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The Tropic of Cancer marks the northern border of the tropics,
the most beautiful, brilliant, and blighted region of the world.
I've already travelled around the equator
and the southern border of the tropics,
but following the Tropic of Cancer
will be my toughest journey yet.
This tropic cuts through central America,
the Caribbean, North Africa,
the kingdoms of Arabia, India, and on through Asia to finish in Hawaii.
It's 23,000 miles across deserts, rivers, and mountains.
Along the way I encounter extraordinary people,
simmering conflicts, and some of the most
stunning landscapes on our planet.
This first leg of my journey will take me from Mexico to Cuba
and on to the Bahamas.
It's 2,000 miles from Mexico's Pacific coast
to the coral paradise of the Caribbean.
I crossed the rugged heart of Mexico
and meet the men waging a war against the powerful drug cartels
that threaten the country's stability.
They're telling us to get down.
In the capital, I dabble in a famous local sport.
Go with the flow, you know.
And when I reach the glorious Bahamas,
I go hunting for an alien invader.
Just here is where the Tropic of Cancer hits the coast of Mexico.
I'm starting another huge journey around the planet,
this time following the line that marks the northern border
of the tropics region.
This journey will be my biggest challenge yet.
Mexico's beautiful Baja California peninsula
is an 800 mile long strip of land extending south from the US.
Baja was a glorious place to launch my journey.
it's a rugged wilderness of dry desert and empty beaches.
At first, I thought I'd discovered a remote paradise,
but an hour to the south it was clear a few other travellers
had got here before me.
Tens of thousands of Americans are now coming here
to Cabo San Lucas every year in search of the tropical sun.
It's a tourist playground right on the edge of the desert,
and soon they won't be alone.
The size of this!
The extraordinary thing for me about this marina is that the government
is planning to build another 17 marinas just like this on the same
grand scale, with all the same number of expensive yachts along
the coastline in this area, on the edge of the desert...
and all of it, all of the boats, all of the tourism here,
is entirely dependent on Americans and US dollars.
The new tourist developments here have already eaten up more
than 20 miles of pristine coastline, and Mexico is now promoting
this area as a luxury tropical destination.
So we dropped in to see one of the swanky resorts they're building,
called the One and Only Palmilla.
BBC expenses wouldn't run to staying here,
but Hollywood's jet set have become frequent visitors
since the resort opened with a monumental party for John Travolta.
-God, I feel a bit out of place here, I'll tell you.
Something the cat brought in.
-Hey, how are you?
Look at this.
Everybody touches their heart, it's quite moving.
Yes, it's our own One and Only salute at Palmilla, it's a...
-A One and Only salute?
-It is a One and Only Palmilla salute and
it's a gesture of warm hospitality that comes from our heart to
our guests and also among each other, here, that we work at the hotel.
So they are actually still working on it, then?
We are, so maybe we should...
Are the gold taps already in?
So maybe we should probably...
-Stop here, go inside and make sure everything is in order
-and then continue with the filming.
-What, you want to go and check that
-there's nobody, no builders' bums or anything like that? Go on.
The only people in this villa were workers from the Mexican mainland,
still completing the final touches.
So tell us, er, tell us about this place. Look at this.
This is Villa Cortes, it's our also new unit, four-bedroomed villa.
As you can see it has, I'll show you, the, the spa, the kinesis,
their own gym, the media room, and this is the entertainment area.
So how much does this cost per night?
It varies as well, but it goes from eight, starting price 8,000,
to 12,000 per night, plus tax and service charge.
That's about £5,000, more than £5,000 per night, starting price.
Starting price. Correct. But look at this, look at all that we have.
-Oh, my God, look.
-Look at this.
Your own infinity pool.
Yes, your own infinity pool.
Look, we even have little beds for the dogs
in case they bring their own pets.
We should check them out.
Can we see a bedroom?
-Yes. Go in here.
-Let's see the master bedroom.
Right, so as you can see, it has a king bed...
-Can we have a look in the bathroom?
-Can we just look it from here?
-It's all right, they're still just finishing it off.
-We can look at it from this side.
-Final detail, details.
Hola! It's all right, don't worry, don't worry.
I just wanted to see if it had gold-plated taps.
-I think I've pressed a button, it says massage.
-Don't do it now,
-because there is no water.
-Then you have the direct access outside.
-OK, we'll take it. Yeah.
-I think we'll take it.
