Tuesday, October 31, 2006

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Season of the Spirits....

The following article isn't meant to creep anyone out. It's a description of a serious annual celebration in Mexico. Though it's called a "celebration", it's not a fun celebration along the lines of Carnaval. It's a highly ritualized tradition which reinforces the ties that bind generations together. Some of the practices may seem very strange to those of us who have completely differing views of death than most Mexicans. Try to keep an open mind as you read on.

The Day of the Dead is being celebrated by the people in Mexico. Nov 1 and Nov 2 are the days when Mexicans pay tribute to their relatives and friends who are no longer living. Traditions vary from region to region, but in general, it's a time when the living make visits to the graves in honor of their dead family members. Some make altars in their homes and some take their elaborate altars directly to the panteons (cemeteries) . Arches are decorated with marigold pedals and ofrendas of homemade breads, candies (skull shaped), tamales, fruits, photographs of the dead, and calaveras (skeletons/skulls) etc. are displayed on makeshift altars under the arches. Candles or resin lamps are lit to guide the spirits along the path to the altar. The first night is celebrated for the spirits of the dead children and the second night for the spirits of the departed adults. It is believed that once or twice a year, the spirits are allowed to travel back to their families for an evening of eating, singing and drinking. It is a religious and spiritual ritual that dates back to the pre-Hispanic era.

Poet laureate Octavio Paz wrote that the Mexican does not fear death but "chases after it, mocks it, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is his favorite plaything and his most lasting love."

In some parts of Mexico (Michoacan for instance), family members spend the whole night in the cemetery whereas in other regions, the rituals are practiced more privately in the home. There is a town in the Yucatan called Pomuch which goes much further in their rituals. Pomuch is a Mayan town (7,800 pop.) which is about 7 miles outside the town of Tenabo in the state of Campeche. In this town and a few others through the area, Mayans exhume the bones of their loved-ones and ritualistically cleanse their bones with soft cloths or small brushes in preparation for the Day of the Dead celebration. It is not macabe or ghoulish. Family members carry out the tasks with love and respect. Here is The tale of the Pomuch Mayan ritual as reported by Greg Brosnan (Reuters)

POMUCH, Mexico (Reuters) - Eighty-three-year-old Maya Indian Cenorio Colli gazed lovingly at his wife's long brown hair and recalled how carefully she combed it when she was still alive. Then he went back to cleaning her skull and every bone she left behind. Grieving Maya Indians in a sweltering village deep in the limestone flatlands of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula painstakingly cleaned the remains of their late loved ones on Monday during a unique annual family reunion with the dead. In a tradition dating back centuries, families in Pomuch exhume their dead after three years in the grave and transfer their dried bones and skulls -- often with hair attached -- to wooden crates on permanent display in open funeral niches. Every subsequent year in a two-day ritual preceding the November 1 and November 2 Day of the Dead festival, families gather at the brightly painted tombs to replace the boxes' embroidered cloth linings and give the remains themselves a spruce up. The festival brings back floods of painful memories for mourning kin struggling with the loss of life companions. "I was talking to her," Colli, a widower of nine years, recalled as he lifted his dead wife Concepcion's brittle pelvis from a large pile of bones and dusted it off with a cloth. "She lowered her head and that was it." But the retired farm hand said he took solace from knowing she was at peace. "I feel happy because she died happy." THE NEXT WORLD According to Mayan beliefs, death is a stage in life in which the deceased evolve into higher, more spiritual beings. In Pomuch, the dead are believed to be "purified" during the first three years after their death. They are then exhumed and welcomed back as highly respected members of extended families in which past and present generations merge. Old women in colourfully patterned traditional dresses chattered in the Mayan language on Monday as they fussed over the bones of long lost mothers and the skulls of babies who barely lived a day. Marta Helena Chipool, 35, lovingly cleaned the remains of a mother-in-law she never met and the twin girls who died with her 40 years ago in childbirth. "You go to the cemetery and you can see your dead sister, mother and father and talk to them," said Lazaro Tuz, an anthropologist from Pomuch who has spent years documenting the ritual. "This keeps the family together." "The dead person is no longer dead because you can touch him," he said. "She is not dead to me, she lives in my heart," Maria Euan, a 52-year-old woman with braids and bright cross-stich flowers spread across her white blouse, as she and her husband arranged her dead mother's bone. "This is her party." The origins of the ritual, which is celebrated almost exclusively in Pomuch, are murky, and it is unclear whether the practice predates the Spanish conquest of Latin America. One theory suggests that villagers, faced with an overflowing cemetery, may have begun digging up their dead for sanitary reasons. Some fear the tradition is dying out as Pomuch's youth, increasingly hooked on video games, action films and racy reggaeton music, embrace modern culture. According to village folklore, the spirit of a Pomuch native can become angry and wonder lost through the streets if proper care is not taken of his or her remains. Martin de Porras cleaned his dead father's thigh bone, still bearing the shiny metal prosthetic ball joint that made his last months after a road accident misery, and wondered whether his children would do the same for him. "I can't make them do it," he said. "But if they don't, I don't know where I'm going to end up." Another link to a story about the Pomuch D.O.D. ritual : Mayans celebrate Day of the Dead

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Oaxaca... from the web, not from me

Newscaster Ana Maria Salazar (writing in English) gives a recap of the Oaxaca news in Mexico Today. Diego Enrique Orsino, in the English-language Narco News, manages to quote a local Oaxacan mayor DEFENDING the killers in Oaxaca as " police acting in legitimate defense against the threat of an occupation of City Hall"... confirming my belief that vilence in Oaxaca has been orchestrated by the State, not by the APPO. Jornada reports that the Senate has unanamously voted to recommend that Ulises Ruiz "separate himself" from the State Governorship... and other words, quit before he's fired. This was the key demand of the protests all along. Strange at it may sound.. it looks like the protesters have won. Still... there are other demands to be met, and Ruiz has yet to formally step aside... Loureds Garcia Novarro reports for *English language) National Public Radio that more protests are expected today. Alfredo Narváez Lozano, in his Spanish-language blog, "citrius64", posts a letter today asking more unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable questions about Oaxaca. (AP photo from Jornada)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

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"Mark in Mexico" and the shooting...

"Mark in Mexico," despite his extreme rightist views (his links are to U.S. websites concerned with the more reactionary wing of the Republican Party, and have little, or nothing, to do with Mexico... other than maybe those to various anti-immigration writers, like Michelle Malkin or the odious racist Vox Day) does get some good photos from Oaxaca. He claims he has a "source" who slips him the photos before they get to Notimex... which may be true... but, if so, then they were intended for public distribution. That secret source would also SEEM to work against Mark's claim that these photos were taken by Will Bradley Roland (opr "Bradly Will")... unless Mark is claiming to be in possession of evidence in a criminal case with international reprecussions. Which I don't think he is. Both photos from "Mark in Mexico" (UPDATE: 3:30 AM -- yeah, I'm up too late)... the photos are by Raúl Estrella of El Universal, and I've changed the links from Mark's page to those in El Universal. Make of it what you will.) Mark tries, valiantly, to claim that the APPO is responsible for the shooting ... and, he darkly hints, there was something behind the fact that the media was there The possibility that the media were the target of the shooters hasn't crossed his mind, I guess. Mark undercuts his own suggestions... and opens up new lines of inquiry (and a real suspicion that the shooters were indeed, either PRI operatives or police) when he writes (at 10:48 Friday)
Then an APPO operative begins backing a large dumptruck down the street towards the shooters with a contingent of about 20 using the truck for cover. However, the shooters continue moving forward and the dump truck driver gets cold feet, throws the truck into a forward gear and accelerates back towards his own people. At this point everybody started running like hell to both avoid getting shot and run over by the dumptruck...
The newsman on Televisa said that the Oaxacan authorities had not been able to identify the shooters. That would mean that they are not holed up in the Municipal Palace as was being reported earlier.

