Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Emilio Gutierrez Soto had to flee Mexico a decade ago to seek asylum in the United States—because people there took his journalism too seriously.

He may get sent back because an American judge does not take it seriously enough.

In 2005, on page 10 of El Diario, a Juarez daily, Gutierrez published a story with the headline: “Military personnel rob hotel in Palomas.”

“Six members of the Army, and one civilian who have been positively identified, robbed the guests at a motel in this town on Friday night, taking from them their money, jewelry and other personal belongings,” the story read, according to the translation of Molly Molloy. “The robbers then fled, but not before threatening their victims with death. Yesterday, the victims gave up their right to file formal complaints about the events to denounce the crimes against them, facing the possibility that the threats they had received would be carried out.”

Gutierrez later told Charles Bowden, a great chronicler of the border, that army officials were angry about his story and summoned him to a hotel in the center of the town of Ascension, near Chihuahua Ciudad. He was told: “If you don’t come, we’ll come looking for you at home or wherever you are.”

When he got to the hotel, he was surrounded by soldiers. “You have no sources for that information,” the general said. He asked Gutierrez why he didn’t ever write about the narcotraficantes. Gutierrez confessed that he was frightened of them.

“You should fear us, for we fuck the fucking drug traffickers, you son of a whore. I feel like putting you in the van and taking you to the mountains so you can see how we fuck over the drug traffickers, asshole,” a general said. 

“You’ve written idiocies three times, and there shall be no fourth. You’d better not mention this meeting, or you’ll be sent to hell, asshole,” another officer said in a final sendoff.

Gutierrez knew they were serious.

In April 2007, he shared a byline with a reporter named Armando Rodriguez. The story was about a third reporter, Saul Noe Martinez Ortega, who “was found wrapped in a blanket and appeared to have been dead for several days, possibly after his kidnapping that took place last Monday, April 16, in the city of Agua Prieta, Sonora.”

The penultimate line is a gut punch: “It appears that an agent of the Municipal Police was present at the abduction of the journalist, but he did nothing to hinder the kidnappers.”

Molloy added a brutal translator’s note about Gutierrez’s co-writer: “Armando Rodriguez was a well-known crime reporter for El Diario de Juárez. He was shot to death at point-blank range on his way to work in Ciudad Juarez on Nov. 13, 2008.”

Rodriguez had been threatened, but ignored the threats.

“I can't live in my house like a prisoner,” he told the Committee to Protect Journalists. “I refuse to live in fear." Then he was gunned down in his driveway, with his 8-year-old daughter in the back seat.

Gutierrez had left for the United States in June 2008, a few months before the murder of Rodriguez.

Molloy, a border and Latin America specialist at the New Mexico State University Library, hit on the insane logic of the infernal machine that governs the asylum process.

“He received a death threat and he fled rather than waiting around,” Molloy said when I called her up to talk about Gutierrez. “Emilio is seen as in less danger because he is still alive. If you take a threat seriously and flee for your life and seek asylum, people aren’t going to believe your story because you’re not tortured and you’re not dead.”

Gutierrez and his son were separated and held in custody for seven months. Shortly after Obama took office, they were freed. Although Obama was often called the Deporter-in-Chief by immigration activists, Gutierrez attributed his release to the American president.

When he was finally released, Gutierrez and his son went to live in Las Cruces, N.M., in the house of some friends. Bowden had also recently moved to Las Cruces to live with Molloy. Bowden published Gutierrez’s story in Mother Jones, while Gutierrez had a hard time adjusting to life in the U.S.

“He was sort of at a loss for what he was going to do,” Molloy said. “He wanted to write newspaper stories, but he really couldn’t, because he’s living in the U.S. and couldn’t write in English.”

Like so many immigrants, he had to piece together a living, working in landscaping and food service as his request for asylum dragged on. The request was finally denied last December, and Gutierrez and his son Oscar were locked up once again.

Among the reasons that Judge Robert S. Hough gave for denying his request for asylum was a claim that Gutierrez wasn’t really a journalist.

“He didn’t really believe that Emilio was a journalist, because he didn’t produce many articles he had written,” Molloy said, noting that Gutierrez’s house had been ransacked before he left—and that Mexican papers weren’t as fastidious as, say, The New York Times at keeping clips. Nevertheless, she compiled well more than 100 stories bearing his byline—and translated a few of them.

