Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Interstingly enough, the same page had a link to a story on San Pablo Ahauntempan and the effects of migration on that town where the streets are half empty, full of large houses that nobody lives in, and a general poverty of billetes verdes. E. Bradford Burns and the Poverty of Progress? It always surprises me when I have people tell me that book is "out of date."
Saturday, December 27, 2008
A year ago it looked like a replica in the central plaza might work to draw some tourists (they had a catchy tourism campaign about the past being the future) it looks like things haven't quite caught on as expected (like ecotourism in Chihuahua, I suppose).
(click on the photo to read the story of moving Tlaloc at Mexico Lore)
When Texcoco started to recognize that Tenochtitlan was taking a little too much off the top of the Triple Alliance deal, they probably weren't thinking that the city would continue to loot Texcoco for years to come. While I like the National Museum, I think it would have been far more beneficial to creat a string of museums around the old lake that celebrate the culture of the Central Valley... one out in Chalco, out in Xochimilco, over in Texcoco. The big museum in the center could still show case the culture of the nation, but it seems that some attempt to spread the wealth of history should be in order. Perhaps as Greece demands the repatriation of its artifacts, the pueblos of the nation should demand that Mexico return their heritage (no matter how imagined for some places).
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I was a little bummed to see in Sol de Toluca that the portales, the lovely shopping area in the center of town under went a Porfirio Diaz style cleansing of the semi-mobile merchants that fill the portales around the holidays (day of the dead there is great fun - no Oaxaca, but again, it ain't trying to be). Women, kids, handicapped - the police even used some teargas in the day-long expulsion of the vendors to get the place "cleansed" for Christmas Eve. Zounds.
Monday, December 22, 2008
The strangest exchange came with a very vocal evangelical (who repeatedly self identified his faith for the class) who I assigned Leonardo and Clodovis Boff "Introducing Liberation Theology." His position all semester had been that blaming the United States for the sloth of Latin Americans (as he put it) made no sense. Well, he balled his eyes out at the intro to the book, and cried again as he told the rest of the grad students about the book. He caught me after class and went on and on for nearly an hour about how Americans consumed too much and that sin really can be structural. And while he had some good academic questions about the approach, personally he was moved by the Boffs.
Well, come the following week on US/Latin American Relations, he was back at Latin America, hammer and tongs, for what he called their clearly racists and envious greed at the Protestant success of the United States. Between comments on Hispanic culture and slurs at the Catholic church, it was as if the Black Legend had embodied itself in the student. We had one reader explaining Phillip Wayne Powell's Tree of Hate that week as well. When he jumped in and clearly explained the source of all of the biases that had been present in the student's comments the student looked a bit sheepish. That was followed by Emperor's In the Jungle and Empire's Workshop. Needless to say, good times had by all. (And yes, there were other books covered, so keep the "hey, you forgot book so and so" comments to yourself.)
Made into cold-war castoffs when the Communists won that proxy war in 1975, more than 100,000 Hmong (pronounced MONG) refugees were resettled around the world in places like St. Paul; Fresno, California; Thailand; France; Australia; and — quietly, but successfully — this former prison colony on South America's northeastern hump.
Since arriving more than 30 years ago, the Hmong, who account for only about 1.5 percent of French Guiana's 210,000 people, have thrived. Once penniless, the refugees and their families produce up to 80 percent of the fruit and vegetables sold in this overseas French department, which must import other food at a high cost from mainland France or Brazil.
The first time I met Hmong was in the farmer's market in Missoula, Montana, while attending university there. The IHT story reminded me of the ties that are created by diaspora, but also of the scant coverage given Asian minorities in Latin America. When I cover the Chinese in Mexico, my students are generally very surprised. Unfortunately, some of my students from Mexico (well, maybe fortunately considering the confessional way in which it happens) disclose that most of the really offensive racial jokes they know and freely tell are about Asians - and the class usually agrees that such jokes about Latinos would result in big trouble. Nobody laughs when we discuss Chinese hanging from the lamp posts of Torreon, however.
The level of respect we have cultivated for some groups far out strips that developed for others. I think that perhaps for the Hmong it has been some sort of producer ideology driving acceptance as opposed to the "money changer" position that the Chinese have had in the Pac Rim world (think Indonesia, Cambodia, Hawai'i, Mexico, etc.).
Anyway...Hmong in French Guiana...I imagine there is a dissertation in there for some grad student.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Call for Papers
The Latin American Studies Program at Stephen F. Austin State University, in conjunction with Clio’s Eye, a film and audio visual magazine for the historian produced by the Department of History at Stephen F. Austin State University, seek submissions of essays and reviews on films from or about Latin America or the portrayal of Latin America in film. The call for papers comes in conjunction with the April 2-4, 2009 conference of Latin American Studies scheduled to be held at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. http://www2.sfasu.edu/latinam/Home_.html
Submissions are accepted in English, Spanish, French, or Portuguese.
