in Mexico City’s Museum of Anthropology. City authorities decided the Columbus statue should be moved to a less prominent site, and should be replaced by an Indigenous woman because they had been under-represented.

The aesthetics of the replica will be a stark change from the Columbus statue. “The Young Woman of Amajac” is pre-Hispanic in style with an open-eyed stare because the colored stones that were probably originally inserted in her eye sockets have been lost.

While there have been other sculptures of Indigenous people on the city’s Reforma boulevard, they were usually made in a neo-classical style that matched the ornate base of the former Columbus statue, the urns and other sculptures on the boulevard.

“The Young Woman of Amajac” will be placed atop the original neo-Classical base.

The Columbus statue was removed last year supposedly for restoration, shortly before Oct. 12, which Americans know as Columbus Day but Mexicans call “Dia de la Raza,” or “Day of the Race” — the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Protesters frequently targeted the Columbus statue for graffiti protesting the brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples.

But rather than restoration, the head of the institute, Diego Prieto Hernández, acknowledged Tuesday that continued threats to the Columbus statue were the reason behind the decision to move it to a quieter park in an upscale neighborhood where protests are rare.

“This was based, not on any ideological judgement of the (Columbus) character, but rather because if a need to conserve the sculptural group, which, if it had been left in place, would have been the target of threats and protests,” Prieto Hernandez said.

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Fans worry over ranchera icon Vicente Fernández, who remains hospitalized

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Fans worry over ranchera icon Vicente Fernández, who remains hospitalized

Mexico’s most famous ranchera singer remains hospitalized after a fall at his Guadalajara ranch, leaving fans on both sides of the border worried about his fate and the music he made so famous.


SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

He’s known as El Rey, the king of Mexican music, the country’s greatest living singer. For more than half a century, Vicente Fernandez has provided the soundtrack for Mexican life to nearly every corner of the Spanish-speaking world. The 81-year-old royal of ranchera music has been hospitalized for more than two months. And as NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports, fans are worried about his fate and the future of the music he defined.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICENTE FERNANDEZ SONG, “EL REY”)

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The lyrics of one of ranchera’s most famous ballads takes on a more urgent tone these days, given Vicente Fernandez’s current health.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “EL REY”)

VICENTE FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: “The day I die,” he sings, “you will cry, cry and cry.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “EL REY”)

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Back in 1974, when Fernandez popularized the song “El Rey,” he was singing of a scorned love. But since taking a fall this summer at his ranch outside Guadalajara and the near-daily rumors of his demise, his fans and fellow musicians have been mourning.

RIGOBERTO ALFARO RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: “There is a lot that makes Fernandez great but nothing as much as his voice, that booming voice,” says 86-year-old Rigoberto Alfaro Rodriguez, who for decades arranged dozens of Fernandez’s songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Always dressed in an impeccable mariachi or charro suit with a huge, wide-brimmed sombrero and a pistol on his hip, Fernandez loved to show off that voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: In concerts, he’d lower his mic and belt out the ending of a song unamplified to thunderous applause.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

(APPLAUSE)

KAHN: Fernandez has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, starred in dozens of films, won three Grammys, eight Latin Grammys and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

ARTURO VARGAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: “He has left us with a great musical legacy,” says Arturo Vargas, the longtime guitarist with the famous group Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, a legacy that was hard-won. Breaking into the big leagues took Fernandez years. He spent his early career singing on street corners and in restaurants, shunned by record producers. But as other great Mexican crooners passed from the scene, space opened for the mustachioed cowboy from a ranch outside Guadalajara.

VARGAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: “His mark is significant. He’ll always be among Mexican music’s icons,” Vargas tells me as musicians warm up around us backstage at a recent International Mariachi Festival in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Vocalizing).

KAHN: This night, Guadalajara’s Philharmonic Orchestra grandly sits behind Vargas’ 14-member mariachi band.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARIACHI VARGAS DE TECALITLAN: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Seats went for as high as a hundred dollars a ticket. It’s quite an impressive price, given mariachi’s humble origins, says Jon Clark.

JON CLARK: It was the poor people’s music.

KAHN: Clark, now 69, has been playing, studying and writing about mariachi music for decades. He says while its roots probably go back to the arrival of Hernan Cortes on Mexico’s shores – the Spanish conquistador traveled with troubadours – historians didn’t pay much attention to the mostly rural and Indigenous music. He says that’s until after the Mexican Revolution.

CLARK: When the Indigenous culture became exalted in contrast to the Porfirio Diaz regime, where everything was Eurocentric. But by then, a lot of the history had been lost.

