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ANTHONY BOURDAIN PARTS UNKNOWN
Parts Unknown: Mexico
Aired May 20, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST (voice-over): Mexico is a country where every day, people fight to live. All too often, they lose that battle.
A magnificent, heartbreakingly beautiful country. The music and food, and a uniquely Mexican, darkly funny, deeply-felt world view.
Right down there, cuddled up in ethos, our brother from another mother.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): "Holy mother of Santa Muerte, please protect my stash of cocaine. Let it not be interfered with by the cops, or the competition. Let any who would mess with me be killed. My enemies destroyed. Please forgive us our sins, for they are many."
(on camera): So is business good? I mean, is there more murders particularly narco murders?
VALENTE ROJAS, PHOTOGRAPHER: (speaking in a foreign language)
GRAPHIC: They're going up. People decide to sell drugs because it's the quickest way to make money. So the increase in murders is related to this.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Every day, Mexico wakes up to count the dead. They are, after all, left out to be seen. Often with a helpful note, identifying who done what and, generally speaking, why. There is a language to the never-ending violence, a coded message in the twists and marks of the bodies.
And Valente Rojas is one of many documenting them for the press. This is what he does every night, rides around waiting for a phone call or a radio message telling him that there's another one.
(on camera): So who's buying drugs? Who's selling drugs to who?
ROJAS: (speaking in a foreign language)
GRAPHIC: Before, they brought a large number of drugs to sell in the U.S., but now domestic consumption is an important part of the drug trade. The difference between the U.S. and here is it's better here, because in the States, crazy people kill each other for no reason.
BOURDAIN: Here, you kill each other for a reason. It's business?
BOURDAIN (voice-over): More Mexican civilians have been killed since 2006 than all the American military lost in ten years of the Vietnam War and eight years of wars in Iraq.
(on camera): What do you do if you're one of these cops? You're driving around one night. You see some guy outside of a bar beating somebody or disturbing the peace. You start to arrest him, and he's got a diamond studded pistol. It's got his name on it. Now you realize you've just arrested somebody with serious, powerful connections. What do you do?
ROJAS: (speaking a foreign language)
BOURDAIN: You let him go?
BOURDAIN: Why do they always pull their pants down? Our local fixer, Alex, is here to translate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this case, he thinks that they pull the pants down so -- checking for weapons.
BOURDAIN: They are loading them into the sheet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the CSI team. So when they were pulling his pants off, money and jewelry started falling from the pockets. Basically, they took the money out of his pockets, and that was the only available spot.
BOURDAIN: To show that they didn't take anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, exactly. So this was also a drug dealer. The thing here in Mexico is, as soon as someone's killed, normally they get candles just right next to them. Sometimes it's related to drug dealings and criminals.
BOURDAIN: How long have you been doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About nine years.
BOURDAIN: How many bodies do you think? Hundreds?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Si.
BOURDAIN: How do you push them out of your mind when you're not working?
BOURDAIN: A lot of people ask him about this. But he said like it's a job, not like any other kind of job, but as soon as he gets home, he just takes this cover off and just keep living.
BOURDAIN: That's a terrible picture. It's sad. What happened here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an elephant called Kilba (ph). She run away from a circus so she basically was crossing the highway and was just run over.
BOURDAIN: The world we live in now, of all of these pictures, this is the one that would get people most upset. You'd get the most mail, the most "Oh, my God," you know, "what kind of a world do we live in?"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was probably the most run picture from different media around the world.
BOURDAIN: Eighty thousand Mexicans have died in the last seven years in narco violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the most important picture.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): As our crew gets ready to crawl back to our hotel, Valente gets the call we thought we'd been waiting for. One dead male, shot in head. A note pinned to his chest.
In Mexico, people fight to live every day. One man stands alone, facing another man. His intent, to beat his opponent with his fists until he can resist no more. A match, yes, but more accurately, a fight.
