Thursday, November 23, 2006

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La ultima vez...

I'm STILL updating the version at but I have all the posts carried over to that site. We'll still be dropping in to recover photos and see how this site is going, but I don't think I'll be adding new posts in here. WOW ... 9000 + posts since I added a counter at the end of May. I know some of you, but to the many, many strangers who've found this site useful... please vist us at the NEW(er), IMPROVED(er) Mex Files... I don't know who these 9000 posters are (I have some clues, thanks to where you come from... we have regular readers among other places in Columbia, New Delhi, British Columbia, Clarksville MD, and Arkansas. Thanks, y'all. So... how to go out? I don't know everyone's tastes, so here's a "traditional" version of Besame Mucho sung by Thalia, and "Blue Dreams, La Ultima Vez" by Monterrey garage band, "PunkPop de Monterrey". Besame Mucho (En vivo) Blue Dream - La Ultima Vez Blue Dream - La Ultima Vez de "PunkPop de Monterrey"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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Mariachi Juvenil Aguila Azteca
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As we slowly fade away...

... I've started deleting some old posts... thought I'm not sure everything here has carried over to over here. So, some older posts (which probably not too many people would look for anyway) aren't here. But the cool thing is I can set up those tags -- and subtags -- and sometimes sub-sub tags, under categories that make sense to me. So, folks, what do you think... "Cannibals"... should they be a subset of Pre-columbian Religion? Maybe under "crime" or under "Food and Drink"?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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Oaxaca and AMLO -- two new posts

While trying to migrate these files over the the NEW, IMPROVED, I've written two new posts that are "over there"

Life (sorta) under seige in Oaxaca

(From a post on the Mexico Branch of Lonely Planet’s “Thorn Tree Message Board” from a Oaxaca resident) My own take on Oaxaca right now is that it resembles the story of the blind men and the elephant. Today was a perfect example of that.

I’d arranged to meet a friend inside the big doorway to Amate Books. I came up Calle Victoria from the Abastos Market, seeing nothing untoward until I got closer to the zocalo, where the PFP were much in evidence. I proceded north on Porfirio Diaz, cutting east on Matamoros & turning onto Alcala. Whoops — a barricade was under construction just in front of Amate. I stepped over it, along with several other people, finally sighting my friend on the steps in ...

AMLO sashes the opposition… November 20th, 2006

… or is he the opposition?

By just not fading away quietly, AMLO remains a force to be reckoned with in Mexico. I don’t think he really expects to support an “alternative governement” through donations… what he’s done is very creatively set up a relevant “think tank” that will pester the incoming conservative administration , and keep them — not to the “straight and narrow” but force them to deal with the 66% of the voters that did not chose Calderón. This should be… um… interesting.

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Defeated leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador donned a “presidential sash” before a crowd of thousands, calling himself Mexico’s legitimate leader....

See 'ya there!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

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The Vortex of Evil... José Manuel Nava murdered

This is not a good photo of my friend José Manuel Nava, who was found stabbed to death in his Zona Rosa apartment earlier this week.

The photo appears to have been taken at some conference or another. While I knew Nava moved in the higher circles of Mexican politics and business, my contact with the "captains of industry" was in an English classroom at most. The José Manuel Nava I was acquainted with could adapt the gravitas required of Excelsior's Director when necessary, but I knew him as a good-looking, charming, witty and articulate denizem of the same Zona Rosa cafe I frequented.

It appears his charm, wit and good looks were not enough to protect him. While he knew he was an attractive man and comfortable with his age and ocial gifts -- he wasn't immune to the charms of youth. While he had little use for the street hustlers who'd come around those cafes looking for a papí, he wouldn't be the first person to make a horrible mistake, or the first to let down our guard around some charmer.

I don't know, and can't speculate. Any time a journalist is murdered, especially in Mexico, we always look at what they've written, and who might be offended. Nava had just published a book blaming the Fox administration and Presidnet Fox himself, among others , for the downfall of the cooperative that owned Excelsior from 1917 until the Nava was appointed to oversee the forced sale to private interests. No one blames him personally for overseeing that thankless task, though some bitterness and resentment still surface. Last week, in El Sol, he had obliquely criticized everyone, warning of the dangers if the left interferes with Felipe Calderón's inaguration, and if the Calderón administration does not heed the left's calls for change:

Cuando se llega a la violencia es porque la política ha sido rebasada y a pesar de las claras indicaciones que tenemos esperamos que ése no sea el caso de nuestro país.

And, there was his run-in with the C.I.A.

Back at the start of the War Against Iraq, I'd see José Manuel in the cafe, playing hooky, or taking a long Mexican lunch-hour, editing a series of articles he'd written, in which he referred to the Bush Administration as "The Vortex of Evil", into a book. He was under deadline, and under the pressure of managing a sinking newspaper, and when he was working... he was working. "Polite as a Mexican," he could let you know he was very busy, and even the charms of Banzar would not distract him.

I liked that cafe because it had outdoor seating on calle Genova and offered great people-watching opportunities. And good coffee. And Banzar the waiter. Banzar service was one of the attractions of the place. He remembered my order (being one of the few people who put cream in their coffee, it was a running joke that I'd have to send the other waiters back every time... all us gringos looked alike, I guess). An "exotic" (he's a black Ecuadorian), tall, althletic and extremely handsome -- his barista skills maybe weren't appreciated by the other foreign clientele. If Banzar understood English, he never let on... a good thing considering his opinion (and one I shared) of the creepy foreigners who hung out in that cafe, and who would invite the street hustlers to join them. Or flirt with Banzar, who would good humoredly accept their attentions... even if they never left a tip.

I understand English quite well, thank you. I was offended -- and appalled -- by those foreigners. Having told a 70-something Australian who wanted to know if I liked "that boy" (um... "no, I work in adult education" wasn't what he had in mind -- and I'm sure my lack of interests in his interests gave him some rather dull fiction to spin to his cronies, who seemed to dislike him even more than I did, though they met him every day in the same seats, and woe betide you if you took their seats. That cafe eventually went under, probably because that bunch hogged tables, yakked all day and never semed to spend much more than the price of a bottle of water. And welcomed in those street hustlers).

Gender preference is irrelevent, though I can't help speculating that being a "known associate" of those aging expats could have marked Nava as easy prey for whomever he ran into. I once was propositioned in Parque Alameda by a youngster I'd briefly met, and promptly forgot about at that cafe. An American alcoholic who at least was entertaining when he ranted about George W. Bush, whiled away the hours between his early afternoon teaching assignments and the various bars happy hours by waiting for "students" who sometimes showed up. This kid did, and wasn't understaning some point that the American didn't seem to know how to put across... as if that was the point of the exercize. It happened a Mexican teacher had showed me a way of making that particular point clear to Spanish-speakers, and I shared it with the boy. Resolving the problem, was not the point. I'm sure that kid was innocuous, but who knows about the others?

The Australian and his cronies are how I came to know José Manuel and his run-in with the C.I.A. I figured out fairly quickly that the foreigners in that cafe weren't people I really liked, or wanted to be around... but my Spanish was spotty, and I would be starved for English conversation, and so I was forced to venture out. By not taking a table with the foreigners (and in Mexico, one usually does end up sharing a table), broadened my horizons and kept my sanity (and improved my Spanish).

The jolly Cuban "double-exile" (he was a kid when his family fled to Miami in 1960, but Miami's Cuban community is a pretty unforgiving and cold place for an adult with no taste for right-wing terrorists or reactionary attitudes frozen in the 60s) was fun, but his main interst was cuisine (he ran a Cuban restaurant in Mexico City) and his fellow Cubans would drop by... making me feel like Lucy when Ricky's family showed up (Cubans are great fun, but they live and speak at 78 rpms in 33 1/3 rpm Mexico).

So, one dull afternoon, for lack of any alternative, I was talking to the Cuban, and the one creepy foreigner I could put up with for more than 15 minutes(at least his politics -- regarding the U.S. -- wasn't reactionary. About Mexico, he was a racist pig, talking about "brownies" and "whities" and insulting the "Indian noses". And he was an alcoholic, obsessed with both the street boys and the bar opening times), when I met José Manuel. Nata -- who came from a privileged backround -- was familiar enough with gringos to use the same words, but he'd never use them unless he was speaking with their regular users, and he used them ironically against the speaker, who was usually too stupid to realize he was the butt of Mexican contempt. I have no idea what party he voted for (and would never ask) but in the course of his career he'd critized the failings of all of them, and -- in what outsiders found unusual, spoke of the Revolution not as destroying the upper classes, but as a relative success for Mexicans... including the "brownies" and the ones with "Aztec noses". He was a Mexican patriot.

Nava had been a Excelsior's Washington corresponent for 18 years. His English was perfect. And so... besides meeting someone worth talking to, I found out about "Hazley Maxwell" and the C.I.A.