KAHN: Many towns throughout Mexico, especially in Vicente Fernandez’s home state of Jalisco, take credit for mariachi’s origin. Cocula, not far from Guadalajara, calls itself the cradle of mariachi, sporting a tiny museum and roving musicians.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHURCH BELLS RINIGNG)

KAHN: On Sundays, the local mariachi school’s youth group plays at noon mass right after they cross the street, still in their finest brass-studded suits and play in the town’s placita.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Vicente Fernandez’s tunes are always a favorite with the crowd strolling the public park or sitting on benches, enjoying a leisurely Sunday with family. Many join in singing unabashedly, pitch and tune be damned.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: While still a sentimental favorite, the genre has lost appeal with younger generations. Fernandez scorned crossover artists, even his own son, who produces many pop songs along with mariachi favorites. And that worries 52-year-old Magdalena Vazquez.

MAGDALENA VAZQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: “Frankly, music today has no message,” she says as she sells Tupperware and COVID masks right off Cocula’s Plaza. Her small stand sits in front of the city’s huge bust honoring Vicente Fernandez.

VAZQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: “I have two daughters, and I asked them, how will a boy romance you, win you over, with what song,” she asks. Her husband hides his face in his hands and laughs. It’s those hardcore traditional older fans that kept Fernandez’s music alive for more than five decades. Fernandez has run afoul of younger generations more woke than their parents. In January, he gave a half-hearted apology after images emerged of him groping a fan’s breast as they posed for a picture. In 2019, he said he refused a liver transplant, fearing it could have come from a homosexual. But for the die-hards, Fernandez’s legacy survived such transgressions. He’s always professed that he was motivated by his devoted audience, as he said in a farewell concert in Mexico City in 2016.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Appearing to choke back tears, he says, “it was always about your affection, your respect and your applause” and, as he sings in the song “El Rey,” not about fame or wealth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “EL REY”)

FERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Fernandez’s music will live on. Reportedly, there are dozens of previously recorded songs to be released upon his death, allowing him to remain, as he sings here, the king.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “EL REY”)

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Cocula, Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICENTE FERNANDEZ SONG, “VOLVER, VOLVER”)

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Nets say Kyrie Irving is ineligible to play amid drama over his vaccination status

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Nets say Kyrie Irving is ineligible to play amid drama over his vaccination status

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving shoots against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series in New York, in June.

Adam Hunger/AP

Adam Hunger/AP

Brooklyn Nets all-star guard Kyrie Irving won’t be allowed to play in practices or games, general manager Sean Marks said Tuesday, strongly suggesting that he continues to run afoul of New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for professional athletes.

Although the team is barred by law from revealing a player’s vaccination status, Irving has been listed as “ineligible to play” in a preseason game scheduled for Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Marks said in a statement, adding that the player had made “a personal choice” and that “we respect his individual right to choose.”

However, “the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability,” Marks said.

The announcement follows a New York City mandate that went into effect last month requiring everyone over the age of 12 to have proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to use indoor gyms, including the Nets’ own Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Irving dodged several questions from reporters earlier this month about his vaccination status. During a news conference that he attended remotely, Irving told one reporter that he wanted “to keep that stuff private,” adding that he would “handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan.”

Irving could reportedly lose about $380,000 per home game while he’s on the roster as ineligible.

The Nets had hoped that Irving would change his mind about vaccination in time to head off just such a dilemma that would keep him from playing, but ESPN reports that in recent days, “the franchise’s collective patience will be increasingly tested the longer that Irving stops short of committing to join the team on a full-time basis.

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Lego says it will work to rid its toys of harmful gender bias

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Lego says it will work to rid its toys of harmful gender bias

A wall of Lego minifigures is encased inside the lobby of the Legoland New York Hotel, pictured on Aug. 6 in Goshen, N.Y. The Danish company is pledging to remove harmful stereotypes from its products and marketing.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The Lego Group hopes its iconic blocks can help build not just trains and houses, but a more inclusive society.

The Danish toy company announced Monday that it will work to remove gender stereotypes from its products and marketing, citing the results of a worldwide survey that found general attitudes towards kids’ play and creative careers remain “unequal and restrictive.”

“The benefits of creative play such as building confidence, creativity and communication skills are felt by all children and yet we still experience age-old stereotypes that label activities as only being suitable for one specific gender,” Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement, adding that “at the LEGO Group we know we have a role to play in putting this right.”

Lego partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media — a research organization that advocates for equal representation of women — to explore whether parents and kids see creativity as gendered. It surveyed nearly 7,000 people in seven countries and released its findings to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl.

The survey’s stark findings on gender stereotypes

Lego said the survey “tested for implicit bias in how parents define creativity differently for their sons and their daughters.” In it, parents of kids between the ages of 6 and 14 completed the first half of the survey, then passed it off to their children.

The company noted that its findings are based solely on daughters and sons, because no children identified as gender non-conforming in any of the seven countries surveyed: United States, China, Japan, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.