The staff that you have here and the construction workers,
are they all from Baja, or are they Mexicans coming from the mainland?
-I mean, is it all...
-No, basically the company that is building
and other local building companies,
they have their own people that work for them, they all live in the area,
in San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas, everybody has their own place.
The tourist industry provides jobs for thousands of Mexicans,
but they live mostly in areas like this, just a short distance
from the One and Only resort.
This whole shanty town is built on a dried-up river bed.
It often floods, and recently people here lost their homes
when storms swept away their plywood shacks.
Luis came here from the Mexican mainland five years ago
to look for work. He has a wife and four children.
This one room plywood structure is what he calls home.
What happens here when it rains?
TRANSLATION: We get scared because the wind shakes the house.
When there's a hurricane,
we have to go to the shelters, because this just falls over.
Does it feel strange to you that people are living in, in these,
in this situation when there's people living in luxury so nearby?
I'm not going to wish for a house like that,
because I know I'm never going to have one.
There are more than 20,000 people living in this shanty town,
and it's estimated there are 150,000 migrant Mexicans
working in this area alone.
Most have been happy just to have a job living off
the crumbs of the tourist trade.
But the recession in the US has hit them hard.
TRANSLATION: If it goes badly for them,
we're dependent on them for work.
So when they sink, we sink even further.
The next day I travelled around the coast to continue my journey
out of Baja California and on to mainland Mexico.
Passports, ID cards, I don't know. Hola, buenas tardes.
-OK? Gracias, gracias.
I feel a bit, I mean, I'm excited about going to the mainland,
but I apprehensive about it as well, because there's almost,
there's almost a civil war in Mexico at the moment,
and there's a conflict raging over drugs and this ferry's
going to take us really to the heart of it.
I had a night at sea to reflect on my journey.
I knew that following the Tropic of Cancer
would take me to stunning and troubled parts of the planet,
and already the line was leading me from beautiful Baja
on to the dangerous world of Mexico's drug war.
I was crossing the Sea of Cortes and heading for the city of Culiacan
in Sinaloa state, just to the north of the tropic.
In recent years, Culiacan has become a major centre
of one of Mexico's biggest growth industries...
the smuggling of narcotics into the United States.
Thousands of tonnes of South American drugs
pass through Mexico annually,
and Culiacan is the headquarters
of perhaps the biggest drug gang in the world, the Sinaloa Cartel.
Their battle with other cartels and the Mexican government
has turned Culiacan into one of the most dangerous cities on earth.
In the relative safety of daylight,
I met up with my guide in mainland Mexico, Pepe Cohen.
So welcome to Culiacan, er, Simon.
The crown of drug trafficking.
Is that really how it's known?
Only last night when you arrived, there was an assassination attempt
against one of the top cops of the city.
How does Mexico compare to Columbia?
At the moment, Mexico is worse than Colombia,
because the Colombian cartels decided to go low profile...
businessmen, no killings.
But in Culiacan there have been
countless gruesome murders on a daily basis.
We met up with local journalist, Javier Valdez,
who showed us around Culiacan's main cemetery.
Far from keeping a low profile,
the families of drug traffickers here go to extraordinary lengths
to celebrate their status as gangsters.
Javier, how many of the people who are buried here will be
graves for people who've died in connection with drugs in some way?
TRANSLATION: I would say around 90% of the people buried here
are linked to the drug trade.
Just as we were passing this one here, I had a glimpse in and,
and already you can see that most of the people
buried here are young men
of a distinctly suspicious looking nature.
-So this is, again, another young guy?
That kid on the side, he's typical of the drug culture.
-He's got a gun in his belt.
-It does look almost like a real gun.
Er, I think it is. It's traditional for these kinds of families to pose
with automatic weapons and flak jackets, and with animal skin boots.
-Oh, look at this. Look, here.
You can see the picture of a guy on the side here
and you can see his Hummer on the picture.
This is a guy who was killed just in August 2008,
and you can see he's posing, he's pictured here with assault rifles.
Definitely a gunman.
You look around here and you see the new wealth that's displayed here.
Can you imagine how much it must cost to build these mausoleums?
I mean, these, this is a two-storey mausoleum here.
There's a level of opulence and even luxury to these mausoleums.
TRANSLATION: They have their own generators and air conditioning,
and comfortable furniture for the visitors.
The gang murder rate here is one of the highest in the world,
and the nature of the violence is extreme,
designed to shock and terrorise.