Jorge La Tierra (ph) is a former bantamweight title holder. With his father, Jorge Senior and his son Alexis, he trains aspiring fighters in this gym in the Santa Anita neighborhood of Mexico City. He knows that these young men, like generations of boxers everywhere from other neighborhoods like this, are looking for a way out.
JORGE LA TIERRA (PH), FORMER BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE HOLDER: In Mexico, boxing is kind of -- save their life (ph), you know what I mean? Boxing give them, like, a little discipline.
BOURDAIN (on camera): Say you're good, but you're not that good. Can you make a living just being a contender?
LA TIERRA (PH): No, but a lot of fighters, they try to make it. Tons of boxers. They want to be a champion.
BOURDAIN: Everybody wants to be a champion.
LA TIERRA (PH): Everybody. Everybody wants the big shot. But you know, it's just one.
BOURDAIN: Those are bad odds. The history of boxing is not kind. I mean, most managers and owners don't give a shit about the fighters.
LA TIERRA (PH): They don't.
BOURDAIN: They use them up, but at the end they leave a guy all broken down, no money and scrambled brains.
LA TIERRA (PH): Just like prostitutes, you know what I mean?
BOURDAIN: In this area, what are your options, if you drop out of high school?
LA TIERRA (PH): Nothing. It's just like being on the street, snatching, you know, robbing. Like kids in the hood, they go, hey, kidnap that guy.
BOURDAIN: Big industry.
LA TIERRA (PH): Everybody here now wants to be a soccer player.
BOURDAIN: Why boxing?
LA TIERRA (PH): Because they make money.
BOURDAIN: Who's got a longer career, a narco or a boxer?
LA TIERRA (PH): I don't know. Might be 50/50. I mean, narco, you can last longer.
BOURDAIN: You can?
LA TIERRA (PH): You're protected by the police. You just pay it off, nobody's going to touch you.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Expensive protein shakes and dietary supplements? Not so much. Boxers here eat what they can afford.
LA TIERRA (PH): The food is good and it's cheap. You know, in Mexico, there's no middle class here.
BOURDAIN (on camera): You're either poor or you're really, really rich.
LA TIERRA (PH): I mean, it's a crazy thing. The minimum wage here is like 50, 60 pesos, which is like five bucks. Not an hour, a day.
BOURDAIN: But on the other hand, that's why Mexican fighters are so exciting. They're hungry.
LA TIERRA (PH): Exactly. We're hungry.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Tepito is a city within its city. Its own thing. Either the dark center or the beating heart of Mexico City, depending on your point of view.
It's the home of Santa Muerte, the skeletal St. Death. This is where they come: the impoverished, the oppressed, the marginalized, the criminal. People for whom the traditional church has less relevancy. For the unforgiven and the unforgiveable. For those on whom the catholic saints have turned their backs, there is Santa Muerte.
This is a place and Santa Muerte is a saint that accepts everybody. "Death to my enemies" written on a votive candle. Let's face it, we've all prayed for that at one point or another.
Tepito is a poor neighborhood, for sure, and a tough one. A center of commerce, both above-board and not.
Perhaps a breakfast beverage first. A michelada. One giant beer with lemon, chili powder, salt and magi sauce.
(on camera): That's a sizeable morning beverage.
(voice-over): My companion, blogger and chronicler of the city, Jorge Pedro.
(on camera): Wow. A whole season of "The Walking Dead" for 25 cents.
(voice-over): You want to buy something, Tepito's got it. Looking for some cheap underwear, pirated copies of "Man v. Food," seasons one through five? This is where you find them.
(on camera): So this all seems very wholesome. I mean, you know, where can I buy a gun, some heroin and a prostitute? I was looking forward to that.
JORGE PEDRO, BLOGGER: Let's say Tepito has many layers.
PEDRO: And we are in the surface.
PEDRO: We are among movies, clothing, families. But I don't think it's as easy as to ask "Where can I get a gun?" Probably, they will kill you if you ask that.
You know Santa Lopez. Santa Lopez, patron saint of hopeless cases.