[Or, it could mean the Oaxacan authorities are lying... what a shocking concept]

The Televisa newscaster showed his film several times and pointed out that the shooters appeared to have arrived and then waited some distance away. Televisa had cameras both behind and in front of the shooters. They are shown looking back over their shoulders several times and then suddenly moving forward in concert. The newscaster said that this indicated that they were awaiting a command from someone. He may or may not be right about that. It is apparent that two of the shooters move forward simultaneously as though on command.
[Mark refers again and again to the APPO as a "mob" or "neanderthals"... if he's right, they wouldn't show this kind of discipline. I still say police]
The TV Azteca newscaster has just interviewed Governor Ruiz Ortiz live on the air. He pointedly asked the governor, "Were those your men who did the shooting?" The governor replied that no, all of the state's policemen are confined to their barracks and have been for a month to avoid just such a confrontation and subsequent result. He blamed the shooting on pro APPO forces vs con APPO forces and said that it was a result of the environment of general lawlessness that exists today in Oaxaca. He clearly blames APPO for all of the violence just as APPO blames the governor for it all.
Mark in Mexico often performs a valuable service, and some of his reporage has been surpurb. I've recommended it before. I may recommend it again (and I always have rcommended his photos -- whatever the source). But, something is off -- beyond the usual WND or FOX NEWS style spin about this story.

Friday, October 27, 2006

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U.S. journalist killed in Oaxaca... state police believed responsible.

The Reuters-AP post below does not make this clear:
OAXACA, Mexico (Reuters) - Gunmen opened fire on protesters in Mexico's colonial city of Oaxaca on Friday, killing a U.S. journalist and wounding several people at road blocks set up by leftists pushing to topple a state governor. Will Bradley Roland, a cameraman working with Indymedia New York, was shot in the chest and died before reaching the hospital, the independent news group said on its Web site. Emergency services said the journalist died after being shot in the torso in one of two shootouts in the city. Nine people, mostly protesters, have been killed in a conflict that began in Oaxaca state five months ago, when striking teachers and leftist activists occupied much of the state capital, a popular tourist destination. Red Cross officials said several people were wounded in the shootings on Friday. A Reuters photographer said protesters came under fire near barricades on the edge of the city, famous for its colonial architecture, thriving arts scene and indigenous culture. This week, striking teachers voted to return to classes but many protesters say they will not back down until state Gov. Ulises Ruiz is ousted. Critics accuse Ruiz of corruption and repressive tactics against dissenters, whose roadblocks have driven tourism from the city and hurt business. President Vicente Fox has vowed to end the conflict before he leaves office on December 1. but negotiations to find a peaceful way out have so far failed.
A Milenio reporter, Oswaldo Ramírez, was also wounded. Milenio is NOT a leftist paper... if anything, it's considered independent conservative. Milenio reports that the shots came from supporters of Ulises Ruiz, or from the State Police. Jornada quotes APPO spokesman Flavio Sosa, as calling for immediate Federal intervention after the attack. The reporters were filming APPO barricades in the City, and were allegedly attacked by gunmen working for the PRI-ista alcade. "We only have stones against their firearms," Sosa was quoted as saying. While the "usual suspects" on the right are trying to spin this as more evidence of "anarchy," a sensible Oxacan resident points out that in the last 5 months, with no functional police department, there have been very few deaths. The AP shows the death toll at 9, but by my count, there have been only 4 (including Will Roland) tied to the protests -- and only one death can be possibly laid to APPO supporters. Another Oaxacan points out that "porros" (not football fan clubs, but bands of either plainclothes police or hired thugs in the pay of the authorities) have been active, and are acting as "agentes provacateurs." Most Oaxacans remain calm, and ... as everyone who lives there has told me... this was no where near any tourist activities. And, this is terrible to say, but I though of "Under Fire," the 1983 Hollywood film about foreign jorunalists in the Nicaraguan Civil War. The film gives the impression that the murder of a U.S. journalist by government forces, witnessed -- and photographed by a U.S. journalist, is what ended the Somoza dictatorship. As the foreign reporters are watching the newscast about the shooting... and the collapse of the dictatorship, a Nicaraguan woman says, "Thirty years of civil war for what? Maybe we should have shot a gringo years ago." I don't know. Oaxaca was Benito Juarez' hometown... and Benito's great contribution to world affairs was the very simple idea that countries should stay out of each other's business, unless they are asked. The U.S. has no reason, or rationale, to be involved here. On the other hand, we are supposedly supporting democracy in places like Ukraine or Lebanon... or -- according to some -- Iraq. But, when our next-door neighbors are demanding democracy, we ignore it, preferring to see it as an affront to our right to be tourists, to see a colorful, dirt-poor state. I happen to think democracy is important... and we should pay attention when the people rebel against incompetent, corrupt, and dubiously elected leaders, such as Ulises Ruiz... Perhaps that's too close to home. I just wish it wasn't necessary to have "one of ours" die before we get the message.
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The Mennonites in Mexico

Someone on Lonely Planet brought up the subject of the Mennonites living in Mexico. Since one of my favorite uncles used to be a practicing Mennonite in Northern Indiana, and since I'm always interested in the subcultures who have settled in Mex, I've decided to write a bit about them. Menonas (Mennonites) are a conservative Christian religious group which originally chose to live in communities which shun secular life. After being pushed out of Europe and Russia, they scattered to Northern Africa, U.S., Canada, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, and to Belize, etc. seeking religious freedom. The Mennonites pledge their allegiance to a higher power (God) and steadfastly refuse to pledge allegiance to a nation. They are pacifists and will not fight in wars. They still speak in low German (Plautdeitsch), which is an old unwritten language. It is the issue of refusal to join the military that often causes the most friction in the countries they reside in. Migration map from 1500's to present When Canadian laws changed, Mennonites, who refused to send their children to government schools, faced imprisonment. Mononas insist on educating the children in their own private schools. The strict rules of the Mennonite community prohibited conscription into the Canadian armies and the teaching of English. The believers didn't want to interact with "outsiders" and rejected modern technology (electricity, automobiles, telephones, etc). So in 1921, six elders left Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada for Mexico. Long story short, the exodus began in 1922 for many Mennonites to found two main communities near Chihuahua, Mexico. The government of Mexico signed an agreement with them allowing for religious freedom that complied with the groups needs. Today, there are approximately 65,000 Menonas residing in these two communities. They dress in stark contrast to their fellow Mexicans. The men wear denim overalls or jeans with suspenders and flannel shirts, and straw hats with brims. Some of the women wear white mesh bonnets, full, modest blouses, and full pleated skirts. Inter-marriages are rare, so the Mennonites still retain their European appearance. Women spend most of their time inside the community, and most do not even speak Spanish.... men have more interaction with "outsiders", and most do speak some Spanish... but little or no English. It's a patriarchal society with work duties divided along gender lines. Bet I can guess who has diaper duty. Today, you can spot differences between the two Mennonite communities which are a mere 40 miles apart near the town of Cuauhtemoc (west of Chihuahua). Both are located in the vast arid desert. El Sabinal maintains strict and pious lives in accordance with Biblical teachings. Radio, television, music, autos and electricity are taboo. In the eyes of these Mennonites, they represent the worldly consumer society. Tractors may be used to plow the fields, but they may not use rubber tires on them as they aren't allowed for transportation. The second community of El Capulin has recently opened itself up to the outside world and has begun to embrace technical innovations. Teenaged boys wear baseball caps and Levis. The group may use cars, listen to the radio, ect. The use/abuse of alcohol is creeping into community and has caused a rise in crime and is of great concern to members. When I've spent time in Juarez, Mexico, I've seen groups of these Cuauhtemoc Mennonites selling their popular cheese to restaurants and to the public. That didn't surprise me, but what did, was that I witnessed them being picked up around 4:00pm by 'brothers' driving shiny new passenger vans. No more horse and buggy for the more "opened ones". The Cuauhtemoc based Mennonites still stay connected with their Canadian groups and often make treks back to their origins. Although some men take menial jobs outside their communities, most families support themselves by farming the land. During periods of droughts, the Canadian brethren give their Mexican brothers financial help to get their families through the rough periods. It seems that the people are getting more exposure to the outside in the larger Mexican cities and it's bringing in problems that the Mennonites have not faced in the past. For US police forces, the entry point into the labyrinth of today's Mennonite drug network came via a grandfather named Cornelius Banman. It was November 23, 1989, and the Old Colony Mennonite sat in an aging pickup truck that inched towards a busy US border crossing in El Paso, Texas. Banman had pocketed several thousand dollars to deliver a load of Mennonite-made furniture from Cuauhtemoc to Winkler, Man. He had made the long, monotonous journey often. This time, however, he was in for a surprise. A drug-sniffing dog was in another lineup when it suddenly charged towards Banman's vehicle, barking hysterically and furiously pawing the ground beneath his truck. When startled agents tore into the furniture, they discovered over 100 kilograms of marijuana 'bricks' hidden in the false bottoms of a few couches. The estimated street value of the haul was $1.5 million. A 52-year old farmer who attended church regularly with his wife and children in Winkler, Banman was a 'mule' paid to courier drugs. Soon, a trickle of Mennonite mules holding dual Canadian-Mexican citizenship would be detained by US border agents who realized they were encountering an unlikely new breed of drug smuggler. By the late 1990's, a fifth of the marijuana sold on the streets of Canada could be traced back to Mennonite drug kingpins holed up in Mexico. The slew of arrests did little to deter a steady strean of willing new recruits from teenagers to the elderly. And as confidence in the smuggling apparatus grew, so did the quantity and size of shipments. Source: Mexico Symposium What can I say??? There are other Mennonite communities established near the town of Hopelchen in the state of Campeche, some outside Merida, in Chiapas, and in the suburbs of Mexico, City. As far as I know the group in Hopelchen is just farming. I drove down the dirt roads to their community a few years ago while on my way to the city of Campeche. The farmhouses and barns looked just like the ones I'd seen in Northern Indiana.... white, large and well-kempt. It's saddens me to think that some of the groups are breaking down because of the same addictions and greed that afflict the rest of society, but it's probably inevitable. I don't know where these other communities came from before settling in Mexico or when they arrived. I do know that each has their own rules regarding acceptance of the things in the secular world. Some groups are stricter/ more traditional than others. I have seen some Mennonite "tourists" in Merida who were taking in the city sites with their families. They did dress in their Prussian-influenced duds and were speaking in low-German, but I didn't follow them around to see if they rode back home in a horse drawn wagon or in a Ford stationwagon. I've spoken with indigenous Mayan mothers in the Yucatan who have lamented to me that their young teens insist on dressing in trendy clothes rather than traditional clothing and that they are concerned about losing their kids to big city ways, too. With the constant blurring of cultural boundaries happening at such a rapid pace, it's nearly impossible to hold onto old traditional ways of living. Once the people, who maintained an isolated existance, began interacting with the "outsiders" their lifestyles are at risk of being forever altered in positive and negative ways. This is why one Mennonite community has sequestered itself deep into the jungle in Brazil.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

