Thursday, June 29, 2006

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Agnes zu Salm-Salm, and other dubious foreigners in Mexico

I don't know if it's still there, but I once read in a British travel guide the amazing information that there was a painting purported to show "the daughter of Maximilian" pleading with Benito Juarez for her father's life hanging in the Puebla Ayuntamiento. Roberto Mujicar found a black and white photo of the painting on page 3 of a PDF file of a an essay by Esther Acevado on this painting: Entre la ficcíon y la historia: la denegracíon del perdon de Maximiliano . At any rate, the British travel guide was wrong. Maximilian had no daughters. He had an illegitimate son by "la bonita India" who followed in dear old dad's footsteps (i.e., he was another romantic fool... Junior's was a German spy in France during the First World War -- though how a indigenous Mexican was going to pass himself off as a Frenchman has never being quite clear to me -- and ending up before a firing squad). Max and Carlotta "adopted" Augustin Irtubide's grandson to present a "Mexican" heir to the throne -- hoping, in their deluded way, to legitimize their rule in the eyes of the Mexicans. The problem was they'd bought the kid from an aunt, who didn't bother to tell his mother, an American citizen. As was Washington D.C. born Augustín de Irtubide y Green, the new "crown prince"(As an adult, Irtubide y Green served in the Mexican Army, had a falling out with Porfirio Diaz and returned to his native city to become a professor of French and Spanish literature at Georgetown University). Mom complained (and who can blame her) to the U.S. State Department -- and, more importantly, to any reporter who would listen. And they did. "Euro-trash Kidnap American Boy" is too good a story to pass up. The British press picked up the story (though they couldn't make him English, perfidious Austrians in the pay of the French kidnapping good Anglo-Saxons had resonance too): outraged mothers picketed the Mother of all Mothers, Queen Victoria ... who -- fond as she might be of her "reality-challenged" niece Carlotta -- was a political realist. While Britain continued to recognize the Empire, its support was nominal at best. No... while the woman in Manual Ocaranza's 1873 "historical painting" is indeed a European princess, she is no boring Hapsburg blow-by. Born in either Vermont or Baltimore (she was coy about her past -- some biographers give the year of her birth as 1842, others as 1844, but I'd guess 1832 might be a more realistic guess) Elizabeth Agnes Wynona Leclerq Joy was a circus trick horse rider and high-wire artist, performed on the Havana stage under the name Agnes Leclerq, and in 1861 parlayed a distant relationship (or alleged relationship) to Abraham Lincoln into a new career as a Washington debutante. In Washington, where she seems to have been a fixture at White House parties (whether invited or just showing up isn't clear), she somehow met -- and in 1862 married -- a colonel in a German-speaking Union regiment, Felix zu Salm-Salm. Make that Prinz Felix zu Salm-Salm. Prinz Felix, born in 1828, was a scapegrace younger son of a minor German ruler. Trained, like a good aristocrat should be for a military career, he was drummed out of the Austrian Army (supposedly for gambling debts), fled to the United States and -- needing a job -- ended up as a volunteer colonel in a New York City unit recruited among German speaking immigrants. Prinz Felix was an exemplary Union officer (eventually being promoted to Brevet Brigidier-General). Now Prinzessin Alice, the former circus performer accompanied her husband, nearly drove General Grant to drink with her continuous demands for supplies and her imperious ways, but bravely and effectively organized and commanded a battlefield nursing unit. The end of hostilities found the couple bored with Felix's duties overseeing occupation forces in Georgia. Looking around for something to do, they headed for Mexico. Arriving in February 1866, just as the French occupation forces were preparing to "cut and run" was not a good career move. Boneheaded Max refusing to abdicate, sent his wife back to Europe to lobby Napoleon III and Pope Pius IX for assistance (Carlotta, as everyone remembers, went completely bonkers in the Vatican, forcing the Pope to spend a restless night telegraphing her family in Brussels who took her back to Belgium where they finally realized that there was -- and still is -- no treatment for tertiary syphillis. She stayed locked up in a family chateau until her death 60 years later). Max, also showing signs of syphillitic insanity on top of his fine aristocratic disdain for reality, deluded himself into thinking that he could retain his "throne". Abdication, he concluded would dishonor the Hapsburg family, and -- of course -- he was serving the interests of Mexico (who did he think wanted him out?).

And Max was almost "normal" in what was left of the Imperial court -- eventually reduced to basically the chamberlain and foreign minister (a renegade Jesuit turned Lutheran minister who had been defrocked and run out of Texas), a misplaced doctor from Vienna, and a few younger sons of Austrian and German aristocrats, professional soldiers like our hero Felix, who found himself with the imposing title of "Imperial Aide-de-Camp and Head of Household". Agnes... who seemed to be up for almost anything ... hung around as "lady-in-waiting" to Carlotta, but for reasons never really made clear, was back in the United States when the Empire (basically, Max, the Imperial court and a few Mexican troops) surrendered at Queretero in May 1867. The Prinzessen came into her own. She steamed back to Veracruz, made it to Mexico City to lobby European consulates for funds to bribe Mexican jailers into freeing the Emperor (and, oh yeah -- Felix too) and pestering government officals for a meeting with President Juárez for some face time. She never got a peso from the consulates, but she did finally get her meeting. The importance of the Manuel Ocaranza painting -- such as it is -- is not a meeting between a Princess and the "Indian" President. It's a genre painting about stern Republican values overcoming aristocratic privilige. Alice, falling back on her Havana stage days, put on a good show, going down on her knees to beg the President to spare poor Maximilian in the name of every King and Queen in Europe. In the painting, Benito Juárez is sadly telling Alice that "I'm sorry Madame to see you on your knees before me; but even if all the queens and kings of Europe were in your place, I still wouldn't be able to save his life. I'm not the one who takes it, it's the people that rule his life and mine." (Ocaranza was a major artist in late 19th century Mexico. His work resembles French academic painting of the same era, but mostly forgotten today. The only link I could find was this sentimental sketch of a baby from 1875, listed in a German auction site .) Happily for us -- though not for poor, deluded Maximilian -- Juárez (who was a shrewd country lawyer at heart) found a loophole to save Felix from the firing squad. He survived to write My Diary in Mexico in 1867, including the Last Days of the Emperor Maximilian, with Leaves from the Diary of the Princess Salm Salm (London, 1868), to join the Prussian Army Medical Corps and to get his head blown off by a cannonball at the start of the Franco-Prussian War. As one of Lincoln's less known generals, he earned an entry in the "Virtual Americans Biography" . Agnes also served on the Prussian side, again as a combat nurse, wrote a semi best-selling "tell some" (in decorous Victorian language, and no more untrue than most celebrity biographies) about the American Civil War and the Mexican adventure, Ten Years of My Life (London, 1876) . She later married a British diplomat, but maintained her German title, using her hard-won aristocratic respectabilty to raise funds for the American Red Cross and German hospitals (and to be admitted as an honorary member of the Daughters of the American Revolution). She died -- like a proper elderly German aristocratic lady was supposed to do -- at the spa in Baden, in December 1912. Most of what has been written about her is in German, or scattered through other documents on 19th century American women. An admiring short biography, "Princess Salm-Salm, an American Princess" (originally part of an anonomous "A Victorian Lady's Trip to Europe: Summer 1914") is reprinted in a New Zealand based geneological researcher's website.

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Watching and Waiting (the elections)

All campaigning has stopped now -- under the strict campaign rules in Mexico (so strict, Fox, BBC, Bloomberg at AUTI signals were cut off for a time on Sunday, because the four had forgotten to agree not to show polling results after the cut-off date for any polling) -- as of midnight (a few hours ago), all campaigning had to come to a screeching halt: no TV commericals, no radio ads... no nothing? Not quite. IFE in no way can stop e-mails, bloggers and the 24-7 "spin cycle". Nor, it seems, are they immune to hackers (or maybe... aided and abetted some hackers). It's slightly embarrassing. IFE, (Instituto Federal Electoral) deservedly is respected world-wide, and just today, was held up as an example of their north of the border friends of how to run a clean election. Unfortunately, the admiring articles in the U.S. press appeared the same day the Institute had to admit that PANistas had "somehow" gotten ahold of voter registration data. Of course, they're saying it's minor, though denuncias have already been filed. Reporter Carmen Aristegui ... acting on a tip from some so-far "unnamed source" accessed the data herself, using "Hildebrando117" as her password. "Hildebrando" is, of course, Calderón's inconvenient brother-in-law. Coincidence? Yeah... right! Oh well... que sera sera... they'll be plenty of political news next MONDAY. Until then... I'll just have to look for something else to blather about, even though IFE isn't much concerned with whatever I say.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

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U.S. Congressman supports rape as a border control method!