Drug gangs often mutilate their victims
in an endless cycle of revenge killings.
Hundreds of police officers are also murdered in Mexico every year.
Some have even been beheaded. Javier took me to a city crossroads
where drug dealers recently executed five police officers.
Javier, what happened here?
TRANSLATION: The police were going from east to west,
two cars appeared and started shooting from 200 metres away.
They didn't stop shooting until they got here.
And they executed them all.
Does it feel like Culiacan is under siege from the drug gangs?
There's always a fear hanging over people, a fear of the gunmen.
People have stopped going to shopping malls and going out at night.
They hide in their homes.
There is a collective paranoia.
One of the other things about the shoot-out here that surprises me is
that right next to where the shoot-out was, just round here,
look, there's a small police station, right there,
so the cartel had become so brazen in their attacks
that they're prepared to shoot at a group of police officers
right next to a small police station.
The situation here seems completely out of control.
Under intense pressure from the United States,
the Mexican government's response to the violence
has been to declare its very own war on drugs.
More than 3,000 elite troops and heavily armed federal police
have been sent in to Sinaloa state.
The commander of this elite unit wanted to show us
their most recent haul of weapons, but such is the level of fear here,
even he didn't want to show us his face.
Oh, right, look at this.
This is ammunition and guns, then,
that were seized just last night, is that right?
Last night we had a call from the public.
They reported seeing gunmen inside a private house.
This looks, to me, the sort of amount that you would need
to fight a small war.
One of the ironies of the drug war here is that
while America wants Mexico to confront the drug gangs,
an estimated 90% of the weapons used by the cartels actually
come from the US and are smuggled across the border.
These are called police killers.
They have porcelain tips.
They can penetrate armour.
Well, that's, that's not very reassuring for you.
You're wearing a level four vest now, I imagine, this is the...
Nivel cuatro ahorita.
So you're wearing the best protection that anyone can get,
and these bullets will go through that?
Yes. That's correct.
The commander agreed to take us
on their regular patrol through the city.
THEY SPEAK IN SPANISH
Patrols like this have become part of everyday life in Culiacan.
The Federales are an elite, heavily armed force,
but despite their intimidating presence,
I could still sense an air of trepidation among the officers.
Can you give us an idea of where you're going
and what we'll be seeing when we go out?
We're going to patrol in one of the sectors of the city.
And we're going to visit some of the permanent checkpoints
we've set up around the city.
But as we made our way to one of the city's many checkpoints,
we suddenly made a dramatic U-turn.
We've just stopped very suddenly because the officers in the car
ahead of us saw a car with AK47 assault rifles in it, so because
the officers are worried for our safety, the agents have formed
a secure perimeter around us.
As we drove to another checkpoint,
the commander stopped to take a call from HQ.
The police had received a tip-off,
and we headed off to raid the safe house of a suspected drug dealer.
So we're now at the front of the whole raiding party.
We're speeding through the traffic now,
we're in proper pursuit situation.
They're telling us to get down.
-Is that a Hummer?
-Yeah, that's a Hummer.
Look, there's a bloody Hummer inside this building,
this is what they think is a cartel safe house.
THEY SPEAK IN SPANISH
There's a man here who they're holding,
they've just found a picture of him with a Kalashnikov.
It seemed the commander and his men had arrived just a little too late.
The police have had limited success in combating the drug trade,
and many Mexicans worry that such an aggressive approach
is making the cartels even more violent.
I couldn't help feeling the cops had an almost impossible task.
What they're up against isn't just endless demand for drugs in the US,
and heavily armed, immensely rich drug traffickers,
but a culture where the drug trade is deeply ingrained in
the social fabric of the region.
Here, drug dealers even have their own patron saint.
Pepe, can you tell us a little bit about this place?
Well, this is Malverde's shrine.
Malverde is the Robin Hood of the poor and the drug traffickers,
and everybody around the drug chain, so a lot of people come here
to ask for security for their shipments, security on the road.
-What, they'll actually come and light a candle
and say, "Please protect me while I'm trafficking drugs to the US"?
Or, "Please protect me while I cross illegally into the US."
-What, as a migrant?
-As a migrant.
The type of things that people come here and ask cannot go and ask
a priest when they confess or for when they do confession.
-They can't go and say, "Oh, please," er...
"..help me get my million dollars for the shipment that
"I just sent to the US," you know.
I mean, what does it say about a society where you've got
a shrine for narco-traffickers on one of the main streets in Culiacan?