Still, Gutierrez and his son were put in a van and driven toward the border—and what he thinks would be certain death. A last-minute stay halted the van and bought Gutierrez a little more time and another shot at asylum. The Association of Alternative Newsmedia (of which the Independent is a member), the National Press Club and other journalistic organizations have come out in support of Gutierrez.

But the Trump administration’s deep hostility to those seeking asylum from Mexico, along with his hatred of the press, does not bode well for him.

Charles Bowden often wrote that Juarez was the city of the future. Trump’s attacks on the press sound an awful lot like the Mexican general who threatened Gutierrez a decade ago. Trump hasn’t started to actually kill journalists—but sending Gutierrez back to Mexico would be a start.

Baynard Woods is a reporter for the Real News Network and the founder of Democracy in Crisis, a project of alternative newspapers across the country. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Twitter: @baynardwoods.

Published in National/International

Here are a few questions I have for the Mexican:

  1. Why are wages so low in Mexico?
  2. Why is Mexico such a violent country?
  3. Why is Mexico so corrupt?
  4. Why have the drug cartels taken over large swaths of Mexico?
  5. Why can’t one drink the water in most towns in Mexico?
  6. Why are there so few public libraries in Mexico?
  7. Why are Mexicans so fat? Mexico is listed as the country with the highest rate of obesity on Earth.
  8. Why is public education in Mexico so miserable and pathetic? In my many years of working there, I have yet to come across a worker who could multiply, divide or read a map.
  9. Why don’t more Mexicans up here go into physical science and engineering?
  10. If you are a Mexican, why are you here? Is it possibly due to 1 through 8 above?

Dickhead in Denver

Dear Gabacho: Answers 1-4 are easy: The United States.

Número five is bullshit—though water quality isn’t pristine in Mexico, it’s not at California levels of scarcity yet. We’d be better if the U.S. didn’t muck up the water in the Rio Grande, steal the water from the Colorado River, and have factories making cheap products headed to the U.S. that use up precious water and foul up the rest of the supply. No. 6 is a flat-out crock of mierda: Mexico has roughly 6,000 public libraries, which averages out to .049 libraries per 1,000 Mexicans—barely below the U.S.’s .052 per 1,000 Americans.

Spare me 7, since the U.S. and Mexico have flip-flopped for the crown of world’s fattest nation for more than a decade now—and it’s all the U.S.’s fault. For No. 8, United States, just for the hell of it. I’m not sure how to answer No. 9, because the same could be said of American students—why else are we importing un chingo of Indians and Chinese? Finally, Mexicans are here to make a better life for themselves—thanks to los Estados Unidos.

I’m writing to ask about an epiphany I had recently about government-sponsored clamors for crackdowns on immigration, especially against members of a certain race/creed/color/ethnic group. It seems to me that whenever there is a cacophony of support for deportation and the closing of our borders coming from the highest offices in the land, there’s also a war going on that’s going rather badly for us. Is this just coincidence, or is there more to it?

A Farewell to GúantanaManzanArms

Dear Pocho: You’re off. World Wars I and II went splendidly for us, but that didn’t stop Americans from demonizing Germans in the Great War and interning Japanese Americans (and more than a few German Americans and Italian Americans) in the Good War. If anything, it’s when wars are going bad for us that the American government makes a push for Mexicans in the military—look at what’s happening during this War on Terror, or during the Vietnam War and the Korean War.

To paraphrase South Park: Call it Operation Get Behind the Beaners.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: What do Mexicans in the United States think of the violent drug-cartel problem in Mexico? Do local Latinos cringe with disgust or fear when they hear another drug-cartel story on the news … or do they feel a sense of disconnect, because they are living in America now, and it’s no longer a concern of theirs? Do local Latinos fear crossing the San Diego/Mexico border? Do they worry about being kidnapped or carjacked on the way to Rosario like Caucasian people do right now?

Yo Gabba Gabacho

Dear Gabacho: Mexicans can be scared of the cartels all they want, but far more frightening to the majority of the population is the Mexican legal system. Police officers in the state of Guerrero are being investigated in the kidnapping of more than 40 student teachers; last year, a judge set free Rafael Caro Quintero, the notorious drug lord implicated in the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. And the less that can be said about President Enrique Peña Nieto, the better … actually let me take that back. PINCHE PENDEJO BABOSO.