Promoting outgoing President Vincente Fox to "generalissimo", giving Mexico a border with Honduras and somehow claiming Mexican media is invading the U.S. aren't nearly as outrageous as Congressman Ted Poe (Republican, of course: Texas 2nd District)'s suggestion that rape and brutality are effective border control methods. Poe, on the floor of the United States House of Representatives said yesterday :
The border war continues. Generalissimo Fox and the Mexican media have taken a setback in the illegal invasion of the United States.
The Congressman believes deployment of National Guardsmen to the border is a "publicity stunt", but that it has been effective. In the Texas lawmaker's estimation, Mexicans hoping to enter the US have slowed their crossing out of fear of being brutalized by the National Guard, which they see as similar to "that Mexican military machine that is on the southern Mexican border--that reportedly rapes, robs and beats Hondurans and Guatemalans that are just trying to do jobs that Mexicans won't do."
"Just think," concluded Poe, "what would happen if we used more Guardsmen on the border front."
If you want to send this moron an email, use the form at: Better yet, call one of his (US and Canadian) toll-free numbers (8-5 Mexico City time): 1605 Longworth HOB 20202 U.S. Highway 59 N. , Suite 105 Washington, D.C. 20515 Humble, TX 77338 202.225.6565 281.446.02421 866.425.6565 (toll free) 866.447.0242 (toll free) 202.225.5547 (fax) 281.446.0252 (fax) 2615 Calder Suite 100 Beaumont, TX 77702 409.212.19971 877.218.1997 (toll free) 409.212.8711 (fax) Ted Poe (one sick mofo!) I doubt he'll be stopped by a few Hail Maries -- in English or Spanish...
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"The Virgin herself drove him out of my house" Now that's Mexican!

Beverly Donofrio, an American screen writer and novelist living in San Miguel de Allende, fended off a would-by rapist by Hail Mary-ing the guy. Donofrio said that after asking the attacker to leave several times, she started praying Hail Marys aloud in Spanish. "The prayers, or more likely the Virgin herself, drove him out of my house," she said. "I knew from the reports of the other women - who did not cower in shame after they had been violated but came out and let the word be spread - that the rapist likes to talk and stays for four to five hours, raping repeatedly," she said. "And so, from the sharing of this information, I knew not to allow him to converse with me. I prayed instead." When her assailant asked why she was praying, Donofrio told him, "I´m praying for you." The attacker then left."The prayers, or more likely the Virgin herself, drove him out of my house" (Bob Kelly, Universal)

Monday, June 26, 2006

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Forget Aztlan... Mexico seeks world domination

Maseca, Mexico's largest tortilla and corn flour producer, is also the U.S.'s largest tortilla company, and expects to quadruple its production this year. This year, besides a 45 million dollar expansion to plants in Merida and Mexicali, it is building new tortilla plants in JAPAN and RUSSIA. Plans are also in the works for African production. I've seen Russian tortillas and empandas a la rusia... but Sushi tacos? Hey, why not.

Eat our pinche tortillas... or else!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

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Dinosaurs, vampires, Nazis in the Presidential campaign

Who ever said the Mexicans weren't innovative? By Ioan Grillo Associated Press
MEXICO CITY - Mexico's presidential candidates have moved into cyberspace, where the campaigns are bombarding voters with online games, cartoons and attack e-mails ahead of the July 2 vote. With more than 20 million Mexicans now using the Web, this is the first election where the Internet could make a real difference in Mexico. Most Internet users are young, and so is the electorate: More than 40 percent of the 71 million registered voters are under age 30. Both top contenders have flashy online appeals. Felipe Calderon, the conservative candidate, is a superhero fighting dinosaurs and sharp-toothed fish in an Internet video game satirizing his rivals. ``This is the first Mexican election in which the Internet is having a real impact,'' said his spokesman, Arturo Sarukhan. ``Our war room believes it is a crucial vote-winning tool.'' The leftist camp of Andrés Manuel López Obrador hit back with its own mass e-mail campaign, which it says is homegrown. One message, titled, ``Lies,'' includes a slide show portraying his opponents as attacking vampires and Nazi propagandists. ``They show the creativity of a social movement,'' said his representative, Claudia Sheinbaum. ``People are outraged at seeing the candidate attacked so viciously and want to do something.''

Friday, June 23, 2006

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He left his heart in Mexico City... another day, another saint

Blessed Rafael Guízar y Valencia, whose feast day is 6 June, was approved for canonization by the College of Cardinals this morning. The Mexican papers (the "mainstream media" ones anyway) mention that he was a missionary in Cuba, Guatemala and among the wild pagans of the United States before taking up his post as Archbishop of Veracruz in 1920. What they don't mention was the new saint was on the lam most of the time -- after all, he was on the wrong side of the Revolution. I suppose even saints have their off days. Marcial Maciel -- who was finally forced into retirement after a long career of buggering seminarians and cozying up to fascists was one of his prize pupils. The Patron Saint Index FAQ on Rafael Guízar is actually kind of interesting. During the anti-clerical era, he was some kind of holy Scarlet Pimpernel, working undercover disguised as a travelling salesman (though, as a missionary, he was a kind of travelling salesman to begin with). For those with a taste for relics, Guízar's heart (documented as such by the Bishop of Xalapa) is preserved in a silver salver (with a silver heart on top) in the Basillica of Guadalupe.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

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Deja Vu? 1988 elections again?

John Ross has been covering Mexico and Mexican politics forever, but isn't much known outside the small world of alternative and "progressive" journals and websites like Counterpunch and the Texas Observer. This is a shame -- he is a partisan reporter, but then, what foreigner isn't? But, somehow, being a partisan for a corporate press makes you "legitimate". Ross has more credibility than most. He has lived for decades in Mexico City, is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction and the winner of the American Book Award in 1995 for Rebellion From the Roots, the first look at the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas. Ross has published a novel of the Mexican cataclysm, Tonatiuh's People, a political guidebook to Mexico( Mexico in Focus), an anthology of basketball writings, and eight chapbooks of poetry, and is the long-time Mexico correspondent for Noticias Aliadas (Lima, Peru), the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the Texas Observer. He takes exception to David Reiff's pro-Calderón New York Times article (I've noted the New York Times' pro-PAN biases before). Reiff is better known as Susan Sontag's son and an academic expert on Bosnia than for any expertise or experience in Latin America), and he takes a dim view of the prospects for a fair win by the left. The Ominous Shadow of 1988 Hovers Over this July’s Mexican Presidential Election
MEXICO CITY (June 13th): Driving in from the airport, the U.S. reporter asked the usual dumb questions. In his New York Times Magazine hit piece, David Rieff had just reported that airport taxi drivers were being pressured not to vote for leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the July 2nd presidential election. Was this true? “On our site, they threatened two drivers if they don’t vote for Calderón (Felipe Calderón, the rightwing National Action Party – PAN in its Spanish initials – candidate) but no one is going for it,” corroborated Hector S., a 36 year-old National University business grad who is forced to push a hack for a living, “How can they do that? Isn’t the ballot supposed to be secret?” the driver asked his passenger but didn’t wait for an answer. “To me, it’s a lot like 1988 when they stole the election from Cárdenas. Like I said, we’re not going for it this time.” Hector had been an 18 year-old student about to enter the university in 1988 and had joined the protests that followed the Great Fraud with his older brothers. As the taxi glided to a stop at the light on the wide slum avenue, a ragged youth threw himself gracelessly on the cab’s hood and started soaping the windshield. Hector waved him off sadly and dropped a coin in his cupped hand. “How can a country so rich have so many poor people?” The cabbie answered himself again. “This is two countries, amigo. One up there for Calderón” – he pointed to a bank of skyscrapers in the distance – “and the rest of us down here with López Obrador.” The July 2nd Mexican presidential election is the most pertinent one since the watershed year of 1988 when Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, the son of Lázaro Cárdenas, the nation’s last leftist president (1932-38) squared off against a Harvard-trained neo-liberal technocrat named Carlos Salinas in a contest that pitted the Washington Consensus against the revolutionary nationalism of the Mexican left, an election that would decide the future of Mexico at least up until now. As it turned out, Salinas and the then-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the longest ruling political dynasty in the known universe at the time, stole the election and NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was next on the agenda. On July 2nd, Andrés Manuel López Obrador intends to change all that but in Mexico, history is a closed loop, the same boneheaded mistakes and miscalculations are made over and over again, and what happened back then is apt to repeat itself now.
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Another brick in the wall... hey! teacher!

From the cranky (old "isolationists" who never accepted the 1930s "New Deal" -- though supported by Greens, Libertarians, Religious Pacifists and others) comes this interesting "compare and contrast" on militarizing the border...
The neoconservatives have issued their own statement on immigration, supporting pending Congressional legislation for militarization of the borders using federal troops for “border enforcement, and interior enforcement (employer sanctions).” The letter is signed by 39 “prominent conservatives and civic leaders,” such as the unapologetically pro-war William Bennett, Frank Gaffney, Newt Gingrich, David Horowitz, Michael Ledeen, Victor Davis Hansen, and Daniel Pipes... What makes this letter ... noteworthy is its “coincidental” appearance just hours before the public release of the Independent Institute’s Open Letter on Immigration, which has been signed by 500+ economists and other scholars, including five Nobel Prize-winners, plus 44 scholars from other countries... So, who would you trust, 500 economists, including Nobel Prize-winners, and the courageous and impeccably honorable Independent Institute, or the likes of the same people who have relentlessly championed the war in Iraq, the USA PATRIOT Act, and greatest expansion of federal power and pork spending since the New Deal?
Hudson Institute Letter (and signatories) Independent Institute's Letter (and signatories)
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Heads for the beach ... yuck!

This is becoming a real nusance... gangster and cops getting their heads chopped off, only to have them wash up on some beach somewhere. The latest five heads belong to the bodies found yesterday in Playas Rosaritos -- found in a channel in Tijuana about 150 meters from the State's CSI offices. Notimex identifies three as policemen, one as a "bodyguard from Arizona" and the other isn't named... put I'll venture a guess it's not Pancho Villa.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

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The curious case of the gringo immigrant, part 2...