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Don't fence me in!

From "Think Progress": Bowing to anti-immigration hardliners in the House, President Bush today held a White House ceremony celebrating the signing of the “Secure Fence Act.” Bush told reporters, “The bill authorizes the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along our southern border.” Bush is right, the bill does “authorize” the constrution of a new fence. But that doesn’t mean the bill pays for it. Bender's Immigration Daily has several articles on the (not so) Great Wall of Texas... from American Jurist, the Houston Chronicle and elsewhere.
I had hoped that the President’s time in Texas and experience with Mexicans would lead to more meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform, not just the jingoistic resort to this bandaid. When permanent residents have more than a decade-long wait to reunite with their families, as Mexicans, Filipinos, and others do (due to the per-country limitations and the backlogs), and when federal laws have squeezed out virtually all the ways that Mexicans can legally come to the US, it is little wonder that so many enter without inspection. Reinstating the hated bracero “guest-worker” program will hardly scratch the surface, and such initiatives could only work if they were coupled fairly with more nuanced naturalization and legalization efforts.

Monday, October 23, 2006

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Don Quixote: Mexican crime fighter... for real!

The ingenious hidalgo fought giants, demons and Moors in 17th century Spain without much success, but the Man of La Mancha is back ... and enjoying more success fighting car thieves, narcos and public attitudes in Mexico. No Mexican policeman's lot is a happy one -- a garbage man gets more respect. During the Revolution Day Parade in Mexico City, the crowd claps and cheers for the garbage trucks. The police cars sailed past with sirens blaring... to drown out the boos from the crowd. They couldn't do anything about the propensity of parade-watchers to give them the finger... or "moon" them. Mexican cops are low paid, seen as a necessary evil at best. Where the Mexican solider at least gets three hots and a cot (and a uniform, and some education) in return for taking on a thankless job, "los Esmurfs" (as Mexico City cops were called behind their back, in honor of their blue uniforms) received a salary too low to appeal to anyone capable of better work, and not enough to support a family. What you got were either the "ethically challenged" who could supplement their income, people without families, or alienated from social norms (I've always half-suspected that William S. Burroughs' claims in the 40s of seducing Mexican cops with drugs and sex he talked about in Queer were based in Borroughs' ignorance of Mexico -- gay cops and drug-suing cops were the norm... and they were taking advantage of him, not the other way around). Or, you got bullies who wanted an excuse to carry a gun and exercize some power. Naturally, no one trusts the cops. Mexicans often say, "don't call the police, or the real theives will show up," after a robbery. The situtation has started to change. Mexico City started providing arms and uniforms to the officers, paying them a livable wage and giving them training. And raising the standards. I used to see the results around the the old 1968 Olympics Veleodromo where I used to teach a few mornings a week. The "NEW" cops were younger, healthier and ... wonder of wonders ... were doing their morning workout in the parking lot. Coupled with higher entry requirments, various attempts to foster "esprit de corps" (decent uniforms made a difference... a well-dressed officer isn't going to be sitting around with taco fixin's dripping down his big belly) and some changes making it harder to offer bribes (traffic citations are bank deposit slips and the fines were lowered to reduce the incentive to offer a bribe) were genuine accomplishments during the Lopez Obrador years. The biggest change I saw in Mexico City's police was that the cops got younger and buffer... and it wasn't rare to see well-dressed pretty girls flirt with policemen. Nezahualcóyotl, across the state line from the Federal District (If Mexico is Manhattan, Neza is Jersey City) always had the worst of Metro Mexico. That included city services and, por supuesto, city cops. They had a police chief sentenced to 25 years for narcotics violations, and a random drug test of their department turned up more drug users than upstanding citizens. The city could only do so much to raise salaries and buy uniforms. They were still faced with the lower-qualified police officers. And no respect. In a fascinating experiment, Neza has been creating better cops. Low eduction (many officers don't have more than a secondary school education, and a spotty one at that) suggested sending the officers to school. Besides just giving the officers the equivalent of a GED, the idea is that a better citizen is a better cop. And a better cop will be treated as a citizen. So... besides basic schooling, the officers in Neza are ... reading Quixote as part of their regular shift. Every Spanish speaking person of any accomplishment has read Quixote at least once. Of course they also read Agatha Christie and Ignacio Taibo II (Mexicos one and only socialist detective novelist) and... a lot of things. The Neza cops are reading a book a month on city time. And writing poetry in creative writing classes. And attending art appreciation lectures. And, once in a while, some dance lessons. It sounds bizarre, but apparently it works According to the Herald measurable crime is down. Sociolgists studying the Neza experiment are using auto theft records (something people report, just because their insurance agent requires a police report) show a drop and calls to the police are up. Anecodotal evidence suggests people call the cops because they expect them to respond -- and not steal something. Not an impossible dream ...
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Tlatelolco -- yes, it was the CIA

This has always been known -- two and a half years ago, I bought a CD from an ambulante on the Mexcio City Metro for five pesos detailing much of what's just "officially" coming to light now. The Jornada program didn't quite say the CIA had suborned President Diaz Ordaz, but hinted at it. The semi-official line was that Luis Echiverria was responsible for the massacre, but when Diaz Ordaz left office, he took the blame himself, shortly afterwards leaving the country as Ambassador to Spain. I don't know how this is going to pan out. Some older Mexican I know fondly remember Diaz Ordaz as the last "good" PRI president. They overlooked the authoritarian facets of his presidency, noting the economic successes and stability of the country. Echiverria, who had a schitzophrenic policy of repressing the left while trying to build a populist image (and rewarding leftists who worked with the administration) destabilized the entire economic and political structure -- leading to the "12 years of misery" that followed. It was only with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas' stolen victory in 1988 (engineered by the CIA?) that the system began to change. The 1994 murder of Luis Donaldo Colosio (backed by ???) finally forced PRI to open up the system, though there's no doubt the system was tilted (with the help of ???) towards PAN, not the left (which tended to meet with an incredible number of fatal accidents in those days, though you only heard in the U.S. about anti-PAN actions from the U.S. sources). Of course... the U.S. couldn't be involved today. Could it? The National Security Archives Project is here. Documents link past presidents to CIA El Universal October 20, 2006
WASHINGTON - Mexico´s president and interior secretary at the time of the 1968 massacre of protesters in Mexico City were both CIA informants and the intelligence they provided had the effect of misleading Washington policymakers about who was responsible for the repression, declassified U.S. documents show. The revelations appeared Wednesday on the web site of the National Security Archive, a Washington-based independent research organization. The group posted more than two dozen declassified documents detailing the CIA´s recruitment of senior Mexican officials over the 1956-1969 period. The highest-placed CIA sources were Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, who served as president of Mexico from 1964-1970, and his eventual successor, Luis Echeverría, who was interior secretary. "Never before had there been official verification, via declassified documents, that the CIA relied on high-level Mexican government officials to provide intelligence reports on political events in that country," Kate Doyle, director of the Archive´s Mexico Project, told EFE. ... The documents shed light on what the CIA knew and did not know about the events of Oct. 2, 1968, in Mexico City, where a student protest ended with a massacre in Tlatelolco Plaza. ... While Mexican authorities put the number killed in Tlatelolco at 39, hundreds are believed to have been slain in the square by members of a government-run paramilitary squad known as the Falcons, which also played a role in other acts of repression during the PRI´s "Dirty War" against leftists, which went on until about 1980. ... In February, the National Security Archive published on its web site a copy of a draft report on the Mexican "Dirty War" that the country´s current conservative government has yet to publish. The initial draft accuses the administrations of Presidents Díaz Ordaz, Echeverría and José López Portillo of committing "crimes against humanity that culminated in massacres, forced disappearances, systematic torture and genocide." Under Mexican law, the term "genocide" can refer to instances of mass murder that fall short of the attempted extermination of an ethnic, racial, religious or other group.