By the way, you and your fellow gabachos gotta stop thinking the mundo revolves around you. Unless you’re a meth dealer delinquent on your payments or a drug-war soldier, gabachos in Mexico can walk around with impunity—you’re Quetzalcoatl incarnate. The cartels are not stupid enough to kidnap a random gabacho or kill them—otherwise, Obama would drone the narcos to kingdom come, and the Mexican government would pretend to care about justice. But if you’re one of the many Mexicans in los Estados Unidos kidnapped when traveling in Mexico, or one who has paid ransoms for family members? The American and Mexican governments don’t care—after all, those victims are just Mexicans.

A friend and I ate at Carl’s Jr. An Arizona Republic newspaper was on our table. A young guy brought our food, glanced down at the headline and winced. It read: “‘Chorizo’ new mascot for Cactus League.” We asked him why he’d winced. “Chorizo,” he said with disgust. ”You speak Spanish? It means ‘meat.’ It’s a swear word,” I said, “like cabrón, pinche?” He glared at the paper. “They are so stupid.” So, chorizo = meat = prick, yes?

Su Amor Uni-lingual

Dear My Beloved Monolingual: Let me show you my chorizo, and you can find out!

Why do Mexicans ALWAYS hand-deliver invitations to birthday parties, quinceañeras, baby showers, bridal showers, etc., to street-side mailboxes, rather than sending them through the U.S. mail or delivering them to the door (which is less than 20 feet away from the streetside mail box)? Regardless of the fact that it is a felony to put items into U.S. mailboxes, it seems to be impractical with gasoline at more than $3 a gallon to be hand-delivering invitations.

Mail Male

Dear Gabacho: Heaven forbid Mexicans practice good manners! This is a relic of Old Mexico, where mail was an illusion, and inviting people personally was an opportunity to catch up with the invitee. It’s actually a beautiful thing, much better than getting an eVite or overlooking an invitation on Facebook because it got buried in your feed under the umpteenth Candy Crush Saga update.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I am a butt-white Irish guy, stoked to be married to a beautiful Chicana. Her familia is from a gorgeous rancho deep in the corazón of Zacatecas, and I’ve been wanting to experience all of the ranchero lifestyle I keep hearing about from my acquired familia mexicanos (and from those songs at all of the truly awesome parties we attend just about every weekend).

However, our State Department has warned Americans to not travel into Mexico due to the violence by the drug cartels. Tales of decapitated bodies strewn across highways throughout Mexico have aired on just about all of the Spanish-speaking noticias. (I watch so I can practice my español, and drool over the female newscasters—¡que caliente!)

Additionally, I’ve gotten such a mixed response from my compas of Mexican origin that now I’m as confused as my Irish grandpa was during Prohibition! Some of the family and my pocho partners have said that all is great, and to stop being a pinche güero panocha, and just go! However, los otros amigos have told me that I’d be loco to travel into the moreno motherland, because my 6-foot-2, blond, blue-eyed ass would stick out more than a pimple on a prom queen, and I would surely lose my oversized Ted Kennedy-looking head!

Ayuda me—I’m so confused! Do I stay, or do I go?

Scared White Boy (With His Cabeza Intact)

Dear Mick: I recently talked to a pal who just came back from Zacatecas, and you know what he said? He dijo that his hometown is safe now ,“because los del Chapo killed all the Zetas and now rule everything.” OY VEY!

While bigger cities like Tijuana and Mexico City (and even Juarez, to a lesser extent) are generally safe after the narco-violence of the Calderón administration, I’d still stay away from the rural regions of Mexico, which are experiencing full-fledged rebellion between warring cartels, corrupt cops, the Mexican military and autodefensas (local vigilante groups) who are saying a la chingada with everyone, and defending their ranchos on their own terms.

Then again, you’re gabacho, and as I’ve said before, ustedes can walk around Mexico with all the impunity of Winfield Scott, because the cartels know better than to mess with one: They know if they do, the Obama administration will stop its eternal waltz with various cartels and rain down the drone desmadre.

Why is it that Mexicans prefer to party, barbecue, dance and drink in their front yards? On Friday and Saturday nights, their low-riding buddies machine-pistol them without having to slow down the Honda. Tight-assed pink peeps party, too, but in the safety of the backyard.

Cabana Man

Why do Mexicans do everything in the front yard—from cooking on the grill, to celebrating birthday parties with inflatable playgrounds, to hanging their wet clothes over the railings on their front porch? A friend of mine told me the backyard was where Mexicans keep all their chickens, roosters and autos up on blocks, but it isn’t true—at least not here in Texas. Is this just genetic?