As a Washington expert, Nava of course had friends in the Embassy. One of his friends, who'd been assigned to Mexico City, was back living with his mother outside Washington, and José Manuel called him. He wasn't home, and Nava left a message. The mother couldn't comprehend that a former diplomatic officer in Mexico might know people with Spanish names. She wrote down "José Manuel" as "Hazley Maxwell". It was a running joke in Washington journalistic circles for years, and a few small articles in obscure publications have appeared under Hazley's by-line. José Manuel wondered if "Hazley Maxwell" was also being investigated by the C.I.A., or if his "alias" might throw off people he found more amusing than threatening.

When the "Vortex of Evil" articles first appeared, the C.I.A. Station Chief in Mexico City called Excelsior, and got as far as José Manuel's secretary, who has been around newsmen too long to suffer fools gladly. A mere C.I.A. Station Chief is no match for a tought secretary. There was no way she was going to give out any information on her boss. Even when the Ambassador called, demanding to speak to Nava, no way.

José Manuel's only reaction to the whole dust-up was typical. He admitted being flattere by the attention the U.S. Government was giving to his strugging paper, but "disappointed" when, after a lot of work by attornies in Washington, the Mexican Embassy and a Freedom of Information Act request, finally discovered the C.I.A. only considered his paper "less influential than it formerly was".

At the time, I was writing a short guidebook on Mexico City. Much of what I said about the media, I got from José Manuel. He was more than willing to share his thoughts on Mexican media, and on "Chilangolandia" in general. It surprised me that he enjoyed my crack that his paper, on slow news days "made news". The paper, then owned by the employees, has had problems since the Echiverria adminstration engineered a coup of the editorial staff. When José Manuel took control, the paper was in the middle of a bitter strike that denegrated into a brawl between the pressmen and the reporters in the paper's offices (talk about your "on the scene coverage -- Nava joked it was the first "scoop" Excelsior had enjoyed in years)and he had the delicate, impossible task of trying to keep the paper afloat, moderize it (it didn't help that one of the cafe-queens thought it was his task to tell the editor how to run the on-line edition, though he politely thanked the fellow for his suggestions and even took a few notes) and -- if all else failed -- find a buyer.

José Manuel Nava will be remembered for his good manners and willingness to deflect fools no one would suffer gladly. you could tell he was NOT HAPPY with the foreigner who insisted Mexico had to sell Pemex to American oil companies. I don't think the American knew who he was talking to -- or it would have dawned on him that the opinion of an Odessa Texas antiques broker wasn't the one shared by the Mexican intellegencia. He appreciated that I was looking at the Mexican perspective, knew something about the country, and was more than generous with his time he'd stolen away from his impossible job to relax, have coffee and watch the world.

And I appreciated him for that and will miss him.

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Mariachis of the world unite! (Oaxaca)

From today's Mexico City Herald:

OAXACA CITY - The Oaxaca People´s Assembly (APPO) on Friday outlined a change in strategy as a first step to transform themselves into a formal political force.

The idea is to reduce tensions and to focus their energies on positive propaganda, the APPO leadership told reporters.

The plan is still taking shape, so APPO members would only speak off-the-record, preferring to wait until the strategy is approved.

Among the measures the APPO is considering is the abandonment of the Benito Juárez Autonomous University and the removal of barricades near the campus. They may also try to "kill the enemy with kindness."

This would entail offering cleansing rituals to the Federal Preventative Police (PFP) troops stationed in the Historic Center of Oaxaca City, preparing food for them and even serenading them with mariachis.

APPO members guarding the university campus and operating the radio station may also be withdrawn and all future marches and demonstrations would be organized so as not to disturb non-participants.

Students manning the so- called "Soriana" barricade near the university are expected to dismantle the barrier by Tuesday.

The youth stationed at these barricades are already being organized into groups whose efforts will be focused on giving attention to street kids and youngsters living on the margins of society.

The APPO leaders also expressed hope that they can begin talks with the transition team of President-elect Felipe Calderón as early as next week.

Friday, November 17, 2006

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The Mexican car that never was

Ford 1922 Anhuac... this car was designed to be built in Mexico at the Ford plant near the Basilica, but never went in production. I have no information on it, but any motor heads out there are welcome to contribute. Posted by Picasa
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Who's in your wallet?

You go through a gringo's wallet (um... preferably not one you "found"... handing out of some distracted backpacker's hip pocket on the Mexico City Metro during rush hour) and who do you find? Mostly dead presidents, and mostly generals -- Washingon on the one; Jackson on the 20; and Grant on the 50-dollar bill. There's the first Secretary of the treasury on the ten and Lincoln (another president) on the five, but not until you get to the 100, do you find someone known for something other than warfare and politics. And Benjamin Franklin os better remembered for his witty reworkings of commonplace sayings, or home-improvement inventions than for any philospophical or artistic breakthoughs.

Mexico, too has their "dead presidents" (well, PRESIDENT ... but you can't get around Benito Juarez) and military heros (Morelos on the 50-peso note. But then, Morelos was the very model of a modern guerilla leader -- Che Guevarra as country priest. Padre Hidalgo, another cura/revolutionary is on the 1000, but you seldom see a grand), but they also have:

Nezahuacoatl on the 100. Where are our poet-statesmen? Not that I can think of any (Lincoln's rhetoric, good as it is, doesn't rise to the level of poetry). But with Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz -- poet, philosopher, educational reformer and scientist -- on the 200, Mexico is saying something about THEIR values that we're not.

With the currency changes in Mexico, the worthies are getting a make-over. Mexican bills, like the U.S. bills are modernizing, and coming out with new safety features. There's some grumbling, but the one professional miliary man on Mexican currency -- Ignacio Zaragoza (who was born near Matagorda Bay, Texas, by the way) is retreating before another cultural hero. Zaragoza won the Battle of Puebla, the glorious Cinco de Mayo, and he's a genuine hero. But... what does Mexico want to say about itself? That it once beat the French against all odds? Nah... they want to say "we're a nation of high culture and great artists".

PRESENTING ... the NEW 500-peso note!

Alas, Diego Rivera was an ugly man (and Zaragosa, while he looked more like a grad student in literature than a general, looks conventionally heroic) and the reverse includes Rivera's over-rated wife, Frida Kahlo. And, there has been a lot of criticism that the Banco de Mexico is turning its back on a worthy hero in favor of "political correctness." So be it. But, it's what we like about Mexico. The slight irony of a country with the National Bank controlled by foreign capitalists putting two Communists on their currency is wonderful.

Even better, it says to the world -- no, we're not a military power, and we do have money to spend... but we know what's really important... poetry, science, art. So, when do we put Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson on our bills?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

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Where was the Romanticism?

Women who followed the armies during Mexico's Revolutionary War didn't look like the women in this scene. They didn't walk along side their men. They didn't take long walks down the streets of Chihuahua wearing their finest (clean) colorful dresses. The women were hungry, filthy, tired, overworked, neglected, generally unappreciated, and often suffering from illnesses. That doesn't take away from the fact that they were devoted, supportive, and played a very valuable role in the fighting forces they "served" in.

There hasn't been a lot of detail written about the role of women in the Mexican Revolution, but among the lower class, many women became soldaderas, fighting soldiers, or victims. Some women actively opposed the revolution because they were strong supporters of Catholicism and the Church held views that strongly contrasted with the goals of the revolution. There were some women from middle/upper classes who lent support to various sides of the war through their intellectual endeavors. These women were often teachers/ journalists, etc. Many of this group were early feminists. The fact that they served as advisors, strategists, reformists led to many of them being beaten, harassed, imprisoned and even murdered.

The following description comes from an excellent article I found at this link:

The soldadera was the most typical role women played in contribution to the Mexican Revolution. It was typical in that it involved a large number of women and that it followed the most accepted gender-based roles for women as caregivers. Although they occasionally fought in battle, these women generally traveled with the revolutionary armies to forage for food, cook meals, nurse the wounded, wash clothes, and other services not provided by the military . Although some authors do not distinguish between the Soldaderas and the female fighters, Andrés Reséndez Fuentes makes a clear distinction between those women who served as a vital support system to the combatants, and those who actually participated in the fighting. Soldaderas endured miserable living conditions, malnutrition, and even childbearing under inhospitable surroundings . Soldaderas whose husbands died in battle often continued in their roles as the soldadera of another soldier . While "no army of the revolution fought without women but each organized female participation in a distinct manner," . Soldaderas generally remained anonymous and were never recognized for their indispensable contribution to the revolution.

Female fighting soldiers often joined on as soldaderas and moved from that role to one of a full time gun-toting revolutionary. They usually took on masculine roles in their dress, swearing, drinking, and became all around toughs. Female soldiers who showed a lot of skills and had leadership qualities actually did become officers of men and raised in the ranks of the Revolutionary Army.