Friday, October 20, 2006

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Et tu, Tabasco? More shady vote counts...

Rene Alberto Lopez, Jornada (my translation)
Villahermosa, Tab(October 18) Reinfoced by riot police, and guarded by 17 PREP police officers, the Citizen's Particiation and Electorial Institute (IEPC in Spanish) of this Gulf state began officially counting votes for the election of governor, municipal presidents and local deputies. As on election day, anti-riot police from the Public Security Secretariat (SSP) surrounded the facility. As a result of a lawsuit filed by the "Coalition for Everyone's Benefit" (PRD-PT-Convergencia), votes for the Centro Municipio, which includes the city of Villahermosa, electoral packets from that district were opened today. The Coaltion expects the eventual triumph of Fernando Mayans Canabal, but numbers the Preliminary Electoral Results Program (PREP) count shows Mayans trailing PRI candidate Evaristo Hernandez, by more than two thousand votes. Mayans Canabal's supporters congregated early this morning outside electorial headquarters demanding the vote by vote count, claiming fraud in the PREP results. Police stood by, but there were no distrurbances at the gathering. The problem was noted when actas (precinct totals) in district 248 failed to tally with the number of votes cast. Coalition representative, Carlos Canabal Ruiz asked for that that package was opened and each vote was counted, against the wishes of the elections officials. Candidate Mayans Canabal, who was prevented from entering the building this morning by the police, alleged that "there are more votes in our favor. We won the election, and are already demonstrating agreeing in advance that the calculations will clear away any doubts." In the municipalities of Cunduacán, Paradise and Centla, where PREP results gave the PRI a narrow advantage over its rivals, coalition candidates are also convinced they won. Nidia Naranjo Cobián, candidate of the coalition, assured that she won, said "I won't let them rob me" of my victory. In the municipality of Jonuta, vote counts confimed that Coalition candidates did win the delegation and mayoral elections. Juan Manuel Focil, PRD state chair, said the coalation candidates will defend their wins, and sue where the losses are extremely close. On the other hand, PRI chair Pedro Gabriel Hidalgo, informed reporters that his party will be opposing narrow defeats in Balancán, Huimanguillo and Centla.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

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wetback mountain

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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"Tear down that wall..." or don't build it -- from a guy who knows what he's talking about

Bob Campbell, Midland (TX) Reporter-Telegram Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev compared the United States' proposed 700-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to the Berlin Wall during a Tuesday visit to Midland. ... "You remember President Reagan standing in Berlin and saying, 'This wall should be torn down,'" said the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "Now the United States seems to be building almost the Wall of China between itself and this other nation with which it has been associated for many decades and has had cooperation and interaction with. "I think what is really needed are ideas and proposals about how to improve that cooperation and work out all of those issues regarding immigration flows. I don't think the U.S. is so weak and so much lacks confidence as not to be able to find a different solution.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

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On a clear day... WOW

This was Mexico City this morning. Jornada photo.
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Good news or not? I donno

President-elect Felipe Calderón named Agustín Carstens, a deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, to head his economic transition team Hard to say if this is good or bad. I have the usual "knee-jerk" distrust of the IMF, and expect a conservative adminstation is going to continue the same economic policies as the previous conservative administration -- which haven't been all bad, though they failed to deal with equality and opportunity as well as they should. Inflation is low, investments are up, but there is concern that too many of the investments (and the jobs for younger and unskilled workers) are headed north. And agricultural policy has been a semi-disaster for the small farmer. At worst, Carstens would continue the old policies, but with more confidence from outside investors. Not bad in itself. What struck me though, were some of his statements, which indicate he may be willing to take measures that are decidedly outside the neo-liberal orthodoxy... the same ones recommended by Carlos Slim and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during his campaign. From today's Herald:
"The market by itself is not sufficient to create an economy that is truly human," Calderón said. "The sensibility and guidance of the state is needed to correct the terrible inequality that exists in our society - Dr. Carstens knows this." The appointment makes Carstens a likely candidate to become finance secretary under Calderón, Chappell Lawson, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said in a telephone interview. "He´s clearly a frontrunner, but these appointments don´t make it a sealed deal," Lawson said. "His name is good for the markets because people know him and trust him." Carstens holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. From 2000 to 2003, he served as deputy finance secretary under Francisco Gil Díaz before taking the third-highest position at the IMF. He has worked as an economist for Mexico´s central bank. ...Carstens, speaking beside Calderón today, said his experience working with underdeveloped economies in Africa, Asia and Central America gave him insight into solving Mexico´s problems. "What Mexico needs is to foment economic growth and alleviate poverty," he said. "These should not be seen as separate goals."
© 2006 Copyright El Universal Online México, S.A. de C.V.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

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La Raza and THE RACE...

In light of the passing of one of the border's greats (posted below), I thought this editorial by R. Daniel Cavazos, publisher of The Brownsville Herald and El Nuevo Heraldo was worth noting -- MEXICANS prefer Formula One races, but hey, in the United States, everybody adjusts...
... The entertainment industry, like nearly every other part of the American private sector, is grooving programs and products that focus on growing Latino populations in this country.Wal-Mart, Target, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Coke, and all the cell phone companies employ legions of advertising and marketing agencies to help them reach a Hispanic market that now touches every corner of this country. Even NASCAR (NASCAR!), the epitome of white Southern culture, is anxious to reach out to Latino audiences. A story in USA Today last week detailed how NASCAR officials hope to market and promote driver Juan Pablo Montoya to expand its fan base.“Short term, you’ll have more Hispanic fans tuning in and becoming fans,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said in USA Today. “Long term, we’ll have many wanting to get involved in the sport, and we want lots of drivers from lots of backgrounds.” How ironic, verdad, that during a time when xenophobic politicians in Washington are voting to build a border fence as part of their desperate efforts to stem Latino influences in this nation, the powerful U.S. private sector in all of its capitalistic glory has already decided this issue. There’s no anti-Hispanic walls being built by U.S. capitalists. What they want to know is how we can get “La Fea Mas Bella” on American television. Meanwhile, the nation’s fastest-growing sport, NASCAR, wants to rev up and diversity its fan base, with a special focus on the Latino market.
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Baldemar Huerta: "The Mexican Elvis"