Tony Romo Is Lame, but Jerry Jones Is Lamer

Dear Gabachos: The sooner gabachos realize that front yards are just a pathetic remnant of Gilded Age nitwits pretending to live like British lords, and start using yardas like Mexicans, the better off this country will be.

Since houses in Mexico historically had no lawns or ornamental plants (that’s what the fields were for), Mexicans view front yards as virgin land ripe for the taking. We grow fruit trees and sugar cane; we park cars on it. And, : We’ll happily put a Dora the Explorer bounce house in the front. Why? Because the backyard is already too packed with partying Mexicans.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I have read (from the usual suspects and a few Know Nothings) that illegals can say a few magic words to get temporary, pending review, asylum status. The reports say the illegals can claim asylum from drug gangs. My understanding is that fear of crime in one’s home country has never been grounds for seeking asylum in the USA. In other words, these reports make no sense.

My experience of the Mexican government’s insufferable machismo is that it would go ballistic if we granted asylum to even one peon based on “government oppression.” They would recall their ambassador, expel ours and embargo the export of serapes and piñatas.

Do you have any of the FACTS surrounding this brouhaha in San Diego?

Queso Grande

Dear Big Cheese Gabacho: Both the Mexican and American governments want to discount the threat of narco-violence as a plausible reason for refugee status, for self-serving reasons—but look at the stats.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which monitors the status of refugees worldwide, estimates that about 160,000 Mexicans have fled their homes, citing in a 2012 report that “the largest but least-acknowledged cause of new displacement was generalised drug-cartel violence and human rights abuses, in the form of fighting between cartels and government forces, extortions, kidnappings, assassinations and threats against civilians.” Not all of these Mexicans went up to the United States, but it’s not a big salto in logic to surmise that some of those internal refugees want to go up to el Norte—and more will follow.

And why shouldn’t they claim refugee status? We give it to Cubans whose sole reason to come to this country is to play Major League Baseball—nothing against that awesome Los Angeles Dodgers coño Yasiel Puig, mind you …

Why the hell do Mexicans parents want their kids to talk to relatives in Mexico when the kids don’t know those people?

No Tia Goya Ni Que Ocho Cuartos

Dear Wab: You mean you don’t want to be introduced to the primo hermano of your bisabuela’s yerno’s madrina’s ahijada’s sobrina’s madastra’s third uncle once removed? What are you—a gabacho who has met their first cousin from Indiana only thrice?

As the summer draws to a close, I’m thankful, as that means the constant screaming of the kids in the swimming pool outside of my apartment will cease. The parents drag the kids into the water when they do not want to go, and the older siblings and cousins push the young kids underwater and force them to do things they don’t want to do. The kids are SCREAMING and crying, and the parents sit by, laughing. I do not understand why fear is a part of childhood in Mexican families.

Confused Güera

Dear Gabacha: Fear is as much a part of a Mexican childhood as piñatas and drunken uncles at baptisms. It prepares them for life in this country—sink or swim, with no rafts allowed. (Those are for the Cubans.)

When we throw our kids in the pool, don’t forget that they’re surrounded by older siblings who know how to swim who are in turn being watched by adults who know how to swim. We must be doing something right: A May 2012 issue of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found Latino children had the lowest rate of drowning deaths of any ethnicity, beating even gabachos.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Readers: My columna a couple of weeks ago about whether Aztec savagery influences violence in Mexico today drew muchos responses, both bueno and malo. Here are two:

Dear Mexican: I enjoy reading all your replies and was thinking about the column you wrote about the violence/Aztec blood.

I grew up in Huntington Beach and am a “brown man” (Iranian decent). I’m currently in Shitzona finishing up pharmacy school, and I made an interesting observation today at a gas station: The reason Mexicans are “sketchy” or “violent” or whatever the stereotype is, is due to the level of treatment they receive from their environment. I’ve played lots o’ fútbol back home and worked lots of jobs where I worked side-by-side with Mexicans. What I have found is that while back home, the Mexicans still had some of the Napoleanesque machismo complex, complete with super-pervy sexual (toma, güey, etc.) behavior. Here in this hellhole joke of a state, the Mexicans are double the classic stereotypes that I encountered back home.

What I’ve found is that the pinche güeros here are about seven to 10 times more ignorant, and this, naturally, lends itself to overt racism. While I grew up in bro-y, stars-and-stripes, surf-Nazi punk HB, Arizona seems to have beat conservative Orange County in terms of its discrimination (as everyone knows). This donkey’s-ass level of ignorance results in a level of treatment from the white ruling class that is extremely cold, condescending, rude, arrogant and downright oppressive to the minority class, which in this case is overwhelmingly Mexican. This level of intolerance of la raza, I feel, is what develops the combative nature of the Mexican.