What it tells you is that it's a way of life, I wouldn't say it
all around the country, but particularly in this state
it's, drug trafficking is, is a way of living, you know.
So how much would this be?
-Are you going to do the deal?
Gracias, senorita. Y una bolsita?
I don't need to wrap it?
-What's she going to do?
Oh, she's going to...
-Bless it in some way?
-Pon tus manos...
-You do hands?
Turn them around.
-What's she doing?
-She's doing a blessing.
-But what is this that she's put on us?
-Que es lo que nos puso?
-Es aqua bendita.
-Is holy water.
Holy water? Muchas gracias.
Gracias, eh? Gracias. Ciao.
Culiacan is the dark heart of Mexico's drug war, and it was
clear to me that police raids alone aren't going to solve a problem that
many think threatens the stability of this entire country.
The next day we left Culiacan and began our journey eastwards along
the Tropic of Cancer, away from Mexico's Pacific coast
and up into the Sierra Madre mountain range.
This route through the mountains is known as the Road of 3,000 Curves,
and it passes through some spectacular scenery.
We've now travelled around about 1,000 of the curves and the reward
is this spectacular view.
But on this side of the road,
across what they call the Devil's Spine here,
the view is even more beautiful.
Look at this.
Isn't it amazing?
That is the smelliest toilet in Mexico.
We drove deep into Mexico's mountainous interior,
and on to the city of Durango.
It's one of the oldest cities in the country,
built in the 16th century by Spanish colonialists drawn here
by the lure of silver in the mountains.
After the drug cops on the coast, this is a lot more pleasant,
it's a lot more what I imagined Mexico to be like.
But even around here,
the influence of the neighbour to the north is never far away.
The area surrounding the city is where many of Hollywood's
most famous westerns were shot in the '60s and '70s.
Across the desert, many of the film sets still remain.
This one was owned by John Wayne.
And this is where they filmed them?
Yeah. It's got all the elements of a Wild West movie.
But the area around here certainly does look
like the American West, doesn't it?
Yeah. And the landscape is, is very, very similar.
And this is a some sort of saloon, presumably?
And look, you've got the old swing doors.
Yes, yes, it's pretty much like the Wild, Wild West, man.
After you, you go first, you can take the bullet at the bar.
So this, then, this is more like a dance hall...
-Er, stage, isn't it...
-Like a stage from the salon.
Yeah. What an amazing place.
-So we've got to have a look in the bank.
It's amazing, isn't it?
Listen to that.
Hollywood still shoots some of its biggest movies in Mexico,
but when westerns went out of fashion in the early '80s,
most of these film sets went out of business.
This one, though, still serves as a home
for its very own resident cowboy.
This is Don Antonio, who, I think...
Fantastic to meet you, sir. I gather you live here?
-Where do you live?
-I've lived here for 38 years.
Come on, I'll show you where I live.
Antonio bought the film set from John Wayne's estate
and his family have lived in the abandoned train station
for more than 35 years.
So, Don Antonio, you have a railway carriage on your land,
how did you come to have this railway carriage?
John Wayne brought it here.
-He used it in both the movies he shot here.
-Was it a fun time?
He was a great person, very kind.
There was a lot of work in those films.
When John Wayne finished, so did the good films.
I never saw films like that again.
Are you happy living here, would you rather live somewhere else?
No, I'll be here to the grave.
I've lived a long time, so that's fine.
The nearest town was more than an hour away, so in the spirit
of the Wild West, Pepe and I decided to sink a few beers
around the old campfire and bed down for the night in the bank.
You wouldn't believe how cold it is here.
Oh, I've got a hangover as well.
Next morning we left the Wild West behind
and headed eastwards along the line.
Or at least that was the plan.
Looks like the perils of driving in Mexico.
This taxi here cut across us to try and turn left,
so he cut across our vehicle to try and turn left,
and went right into our vehicle, and this guy is now blaming
our driver and a group of taxis have just suddenly cornered us
in a service station and they're sort of threatening us.
So look, now six taxis are just converging on us here,
and they're sort of blocking us in.
I mean, in Mexico, this is a violent country,
this can lead to something nasty.
-Pepe, what are you doing?
-I'm calling the local police.
-Because I feel threatened by these guys...
-Yeah, same here.
and I don't like to be surrounded.
THEY TALK IN SPANISH
So there's another two taxis coming in now, and again with
big guys getting out, these aren't small guys, look at this.