I was never a fan, but back in the mid seventies, you couldn't avoid hearing (and knowing), Baldemar Huerta's pop classics. Who? Tejano music -- and Tejano culture -- is easy to make fun of. The music is sometimes described as "German oom-paa-paa played by Mexicans on instruments stolen from Gringos" and its an acquired taste. Tejano culture is unique in that it blends two blended cultures (U.S. and Mexico) into a third. Balemar Huerta understood this. And, while some of us deplore the creeping gringo-ization of Mexican culture, we've overlooked the Mexicanization of U.S. culture. For years it was limited to South Texas. UNTIL.. Baldemar Huerta, mixed Tejano with Blues, R&B, Rock-n-roll and Country-Western. Before him, Latin music was "exotic" (think of Dezi Arnez in the 50s) and after him... just part of the American musical scene. Born in the Rio Grande Valley (his parents were migrant workers), Baldemar took the tradtional path of ambitious valley kids, joining the Marines. When he got out, he returned to the Valley, where he enjoyed some local success as "El Bebop Kid" (pronounced "keyed") in local bars. He did Spanish-language covers for Elvis and Harry Belfonte and perfected his art. His friend Augie Meyers called him "a Mexican Elvis" but in the late 50s, stars with names like Baldemar Huerta had a limited audience. So, taking the name of his guitar's manufacturer, he reached a new audience as "Freddy Fender". His "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights", released in 1960, was a regional hit... and a little closer to the truth than most knew. Busted for marijuana possession, Huerta did three years in a Louisiana prison before he was pardoned by that state's own musically inclined governor, Jimmie Davis (Gov. Davis is best known for writing "You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine". He was a early 20th century country star in his own right, and a fixture on the Grand Ol' Opry as well as the Lawrence Welk Show in the 50s). As Freddy Fender, Huerta was a phenonomon. Marketed as a "Country" star -- and he was the only Mexican-American country star -- his style and sound made him a cross-over hit. It was impossible in the 70s NOT to hear "Until The Last Teardrop Falls" or "Behind Closed Doors" ... and an updated version of "Wasted Days". Though he hasn't been a national star since the 70s, Fender opened the door for other border musicians (Los Lobos, for example) -- and his fellow Texans, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings -- to enter our musical consciousness. Nelson, especially, is open to Mexican and border influence. (If you don't believe me, walk around suburban Monterrey some day... every geezer around looks like Willie.) Fender had been working mostly in the Spanish-speaking market until a combination of diabetes and hepititis slowed him down. Lung cancer finally got him last week. He was 69, and will be buried in San Benito Texas.
If he brings you happiness
Then I wish you all the best
It's your happiness that matters most of all
But if he ever breaks your heart
If the teardrops ever start
I'll be there before the next teardrop falls
Si te quire de verdad
Y te da felicidad
Te deseo lo mas bueno pa'los dos
Pero si te hace llorar
A mime puedes hablar
Y estare contigo cuando treste estas

Thursday, October 12, 2006

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Give me some space!

Mexico City has more than 25,000 streets and 2,150 colonias. Anyone who has driven in the city knows what a jungle it is. You share the streets with thousands of green VW taxis, belching buses, delivery trucks, pedi-cabs, hawkers, numerous pedestrians as well as hundreds of thousands of cars. Parking in the commercial districts is a nightmare. The following is a story from El Universal (May 29, 2006) which describes the turmoil and stress you'll find on any given day in the downtown areas of Mexico's greatest city. The story focuses on some of the city's most colorful hard working people.... the franeleros. They're really the ones who ultimately "hold the power" midst all the chaos. It is 10:30 a.m. Grimy green Volkswagen taxis grind forward, arms punching from drivers´ windows to wave away pedestrians

It is 10:30 a.m. Grimy green Volkswagen taxis grind forward, arms punching from drivers´ windows to wave away pedestrians. Horns screech. Somebody screams, "Muévete!" - Move it!

A man jumps frantically out of an ancient, exhausted Toyota and tries to edge it to the side of the road. Behind him, handcarts piled high with stringy green onions seem to lurch and stop on their own, levitating amid the chaos, the drenched men who push them hidden by mountains of produce.


Nothing moves.

At the edge of El Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City´s sensory feast of a downtown market, the tangle is getting ridiculously tangly. But somehow, above it all, two magic words ring out: "Viene, viene!"

The meaning, in Spanish, falls somewhere between "Come on!" and "He´s coming!" But everyone in this spectacular morass knows what it means: A parking spot has opened.

Juventino Villegas Alvarez, 65, his jacket slung cavalierly over his shoulder, blows his whistle and shouts again, raspy and loud: "Viene, viene!"

Somehow, impossibly, order is restored. Villegas sternly halts one of the edgy taxis with his outstretched arm, pulls away an old crate and waves a brown sedan into a parking space. The driver steps out, greeted by Villegas´ outstretched palm, and dutifully hands over 10 pesos, roughly about US$1.

Villegas is a "viene, viene" man, one of thousands in Mexico City. It is nearly impossible to park on public streets here without sliding a few pesos to one of his brethren or their counterparts, the "hombres del trapo rojo" - red rag men, so named because they draw parkers by waving a red rag. INFORMAL ECONOMY Their work is not officially sanctioned. No government entity grants them domain over their street corners. But they are universally accepted. Some get by on their charm, their rapid-fire shtick. But there also is a sinister undercurrent to their street-level economy: People who don´t pay often return to find their windshield smashed.

Villegas runs his stretch of asphalt - 100 feet of prime parking space across from a guy who sells scorching guajillo chilies by the kilo - with restless, mesmerizing efficiency. At 10:45, a lumbering delivery truck tries to sneak in without his permission. Villegas is apoplectic. "Para!" he blares. Stop!

His cheeks puff out, expelling a series of gusts through his whistle. A woman standing nearby covers her ears. For a split second, all is still. Vendors turn to Villegas. The truck driver pounds his brakes.

Eyes ablaze, Villegas points to his left. There, wedged next to a pole, is a baby stroller. Two tiny brown eyes are all that is visible amid the mass of blankets. "Somebody get that baby out of here," Villegas yowls. "We´re going to have a tragedy."

No one, including the truck driver, hesitates to follow his instructions. This is Villegas´ realm, and while he is not menacing, he is clearly in charge. He has worked this chunk of Mexico City for 15 years. When he leaves in the afternoon, a nephew of his takes over.

Villegas´ voice catches as he looks around his little empire, waxing about the generations he´s rolled into parking spaces - fathers growing old and giving way to sons. "Everything that begins in life has to end," he says, his eyes becoming red. "I´ll be here as long as God´s willing."

A shrill horn shakes him out of his reflection. Villegas looks up and beams. Juan Zamora, a squat taxi driver, idles a few steps away. Zamora is an old pal, a customer from way back. He gets special treatment.

Zamora tosses Villegas his keys. He´s not just handing over a car, he´s handing over his livelihood. "Eh, I just trust the guy," Zamora says before dipping out of the sun and into the cool, dark market. Villegas double-parks Zamora´s green taxi. But within minutes someone wants to get out from behind it. Villegas jumps into the taxi´s driver seat and turns the ignition. A weak, rattling sound stirs in the engine. He tries again. And again. Nothing.

Rubén Domínguez García appears. Domínguez works the streets by the market, too, carrying a bag of tools that he uses to hammer out dents on the spot. He is a busy man in this zone of constant fender benders. Two other guys run up. They lean into Zamora´s car, shoving it out of the way, giving it just enough momentum to coax the engine to life. EARNINGS Villegas glows. He has 130 tax-free pesos in his pocket, more than twice the minimum daily wage of 48 pesos. It is only 11:30, but his day is almost done. He claps Domínguez on the shoulder and the two break out in song. They croon "Marta," a melodramatic bolero, gloriously off-key. But their celebration is interrupted by a tooting horn. A man in a fat truck wants a place to park. http://www.mexiconews.com.mx/18507.html

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

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Were they pink elephants by chance?

