Kalimba, Mexican pop star, sought on rape allegations

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UPDATE: News outlets in Mexico were reporting Thursday evening that Kalimba has been detained by U.S. immigration authorities in Texas. Details were not immediately available.

A Mexican judge in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo on Wednesday ordered the arrest of pop singer Kalimba on charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl in a hotel room in December.

Authorities in the tourism-heavy state have alerted the attorney general in Mexico City, where Kalimba lives, that an arrest warrant has been issued for him, and law enforcement authorities in other states have also been notified (link in Spanish).

Since the allegations surfaced late last month, the case has snowballed in typical gossip fashion, mixing sex, celebrity and race.


Kalimba was in Chetumal, a city south of Cancun near the border with Belize, on the night of Dec. 18 for a DJ gig at a venue called Buda Bar. He reportedly was accompanied back to his hotel by a manager and two teenage girls who worked at his event as hostesses. At some point early the next morning, alleges one of the girls, age 17, Kalimba raped her.

Kalimba has maintained in interviews that he did not assault anyone and that the accuser accompanied him to to the airport the next day -- a sign, he says, that anything that happened that night was consensual. Kalimba has not said whether he knew the girls were minors before having them over at his hotel.

Members of the accuser’s family, along with the Quintana Roo Atty. Gen. Francisco Alor Quezada, say Kalimba forced the sexual encounter and should face justice. Alor has promised in interviews that Kalimba will face jail time if the allegations are proven. The singer’s supporters, meanwhile, have charged on social-networking sites that the two girls who spent the night in his hotel room are out for money and fame.

The case is also drawing attention because Kalimba is afromestizo -- a minority Mexican with dominant African racial heritage in a country where a wide majority of the population is mixed Indian-Spanish. On social-networking sites and in some tabloids, the case has generated jokes and innuendo over Kalimba’s race. One tabloid recently used the headline ‘Se Las Ve Negras!,’ which can mean he faces a difficult time or is in trouble while also using a word for black or dark, on a cover story on Kalimba’s case.

In Mexico, physical difference is often highlighted or mocked in public forums -- a fact many Mexicans say is harmless and not rooted in racism. The jokes often extend into the largest media platforms in the country. In a report last year, The Times’ Tracy Wilkinson examined the use of actors in blackface on a popular morning show on the Televisa network during the World Cup in South Africa.

Kalimba Marichal, 28, is a familiar face in Mexican pop. He began working as a child screen actor at a young age, and provided the singing voiceovers for Simba in the Latin American version of Disney’s hit film ‘The Lion King.’

He then began performing in a pop group named OV7, alongside his sister M’Balia, and then started a solo career in 2004. Kalimba was born in Mexico City and has a daughter.

The singer’s whereabouts were not known Thursday. If charged and convicted of raping a minor, Kalimba would face between 25 and 50 years in prison, according to Quintana Roo state law. The manager with Kalimba during his night at Buda Bar, Gerard Michel Manel Aguilar, is also sought on assault charges.

The singer has defended himself on Twitter, where he’s made frequent references to his Christian faith. ‘Regardless of what happens, thanks to all those who believe the truth,’ the singer tweeted on Jan. 3. His account has been inactive since the Jan. 4.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

For the record: A previous version of this post said Kalimba is 27. An earlier version also gave an incorrect headline for a tabloid report.