I achieved 15 seconds of fame with my (and David Bodewell's) post questioning the validity of the supposed internet letter by the supposed SBC executive who couldn't get a work visa in Mexico (The Myth of the Gringo Immigrant) . This post received a lot of hits -- only topped by one on "Nacho Libre" and the recent one on Pancho Villa's death mask (though, weirdly, one on Biblioteca Jose Vasconcellos got hits from places I normally don't have viewers -- Newfoundland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and India. Go figure)/ But our questioning the validity of the "Gringo Immigrant" post is my proudest moment in one way -- it's the only post I've ever had that's quoted (negatively, I'm happy to say) by the John Birch Society! Whoo-hoo! "Thanks" to the Birchers, I found what appears to be the "original source" -- a gay blog in Houston -- "Waking Up the Sheeple" claims Brad "Received the following (the original e-mail) from Tom O'Malley who was a Director with SW BELL in Mexico City." I'm not about to sign up for "" just out of morbid curiousity, and I don't think "Brad" is my cup of tea... who Tom O'Malley is, and whether he's really an executive of SBC (in or out of Mexico), and whether or not his trials and tribulations were real, or self-inflicted, I still don't know. By the way, here's the address and phone number for SBC in Mexico City, for anyone even nosier than I am: South Western Bell Parque Via No. 190 Col. Cuauhtemoc, C.P. 06500 DISTRITO FEDERAL Tel.(55)5254-2149
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Forget mudslinging... time for dirty tricks. Politics as usual

From the "majesterial" Kelly Arthur Garrett's column in today's Mexico City Herald:
April and May were heady months for the Felipe Calderón campaign, a time when the conservative National Action Party (PAN) candidate came back from a distant second to catch and pass longtime frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the polls. Calderón appeared to benefit from López Obrador´s absence from the first nationally televised debate, but his comeback was well underway before that April 25 event. The key to success was a negative ad strategy that quickly evolved into a scare campaign, in which a flood of PAN media spots branded López Obrador as a clone of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and "a danger to Mexico." But the tide turned after the June 6 debate when the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate first made the charge that companies owned by Diego Zavala, Calderón´s wife´s brother, had profited disproportionately from government contracts during the Fox administration, and then didn´t pay taxes on most of the income. Unlike accusations Calderón made against López Obrador during that debate (such as that the son of López Obrador´s driver was attending a college requiring huge tuition sums, which turned out to have been paid by the other side of his divorced parents´ family), this one had legs. If nothing else, the subject has changed from the PAN´s unfavorable description of López Obrador´s economic platform to Calderón´s character. The new atmosphere may have contributed to López Obrador´s recent surge in the polls, although the rise may also be due to a natural end to what has been described as a media-driven Calderón bubble. Five of six major national polls released since June 6 show the PRD candidate gaining ground, with four of the six putting him in the lead again. The latest, conducted by Parametría for the newspaper Excelsior, gave him a 36-32 edge over Calderón, with Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Roberto Madrazo in third place with 27 percent.
AMLO has been trumpeting his own internal polling showing a 10 point lead over Calderón, but I'm naturally dubious about "interal polling". I've noticed that the so-called "mainstream media" in the U.S. is no longer calling AMLO the "firebrand ex-mayor..." but only the "ex-mayor..." which -- I suppose -- can be taken to mean they expect him to win, or else have FINALLY realized he's not another Hugo Chavez. I haven't heard from Dick Morris in several weeks now. It appears the PANistas have given up on emulating U.S. style dirty tricks for the tried and true Mexican ones... Ken Edmonds, also in today's Herald, writes:
The internet and message-receiving cell phones have registered at least 7 million anonymous messages saying things like, "López Obrador is a danger to Mexico." No one is sure who does this, but a finger of suspicion points at the National Action Party (PAN), whose candidate, Felipe Calderón, is running neck-and-neck with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the former Mexico City mayor.... Many of today's vote-manipulating tactics are high technology, but some of the tried and true methods are still used — though they have spread from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to everyone with a realistic chance of winning on July 2. Companies are told that they must contribute generously to a party if they are to expect post-election government contracts. Can the vague laws forbidding this practice be invoked to bring justice to perpetrators who do this in private conversations? ...Will polling booths be mysteriously moved on Election Day, as has been done in the past, to discourage some voters from exercising their democratic right? The number and variety of dirty tricks that can be played is limited only by the imaginations of campaign managers.
And, this... from the same paper:
Felicia González says she was undecided in the last presidential election until campaign workers knocked on her door and offered her nearly US$200 in cash and a basket full of rice, beans, cooking oil and sugar. That was more than the 35-year-old cleaning woman makes in a month, so suddenly her choice was easy. "I thought, why not? Who else was going to come along and offer me that much money?" she said. ... González, the cleaning woman, said members of Fox´s National Action Party (PAN) bought her vote in 2000. The party also was fined for illegally accepting campaign money from foreigners that year and for violating campaign-spending limits. .. The PRI was fined for funneling money from the labor union of the state-run oil monopoly to its presidential candidate in 2000. Even before this year´s campaign, several members of López Obrador´s party were caught on video taking suitcases full of cash. They denied taking bribes, arguing the gifts were campaign contributions. Critics alleged the gifts were not reported. This year, rivals have accused López Obrador´s party of using public money to lure votes in Mexico City, where he was mayor. Some members of Fox´s party have been accused of conditioning federal aid on political support. ... As in the last election, the PAN´s rivals have accused Roman Catholic priests of backing party candidate Felipe Calderón, violating laws that bar the clergy from interfering in elections. Some companies also have been pressuring workers to vote for a favored party, according to Dan Lund, president of the polling firm Mund Americas. The president of the Coppel furniture and clothing chain, Enrique Coppel, wrote a letter to his 30,000 employees detailing reasons why they should vote for Calderón - though he also told workers they were free to vote for any candidate. ... There are indications voters are starting to resist outside pressures. Lund said a study of the 2000 elections showed many people took favors from the PRI and gave their support for the party - then went on to vote for Fox.
In other words ... it LOOKS like AMLO's gonna win the vote -- but who will win the Presidency is as iffy as President Gore's victory in 2000 or President Kerry's in 2004.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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Pancho Villa's Death Mask... for a fistful of dollars

It was a weekend for cosmic convergences ... or at least two of my favorite kinds of folks came together -- weird rich Texans and Pancho Villa enthusiasts. The weird rich Texan -- even better, a weird rich French-born surrealist painter -- was Charles Trois, invariably described as a "retired artist". He's moving out of Fredericksburg, Texas and putting his little hill country place -- described by the sales brochure as a 6485 sqare foot castle on the market. He also had an auction, to dispose of the bibilots that pile up... little must haves like Richard Burton's old Ferrari and autopsy photos of Lee Harvey Oswald. And... best of all ... THIS! Photo: SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS/DELCIA LOPEZ VIA AP Pancho Villa's death mask (which Trois claimed is the only one in existence, though scholars claim there might be three or four more around somewhere), supposedly made within hours of his assassination on 20 July 1923. According to Amy Dorsett of the San Antonio Express-News
It's impossible to appreciate the creepiness of Pancho Villa's death mask until you see it. Although there are just black holes where the eyes should be, the mask still conjures a vivid image of the famous Mexican outlaw's face. It's his prominent mustache, eyebrows and the beginning of his hairline thanks to the scalping that followed his violent death in 1923 that seal the macabre effect. ... Trois said that the death mask was made by a confidant of Villa's and that he has papers to prove its provenance. ... Trois, who wouldn't reveal how much he hopes to make during the action, said he acquired the Villa items several years ago from a private collector in Nashville, Tenn.
Some lucky, obsessive "anonymous buyer" paid 17,000 for the mask. I'm wondering if that anonymous buyer might provide a clue -- or the "private collector in Nashville" might have a clue -- as to one of the best, and weirdest of unsolved Mex Files: WHO DUG UP PANCHO VILLA IN 1926 AND STOLE HIS HEAD? Maybe that's best left unsolved -- among the improbable suspects (including Laurel and Hardy) are George W. Bush's grandfather... wouldn't be prudent to go there. I wrote -- obsessively, like all good fans of Pancho should -- about the Caudillo and his enemies, his wives and his missing head (and a side trip into the life of Ramon Novarro) back in February 2005. Lyn Keegan added her reminscences of a 1974 visit to Luz Corral, the "official" widow Villa. For the really, really obsessive, there are the memoirs of James W. Baker (no relation to the former Secretary of State) who was a ranch manager for some of William Randolph Hearst's Mexican properties during the Mexican Revolution. To Hearst Pancho Villa was what Saddam Hussain was to the Bush family... a politically useful enemy. Poor Mr. Baker, trying to do right by his employer, recalled meeting Pancho in a 1967 oral interview, part of a series of oral histories and transcripts published on the internet by the University of Texas at San Antonio.
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According to the United States Census Bureau, Hispanics are "People who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino may be of any race. Thus, the percent Hispanic should not be added to percentages for racial categories. Tallies that show race categories for Hispanics and nonHispanics separately are available." For no particular reason, other than it's a neat photo, here's a typical "hispanic woman" from the Mexican Revolution: Yaqui Indian scout Hermilianda Wong Chew

