FILM: HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ is an explosive new action film infused with dark comedy starring Mel Gibson.
It’s been a bad day for Driver (Gibson) and it’s not getting any better. He just made a big haul of millions that would give him a nice summer vacation on easy street. A good idea that went south – literally. During a high-speed car chase with the US Border Patrol and a bleeding body in his back seat, Driver flips his car smashing through the border wall, tumbling violently, coming to a stop … in Mexico.
Apprehended by the Mexican authorities, he is sent to a hard-core prison where he enters the strange and dangerous world of “El Pueblito.” Not an easy place for an outsider such as Driver to survive, unless it’s with the help of someone who knows the ropes — a 10 year-old kid.
It was called the worst prison in all of Mexico, “la universidad del crimen” – crime university — nightmare of that symbolized violence, corruption and overcrowding that plagued many of Mexico’s prisons. It was “El Pueblito,” a society behind bars where inmates were in control, drugs were openly sold from stores within, and anyone could visit anytime – just as long as they paid off the guards.
Officially named el Centro de Readaptacion Social de la Mesa, El Pueblito was constructed in 1956 in Tijuana to accommodate 2000 prisoners as a new experiment in corrections – one that went very wrong. Allowing families of those incarcerated to join them and remain close to them in prison would facilitate inmates’ eventual readjustment to the outside world… or so it was thought. Wives, children, girlfriends, entire families would live inside the prison walls, some staying there full time while others came and went at will.
Children head off to school each morning return to El Pueblito in the afternoon. Inside, couples were married; babies were born; old people died. Alejandra Cuervo, a member of the production team, was hired by the producers prior to the commencement of principal photography to do extensive research, a living history, on El Pueblito, which also included talking with a number of its ex-inmates for first-hand experiences.
El Pueblito, meaning “Little Town,” was just that — a crowded shantytown with over 700 ramshackle homes and stores build around the prison’s main courtyard. Shops sold almost anything that was needed, and anything and anybody could be bought for a price.
The rich and powerful criminal elite of El Pueblito were called Maizerones meaning “pigs who eat corn,” a fitting description. And they had their own personal security squad – forces armed to the hilt with all sorts of weapons, from 38’s to Uzis. The Maizerones and their security ruled and controlled the prison including the 400 or so prison guards who took bribery to an art form.
Everyone had to pay off the guards to have things happen or not happen in El Pueblito, to look the other way in the trafficking of arms and drugs, or for brining in a new refrigerator or Jacuzzi for the Maizerones duplex homes within. On August 20, 2002 in the wee morning hours, over 2000 units from the Mexican Army laid siege to El Pueblito, clearing out the prisoners relocating them to the new el Hongo facility.
In a few tumultuous hours, El Pueblito became no more. At the time of the siege, there were about 80 U.S. citizen inmates and 600 women, children and other family members living among the nearly 6000 prisoners, many of those prisoners being organized crime leaders and some of the most dangerous criminals in the Mexican prison system.
‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ spent two months filming in the city of Veracruz primarily in the shuttered Ignacio Allende Penitentiary, which served as the setting for “El Pueblito.” This was the second time Gibson and his company Icon Productions filmed on locations in Veracruz, the first time being 2006 when Gibson directed ‘Apocalypto’.
CAST: MEL GIBSON, DANIEL GIMENEZ CACHO, JESUS OCHOA, ROBERTO SOSA, DOLORES HEREDIA, KEVIN HERNANDEZ, FERNANDO BECERRIL, JOSE MONTINI, Embassy Guy, Surgeon, MAYRA SERBULO, GERARDO TARACENA, MARIO ZARAGOZA, TENOCH HUERTA MEJIA, PETER STORMARE, SCOTT COHEN, BOB GUNTON, DEAN NORRIS
DIRECTOR: ADRIAN GRUNBERG