Can I also suggest that you say this man then tried to drive us
off the road again? Not content with going into us once, he then tried to
drive into us twice just on the road down here, and we've been surrounded
by these vehicles and we feel threatened by this.
'The taxi drivers seemed to be pretty friendly with the police,
'who spelt out our limited options to Pepe.'
-So what's happened?
-Basically, the police officer is saying
if you guys can settle down,
you won't have to go to the station,
if you don't settle down and make an agreement...
What does, "settle down" mean, you mean, pay him?
Well, no, make a negotiation to see, you know, pay him or he pays us.
I think our negotiation should be quite straightforward,
We're in the clear here, it was completely the taxi driver's fault,
there's hardly any damage to our vehicle, we should just go.
Can we just ask the taxi driver what he's suggesting
we should do, then, given that he rammed into our car?
He wants you to pay for the, the hit.
This is the boss of the taxi company here.
I'm going to give him 300 pesos and we're going to leave, OK?
Otherwise we're going to lose, I'm doing this.
This is... Can you get his badge, here, this is absolute extortion,
this is outrageous.
The impression this gave of Mexico was upsetting our driver, Daniel.
You are watching what, how corrupted are we, you know, I'm ashamed
to be Mexican, to, we think like, we think like that, with, that happen.
OK, I'm so pissed. I'm so pissed off.
14 quid lighter, we hit the road again and were given our very
own police escort to protect us from any more rogue taxis.
We headed on to the state of Zacatecas,
one of the poorest in Mexico.
Millions of Mexicans, like huge numbers across the tropics,
have left their country for work abroad.
In this state, it's estimated more than half the population
has migrated to find work in the United States.
Just minutes from the Tropic of Cancer is Miguel Hidalgo,
a small village typical of this part of Mexico.
So it's now ten-to-two on a Friday afternoon, we're on the main street
in the village and this place is really, really just dead.
You've got all these buildings here, homes, which are basically empty,
it's not as though people are in, inside having a siesta, the people
here have just basically locked up their houses and gone to America.
We finally found a few children left in the village school.
How many of you have got family in the United States?
Wow, so almost, almost all of you.
Who doesn't have a relative living in the US?
So just three out of two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, thirteen.
Who here would like to go and live and work in the United States?
Millions of Mexicans have to work illegally in the United States,
but the NAFTA free trade agreement between Mexico, the US, and Canada
has made it much easier for North American businesses
to operate freely in Mexico.
Many critics think this has become another opportunity for
the developed world to exploit this part of the tropics.
We were heading for the 400-year-old village
of Cerro San Pedro.
Since the 19th-century, people have mined gold here,
tunnelling into the mountainside.
But in 2007, a Canadian owned firm began modern opencast mining,
which involves blasting the mountainside with explosives...
right at the edge of the village.
Mario Martinez was born here.
He's an experienced mining engineer, and, like many locals, he believes
the mine is an environmental disaster for the village
and the surrounding area.
Bloody hell, look at that.
The mountain used to be much higher.
There's the cut.
They knocked down thousands of tonnes of the mountain every day.
60% of it they send that way.
That land you see over there, it's useless brittle rock.
How many years has it taken for them to destroy a mountain here?
Approximately two years.
Mario took us to meet a couple who've lived in the village
their entire lives.
They believe the huge explosions from the mine are destroying
their already old and fragile home.
Todo esto se cae, todo esto.
So even under the sofa here you can see, I mean,
Armando is saying because of the explosions the roof
is starting to collapse, and you can see up there between the beams
it's starting to crack and crumble.
TRANSLATION: The house is so dirty because of all the dust
that comes off the walls and ceiling. Look at that.
The explosions are terrible, we all shake.
You've seen the sofa with the bits that fall down from the ceiling.
Hundreds of Canadian mining firms now operate in Mexico.
Campaigners say chemicals used in this mine pollute the area,
and they've launched a campaign that's included lawsuits in Canada.
But not everyone here opposes the mine.
Many residents work for the mining company,
and Mario has come under intense pressure to end his protest.
This is my house. This is where I was born.
They painted this graffiti on Saturday and broke my windows.
This is where you were born?
This is how they deal with anyone who opposes the mine.
They vandalise them. I replace the windows and they break them again.
The dispute has become extremely bitter,
often spilling over into violence.
This is a dangerous place for me.
This is where the last attack happened, in July.
They attacked me with a machete and stones. They ripped my shirt.
This is from a stone.