Victims were usually women who stayed home to tend to their children and to protect their homes. Once the armies ran low on rations, the soldiers would raid their homes for food and supplies. The girls/women who lived in those homes were often raped and if the soldiers suspected them of being connected with the enemy, they were murdered. Zapata's men were especially famous for raping women throughout their territory.

The woman in the photo was a Yaqui scout named Hermilianda Wong Chew who served under Obregon. She was thought to be a fighting soldier/officer because of her pearl handled pistol and her binoculars. (Thanks Rich!)

Soldaderas walked behind their soldiers because officers would not give a horse to a woman. He would give it to a fighting soldier first and the women would have to carry their children and their personal supplies while their traveled by foot. When an army traveled by train, the women often rode atop or outside (the cars) the train as the cars were reserved for the soldiers. Female fighting soldiers usually provided their own horse.

The role of women differed depending on who's army they served with.... Villa, Zapata, Carranza, etc. Villa tended to resent the fact that the soldaderas slowed his men down. He liked the ability to move quickly. Zapata admired/appreciated the support offered by the women, whereas Villa was cool to the idea. Villa reportedly had one of his female soldiers shot because she accidently shot one of his men. Ironically, he had her buried with military honors. On another occasion, Villa executed 80 to 90 enemy soldaderas (including thier children) because one of them took a shot at him.

The early Maderistas and Orozquistas of the north did not bring camp followers to the battlefield because the troops generally remained close to home. Also, the Soldaderas tended to be slow moving and deprived the cavalry units of their much valued swiftness. However, this lack of Soldaderas caused logistical problems when it came to medical needs and obtaining food and ammunition. Provisional support units were often set up by only a few women and some men, to provide nursing, food and other services, but were often insufficient and diverted soldiers from fighting.

A few of the remarkable women of the Revolution:

Petra Herrera became an officer or "coronela," commanding 200 men, according to a report in The Mexican Herald on January 7, 1914. Historian Elizabeth Salas tells us that Herrera, along with 400 other women, took part in the second battle of Torreón as part of Villa's vanguard. A villista by the name of Cosme Mendoza said, "Herrera was the one who took Torreón on May 30,1914."

Angela Jimenez, who at 15 witnessed her sister's attempted rape by a soldier. Her sister grabbed the officer's gun and killed him and then killed herself. Jimenez joined her father in the army, promising herself to kill the federales. Jimenez became a spy, soldier and explosives expert. Elisa Grienssen Zambrano of Parral, Chihuahua was a 13 yr. old teacher who commanded men and women of Parral to repel and expel a "punitive expedition" from the American army in April 1916. The American soldiers were on a mission to apprehend Gen. Francisco Villa. Elisa was so indignant that Americans would invade Mexico's sovereign territory that she organized women and school children to surround the North American commander, Frank Tompkins. Shortly, men in the town joined her and armed only with rocks, tomatoes, and shouts of "Viva Mexico, Viva Villa", they succeeded in forcing him and his men to retreat. When Villa asked Elisa "how did you do it?" She answered him, "We did it for Mexico".

*** A faded oil painting of Elisa Grienssen Zambrano is still on the wall of Villa's museum.

In 1911, Profesora Delores Jiménez y Muro founded the group Regeneración y Concordia from her prison cell. The group's purpose was to "improve the lot of indigenous races, campesinos, obreros, unify revolutionary forces, and elevate women economically, morally and intellectually,". In March 1911, Jiménez put together the Political and Social Plan, which was a conspiracy to bring Madero to power by a rebellion near Mexico City. Her Plan was unusual because it outlined the need for extensive social and economic reforms, rather than simply the desire for political change at the top. She specifically recognized in the Plan that the daily wages of both men and women in urban and rural areas needed to be increased, as women made up more of the "economically active" population than was acknowledged by the official census. Emiliano Zapata was very enthusiastic about Jiménez's Plan, particularly the part calling for the restitution of usurped village lands, and invited her to join his cause in Morelos. She did so after the death of Madero in 1913, and remained there until Zapata's assassination in 1919, well after her seventieth birthday. Although Dolores Jiménez y Muro was an active revolutionary for almost twenty years and provided significant contributions to history, she has received little attention from academics.

One of the most famous female soldiers was Margarita Neri, who became a legendary Zapatista commander. "So many legends surround Neri that she is portrayed as both commanding Zapatistas in Morelos and as cutting off the ears of Zapatistas sent to recruit her. Despite the mass of contradictory accounts, it seems that Margarita Neri was a capable and respected guerrilla commander.

additional links:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

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Protests now in aisle 12...

Last week it was McDonald's this week it's WalMart. Ah, Mexico... the past is always with us. The McDonald's protests go back a few years, and The Evil Empire has attracted my attention more than once
By KATHLEEN MILLER, Associated Press MEXICO CITY - About 250 protesters chanted "Out! Out!" in front of Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters before entering the adjacent store, where they blocked aisles for about 30 minutes before leaving. There were no immediate reports of arrests, injuries or damage.

Ruben Garcia, a Mexican citizen who works with San Francisco-based activist group Global Exchange, said the discount chain's low prices take business away from the country's traditional public markets and depress wages for workers and farmers.

"If a cantaloupe costs 20 cents at a Wal-Mart, imagine how much the rural farmers are getting for this cantaloupe," Garcia said. "There is a high cost for the low prices."

The company denied the accusations.

"Wal-Mart of Mexico generates very positive benefits for the country," it said in a statement. With more than 140,000 workers, Wal-Mart is the largest private sector employer in Mexico.

Some protesters carried signs bearing pictures of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist presidential candidate who claims he was robbed of victory in July elections and plans to be inaugurated as the "legitimate president" of an alternative government on Monday.

Lopez Obrador aides have accused Wal-Mart of supporting his conservative rival and the current president-elect, Felipe Calderon. The company denies the allegation.

The Arkansas-based company has been targeted by Mexican protesters before.

In 2004, a Wal-Mart-owned discount store opened less than a mile from the ancient temples of Teotihuacan, just north of Mexico City, despite months of protests by some residents who claimed the sprawling complex was an insult to Mexican culture.

Last month, Wal-Mart won preliminary approval over opposition from some residents to build a store in Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California Sur — the only one of Mexico's 31 states where it currently does not have an outlet.

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Mr Bean -- pirate, scoundrel, Mexican hero

Texans always have had a soft spot for pirates of one sort or another. The state that brought us Lyndon Baines Johnson, Halliburton, George Bush (I and II), Anna Nichole Smith and cheerleader mom Wanda Holloway, even under the relative sanity of Spanish and Mexican control attracted its share of ethically-challenged swashbucklers.

Look at the founding fathers. A dead-beat dad skipping out on alimony payments back in Tennesee -- Sam Houston -- gets a city named for him (and a 50 foot statue up by the Huntsville State Penitentary). Galveston forgets it was named FOR a fearsome Mexican lawman (Juan Galvez) and remembers it was named BY a gay pirate, with a peculiar sense of humor.

Jean Lafitte needed someplace quiet between New Orleans and Veracruz -- in both cities he was a "respectable" businessman... well, it was the "don't ask, don't tell" era of merchandizing. Naming his hideout for the chief lawman of the era was high camp -- and deliciously ironic. Just the thing for a witty jeu d'esprit to liven up those FABULOUS dinner parties Jean and his cher ami, Pierre, threw for the rogues, scoundrels and fellow merchandizers. Galveston, to it's credit, has never turned respectable... it still celebrates its scoundrels, and -- in the spirit of Jean and Pierre -- it's always been a gay-tolerant place.

During the War of 1812, Lafitte and Pierre provided material assistance and contract labor to the United States Navy -- in his day it was called a "letter of marque." It wasn't much, but it did start a tradition in Texas roguery -- the spiritual descendents of Jean and Pierre are today's unindicted Halliburton and Enron executives.

Not nearly as colorful as Lafitte, as ornery as LBJ or as rapacious as Enron or Halliburton ... and only a run-of-the-mill heterosexual bigamist, Peter Ellis Bean is almost bland... and, consequently, forgotten. There's no Bean County, no Beanville... no 50-foot statue to Mr. Bean.

It's a shame. He was as throughly disreputable as many a better-known Texas pioneer, and he managed to accidentally become a heroic figure in the Mexican War of Independence.

Bean traveled widely throughout Texas and what's now northern Chihuahua. The short biography in the Handbook of Texas On-line tells us little. He was born in Tennessee in 1783 (though 1778 seems more likely, as other records suggest) and in 1800 was part of the "ill-fated Philip Nolan expedition". He was only a teenager at the time, but he knew Nolan from his "horse-trading" (involving stolen horses -- or perhaps stealing horses -- from the Indians) expeditions.

Philip Nolan's name may ring a bell if you remember your Junior High School English. Edward Everett Hale mixed up Nolan's ill-fated attempt to invade Mexico with Aaron Burr's attempts to grab Texas the next year. Philip Nolan became "The Man Without a Country" in the 1917 short story, who is condemned to never to hear of the United States as long as he lived.