BOURDAIN: Lost causes.
PEDRO: It's become very popular in the last years.
BOURDAIN: A lot of good smells here, man. A lot of good-looking food.
(voice-over): My happy place is somewhere in here. Oh, there it is.
PEDRO: Yes. We are here amigas (ph).
BOURDAIN (on camera): Beautiful.
(voice-over): Wherever there's bones and guts simmering in broth, chances are I'll be happy.
Writer, sociologist and life-long resident of Tepito, Alfonso (ph) Hernandez, apparently feels the same way.
(on camera): So is this supposed to be a bad neighborhood? This is the best. I love this neighborhood.
ALFONSO (PH) HERNANDEZ, WRITER: (speaking foreign language)
PEDRO: It is known as being the lost souls neighborhood. It is called angeles (ph) neighborhood, like angels.
PEDRO: In Tepito, there are no angels but lost souls.
BOURDAIN: What's the saying?
ALFONSO (PH) HERNANDEZ: (speaking foreign language)
PEDRO: Showing your -- los huevos (ph) to the death.
BOURDAIN: Show your balls to the devil or to...
PEDRO: To the death.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): On the menu, migas. The base comes from boiling cracked hambones to release the marrow, to which garlic, onion, cascabel (ph) peppers and episote is added. Thickened with stale bread and leftover tortillas.
(on camera): You got nothing, you make something really awesome out of nothing.
PEDRO: The grandmothers had the creativity to take advantage of the bones of the pigs, and now it's a good dish.
BOURDAIN: Any great old culture where there's poverty, there's something like this. By the way, if you're watching this after you do this, you've really got to wash your hands before you touch your -- OK? That's a rookie mistake. Don't go piss right after.
PEDRO: She's asking you if you like the migas. Did you enjoy it?
BOURDAIN: Yes, it's good. Delicious. So this has been open 65 years?
PEDRO: All the members of the crew are relatives.
BOURDAIN: Is there hope for social change in this country?
ALFONSO (PH) HERNANDEZ: (speaking foreign language)
PEDRO: Unfortunately, Mexico has become the Tepito of the world. Tepito, this is still the synthesis (ph) of the Mexican.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Not a lot of upward mobility here. The rich get richer; the poor get ground slowly under the wheel. Eduardo Garcia has hacked his way up the ladder to become chef owner of the city's hottest restaurant.
EDUARDO GARCIA, CHEF OWNER, RESTAURANT: I grew up in the states. I was a migrant worker picking fruits and vegetables as a kid. My parents didn't earn a lot of money, so I decided to work rather than go to school.
BOURDAIN: The restaurant business, as I well know, ain't no picnic. And in Mexico City, it's particularly rough.
GARCIA: Mexico has a reputation where we all know that the country's run by corrupt politics. You have to stand up for what you believe. If you don't, people will run you over. You won't last a minute. I don't let people bully me around.
BOURDAIN: Garcia runs Maximo Bistro with his wife, Gabriella. Here's the kind of extra helping of crap you've got to deal with if you run the hottest restaurant in Mexico City.
In 2013, the spoiled daughter of the head of Mexico's consumer protection agency walks in and demands a table when there's, unsurprisingly, no table available. When Garcia says, "Sorry, no can do," she pulls a "You know who I am?" and then calls daddy and gets the health inspectors in to shut the place down.
(on camera): So your other customers basically started taking pictures of them with their cell phones?
GARCIA: Next thing you know, we have the media outside and this is Friday.
GARCIA: Sunday morning, we're front page of one of the most important newspapers in Mexico.
BOURDAIN: Well, it was very embarrassing to the government.
GARCIA: And it should be.
BOURDAIN: Because they got caught doing what they do all the time, but if you were not the hottest restaurant in town, you were just running a cantina, you know, a few blocks away...
GARCIA: I would have been...
BOURDAIN: They would have closed you down and that's that.
