Thursday, August 31, 2006

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Has Fox Mulder been called in to investigate yet?

OTM: -- "Obviously, they're Martians"!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

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Mel's Mayans...

I take it the Unapologetic Mexican isn't exactly taken with Apocalypto:

Well, okay, the director is a White American; the soundtrack is being scored in London; the title is Greek (for "a new beginning", which the Maya were happy to be given, I'm sure); the movie is not being filmed in the Maya's homeland, and modern-day Mayan Yucatec is not the language of the Ancient Mayans, the lead actor is not a Mayan Indian, but Comanche and Cree Indian, and he doesn't live in Mexico, but in Texas. (Mexico, Texas. Same thing!) But at least Mel makes the Indians look good and creepy, like savages ought to.

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Alas poor Oaxaca -- too close to the tourists, so far from Mexico City (apologies to Porfirio Diaz)

I don't necessarily agree with all the poster's conclusions and assumptions, but "pelon" at the Lonely Planet Mexico Message Board referenced this post from Frommer's Travel Forum. It offers a well-written, frightening -- or frightened -- view of Oaxaca from the perspective of the foreign residents. From my friend who lives in Oaxaca. Dated 8/27/2006
"Many friends and relatives have advised me to get out of Mexico because of the unrest. Others report that they have only heard very little of what is happening. I thought I should give you my perspective. I think the situation here is not being covered because America is already involved in two wars of her own and people aren't ready to deal with more unrest. Also, there isn't a large body count here, so its problems fly under the US radar. I do get daily bulletins from Google with links to papers all over the world which are reporting on the Oaxaca situation. The reports vary. They all agree that the situation is volatile but each source wants to blame the other side. First, my friends who live here and I closely monitor the situation. We don't deem it dangerous enough to warrant our leaving. Remember that most of us have homes here and all of our possessions and friends are here. Unlike a volcano or other natural disaster, this unrest is centered in the heart of the city although roads leading into town are closed. At this point, we don't consider that it warrants our leaving. We stay in touch with the U.S. Consulate and will follow his advice should evacuation become necessary. He spoke to the Library Board last week and said there is no need to leave but cautioned us not to go out at night. Let me be clear, this is not about America or Americans. Yes, America has lost the respect of most other countries in the world and yes it has isolated itself in the world community, but Mexico's situation has nothing to do with a back lash against tourists or Americans living here. An American friend was just telling me that when he drives into town everyday the strikers tell him the best detours to take around the closed streets. This disturbance is about Mexico achieving democracy. For more than 70 years PRI was the only political party in Mexico. Party members lived like kings and plundered the treasuries . They didn't provide services for the common people. The election of President Vicente Fox, former head of Coca Cola Mexico, changed all that. But Oaxaca, as one of the poorest states in Mexico, remained one of the holdouts of PRI. The last elected governor is reported to have stolen the election. Sadly, if you ask a Oaxaqueno who their last good governor was, they will say Benito Juarez in the late 1860s. He is revered as Mexico's greatest president and drove the French out of Mexico. Only the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, the two poorest sates, are not required by law to account annually for state expenditures. Each governor is rumored to have looted the treasury before he left office. For more than 25 years, the powerful teachers' union has occupied the zocalo (the city center) to lobby for a raise and always gets one. This year the PRI governor refused to even meet with the teachers. But it isn't only about their salaries. Many schools throughout the state have no books, no lights, no blackboards, or running water. It is next to impossible to teach under those circumstances. Even in East Africa in the mid-60s, education was better supported. When the governor refused to meet the protesters, they remained in the center of town and closed the schools. Three months have passed. I have heard that they did receive a modest raise but they were so angered that they began calling for the governor's removal. In June, the governor sent in troops to dislodge the protesters but they fought back and the effort failed. After that other groups and, I am sure, most Americans here, started supporting them. The drawback is that in their attacks, the strikers have done major damage to the center of this beautiful colonial city. Businesses have closed and thousands have become unemployed. That is where I disagree with the protesters, two wrongs don't make a right. But, after the failure of the troops to dislodge them, they realized the extent of their power and they don't want to relinquish it now. There may be one out; there is talk of giving the governor a federal or embassy post allowing him to leave somewhat gracefully. The center of town looks worse than Baghdad but not as bad as Lebanon. The strikers have closed all major highways into the city and frequently close the airport. There have been parades with tens of thousands participating. Each march gets larger and larger. At night major intersections are blocked and tires are burned. Cars and buses with links to the governor can be seen burned out around the Centro. Why doesn't the president send help? Up until the end of July, neither the governor nor the president would confront the problem because there was an upcoming election and they didn't want to cause problems for their respective parties. PRI lost every position in which they ran a candidate in this State, a first in history. Also the Mexican president who is from the PAN party wants the PRI governor to suffer so he won't intervene. The Mexican President also has his hands full in Mexico City with major protests over the Presidential election in which the top two candidates were only 250,000 votes apart and the loser wants a recount. The PRI governor contends the Oaxaca crisis is a federal problem. Reports say that the major leaders in the strike have agreed to mediation in Mexico City with the Bishop of Chiapas serving as moderator. We pray that something can be worked out. If police and army troops are called in, there will be much blood shed and many deaths, for sure. Meanwhile the Oaxacan economy is destroyed. This year for the first time in more than 25 years the world famous Guelaguetza dance festival was canceled. Many hotels and restaurants are empty or closed. If peace came tomorrow it wouldn't matter for the economy. The latest report I read said that Oaxaca has lost over $200 million since the madness started. But I see this as a necessary step for Oaxaca to move closer to real democracy. When American friends talk about the violence I remind them of destruction in America, such as in Watts and Washington at the end of the Vietnam War. America has gone through similar tense times and survived. I am sure Mexico will do the same. I live in Mexico for many reasons, foremost is the people. I don't think I have ever known a kinder people than the Mexicans. I love the food, the music, the climate, the history, the slower pace of living. I have never regretted choosing Mexico. Someone asked me recently if I were Mexican (obviously my Spanish has improved). I told them, "Yes, my heart is Mexican." As they say in Texas, I wasn't born here but I got here as quickly as I could. Many people feel that we are living in Armageddon. The world certainly seems out of control and there are no leaders anywhere in the world. I have great faith we will get to the other side. In the last 20 years since I started returning to Mexico I have seen constant change. I asked a Mexican friend last night if life is better than 5 and 10 years ago. He replied it definitely is. A solid middle class seems to be emerging. This is like puberty for Mexico, a difficult time but Mexico will be better and healthier in the long run. Pray for Mexico and Oaxaca when your pray for Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and other troubled parts of the world. Viva Mexico!!!
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Sex (Education) better in Mexico, says Houston Chronicle