I stopped it with my hand.
He prefers going the other way.
OK. In your home village, that's pretty tragic, isn't it?
Mario believes people working for the mining company
are behind much of the violence.
So it's an extraordinary situation, Mario's actually frightened
to come any closer because just on my left now is
one of the headquarters of part of the mining security people,
and he's frightened that they're going to attack him.
So is this the edge, then, this is the edge of the mine?
And this is really still in the heart of the village,
they've put this fence up, you can see how new the fence is,
there's a bloody great wall of stones here, which just,
it's like a dam, really, holding back the gold mine beyond it.
I wanted to see the mine for myself,
and Luis Rodriguez, from the mining company,
took me to see how things looked from their side of the operation.
Got a right whole retinue of people here with us.
They're a bit nervous about what we're, er, here to do.
So let's go and have a look.
So there's a fence just here,
and below us,
wow, good Lord.
Look at that.
Well, you really do see there the scale of the mine
and the proximity of the mine to the town, I mean,
that does really illustrate it, doesn't it?
How can you protect the buildings there from the mine
when they're just metres away from this vast, opencast pit?
Previously, the experts from the environmental offices
took into consideration the exact measurements to assure
that our work will not damage any historical buildings or even,
not even historical buildings,
they'll not damage any of the constructions of the town.
But it's quite unfortunate for you, really, I suppose,
-this town is here, isn't it?
-Mining, you have to go where the ore is.
The management of the mine were very keen for us to meet
their local workers who had, coincidentally,
arrived for a barbecue the very day we visited.
One of the allegations that's been levelled against your gold mine
is that employees of the gold mine have intimidated and attacked
local campaigners - what's your response to that,
have some of your employees gotten a bit out of hand?
If there are some things going on, it's between particular persons,
but not the company taking any of the workers or pushing the workers
to do, er, something or, to encourage violence, never.
So you're saying that some of your employees might have
-acted on their own, maybe...
-and gone after someone?
-They probably do, we don't know for sure.
-But it's not, the company's not involved?
-No, not at all.
We've heard from a lot of people who oppose this gold mine,
obviously the people here have made good money from it,
they've had jobs, they've been paid, and they get prizes and rewards,
but it just seems rather tragic that this gold mine has completely split
this community and this area.
My journey across Mexico was coming to an end.
But before following the Tropic of Cancer across the Caribbean,
I had to travel through the capital, Mexico City.
Almost everything I'd seen so far had been overshadowed
by the influence of the United States.
I wanted to experience something uniquely Mexican, so before I left,
Pepe took me to see one of Mexico's most popular sports,
a spectacular form of masked wrestling known as lucha libre.
Look at the size of this stadium.
Is this just for lucha libre?
This is just for lucha libre.
This is incredible, this is like,
it's almost the size of a football stadium.
Pepe had arranged for me to meet one of Mexico's top female wrestlers,
La Princesa, and take part in a harmless little training session.
-Hola. Buenos dias.
-Madame... Mucho gusto.
So I gather, we're going to be involved in your training session,
I just have one thing to ask, please be gentle,
so no broken bones, no dislocations,
is that a deal?
No... No, exacto.
Pepe had assured me that lucha libre was largely stage-managed,
a form of aggressive pantomime.
But as I watched the Princesa and her fight partner warming up,
I began to have a few doubts.
-My friend and I can give you a demo
of the true lucha libre moves.
Some people say that lucha libre is not aggressive and strong.
But we'll give you a little taste of what it's really like.
I don't like the sound of that.
That bloody hurts.
Si ese pone muy duro, muy fuerte, va a hacer la lesion mas grave.
She's not going to hurt you as long as you're loose?
OK. What are you going to do?
-Loosen up, I'm loosening up, I'm loosening up.
If you don't loosen up then they have to use their force.
-And they have to get you down, so if you loosen up
a little bit you'll just go with the flow, you know.
What about our serious questions that we've got to ask you
about female emancipation?
-Who said that lucha libre is not painful, eh?
I never said it.
That was just a demo, but it hurt, didn't it?
Later that night, we were given ringside seats and I spent
my last night in Mexico having a few beers and cheering on La Princesa.
Princess! La Princess!
WHISTLING AND CHEERING
Come on! Rip her head off!
-Cheers, mate. Thanks for showing us across Mexico.
You're welcome, man, it was my pleasure.