(voice-over): Right now, a defiant young creative generation of chefs like Eduardo are performing some of the most exciting new cooking anywhere on earth, a mixing of the very old and traditional with the very new.
(on camera): So you went to Le Bernardin.
GARCIA: As a kid, yes. One of the jokes throughout the whole time that I worked is "How old are you?"
"You've been 18 for three years."
Those are abalone from Baca (ph). I told you I love butter. I use it even for some Mexican dishes. And then just roasted chilis serrano, just to give it a nice little kick for me.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): They/re finished with lemon and, of course, brown butter.
(on camera): Beautiful. Mm. Very delicious. Very Mexican, very French. Brown butter, awesome. Makes everything better.
GARCIA: Of course. I think the most important thing about Mexican cuisine, in general, if it's traditional, it's the ingredients.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Confit is suckling pig topped with grandma's salsa. An instant classic.
GARCIA: Have at it. You do it like the Mexican way. Pick it up and go.
BOURDAIN (on camera): Wow. Pretty hard to imagine anything better than that. You're stuck with this dish forever, man.
BOURDAIN: It's going to be like Mick Jagger, you know, 50 years from now singing "Satisfaction." There's no getting away from it, man. This is so good. This is a classic.
(voice-over): But even now with all his success, Garcia is still fighting a struggle most Mexicans are all too familiar with.
GARCIA: What happened that day happens every day. And the promise always is we're going to shut you down. you don't know who I am. And for me, I'd rather close my restaurant than live like that. If you close my restaurant, I will go across the street. I will go to another state or I will go to another country, and I still will make a good restaurant.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Under former President Felipe Calderon, Mexico launched a concerted war on drugs. Ostensibly against the notorious and seemingly untouchable cartels. Absolutely no one can say with any credibility, by the way, that Mexico's war or our trillion-dollar war...
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just say no.
BOURDAIN: ... has had any effect in diminishing the flow of drugs into our country. One very brave journalist has uncovered exactly how deep the rot of corruption and dirty money has penetrated into every level of Mexican institutions.
ANABEL HERNANDEZ, JOURNALIST: My grandmother is from Oaxaca, so how we used to drink the mescal is never with lemon. It's with orange.
BOURDAIN: It is not what a lot of people wanted to hear, much less see published. Today, Anabel Hernandez, author of the ground-breaking expose, "Los Senores Del Narco," lives under guard in a secret location. The threat, very, very real and very explicit.
(on camera): Do you think there was ever a minute when the Calderon war on drugs, was it ever genuine?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: No. Who really start the war against the drug cartels was Vicente Fox. Felipe Calderon just followed that instruction, but he didn't really do anything new. He just did it worse. Since the beginning, the plan of the government was protect the Sinaloa cartel and fight against the enemies of the Sinaloa cartel.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Of the seven major Mexican cartels, the Sinaloa cartel is considered the most powerful, with the farthest- reaching and most pervasive tentacles extending deep into every corner of government, banking and private industry.
Its rivals, the Tijuana cartel, the Gulf cartel, the Juarez cartel, the Beltran-Leyva, La Familia Michoacana, and the particularly murderous Los Zetas. The cartels are responsible for importing roughly three quarters of all illegal narcotics to America.
(on camera): In your work, you've uncovered what had to be some very embarrassing and incriminating associations and connections between very high elected officials, the presidents and entire administrations, and acts of incredible criminality. How did that change your life?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: Well, when I started to make this investigation in 2005, I really understand that it would be very dangerous. I have to say that it wasn't really a surprise for me what happened after I published my book. What I didn't expect is that the threats came from the federal government.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Anabel says that one of her sources warned her that the biggest threat was from within, that one of the most highly placed, most senior law enforcement officials in Mexico had ordered her killed.
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: Because in my book, I put his name and also showed some documents that proves that he was involved, he was on the payroll of the Sinaloa cartel.
BOURDAIN: What happened to this man?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: Right now, he's very happy drinking rum, I think, building many enterprises, fake enterprises, laundry his money.