Cause and effect Mexico gets serious about fighting teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle August 29, 2006
As it did to great effect in the 1970s, Mexico is setting out to improve public health through science. If only more U.S. leaders could be as pragmatic. After years of church and government encouraging huge families, Mexico's government saw the light on population control 40 years ago. Thanks to family planning clinics, free birth control and education, Mexican families' average family size dropped from seven children in 1968 to two today. That success, which has already improved countless lives, may well raise Mexico's standard of living and slow emigration in upcoming decades. Now the government of President Vicente Fox wants to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It's gone to work with utter practicality. The program's centerpiece is comprehensive sex education for youngsters. Government-mandated textbooks frankly explain topics such as masturbation and homosexuality, noting that there's nothing wrong with either. Church leaders and conservative followers object strongly. Catholic leaders have told governors to replace the new books. The texts' clinical tone, the bishop of Tehuacan warned, could unleash "sinful behavior." The controversy, as well as the concern about pregnancy and disease, echoes similar debates in this country. What is different is the Mexican parents' and government's bold defense of science over shibboleth. "It is scientifically proven that information does not lead to promiscuity," the president of a 19-million-member parents group asserted. "On the contrary," he added, "it helps protect our youths." Mexico's nearly 90 percent Roman Catholic population has a long tradition of not taking church teachings too literally. Maintaining church-state separation is a national passion. Unlike the United States, Mexico's government remains largely centralized — and wields heavy influence on local education standards. This is not to say that Mexicans, by nature conservative, won't undergo real tensions over this campaign. Some wonder if it's a gauntlet thrown down to test conservative President-elect Felipe Calderon. But Transborder Institute scholar David Shirk says Calderon, whose contested victory was backed this week by a tribunal, probably wants no further controversy. Instead, Shirk predicts, Calderon will back the current government's status quo — and thus the sex education program and new books. If so, Mexico will be the richer. Fewer children will be ignorant of, and vulnerable to, sexual abuse. Fewer teens will get pregnant, and fewer women will seek illegal abortions. What a far-reaching gift for a country with so many challenges.
There have been some complaints from the usual suspects, but Mexico has an advantage over the U.S. There just aren't enough scientists to go around, to waste good science on junk theories. You won't find anyone spinning some plausible theory to convince an uneducated local school board that "abstinance education" or some other nonsense is "scientific" and deserves to be heard in the classroom. There aren't locally elected school boards to fight the curriculum, and Mexican parents seem to expect schools to EDUCATE their children, not justify their own prejudices. The idea of dolling up a religious theory as "intellegent design" as a half-assed way of not teaching biology never crosses anyone's mind. Elitist, sure... but education is elitist in some sense. And, in Mexico, religious fundamentalism doesn't drive public policy -- as it does in Iran, or the United States, for example. Oh sure, you have "ultramontanes" (Catholic reactionary) and some in PAN -- like Marta Fox -- are more synarchist (fascism adapted to late 19th century Catholic social teachings) than democratic, and the Church is listened to in PAN administrations, but people more or less assume teachers know what they're doing, and expect their kids to be smarter than they were -- or at least better educated. It's one of the things the Revolution did right -- educating the people -- and something important enough to be in the Constitution. I admit I was shocked about two years ago when Araceli asked me to take her 11-year old kid to Dr. Simi to pick up condoms for his health class project. What shocked me was that Ara was usually broke from paying school bills for Mario -- aka "el Bart Simpson de Mexico." Somewhat "discipline challenged" she was sending him to a very strict (and very expensive) private school run by French nuns. Private education probably is better than public education in Mexico. I always thought one of the more bone-headed ideas World Bankers had was privatizing eduction, or at least allowing competition in what should be a basic human right (and is, in the Mexican Constitution). Still, the sisters followed the National curriculum, and that included health education -- and learning what condoms were for before you actually needed the things. And so it goes... the public schools aren't teaching foreign languages (mostly English) as well as they should (there are some pretty poor English teachers in Mexico), but they are teaching languages in grade schools. The kids are learning math. They're learning the SCIENTIFIC facts about human sexuality. What they're not learning is "intellegent design" and "abstinance only education". When this reaches the right-wing blogosphere (give it a day or two), I'll be curious to see the "spin" -- I'll bet the fighting keyboarders of the Free Republic and their allies see this as another plot to undermine the U.S. and sap us of our precious bodily fluids. Or, even more likely, they'll claim that PAN is really "Socialist", though what socialism has to do with birth control and healthy kids is beyond my comprehension.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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The odds, King Lear and the New York Times...

As always, "XicanoPwr" provides an excellent overview of the Presidential election saga on his blog, ¡Para justicia y liberdad! If I'm reading the Jornada article right, the "re-caluclated" votes, and with a good number of ballots nullified, the difference between PAN and Por el bien de todos, the difference between the two candidates is STILL a mathematically improbably 0.58% difference! 239,751 votes looks to me to be too close to say for certain that Calderón did win. Even if his victory is ratified (and I'm assuming it will be), the PRD coalition is the real winner... having gone from a regional third party (except in Mexico City) to THE opposition. With AMLO being painted as a sore-loser in the pro-government media (like Televisa) and in the U.S. press (this is one of the few times I've seen the Washington Post and "freerepublic.com" singing from the same hymnal), he may become semi-irrelevant. So did Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, after his "loss" to Carlos Salinas. However, Cardenas begat Lopez Obrador,and modernized the left, making them a relevant party, and a real opposition. It also led the way to a PRD enclave in Mexico City. Sure, there were problems with Cardenas' administration in the city -- mostly caused by the Federal Government's bone-headed attempts to discredit the PRD (but only served to discredit the country -- and damage the city), mostly by starving it of the funds it needed to fix 622 years of top-down management. Lopez Obrador's Mexico City showed that the PRD can credibly administer the country. IF the PRD coalition did lose (which will always be an open question), it doesn't mean they're dead. The Mexican left is alive and well -- and I'd argue stronger than ever. Alfredo Navaez, "Citius64" has an interesting take on the situation. He quotes (in English) an editorial on the election from the New York Times (I'll link to Citius... somone complained once that I was breaking some sort of rule by linking directly to a subscriber-only NYTimes article ... which is bull-shit, of course. This site is licenced to reprint those articles for educational and discussion purposes. Anyway... if you've got a complaint, take it up with citius64, not me). More interesting still, is his comparison of AMLO and Lear. Not that I necessarily agree, but given what I wrote before about AMLO, as a "loser" becoming somewhat irrelevant to the future Mexican left... I give citius64 credit for making a connection those of us with English degrees (and from English speaking countries) are supposed to make. Will Mauricio Ebrard turn out to be Regan, Goneril... or Cordelia... or.... will something else happen? I honestly don't know.

Monday, August 28, 2006

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"There's still hope" -- AMLO Developing

Headlines say the TJEPF (Federal Elections Tribunal) is going to annul 81,800 votes for Calderon and 76,897 for AMLO. There should be a court announcment within the hour. Translated on the fly from El Universal coverage:
15:40 Andrés Manuel López Obrador, "For everyone's Benefit" Coalition candidate left his campsite on the Zocalo to attend the Federal Elections Tribunal session, which is expected to rule that there were no generalized irregularities in the presidential election. According to sources close to the Tabasco politician, López Obrador stayed for the entire session, and appears serene, saying "for now, there's hope." At 19:00 (8 PM, Eastern Time), during an Informative Assembly, the candidate will announce his position, after learing the Tribunals' decision. However, since Sunday, López Obrador has said that if the Tribunal validates a rightist victory, he will call for a "National Democratic Convention" for 16 Septmeber (Mexican Independence Day) to form an "alterative cabinet."
DEVELOPING... WHO IS THIS MASKED MAN? At 15:10, Notimex reported protesters in front of the TEJPF were led by a "masked man" called "Rayito de Esperanza," a little ray of hope...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

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The circular theory of Aztec history simplified...

Religion and cuisine aren't the only places in Mexico where tradition and modernity co-exist...

Friday, August 25, 2006

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QUAKERS KIDNAPPED!

Honoring 50 years of friendship BY ALEX MANDA/Special to The Miami Herald El Universal Miércoles 23 de agosto de 2006 They don´t exactly say it, but Bridget Moix and Nick Wright seem to feel that Lonely Planet and other backpacker guidebooks have kidnapped their guest house. Casa de los Amigos is a light-filled, Luis Barragán-built, three-story house in central Mexico City that was once home to painter José Clemente Orozco. It is nice to be popular and appreciated, but that was never the main point. "It found its way into the guidebooks in the mid-80s," says Wright. "That was a real sea change for the house. It was on the map as a cool, inexpensive place to stay in one of the biggest cities in Latin America. It then became a struggle to maintain the original mission while keeping this wonderful, thriving guest house going at the same time." Quakers have been working on various kinds of peace-oriented missions in the house for 50 years, but in the last 10 years the guests have been the bulk of their activity. The house´s 50-year anniversary is an opportunity to get back to its roots, according to Moix, the interim executive director of the Casa de los Amigos. "We are seeking a process of jubilee renewal for the casa - returning to the original mission. The guest house is a tool, a means for. improving international understanding and working for peace." THE CASA IS FOR ME. FOR THEE, THE OXFORD HOTEL ACROSS THE STREET IS PREFECTLY FINE

Thursday, August 24, 2006

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The Vampire of Colonia Roma... is draining my Master Card!