The real Nolan had some hare-brained idea that the Spanish wouldn't notice if he grabbed a himself a big o' hunk of Texas. They noticed. They shot Nolan. The filibustros were dragged off to Chihuahua to stand trial, but no one was in any hurry.

Mexican justice was even less efficient then than it is now -- it wasn't until 1807 that the survivors even came to trial. In the meantime, Bean (now often called Pedro Elías Beán) acccording to an online bigoraphy compiled from several 19th century sources:

"... became a shoemaker and at Chihuahua he established a hat manufacturing enterprise. He reputation spread for manufacture of hats of such quality that he soon obtained a monopoly on the local hat trade, had several employees and gained the respect of residents of the region. After four years, discovery of plans for escape, betrayal by fellow prisoners on the Nolan Expedition and attempts to escape temporarily abrogated his success and privileges. He survived execution by a throw of the dice with one point lower than the unlucky member of the group."
Bean and another "lucky" survivor, David Faro, were eventually given a prison sentence. They were packed off to Acapulco (believe it or not, that was punishment... ok, they were locked in the dungeon, but it was a nice sea-side dungeon) in 1811. They were just in time for Padre Morelos' seige of the city. With the Spanish distracted by the Insurgentes, Bean and Faro dug their way out of the prison, ending up with Morelos' army. Although he was convenionally pious, and was considered a dedicated and honest village cura, Morelos was as tough a customer as any frontier horse-trader. He'd been a muleskinner and cowboy before entering the priesthood, and having served in rough, unsettled back country churches not only gave him the toughness to become the great guerilla leader that he was, he had an uncanny ability to pick subordinates for their qualities, overlooking their spiritiual shortcomings.

Morelos knew he was working with scoundrels, but one of those scoundrels ... our anti-hero, Mr. Bean, had somewhere acquired a more usable skill than making hats and shoes ... he knew how to make cannon-balls and explosives.

Wilbert H. Timmons, who wrote what I think is the only English-language biography of Morelos ("Morelos of Mexico: Priest, Soldier, Stateman. El Paso, Texas Press Western Press. 1963, rep. 1970) has this to say about the remarkable Mr. Bean:

One Anglo-American, Perter Ellis Bean, should be included among those who joined the Morelos movement during its first year of military operations and who contributed significantly to the cause.

... Bean escaped as Morelos entered the Acapulco area, joined his insurgent army, and aidend the revolutionaries immeasuably through his knowledge of the manufacture of gunpowder. "As there were large quantities of salpeter in the country," wrote Bean, "and I was the only one who understood the manufacture of powder, I set up a powder mill. We obtained sulpher from a mine near Chilpancingo and while the Indian women ground the material on their metates, I msade the powder." Bean remained with Morelos until 1814, when he was sent to the United States to obrain aid for the insurgent cause.

The official on-line biographer (partially based on Bean's self-serving 1816 autobiography) write of his activities:

Bean distinguished himself by engineering large scale defections from the Royal Forces to the Republicans and exhibited leadership in action that brought him the rank of Colonel. He was in command of the troops that captured the city of Acapulco including his former captors. In contrast to the Mexican Indian insurgents under his command, Bean insisted on humane treatment of prisoners and was admired for the trait by both sides. Bean met and became acquainted with most of the important chieftains of the Mexican independence movement including Gen. Manuel Mier y Terán and Felíx Fernández (Guadalupe Victoria).

Those 19th century biographers decorously mention that he "met" a "Spanish lady" at this time. They neglect to mention her name, Doña Magdalena Falfan de los Godos, or the possibly important detail that he married her. Why becomes obvious later.

Morelos was no fool, but he had very little knowlege of the wider world. And even less maneuverablity when it came to seeking foreign aid. When the fledgling United States revolted against their British colonial masters, they could appeal to the other two European superpowers... France and Spain.

But, Morelos' revolt was against the "French atheists" (i.e, Napoleon Bonaparte) who had occupied Spain and put Napoleon's brother on the throne in Madrid. The army they were fighting answered to the Viceroy, who was loyal to either Carlos IV or his son Ferdinand VII, depending on which Spanish "loyalist" junta he happened to answer to that particular day. It didn't matter -- both the Carlists and the Fernandists were supplied by the British. The superpowers were fighting each other, but both were trying to hang on to the American colonies. Holland, traditionally an English business rival had provided George Washington's rebel army with money... but Napoleon had put yet another brother on the Dutch throne... which only left Morelos with the upstart United States. The U.S. was no superpower, but at least it had a navy, which Morelos did not. And, there was money and radical revolutionaries to the north. It seemed a natural ally.

Morelos recognized that Bean was less than the ideal diplomat. But, not having a Mexican Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson around (who at least spoke the ally's language), he had no choice but to send Bean and two other adventurers -- one of whom ended up, after sending a letter to President Madison, drifiting down into Columbia, where he attempted to borrow money using a forged letter by somebody named "Joaquin José Morelos"). Bean never got to Washington etiher.

Advanced several thousand pesos in gold, Bean set off on his adventures. Again, our 19th century friends:

...Bean was sent in the fall of 1814 by Morelos as an agent to promote the Mexican Republican cause in the United States, "to bring on a campaign against the province of Texas, and make some provision for a supply of arms." He found at Nautla on the coast north Vera Cruz, one of Lafitte's vessels {you just knew our gay pirate would show up eventually, didn't you?}, the Tigre("Tiger"), under the command of Captain Dominic You, which had just defeated a British brig offshore. The Tigre was beached after a drunken celebration of the crew over the victory. From the crew, Bean first heard of the war between the United States and Great Britain, He rigged his own schooner and sailed to New Orleans with the Napoleonic veteran and pirate, Joseph Amable Humbert on board, as well as part of the crew of the Tigre. At Barrateria, he met Lafitte and necessarily postponed attempts to get support for the Mexican insurgent movement because of pre-occupation of the area with the war against the British. With Lafitte, Bean contacted General Jackson and offered their services at New Orleans. As the British guarded the coast, the two threaded their way through the swamps and bayous to that city. Bean was well known to Jackson, and was at once placed in charge of a battery. Lafitte, also, was given a command; and both did heroic service in the great battle.

Bean's (or Beán's) actions back in the U.S. are a little less heroic to later biographers. According to Timmons (page 146), Bean was seeking help from a British ship after Captial You's drunken mishap. Discovering the British were at war with the United States -- and besides, they were hunting for pirates -- plans changed. Bean and a few of the soberer sailors stole a boat and hightailed it to New Orleans, where he met up with Lafitte. Joining up with Andy Jackson was apparently Lafitte's idea... and a good way of legitimizing his own rather dubious business activities... and, incidentally, Bean's

Bean never made it anywhere near Washington. He never bothered sending a letter to Madison, though he did try recruiting some pirates and ne-er do wells around New Orleans, for a incursion into Texas. Eventually, Bean himself, once there was an independent Mexico, drifted back into Texas, where -- trading on his services to the Insurgentes, and his revolutionary connections, he was given a military commission. To his credit, he served with some distinction keeping peace between the local indian tribes and the settlers. He apparently forgot he'd acquired a Mexican wife and married (or didn't -- the record is unclear) a "Texian settler" from Tennesee, and -- in violation of Mexican law, bought several slaves to work his plantation outside Nachadoches.

When the Texians (the U.S. settlers in Texas) rebelled against Mexico in 1836, Bean -- as a Mexican officer -- was locked up (again! -- though this time for NOT rebelling) but as a personal friend of fellow rascal, Sam Houston (they knew each other from their dealings with the Kiowa and Comanches) he didn't stay in jail very long. Out on parole, he sat out the Texas revolt, taking no real part in public affairs, and living quietly with his American wife, Canadice

In 1842, he began liquidating his assets. By this time it was obvious that the United States was going to annex Texas. It also appeared, slightly later, when Beans's will was probated, that the property was ... shall we say... overvalued, and had an unclear title? It wasn't completely clear that Bean owned the assets that had been liquidated.

Canadice was still alive, but so was Magdalena back in Veracruz State. The old rogue wrote his will, swearing he was a widower and rode out of town. He rejoined Magdalena at her hacienda outside Xalapa. With perhaps better timing than ever before, he managed to escape the law and avoid embarrasing questions about his finances (and returning to the country he'd originally fled as a teenager, worked as a diplomat to make an ally, fought for, then fought to prevent becoming an ally, then was invaded by).... by dying on October 13, 1846.

Monday, November 13, 2006

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Pay no attention to that giant sucking sound... it's just Homeland Security moving to Guadalajara!