Monday, June 19, 2006

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Oaxaca... part 2

The latest reports are that everyone is negotiating... and, OFFICIALLY, not negotiating Ulises Ruiz Ortiz' removal from office -- by which we can assume they are. "Mark in Mexico", which I recommended yesterday for its photos, gives the impression that this would be unprecidented. Not at all -- Oaxaca has a long history of resistance (the Aztecs never were able to control the place and, the local Zapotecs complained about the first Spanish officials -- they were too damn stringy and just didn't cook up well; Benito Juarez made his name as a national leader by resisting Santa Ana) and Mexicans have a habit of tossing out leaders quite regularly. Even under the worst of the old PRI system, incompetent State Governors who couldn't maintain control were prevailed upon to "retire" -- or, if they really screwed up, find themselves appointed deputy consul somewhere like Leon, Nicaragua. It's a little more difficult now -- especially if the Administration needs a particular governor (Morelos seems stuck with their PANista Governor, who openly paid out bribes to state legislators -- on the floor of the legislature -- to stop his desafuero over money-laundering, bribery and murder charges). PAN was ready to remove and replace AMLO in Mexico City (and managed to force him to temporarily retire for a couple of days) over bogus charges, so there's no reason Ruiz Ortiz' can't be removed. And, remember, AMLO made HIS national reputation helping throw out a governor in Tabasco. Incidentally, Delores Paderna, the PRI candidate for Jefa de Gobernacion in Mexico City, made HER reputation as an honest governor, appointed to replace a crook removed by the federal government. "Mark from Mexico" seems to be calling for miliary intervention. Highly unlikely. Since their unhappy experience in the 1970s, the Army itself has shied away from being used to settle political disputes. The Federal Police might be called in, but that would be an admission of failure on both the State, and Federal, Administration's parts. Given the mood of the State (and the protests are not just in Oaxaca City, but all over the state) the goveror will probably be prevailed upon to retire for some face-saving reason or another. I don't think he'll face disafuero and criminal charges, but it looks like the teachers have one at least part of their demands. Oaxaca was a stronghold of the old-time political caiques, and it looks as if their era is coming to an end. Even if the Governor stays (which is possible), he's managed to piss off even reliable "consesus voter communities" (those indigenous groups that still vote by village) like the Triquis -- not necessarily a disaster for the PRI, but one that means governance is going to have to open up beyond the old guard. My feeling is this is what really troubles Fox -- PAN always prefers to deal with PRI traditionalists over the "new PRI" or PRD. PAN has never been particularly powerful in this part of the country, and the PRD and the Zapatistas are going to capture the disaffected voters. So -- if necessary -- the governor is expendable. Ruiz Ortiz' has never been a popular governor. His candidacy and eventual election in December 2004, while no surprise, has always had a dubious quality about it. During the campaign, he was attacked for his ties to the -- uhh -- colorful then governor, Jose Murat (who tried to create a fake "terrorist" threat by arranging a self-assassination attempt -- which he fucked up, getting himself injured for real -- think of the Reichstag fire planned by Homer Simpson) -- and more seriously, for his ties to secret paramilitary organizations. Mexican commentators used words like "alchemy" to describe his election Gabriel Cué, who ran on a PRD(socialist), Convergencia (rural middle-class) and PAN(conservative) fusion ticket. While there were plenty of accusations of dirty tricks and shady voting, the speculation was that Oaxaca -- having always been a PRI fiefdom -- was basically written off by the Administration -- and, at the time, the Administration was trying to find allies within PRI -- specifically from Esther Elba Gordillo, who just coincidentally, is the head of the Teachers' Union (SNTE). The Oaxaca teachers, and most on the left despise her. Even the "fair and balanced" mass media -- and foreign papers -- call her "Señora Hoffa". When they don't call her a "charro" (a union leader coopted by the government and "powers that be"), they call her a chupacabra -- a blood-sucking horrible monster. La Crisis -- never "fair and balanced" but slightly more literary, calls her "Lady Macbeth" (for those who read Spanish, one of the better things La Crisis ever did was a special on Esther with the alliterative title "Truculenta trayectoria de la cacique, asesina, corrupta, tramposa y traidora Elba Esther". Especially in Oaxada, union dissidents who crossed Elba Esther tended to fall off high places, or shoot themselves in the back -- or have mysterious one-car accidents. Oaxacan teachers occupied Mexico City's Zocalo for months and months in 2002 and 2003 attempting redress. And, it seems like forever, that teachers have been striking in Oaxaca state itself. Most of the dissidents, are -- naturally -- from the left, or sympathetic to the Zapatistas. And, this year, teachers had a new -- and suprising -- grievance: history classes. Lat year, the Secretaría de Instrucíon Publica made changes to the History curriculum that de-emphasized the role of indigenous Mexicans to spend more time on the colonial era. Mexicans take their history very, very seriously. In mostly Indigenous Oaxaca, this change was especially unpopular. When recent scandals involving textbook publishers surfaced, teachers -- and parents -- throughout Mexico took to the streets. In Mexico City, this particular grievance went unnoticed, since it coincided with the recent Texcoco Flower Wars . In Oaxaca, it is only a side issue, one too esoteric to even be noticed by outsiders. And -- lest we forget -- Presidential and Congressional elections are only two weeks away. The immediate crises appears to be over, but there are still years of grievances to work out. No matter what's done in around the negotiating table, there will still be street actions... but a "civl war"... I don't think so.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

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What's gives with Oaxaca? (The teachers' strike)

I've held off writing on the Oaxaca teachers' strike, for a couple of reasons.
  • First, there are ALWAYS Teachers' strikes in Oaxaca this time of year. Every year, along with questions about the rainy season, the tourist message boards are full of worries about whether there are "riots" in Oaxaca -- and how this will affect them (for the record, there were more disturbances this year, but even so, such things seldom -- if ever -- more than inconvenience a tourist more than momentarily. The smart ones see it as an adventure (and a break from eavesdropping on the retirees whose gossip about each other gets old after about 15 minutes), or -- better yet -- a rationale to explore the REST of Oaxaca City -- Benito Juarez' house, the art museums and that Cathederal which is either an overly-enthuastic attempt at Baroque restoration, or was meant to be a drag-queen's vision of heaven) ...or... maybe go down the street and talk to the Mixtec and Zapoteca weavers.

  • Second, I'm no where near Oaxaca, and everything I have is second-hand. And unreliable: depending on who you read, there are either 25 dead teachers being hidden from the media -- or somewhere between two and ten , somebody keeling over from a heart attack ... or none. A reliable source -- quoting second hand information -- hints darkly at "disappearances". And -- again based on foreign reports, people either do, or do not support the teachers. "Mark in Mexico" -- which calls itself "moderate to conservative" but is linked to nothing but U.S. Republican Party websites and ultra-conservative opinion pages -- focuses extentively on alleged damage done by the striking teachers. Mark makes some mistaken assumptions about Mexico(Pemex oil is nowhere near the OPEC benchmark 75 USD per barrel -- an important figure he uses in his analysis of Mexican education, for example) and his political leanings aren't shared by Mexicans, but he's got photos that clearly show some violence occurred. How much is anyone's guess. And the number of arrests is questionable. The Governor of Oaxaca, according to el Universal, cancelled 25 arrest warrants connected with the disturbances. Mark -- and most tourist reports -- suggest the strike has no popular support. Which doesn't give with the photo on the cover of today's Jornada -- showing "Padres de Familia" (an organization similar to the PTA in the U.S.) and merchants marching in support of the teachers.

    Of course, the left-leaning and anti-Ulises Ruiz (Governor of Oaxaca) press (and just about all of them despise Ruiz -- whose election was tainted by almost as much corruption as George W. Bush's) press reports anywhere from 25,000 to 300,000 people marched in support of the teachers. None of which seemed to inconvenience one person crossing the city during the supposed event.

    The only thing anyone seems to agree on is that negotiations are going on -- but for now, the question of Ulises Ruiz' resignation is off the table -- at least according to Ulises Ruiz.

  • And, finally, with a presidential election, a couple of years of union disputes over leadership within Oaxaca, some federal changes in labor law that will affect the Oaxaca teachers, AND nation-wide actions over changes in the curriculum -- this demonstation is much more complicated than any of the foreign analyses let on.

Harry Avis -- a retired college psychology prof (and serious researcher in hallucinogenics) -- who has been in Oaxaca for several years and who has reliable contacts with Mexican teachers posted this on a tourist message board:

The situation is far more complicated than we foreigners know, There reports of deaths seem grossly inaccurate and the situation is calm. I know a few teachers and none of them are sure what the strike is all about. One sticking issue is the right to rezone the state, Salaries depend on the living conditions where the teachers work and this decision is made at a federal level so the teachers union is applying pressure to force a rezoning. Another issue is the upcoming election. Do not believe the propaganda promulgated by either side and in my opinion you should refrain from writing letters of protest unless you know the situation well.

The teachers had the support of most people in previous years, but in my talking with the locals that support has been serioiusly eroded by their recent actions.

Like the presidential polls (AMLO is on top, again -- though within the margin of error) this is another "¿quíen sabe?" . The Revolution is not going to break out anytime soon -- my advice is that if going to Oaxaca, you might have to spend an afteroon eating the world's best ice cream around the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Solidad instead of sitting around the Zocalo with the old gringos and their toyboys.

Friday, June 16, 2006

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(More) Ford in the future...