I thought I had gotten over my need to own "stuff". But, now that I'm settled -- again -- I find I miss "stuff" ... books mostly...that went into a storage locker in Houston that I eventually stopped paying rent on, or are still sitting in a friends garage in Mexico City, or... loaned out never to be seen again. I've been spending a small fortune the last few days picking up some odd "essentials" -- two books on the Mexican-American War (I still haven't located my "Diary of Samuel Chamberlain"... one of the three or four copies I've owned and lost over the years may still turn up). For a time I had a nice collection of tour books of Mexico City. None came close to the reality of the city (I used to amuse myself picking out their flaws) as close to the "real" Mexico City as a small book from written in the 1970s, which an earthquake, years of rebuilding, a Periferico, Ejes and a complete change in government (and a few million more inhabitants) hasn't dated. I only stumbled across it by accident... at a Half-Price Books shop in Houston that had both a good Mexican section, and a gay clientele. Luis Zapata's "Adonis Garcia: the vampire of Colonia Roma" was shocking at the time. I don't know why. It's a classic "piquaresque," shocking only in that it's so very on-target about Mexico City. "Adonis", being a gay hustler, made it a "gay novel" and the translation was from a small press. Which means... replacing what was a $5.00 purchase back in the days when I made a bundle just cost me thirty bucks with one of the internet used book dealers. I'm lucky... the other copies of this all-too-little known classic go as high as 70 or 80 dollars. I don't know if the reprint rights are available, but it's one of those "Mexican" books in English (like Rosa King's "Tempest over Mexico", about the hotelier's experiences during the Revolution, or Fanny Erskine de la Barca's 1845 "Letters from Mexico") that wear their age gracefully, and still are relevant in a way that an old "Lonely Planet Guide" isn't. Perhaps the viewer (reader?, whatever you call the person who looks at this) who keeps pushing me to finish MY Mexico book wants to look into this. I'd forgotten I thought of buying an extra copy of "Adonis" a few years ago... from Amazon.com. I found one other review on the web -- mostly dealing with sexual politics. Mine was sparked by my amazement at finding this Mexican piqueresaque listed under "GOTHIC" novels:
Luis Zapata's "Adonis Garcia" is subtitled "Vampiro de la Colonia Roma" in its original Spanish, but perhaps it should be classified as "gothic humor", not "horror". Adonis inhabits the world of the night -- true. But, so do most prostitutes and drug dealers. Having turned his back on a promising future in electronics repair working in his father's shop in Matamoros (on the U.S. border), "Adonis" opts for an adventurous, open life as a gay prostitute, petty thief and sometime drug dealer. He makes no apologies -- "es me onda" (it's my thing) he says. While this novel deals with Mexico City before the 1985 earthquake that obliterated much of Colonia Roma ... and changed the social and political landscape ... much of what was written about Mexico City in the early 80s is still true today. Mexicans -- and the Mexican underclass -- are survivors above all. They make no apologies, they have their dignity, and -- above all -- they recognize the absurdity of life. This is a joyful novel (something that doesn't always come across in the academic translation). As the hero of a piquaresque, Adonis is a loveable rogue. His worst crime is stealing an antique mirror from some trusting little old ladies -- with typically comic complications. This is not the Mexico of outsiders -- feeling sorry for our poor, worrying about the socialogical effects of a marginal life (Adonis' psychiatrist aunt worries about that for us). This is Mexican humor at its best -- mordant and black at times -- but willing to face the absurdity of life with a smile.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

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The shoe's on the other foot now

(Mexico City Herald, 22 August 2006):

Close election in Chiapas state tests Mexico's strained democracy Wire services El Universal August 22, 2006 TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Chiapas — A candidate backed by President Vicente Fox's party pledged Monday to contest the tight Chiapas state governor's race if he loses to the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) — putting a new twist on the country's deepening political crisis.

As the supporters of the PRD's presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador clogged the capital with protests to demand a recount of the July 2 presidential vote, the tables were turned in Chiapas, where the ruling party was crying fraud and candidate José Antonio Aguilar Bodegas vowed to take his fight to electoral courts if he was not named the winner.

A little more than 2,000 votes separated the two state candidates, according to preliminary results. Both claimed victory late Sunday, holding celebrations in the steamy state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez within blocks of each other — as if there were a clear winner.

With 94 percent of 4,761 polling places counted, Juan Sabines of the PRD was leading with 48.39 percent, or 517,129 votes. Aguilar had 48.17 percent, or 514,743 votes.

Monday, August 21, 2006

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It's Pat!

Appearing on Imus In the Morning to promote his new book, State of Emergency, Pat Buchanan asserted that the Mexican government has a "direct program" to reannex "the seven states of the American Southwest." The first step is for Mexico "to push the poor, unemployed, and uneducated into the United States." I always regret that was talked out of my devious plot to bring down Pat when I met him in Iowa City during the 1994 Caucus. He was travelling by Winnebago, and I noticed the door wasn't locked. Hmmm... I mentioned this to some friends of mine, a photographer and a reporter for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, speculating how easy it would be to run over to either of the two porn palaces in town and load up on ... oh, S&M magazines (or better, "Latin Inches"... or even better... Dirty Papí... or ...) with which to bestrew said Winnebago shortly before the aforementioned legitimate press would happen upon the scene. Would I have really done it? Probably not, but geeze, just think what I could have done if I went to work for PAN in the last election. read more digg story
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For those of you just tuning in...

XicanoPwer, at ¡Para justicia y liberdad! (don't panic... he writes in English) has a full review of the on-going "complot" against AMLO going back several years, and bringing you up to date on the latest electorial mess. I don't necessarliy agree with all his conclusions, but this is the clearest time-line of the situation I've seen yet. Geeze, I wish Kelly Arthur Garrett would go back to writing politics. The Mexico City Herald just ain't the same. Two days now, and no real mention of the Ahumada tapes (There's better coverage in the Houston Chronicle -- ouch, that's gotta hurt down at the Herald's offices). Do they think they'll just go away? Meanwhile, in Chiapas, we have another too close to call election. Interestingly enough, when I checked the PREP results at 6 .m. last night, the Por el Bien de Todos candidate was leading by almost 2 points with close to 60 percent of the vote counted. Now, it's about 0.2 percent -- well within the margin of error. This is a very strange election all around, and no where more than Chiapas, where the PRD candidate WAS a PRI candidate, until the PRI and PAN decided to run a coalition candidate who... it seems ... also benefitted from the creeping late vote count magic that put Calderón over the top in the late vote returns in the Presidential election. If that's a coincidence, I'll sell you a time shares in Puerto Fulano and offer you a share in my Nigerian bank account.
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Power to the People....

but to which people? Mexico has demonstrations breaking out all over... like zits on a 14 yr. old boys face. Candidates are crying "foul", disgruntled voters are filling the streets, and the kiddos are playing hooky. Armed with pipes and clubs, teachers in Oaxaca have taken control of at least 8 private radio stations in the state of Oaxaca. Today, gunmen opened fire on a teacher held government run radio station. That's when the teachers were prompted to take over the 8 private radio stations. Strikers then broadcast messages to parents telling them to ignore the start of the school year. No school until further notice, moms and dads. Maestros have been striking since May for higher wages and for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz. The governor's race in Chiapas has taken off in the same direction as the presidential election in Mexico City. Only a bout 3,000 votes separate the two candidates in Chiapas. Juan Sabines of PRD holds a slim lead over Jose Aguilar Bodegas of PRI. Both parties are declaring victory! PAN withdrew its candidate two weeks ago, and President Fox threw his support to PRI's candidate.... a surprising move on his part. Meanwhile, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is hoping that Sabines will be victorious. It will hurt AMLO's own battle with Calderon if Sabines loses his race in Chiapas. Both parties are crying, "fraud". Which part of this is new? Meanwhile (back to center stage), time is running out for AMLO and his supporters. A president-elect must be declared by Sept. 6. Mr. Obrador admits that "there has been a drain of support". The chaos of his supporters' blockades of major thoroughfares, has taken a toll on the residents of df. He wants to force the country's electoral tribunal to order a full recount of the votes. Politically speaking, Mr. Obrador stuck his neck out by rallying thousands of his supporters to stage demonstrations and to occupy the zocalo and the Paseo de la Reforma for all these weeks. It was a risky move because it may have alienated members of his own party who did well at the legislative level. If he presses for more radical acts, he could completely erode his power base. There's a lot of high stakes Russian roulette being played out in Mexico these days. Stay tuned!
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Do Tell.....

How cheesey does it get when a "Desperate Housewife" has to create a documentary explaining the plight of unfortunate Mexican immigrants? When is enough.... enough? The Starplus News Blog reports: Eva Longoria Shocked by Plight of Immigrant Workers:

Eva Longoria hopes her new documentary highlights the plight of Latin American immigrants trying to survive in the United States, after spending a day working alongside them. While researching the new film with labor activist Dolores Huertas, Longoria agreed to go undercover to see just what life is like for struggling immigrants - and she was shocked by what she uncovered.

The star, whose family hails from Mexico, tells Maxim magazine, "We're documenting a day in the life of an immigrant worker, just to show how hard these people work - how they slave away just for us to have a salad at the Chateau Marmont (top Los Angeles hotel). "I spent a day out in the field, and it's horrendous. It's an exploitation of people who leave everything behind: their country, their family, their lives, their language, their religion. They leave it all behind to come here and make $5 a day. My hope is that the documentary will educate people about what's going on."