While this is a very simple observation, I wanted to get your thoughts on it, as I have always been very bewildered by some of the actions of the Mexicans I have interacted with throughout life.

Dear: Persie: You’re referring to internalized oppression, the sociological observation that minority groups end up believing and acting out the very stereotypes that the dominant culture imposes on them. Such pathologies usually manifest themselves in long-established minority cultures, though; in the case of recent Mexican immigrants, blame any fulfilled stereotypes on the fact that most foreign men overcompensate their machismo to mask their pain of living among Know Nothings—and if you don’t believe me, look at Marco Rubio.

You missed an opportunity to correct a misunderstanding in your reply to Puzzled by Narco Violence, when he described the Aztec as “notorious butchers and cannibals.”

Yes, human sacrifice was practiced by Mesoamerican cultures like the Mexica, but it was in the context of religious ceremonies they believed to be necessary to appease their gods so that the universe would not come to an end. It was part of their belief system and was performed by priests in a very strict ritual. Although it was done on a vast public scale, the goal was to recall the spiritual justification for the empire by its subjects. In that respect, they were not much different from their European counterparts, where public executions drew huge crowds and the goal was to reassert the sovereign’s divine power after it had been injured by a criminal act.

On the subject of cannibalism, I would remind the writer that recent evidence has proved that it was practiced in Jamestown, Va., by the pilgrims.

Naco de Neza

Dear Wab: In other words, the Aztecs were notorious butchers and cannibals. Gracias for clearing that up!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: A co-worker recently turned me on to a website that features many videos of unspeakable atrocities that the drug cartels are committing in Mexico—including many graphic displays of murders and beheadings. I recently saw one of a woman getting her head cut off with a knife! I wish I had never seen this, but it can't be unseen.

Now, most Mexicans I have met are very nice, generous people. Mexico is also such a strong Catholic country, where the church preaches to be good and helpful to your fellow man. How can it be possible that these types of evil people really exist there? Is it because they still have Aztec blood running in them? As we know from history, the Aztecs were notorious butchers and cannibals.

Puzzled by Narco Violence

Dear Gabacho: As we also know from history, the English used to draw and quarter people, then place their body parts in different parts of the country—so what’s your point? Do we blame the English for the atrocities that some American soldiers have committed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we blame them for Ed Gein? Or for the lynchings of African Americans that gabachos committed through the mid-20th century? Of course not—such talk of sanguinary determinism is as stupid as racists freaking out that a Mexican-American boy from San Antonio sang the national anthem before an NBA Finals game dressed in a mariachi suit. (Would Know Nothings had freaked out if a gabacho in a kilt had done the same?)

Refry this: Drug cartels commit atrocious crimes because drug cartels are criminal enterprises—and the last time I saw The Godfather, it seemed like criminal enterprises tried to strike fear in each other by being more brutal toward their enemies (and even innocents) than the other guys. But if you want to play your game: Why didn’t you include the Spanish side of the mestizo equation in your pregunta? After all, they plundered their way through the Americas in ways that would make the Aztecs seem as peaceful as Quakers.

Dear Mexican: I've been playing pickup basketball at a gym in Alhambra near El Sereno (in the Los Angeles ares). Some of the guys who play are covered head to toe in tattoos and have their heads shaved. Are they cholos or La Eme, or is this the current fashion? They seem like nice-enough guys, but they have tattoos all over their necks and heads. Do fellows get those outside of prison? If so, why do they do that?

Afraid to Call a Foul

Dear Gabacho: What does it matter to you? All you should care about during a basketball game is kicking the other team’s ass, and humiliating whoever is guarding you.

Why do the guys you play with have so many tattoos and shave their heads? Why don’t you ask them? If they’re willing to rub their sweaty bodies against you, I’m sure they’re more than happy to explain why they look the way they do. But you probably won’t, because that’ll ruin your hipster fantasy of being so down with la raza that you can post up on a Mexican Mafia member in the barrio without getting killed.

Are they cholos? Maybe, but you didn’t describe their tattoos, so I won’t assume like you do. For all you know, the opposing center who most likely schools your ass three times a week could be a Cal Tech cabrón.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at!

Published in Ask a Mexican