I once saw a posting on a tourist website (ok, it was the Thorn Tree Mexico Message Board), claiming there were no Fords in Mexico. I thought that was kinda strange, since they've only been built there since 1926. And, at the time, I lived just down the street (on the corner of calle Henry Ford) from this building (next to another popular U.S. import -- Sam's Club). What made me think of that was this item from today's el Financiero en linea:

Mexico, June 16th.- Ford Motor Co., planning to cut jobs and close factories in the U.S., will upgrade and expand threeMexican plants over the next several years. Auto assembly plants in Cuautitlan and Hermosillo and anengine plant in Chihuahua will get the investment, Ford said onits Web site, without giving any estimates of cost or specifictiming. The automaker said it hasn't yet decided where to locatea new, low-cost North American auto plant. Investing in Mexico may rankle union members in the U.S.Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford plans to cut 30,000 jobs in itshome market and close 14 North American factories by 2012 as itloses U.S. sales and market share. The United Auto Workers unionrepresents only workers in the U.S. "It s absolutely critical that they do more in Mexico, aheck of a lot more", said David Healy, an analyst for BurnhamSecurities Inc. "They pay way too much for labor in the U.S." The Oakland Press of Pontiac, Michigan, reported this week that Ford plans to invest $9.2 billion in its operations inMexico between now and 2012 to build a new plant and boostproduction of engines and transmissions. The newspaper said itobtained a 28-page company document etailing the plans. Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, released the information on its Mexican plans today in response to media speculation about the investment, spokesman Said Deep said. "Of our total North American investment, 90 percent isstill in the U.S., with less than 5 percent in Mexico", Deep said. "And for engineering resources, that s 98 percent in theU.S.". (Information provided by Finsat)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

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Borderlands loses one of the greats

Luis Jiménez who combined borderlands folk arts (neon sign making, wielding and graffitti) with fine arts, was killed yesteday -- ironically, one of his sculputes fell he was working on toppled over and crushed him. He was 65. Very much in the borderlands tradition, Jiménez combined the American tradition (he had formal training, and the academic creditials essential to being taken seriously in the U.S. art world), he was also in the Mexican tradition, where artists -- even the greatest, like Diego Rivera -- are workers, with a creative sense of the material at hand. For Jiménez, traditional forms were those of his native El Paso -- spray paint, auto body fiberglass and a sense of color. He learned his art, not so much in school, but in his father's body shop. New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson (Jiménez' studio was in Hondo) ordered flags lowered to half-staff in the artist's honor.

Southwest Pieta

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Getting too damn civilized...

"The Durango State Congress has aprroved the Law for the Protection of Non-Smoker's which pr ohibits smoking in public places, punishable by up to 12 hours detention and a fine of from 10 to 100 salario mínimos, and allows for closure of establishments violating the regulation." Jornada, 13 de julio 2006 Maybe Mexicans aren't taking over California... Californians are taking over Durango!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

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Well, well, well... can I call 'em or what?

Yesterday, I wrote
Somehow... this all relates to the OTHER leaking scandal -- Carlos Ahumada (who at the time had just added a new daily newspaper to his business empire) ended up in the slammer after it was revealed he'd taped various officials taking bribes that he'd paid them (the reason he was sent to jail, after his stay at a very nice beach house in Cuba owned by ex-president Carlos Salinas) has MORE tapes -- which the PRD wants to see, supposedly. Ahumada's wife claims she was the victim of a "drive-by shooting" (ok, so her windshield did have a bullet in it, but after the Gov. of Oxaxca botched a self-inflicted assassination attempt (hey, somebody actually shot me! SHIT!) last year, I've been sceptical of these kinds of stories.
Today's Mexico City News carries a translation of an El Universal article by Rubelio Fernández headlined Ahumada suspect in attack on truck:
Capital prosecutors say jailed businessman Carlos Ahumada likely planned the attack against his wife´s truck last week. City justice officials have obtained recordings of Ahumada´s recent phone conversations. In the tapes, which were acquired by EL UNIVERSAL, Ahumada speaks to unknown sources, saying that nothing at the scene of the crime should be altered before authorities had arrived at the scene of the crime. He does not enquire about the health of his wife or children. In another recording, he asks an unidentified man about the presidential polls. "The environment is heating up," says the unidentified voice, and Ahumada responds, "That´s right." The voice then says, "And now we mess them up bad on Tuesday, forget about it." Ahumada replies, "Oh yeah." The two also mention that Ahumada´s legal situation may improve if National Action Party candidate (PAN) Felipe Calderón were to win the presidency. FAMILY TARGETED Last Tuesday, the armored truck of Ahumada´s wife Cecilia Gurza was shot at by an unidentified assailant or assailants. Gurza was in the truck with the couple´s children and their chauffeur at the time. No one was injured. In another conversation, Ahumada is heard speaking to capital prosecutors who were inspecting the truck the day before the incident. The examination was for the truck´s involvement in a 2003 accident, unrelated to the shooting incident. In the conversation, Ahumada urges the city officials to return the truck that same day. The attack against Gurza came just hours before she was scheduled to release videos that she said would be damaging to the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the capital government. It also came on the same day as the presidential debates. Ahumada is accused of money laundering after his company was paid for city contracts it failed to fulfill. He appeared in numerous videos leaked to the press in 2003, in which he was seen handing out cash to PRD politicians.
In a NEW PAN scandal, blandly entitled by the News Calderón faces funding controversy it makes one almost nostalgic for the PRI -- which usually at least delivered more than half of what they promised:
For much of President Vicente Fox´s term, Arnulfo Montes Cuén was a prized ally. A spellbinding speaker in a black cowboy hat, he barnstormed rural Mexico, setting up farmers unions friendly to the ruling National Action Party (PAN) and cementing their loyalty with access to government aid programs. Then the 41-year-old organizer fell out with the party and became a whistle-blower, triggering an investigation into the biggest case of alleged illegal funding to surface in Mexico´s presidential race. As Montes tells it, Fox´s government had authorized US$5 million for him to buy building materials and distribute them to thousands of poor farmers. But there was a catch: He was to kick back half the money to the campaign of PAN presidential candidate Felipe Calderón. Montes refused and was booted from the program. He is pressing criminal charges against 12 officials of the government and the party, for allegedly replacing him with someone willing to divert the anti-poverty funds to Calderón´s war chest. ... Montes laid out his version of events in a 152-page affidavit to the special prosecutor´s office and a lengthy interview with the Times. He said the congressman running Calderón´s campaign in Colima state, Jorge Luis Preciado, summoned him to a downtown Mexico City restaurant, handed him two deposit slips and ordered him to divide the kickback between two bank accounts the congressman controlled. Preciado said he does not recall such a meeting with Montes, and the Fox administration denies placing any conditions on distributing the grant. When Montes balked at the payoff, he said, the congressman told him: "Don´t worry. Those Indian peasants will never notice." In Chapontongo, 60 miles north of Mexico City, the peasants noticed. Some families received only half the promised supplies, while others were dropped from the grant list, administered by a previously unknown civic organization linked to PAN. "They left me these 20 bags of cement and promised to deliver the rest of the materials but never came back," said a dejected Alejandra Beltrán, 47, standing on the weed-covered lot where she hopes to build a home with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Until then she remains in a one-room hovel a few blocks away, sharing a bed with three teenage children under a leaky roof. "We´re asking what happened to the money that was budgeted for the materials that never arrived," said Jesús Ocampo, a farmer who had helped gather applications for the grants in Chapontongo. "They say it went to Felipe Calderón´s campaign. If that´s true, then the PAN is as big a bunch of thieves as the PRI."

Monday, June 12, 2006

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This is very strange... convenient leaks and leakers

After the affair of the inconvenient brother-in-law broke, Calderón DEMANDED AMLO prove his allegations that Hildebrando had benefitted from contracts during Calderón's tenure as Secretary of Energy. Ohhh... that's an open invitation, and AMLO supporters complied, showing up with boxes and boxes and boxes of documents. SO... Suddenly, the Treasury Department (Hacienda) files a complaint against Mexico City's government for leaking documents. UHHHH.... Alejandro Encinas (the acting Jefe de Gobernacion) could only say... That's weird! Back when the PANistas were trying to "prove" corruption in the PRD controlled Mexico City government, I wondered how a PAN politician ended up with tapes of a city administrator gambling in Las Vegas. That mystery was solved: the FBI was gathering casino tapes under the "Patriot Act" and, instead of looking for terrorists, was looking for Mexican politicians. What remained unclear is how exactly those tapes ended up with a particular politician and not with the public prosecutor. Somehow... this all relates to the OTHER leaking scandal -- Carlos Ahumada (who at the time had just added a new daily newspaper to his business empire) ended up in the slammer after it was revealed he'd taped various officials taking bribes that he'd paid them (the reason he was sent to jail, after his stay at a very nice beach house in Cuba owned by ex-president Carlos Salinas) has MORE tapes -- which the PRD wants to see, supposedly. Ahumada's wife claims she was the victim of a "drive-by shooting" (ok, so her windshield did have a bullet in it, but after the Gov. of Oxaxca botched a self-inflicted assassination attempt (hey, somebody actually shot me! SHIT!) last year, I've been sceptical of these kinds of stories. Be careful what you wish for -- it's bound to get complicated. Stay tuned.
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FUTBOL (what's really important), Politics and the Church...