What was Dolores Huertas thinking??? Good grief, we can only hope that little Eva finally gets educated. Eva, Eva, Eva, you were born and raised in Texas..... you're 31 yrs old.... you're a grad from Texas A&M.... what world have you been living in? It's time for you to get out of "hair and make-up". Mexican immigrants need a spokesperson with a little more "street cred".

Sunday, August 20, 2006

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Goes well with Aryan Nation Brand Kosher Hot-dogs

I guess this is what you serve the true blue 'murrican patriot... along with nachos and tacos when he's standing guard over the AMERICAN WAY OF EATING, stemming the CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS and keeping us safe from unemployed chile farmers and food processing workers looking for work.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

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The Havana Tapes... Lopez Obrador was right

UPDATE: There are excellent summaries of this, and other developing political scandals in the August 19 and 20 posts at Mercury Rising. Journalist Carmen Aristegui aired videos yesteday of interviews with contractor and financier Carlos Ahumada who fled to Havana in 2004 to avoid prosecution for charges related to his bribery of Mexico City officials and department heads (story in El Informador de Guadalajara here). There was something dubious about the whole affair. At the time I wondered how a PAN Senator ended up with Las Vegas surveillence tapes which were shown on la Mañanara, Brozo the Clown's morning TV talk show. (A federal lawsuit in Las Vegas disclosed that the FBI was acquiring casino surveillence tapes, allegedly to look for money-launderers. If true, the tapes would have been sent to the Mexican Attorney General's office, which apparently gave them to the politican as part of what Lopez Obrador called a "complot"). Ahumada, an Argentine-born builder and investor, had numerous business and personal interests that tied to PAN leaders. Mexicans are prejudiced against Argentines, and I thought a lot of what was said about Ahumada reflected that prejudice, rather than facts. Still, his name, and his companies, are involved in every scandal involving Lopez Obrador's city administration, and in the affairs of most of AMLO's political opponents. During his interview, Ahumada said it was "difficult to imagine that Vicente Fox was not intimately involved" in various schemes to derail Lopez Obrador's political ambitions. Today's Jornada comments on the latest revelations (my translation):
Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador was right. His denunciation of a "plot" against him back in March 2004 was neither a paranoid fantasy, not a manouver to sidetrack public scrutiny of his adminstration. The machinations of the state and the involvement of the Presidency are certain. Carlos Ahumada, the keystone of the jerry-built intrige, confessed as much in Havana, Cuba in a video interview with journalist Carmen Aristegui. Nobody is making jokes about the construction magnate's revelations now. They are substantial theads running through three separate episodes in recent national political life: the dissemination of recorded images of civil servants and Federal District Government (GDF) employees gambling in Las Vegas or receiving cash from Ahumada; the attempts to politically incapacite Lopez Obrador through a disafuero; and the now well-founded suspicions of fraud in the the recent elections. All three events divided and polarized the country, irritated society and brought the nation to the abyss of madness. These three events demonstrate a fatuous misuse of state resources by a tiny nucleus of business interests to prevent the candidate from obtaining the Presidency of the Republic. Carlos Ahumad's confessions in Havana detail a sedititious plot in which at least then Interior Minister Santiago Creel, former Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, Senator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos and ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari are all implicated. It doesn't take much imagination to see the hand of Los Pinos behind the plot. With nearly the speed of light, Santiago Creel picked up the smoke signals [an untranslatable pun based on Ahumada, Smoky). It appears that a bad memory is affects the entire Mexican political class when it comes to denying responsiblity. Fernanez de Cevellos, the incoming PAN Senate leader, when confronted by Puebla authorities with wiretapped conversations between him and then-fugitive pederast Kamil Nacif famously told a television interviewer "It is my voice but not me." If, as Ahumad affirms, Fernandez de Cevellos was in on the plot, it's bad enough. It is much worse if the Interior Minister ignored one of the greatest scandals in national political events despite having at his dispostion the country's intellegence services. The testimony disclosed yesterday is only one small part of the 40 hours of recordings with Carlos Ahumada now in Cuban hands. What is yet to be revealed. The video (available on Jornada's Web page) show a smiling and open industralist. But he raises questions that have not been clarified, in spite of the time that has passed since his capture and deportation from Cuba. Why did he flee to Cuba, and who protected him during his escape? The Havana confessions reinforce uncertainty about the lack of transparency, and raise questions about the fairness and --- of the July 2 elections. Carlos Ahumada explicitly recognizes that the intention of his governmental protectors was to wreck Lopez Obrador's presidential aspirations. If they were able to achieve their ends, what else would they do to conserve power. For those who were already dubious about the electorial results, the Argentine industrialist's revelations only add to distrust and social discontent. For that reason, today, more than ever, it is made indispensable count vote by vote. But beyond the final outcome of these revelations, there is a more immediate consequence for the nation. They reaffirm the national tragedy -- the intellectial impoverishment and break-down of our political class, resulting in an unscrupulous use of government institutions in the administration of justice.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

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More "Don't ask, don't tell... don't report"

Mark Almond, a history lecturer at Oriel College, Oxford, writes in The Guardian:
A couple of years ago television, radio and print media in the west just couldn't get enough of "people power". In quick succession, from Georgia's rose revolution in November 2003, via Ukraine's orange revolution a year later, to the tulip revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the cedar revolution in Lebanon, 24-hour news channels kept us up to date with democracy on a roll. Triggered by allegations of election fraud, the dominoes toppled. The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, was happy with the trend: "They're doing it in many different corners of the world, places as varied as Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and, on the other hand, Lebanon ... And so this is a hopeful time." But when a million Mexicans try to jump on the people-power bandwagon, crying foul about the July 2 presidential elections, when protesters stage a vigil in the centre of the capital that continues to this day, they meet a deafening silence in the global media.
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Can You Spare a Peso?

Chances are that you're not in the quite ready, but if you're in the business of building a Mexican dysnasty, you should at least familiarize yourself with some of your fellow "players". It's not my job (in this piece) to trash the rich and powerful in Mexico. I simply want to "introduce" some of the movers and shakers who are playing a big role influencing and shaping modern Mexico. Be your own judge.

Chris Hawley of the Arizona Republic wrote an interesting article about Mexico's dynasties and some of the challenges they are facing as they enter the U.S. markets and as some of their aging founders pass the baton to their young'uns. www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0816grupos.html

"Carlos Slim is rich. Insanely rich. Astronomically rich. If you took his $37.6 billion and laid the dollar bills end to end, they would stretch to the moon and back seven times, that's how rich he is." ~ Chris Hawley of the Arizona Republic

Slim (66 yrs old) bought Telmex for a cool $443 million (in 1990). He's made his fortune in the communications business. He has expanded by buying CompUSA and he owns a substantial piece of Saks Fifth Ave. He could afford to smile a little.... don't you think? Slim is with Grupo Carso.

Slim's business controls about 90% of the hard line phones in Mexico (Telmex). He's heavily invested in insurance, cell phones (American Movil), retail, cigarettes(Cigatam), restaurants (Sanborns), and auto parts stores. http://www.newint.org/issue368/worldbeaters.htm

With the help of Rudolph Giuliani, Slim has launched a huge restoration project in the Historic District of Mexcio City. After the clean-up, the eventual plan is to push the vendors, homeless kids, and the poor out of the district in order to raise property values. Since Slim owns a substantial amount of property in the Historic District, it's seen as a self-serving move rather than simply a nationalistic one.

Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala (39 yrs old) sure has good reason to smile. She known as the "Beer Queen" of Latin America. She has investments in Grupo Modelo, maker of Corona and Negra Modelo. A wealth of 2 billion earned her the title of Mexico's richest woman. Cheers, Maria!

Maria made another power move last year by marrying Antonio Garza Jr. (Bush confidant and U.S. ambassador to Mexico). After a house hunting trip to Austin, Texas last year, the speculation is that the power couple may be making a bid to run for the governorship of Texas. Maria has been quoted as saying, " “It wouldn’t surprise me if someday I am ‘living in the great state’ campaigning by his side”

Media mogul, Emilio Azcarraga, leads Mexico's biggest TV network, Televisa. At the young age of 38, Emilio is worth about 1.7 billion dollars. He looks like he's pleased with himself. With his family ensconced in a media and sports empire, he can probably get the best seats in the house at any futbol stadium in the world. Emilio is part of the Televisa Grupo. Last year, he was making plans to become a U.S. citizen so that he could increase his stake in Univision (U.S. based Spanish TV).

Led by Lorenzo Zambrano (60), Mexico's Cemex company is the world's largest cement company. Lorenzo has aggressively bought up cement businesses in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, France, Latin America and much of the world. He's bucked the trend to diversify by concentrating souly on the business he knows best. Lorenzo's fortune is put at $2 billion.