New York Times (November 13, 2006) By Elisabeth Malkin MEXICO CITY, Nov. 12 — Ross Perot once spoke of a “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving. The Texas billionaire and onetime presidential candidate railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s, arguing that it would create a “giant sucking sound” of good American jobs pulled to low-wage Mexico. But things change. Last week, Mr. Perot’s Texas company announced that it was hiring — in Mexico. The Perot Systems Corporation, which manages information technology for companies, is setting up a technology center in Guadalajara where it expects to employ 270 engineers by the middle of next year. Neither Mr. Perot, who is now chairman emeritus of the company he founded in 1988, nor his son, Ross Perot Jr., the company’s chairman, was on hand for the announcement in Guadalajara Thursday. But a company spokesman, Joe McNamara, said that lower pay for engineers was only one of several reasons Perot Systems decided to set up in Mexico. “Guadalajara is a fast-developing technology center in Mexico,” he said. “There’s room to grow.” The company is also looking at other places in Mexico to set up new operations, he said. “Mexico is a very important strategic location for us,” he said. The Perots are hardly bucking the trend as the information technology industry has grown steadily offshore. Perot Systems, based in Plano, Tex., had sales of $2 billion last year and employs 20,000 people in more than 20 countries, 6,000 of them in India alone. The company will also announce a new operation in the Philippines and one in Kentucky soon. At Thursday’s announcement in Guadalajara, Mike McClaskey, the vice president for infrastructure solutions, was there to invite job seekers to the company’s recruiting events, describing a “meaningful career opportunity” at a center that will be part of the company’s global network. The Mexican employees will be providing desk and engineering support to Perot Systems clients in the United States and Europe. The clients include companies in the health care and finance industries along with United States government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. The company does not plan to use Mexico as a base to drum up new business from Latin America, Mr. McNamara said. The arrival of Perot Systems in Guadalajara, which bills itself as Mexico’s Silicon Valley, is a small success story for the government and the local technology industry. For several years now, Mexico has tried to carve out a niche as a low-cost software developer in an effort to win a fraction of the business that now goes to India. But so far Mexico has failed to catch on, despite its growing pool of bilingual engineers and the advantage of being in the same time zones as the United States. The new technology center in Guadalajara offers a stamp of approval, particularly because it comes from such an unexpected source. Back in 1992 and 1993, Mr. Perot’s anti-Nafta harangues made him highly unpopular in Mexico, where many had high hopes for the agreement. But a dozen years into Nafta, Mexicans are willing to let bygones be bygones. And so, it seems, is Mr. Perot. “The whole world has changed a lot in the past 14 years,” Mr. McNamara said.
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The Sounds of Silence

Is the general population of Mexico City aging or what? Some politicos have gotten so cranky about the noise levels in d.f. that they passed a new ordinance to turn down the volume. Antonio Olivio of the Chicago Tribune: Several wondered: Is it even possible to harness Mexico City's carnival of sound? To quiet the roving mariachi bands-for-hire that sing about lost love until dawn? To silence the sidewalk barkers promoting the latest trendy bars? Or, in a 24-hour society that loves a good party, to undo the fact that one's stature is often measured by the strength of his stereo speakers? Government response is the new Environmental Standard for the Federal District, adopted in September, which cracks down on loud factories, bars, markets and other places of business in the capital. To show the government means business, higher fines associated with the new ordinance start around $90 and can climb to $900, Trujillo said. Sergio Beristain ascribed the problem to a mixture of erratic urban planning and a culture that loves to be heard. "The people, they're used to noise," he said with some resignation, calling the new law too limited in scope. "I'm not sure they have the resources they would need to enforce this ordinance. It would require a massive education campaign. When people write into Thorntree asking for suggestions of quiet places to stay (in Mexico) where they can relax and write a book, I just roll my eyes. There are no so such places. Mexico is all about noises! I thought I found a quiet place to stay in Piste. It was a nah off on a dirt road. I had a thatched roof, a bed surrounded with mosquito netting, and a mirror... that was it. The only lightbulb in the room was burned out and no tv/radio or anything. I hadn't taken into account the critter population. Dogs prowled around the nah all night and barked in unison. A rooster greeted the sun with his friendly call which woke up the mamma pig and her 5 offspring.... oink, oink. At about 6am, the church bells rang and at 6:30am, a big ol' truck drove past with an impassioned man's voice booming through a loudspeaker as he was trying to sell a load of mattresses (of all things). When you're in a Mexican city (anywhere in Mexico), your ears will be assaulted by belching buses, barking dogs (roaming gangs), honking horns, sirens, noisy vendors, jack-hammers, etc. It's not uncommon to be eating a meal in a local restaurant with two tv's going, a mariachi band playing songs at the next table, a waiter trying to take your order and a cd vendor (with a sound system to rival 'Twisted Sister's) blasting away just outside the open doorway. I'm ok with all of it with one big exception.... the obnoxious ORGAN GRINDER! That sound (noise) grates on my last nerve. It's right up there with nails going down a chalk board or the sound of bagpipes. One afternoon, I bought a phone card, and walked over to a payphone to make a long distance call. Right after I heard my sister say, "Hello...." an organ grinder walked up and started playing. I looked over at him (thinking he would take a hint), and he just smiled at me and kept on turning the crank. Teaches me to call home from calle de Cinco de Mayo. The mariachi's, the barking dogs, the jack-hammers... they're noises of a bustling society. Coupled with the aromas of grilled onions and cooking tacos, the burning mesquite, the perfume of incense wafting through the churches, and of fields of pointsetias growing in Xolchimilco, the noises in the streets, give Mexico it's vitality/energy. The only instance of long silence I experienced in Mexico was when I joined a group of about 100 onlookers (on a Puerto Vallarta beach) as we watched a large sea turtle lay her eggs in the sand. For about an hour, you could hear a whisper. Babies and working men on the buses have learned to sleep right through the daily commotion. Only old men in suits, who are trying to distance themselves from their roots, want to muffle the noise. Noise is the music of the young. Meanwhile, let's have a little fireworks with that marimba band! photo by: ogal
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Big Mac... attacked... again!

The teachers' strikes have been going on for 20 plus years. Ulises Ruiz wasn't the first Governor to steal an election, and AMLO's loss wasn't the first shady presidential election in Mexico. But, what convinced the Oaxacaños they could take on the powers that be? Juchitan famously resisted the State back in the early 90s and installed a PRD-led municipal council... but that was put down. The first successful modern people-power movement in Oaxaca was back in 2002 -- and the fight was the Golden Arches v the golden-hued historical arches of Oaxaca... or Big Macs v. Crickets. The crickets won... and the rest is history. TODAY:
OAXACA, Mexico (AP) -- In the conflict-torn Mexican city of Oaxaca , police say four youths wearing masks tossed gasoline bombs at a McDonald's restaurant, damaging the windows, seats and play area. Security personnel at the shopping center where the McDonald's is located put out the blaze. The restaurant was closed during the pre-dawn attack, and nobody was hurt. The shopping mall is near a university where leftist protesters set up their headquarters last month after police drove them out of the city's main plaza. Those activists attacked a Burger King restaurant in the same mall with gasoline bombs last week. However, leaders of the movement deny their members were responsible for today's attack...
This is round two of the Great Oaxaca Burger Wars... Back to round one... published in the NY Times, the last time a Oaxacan uprising made the news... and incidentally, the people won. The store bombed last night is the one mentioned as being "near a Mercedes dealership."
Mexicans resisting McDonalds Fast Food Invasion McTaco vs. Fried Crickets: a Duel in the Oaxaca Sun August 24, 2002 By TIM WEINER NY Times OAXACA, Mexico, Aug. 22 - The town square in this old city is a kind of sacred space. Beside a cathedral, under ancient shade trees, people sit for hours on cast-iron benches, passing time slowly, framed by stone arches glowing golden in the afternoon light. Two new golden arches may be rising soon. A certain corporation known throughout the world for its hamburgers - and as a symbol of American culture - plans to open an outlet on the southeastern corner of the square. The proposal has set off a lively debate about food, money and power in Oaxaca (wa-HA-ka), where the favorite snack is fried crickets, not french fries. "This is the center of our city, a place where people meet, talk politics, shop and spend time," said Francisco Toledo, 61, a native Oaxacan and perhaps Mexico's best-known living artist. "It's a big influence on art and creativity. And we are drawing the line here against what the arches symbolize." McDonald's, which sold $40 billion of food last year, has faced down opposition all over the world, including American communities from Ft. Bragg, Calif., to the Bronx. The protests have sometimes turned to political theater, most famously in 1999, when a French farmer, José Bové, dismantled a new McDonald's in Millau, a citadel of cheese in southwestern France. But McDonald's marches on: more than half its 30,000 branches are outside the United States. Since 1985, it has opened 235 outlets in Mexico, including one on the outskirts of Oaxaca, across the highway from a Mercedes-Benz dealership. Though Mexicans ometimes have a hard time pronouncing the name - it usually comes out as "Madonna's" - many have no trouble downing McBurritos and jalapeño-topped McMuffins. The fast-food giant says it will respect the cultural identity and architectural traditions of Oaxaca's old square. But Oaxaca is a world capital of slow food, based on recipes that go far, far back in time. It is famous for its seven varieties of mole, a painstaking sauce that can take three days to make; tamales baked slowly in a banana leaf, and those crickets, which take a long time to catch but have far more protein, fewer calories and less fat than ground beef. (They taste like grass-fed shrimp - an acquired taste, perhaps, but a very popular one.) Public opinion in Oaxaca's zócalo, the town square, favors those old tastes. "The zócalo's a place with colonial arches and a colonial rhythm - not the place for McDonald's," said Sara Carre~o, 39, who runs the ancient wooden telephone switchboard at the Hotel Señorial. "The difference between fast food and Oaxacan food is too great." Mr. Toledo led hundreds of marchers to the zócalo, where they feasted on tamales, but the protests have not struck a universal chord. The State of Oaxaca may be the poorest in Mexico, and some people wonder whether they can afford to reject any form of foreign investment. "Oaxaca was so isolated from the world for so long that any change feels like an onslaught," said Iliana de la Vega, 42, who runs El Naranjo, an acclaimed restaurant off the zócalo. "Now, I'm not in favor of McDonald's. But there are people who want their business. And if they follow the rules, pay taxes, give people jobs - you can't outlaw that, can you?" The argument now lies in the hands of the city government. But this may be less an issue of politics and power than of taste and time. Can a company that prides itself on speed and uniformity fit in a place where people value taking their time and making food by hand? "Real food is not frozen meat," said Jacqueline García, 24, who runs Toñita's, a food stand in Oaxaca's old market. "It's fresh cheese and crickets. Fast food's unnatural. The people who make it are incompetent. And McDonald's belongs in the United States, not our zócalo."
Eaters of the world unite... we have nothing to lose but our mole!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