There was a touching moment just before the Mexico-Iran game in Nuremburg when the Iranian players presented Oswaldo Sanchez with flowers, who had to fly home for his father's funeral earlier this week. Which didn't stop el TRI from whupping the Iranians 3-1 -- with, or without voodoo. The Copa Mundial takes precedence over everything else, of course, but there are those pesky elections coming up ... The New York Times (alas, registration required -- so read it in the Denver Post instead) has a nice article on IFE's role in the election -- basically playing referee in a mudslinging contest. Calderón has been stung by the "inconvenient inlaw", but claiming to the Associated Press -- and everybody else -- that it doesn't matter. El Universal's poll gives Calderón a lead this week (37% to AMLO's 34%) but it's within the margin of error, so it's still anyone's guess. And -- though they're supposed to keep quiet -- the Church seems to be weighing in on PAN's side:
The Catholic Church might be using "hot-button" issues to influence voters in favor of Felipe Calderon, Mexico's National Action Party (PAN)presidential candidate and an abortion-rights opponent, Mexican Catholic community groups said on Thursday, Reuters reports. Guadalupe Cruz -- speaking on behalf of six community-based Catholic groups, which include Catholics who oppose the church's position on birth control and support abortion rights -- said that church leaders appear to be supporting candidates who fit an ideological profile, especially surrounding "sexual morality" issues. According to Reuters, the Catholic Church in Mexico this year has held "unprecedented" meetings with presidential candidates, asking them to "speak up" on such issues including abortion. In addition, the church has organized workshops and forums nationwide designed to educate voters on the candidates and their policies. The church says that the workshops aim to help voters understand what the candidates believe about certain issues. However, the community-based groups said they think the workshops might inappropriately interfere in the elections because of the connection the church has with PAN and Mexican President Vincente Fox, a PAN member. Cruz said, "[T]he risk of the Catholic hierarchy influencing votes has been greater in these federal elections than in others due to its closeness to the federal executive." She added, "Those factors increase the risk of influencing votes in favor of the PAN" (Orlandi, Reuters, 6/8).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

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The curious case of the inconvenient in-law

The elections are -- no suprise -- getting nastier. AMLO's folks are claiming Calderón's brother-in-law Diego Hildebrando Zavala Gómez del Campo obtained no-bid contracts from Pemex (Hildebando SA de CV provides data services), suggesting influence peddling and the use of family connections. How much effect this will have is questionable. There are people who assume you're supposed to use your influence to get your relatives jobs. And those contracts may have been perfectly legitimate -- there aren't that many Mexican data service companies, and Hildebrando SA de CV (and Meta Data, controlled by Diego Zavala ) are two of the few large companies that do this kind of work. STILL... Diego Zavala was denying any contracts existed, and was threatening a civil suit against AMLO for "moral damage" (basically, slander) until someone dug them up in the public record. OOPS! The left is having a field day (or course). Diego Zavala -- with a touch of the "deer in the headlights look" was the front page photo in today's Jornada. El Financiero (of course) is ignoring the story. Instead, they have an softball interview with Calderón in which he poo-poos the allegations, and quotes his internal polls, showing him ahead by 7 percentage points. However, a poll cited by Jaime Martínez Veloz in a Jornada opinion piece has AMLO over Calderón 34% to 28%. Martínez is mostly attacking Calerón's market-strategy campaigning style and claiming the polls he cites are a truer picture of the electorate. I don't think anyone really knows anything -- like I said, who's up and who's down is still guesswork. And, with dirty tricks now in play, expect more revelations to surface. AMLO's car accident today might be worth something. No one was hurt (his driver hit a bus pulling out of a parking lot, and AMLO -- being a consumate politico -- climbed on the bus for some impromptu campaigning), but it's an excuse to bring up Nico the driver again (When AMLO ran Mexico City, PAN raised a stink about Nico's salary as a department head, but as a bodyguard, driver and appointments secretary rolled into one -- his salary wasn't all that outrageous). At least he's not a relative.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

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The unknown Mexican icon...

If you don't recognize this covergirl from Paris Magazine's July 1933 issue, you might remember her as "Vera" in the 1931 Greta Garbo - Clark Gable tearjerker, "Susan Lennox"... Still no clue? And what does she have to do with Mexico? According to Puerto Morelos author Jeanine Lee Kitchel, this Hollywood supporting actress of the 20s and 30s (and sometime French covergirl) played an important role in Mexican-American relations. A regular at Carlos Herrera's "Rancho de Gloria" cantina in Rosarita, she liked her tequilla, but hated it straight up. One day in 1935, especially for her, Carlos mixed three shots of white tequilla, two shots of triple sec, a shot of lime juice, mixed it in a blender, added ice, and poured it into a champagne glass, it's rim dipped in lemon juice and twirled it in a bowl of salt. And the rest, as they say, was history. Marjorie King (1911 -1998) ... or, as Carlos called her -- in the Mexican style -- Margarita.
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THE Debate -- basically a tie...

There's not much point in my writing a long piece on last night's debate. My screw-up -- I didn't see it. The highlights of Calderón v. AMLO are available through El Universal's website. There were five candidates, but neither Patricia Mercado nor Roberto Campo really count. Though, I have to admit, Mercado came off well, pumping not for the Presidency, but for enough votes to gain a few plurinomial Assembly seats to bring up (and horsetrade) votes on iniatives to reduce domestic violence, increase transparency and push for free trade agreements within the Americas. Campo -- Esther Elba Gordilla's good soldier -- was irrelevant. La Maestra and her minions may garner some votes, but I don't think the debate would affect their support (or lack of support) one way or the other. Madrazo, and his PRI-Green Alliance is still behind -- no surpise there. He managed to get in more digs at Vincente Fox than anyone else -- which probably won't help Felipe Calderón any, but may not much help PRI either. Who knows, maybe those votes will go to Patricia Mercado's AMLO and Calderón are the only ones who really count. According to Kelly Arthur Garrett, "The general consensus of panelists gathered on public television was that Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) waged a cautious, defensive battle that ended in a virtual tie. The two candidates were tied for the lead in most polls released just before the debate." To my thinking, this makes AMLO the "winner" -- he and Calderón traded snipes (Calderón claims Mexico City is out of control, to which AMLO responds by sweetly asking why he's so popular with the voters there; AMLO raises questions about Calderón's relations who've made money off bank restructuring ), but by NOT getting angry or uptight, he did a good job of neutralizing Calderón's claims that AMLO is a loonie leftist. And Calderón -- from what I can tell -- was well organized but came across as too wonky and cold to really appeal to the voters. The last pre-debate polls had Calderón and AMLO tied at 36% each (AMLO inching back up, Calderón falling from 39%). Madrazo had briefly been almost tied, but at 24%, it looks as if he pre-debate support was mostly dissatisfied PAN supporters -- or undecideds. There's some new anti-Calderón commercials coming out this week, and a weird story about the wife of Carlos Ahumada (the jailed businessman who videotaped himself bribing Mexico City officials and PRD operatives) being attacked by gunmen because she threatened to release new tapes -- but I've become sceptical of "convenient" attacks by phantom gunmen ever since the Governor of Oaxaca staged a phony attack on himself (that backfired, when he actually got winged -- served him right!). AND... of course, the World Cup trumps presidential politics. My friend José Luis Borgues calls futbol "el opio del pueblo mexicano", but any polls taken during the World Cup are going to be automatically suspect. Who in their right mind is going to answer the phone, or talk to a pollster (or take a poll) when there's a game on TV?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

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Fray Tormenta -- the mask behind the mask of "Nacho Libre"

Julie Watson, writing for the AP uses the upcoming release of "Nacho Libre" as the hook for a rather elegant and informative little essay on the sport... or art... or evidence of pre-Colombian culture in the Americas... or entertainment... or...??? of Luche Libre.
Professional wrestling, known as Lucha Libre, was largely the inspiration for the World Wrestling Federation, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). But unlike in other countries, wrestling's impact reaches far beyond the ring in Mexico, where Lucha Libre is influenced by the country's mystical Aztec and Mayan roots. "We are part of the national patrimony," said Blue Panther, still wearing his turquoise mask as he fastened his seat belt and drove away in his compact Sentra after a fight. Lucha Libre is not an exclusive, corporate-dominated world of cable-TV celebrities. In Mexico, the gritty arenas appear in working-class neighborhoods across the country. And while there are many superstars, fights often feature entry-level contestants, including middle-aged, overweight men who slip on their own masks and become larger than life.
I disagree with Ms. Watson. There are out-of-shape, over the hill wannabes in any sport. One legitimate criticism of the film is that a big part of Jack Black 's comic appeal is his unathletic body. Luchedores may have a higher body mass index than, say, bicycle racers or NCAA wrestlers, but then so do NFL guards and other practicioners of sports requiring bulk. They are big guys, but they're not a bunch of fatties. And they continue to perform (or compete) well into middle age. The greatest of all Luchadores, El Santo, who was born in 1917, was still working into the early 1980s. The "real" luchador who inspired Black's character, was already a well-respected professional in another field when he took up his Luche Libre career -- which he continued for another 23 years. What fascinates people about Luche Libre is not so much that the great stars go on forever and ever, nor that it's just a weird pop culture entertainment, but that :
"There are so many ties to mythology, to people in the news, to politicians, to stars, to science-fiction characters," said Lourdes Grobet, a photographer who has documented lucha libre for 26 years and who advised producers on "Nacho Libre." "In Lucha Libre, I found the true Mexico," she added. "I discovered a marvelous world."
Fray Tormenta, Las Vegas, NV, 2004
That "marvelous world" is in no way a simplified world. Luchadores like El Ecologista bring environmentalism to the ring. Two that I've written on previously struggle for the human worth of gays and transvestites (with good humor and panache) . Superbario "made his name leading marches demanding better public housing for the poor" (Watson writes). One Mexican writer, commenting on "Nacho Libre" said "I think its a dumb mockery of a very bizarre sport" and he may be right. I'm not a big Jack Black fan, and the trailers and ads for the film suggest most of the humor is just the usual Mexican and clerical stereotypes you find in comedies (bull gores man in butt, nuns see naked man, etc.). Black's role is based on the very real, and impressive story of Sergio Gutierrez Benitez, a Teotihuacan priest. There's nothing bizarre about a priest/pro-wrestler. Father Gutierrez -- "Fray Tormenta" when masked -- took up Luche Libre to raise funds for an orphanage -- the kind of story that would have made a good Bing Crosby musical in the 1940s (assuming Bing had the right build to play a Luchadore). A theological historian once pointed out to me, SOP for the Catholic Church until the late 16th century, was to accept local beliefs and practices as long as they didn't conflict with offical Catholic ones -- or could be used in a Catholic context. The Irish shamrock, the German Christmas tree we accept as just "European" . Why not the Aztec and Mayan mask? In the twenty-first century, we still think of that blend of Germans, Celtic, Slavic, Roman and Jewish traditions as simply "Western" Mexico -- with its non-European roots -- has customs and traditions that owe nothing to Europe, but are are perfectly good Catholic practice. The Mexican Church, from the beginning, recognized the power of indigenous art and culture. And, Catholic Europe and Pre-Columbian Mexico both knew of Warrior Priests. The masked hero -- in a symbolic fight against evil -- is simply Mexican. What made Fray Tormento unique -- and something far deeper than the inspiration for a light-weight comedy is the moral dimension of his art -- behind the mask (and the Church has always accepted symbol and ritual as a means of forming religious virtue) the priest was doing what a priest should do -- acts of Charity, done anonomously. Father Gutierrez' personal story is an amazing one. Born in Tepito (Mexico City's breeding ground for great wrestlers, boxers and gangsters), he was a teenage drug addict, who in recovery joined an order of teaching priests. He was trained in Rome and, upon return to Mexico, became a professor of Philosophy. Informally helping out homeless kids in Veracruz led to his decision to leave his teaching post (and his order) to become a simple diocesan priest managing a home for abandoned children: Soon after his last professional appearance in 2005, An article in El Universal (translated here) retold the story of the amazing Fray Tormenta's unlikely mission:

"Money was always running out. No child was ever turned away, even when I had no idea where the next meal ould come from." "I became a professional wrestler because I had a cause. If it weren't for my children, there would have been no reason to fight," he explains. Like most poor boys who dream of becoming wrestling champions, Father Sergio thought he would earn millions if he became a prizefighter. He endured dislocated arms, a broken nose, three cracked ribs and several mangled fingers, but never made a fortune, in spite of a career that took him to Japan 14 times and to the US 70 times. ... It was easy to conceal his true identity. Mexico, he says, is a country of masks. "Whether out of fear or self-protection, we rarely present our true face to the world. Mexicans are secretive by nature. Our formality is a shield against scrutiny. We use masks all the time."
Even after his accidental "outing" (a fellow Luchador attending a Sunday Mass said by Padre Guiterrez recognized Fray Tormenta, he continued his unusual preaching/charity at Arena Mexico until diabetes forced him to retire in 2005 at the age of 53. At his emotional farewell benefit performance, he said: "Life is but a brief masquerade. It teaches us to laugh with tears in our eyes, and to conceal our sorrow with laughter."

Monday, June 05, 2006

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The "Green Wall" -- eco-friendly border security...

Given his track record for misunderstanding and bad information, anything coming from Mark Stevenson should be taken with a grain of salt... but this looks promising Mexico creates nature reserve to discourage illegal crossings MARK STEVENSON Associated Press MEXICO CITY - Mexico is creating an environmental reserve about 30 feet wide and 600 miles long on the Texas border, a "green wall" to protect the Rio Grande from the roads and staging areas that smugglers use to ferry drugs and migrants across the frontier. Much of this border zone is remote and inhospitable - generally too rough to hike through unless you're a black bear or a pronghorn sheep, species that have flourished in the area's deserts and mountains. And that's the way Mexico wants to keep it. While the proposed Rio Bravo del Norte Natural Monument is only about 30 feet wide, it will connect two large protected areas south of the river. When a third nature reserve, known as Ocampo, is created this year, the protected areas in Mexico will form a "wall" of millions of acres of wilderness, matching Texas' Big Bend parks foot-by-foot along the border. "This stretch of border is the safest one we have. It's safe because it has wilderness on both sides," said Carlos Manterrola, who heads the environmental group Unidos Para la Conservacion. Big Bend National Park has had some problems with migrant and drug trafficking, but superintendent John King says extending protected areas on either side of the border will likely keep the problem from getting worse. "When you have a roadless area, you make it more difficult for these activities to happen," King said. The strip protects a much longer stretch of riverbank, from just downstream of the Texas border town of Presidio to the outskirts of Laredo, Texas, raising the possibility of still larger reserves that will serve as biological corridors, encouraging four-footed traffic but making it exceedingly difficult for humans to pass. In other border areas where U.S. reserves aren't fully matched in Mexico - such as Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument - primitive roads and ramshackle hamlets have sprung up on the Mexican side to provide supplies and staging areas to illegal border crossers. They have then overrun U.S. wilderness areas. As the U.S. puts up more fencing near cities and popular crossing zones, migrants will likely be looking for new routes in remote areas. That happened with the Mexican hamlet of Las Chepas, which became a hub for undocumented border crossers. The problem got so bad that Mexican authorities - at the urging of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson - bulldozed 31 buildings to discourage them from being used as a smuggling haven. Now, Mexico is working on yet another "mirror" border reserve, to be announced this summer in an area known as the Janos grasslands, roughly west of Las Chepas and across from the Alamo Hueco Mountains and Big Hatchet Mountains Wilderness areas in New Mexico's boot heel region. Law enforcement is a problem at many Mexican parks, but if well policed, the 1.2 million acres of the proposed Janos wilderness area could not only protect one of the largest prairie dog populations in North America, but also present a natural barrier to smugglers moving deeper into the wild as border security tightens. Mexican ranchers and environmentalists applauded the Rio Bravo del Norte proposal, which was published Monday, starting a 30-day comment period. Along with the Ocampo wilderness, it will protect several pine- and oak-clad mountains often described as "sky islands," temperate mountaintop enclaves divided by seas of heat-seared desert or grassland. "This would close the circle," said Jesus Armando Verduzco, a 73-year-old ranch owner from Ocampo. "Perhaps later, we could do a bit of hunting, eco-tourism, preserve it for humanity." Some environmentalists say this policy of establishing nature preserves along the border could be a more effective alternative to the walls and "smart" fences being pondered in Congress. "The whole idea that people are coming up through wilderness and roadless areas, and that's simply not the case," said David Hodges, policy director of the Sky Island Alliance. "People have a tendency to stay near roads, because they don't get lost and that's where they get picked up. ... It would be disastrous to put roads through these areas."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

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"Deadwood" and the Juarez Feminicidas

The AP Spanish edition noted the passing of Abdel Latif Sharif last Thursday. Sharif has been in prison since 1996 for one murder, and was suspected of anywhere between 10 and 30 of the "Juarez Feminicides" . In 1996, when he received 30 years for murdering a 17 year old girl, there was relief that the Juarez "lady-killer" had been caught. At the time, it was almost believable that the Egyptian immigant was a serial killer -- make that THE serial killer -- responsible for the crimes. Another 100 or so murders later, (350 women in all, over the last 14 years according to some estimates) despite federal investigations assisted by FBI agents, the Surete and Interpol advisors, and Argentinian and European forensics experts -- and a series of special prosecutors, there still is no particular suspect, and no one theory. Just lines of speculation. The only thing for certain is that Abdel Latif Sharif might have been responsible for SOME murders (when he was arrested, he was accused of 30 of them -- never proven, and many believed he was too perfect a "perp" -- a foreigner with some peculiar sexual "perversions" to begin with). And he confessed -- for whatever that's worth given the bad habit the Chihuahua State Police had then (and all too often still do) of gathering questionable confessions. Sharif's death is not suspicious -- he had a serious heart condition, high blood pressure and severe depression (according to one report, his lawyer said he died of sadness, having been abandoned by his family back in Egypt). Still, anything about the Juarez Feminicides is suspect. Or, is it much simpler than we think...? Tonight, I was watching a DVD of the American TV series, "Deadwood". It's a strange western, violent and poetic at the same time. What made me think of Abdel Latif Sharif was how casually murder and violence was in a boom town like Deadwood South Dakota in the 1880s. Or in present day Juarez. Officially, Juarez has a population of 1.3 million, but no one seems to know for sure. It's not a city... it's a giant Deadwood, where a job -- any job -- is the gold that lures the ambitious and the desperate. And, again like the wild west, it's a magnet for the crazed, the misfit and the psychotic. In the TV mining camp, even "respectable" women are on their own, and openly abused, though Victorian chivalry provides some protection. The murder victims in Juarez -- mostly young, single working class girls and women -- live in a post-Victorian era, and, though many came from more traditional parts of Mexico, are on their own in a rough open town. Perhaps it's not a serial killer, "thrill kill cults," rampant sexism, anti-union death squads, crazed police officers .... or any combination of these. Maybe it's just the situation. Maybe the murder rate is "normal" for an abnormal last-chance hard-luck boom town where the real population is significantly more than the officially recognized 1.3 million, and where transients of all kinds -- and of all kinds of psychosocial kinks -- change the dynamic from day to day. MAYBE... violence and casual murder is the "norm" in any lawless community in transition -- whether the community is a gold rush mining camp (like in Deadwood), or a giant NAFTA spawned work camp, like Juarez, both brutal places where the brutality against the individual is only matched by the brutality by which outsiders (the State and the San Francisco mining interets in "Deadwood"; "maquilladora" plants and foreign corporate interests in Juarez) bring "civilazation to a place.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