No, we haven't become the Mexican afflilate of Animal Planet this week! In honor of the U.S. elections, we're covering elephants and donkeys here at the Mex Files! The late Ann Richards said Texas was the kind of place where we don't hide our crazy people in the attic... we give them the best seat in the parlor. Texans are proud of their crazy people (take a look at the Republic of Texas' founding fathers some time!) and it's a little embarrasing to get a foreign import (from, as Juanita would say, "one of them foreign states up north) who out-crazies the natives. Sara Inés Calderón of the Brownsville Herald had the happy experience of stumbling on just such a treasure. As I wrote yesterday, she's the one who broke the story of the elephant invasion across the Rio Grande. This afternoon -- for perfectly legimate reasons (I'm contracted to do 1500 words on the effects of border security measures on my stretch of the river) -- I called Calderón. Of course I had to congratulate her on finding such a treasure, but what's more important, is she's found the story is even nuttier than we thought.
October 11, 2006 — Reports of an elephant crossing the river or people trying to smuggle an elephant across were rampant Tuesday while an elaborate political stunt was taking shape near the mouth of the Rio Grande. It was a while later that the stunt, which was a photo shoot, was abruptly met by federal agents. “The elephant never made landfall into Mexico, but I tell you something, he could have made 15 laps back and forth, but no one showed up,” said Raj Peter Bhakta, a former star on the NBC show “The Apprentice,” who also is a Republican candidate for the 13th District U.S. House of Representatives seat in Eastern Pennsylvania. Bhakta decided to see if he could get an elephant accompanied by a six-piece mariachi band across the river. According to his Web site, he is in favor of “sensible immigration reform” and supports a border fence, local law enforcement assistance with immigration laws and the use of the National Guard troops to help the U.S. Border Patrol. “To my surprise, the band played on, the elephants splashed away, and nobody showed up,” Bhakta said of the stunt. “I’m astounded.” The elephants came from Shrine Circuses, said James Plunkett, who produces the circus. ... Plunkett said he and his crew were hired for a “photo shoot” and entered the Boca Chica beach area without any notice from the Border Patrol. However, when it became clear that the elephants were in a quarantined area, the Border Patrol alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the elephants had to be detained. ... [Bhakta] said he was “staggered” by what happened on Tuesday and was planning on sharing the story with his potential constituents. “If I can get an elephant led by a mariachi band into this country, I think Osama bin Laden could get across with all the weapons of mass destruction he could get into this country,” Bhakta said. The mariachi band was not immediately available for comment.
The Philadelphia-area congress-wannabe (it's a safe-seat Democratic district) has been having to share all kinds of things with his constituents... like two drunk driving convictions he somehow neglected to mention, and producing inaccurate campaign literature. OK, it wasn't quite relevant to what I'm doing on security in the Big Bend, but I was fascinated by Raj's assertion that Osama bin Ladin could have crossed the border... especially since I telephoned him (215-628-4005) and he claimed the elephants had never been in Mexico. Calderón notes that the river isn't very wide -- or very deep -- at Browsnville-Matamoros, and elephants are very wide. They may have been IN Mexico... illegally, as has happened before, much to the consternation of the U.S. Fish and Wildelife Service. Not to mention animal rights people, and even anti-immigration groups like "Ranch Rescue" which tell the story of Benny, smuggled into Mexico from Texas back in 2001 -- resulting in a customs inspectors on both sides of the border losing their jobs. And, no word on whether the mariachis were U.S. citizens... now that would be a good scandal! [The Brownsville Herald October 12 editorial mentions that the folks involved in this stunt ran from the "tick watchers" who nabbed 'em, making it a definite maybe] So, the elephants were never in Mexico, but apparently Raj was.
...at least one of them was taken in as an undocumented immigrant. Bhakta, who was born in India, is a legal U.S. resident but didn’t have his papers. Customs and Border Protection officials reportedly detained him for four hours before proof of legal U.S. residency could be ascertained.
Says Raj on immigration: (http://www.rajforcongress.com/)
I am a first generation American. My father was born in India and my mother was born in Ireland. We would not be the country we are today had immigrants not paved the way. We do, however, need sensible immigration reform. I support additional funding for border enforcement as well as efforts to attract the best and the brightest from around the world.
. The best and brightest... mariachi players? Elephant handlers? P.R. flacks?

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They Got it Right the First Time....

I'm aware of the risk of putting up another animal article and having this site turned in the cyber version of the Animal Planet, but.... Small Mexican farmers are finding out that in order to compete, they need to bring back the mule. Tractors aren't doing the job on all types of farmland. Exactly what is a mule? They are the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. That makes them a hybrid. Except in rare cases, mules (males and females) are sterile and cannot reproduce themselves.... donkeys have 62 chromosomes and and horses have 64. Their offspring end up with 63 chromosomes and therefore cannot be divided evenly. Mules are thought to be stronger and smarter than donkeys and are somewhat easier to work with. People in third world countries around the world have used them to do the plowing and transporting needed on farms. When farmers could afford, they've been upgrading by purchasing John Deere tractors and replacing their mules, altogether. The problem is that these tractors don't work well on steep inclines and the cost of gas has risen so much that they aren't cost effective. Sara Miller Llana reports in: http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1011/p07s02-woam.html that project leader, Leonel Gonzales Jauregui, wants a mule breeding center with donkeys from the U.S. The center is located near Tlajomulco, Mexico. "The Precious One", a male donkey, was donated to the Cofradia Ranch, part of the University of Guadalajara, six months ago. Leonel Gonzalez Jáuregui, executive director of the research ranch, says he wants to create a breeding center that will turn out sturdy mules to help local producers work their fields and remain competitive. In 2005, six Kentucky Jacks were brought in because they are taller and stronger than their Mexican counterparts. "These are work animals, the American ones," says Sepulveda. "Not like the Mexican ones." There are those here who view the effort to revive the donkey population as regressive. "They see it as going backward," admits Mr. Patrick Fenton, director of the Kentucky Agricultural and Commercial Trade Office. . "But a burro can be technology." The mayor-elect of Tlajomulco, Antonio Tatengo, says donkeys could help the 10 percent of landowners in his municipality with properties too small to necessitate tractors. He is quick to add that most would prefer them, though, over donkeys. "We are very modernized here," says Mr. Tatengo. It seems that modern technology isn't always the best technology. The "Beast of Burden" is making a comeback!
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Global warming on the Rio Grande?

Last week it was a crocodile (a comedian said you can expect Mexican leather dealers on the streets of Laredo any day now) .. now it's: Elephants storm the Rio Grande By Sara Inés Calderón The Brownsville Herald Three elephants were reportedly splashing in the Rio Grande today near Boca Chica beach, prompting reports that someone was crossing into the United States from Mexico on an elephant. The elephants were part of a photo shoot, according to James Plunkett who was tending to the elephants. On their way back to Brownsville from the shoot, the trainers and the elephants were detained at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 4. The elephants were transported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture office on FM 511 where the animals were quarantined, officials said.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

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Oaxaca... again

One of the more reliable English-language sources on Oaxaca is Ana-Maria Salazar Slack, who runs the Mexican news blog "Mexico Today." Her summation of the situation as it stands now is hopeful:
Conclusion: What seemed to an irreversible use of force to regain control of the City of Oaxaca last week, today it appears that there may be a different solution… One of the huge issue is when will the teachers return to the classrooms. It has been more then five months that they have been on strike…
The entire post is here. On the Lonely Planet's "Thorn Tree Mexico Message Board", South African Oaxaca resident "gbbackpack" posted this:
Overland bus transport has been nearly back to normal for weeks now. Day-time Oaxaca is basically calm, though people (and taxis) simply no longer leave much after 10 or 11pm (midnight buses are also the only ones still cancelled). This is not normal for Oaxaca at all, but maybe exactly because it used to be such a safe place – that it is actually surviving this lack of governance in a strange way. This week probably remains crucial: Predictions are hard right now, but watch ... news reports for updates (but keep in mind who the information source is).
That last comment -- in parenthesis -- is probably the wisest thing I've seen about the whole situation. Most of the anti-APPO "analysis" I've seen comes from either big business executives, or corporate sources. Consciously or not, they are going to be biased towards the way things SHOULD work... not the way they are working. What's ironic is that we're seeing a libertarian pro-democracy uprising going pretty smoothly... much to the chagrin of those who normally pay lip service to "self-reliance" and "do-it-yourselfism". Unfortunately, a lot of the pro-APPO reportage is also biased... I'm annoyed with U.S.-based analysis that somehow conflate a larger-than-usual, but not unheard of push to out a Latin American crook with U.S. politics, the Bush agenda and the 2000 Presidential vote count in Florida. None of which have anything to do with a mismanged state economy or a teachers' strike. And, even though Mexicans like to refer to Karl Marx, they aren't ones for following the rule book -- unlike European revolutionaries, Mexican history is written after the book comes out. Nobody wrote a Mein Kampf or Communist Manifesto for the 1910-20 Revolution. They still managed to have one. Having said all that... from the CORPORATE MEDIA (or, "MSM" as the right-wing likes to call it these days), this from the Mexico City News (El Universal's English edition, published in cooperation with the Miami Herald). What I noted was that top business leaders are now involved... making this look all the more traditionally Mexican, where crises are resolved through negotiation and compromise, as was the electorial crisis of 1988:
...In a press conference late Monday, Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal, who has headed the negotiations with the local chapter of the teachers union and the Oaxaca People´s Popular Assembly (APPO), said a tentative agreement had been reached over the return of law enforcement to Oaxaca City. ... Abascal said the crisis needed an immediate solution and called for the teachers to return to classes. School has been suspended during the unrest, affecting over a million Oaxacan children. ... APPO and the teachers reportedly put a three-page document on the table that calls for the establishment of a dialogue process in Oaxaca itself that would include a broad representation of the state´s citizens. The talks would start October 12. The secretariat, meanwhile, has offered full back pay to the dissident teachers, according to media reports. It has also said that an investigation was under way involving Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz. The specifics of the investigation was unclear, but a document signed by Abascal indicated that previous Oaxaca state administrations were also being investigated. The ouster of Ruiz is the strikers´ top demand. ... The only major party that has backed the idea of Ruiz´s removal or resignation is the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). On Monday, the PRD said it could accept that Ruiz´s replacement be from his own party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). ...On Tuesday, a Senate committee will decide if it will continue proceedings that can legally remove Ruiz from office on the grounds of inability to govern. ...Also on Monday, a diverse new citizens group called the National Democratic Dialogue called on authorities to avoid using any repressive means to deal with the ongoing unrest in the southern state. The group, which includes National Employers Confederation president Alberto Núñez Esteva and renowned pro-democracy activist and Colegio de México social scientist Sergio Aguayo, urged a political settlement to the crisis. "Efforts at dialogue must have priority," urged the group in a statement, "especially those that involve the participation of civic society and the construction of long-term solutions."
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Calling long distance....