Last year the Wall Street Journal tarnished his reputation by accusing his company of gouging the poor people of Mexico, but Lorenzo didn't let that slow him down. Lorenzo stays low-key and lives on a hillside in Monterrey.

Here's a link to Lorenzo's amazing/gutsy career: http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5017200

These are just a few of the rich and powerful in Mexico who are investing their capital in the Mexico and around the globe. Last year, Mexico's elite invested over $6.7 billion in the U.S. businesses.

"The numbers show that far from being just a source of illegal migrants, Mexico is increasingly becoming a source of investors. Here we are, complaining about illegal immigration and saying Mexicans should get out of our country, so it's extremely surprising for Americans to find that there is a huge amount of foreign direct investment coming in (from Mexico)." ~ Dawn McLaren, a research economist at Arizona State University

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14 Agosto

The Unapologetic Mexican did a great job putting together a memorial to the fall of Tenochtitlán, which, as the memorial at Tlatelolco reads in Spanish and Nahuatl -- neither a triumph or a tragedy, but the birth-pangs of the Mexican people.
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Not So Fast...

Men... you'd better think twice before you skip out on your bride... if you live in Nayarit. In the future, it could hurt you in the wallet and you might be spending your honeymoon in a cage. Komfie Manalo - All Headline News Foreign Correspondent Mexico City, Mexico (AHN) - The local government of Nayarit province in Mexico has passed a law seeking to protect jilted brides. According to the Terra Noticias Populares, the measure says that grooms who abandon their brides or have a last-minute change of mind, will be arrested by the police. Annonva.com reports, Alicia Santoya from Mexico's Public Attorney's office said the bride can also seek compensation from the groom for the moral damages and the emotional pain she suffered from being left at the alter.

image: ashleyb.org/images/20_lavat.jpg

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

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The Apprentice

It's a safe bet that going to Xolchimilco on any weekend of the year is a med-free prescription for fun. I just had no idea how much fun it would be. The ancient miles of canals take you past fields of flowers, and small local farms.

As we stood by the embarcadero, a teenaged boy, wearing bright yellow slacks, approached. He urged us to let him take us on one of the trajineras. It was our first trip to Xolchimilco and we weren't sure how the whole thing worked. We wanted to get our bearings and he wanted to get the "job". He won out... since we didn't know what the heck we were doing. The first clue should have been that he put us on one of the biggest trajineras. There were smaller ones for smaller parties, but we got the stretch Hummer instead. It was a beauty named "Lupita". Our guide put his long pole into the water and we headed into the Grande Canal. I always wanted to be in a parade! The burst of colors was intoxicating. There were hundreds of brightly decorated boats cruising along in two directions. As we passed other boats filled with partiers who were celebrating birthdays or tourists who were living it up with their friends, we were joined by vendors who floated beside us with offerings of cervezas, roasted corn, or bouquets of flowers. The carnival was on! Our relaxing cruise was about to get more exciting when we rudely crashed in to the rear of another boat. Ooops! The canal was extremely crowded and our guy, Carlos, had a little pole "malfunction". It sent the drinks on the other boat toppling. A few words were exhanged between drivers. Ten or twelve "crashes" later (with other boats) ..... I was pretty sure that this was a normal part of the ride. Something like bumper cars .... Aztec style. But as I giggled, Carlos's face told a different story.

At one point, Carlos decided to make a U-turn in the middle of the Grande Canal. He wanted us to see a big poinsettia farm on the other side. Bad idea! Carlos managed to get the trajinera going sideways and we blocked about 50 boats in the process. It took a good 10 minutes for us to get unstuck. Other drivers were coming unglued. One irate pilot even raised his pole in a menacing manner at poor Carlos. He was ordered to get off the Grande Canal.

Ever the gentleman, he took us under a foot bridge and gave us a private tour of "his" canal. We got to see his family home, and he even stopped the boat to bring me some candy from his uncle's tienda and a sweater for me to protect me from the light rain. He had my heart!

After he regained his confidence, we headed back out to the Grande Canal and up to the mercado. We parked the boat and spent some time talking to Carlos. He told us that he was raised on the canal and had even fallen in the water when he was a small child. It was especially dangerous because kids can get caught in the roots of the many water plants in the canal. Apparently, local kids lose their lives in the chinampas every year.... they drown after being trapped in the root systems.

Now that Carlos was 18, he had only recently gotten permission from the trajinera union to begin his apprenticeship. He was clearly concerned about his future in canals after today's screw-ups.

We bought two delicious roasted chickens, a few cups of beautiful fruits and some drinks at the mercado. We brought them aboard our boat and shared them with Carlos. As we headed back to the embarcadero, we tossed some of the chicken over to the skinny dogs on the edges of the canal. They practically did back flips as they tried to catch the tastey morsels.

Mariachi's played on and the French tourists (in a neighboring boat) enjoyed their banquet of wines and cheeses. Damned French! They even thought to bring a white linen cloth to cover their table.

The soft rain had stopped and the sun was out. Carlos broke all the rules. Instead of a 2 hr. tour, he had given us 4 hrs. of pure delite. I'd vote to keep him because he's exactly who you need when you're floating down the gardens of Xolchimilco for the first time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

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Non-conforma on Reforma...or, the natives are restless

(Translated from a Notimex item in Jornada) MEXICO – Tuesday morning a citizen attacked a camp set up by supporters of the “Por el Bien de Todos” (Everyone's Benefit) coalition, a few meters from the Angel of Independence on Paseo de la Reforma. According to reports filed with the General Prosecutor for the Federal District Héctor Sepúlveda de Valle, 53, appeared in Public Ministry Court #61 charged with having knocked down and snatched blankets set up by some of the campers. The event occurred late Tuesday when the detainee decided to break into the camp and dislodge protesters connected with a PRD youth group, “Flor y Canto” (Flowers and Songs). PRD members who witnessed the occurrence requested assistance from Capital police, but the suspect escaped by running into the Sheridan Maria Isabel Hotel. Police had to wait a few minutes for Sepúvida Valle to come out, at which time he was detained and taken to the Public Ministry. Represented by Froylán Yescas Zedillo, the prisoner took full responsibility for his actions, agreed to pay a 500 peso fine and agreed to repair any damages he caused in the camp.

By the way, the name for these camp-outs is planton.

THIS is anothe kind of planton

(a guardhouse)....

and this is another

(where you put down roots)

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Another tourist

I found this in the "Comments" section of a not particuarly informative Raw Story round-up of the latest news on the not-yet-decided, not-by-a-longshot Presidential elections...
This is a wonderful time to visit Mexico City. There are people of all ages in a festive, clean, creative, and optimistic FIVE MILE tent city that stretches from the main square through Chapultepec Park. It is deeply moving to find so many people so truly committed and hopeful. Please visit the "plantón", and tell people about what you see. It is not dirty. It is not disorderly. Local businesses are not failing (most businesses along Reforma are giant chain hotels, airline offices, etc.; many have access from the side lanes or perpendicular streets). López Obrador is not a "fiery leftist". Listen to him. He is rather dull, and not particularly left. It is simply because of the contrast with the other candidates that he is characterized as leftist. Finally, AMLO is trying to maintain this protest peaceful. Desperate Mexicans are already reaching for their machetes. Vic Tarugo
I sorta agree... when you come down to it... THIS brings a lot more folks into the streets of Mexico City, ties up traffic and outside of a few grumpy tourist sites, you'd never hear a complaint... and certainly not from the Mexicans.
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Take Your Pick...

One man’s shit hole is another man’s compost pile. We’re talking about La Frontera (the Borderland area) which divides two very differing nations (United States & Mexico). The border is 2000 miles long and cities and towns have been settled all along on both sides. To some extent or other, there is a sharing of languages, diets, and cultures between the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Anglo-Americans. Border rats are a common species on both sides of the border. They travel comfortably from the South or North on a daily basis with great ease. A border rat may sleep in Matamoros and work in Brownsville. His wife may cross over to grocery shop in Brownsville and so forth.
“While the U.S-Mexico borderlands resemble border regions in other parts of the world, nowhere else do so many millions of people from two dissimilar nations live in such close proximity and interact with each other so intensely. Borderlanders are singular in their history, outlook and behavior, and their lifestyle deviates from the norms of central Mexico and the interior U.S.; yet these Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Anglo-Americans also differ among themselves, and within each group may be found crossborder consumers, commuters, and people who are inclined or disinclined to embrace both cultures.” ~ Border People~ Oscar J. Martinez

In travel forums that I have visited, comments about border towns are liberally sprinkled with disparaging remarks and warnings. The “in the know” crowd discourages others from even going to the border towns because “they aren’t real Mexico”. Many of these towns (both sides of the border) have earned reputations as being dirty, corrupt, dangerous, filled with scoundrels, etc. Recent news articles about smugglers, drug cartels, murders of young women, the Minutemen, and coyotes loading up trucks filled with illegals have helped to keep the image alive.