Graduate and undergraduate submissions are eligible for consideration for the Mary Devine prize of $250.
Contributors may submit essays about or reviews of films that introduce, review, evaluate, and promote discussion of film and literary works concerned with historical topics or themes to the public.
Authors who wish to submit materials may submit manuscripts to Dr. E. Deanne Malpass, Department of History, via email at email@example.com or via CD to P.O. Box 13013, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, 75962.
Please see http://clioseye.sfasu.edu/ (follow the Clio’s News link) for manuscript guidelines. Essay manuscripts should be no longer than approximately ten standard typed pages.
Deadline for submission: February 15, 2009.
Publication: April, 2009.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
"Right now, we know Texas is the No. 1 source of weapons smuggled into
Mexico, with most of them coming from Houston and Dallas," Mr. Webb said.
They're bought "by 'straw purchasers' who act as buyers for the cartels."
One of the ATF's biggest cases in Dallas involved a security guard whom
agents documented buying 152 firearms, including 78 Romanian-made assault
rifles, at a Mesquite gun store over four months in 2003.
that Adan Rodriguez was a paid straw purchaser for members of a Mexican cartel.
One of the pistols he bought in Dallas was used in the cartel gunfight near
Reynosa, Mexico, in which two federal police officers were shot. Mr. Rodriguez
was convicted on federal gun charges in 2004 and is serving a 70-year sentence.
Nearly half of the 14,111 firearms recovered and traced in Texas came from
Houston and Dallas, according to a 2007 ATF report. Houston was No. 1, with
3,820, and Dallas close behind at 3,358.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Who doesn't love a good "Pilgrim's Combo." Yep, for 32 pesos and a few miles walking on your knees you get a double burger, kid sized fries and a small drink.
Ruben Martinez writes in The Other Side that Mexico was the first post-modern nation 500 years ago. Nothing like a Peregrino Combo to drive home the point.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I was thinking of this because a colleague asked me about a certain program well known for a particular area in Latin American history. He asked what the "head" of that cadre of specialists focused on as well as what his/her grad students wrote about. When I had to put in words that person's research as well as the grad student's writings I realized that they had all written the same book, only the blanks were different.
How this garbage keeps coming down the pipe as original contributions to the academy is beyond me. When I mentioned this at lunch to one of the deans here who knows the "head" of this cartel, his reply was that the wo/man throws great parties. Seriously. *sigh*
I'm not sure I can look my grad students in the face tomorrow night. Suckers.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
One of the big floats of the parade was built by the Spanish speaking youth group at the Catholic parish on the south end of town. It was a gigantic red, green, and white thing dripping with young kids hanging off of straw bales, all dressed in the peasant cotton / red scarf set up for boys or the china poblana look for the girls. As the float passed by the statue of the Spanish founder of the town in the main square, one of the boys looked around really fast then threw his machete up in the air and gave a whopping - if quick - Viva Mexico. What followed was rather fun. I gave my automatic Viva from the parade route (I hadn't been back from Guadalajara all that long and such Vivas seem automatic), and I'm not sure who got more stares, the embarrassed kid who shrank down in the straw bales after he shouted his viva, or me, the big gabacho guy with the little blonde boys who responeded to him. Either way, the stares we got were not friendly looks of approbation.
What got me thinking about this was a post I read on the Ask a Cholo web site from a "reader" (are those REAL questions???) about why Mexican and Mexican Americans shout Viva Mexico. The incident in the square came flooding back to my mind, along with statements from Richard Rodriguez in Brown about "culture" and Pamela Voekel's really early work called Peeing on the Palace: Bodily Resistance to Bourbon Reforms. I imagine there was a little bit of Rodriguez's compelling culture driving the kid, but I suppose that the machete made me think that this guy was making his little stand in the middle town with his own sign of resistance.
Thinking about what I said yesterday concerning California or Texas, I imagine in Cali that the float would have been covered with kids shouting Viva Mexico (I actually think I have seen that same float in the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade with lots of Vivas shouted). Here in East Texas I am having a hard time imagining a float full of shouters.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I think I'll start a series of posts on California vs. Texas. First entrants.
Ask a Chola for California (which is, by the way, the most June Cleaver Chola I have ever seen).
Latino Comedy Project for Texas (the "Mex/BC" part 3 had me wet my pants laughing).
On the other hand, I'd certainly like to see more done by the Catholic Church on the LOCAL level to deny known narcotraficantes the ability to partake in the sacraments as well as participate in the community festivals that help gain them local respect and honor. While some movement was made on that front in the 1990s, I'm not sure much has been done since the response to the killing of Posadas Ocampo.