BOURDAIN: To me, the weak link are the bankers. A banker who launders money, he's got a family, he's got a reputation, he gives money to charity, his neighbors think he's great, his kids think he's wonderful, but he's got something to lose. So I wouldn't be prosecuting drug dealers. I would be prosecuting bankers.
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: The name of my book is "Los Senors del Narco," because los senors del narco are not only a chapugas (ph) man and the leaders of these cartels -- no. Los senors del narco are also this, the politicians and bankers and the businessmen. The people have to know who are these people name by name.
BOURDAIN: And you have been a journalist for how long?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: 20. 20 years.
BOURDAIN: 20 years. Your father was killed, kidnapped and killed in 2000?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: My father was a businessman. In that year, many gangs used to kidnap businessmen just for money. So when we went to the police and asked them to investigate, they said, well, if you pay us, we will make the investigation. So, as family, we decide to pay because you cannot buy the justice.
Since that, I really tried to fight against corruption. That's why I'm doing what I do, because I think that corruption is the worst problem in Mexico. The drug cartels are maybe the worst face of that problem, but the problem in the deep is the corruption. The corruption is the mother of all our problems in Mexico.
BOURDAIN: It should be pointed out that 88 journalists, how many journalists have been killed in this country?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: 90 now.
BOURDAIN: 90 journalists have now been killed or disappeared over the last few years.
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: Yes.
BOURDAIN: You can kill a journalist and get away with it. Why are you still here?
ANABEL HERNANDEZ: I have lost many things in my life. My father was the most important person in my life. I already lost everything. I don't have any life anymore. I don't have a social life. I don't have a sentimental life. I don't have anything. I just have my work and my family.
And my work of a journalist is everything for me. I really believe that good journalists can change the world. I have received many offers to go outside to France, to Sweden and other countries. I don't want to leave. It's my choice. My choice is fight.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): I came to Oaxaca for mescal. I like mescal more and more these days. And this guy, Ron Cooper, finds and sells some of the best mescal in the world.
We're at the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban.
RON COOPER: In pre-conquest Mexico, there were gods and goddesses of intoxication and ecstasy. The touch of a lover, the smell of a flower, the a-ha of an idea, all had gods and goddesses that took responsibility for those things. BOURDAIN (on camera): All of your mescals come from different villages and only that village?
COOPER: Yes. And only one maker in that village. We call ourself single village mescal because most mescals are made with a blend of different villages all put together. No one goes home and has a cocktail in these Indian villages. They wait until there's a special occasion.
COOPER: Every birth, death, confirmation, baptism, there's a fiesta. A wedding is eight days. You invite 200 people. You feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner. You have a band every day. And then they really consume.
Don't drink yet. For Mother Earth and her ancestors. And then you say (INAUDIBLE).
BOURDAIN: That's extraordinary. Back in the day, it was cheap stuff with a worm in it and there were rumors that if you ate the worm, you would start tripping, there was a hallucinogenic component to mescal. Is there a particular kind of high? Is this an enlightening high? is this a good high?
COOPER: The high is humorous. There are funny thoughts dancing around the back of your head.
BOURDAIN: Happy, witty drunk.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): In Oaxaca, ancient, indigenous traditions of ingredients define not only the mescal but also the food.
ALEJANDRO RUIZ OLMEDO, CHEF: One of the main reasons people visit our city is to eat.
BOURDAIN: This is Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo, one of Mexico's best chefs. He started cooking young. When he was 12, his mother died and it fell on him to raise and feed his five siblings.
OLMEDO: This is what we call pasajo (ph).
BOURDAIN: Today he draws much of his inspiration from Oaxaca's central market.
(voice-over): Probably America's most beloved food is what they think is Mexican food.
BOURDAIN: And I think most Americans' view of Mexican food is like beans, fried tortilla, melted cheese, some chicken.
OLMEDO: Yes. BOURDAIN: In fact, in particular when we're talking about Oaxaca, this is a deep, really sophisticated cuisine.