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Worrisome news from Oaxaca... not from an anarchist

A crazy on the "Thorn Tree Mexico Message Board" always claims I'm an anarchist. Moi? He claimed this guy was too, so I figured he must have something worth saying. The Rev. George Salzmann, OSFS (the "Salesians -- a rather conservative teaching order founded to counter the heresies of the French Revolution) is a Catholic chaplain at Harvard, and emeritus professor of Physics at U. of Mass, Boston. He wrote a quick article for the Canadian anti-globalization and alternative media site, Global Reseach. Father Salzmann apologized for not footnoting as carefully as he normally does in academic articles, wanting to get the material out as soon as poossible. Revving up the dirty war in Oaxaca
Under PFP ‘protection’, and with PFP participation, the combined level of the dirty war by the Oaxaca PRI contingent of Ulises Ruiz and the PFP mushroomed — so intolerably in fact that the church offered asylum to members of the popular movement because of the threats and the jump in the numbers of dead, arrested, and disappeared. Unfortunately (and predictably), it's not ‘just’ the state agents and allied paramilitaries who are doing the really dirty work. There are people who were snatched by the PFP who haven’t even been identified, some of them seized at the most active large conflict area — the university campus,[3] where the radio station is located — on helicopters and not accounted for (according to some of the material I've read).[4] Most assuredly the PFP, or at least some of its ‘special forces’, is itself a terrorist organization. I’m certain the so-called ‘counter terrorism’ operations discussed in the Narco News article by Diego Enrique Osorno [5] are being actively implemented by both Ulises Ruíz’s state and paramilitary agents, and by the highly-trained hit teams of the PFP, the latter undoubtedly led by officers trained at the School of the Americas. Terrorism against popular social movements is serious business for repressive governments, whether in Central America, Mexico, Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, or wherever.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

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There's a dust-up between Spanish news agecy EFE and U.S. Spanish-language Televison network, Telemundo over who is responsible for leaving the microphones on ... and recording... and broadcasting Vincente Fox being, well... honest. The story is here, on Terra. Youtube took down the clip, for legal reasons, and I can't find another one anywhere. Fox's presidency ends Decebmer first. EFE was asking him "Hey, Vincente, now that you've been President of Mexico, what do you plan to do (besides try and save your reputation as everything seems to be falling apart around you... the questionable election of your successor, the situation in Oaxaca, in Tabasco, the never resolved issues in Chiapas, etc. etc. etc.). Said el Prsidente:

"Ya hoy hablo libre, ya digo cualquier tontería, ya no importa: ya total, yo ya me voy" I'm can say whatever I want now, and I can say any stupid thing I feel like. Who cares.... it's over and I'm outta here!

Friday, November 10, 2006

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Friday night cat blogging. Our kitties are cuter than americablog's and dailykos' kitties any day. These jaguar cubs were born at the Leon, Gto. zoo. (Photo, Notimex).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

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Mexico City passes (Gay) Civil Unions law!

This is HUGE! Mexico City Legislature (ALDF) passed the "Ley de Sociedades en Convivencia" or "Civil Unions" bill which will allow couples who are of legal age, of the same or different genders, to register their unions at Delegation offices, the same as marriages are registered now. Registration confers inheritance and pension rights as well as the social benefits available to married couples. The bill passed 43 to 17, with 5 absentions. PRD, PRI, PT, Convergencia, Alternativa y two Nueva Alianza deputies voted in favor. One PRD deputy and the three Green representatives abstained. PAN and one Nueva Alianza deputry voted "no." Based on French law, "Sociedades de Conviviencia" provide property, pension, inheritance and even co-parenting rights. They say nothing about adoption, and specifically exclude relationships between close blood relatives. One specific feature of the bill is that couples who are turned away by a delegation official can appeal to the Federal District's Adminstrative Law Court, which can sanction or fine civil servants who -- by action, negligence or omission -- discriminate against citizens on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation. Alberto Cuenca, in El Universal wrote in this morning's edition (before the vote was taken) that the bill is "designed to give legal recognition to a social reality, and in no way affects existing forms of marriage. An estimated 2.1 of the 26 million households in Mexico are formed by unrelated and unmarried persons. Reuters reports that the Coahuila State legislature is debating a similar law this week.
"These reforms are going to cause a snowball effect that no one will be able to stop," said David Sanchez of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution, one of the few openly gay national congressmen.
The Sociedad Mexicana de Sexología Humanista Integral estimates that 20 percent of Mexicans have had -- or will have -- same sex relations during their lifetime. According to the 2005 "Primera Encuesta Nacional sobre la Discriminación", 94 percent of gays and lesbians said they had been discrimated against because of their sexual orientation. The bill has been languishing for the last five years, until today. Ironically, the bill's author, lesbian activist and then ALDF deputy, Enoé Uranga, blamed the delay in passage on "old socialists," specifically Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who besides being much less a fire-breating radical and more an old fashioned middle-class social worker than outsiders realize, also could not, during his tenure as Jefe de Gobernacion in DF, nor when running for President, could afford to alienate "traditional values voters" or the Church. From this morning's El Universal (my translation):
Alberto Cuenca El Universal Ciudad de México Thursday, 9 November 2006 Enoé Uranga, who during her tenure as a Federal District Deputy first introduced a Civil Unions bill ("Ley de Sociedades en Convivencia") said that the imminent approval of this proposal, expected as early as today by the Federal District Assembly (ALDF, "Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal" in Spanish) showed that the "modern left" has supplanted the "conservative left". Uranga added that the present PRD legislators "have rectified the effors" of previous PRD legislatures, dominated by those opposed to the law. However, Ms. Uranga said that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, when he was Chief of Government for the Federal District, was the main impediment to passing a Civil Unions bill, and his objections were the main reason no vote held on the matter until now. In April 2001, Uranga, then a local deputy, presented to the ALDF tribunal the first iniative for a civil unions bill, with only minor differences than the one presently before the Assembly. Five years later, the former assemblywoman, active in the gay-lebian comunity, said he has never lost confidence that the original proposal would eventually be approved. However, the Green Party has said they will vote against the measure [my note: the Greens abstained]. The gay-lesbian community is seeking the expulsion of the PVEM (Mexican Green Party) from the Green Party International, on the grounds that support for Civil Unions is an intergral part of the Green platform at the interntional level.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

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Mexico City bombings... maybe not so serious

Last night, I was speculating that the bombings COULD be the work of agentes provacateurs... there were similar bombing incidents (late at night, designed to do minimal property damage, and ... more importantly, done with the idea of blaming "leftist radicals" for the result) before, like the one in Tlanapantla, Morelos when that municipio's people rose up to throw out a corrput PRI presidented, who had been fraudulently elected, but was defended by the state's PAN governor (himself having barely survived impeachment through open bribery of the legislators). There COULD be a few guerilla groups working to destabilize .... well, any number of situations, but the APPO and the Lopez Obrador folks are denying any connection to these guys. The only guerilla group with a conection to the APPO, the ERP also denies any connection... and they normally do take credit for actions when they can. These other groups may be "fronts" for PRI -- or PRI dissident -- factions. Still too soon to tell. Kelly Arthur Garrett, as always, has the clearest, best reporting on the bizarro-world of Mexican politics. I'm not likely to post today... I've got to make a living, and am busy reporting on the muy bizarrolandia of Texas politics. It's election day in the U.S., and this is the strangest election I've ever seen, even compared to Mexican ones.