“Ciudad Juarez dropped the old name of El Paso del Norte and El Paso, Texas borrowed it. El Paso was platted in 1859, but grew very slowly due to its remoteness. With the arrival of Southern Pacific railroads in 1881, the population boomed to 10,000 by 1890 census. With a tempting green valley and nearly perfect climate year-round, the town attracted a constant stream of newcomers: gamblers, gunfighters, thieves, cattle and horse rustlers, murders, priests, Chinese railroad laborers, prostitutes and followed course, entrepreneurs.” ~ Wikipedia

The borderland has always had its element of misfits and rogues, but it has also held an attraction for people with other interests and endeavors. Enter the writers and artists.

Punto Publications proclaims, “The El Paso-Juarez area is the literary center of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“No one in Mexico acknowledges that this exists. We’re in a literary wasteland to them, yet this is one of the most productive and intellectually active regions of the country.” ~ Ricardo Aguilar Juarez professor)

“It is just these explorations, the wide poetic points of view that give border writing its scope and texture, its bulging metaphor and its literary integrity. Whether the writing is poised precariously near the edge or safely in the center, its anchor falls squarely in the borderland. It is North America’s Middle Passage, and these writers are its witnesses” ~Writing on the Edge ~Tom Miller

Intellectuals in Mexico City do not recognize/legitimize this culture nor do their counterparts in the U.S. Mexican writers from the borderland have often had great difficulty getting their works published by their countrymen. In fact it was common practice for some Mexican (borderland) writers (in the past) to smuggle their works to writers in the U.S. in order to get them published or they had to rely on self-publishing. In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, writers Marco Jerez and Oscar Monroy (Nogales) formed a literary community in Nogales called Café y Arte where writers set out to destroy as much as possible the negative intellectual centrism that corrodes Mexico. There is intelligent life in and along the border! It flourishes in the works of the artists and writers who are drawn to the unique culture that exists along the edges of the river and across the deserts. Those who deny it are condemned to living with their views, which hold the border as being nothing but a malignant stretch of land which is nothing but a shit hole. A couple of interesting reads about Borderland culture: Writing on the Edge (a Borderlanders Reader) by Tom Miller Border People (Life and Society in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands) by Oscar J. Martinez

Monday, August 14, 2006

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Baby, you can drive my car... or scenes from the class stuggle

John Ross write elegantly (as always) in Class War Amid Mexico City's Gridlock(Counterpunch.org):
The car wars here are a codeword for class war. Poor people scrape by on public transportation: tens of thousands of effluvia-spewing tin can microbuses complimented by a clean, low-priced and over-saturated subway system, the Metro. But the first car is often the first step up the class ladder and lower middle class Mexicans spend a lot of time in their vehicles... ...when on Sunday July 30, before 2.4 million followers, Lopez Obrador encouraged his disenchanted supporters to establish 47 camps, many of them strung along one of the city's most elegant boulevards in a move to impress upon a seven-judge panel the historical importance of ruling in favor of a vote by vote recount, Mexico City's motorist class and the media that panders to it, rose up as one fist in mass indignation. ... Car ownership is one of the great divides between Lopez Obrador's base, "los de abajo"--those from down below--and his right-wing rival Felipe Calderon to whom the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) has awarded a much-questioned 243,000 vote "victory" in the July 2 balloting. While Lopez Obrador summons millions to the great central Zocalo plaza on foot, Calderon's PAN party's most emblematic mode of mobilization is the motorcade in which the right-wingers climb into their gleaming chariots and drive around, mindlessly beating on their horns in syncopation.
As to those pedestrians themselves...
The encampment in the Centro under a contiguous awning to fend off the incessant rain is kind of a carnival tunnel of love. Folk dancers from the Yucatan step smartly on a makeshift stage, a raucous ska band tootles on another. The booths are staffed by petitioners and political cartoons festoon the pup tents. Notes to AMLO scrawled in magic marker on rain-curled colored paper are hung on clotheslines: "Gracias Senor for existing--the Carrasco Family" and "Ya No Nos Dejan a Chingar!" (Now we are not going to let them screw us over!) Pedestrians line up for free popcorn distributed by the banda from Tepito, a tough inner city neighborhood. There are puppetry classes, chess players. "The sexual rights workshop will follow the domino tournament," someone on a bullhorn advises.
The Mexican people are famous for their patience, but even THEY have their limits

AMLO walks a tightrope between his own defiance and trying to keep a lid on his steamed-up supporters. He often quotes Gandhi at his rallies and the film of the same name is being shown in the encampments. He counsels his people to keep "a hot heart but a cold head" and non-violence training is in the works. Hundreds of volunteer musicians have been enlisted to soothe the savage breast of the people but after the TRIFE's decision came down and a group of musicos launched into a "rola", the angry mob just told them to shut up and go home.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

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Film at 11?

From National Public Radio: Mexican Standoff
A partial recount is underway in Mexico’s July presidential elections –the closest in the nation’s history. But that’s little consolation to candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He’s alleging widespread vote fraud, and as evidence points to video footage collected by Luis Mandoki, a Mexican-born Hollywood director who was working on a documentary about Obrador at the time of the election. Mandoki tells Bob about being an unexpected actor in Mexican history.
I'm not sure how to attach an audio clip. The link is http://127.0.0.1:13394/template.html?nuyhtgmz475f4hpih8AzgEEgE28At6sngzeeum2qCe3mpaxfj4fbxfyEu157fjsqt6. If that doesn't work, the NPR article is about half way down the page at: http://onthemedia.org A transcript will be available Tuesday.
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Manifest Destiny lives!

A tip of the sombrero to Pam's House Blend and General J.C. Christian for alerting me to this. From the Chattanogo Tennessee Chattanooan.com
Conservative political activist June Griffin has been arrested for the theft of a Mexican flag from a Dayton business. The 67-year-old Ms. Griffin, who ran for Congress in the recent election, is facing misdemeanor charges of theft, vandalism and harassment and felony charges of civil rights violations. Ms. Griffin, who said it is the first time she has ever been arrested, posted a $5,000 bond. She said on July 18 she had noticed a small Mexican flag at an Hispanic grocery in the former Rogers Drug Store. She stated, "I went in and there was nothing English in the store. There was one man who could not speak a word of English." She said she was outraged about the Mexican flag, saying it was an "act of war" and it "insulted my citizenship." Ms. Griffin said as the Hispanic man watched, she tore off the flag from where it was suctioned to the building and left with it. She said, "Foreigners should learn English or leave." Ms. Griffin, who said she will represent herself in court, said it was done openly and was not a theft. She said she later returned the Mexican flag to a police officer. She said a much larger Mexican flag was later put in its place, but she said it is no longer there. She said she had been to local governments trying without success to get them to ban all but American flags. Ms. Griffin said the operator of the Days Inn at Dayton "flew a British flag on of all days July 4." She said she went to him to protest the British flag. She said afterwards "the British flag was torn up in a storm, but the Tennessee and American flag were spared. I took it to be an act of God." She denied being guilty of vandalism, denying that she damaged a hinge when she took the flag. She also said she was not harrassing when she called the grocery owners to ask them to take down the larger flag. She is due in court on Friday for arraignment.