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Fred Reed on Mexico today

I think that the Mexico of today is confused with the Mexico of fifty years ago. For example, a clear gradient exists in health between the old and the young. Men of fifty or more often look as if they had spent their lives carrying anvils across the desert with nothing to eat. They are arthritic. They walk painfully. They are just plain wore out, as we say in Alabama. They make for picturesque postcards, but bear little resemblance to today’s Mexicans. The young appear as lithe and healthy as those of their age anywhere, and show no signs of wearing out beyond the normal effects of age. I don’t know the average quality or quantity of dental care, but they seem to have their teeth, which appear healthy. (I say “seem to” and “appear” because I don’t carry dental picks and a mirror, but when all visible teeth are white and where they ought to be, things can’t be but so bad.)
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My eccentric opinion of "Sub-Comandante Marcos"

... is that he's only useful to the Mexican right and to PAN. Apparently, I'm not alone in thinking this (Rodolfo Soriano Nuñez writes about this in his political science blog, "Mexico Desde Fuera"). I don't pretend to Professor Soriano's learning, nor am I a rigorous student of this matter. My arguments are simple:
  • Indigenism, by definition is reactionary. These are people fighting to preserve "traditional values" -- which may be of real value, but are not necessarily so. Traditionalists don't like change -- everyone likes to gloss over the fact that Maximiliano's biggest supporters were traditional indigenous groups (who felt threatened by the social and economic values of an unknown, untried modern state), as were the Cristeros (which was cynically exploited by the right and William F. Buckley Sr -- the Texas oil man who was always looking for a way to force the U.S. to intervene in the 1920s). Everyone forgets that Emiliano Zapata's family had backed Maximilanio during the French Intervention.
  • ELZN is quite right in seeing "globalization" as a threat, and their critique is quite cogent -- and probably correct. However, beyond vague and romantic notions of a return to the land and self-sustaining communes, they don't offer much to a modern urban country like Mexico. They are no threat to the "powers that be" -- nor, do I think, do they intend to be.
  • I've noticed that ELZN actions are never directed against PAN. The original uprising was against the PRI... and the Atenco actions seemed more designed to discredit AMLO and PRD than they were designed to accomplish anything substantial.

There's nothing particularly mysterious, about "Marcos". I think what happens is that European and North American admirers want to romanticize Rafael Sebastián Guillén as Zorro. Sure, he wears a mask. Some say he's leading a rebellion against cruel oppressors.

A few -- like the writer of the Wikipedia article on him can't quite bring themselves to accept that he's not a man of mystery, nor -- am I sure -- is anything more than the PR spokesman for the ELZN. How much power he has in the organization -- and whether that organization is not being manipulated by the right has never been clear to me.

If "Marcos" is in the tradition of any Mexican "masked hero" it's more in the tradition of Rudy Guzman -- el Santo (about whom the Wikipedia has a very good article indeed!). Like Guzman, Guillín accepts his image (we're told Rudy Guzman never even went to the market without donning his mask -- and was certainly never photographed without it -- he was buried wearing it). In Mexico, it's understood. The masses need a hero, a champion against evil forces from the outside. While in the 19th century, it was the otherwise very silly and plainly insane Maximilio who filled that role, in the media-saavy 21st century, it's a hero who can appeal to pop culture (Marcos himself once compared himself to another Mexican pop icon -- Speedy Gonzales). El Santo fought space aliens, vampire women and Zacatecan werewolves. Marcos fights ... what I'm not sure. And to whos ultimate benefit I'm even more unsure.

Friday, June 02, 2006

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Just Say No... an update from the war on drugs

The body of presumed narco Armando González Avilés, kidnapped last Wednesday in Acapulco, was found yesterday, with a note pinned to his body, reading "SAY NO TO VIOLENCE." (ElUniversal, 02-Junio-2006) No comment!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

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¡FUTBOL! -- all the rest is secondary

"Soccer is first. The craziness surrounding soccer is second. Then there is the rest of the world" (Carlos Monsivias, Mexican author, critic, social commentator, all round intellectual and nerd, quoted in Gulfnews of Dubai) There was a posting on the "Lonely Planet Thorn Tree" message board the other day asking where in Mexico one could watch the World Cup on wide-screen TV. The answer is ... anywhere there is a wide-screen TV. If you're not committed to wide-screen, you'll be able to watch it... anywhere. Every taco stand, newsvendor, "temporary" puesto along the street will have a portable TV turned to the matches. Even the Virgin of Guadelupe, or Cardinal Rivera, on her behalf, gets in on the action. The Basilica received an autographed futbol to add to its collection of retablos: In the 2002 World Cup (in Korea), the morning Mexico beat Italy, I was teaching a "Business English" course at General Electric's headquarters in Polanco. According to the schedule, I had a training film to show, and the main conference room reserved. Given the time difference between Mexico City and Seoul, the games were shown very, very early in the morning. When I arrived at 7:30 AM for my 8:00 AM class, I discovered the conference room was in use -- everyone from the CEO to the cleaning ladies were jammed into that conference room -- no way there'd be a dull film on business meeting etiquitte. MEXICAN ETIQUITTE, por supesto, meant everyone brought "snacks" -- i.e., enough tacos, tortilla, tamales, chips and refrescos to feed the Mexican Army. We did, in a way, have an English class. The Scotsman who taught another class at the same time taught the names of field positions in English and I, thanks to having attended a Catholic high school in a town where you picked your parish by ethnicity -- knew plenty of rude English words for Italians. The students -- and the CEO, and the cleaning ladies -- at least got some kind of education that morning. As soon as the game ended, there was a Presidential Address -- Don Chente and Martita were filmed in their living room (you could see the nachos and empty beer bottles on their coffee table) congratulating the team (of course) and... with a wink and a nudge... giving the disappointing news that it was a work day, not a national holiday. It might as well have been. The other stuff (i.e. work, life, politics) somehow has to adjust... Firms worry World Cup will affect productivity:
During the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, absenteeism was over 10 percent. The games in this year´s tournament, which starts on June 9 and is being held in Germany, will be broadcast between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. - prime work hours. ... "Since the last World Cup, a lot of companies, taking into account that their workers love their team and religiously follow futbol, negotiated with unions to make sure workers came in at the most important times" said Jorge Monteagudo, head of the company AON Consulting.... "Thousands of Mexicans are sick of politics and the World Cup will be an important distraction."
Monsters and Critics (a U.K site that seems to think Mexico is in South America) has a DPA wire report on how the presidential campaigns are bowing to reality:
Because Mexicans are crazy about football, the floodlights currently are aimed at the forthcoming events in Germany far more intensely than they are on political rallies and other events featuring candidates. ... So it is no surprise that the candidates are leaning into the spotlight beamed at Mexico's World Cup team to grasp some of the limelight. Mexico's World Cup experience in Germany is fitting more frequently into political strategies for taking power in Mexico. ... While campaigning, [Roberto] Madrazo {PRI-PVEM] passes out little calendars containing shortened names of the locations where matches will be played - because the entire German name would be a tongue twister for a Mexican. All matches, times and groups are listed from Munich to Berlin. And there is a card for keeping track of tournament results. The slogan of the PRI is printed across the top: Alliance for Mexico. The former mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, who had steadily led the polls for more than a year, now is speaking even more about football. ...Recently, his handlers switched to a television spot showing AMLO with football scenes in the background. The words on the bottom of the image say: 'Andreas Manuel, Mexico is your team'. ... 'We cannot ignore that Mexico through and through is a football country,' said a PAN strategist.
AMLO may have something of a problem, given that he's a baseball guy. Rafael Guillien, aka Sub-Commandante Marcos, who is -- of course -- running "the other campaign" (meaning the ignored masses should ignore the elections -- though it looks more like "Marcos" is the one being ignored) is a futbol kinda guy. He also recognizes (in a Rebeldia interview reprinted in NarcoNews) that making it to the semi-finals is the REAL CAMPAIGN:
There is no country up above colliding with either of those realities. In the Mexico of above, the country above, there is only simulation. A simulation that is betting everything on July 2nd and shouts at the mirror, “We are modern! We are modern!” Although the flesh that it has is rotting. Although this is the same story as before: 1968, all the stories of repression, those that are hanging like pieces of rotting meat in the face of what is being seen here. On the other hand, there is the soccer championship, that yes, has an impact below, but it begins and then it ends the same as July 2nd.
Meanwhile... the Associated Press reports Fox's press secretary, Ruben Agular, is pleading with his countrymen to at least pay attention to the campaign:
President Vicente Fox's spokesman on Tuesday urged voters in soccer-crazy Mexico to not let the upcoming World Cup distract them from the presidential elections in July. Spokesman Ruben Aguilar called on citizens to maintain “a measure of civility” and community spirit once the games begin June 9, just three weeks before the elections. Mexico's first game is on June 11, against Iran. ... Ranked sixth internationally, Mexico opens play June 11 against Iran. Pollsters say all three major presidential candidates already have trouble getting Mexicans to care about them – and that sharing the national stage with soccer will only make things tougher in the final weeks before the July 2 vote. There are no games scheduled on election day, although two quarter-final games are scheduled for election eve.
What election?