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Pope's New Book about the Birth of Jesus; South African Mining Conditions; International Perception of MexicoMexico

Aired November 23, 2012 - 12:30   ET


WHITFIELD: Mexico's outgoing president wants to change his country's name. You may not realize Mexico's official name since 1824 has been, "Estados Unidos Mexicanos," which translates to "United Mexican States."

But President Felipe Calderon is backing legislation to drop the words "United States," "Estados Unidos," and make the country's official name simply "Mexico."

Calderon says that's the name used by everyone around the world and the one that makes Mexicans proud.

So many Mexican people believe their traditional music is as important to their global image as the country's name.

And in Mexico City, a group of dedicated musicians is making sure mariachi will be around for generations to come.

Here's CNN's Nick Parker.


NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aching ballads and flamboyant outfits, mariachis, a Mexican icon around the world, and here in Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City.

In its heyday, the plaza was known as a hub for tourists and music lovers who would pour in to get a song from a mariachi. but since then the popularity of the music has declined and this area is now in need of regeneration.

Just off the square, a class is under way in Mexico's first mariachi school.

Victor Cardenas is a legendary (INAUDIBLE) player, now enjoying a new role as a teacher.

It's my life, he says. I'm 73 -years old, and I started playing when I was 9. They invited me to give classes here and, now, I'm here with the boys.

This student is already playing in the square, but has enrolled in classes anyway.

I think we should be prepared to play our Mexican music at a theoretical and practical level, he says, as it deserves.

And this is key to the mission of the school.

LETITIA SOTO, DIRECTOR: There were so many stereotypes that became -- that began to kind of belittle the tradition.

Movies and they're playing mariachi music ended up abusing that image. So, it's kind of like a re-vindication, a going back to re-value what mariachi was.

PARKER: Aaron Jimenez is a classically-trained violinist who has traveled the world with Mexico's symphony orchestra.

AARON JIMENEZ, TEACHER: I think it's important for Mexico for tradition for future.

PARKER: The school is also making inroads into a culture that's been long dominated by men.

We are still a long way from having bands with more women, the student says, but this institution will change that.

We ended the day in the all-important singing lesson where students also learned about leading composers.

Attempts to teach the tone deaf were ultimately futile.

And in the square, reaction to the school has been mixed with some resenting the standardization of music they have played for decades.

But there is a shared love of a rich tradition.

Nick Parker, CNN, Mexico City.


WHITFIELD: And if you are setting up those Christmas decorations, you might need to update your manger scene because the pope is out with a new book that tells a very different story about what happened when Jesus was born.


WHITFIELD: Pope Benedict XVI says there were no cattle or singing angels when Jesus was born, and in his new book "Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy Narratives" the pope also questions Jesus' actual birth date. The book is being published in several languages just in time for Christmas.

Eric Marrapodi, co-editor of CNN's Belief Blog, joining us live from Washington.

Good to see you, Eric. So This book debunks a lot of what we traditionally believe happened on the first Christmas. No animals in the real-life manger scene, after all, says the pope. How does the pope draw these conclusions? ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: So what the pope is doing is he is going through the gospel narratives of how Jesus was born, and where and he is doing what's called a textual criticism, where he is looking at the actual words, what's there implicitly and what's there explicitly.

I want to take a look at what he's talking about with the cattle. This is going to make a lot of kids upset who are set to be the oxen and the sheep in their Christmas pageants at church this Christmas. But let's take a look at this passage from Luke.

In the Gospel of Luke, when we are talking about the narrative of the Jesus infancy story, it says, "And she" -- that she is referring to Mary -- "gave birth to her first son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

Now the manger was where the animals ate in a stable, so they're essentially putting Jesus in a bowl that the animals ate out of. So there you have this implicit reference to animals, but not an explicit reference to animals, and the pope is saying, yes, in our tradition we have all these histories of oxen and sheep, but it doesn't necessarily say that in the text. And so he says that we should probably set aside.

WHITFIELD: OK. And what about the angels in the story? There are so many, you know, carols and hymns about the singing angels.

MARRAPODI: The pope is not calling for people to rip these carols out of the hymnal just yet. Again, it's another textual criticism. What he is saying is when you look at how Luke, the author in this case, writes that, it says the angels said to the shepherds, not the angels sang to the shepherds.

And so he makes that very clear distinction that the text says one thing, and the tradition says something else.