After blasts, tense calm in the capital

By Kelly Arthur Garrett The Herald Mexico/El Universal Martes 07 de noviembre de 2006 Despite three pre-dawn bomb blasts in strategically targeted buildings, Mexico City stayed calm Monday and business proceeded as usual - or at least what passes for usual in these times of daily street-blocking protests, occupied monuments, graffiti-marred historic buildings and competing "legitimate" presidents-elect. Security at the international airport was heightened Monday, but the alert level stayed at the same phase ("2") that it´s been at since September 11, 2001. The Foreign Relations Secretariat building was briefly evacuated at mid-morning, but officials insisted that action was a "drill." Still, the concern level notched up as evidence emerged late in the day that the three explosions at the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) headquarters, the federal Electoral Tribunal building and a Scotiabank branch are not all of what had been planned. The armed revolutionary organizations that took credit for the blasts said another bomb had been planted at the PRI building and one at a Sanborns across the street from it. Two bombs were planted at the tribunal site and two at the Scotiabank, as well as one other at another bank branch. Mexico City´s police chief, Joel Ortega, said Monday evening that it was entirely possible that eight explosive devices were set to go off. Thus it was likely that the three explosions were from two bombs each, while the Sanborns and second Scotiabank devices were discovered by police before they detonated. Ortega also said that the claim by five armed groups that they were responsible for the violence was credible. "We think there is one more group involved in these acts as well," he said during a radio interview. Ortega did not name the sixth possible group, but he could have been referring to the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) that has been closely identified with the Oaxaca movement. On Friday, the EPR released a communiqué congratulating demonstrators from the Oaxaca People´s Assembly (APPO) for preventing the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) from entering the Benito Juárez University in Oaxaca. But the EPR did not sign on to the message sent to the media Monday afternoon claiming credit for the bombings, which caused no injuries. Two of the clandestine organizations taking credit for the bombings had previously threatened violence if the Fox administration sent police or military troops into Oaxaca. In a communiqué dated September 24, the Democratic Revolutionary Tendency-Army of the People (TDR-EP) and the Lucio Cabañas Barriento Revolutionary Movement (MRLCB) said, "If the Mexican army and the various police bodies enter Oaxaca to remove the teachers and citizens," the armed groups would "enter into action." The PFP entered Oaxaca on Oct. 29 and the bombs went off in Mexico City just after midnight on Nov. 6. APPO was quick to distance itself from the bombings Monday, although they were carried out, according to the armed groups´ statement, with the same aims that APPO has expressed - the ouster of Gov. Ulises Ruiz from office, the removal of federal forces from Oaxaca, and a radical political reform in the state. "We don´t have anything to do with those bombings," said APPO spokesman Flavio Sosa. "Our compañeros (in Mexico City) are encamped peacefully in front of the Senate." Before the five clandestine groups made their statement, representatives for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) said they suspected that the bombings were the doing of right-wing forces seeking to discredit the Oaxaca popular movement. The PRI, the one party directly victimized by the violence, demanded a full investigation. Emilo Gamboa Patrón, coordinator of PRI deputies in the lower house of congress, called on President Fox to cancel his upcoming trip abroad in the final weeks of his presidency to focus on the inquiry.

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Wagging our weenies across the Rio Grande?

Texas political writers sometimes have it too easy... even if our politicans are fools and crooks, they're always first-rate entertainment. Everyone is familiar with Molly Ivins. Less well known are "Juanita Jean Herownself" who has plenty of comedy material just in Fort Bend County (home of Tom DeLay) and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy. Kennedy has lately been amused -- or bemused -- by our anti-immigration folks. We don't have to import our wackos from California or Arizona. We are perfectly capable of making fools of ourselves all on our own. Sometimes, we even use our tax dollars to do it. Alien Typo
Texas' border video webcams were unveiled Friday, and so far, all they've caught is one spelling violator. According to our state Homeland Security office, we are supposed to sit at home in our Bermuda shorts and watch eight test cameras, then e-mail if we see any felons or terrorists with dirty bombs sneaking across the Rio Grande. Sure, dude. I'll crank up the computer and tune in today during the football games. Come to think of it, it'd be easier to find the TCU Horned Frogs on TV if they would play in front of the border cams. From what I could tell Friday afternoon from, Texas' border is already far more secure. Absolutely no immigration violators will sneak past what appears to be a line of moving cars, the scene from Camera No. 1. Other cameras seemed to show a parking lot and a lake dam near McAllen, all apparently innocent scenes but obviously sensitive locations in the war on terror. I didn't see any intruders on the Web site Friday. But I did call Austin to report one alien speller. For most of the day, the page promised eight webcams and complete "public access." Well -- not exactly. The original Web site dropped a strategic letter from public. Either somebody made a mistake, or Texas was going into the peekaboo video industry. When I called to report this incursion against the English language, nobody in Austin seemed to know how to fix the Web page, much less how to fix the border. "That's not our Web site," said Bryan Bradsby of the state Information Resources Department, the registered source of state government Web pages. With a groan, he added, "I have no power to edit anything on that page." I tried the Texas Department of Public Safety. After all, the Web site bears the state seal and declares that its purpose is "Securing the Border for the People of Texas." I figured the DPS would want to know about a -- er -- public mistake that was borderline embarrassing. "We don't deal with that," said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange. "You'll have to call the Homeland Security office." The receptionist took a message. I guess it's a good thing I wasn't reporting a terrorist. Finally, I called the Plano company that designed the cameras and Web site. According to a San Antonio Express-News report Friday, TRGear was paid $100,000 for the Web test. It's one of seven companies trying out for a contract to build the state's proposed $5 million "virtual wall" of border webcams, officially the Texas Virtual Neighborhood Border Watch Program. "Can't talk about it," said Jack Woodmansee, a retired Army lieutenant general and president of TRGear, which sells tactical and rescue equipment and operates security services. Not even about bad spelling? "Can't talk about it," Woodmansee said. "You'll have to call Austin." By this time, the entire Web site was overloaded under the weight of 35,000 viewers, all keeping a sharp eye out in case any dope smugglers or terrorists tried to crawl past that line of cars. Eventually, Kathy Walt of the governor's office called back. "This is a stress test," she said. This isn't the final version, she said, "but it's working and people are accessing it." Some of the cameras are focused on fixed landmarks to test the clarity of the webcams, Walt said. Eventually, she said, the cameras will be aimed at locations where law officers find "significant criminal activity," such as drug-running. If we see anything on camera -- after giving an e-mail address and downloading video software -- we're supposed to click an e-mail link marked "Report Suspicious Activity Here." The e-mail will go to a state command post in Austin and also to local authorities. State officers will replay the video and decide whether to respond, Walt said. She didn't know about the misspelling. The embarrassing typo was finally fixed at midafternoon Friday. By then, thousands of CNN viewers had logged in to see the border cameras and giggled at those dumb Texans. Apparently, nobody noticed the mistake for 16 hours. Hope we're better at catching crooks.
The eyes of Tezas are upon yew...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

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Ulises Ruiz... in the total spin zone