ANNOUNCEMENTS IN SPANISH
Heading east along the line, the Tropic of Cancer passes
just a few miles north of Havana, the capital of Cuba.
It wasn't strictly on the route, but I couldn't resist a brief stop
on this huge tropical island.
While Mexico had seemed to be completely dominated by America,
Cuba has famously stood up to the superpower
since the revolution in 1959.
Almost ever since, the US has imposed an embargo,
limiting trade with the island,
which has left Cuba stuck in something of a time warp.
So we've just, er, arrived in Cuba,
and we've just met Ernesto, who's going to be, er, well,
guiding us around Havana, I think.
-I hope so, yeah.
Even critics of Cuba have been impressed by its health-care
and education system, but I'd heard about a less well-known development,
one which the whole world might be able to learn from.
After the Soviet Union collapsed,
Cuba was left without its best friend and its main benefactor,
and Cubans were left without basic foods and supplies,
and millions of people went hungry.
So in response, Cubans started growing plants in market gardens.
Hundreds of allotments like these, known as organoponicos,
have sprouted up all over Havana.
-Mi nombre es Simon.
'This one's run by 72-year-old Chalo Hernandez.
'Basking in the tropical sun, the organoponicos provide locals
'with huge quantities of fruit and vegetables, and they're often
'built on reclaimed land.'
What was here before the garden?
-A cement factory.
-Here was a cement factory?
Here we have Chinese cabbage.
This is celery and a patch of beet leaves,
here you have lettuce, tomatoes,
peppers, and this is mint for the mojitos.
Organoponicos like this now provide Havana
with more than 90% of its fruit and veg,
direct to local people at remarkably low prices,
but they're not just productive, they're also eco-friendly.
So am I right in thinking all the food that you've planted here
and are growing here, is this all done organically,
without pesticides, without artificial fertilisers?
THEY SPEAK IN SPANISH
Can you explain to us what this is?
It's organic animal matter.
This is cow manure?
This is already decomposed.
The World Wildlife Fund has singled out and praised Cuba
for its sustainable development.
There are now thousands of these gardens across the country,
producing more than a million tonnes of food each year.
It's a movement that has spread to the whole of Cuba,
and nobody can stop it.
Every day it's getting bigger.
It's even spreading in to the courtyards, inside people's homes.
If the population of the planet
keeps increasing at the current stratospheric rate,
then eventually more of us
will need to start growing our own food locally,
and these gardens show us how it can be done.
They might be good at providing fruit and veg in communist Cuba,
but they're not so great at providing much else.
Other basic foods are still distributed
through state-controlled ration shops.
And just here, actually, is one of the shops that Cubans have to buy
their products from, as you can see.
There's hardly anything on the shelves.
This is the notebook that you could have, rice, beans, oil.
So this is a sort of ration book, then?
Showing you what you're allowed to have?
Yeah, for example, the rice is five pounds by person.
So five pounds of rice in weight per person per day, per week, per month?
-In the month.
-In the month, OK.
'Every Cuban has a monthly allowance
'of basics set out for them, all heavily subsidised by the state.
'It's incredibly cheap, but government shops like this
'provide only the most basic commodities.
'Meanwhile, the prices of consumer goods are often astronomical,
'and to buy them Cubans on meagre state salaries
'need access to money from relatives abroad
'or foreign tourists.
'For a supposedly communist society,
'it's resulted in a strange new social hierarchy.'
So a bar like this you might find Cubans drinking beer,
spending probably 1.50,
so that would be people working in tourism or taxi drivers
who didn't have to go to college to make that money.
-So sometimes people who studied the hardest,
got the most qualifications, they earn the least?
That's the case in Cuba.
In Cuba, a bartender could be making, I don't know, out of tips
could be making probably almost 100 dollars a day, and that's probably
a year's salary, a year's salary for an ordinary worker.
In the 1950s, Havana was a playground
for wealthy American tourists and brothels, casinos,
and corruption were a major cause of the revolution.
How ironic that 50 years later,
ordinary Cubans who want a decent standard of living
are desperate for jobs in the growing tourism industry.
So far Americans haven't returned in large numbers
because of the embargo,
and everyone's waiting to see when it will end.
So Cubans are still waiting?
Yeah. We have been waiting for 50 years, and one of the things we would
like to happen is that, you know, the US blockade goes away,
because it's really affecting, the, you know, the country.
Is it something that people still talk about, they still talk about
the day the blockade will be lifted, the embargo will be ended?