Friday, August 11, 2006

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AMLO can speak for himself... and does

Recounting Our Way to Democracy By ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR August 11, 2006, Mexico City NOT since 1910, when another controversial election sparked a revolution, has Mexico been so fraught with political tension. The largest demonstrations in our history are daily proof that millions of Mexicans want a full accounting of last month’s presidential election. My opponent, Felipe Calderón, currently holds a razor-thin lead of 243,000 votes out of 41 million cast, but Mexicans are still waiting for a president to be declared. Unfortunately, the electoral tribunal responsible for ratifying the election results thwarted the wishes of many Mexicans and refused to approve a nationwide recount. Instead, their narrow ruling last Saturday allows for ballot boxes in only about 9 percent of polling places to be opened and reviewed. This is simply insufficient for a national election where the margin was less than one percentage point — and where the tribunal itself acknowledged evidence of arithmetic mistakes and fraud, noting that there were errors at nearly 12,000 polling stations in 26 states. It’s worth reviewing the history of this election. For months, voters were subjected to a campaign of fear. President Vicente Fox, who backed Mr. Calderón, told Mexicans to change the rider, but not the horse — a clear rebuke to the social policies to help the poor and disenfranchised that were at the heart of my campaign. Business groups spent millions of dollars in television and radio advertising that warned of an economic crisis were I to win. It’s my contention that government programs were directed toward key states in the hope of garnering votes for Mr. Calderón. The United Nations Development Program went so far as to warn that such actions could improperly influence voters. Where support for my coalition was strong, applicants for government assistance were reportedly required to surrender their voter registration cards, thereby leaving them disenfranchised. And then came the election. Final pre-election polls showed my coalition in the lead or tied with Mr. Calderón’s National Action Party. I believe that on election day there was direct manipulation of votes and tally sheets. Irregularities were apparent in tens of thousands of tally sheets. Without a crystal-clear recount, Mexico will have a president who lacks the moral authority to govern. Public opinion backs this diagnosis. Polls show that at least a third of Mexican voters believe the election was fraudulent and nearly half support a full recount. And yet the electoral tribunal has ordered an inexplicably restrictive recount. This defies comprehension, for if tally sheet alterations were widespread, the outcome could change with a handful of votes per station. Our tribunals — unlike those in the United States — have been traditionally subordinated to political power. Mexico has a history of corrupt elections where the will of the people has been subverted by the wealthy and powerful. Grievances have now accumulated in the national consciousness, and this time we are not walking away from the problem. The citizens gathered with me in peaceful protest in the Zócalo, the capital’s grand central plaza, speak loudly and clearly: Enough is enough. In the spirit of Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we seek to make our voices heard. We lack millions for advertising to make our case. We can only communicate our demand to count all the votes by peaceful protest. After all, our aim is to strengthen, not damage, Mexico’s institutions, to force them to adopt greater transparency. Mexico’s credibility in the world will only increase if we clarify the results of this election. We need the goodwill and support of those in the international community with a personal, philosophical or commercial interest in Mexico to encourage it to do the right thing and allow a full recount that will show, once and for all, that democracy is alive and well in this republic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City from 2001 to 2005, was a candidate for president in 2006, representing a coalition led by his Party of the Democratic Revolution. This article was translated from the Spanish by Rogelio Ramírez de la O. and is available to subscription holders to the New York Times

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Another view of Oaxaca...

A friend of Oaxaca, though I'm not sure she is IN Oaxaca right now, recommends this "Livejournal" posting and the linked photos to anyone interested in that state's on-going situation -- a teacher's strike (which is a regularly scheduled summer event) that's grown this year, compounded by the national elections situation and the general discontent with the PRI governor. I know nothing about Beccaella but my "friend of Oaxaca" is one of those people you trust to sort worthy from unworthy sources, having been a librarian most of her career. If you can't trust a librarian, who can you trust?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

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Sheets to the Wind….

Some people live to tour the zocalos or the museums. I live to tour the old colonial hotels. A favorite is the big Colonial Hotel in Puebla. It used to be a Jesuit monastery and as such it has a labyrinth of hallways and several staircases. The main staircase is impressive with its grand statues on the landings between the floors. But there’s another less conspicuous one which is used by the staff. During a three day stay at the hotel, I watched as the maids carried big bundles of dirty sheets up those stairs. Trip after trip. During some down time, my husband and I decided to ask (at the front desk) if there was a place where we could do our laundry. We were directed to take our clothes up those steps to the fourth floor. Keep in mind that the typical floors in these old hotels are 12 to 16 feet high. Armed with our laundry bags, we headed onward and upward. It was a real effort to navigate the narrow and steep stairs. The switchbacks at the top were killer. By the time we made it to the top floor, we were out of breath. All we found was a lone washing machine off in the corner. We had our soap, our dirty clothes …. but were short of the right coins. We looked at each other like “Will you go get the coins?” “No.” “Will you go get the coins?” “No”. Neither of us wanted to go all the way down and come back up again. One of us gave in. While we waited for the water to trickle (like bird piss) into the tub (of the washer), we explored the awesome adjoining rooftop. There were glass enclosed classrooms, and a large concrete rooftop area with benches, old pots, broken statuaries, views of the city, and stuff…. lots of stuff. I paused to think about how grueling and tedious it must be for the maids (old and young/tiny and large) to go about this daily task. How many sheets, pillow cases, towels and table linens must they carry up here every day? I can only hope that they have many more machines to use than this lone one in the corner.

Throughout all of Mexico, you’ll see hundreds of thousands of white sheets flapping in the wind on the rooftops of budget hotels. Everyday they greet the sun. I can only imagine that they are relishing their few hours of freedom before being stretched out tightly over mattresses and held down by blankets and bedspreads. Think of their abuse…. being crushed by backpacks, and big butts….having dirty feet and sweaty bods resting on top of them. Yet every afternoon, they get to proudly soar in the breeze soaking up the sun’s rays like so many other Mexican flags. One night I was staying at the Canada Hotel in Mexico City. I couldn’t sleep very well, so I went to the window. The room was tiny, like a sleeper car on a train, actually. The window was up high and I had to stand on my bed to see out. The street was dark and only a few people were walking about. I watched as four men (small in stature) walked down the sidewalk each carrying two huge bundles of sheets. The dirty sheets had been thrown into the center of an outstretched sheet which was joined at the corners and knotted. I have no idea how much each bundle weighed, but it appeared to be a lot. The men were struggling as they turned down a darkened alley and made their way to an overnight laundry. There wouldn’t be any sunshine for these sheets. Pretty sad, I thought….for the bundles and for the men who carried them. The luckiest sheets of all (in Mexico) must be the ones the ones I’ve seen from the buses in rural Mexico. Sometimes when you’re passing over a bridge, you’ll catch a view of women doing their laundry in a river. Often groups of mothers will gather together with their children in tow. They will spread their sheets over the top of the water. The sheets flow in a serpentine motion, moving gently back and forth in concert with the current. The woman will pull the sheets toward them (inches at a time) and soap them, unfurl them again into the water before violently wringing them out with their muscled hands. The lucky ones will be hung from semi-permanent wooden frames which stand in the middle of the river. Others (perhaps the old ones) will be placed over prickly bushes along the river’s edge. Oh, the joy of bathing in a river and of flying high in the air while you dry. There must be hundreds of thousands of white sheets flapping in the wind over Mexico everyday, yet I’ve never seen so much as one photo of the scene in any ones collection. Don’t they deserve some recognition?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

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Los Tres Huastecos... o ... La conquista mexicana del (cyber)espacio

The Unapologetic Mexican ("Prettier than Lou Dobbs and smarter than ten Aryans") bears an uncanny resemblance to Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World -- which in turn is a less kinder, less gentler version of the fashionista uprising being fomented by that merry Reconquistador. All the brilliant work of Wreckingboy, who is busily crossing the borders of cyberspace and is here to stay. -- like it or not, gringo!.. Great work, Joaquin!

Photo of Pedro Infante, Pedro Infante and Pedro Infante,

from "Más de Cien Años de Cine Mexicano", ITESM.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

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Don Goyo on the election...

... on the morning the judges decided against a total recount, as if it were echoing the mood of AMLO's people, Popocatepetl, the smoking volcano south of the capital whose eruptions traditionally presage dark days for this distant neighbor nation, exhaled seven great gasps of fiery rock and ash for the first time in several years. John Ross, "The Smoking Volcano" in The Nation (8 August 2006)

And, Roberto Gomez, formerly of Time Magazine and the U.S. State Department, has a comprehensive roundout of Mexican press reports on the latest election news at SFGate's World News Roundout

Monday, August 07, 2006

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The miracle of the ballots

Greg Palast writes for The Guardian (reprinted in Buzzflash):
The precinct-by-precinct returns were quite otherworldly. I used to teach statistics and what I saw in Mexico would have stumped my brightest students. Here's the conundrum: The nation's tens of thousands of polling stations report to the capital in random order after the polls close. Therefore, statistically, you'd expect the results to remain roughly unchanged as vote totals come in. As expected, AMLO was ahead of the right-wing candidate Calderon all night by an unchanging margin -- until after midnight. Suddenly, precincts began reporting wins for Calderon of five to one, the ten to one, then as polling nearly ended, of one-hundred to one. How odd. I checked my concerns with Professor Victor Romero of Mexico's National University who concluded that the reported results must have been a "miracle." As he put it, a "religious event," but a statistical impossibility. There were two explanations, said the professor: either the Lord was fixing the outcome or operatives of the ruling party were cranking in a massive number of ballots when they realized their man was about to lose.
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My bad!