Let's cross our fingers that they don't get a busy signal.CID=2 http://www.cio.com/blog_view.html?5660 is reporting that "Teotihuacan will be the launch pad for an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life". "In addition to the data being shot into space, some chosen submissions will also be projected onto the side of the 216-foot-tall pyramid for spectators and other Web surfers to view via a real-time, global Web broadcast, according to Reuters"

Interested parties from around the world will have an opportunity to contribute text, images, video and sounds that reflect human nature to be included in the message which will be sent off on October 25, 2006. Submissions may be submitted starting today.

Yahoo's "Time Capsule" project will digitize and beam the messages up into space with a laser.

" We have this incredible ancient site and from that site we can project contemporary content," Srinija Srinivasan Yahoo's editor in chief, told Reuters. "What is new is the ability to capture this information in such scale."

Maybe we should submit an image of the newly funded "anti-immigration" fence which is to be built along the U.S./Mexican border. It could send the message to extraterestrial aliens that the U.S. doesn't take a liking to aliens coming up from the south. That way, if any Martians recieve the Time Capsule messages, they(ET aliens) can plan on entering the U.S. from its northern border.

Ain't that a nice "How do you do"? I wonder if the INS captures any ET aliens wandering around Roswell, N.M. (as a result of the Time Capsule experiment)..... will they foot the bill to send them home, too....like they do the Mexican illegals???

Submit your own ideas to:http://timecapsule.yahoo.com/capsule.php

Monday, October 09, 2006

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Who's invading who? Or ... deja-vu all over again

¡Para Justicia y Libertad! -- with devastating logic on their side -- concludes NAFTA is designed to erase our national borders, as the right-wingers claim ... and it's not exactly a new idea.
...a conquest does not have to be done militarily. Three years before NAFTA took effect, José Luis Calva of the National University of Mexico, predicted, "If the governments and legislatures of the three countries agree to liberalize trade in agricultural goods, U.S. citizens should be prepared to receive some 15 million Mexican migrants. The Border Patrol will be unable to detain them, and even a new iron curtain, rising on the border at a moment when the Cold War has given way to economic warfare among nations, will buckle under the weight of millions of Mexicans thrown off their lands by free trade." The essence of the American empire is not territorial control but wresting of economic control from another country and dominating that nation economically. How long will this "peaceful conquest" of Mexico continue to go unnoticed?
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Get the fire department...

I'm married to one of these guys who loves to downplay the "heat" in his cooking. He'll spend a couple of hours cooking up some green chili in the kitchen and he'll offer me a taste. Inevitably, I'll ask him if it's too hot for my liking. He comes back with something like, "Oh no, honey, I made it just the way you like it." He has no tastebuds left because he's burned them off. He's the type who puts habeneros in his cereal. I like some spice, but I don't get any pleasure out of a 30 min. afterburn on my tongue or from wiping beads of perspiration from my forehead. Apparently, there was a gathering of kindred spirits (to my hubby) who voluntarily put themselves to the ultimate "test" in Dallas last weekend. And I bet I could guess which room in their house saw a lot of action the following two days. DALLAS (AP)- A 62-year-old retired accountant from Nevada swallowed 247 peppers in eight minutes to win the Jalapeno Eating World Championship at the State Fair of Texas. Richard LeFevre won $2,000 for prevailing in Sunday's contest, which was sponsored by the International Federation of Competitive Eating. "I love to eat, and I love to compete, so the two go pretty well together," said LeFevre, the world's eighth-ranked eater according to the federation. LeFevre, who has also won the fair's World Corny Dog Eating Contest three times, said his winning strategy was to mix three or four peppers in his mouth with a swig of milk before swallowing. LeFevre was one of four professional eaters who took the top four places in the competition. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas said she had never eaten a jalapeno before the contest. Ranked third in the world by the federation, she downed 239 peppers to take second place and $1,000 in prize money. Christopher Huang, of Arlington, entered the competition even though he doesn't normally eat spicy foods. "I eat mild salsa," Huang said. "But there's nothing like putting yourself through a lot of pain for no reason." The 26-year-old required several minutes of recovery time after eating 53 jalapenos. "I cant feel my face," he said when he was able to speak again. http://www.kltv.com/Global/story.asp?S=5514385&nav=1TjD

Sunday, October 08, 2006

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Two tidbits from along the Rio Grande... Fishermen capture 7.5-foot croc in Rio Grande Associated Press
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Mexican fishermen captured a 7.5-foot-long crocodile in the Rio Grande, the river that divides Mexico and the United States, and turned the animal over to a local animal shelter, authorities reported today. The animal was caught on a fisherman's line on Saturday in a sparsely populated stretch of the river on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas The crocodile weighed about 130 pounds and appeared to be in good condition, said Jose Moreno Araiza, a commander of the Nuevo Laredo fire department, where the fishermen first brought the animal in the back of a pickup truck. It was then turned over to the local Animal Protection Society, whose president, Gina Ferrara, said the croc would be kept for the time being in improvised holding area complete with a pool of water. Federal environmental officials were informed of the capture, and will eventually decide what is to be done with the animal. Crocodiles do not normally inhabit the Rio Grande, and authorities believe it may have been brought to the area as a pet and then released into the river by its owner. Undocumented migrants frequently swim or ride inner tubes across the Rio Grande to reach the United States. Nuevo Laredo Environmental Department biologist Irvin Donath Paredes said the croc appeared to be young and in good physical condition. "We'll have to see what species it is, but it's young, three or four years old, judging by the texture of its skin and the size of its head," said Donath Paredes.
CROCS? My neighbor is a misplaced crocodile specialist (he did his dissertation in Tabasco, Belize and Thailand), who moved here to teach biology at Sul Ross, after a stint at an Indian College in South Dakota. He's pumped! And, yeah, it was a croc, not an alligator, though I wouldn't want to get close enough to tell the difference. And... Jesse Bogan of the San Antonio Express-News managed to find two people who actually support the Great Wall of Texas.
In Laredo, Ray Segura, owner of Segura Fence Co., said he's eager to compete for government contracts to help build the fence. He already has teamed up with a San Antonio company to submit a bid. "There's going to be a lot of contracts, there's going to be a lot of bidding, there's going to be a lot of action," Segura said. He said that based on his experience, the fence probably would be built on an easement along the river that the government owns and runs along the entire border, usually 30 to 50 feet wide. He estimated it would take about two to three months per mile of construction for a thick wire fence with holes too small to fit a boot in; twice as long if it is a double fence, as Congress wants. Also standing to gain was a shirtless man with a tattoo of a bat on his chest. He was drinking beer last week with two colleagues along the river where smugglers commonly bring immigrants in rafts from the Mexican town of Miguel Alemán to the Texas town of Roma. The self-described "patero," or smuggler, sat among trash, just beyond the reach of flies buzzing around a dead animal. "We aren't politicians, we are ruffians. It's going to be more difficult (to cross), but it's going to cost more money," said the man, who appeared to be about 40 and declined to give his name. "If they want to spend the money on the wall," he said with the flick of a hand, "then spend it."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