In summing up the study, Lego says that “girls are ready for the world but society isn’t quite ready to support their growth through play,” pointing to gender biases against its own products. For instance, 76% of parents said they would encourage their sons to play with Legos, compared to 24% who would recommend it to their daughters.

“New research commissioned by the LEGO Group reveals that girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society’s ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older,” it said.

Other takeaways from the study include:

  • Girls feel less restrained by typical gender biases than boys when it comes to creative play. Some 74% of boys, and 62% of girls, expressed belief that some activities are meant just for girls while others are meant for boys.
  • Girls are also more open to different kinds of creative play than what their parents and society typically encourage, with 82% of girls believing it’s okay for girls to play football and boys to do ballet — compared to 71% of boys.
  • Boys also face prejudice when it comes to playing with toys traditionally perceived as feminine. The survey found that 71% of boys say they worry about being made fun of if they play with a toy typically associated with the other gender, but just 42% of girls do.
  • Parents are almost five times as likely to encourage girls (over boys) to engage in activities like dance and dressing up, and more than three times as likely to do the same for cooking and baking. On the other hand, they’re almost four times as likely to encourage boys to engage in sports and more than twice as likely with coding toys.

Researchers say these gender stereotypes impact children’s creative development and, in the longer term, their potential career paths. Parents are six times as likely to think of scientists as men than women, and more than eight times as likely to think of engineers as men than women, according to the Geena Davis Institute.

The building blocks of Lego’s plan

Lego has pledged to collaborate with the Geena Davis Institute and UNICEF to remove gender biases and harmful stereotypes from its products and marketing.

It also published a 10-step guide for inspiring inclusive creative play, and is releasing short films to highlight inspiring and entrepreneurial girls as part of a new “Ready for Girls” campaign.

A spokesperson told NPR over email that the survey reinforces longtime company priorities, noting for instance that customers have not been able to search products by gender online or in Lego stores for years. Instead, they can choose from categories like age, theme, interest and price range.

The company would not elaborate on whether it is planning any changes to specific toys or marketing campaigns. But the spokesperson highlighted some of Lego’s ongoing efforts, like testing all product franchises with both boys and girls and publicly spotlighting strong male and female role models in interviews and at events.

A growing push for gender-neutral kids’ toys

Lego’s efforts are part of a growing trend to make childhood toys more inclusive. In fact, the company’s announcement came just days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation requiring large retailers to have non-gendered toy sections beginning in 2024.

The law won’t prohibit department stores from having boys’ and girls’ sections, but requires them to maintain a “reasonable selection” of children’s toys and items in a gender-neutral section. Stores that don’t comply would face a fine of up to $250 on their first offense and up to $500 for their second.

Supporters of the law say it will help increase freedom of expression for children and parents, and note that products marketed to girls often cost more. Conservative critics say the state should not interfere with business owners’ freedom to market their products.

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Black Country, New Road, ‘Chaos Space Marine’

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Black Country, New Road, ‘Chaos Space Marine’

YouTube

Back in February, the London post-punk band Black Country, New Road released one of the year’s gnarliest debuts. The genre-smashing For the First Time is an odyssey that encompasses rock, jazz, post-punk, spoken-word, klezmer and much more, in songs that could sprawl to the 6-, 8- or even 10-minute mark.

Now, just eight months later, the group has announced a full-length followup, called Ants From Up There. If its first single, “Chaos Space Marine,” is any indication, Black Country, New Road has spent 2021 learning to shoehorn its zillions of sonic ideas into smaller spaces: The track runs a mere 3 minutes and 38 seconds, but still barnstorms through a thrilling transcontinental epic, punctuated by frenetic horn blasts and hairpin turns.


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Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders coach after reports of derogatory language in emails

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Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders coach after reports of derogatory language in emails

Jon Gruden resigned as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night following reports he had sent derogatory and offensive emails. Gruden is seen here on the sidelines against the Chicago Bears on Sunday in Las Vegas, Nev.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Jon Gruden, the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, has resigned following news reports that he used derogatory language in emails dating back to 2011.

“I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Gruden said in a statement. “I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Among the targets for Gruden’s insults were DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and then-Vice President Joe Biden.

The emails emerged from an investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Club. The offensive terms were used in emails sent from Gruden to former Washington team president Bruce Allen and others. Allen was fired in 2019.

Gruden sent the emails between 2011 and 2018, while he was a color analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Before joining ESPN, Gruden coached the Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The existence of racially disparaging emails were first reported on Friday by The Wall Street Journal. On Monday evening, The New York Times reported on emails that included homophobic and misogynistic comments.

Gruden, 58, signed a 10-year, $100 million deal with the Raiders in 2018. By Monday evening, the Raiders had already removed Gruden’s profile from the team’s website.

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