Of course, what the angels said to the shepherds has become part of our Christmas singing tradition, and he is saying, look, they didn't actually sing it. They probably just said it, but that doesn't change the message of what they said. It's a theme he comes back to again and again as he is sort of debunking and taking apart the text.

WHITFIELD: And so you have to wonder whether this is going to kind of alter the way in which people celebrate Christmas.

MARRAPODI: You know, the one thing that's interesting about the pope's book, as I was reading it this morning, is this theme again and again that he comes back to, that if these traditions are taken out, if angels just say this instead of singing it, if there are no animals, but they're still in the stable, it doesn't change what he thinks is the main theme of the story, this notion of God coming down to Earth as a little baby and being the savior of mankind. That theme doesn't change.

And I really don't think traditions are going to change all that much. I don't see a lot of Christmas pageant directors ripping up the script today and rewriting it in time for the Christmas pageant.

WHITFIELD: Oh, so you want to have -- you do have to wonder, though, why does the pope feels compelled to kind of set the record straight?

MARRAPODI: Yes, I mean, these traditions kind of override the narrative sometimes, I think, and it strikes me in reading his book -- he is a theologian. The pope, before he was the pope, was a theologian. And he continues to write at length about this.

So what he is most concerned with is the narrative, that theme of the story, as opposed to the trappings and traditions that go along with it. After all, he is the pope, so it's a pretty important message for Catholics and for all Christians this holiday season.

WHITFIELD: That's right. All right. Eric Marrapodi, thanks so much.

MARRAPODI: You got it.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): All right. Not everybody can make it home for Thanksgiving this year. Especially not these guys. We'll show you how they celebrated Thanksgiving Day in space.


WHITFIELD: It's been three months since a strike in South Africa turned into the country's bloodiest tragedy since apartheid ended almost 20 years ago.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): These are images from that fateful day. Hard to forget that. Police killed 34 miners in that shooting. Nkepile Mabuse looks at the working conditions in mines and one of the key reasons behind miners' wage demands.


NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tranquil Eastern Cape, some 800 kilometers from Johannesburg, is the birthplace of Nelson Mandela. It is also where a majority of South Africa's mine workers hail from.

There's little economic activity here, so thousands of men leave their families behind in search of work in the gold and platinum mines near Johannesburg. After years of service, they come home to retire, feeling weak and sickly, like this 64-year-old who contracted silicosis after a lifetime of inhaling mine dust as a drill operator.

MANKAZANA MADULWINI, MINE WORKER (through translator): I have spent months in hospital with an aching chest. I have never worked anyplace else. Mining is all that I have ever known.

MABUSE (voice-over): Traveling back and forth is seen as costly by many, so they send remittances every month, returning to their loved ones once a year for Christmas. Near the mines and far from home, they start a new life and new families, accumulating additional responsibilities in the process.

A lot has changed in South Africa since democracy in 1994, but this pattern of a miner's life has remained the same for more than a century.

MABUSE: During apartheid, the migrant labor system restricted the movement of black people. Today miners are free to settle wherever they want, but it's simply unaffordable for them to uproot their large families in the rural areas to nearer the cities where the cost of living is much higher.

MABUSE (voice-over): Instead most end up living a double life, with one big family in the rural areas and a smaller one in town, a life unaffordable on their salaries. Hence, the demands for hefty pay rises.

Thirty-three-year-old Cingisile Makhamba left the Eastern Cape seven years ago find work at Lonmin platinum mine near Johannesburg. He narrowly escaped death in August when police gunned down 34 of his colleagues protesting for higher pay. Most of those who died that day were from the Eastern Cape. The incident shocked the world and triggered copycat strikes across the sector.

CINGISILE MAKHAMBA, MINER (through translator): We earn very little. Look at where we live. Lonmin doesn't pay us enough.

MABUSE (voice-over): After the deadly protest, the company increased wages by up to 22 percent. It's still not enough to cover his massive expenses. After months of berating company bosses for failing to improve the living conditions of their workers, mining minister Susan Shabangu now admits government needs to do more.

SUSAN SHABANGU, SOUTH AFRICAN MINING MINISTER: It's not a matter of labor or the mining sector only. It's an issue of the country. It's about the country as a whole.

MABUSE (voice-over): A wake-up call for South Africa's leaders that increased wages alone won't be enough to address and fulfill the expectations of a better life post-apartheid -- Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Johannesburg.


WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back after this.