I'm still the new guy in town, and don't get a lot of personal calls. And, as the new guy in town, my phone number hasn't shown up on the National 'Do Not Call' Registry. Luckily, I DO have Caller ID on my telephone. When one of the six or seven nightly calls comes in from an "800" number or "out of area" number or "unknown caller" number, of course, I answer -- in my best New York/midwest/southern/Texas accented Spanish: ¿BUENO? One of two types of person -- normally -- will be on the other end. A slightly confused housewife trying to make ends meet on excrable pay somewhere like Cedar Falls, Iowa... or a decently paid, but terribly mis-employed unsatisfied in his career young fellow from Bangalore or Mumbai (unlike the very satisfied, and always graceful writer on everything from postcards to Turkish seaports to the recent tragedy in Mumbai, and hilariouly on buying -- or not buying -- a cell phone... sailor,writer and racontuer, Anuj Velu ). The joke in Mexico (and alas throughout the world) is "Tres idiomas - trilingües. Dos idiomas - bilingüe. Una idioma - ¡GRINGO! It's not the housewife in Iowa's fault that she received a poor education... or that I have no interest in buying... well, anything. And, I suspect the fellow from Mumbai or Bangalore is a few credits short of his PhD in Electrical Engineering, and speaks two or three languages besides English... but, that the languages he knows are Bengali or Hindi or... certainly not Spanish. Even though I've only been here a few weeks, that trick is getting old. Maybe U.S. education is getting better, or more immigrants are getting hired by U.S. call centers. OR... and this scares me... maybe the job I did recruiting call center operators in Mexico is paying off for the client. At any rate, I've gotten two where the operator immediately switched to the Spanish version of the sales pitch ... without, I assume, batting an eyelash. Maybe it's time to go back to studying Nahuatl. Last time I tried (with a "Teach Yourself Cassette and Program", I never got beyond Chapter One... though the parrot I had at the time was greatly amused by the sound of the language (but she never learned it either). I gave up when I figured out that to say "my name is Richard Grabman", I had to wrap my tonuge around Nehuatl notoka Kualli-yollatitli Tiquinquitzquizqueh. Maybe I'll stick to Hello ("Niltze"). I can say "Eat me" (¡NECH-CUAZ!), but I'm always afraid I'll run into some unreconstructed Aztec who'd take me literally...

Eat your heart out, telemarketers!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

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"Polite as a Mexican"

The teachers' -- and other people's -- strike against the Oaxacan State government has gotten downright nasty lately (the APPO, the Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca), has taken to "liberating" state owned cars and trucks, blocking state government offices and otherwise making life miserable for the widely despised PRI-governor, Ulises Ramirez.. None of which, to the Oaxaño way of thinking, justifies bad manners.

Photo: http://www.corrugate.org

Saturday, August 05, 2006

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TEJPF update... and plugs for two collaborators in the Latin American blogosphere

Erwin C., at The Latin Americanist, posted this earlier today:
Mexican court rejects recount request Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal denied presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s demand for a vote-by-vote recount. Instead, the court ordered a partial recount of approximately 9% of the voting stations registered in last month’s presidential election.
Links to sources at Latin Americanist. The blog, produced by two NYC based scholars, is "The English-language forum for all things Latin American, covering business, politics, and culture." The "Links and Organizations" page is especially valuable. It has a free subscription list for those keeping up with news and information from throughout Latin America, or looking for something more scholarly than the little bits and pieces that catch my eye out here in the back of beyond. Ricardo's Blog, produced by Ricardo Carreon, is in Portugese and English. It focuses nmainly on Brazil and the internet, but often writes on other pertinent Latin American issues. It too will send free e-mail updates. Ricardo has links to a video of the Mexico City post-elections protests, and posted a little more on TEJPF's decision:
The Federal Electoral Court of Mexiclo is currently in session ruling on the request by the left wing Coalition "Por el Bien de Todos" for a full vote by vote recount. The session is still running, but several newspapers like Reforma and El Universal have reported that the likely outcome is for a partial recount. Both newspapers have reported that the full vote by vote recount was rejected given that the petition did not sustain the need for a full recount. Both newspapers are saying that the recount will be of 50% of the districts and 9.07% of the total ballot boxes. The court decision was reached unanimously.
Ricardo's full post here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

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The spin stops here... and there

XicanoPwr writes on Mexican-American affairs in his blog, ¡Para Justicia y Libertad!. Last week, he had several posts on media spin and the Mexican election. Montreal writer Susana Vargas weighted in on the "notorious" Washington Post editorial, and other corporate media coverage of the post-election mess in "Mistranslating the Mexican Election".
We have been hearing the same story over and over: Calderon, the right wing candidate won, but the leftist Obrador is trying to steal the election away. On July 7, all these newspapers declared the right-wing candidate Calderon as a winner. This may be an easy assumption to make if one doesn’t understand the Mexican electoral system. But the declaration just echoes the right wing position in Mexico. Luis Carlos Ugalde, the President of the Federal Electoral Institute declared on national TV on July 6 that conservative Calderon had the majority of votes, a difference of 0.58% against the leftist candidate Obrador. Ugalde proceeded to say: “it is the golden rule in democracies that the candidate with more votes wins the election”. But Ugalde didn’t have the authority to declare a winner. In the Mexican media we read headlines stating that Calderon is the “virtual” winner, “IFE backs up Calderon”, or “Calderon wins in the count of tallies”. This is because Calderon’s official victory has not and can not yet be declared. ... So if the election is not over, then the English language papers are wrong to depict Obrador as a “racial leftist” who will not concede the election when he should. By they cast Obrador as a sore loser who will “fight the results in court” (Globe and Mail) that Obrador “vowed to take his case to a special tribunal” (Toronto Star). The Washington Post erroneously reported that that “Obrador, refused to concede and demanded a recount, and it appeared that the winner of Sunday's balloting would ultimately be decided in court” and The Herald Tribune made refernce to a “special tribunal set up to handle electoral disputes, a court that has never before been asked to make such a momentous ruling.” The problem is that none of these claims are true. Unlike in the 2000 U.S. election, no one is taking the election to court, there are no special tribunals have been set up to decide this election. Reviewing the votes is a compulsory step in every Mexican election; the Federal Electoral Tribunals (TRIFE) assesses the validity of the election, and they are the only authority allowed to officially declare a winner.
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Spanglish anguish

SPANGLISH is NOT pronouncing English words as if they were Spanish ones (though, sometimes the opposite occurs: "¿Donde es mi carro, güey?"). Today, I had to call a county sheriff's office about a personal matter. This was where I used to live, in an area where Spanish and Spanglish speakers combined outnumber English speakers, and got a recording telling me "esta el SHARIF de contado de -----". The local media, and the department themselves, use "aguacil" for what sounded like the name of an Egyptian film star of the 50 and 60s. That might be a weird local variant on proper Spanglish, but I have it on good authority (the waitress at my local coffee shop in deepest darkest west Texas) it certainly is not standard. I've run into English-speakers in Mexico asking for "el Ah-Tay-emAy" (which, according to jerga maven Armando Jimenez, means something closer to "everything's cool" than a machine that finances your vacation), looking for "Gee-ZUS TAY-ran" (and, suprisingly, the cabbie took the speaker to her hotel on calle Jesús Teran, though I have to admit, little old English ladies who wield foreign languages with the fine contempt their imperial ancestors showed half the planet manage to thrive on butchered foreign tongues) and "Kaley Don-SELLS" (you know, where they have the used bookshops near the Cathedral). And, I had a very uncomfortable experience trying to help an English-speaking visitor in Mexico make some purchases, only to have him start screaming "DOSE! DOSE! RAID! RAID!" at an uncomprehending -- and impassive -- clerk. While no scholar of Spanglish, I was able to figure out that the foreigner thought he'd given the clerk a two-hundred peso note -- the red ones, right? An update: I posted a draft of this on "Thorn Tree Mexico Message Board". "CaliTravellingMan" wrote, regarding "el Sharif":
Alguacil is used officially for 'sheriff' here in So Cal, and people do use and understand the term, although the term 'el cherif' or 'los cherífes' (now THAT is Spanglish) is as common, if not more so, at the street level. It has an interesting etymology, and though its use in other Spanish-speaking countries faded, in the US, the term was made to fit the new convention of 'sheriff'.
"edlyn" corrected me on "ATM" -- which I had confused with the "proper" Mexican jerga, "desmadre". Thanks to all beady-eyed fact checkers!