OLMEDO: That's correct. Oaxaca has these different microclimates all over our territory and that gives us this enormous amount of spices, produce, fruits, chilis.
BOURDAIN: Like 500,000 varieties of corn. Something like that. I mean, this is where the good shit grows.
OLMEDO: This is fancy (ph) barbacoa, and this lady here is always making the best.
OLMEDO: Yes. Tender, tasty.
BOURDAIN: Some crunch.
OLMEDO: Cabbage and cilantro.
BOURDAIN: Oh, unbelievably good. So tasty. Mm. Man, deep. It's good. I'll finish this. This is just too damn good.
OLMEDO: People have this barbecue especially on Sundays. It's a tradition to have barbacoa.
BOURDAIN: So tasty.
OLMEDO: All this is full of chilis. People think that Mexican food has to be necessarily spicy because of all the chili we use. And we go for flavor, not for the spices.
BOURDAIN: What most people miss is how really deep and really sophisticated the sauces here can be. Like Lyon is to France, Oaxaca is to Mexico, in my experience.
OLMEDO: You're right. Also in my experience.
BOURDAIN: Not kissing your ass here. I was just in Lyon.
(voice-over): This is Vicky's place. She has been cooking up traditional Oaxacan dishes in the market for 30 years.
(on camera): Whoa, that's awesome. He's cooking egg right on the kamal. Oh, man. So the guy working the kamal, first of all, a lot of the kamal you see now are metal. That's old school, super old school. That's the way they did back in Zapotec times, on the clay kamal. I'm looking there, he's doing tortillas and doing one of my favorite things, the zucchini flour with string cheese. So pretty to see.
(voice-over): Olmedo's cooking, his focus, his passion have very old, very deep roots.
OLMEDO: My parents were farmers in a small village. Since you are 6, 7, 8, you have a role to develop in the family. BOURDAIN (on camera): Right.
OLMEDO: So my role was to water the chili plantation, the tomato plantation, to milk the cows and help my mom when she was making tortillas like that. She would give me directions and tell me, OK roll the chilis, roll the tomatoes, I will tell you how to prepare molcajete salsa. So that was the beginning of my profession, learning from the knowledge of how a tomato should taste like when you cut it directly from the plant.
BOURDAIN: The way it should taste. Old school
OLMEDO: That's right.
BOURDAIN: Oh, man. Happy.
OLMEDO: This is what I should do. Try the egg (ph) first, like this.
BOURDAIN: Just grab a hunk.
OLMEDO: Yes. And then put salsa.
BOURDAIN: Yes. I haven't been anywhere in Mexico where the cooking is better than here.
OLMEDO: This is the way to preserve our culture, through our food.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): The quiet little town of Teotitlan del Valle is about 15 miles outside of Oaxaca, a town where the arts, crafts and traditions of pre-Hispanic Mexico are celebrated and packaged for consumption.
Abigail Mendoza and her sister Rufina are Zapotecan, original people from Mexico before the Spanish, before the Aztecs. This is her restaurant, where Abigail has been grinding corn by hand, making masa and moles like this, the ridiculously faithful, time-consuming, difficult, traditional way she was taught to make these things, and the way she's been making them since she was 6 years old.
Look at her hands, by the way. Small, surprisingly delicate, given all the hard work, all the pushing, kneading, grinding stone against stone over the years. Then look at her forearms. The power there. It's impressive and beautiful.
OLMEDO: Every time you enter the house, in Oaxaca, especially in the small villages, they always offer you a shot of mescal.
BOURDAIN (on camera): Mm, so good.
(voice-over): Seguesa (ph), a mole and chicken dish. This mole sauce, like a lot of the real old school moles made by masters like Abigail, use 35 different types of chili peppers and takes more than two weeks to make. (on camera): Do you think that until recently, until guys like you, that Mexicans were not looking back at their own food culture, they were looking elsewhere? What was going on?