You can tell a politician is lying when his lips move... but Ulises Ruiz Ortiz isn't even slick with his lies. I thought it was just Republican congress-varmits who were clueless when they were caught. (My translation, from a 4 November Proceso article, "Responde Ulises Ruiz: No pediré licencia ni renunciaré, reitera" by Rosalía Vergara, José Gil Olmos and Pedro Matías. Photo of Ruiz, courtesy Proceso)
Oaxaca, Oax., November 3 (APRO). - Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (PRI) questioned the the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ruling that his response to a Congressional vote that he should leave office was inadmissible on constitutional grounds. "They did not enter the bottom of the subject", he said, reiterating that "I am not going to request license (permission to retire); I am not going to resign; I have a commitment to the people of Oaxaca". Earlier today, around the seven in the morning, a paramilitary group, presumably composed of ministerial police, used AK-47 and M1s to fire on the antennas of Radio Univeridad, in an attempt to knock the station off the air. The station has been broadcasting information that the Governor's forces claim “spread the activities” of the social-political protest movement. Also today, municipal authorities in Sierra Juarez sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, asking the Commissioner to intervene with President Vincente Fox, and urge him to “take necessary measures to restore respect for human rights, and to withdraw the Army and Federal Police (PFP) from Oaxaca, and to require the resignation of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, since his stay in office damages the rule of law. In further news today, COCEI (the Isthmus [of Tehuanatepec] Workers, Farmers and Students Coalition) announced they will be expanding actions on Sunday, to include blocking highways connecting Oaxaca with Chiapas and Veracruz, as well as roads leading into the State Capital. The blockades, according to the COCEI leader Roberto Rosas Lopez, will continue until Ulises Ruiz Ortiz resigns as Governor. The ex-rector of the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, Alava Martinez, was quoted as saying that the teachers' strikes and popular uprising have shown that there is a crisis of legitimacy in the teachers' organization in particular, and throughout the state in general. He added that he was dishearted by the “dirty game played by special interests” and that PRI and PAN leaders are using the conflict as an excuse to “punish” Oaxaca for the state's votes against the two parties in the 2 July national elections. This evening, the governor was forced to meet with the national media, who earlier had complained about the discrimination shown by the State authorities in granting access to foreign press representatives. After clarifying that he was not the one making the decision to send in the Federal Preventative Police (PFP, for their initials in Spanish), Ruiz went on to say that the conflict in the streets had been reduced to a single avenue. He said that he did not consider the failure to clear the Cinco Señores barricade a failure, since there were other access routes to the city that were opened. The Governor added that the talks sponsored by the Interior Ministry were advancing towards a solution to the crisis. Ruiz claimed that the majority of people backed his government, with only a few leftists and members of the APPO holding out. Ruiz emphasized that he is not "governing with the PFP", and said he continues to make work-related tours throughout the Capital, though he avoids conflicted areas, claiming that his presence would be a pretext for “provocative acts”. At his time he said his expects the capital to return to normalicy shortly, and that once normality returns, the PFP can be withdrawn. However, he did admit that the Federal Prosecutor's office, and the local Federal District Attorney has issued 52 arrest warrants that still have to be served by the Federal Police. The Governor insists that those responsible for the conflict are not from Oaxaca, but "that there are outside agitators, Panchos Villas [presumably meaning members of the leftist Pancho Villa Revolutionary Front], Atencos [the ejito and municipio libre in the State of Mexico, that has been in conflict with both the State and Federal government over proposals to sitiuate a new Mexico City airport on ejito land] and some foreigners. Those who are in charge of the investigations will realize that there is evidence of outside involvement.” Finally, the Governor claimed that investigations of the conflict will not lead to an “adjustment of accounts” because “we are already creating a new relationship with the people, who have respect for the transparency of our budgetary and operational activities.”
And today's response from the citizens, courtesy of Reuters...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

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Oaxaca... it's gonna get stranger before it gets better

An astute European, with family and business ties to Oaxaca, made the following observations about the Oaxaca situation on one of the tourism websites:
‘Si los que dispararon (a Brad Will) son militantes del PRI, tendrán nuestro apoyo jurídico’. ("If the ones that shot at (Brad Will) are PRI activists we will help them with their legal defense").Héctor Pablo Ramírez Puga Leyva, Leader of the PRI in Oaxaca. (Quoted by Ciro Gómez Leyva in Vanguardia. Gomez Leyva is a Mexican journalist and newsreader of international reputation). The PRI leader in Oaxaca has offered to "help" the feds to "clean up" Oaxaca. He is saying that he could mobilize 20000 armed men and have them answer any "agressions" by the APPO. (reported in both El Universal and el Diario de Yucatan.
He adds this warning: If it comes to confrontations between PRI and APPO we will surely see what happened on Friday (the killings at the barricade where Brad Will was shot) repeated many times. The PRI leadership and militants have nothing to loose in Oaxaca. I am afraid that they will try to cling to power for as long as they can, using the methods they have learned - fraud, murder, repression. One thing to note about Governor Ruiz. The number of votes he received (or, rather were counted) that give him his victory over Gabino Cué, the Convergencia politican supported by both PAN and PRD, was exactly the same as the number of votes received by an minor party candidate that jumped into the election at the last minute. What were the odds on that? Probably about the same as Calderón's margin of victory over AMLO. And Mexicans are good mathematicians... More Oaxacan news of the weird: All Mexican papers are reporting on the two interlopers found on Benito Juarez Autonomous University campus today. An Army intellegence officer, and a Oaxaca State Police officer in plainclothes have been held by the students. Photo courtesy EFE printed in Vanguardia. The APPO is threatening to widen the rebellion, taking municipal headquarters (ayuntementos) throughout the state. Ulises Ruiz is trying to hang on, with PRI support, but the APPO STILL will not negotiate with him. The APPO, Congress, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church... besides PRI, who wants Ulises... oh, yeah... Esther Elba. SNTE says the teachers strike is settled. Section 22 (which started the whole thing) begs to differ. No classes Monday, kids.
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Todos somos Oaxaca (again!)

If I can't dance, what was the point of the Revolution? (Emma Goldman) BASTA A LA REPRESIÓN FOXISTA, ALTO A LA INTOLERANCIA, LA INJUSTICIA Y OPRESIÓN A LOS PUEBLOS DE MÉXICO. I HOPE THIS TIME, THIS STAYS POSTED. It's a mystery to me, but this was up and running... under an "html" extension. If anybody can figure out what I did to screw up, let me know.
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He's baaaak... AMLO

I was tickled by the idea of a "Department of Honesty and Thrift"... imagine a whole bureacracy dedicated to saving money! Good luck, Sr. Romero Oropeza! (my translation is from today's Jornada, "Presenta López Obrador su gabinete" by Jaime Avila) Reverting to the combative language that marked the long sit-in on the Zocalo - eliminating the dominant "neofascist" class, attacking the "the media of the worse" and, in obvious reference to Cuauhtémoc Cardenas, "political leaders that in other times defended popular causes but are tired and think in the past" -- Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador presented his alternative cabinet, one that will not be "a shadow cabinet", but one in the "total light of day". The team of six men and six women have experience in public administration or academia, and will head the 12 offices corresponding to the present cabinet positions, but with different names: instead of "Governacion" ("Home Secretary" or "Interior Ministry"), "Public Relations", for example. The presented members would be called Secretaries of International Relations, Public Property, and Justice and Security, instead of the "official" Foreign Relations, Hacienda and Public Credit and State Prosecutor. There are also conceptual innovations, like the title given to Luis Linares Zapata, who will head the office of "Economic Development and Ecology, an office designed, in AMLO's words, "to establish balances between the one and the other" and the office of "Honesty and Thrift", which is not the public comproller of "Pejelandia" but will be charged with overseeing the Calderon Government's spending. Octavio Romero Oropeza has taken this position. Raquel Sosa will head the Department of "Education, Science and Culture", and Marta Elvia Perez Bejarano, "State of Well-being" (Public Benefits might be a better translation). A few positions are the same in both the "offical" and "alternative" cabinets: Secretary of Labor (Berta Luján Uranga), Secretary of Health (Asa Cristina Laurel), Public Housing (Laura Itzel Castillo) and National Patrimony (Claudia Sheimbaun). The "legitimate president" has entrusted portfolios to people who will be in the eye of the hurricane, as is already apparent. The ceremony was one of Juarista-style austerity, in contrast to the Porfiriana-style elegance of the restored (during Lopez Obrador's Mayorality) Teatro de la Cuidad on Virginia Fábregas street. The ceremony started just after five in the afteroon, with writer Laura Esquivel, dressed in traditional Chiapas highlander clothing, reading a brief and moving speech. Esquivel spoke of the difference between the two worlds of the legitimate and the spurious. The legitimate, she said, is genuine, allowed, true, and certain thing; the spurious is the opposite: false things, uncertain things, illicit things. As an example of the spurious, she mentioned the "so-called legal president who will assume a government that is fruit of a conspiracy between the the uncertain, and the illicit," a paragraph that received an enthuastic ovation. The novelist introduced Caesar Yáñez, who will be the alternative government's Director of Social Communication, who put an end to the speculation of who the six men and six women were who were defying the "legal government" by joining this cabinet. Lopez Obrador was then introduced, wearing a gray business suit with a light tri-color on his lapel, radiating more energy than he displayed last Tuesday at the Juarez Hemiciclo, where he will also speak this coming Tuesday. He began reading a fluid, precise speech peppered withstrong adjectives that was neither applauded nor rejected by the audience. What was new was AMLO's references to "the media of the worst" and to writers and intellectuals "bitter and dried up" by those in power. It said nothing new, though the language was. In a change from the verbal fireworks, Lopez Obrador did make an announcement that didn't seem to excite the party leaders. He will personally visit each and every one of the 2,500 municipalities in the country, to construct a "a new political organization" giving form to the "travelling government" and "impregnating democracy" in every town, calling for mobilizations when the spurious president tries to roll back the gains made by the 1910 Revolution. Nothing was said about preventing the "other" President from taking office on 1 December. The ceremony lasted just under an hour. Before, during and after, 5000 people were outside the theater, continuously shouting "It is an honor to be with Obrador," even after the "legitimate president" had left the building by private automobile.