And my apologies to the Cantinflas fans for the choice of title....
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
This link gives you a Senate speech from 2007.
This link gives a video of a speech made in Alexandria Virginia. It is only shows partial statements, so the context may not be full.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Nevertheless, the entire economy contintues to expand, according to INEGI, with agriculture growing at 4.9% - a rate large enough to balance industrial losses associated with the decline of the US economy. This seems like a good sign for the popular Alberto Cardenas, current secretary of ag and a possible candidate in 2012. Most importantly, I think it bodes well (I hope) for keeping a lid on the spread of political violence as the bi/centennial approaches.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The picture to the side was on the cover of Uno Mas Uno today. Check out the following from Garza:
“México no sería el centro de la actividad de los cárteles o estaría experimentando este nivel de violencia, si no fuera por Estados Unidos, el mayor consumidor de drogas ilegales y el principal abastecedor de armas a los cárteles.”
Did I wake up in a "really" segment of SNL?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
On a happier note, I was interested to see the official government site celebrating the Revolution has items on there from Catholic participants. Take a look. The home site can be found here. I'm sure the intro video will be deconstructed in class rooms accross academia using Ilene V. O'Malley and Thomas Benjamin.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Having left California just over a year ago, I still have a large number of ties to the area and two friends on either side of the Proposition 8 firestorm have been in frequent contact. One was for prop 8, and in the span of 36 hours he had his sign vandalized 10 times. This is what was left after he finally replaced his official sign with spray paint and plywood.
The other friend is, as I quote him now, a "fat, white, hopelessly heterosexual Jew" that lives in the mission district of San Francisco. He stands firmly against the results of the November 4 vote, and he is truly moved that many of his neighbors were heartbroken at the passage of Prop 8. As he kept in contact with me, he recounted a growing conflict among some of my former colleagues - some of whom are evangelical Christians and Mormons - and others who are firmly opposed to those beliefs. Most interesting of the emails he forwarded on to me was the reflection of a colleague who justified his statements by saying he was a "Chicano from Bakersfield" and so his observations on why rural minorities voted for Prop 8 were supposed to have extra legitimacy. The thrust of his email was that rural minorities were uneducated and poor, thus they were in the grip of their pastors and preachers, and without the money to pay for access to other sources of information, these Latinos and blacks were mere dupes.
For me, this brought to mind the position of the Sonoran generals during the consolidation phase of the Revolution in Mexico. Doing research in Guadalajara and Mexico City, I had occasion to read not only the official public documents, but also those letters and programs designed by the official party's anti-clerical association whose motto decreed that "God is a Lie and Religion is a Farce." Their stated duty was to "liberate" the masses from the oppression and tyranny of the Catholic clergy and bring light and truth to the masses via the public education of the Revolution. Benighted Indian mobs, they maintained, waited to be brought into the Revolution by education, and women, silly and seduced in the confessional, were banned from voting in Mexico until 1952. I'm not sure that this was what my former colleague was after (and I'm sure he would balk at my comparison between him and Mr. Calles) but I was certainly struck by his language. The war that grew out of this state sponsored control of religion killed 80,000 people in 3 years.
Mexico "resolved" its conflict by simply casting aside the rule of law and allowing churches free reign, while continuing to hold the Revolutionary laws at the ready in case the clergy should insert themselves into politics in the future - a condition that was supposed to change in 1991, but in real practice never was modified.
I might observe here that the work of Jennifer Purnell has pointed out that many of the Catholics that revolted against the state's attempt to restrict religion did so because of accompanying economic issues (read the book - there is not enough space here). It might be a fun little study to pay attention to the divide that exists between those that voted for prop 8 who sip coffee at the cafes of urban California, and those that voted against it who serve that coffee.
And please, considering what I have seen on the net on this topic, take note that I am not insinuating that those who voted against prop 8 hate religion and religious people. I'm simply pointing out that those who voted against the measure and found that they were opposed by the very people that they champion in their scholarship, exist in the same situation as those Sonoran generals who claimed to have fought the Revolution for the peasants, but found that many of the people on the ground rejected their version of this Revolution. Those generals, unfortunately, reacted with violence and intolerance, and only when a "modus vivendi" was worked out were both parties able to move forward. Both the Revolution and the opponents of prop 8 should have viewed their opponents through a more complex lens than that of "oppressed people."
Friday, November 14, 2008
Yanet Aguilar Sosa
Viernes 14 de noviembre de 2008
La tardanza con la que Alemania ha comenzado a leer a autores latinoamericanos ha generado que en los últimos años algunas de las obras de Carlos Fuentes vendan entre 20 y 50 mil ejemplares, y que muchas de sus novelas y libros de cuentos, tengan dos o hasta tres ediciones.
