Posts tagged with jessica bennett
In El Salvador, Gang Truce Can’t Stop the Violence
This story was produced in partnership with Mother Jones.
It began with a trip back home, to a small town in the country’s western valley, to visit his dying grandmother. More than a decade after El Salvador’s bloody civil war had ended, Juan Carlos, a 38-year-old photojournalist, wanted to see how life had changed. Was his country, one of the most violent in the Western Hemisphere, better off after 12 years of war? Sure, there were shiny new roads and malls, but was the country any safer?
Juan Carlos began by documenting infrastructure and families; education and health systems, traveling for long stretches between El Salvador, where he was born, and San Francisco, where he now lives. But it didn’t take long for a new focus to emerge: the gang culture, and accompanying terror, that had seeped into the fabric of everyday Salvadoran life. With an estimated 64,000 identified gang members, El Salvador’s street gangs — or maras, as they’re known to locals — operate like armies. They control traffic stops and neighborhoods. They hold press conferences. They are incestuously intertwined with the police. In other words, they call the shots — as well as fire them. In its peak, in 2009, the gangs were responsible for a homicide rate that reached 14 deaths per day.
A Day with New York City’s Pothole Repair Crew
Each morning, at a small depot tucked away under the Williamsburg Bridge, the New York City workers who call themselves the “pothole gang” pore over a giant spreadsheet known as “The Daily Pothole.” On it are thousands of potholes all over the city: giant gorges caused by rain and sleet, small interconnected divots that can flatten tires, and pretty much every other roadway wound you can imagine. The sun is barely up, and yet for these men — members of a street maintenance team tasked by the Department of Transportation with roadway repair — the race has already begun.
Over the next eight hours, they will hit the streets, filling giant yellow trucks with smoldering hot asphalt, navigating endless traffic, and smoothing as many potholes as they can before the sun goes down (only to do it all again the next day). Does it get tiring? Sure. But in a city that’s always moving, roadway repair is crucial. On a good day, the team might fill 4,000 potholes. In an average week, they could resurface 100,000 square yards of road. After Hurricane Sandy, their crews removed 2,500 tons of debris. And every day, on a Tumblr called The Daily Pothole — named after that early morning spreadsheet — New Yorkers can take a peek inside the workings of a city system few have likely thought about. We spent a day with six men who help make up New York City’s pothole repair team.
This story was produced in partnership with Time.com
In early 1992, a census report predicted that 40 percent of children would soon live in divorced homes. As one of the most famous children’s television programs in the world, Sesame Street was determined to take on a topic most kid’s shows wouldn’t touch. They cast Snuffy, a.k.a. Mr. Snuffleupagus, for the part of child divorcee.
With a team of its best writers, researchers, and producers, a segment was scripted and shot. It went through a half-dozen revisions, with input from the foremost researchers in the field. And on a typical sunny afternoon on Sesame Street, the furry, red, elephantine muppet known as Snuffy prepared to drop the bomb on his loyal preschool viewers.
“My dad is moving out of our cave,” he confides to Big Bird one afternoon, distraught after knocking over a house built of blocks. “I’m not sure where,” he continues, crying. “Some cave across town.”
Big Bird, naturally, is horrified. “But why?” he asks his friend.
Snuffy blinks his long, dark eyelashes, and pauses. We know what’s coming. Well, he explains, “because of something called a divorce.”
Pizza That Never Sleeps (Even in a Hurricane)
When Hurricane Sandy, with her innocent name, plunged New York City into infinite darkness, officials warned New Yorkers to be prepared: Stay inside. Stock up on tuna. Do whatever it took to feed yourself when the bodegas shut down. But in the city that never sleeps, there are certain things held to be self evident — even in a hurricane. One of them is that you’ll always be able to get a slice of pizza.
New York City Pizza makers didn’t take that expectation lightly. All over the city — whether they were operating on a car battery, a generator, or just giving out slices cold — pizzerias worked to keep New Yorkers fed. At Motorino, in the East Village, owners operated by candlelight. At Joe’s, in Soho, staffers used flashlights to peer into gas-fed ovens to see when their crust was baked. At 11B, in Alphabet City, they gave out slices cold. And at Lombardi’s, in downtown Soho — the first licensed pizzeria in America, opened more than 100 years ago — manager Gilbert Soto walked in, found a bit of coal in the oven, and decided to abandon the electric mixers and begin producing Lombardi’s famous thick-crust dough by hand. “They were just happy to come here,” Soto says of his staff, who trekked in from all over the five boroughs. “They said, ‘Hey, if we got a way to get there, we’ll make it.’”
At first, Soto’s pizza men worked under candelight and headlamps. Then they rigged up a power inverter to a car outside to fuel a few light bulbs. By Thursday, they had an intricate setup of batteries to power lights both inside and outside the restaurant.
Staying open through a blackout and a storm? It’s probably not the most cost-effective strategy. But in the city that never sleeps — and the pizzeria that’s fed it for more than a century — New Yorkers could find a bit of comfort in Lombardi’s perfectly cooked crust covered in melted cheese and tomato sauce.
Painting the Women of the 112th, Powersuit by Powersuit
It didn’t start out as a political statement, exactly. Emily Nemens, a writer and illustrator in New York, simply wanted to take on a new creative project, preferably in watercolor. For four years already — between jobs at the Met, and later, at the American Institute of Architects — she’d done a series of watercolor mouth paintings: beautiful, complex images of plump rosy lips, some with objects clenched between them. She’d also illustrated comic books, and published a collection of short stories.
But she’d always been fascinated by political portraiture and the way it could convey the personality of a subject. She’d also noticed how much of that portraiture (save for a few French revolution portraits, and some queens of England) lacked women. And so, in early 2011, right around the time Michelle Bachmann hit the national stage, Nemens set out to paint the female members of Congress — all 94 of them. “I want to honor the breadth and diversity of women in power, as well as bring attention to certain disconcerting characteristics about them,” Nemens says. “The rainbow of power suits, the big hair, the gaudy jewelry and toothy smiles … and, of course, the fact that they collectively are only 17 percent of Congress.”
Breakfast with Kreayshawn: Pancakes & a Side of Girl Power
Having breakfast with Kreayshawn is a little like taking your rambunctious niece out while her parents are away. She orders bacon with a side of “pee and poo.” She wants a pancake with a sad face on it. She needs orange juice, milk, chocolate milk, water, and coffee. Her posse includes Lady Tragik, her friend and collaborator, Isabel, her roommate and sometimes assistant (whose Twitter profile simply says, “sweet hawaiian ganga baby”) and a shaggy haired pre-teen named Baby Scumbag, whom Kreayshawn claims is “her son.”