OLMEDO: We were conquerers. We are were also a culture that was conquered first by the Aztecs and then we conquered by the Spaniards, so we were always taught everything that was good and excellent has to be imported.
OLMEDO: What we have here, it was just not good.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Right. Another Zapotecan classic, chili agua, a simpler dish of cow and pork brains cooked with chilis, tomatoes and yerba santa.
OLMEDO: As a cook, the main thing I needed to learn was to develop a little bit my cuisine here. There was this space where nobody tried to innovate. Still using the same techniques, the same ingredient, the same flavors, herbs, et cetera, but developing them a little bit.
BOURDAIN (on camera): I mean, that's as old-school as it gets. This is super ancient.
OLMEDO: A final dish, and this one that cannot have. This is something that you do not find anywhere else in Mexico.
BOURDAIN (voice-over): The quiet night in the zocalo, the central square of Oaxaca. But even tonight there's plenty of evidence of the struggle, the discontent, boiling just under the surface. The graffiti and painting of this street artist who goes by the name Yesca captures that spirit of Oaxacan protest.
(on camera): "The Last Supper," for sure.
YESCA, STREET ARTIST: It's "The Last Supper" but Mexican last supper.
BOURDAIN: Who are these people?
YESCA: These are most powerful people in Mexico. People that is driving Mexico. This is Pena Nieto, the president right now. This is Felipe Calderon.
YESCA: The last president.
BOURDAIN: The last president.
YESCA: That guy is like the economy guy.
BOURDAIN: Right. YESCA: Who's moving the economy in Mexico. And this is the army. This is a prostitute. This represent because they are like prostitutes.
YESCA: You know? And narco traffic.
YESCA: He is like the god in Mexico. You know? Because he is, like, over --
BOURDAIN: All of it.
BOURDAIN: So this is the way Mexico works?
YESCA: Yes. For me, the most problem in Mexico is the corruption.
BOURDAIN: Mexico can be a dangerous place for journalists, for politicians, for police. Is it a dangerous place for artists?
YESCA: Yes. I think so, yes, because if you do not agree with the government, you are like enemy.
BOURDAIN: In 1936, the town of Cuernavaca, 50 miles from Mexico City, was visited by Malcolm Lowry, the tormented self-loathing, brilliant and hopelessly alcoholic author. His life work, "Under the Volcano," was set here. It is widely believed to be one of the great novels of the 20th Century. Lowry saw symbolism and evil everywhere here. In the deep areas, the looming volcano that towered overhead.
Writer-poet, Javier Sicilia, one of Cuernavaca's most celebrated residents, has reason to see evil, too. On March 28th, 2011, narcos kidnapped and murdered his son, Juan Francisco, and six other equally blameless victims. Sicilia found himself moved to march to Mexico City to demand an end to the increasingly futile so-called war on drugs that was mindlessly grinding up so many victims in the crossfire and in the margins.
(on camera): In "Under the Volcano," the evil that's coming is fascism, Nazism. What is the heart of the infernal machine today?
JAVIER SICILIA, WRITER & POET: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).
BOURDAIN: What does he want to say? What does he want people to hear?
SICILIA: We need to stop this war. It's a war where we are killing our sons and daughters. We are losing the democracy of this divided and broken country. We need to find the peace and the justice that this country does not have.
BOURDAIN: Can he think of one place on earth where the good guys are winning? Where you are not ground under the wheels of the machine?
SICILIA: When people participate in good and loving relationships, there it is. Peace. Where there are (inaudible) that refuse to accept death, who refuse to accept that they keep killing, that they keep throwing bodies into the street beheaded, when there is a society that can say, "This is where the human being is above anything else." There is life. There is a good place.
BOURDAIN: Have you written a poem since the death of your son?
SICILIA: No. I wrote my last poem when (INAUDIBLE) assassination of Juan Francisco, my son. And with that, I (INAUDIBLE) write poems.
BOURDAIN: As I have come to know in my own life, drugs, even drug addiction, can be a survivable event. Death is not. Death is final.