Read the rest.
Huzzah for Germany and Don Carlos, but what an illustration of how an integral part of the world system is consistently overlooked. Is this because Fuentes was so popular in France? (Yes, I mean that with tongue firmly in cheek.) Secret history? Secret literature.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
But I’m not from Patagonia. I’m from Montana.
At the time it was something of a riff on the composer Dimitri Tiomkin’s answer to how a Russian could be so comfortable capturing the “feel” of the American prairie: “a steppe is a steppe is a steppe” he quipped. A mountain is a mountain is a mountain, I suppose is what I was thinking, and surrounded by the mole hills of the east coast, that was a particularly attractive thought at the time.
But a few years have gone by, and as I’ve really thought about it, I think what linked me to Chatwin’s description of the peaks and plains of Patagonia was not that a “steppe is a steppe” or a “mountain is a mountain” but that essentially, in the big view, I was reading about the same mountains that I had grown up in when I read Chatwin – just at a point a few thousand miles to the north. Who can’t love an unbroken – or pretty much unbroken (dang you, Panama) – chain of mountains that stretch from the Arctic Circle to Tierra Del Fuego?
These mountains that touch virtually every nation of the American continents (poor, lonely, Uruguay) are really a shared sacred space, beyond all of the meta-geographic impositions of politicians and nationalism. I was thinking about Chatwin because I’d just met Glenn and Janice.
Glenn Weyant is an interesting character: His business card lists him as a sound sculptor, journalist, educator, baker, and instrument builder. What’s that mean? It means Glenn plays the U.S./Mexico border fence with a cello bow. And mallets. And sticks. And an egg whisk. I meant it when I said he was an interesting character.
Looking at the fence between the United States and Mexico in Nogales, Glenn set out to overcome this fairly unnatural divide in the landscape and the people with music, and what better music could their be to bring two sides of a fence together than to play the actual fence. Glenn says on his web site that that he wants the listener to ask themselves “What is it I am hearing? Why do these things exist? Who is kept in and who is kept out?” And in the end, his big vision is to change the wall from “an implement of division” into “an instrument of creation with the power to unite.”
In a way, Glenn’s vision makes sense to me. When I think about that eternal flow of mountains and prairies, a steel wall seems like an ugly scar ripped across the belly of society by some act of unnatural and incomprehensible violence.
A fence across the Americas?
Native Americans from Alaska to Patagonia have carved out their own cathedrals of sacred space in the towering peaks and roaring waterfalls of the great range of mountains that linked them together. The Salish found solace in the peaks of what are today known as the Mission Mountains while the Andes were dotted with sacred points connected by invisible lines of power known as Zeq’e by the Inca. Later Catholicism introduced a maze of shrines in sacred locations from Argentina to Canada, and nineteenth century Mormon pioneers referred to the mountains as those “everlasting hills” in Biblical prophesy. Surely, they thought, something so wondrous and grand stretching from north to south was a sign that God favored this land.
But I haven’t yet mentioned Janice, or why she and Glenn put me in this reflective funk in Flagstaff.
Janice is a professor at a small university on the high northern plains. I met her at a conference and stopped to ask some questions about her research (she works on travel writers) and we ended up having lunch. Over some raw fish and hot tea, I found out that in Janice’s little prairie town, immigration has turned into quite the issue.
It seems that with the general labor drain from the prairie that small farmers are hiring Mexican and other Latin American immigrants to work on sheep ranches or harvesting wheat and potatoes. Their children long since gone to drink Starbucks in Minneapolis or Seattle, farmers and ranchers are importing man power to hang on to the legacy given them by their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
What intrigued me most about Janice’s tale was the discussion of a harvest festival in which two neighboring towns get together for a little competition. The game? Soccer. The players? Latinos. The sidelines, said Janice, were lined with older white farmers, ranchers, and town folk all cheering on their champions, while little mestizo children ran around and clapped for their papis to win. You see, when the old farmer’s children go to the city, they take their children with them, and losing them means losing the grand children - losing the future. The men out on the soccer field and the labor they provide aren’t the only necessary import for a small western town.
I can’t help but find a little bit of hope in Bruce, Glenn, and Janice. Close your eyes…a sage filled Patagonian wind fills your nostrils while eerie and ethereal sound sculptures dance along with the breeze. In the background you can hear the laughter of children and the elderly – maybe a few cheers and swears uttered in Spanish – as a small town on the prairie finds hope in the strong backs and smiling children brought to them in the flow of people up the everlasting hills.
Chatwin has been dead for a decade. Glenn has plans to create a trans-border orchestra experience in which the fence is played from both sides. Janice is moving to Morocco. I’m sitting in a hotel room in Flagstaff, staring at headlines about a border fence.