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Bishops battle over Oaxaca

Archbishop Raul Vera of Saltillo, a clerical "liberal" -- and Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez of Guadelajara, a "conservative" -- both want the Oxaca situation solved now. While it's still unusual to see churchmen commenting on political issues, what's very odd is the open disagreement between them. Vera blames the political parties for protecting Governor Ruiz, whom he says "no longer has anything to do" and is just "delying his exit" . He says the state has been kidnapped from the people by the politicans, who -- like in Morelos, where corrupt PAN governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal remained in office by openly bribing state legislators to vote against his impeachment despite his known ties to organized crime and huge demonstrations against him (and where one municipality overthrew the local government and set up a people's municipality which the State attempted to put down by force), the Saltillo archbisop called the government response a "terrorist tactic". "Neither the nation nor the people of Oaxaca should run the risk of violence just to protect the career of Ulises Ruiz," he said. Vera was formerly Co-adjucator Bishop of Chiapas. Chiapas bishops have a tradition, going back to their first bishop, Bartelemo de las Casas, of defending the people against the ruling powers. Las Casas was America's first investigative reporter. His letters to the King and the Pope, later published as "The Destruction of the Indies" ended both Indian slavery and led the Pope to publish a Bull, Sublimis Deus (1537) settling the question of the Indian's souls once and forever. In Catholic America, anyway, the Indians were people, who might be exploited and cheated and abused by the powers that be... but unlike in the English-speaking parts of the Americas, they were not pushed aside, killed off and forced into reservations. Samuel Ruiz, the former Bishop of Chiapas (and Vera's sometimes collaborator) was forced into early retirement by Pope John-Paul II, in part because of the Mexican government's complaints that Ruiz was giving aid and comfort to the Zapatistas (Bishop Ruiz used to keep a state map in his office, showing non-Zapatista regions as "occupied territory"). Meanwhile, Cardinal Sandoval -- whose best known political act was organizing street protests when he was indicted for interfering with a murder investigation (his predecessor was assassinated, either by mistake [both the late Cardinal and the local crime boss drove black Buick Rivieras] or to cover up... something. Sandoval tried to pass off forged evidence suggesting a government plot. The prosecutor was looking into ties between the Guadalajara Archdiocese and narcotics trafficers) is a law and order man. He spoke to a miliary group, defending the state's right to defend against aggression, foreign and domestic. Jesus Christ was not available for comment.

Friday, October 06, 2006

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El Grito!

This last month we all heard and thrilled at the “Grito”. The celebratory Presidential proclamation made on the 16th of September, Independence Day. This series of Viva Mexico! that stirs the souls and hearts of the thousands packed into the Zocalo. But here I would like to pay homage to that more humble grito. This grito is not political nor is it making a nationalistic statement for the TV cameras. It’s the Grito of the individual’s depth of joy, that primal scream that rises from the child within all of us. Although unfortunately many people have stifled that child and when that happens the Grito dissolves into a whimpering murmur accompanied by a sheepish grin and, maybe, even embarrassment. This grito accompanies the guitar and the trumpet at the wedding dance, aaaayyiiii! It bursts out from the dance floor at the Saturday night pachanga, AAaaYYiiii! It erupts when your team scores the winning goal, AAAHUAAYYYIIII! This grito is as humble as the family barbeque and the corner cantina, AAaaayYYyiiiII! It announces the ecstasy and the exaltation of that moment of sheer delight. It’s the scream that says we’re alive and loving it. This is not the primal scream of fear and pain, but the sound of indulgence with mirth and pleasure. The exhilaration generated by el grito spreads throughout the crowd, the cantina, the dance hall, the arena; it burrows into the souls of all present. It does not discriminate: young and old, man and woman, some rich and many poor. It says good-by to hard days and promises tomorrows lottery wins; it pledges your woman a good night and tells your competition to step down. El GRITO! QUE VIVA EL GRITO!
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Looking for the Biggest Burp.....

We've all heard about the "Big Bang" theory.... but have you heard about the "Big Burp"? Leave it to Chiapas to become the center of yet another war..... the war between Coke Cola and Pepsi. A recent article in: http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2840/ by Beverly Bell tells us all about the 'perfect storm' taking place in the state of Chiapas right now. Politics, religion and commerce have taken up their positions and without the aid of "menthos", the gases are exploding. "Thousands of candles flicker in the dim chamber. The air is thick with the smoke from copal incense. On the altar, men in black wool tunics and white knee-length pants play solemn music on drums and gourds. Below them, a score of Tzotzil Indians chant in small circles on the pine needle-covered floor. In the center of each circle are candles, eggs, copal and pox—fermented corn mash—in an old glass container, stopped with a corn cob. And next to the pox is a half-liter bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. In the 484-year-old Church of St. John the Baptist, in Chamula, a town of 60,000 in Chiapas, Mexico, those bottles indicate the intersection of religion, politics, water and consumer markets. In the United States, Coke and Pepsi vie for monopoly contracts with schools and universities. In Chiapas, the stakes in the soft drink war are as high as the purity of one’s soul. Traveling through the cold highlands of the San Juan Chamula municipality any Saturday afternoon, one regularly encounters a scene resembling a battleground: dozens of bodies sprawled on the ground, arms and legs sometimes extending perilously into the road. At the epicenter of each of these scenes are plastic tables and chairs in front of a diminutive wooden store. There, men, women and children who are either on their way to collapse, or who have resuscitated themselves and are back for more, sit drinking pox, which means “mad dog” in Tzotzil. Along with pox, they swig Coke or Pepsi, depending on whose store they patronize; each store sells only one brand. Like fireworks and copal, pox is a sacrament in a local religion that blends Catholicism with elements of native tradition. It is a sacred drink that cleanses the soul; the more pox one drinks, the greater the purification. Over the past several decades the caciques—local elites who wield economic and political power and control the soft drink concession—have convinced the faithful that pox should be drunk with Coke or Pepsi, depending on who is doing the proselytizing. They say the cola induces burping, which releases evil from the soul. The caciques and their affiliated drink companies do a booming business—nevermind that the beverages sell for 50 U.S. cents a can, exactly the average daily income. Purchasing a soda often means not purchasing food, and Chiapas has one of the highest rates of both malnutrition and Coke consumption in Mexico. " For the rest of this interesting story, click on the link (above) and find out how Coke Cola/Pepsi play into the politics and economy of Chiapas. It's an excellent eye-opening article about the inner workings of commerce and power in Mexico!!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

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Playboys of the Southwestern World

We actually have three radio stations in Alpine, but the college station (that was being run by profs over the summer, and was heavy on Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson) doesn't have much of a broadcast range and fades in and out around the mountain roads. The second station is trying to save me, and bring me to Jesus through really bad music. The other choice has baseball, local news and BOTH kinds of music -- Country and Western.

It also introduced me to a guy I'd never heard of, Blake Shelton... who has a good version of this classic on Mexican tourism... and yeah, I know. But I couldn't find any other pictures of two cowboys with an old truck. Besides, who knows?

(Neal Coty/Randy VanWarmer, ©2003) This is a song About best friends John Roy Was a boy I knew Since he was three And I was two Grew up two little houses Down from me The only two bad apples On our family tree Kind of ripened and rotted In our puberty Two kindred spirits bound by destiny Well now I was smart But I lacked ambition Johnny was wild With no inhibition Was about like mixin Fire and gasoline (And he'd say) Hey Romeo Let's go down to Mexico Chase senoritas Drink ourselves silly Show them Mexican girls A couple of real hillbillies Got a pocket full of cash And that old Ford truck A fuzzy cat hangin From the mirror for luck Said don't you know All those little Brown-eyed girls Want playboys of the southwestern world Long around Our eighteenth year We found two plane tickets The hell out of here Got scholarships To some small town School in Texas Learned to drink Sangria Til the dawns early light Eat eggs Ranchero And throw up all night And tell those daddy's girls We were majoring in a rodeo Ah but my Favorite memory At school that fall Was the night John Roy Came runnin down the hall Wearin nothin But cowboy boots And a big sombrero (And he was yellin) Hey Romeo Let's go down to Mexico Chase senoritas Drink ourselves silly Show them Mexican girls A couple of real hillbillies Got a pocket full of cash And that old Ford truck A fuzzy cat hangin From the mirror for luck Said don't you know All those little Brown-eyed girls Want playboys of the southwestern world And I said We had a little Change in plans Like when Paul McCartney Got busted in Japan And I said We got waylaid When we laid foot On Mexican soil See the boarder guard With the Fu Manchu mustache Kind of stumbled on John's Pocket full of American cash He said Doin a little funny business In Mexico Amigo But all I could think about Was savin my own tail When he mentioned ten years In a Mexican jail So I pointed to John Roy and said It's all his now please let me go Well it was your idea genius I was just layin there in bed When you said Hey Romeo Let's go down to Mexico Chase senoritas Drink ourselves silly Show them Mexican girls A couple of real hillbillies

Got a pocket full of cash And that old Ford truck A fuzzy cat hangin From the mirror for luck Said don't you know All those little Brown-eyed girls Want playboys of the southwestern world Ah we're still best friends Temporary cell mates