Mexican Saints and Ukrainian Bakeries: The Week in Global-Affairs Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about the world

Pilgrims carry a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe as they arrive at the Basilica of Guadalupe.
Pilgrims carry a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe as they arrive at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 11, 2016.  (Henry Romero / Reuters)

To Combat Gentrification in Mexico City, Two Artists Invented a Patron Saint
Maya Kroth | Pacific Standard
“In Mexico, which rivals the Democratic Republic of the Congo in income inequality, displacement by gentrification has only made things worse. And the artists say corruption from real estate speculators and local politicians—even the agencies charged with protecting landmark buildings from predatory development—ensures that the process continues almost unimpeded.”

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A Bakery in a War Zone
Lily Hyde | Roads & Kingdoms
“The social bakery produces around 1,500 loaves weekly and employs eight people: bakers, an administrator, and a driver. Two schools, serving 300 pupils altogether, a kindergarten, a clinic and the military-civilian administration provide a few more workplaces. But the vast majority of Mariinka’s remaining 7,000 inhabitants live entirely on humanitarian aid. Every non-ruined public building is a registration or distribution point for winter fuel, clean water, roofing material and window glass, living allowances, food parcels, diapers, medicines, and second-hand clothes.”

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The Girl Gangs of El Salvador
Lauren Markham | Pacific Standard
“More than three-quarters of femicides in El Salvador are never prosecuted. As femicide rates have risen over the past decade, so has the number of young women and girls entering gang life. That fact can be attributed, in part, to the extraordinary growth of the gangs themselves, but it also reflects a survival instinct: Girls are increasingly joining gangs in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. Valentina and Dalia are among the tens of thousands of girls who have become involved in El Salvador's strengthening organized-crime rings, either as full-fledged members, as girlfriends (sometimes by choice, often by force), or as loosely affiliated helpers (mothers and sisters, for example, who cook for the gangs). Since 2003, the government of El Salvador has attempted to crack down on gangs using La Mano Dura (Iron Fist) campaigns, but with minimal success. In early 2016, the government further militarized the country's police force and expanded its power to arrest anyone on mere suspicion, turning the war on gangs into a seemingly perpetual arms race for control of Salvadoran society. Because adolescent boys fit the standard gangster profile, they are routinely targeted by authorities. Young women and girls can more easily slip by as they mule drugs or pick up bi-weekly extortion payments. Girls are assets to the gangs—inconspicuous foot soldiers, and excellent cannon fodder.”

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The Secret History of the Female Code Breakers Who Helped Defeat the Nazis
Liza Mundy | Politico Magazine
“Twenty women’s colleges sent representatives to the elegant Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Army’s own code-breaking operation was working to forge ties with institutions that schooled women, scrambling to recruit their top seniors before the Navy, or any other agency or service, did. The inspector general of the Department of Labor noted that adult civilians would not be sufficient to stock an economy bereft of its male workers, many of whom had shipped out to battle. And so, in the intense and chaotic atmosphere of wartime America, another, smaller war was taking place: A war in which female college students, for the first time in U.S. history, were not only recruited by employers, but competed for.”


Meet the First Millennial to Run a Western Country
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian | Foreign Policy
“Now, at 31 years old, the baby-faced Kurz is likely to become Europe’s youngest head of state in next week’s parliamentary elections. Barring a major electoral upset, he will be the first millennial to lead a European Union nation. Yet Kurz’s relative youth goes hand in hand with the other signal fact about him—Austrian politics, and its youth, have taken a hard swing to the right amid economic stagnation and an ongoing immigration crisis. While his bold style and unabashed conservativism have brought a sense of excitement to a once-predictable Austrian politics, Kurz has moved to revitalize a declining establishment party with a transfusion of ideas from the far right, alarming liberals around Europe who fear the destabilizing influence of right-wing populism.”

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What’s Next for Kurdistan?
Catherine James | Roads & Kingdom
“Music was pounding through the main square of Erbil on the evening of the referendum, dancing and fireworks continued through the night while cars of young men convoyed throughout the city with whoops and toots, waving flags. With the celebrations and generally everyone making as much noise as possible, you’d be forgiven for thinking Kurdistan had just achieved independence instead of simply ticking a box in favor of it. It’s still early, but it’s hard to believe this momentum will be broken, even by the sanctions being threatened.”