No-one knows what's going to happen
once the blockade or the embargo is lifted.
We don't know whether the things will remain the same
or things will change.
That's a good question.
That's a question of the century.
I left Havana and flew east along the Tropic of Cancer to Nassau,
the capital of the Bahamas.
Unlike Cuba, Americans are still flocking here
in their hundreds of thousands.
The island are one of the ultimate holiday destinations,
world famous for their beautiful beaches
and a warm Caribbean welcome.
But even the Bahamas has a dark side.
Every year, thousands of desperate migrants arrive here from Haiti,
the poorest country in the Caribbean.
Many of those caught by the authorities
are locked up in this detention centre.
Human rights groups have expressed concerns
about how the Haitians are being treated.
-How are you?
-May I ask what you're doing?
Of course, we're from the BBC in London.
-And we're filming the detention centre.
-You're not allowed to do that, sir.
-Why is that?
You're not allowed to take pictures.
Are we not allowed to film from the street?
We understood we were allowed to film from the street?
You're not allowed to.
-Can we come in at all?
-No, you can't come in at all.
Can we ask how many Haitians are detained inside?
No, I can't give you that information.
-That's our rules and regulations.
'Some estimates now suggest Haitian migrants
'now comprise up to a third of the population of the Bahamas.
'Well, away from the tourist trail,
'thousands live here illegally in slums like this.
'They've often been through harrowing ordeals
'while escaping the poverty and the violence of their homeland.'
I mean, we've heard terrible things
about the journeys by boat from Haiti to the Bahamas -
what was the boat journey like for you,
can you take us through what happened?
HE SPEAKS IN FRENCH
10 people died just on the journey?
Many of these people now live in a kind of limbo in the Bahamas,
with no access to health-care or education,
working in low-paid tourism jobs,
and constantly in fear of deportation.
I'm really quite shocked
by the conditions people are living in here.
And these are African conditions in a wealthy Caribbean state.
Of course, for the Bahamas it's quite a convenient situation,
because it means they have cheap labour when times
are good and when times are bad they can just kick these people out.
I was coming to the end of this first leg
of my global journey around the tropic,
but to reconnect with the line,
I had to fly south from Nassau to Long Island.
It was a tough journey, above some of the most
beautiful islands on the planet.
There's worse ways to arrive anywhere.
So here we are on Long Island.
It's a bit overcast.
But, you know, there's worse places to be, and this,
is Marvin. Marvin, hello, mate.
-How you doing?
-Thank you very much for coming to see us.
No problem at all, man, no problem at all.
We're sorry we're a bit late.
-Welcome to Long Island.
-Look at that.
-"Bad to the bone."
Marvin's been working as a fisherman here on Long Island
for more than two decades.
But he's now worried his livelihood is threatened by the arrival
of an alien species.
When did you first see the lionfish coming into your waters?
Er, I think it was 2004, that's the first time I seen a lionfish,
just a single lionfish, they brought them in here,
every diver on my boat seen one or two of them,
and then the following year there was like five or six, ten,
I have never seen a fish multiply as fast as the lionfish here.
Why do they pose a threat?
-What's wrong with them?
They're poisonous to start,
and then there's no, they don't have a predator.
The lionfish also have a voracious appetite,
and Marvin now spends much of his time trying to catch them.
Experts have realised the lionfish are devouring indigenous stocks
and they're warning the fish
could eventually transform this entire ecosystem.
He's got one.
Look at that.
They're extraordinary creatures.
Yeah. And right now I'm their only predator.
Well, these fish are really quite stunning, aren't they?
But it's no exaggeration to say these are,
these are like a plague of locusts, really, here,
descending on the Caribbean and just eating everything.
No-one knows for sure how the Asian lionfish got to the Bahamas,
but some believe they were washed out of marine parks in Miami
during a storm.
It would be a more unusual example of how America has an impact
on its smaller tropical neighbours to the south.
It had been a month since I began my journey on the west coast of Mexico.
I'd travelled almost 1,500 miles to here,
the beautiful beaches of Long Island,
but my journey around the world was only just beginning.
This is where the Tropic of Cancer leaves the Bahamas,
and this is the end of this part of my trip.
From here, I need to get across the Atlantic
to Africa and continue my journey.
Next time, I'll be crossing North Africa.
I ride one of the longest trains in the world.
And discover a hidden, bitter conflict.
What do you think about this one?
It's a glorious,
gruelling journey that takes me across the Sahara Desert.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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