About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PRD Saddles Up... Against Free Speech?

Milenio today reports that deputies from the PRD have asked the Secretary of Gobernacion to go after the Catholic Church for expressing its views on gay marriage in D.F. According to the PRD, the Catholic Church has violated the Ley de Asociaciones Religiosas y Culto Público (LARCP) which carves out a legal space for religious organizations in Mexican civil society.

The original reforms took place under the Salinas administration's very classical liberal drive to codify all segments of society, as well as their efforts to show the U.S. before and during NAFTA talks that Mexico could extend the rule of law to all areas of society. In short, it was Salinas de Gortari's way of signaling to the world (remember, he was gunning for UN or IMF positions at that point in time) that Mexico was "civilized" and that El Presidente was the grand reformer and modernizer of Mexico. Religious rights were human rights, as was argued at the time, and Mexico had a duty to protect those rights.

Move forward almost two decades, and we find ourselves in a conundrum. D.F. seeks to protect the civil rights of homosexuals to enter into the marriage contract (above all a civil act in Mexico - as thousands of dead liberals and conservatives can attest). The Catholic church seeks to excercise its rights to object without legal retribution - as laid out in the 2006 version of LARCP (Article 2, subparagraph e).

The PRD position is weak, but reforms in 2006 to the law could help their cause. Article 8 requires that churches "fomentar el diálogo, la tolerancia y la convivencia entre las distintas religiones y credos con presencia en el país." While you might argue that isn't the same as tolerance in general society, in combination with Article 14, it might have some punch. Article 14 states that "Tampoco podrán los ministros de culto asociarse con fines políticos ni realizar proselitismo a favor o en contra de candidato, partido o asociación política alguna." Taking a public stand against gay marriage might be seen as a violation of this portion of the law.

Finally, throughout the document the state reserves the right to protect the rights of third parties. Is it then the state's duty to mute the Catholic Church if the speech of the church could result in legislation that restricts the rights of a third party? My own U.S. history demonstrates that only the right of the central state is powerful enough to protect the rights of minorities - but the central state has also acted to protect the hateful language of those who would seek to terminate the rights of minorities. And the big gun, Article 29: "Convertir un acto religioso en reunión de carácter político." That statement is as loaded as Amy Winhouse.

I would tend to see the PRD as hunting flies with vinegar by taking this approach, and restricting speech to protect other rights seems counterproductive to civic society. I'd also point out that Mexico has "tolerated" plural marriage for the indigenous and quirky religious groups, as well as a mind-blowing amount of cohabitation for decades (well...centuries). The Catholic Church has complained the whole time, and those outside the reach of the Madre Iglesia continue on their way.

Monday, December 28, 2009

WSJ Strikes Again

PBS News Hour kicked around the murder of the family of Mexican Naval commando Melquisedet Angulo Cordova that participated in the assassination of Arturo Beltran Leyva. The "expert" that PBS cut to was WSJ correspondent David Luhnow. Among the gems from Luhnow we get:
Many Mexicans have become, unfortunately, very inured to the violence. Much like in Iraq, people became accustomed to the -- sort of the daily death toll from the bombings and the carnage there. Mexicans are really becoming sort of accustomed to the bloodshed.
Unfortunately, many Mexicans don't trust their government. This is mostly the result of 70 years of a single-party state, where the government was basically there to protect itself and its allies and enrich itself.
So, many Mexicans view anything that the government does, even if it's correct, with a lot -- with a healthy dose of skepticism and cynicism. So, polls show that the majority of people sort of support the drug war. They know these drug gangs are pretty bad. But they are not really fully behind the government, in maybe the way that the U.S. public would be fully behind U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or in Iraq.
So, Luhnow's portrait of Mexico is a land where people turn a blind eye to violence and distrust the government? Is he talking about Mexico or Republicans? Hmmm... back in November, David, you told us Mexicans were fighting back against violence - with violence. Now in one month they are just numb? Society moves at amazing speed in Mexico.

The item I wanted to comment on (beyond his total lack of evidence) was his pinning of supposed distrust on the PRI alone. The behavior of the PAN, particularly the Calderon administration's militarization of society and sock-puppet-for-the-US stance, has no influence on distrust? For the 50 years of Revolutionary government when the majority of Mexicans looked at the Revolutionary Family favorably there is no legacy - for Lopez Portillo (ok, maybe Echeverria) forward, every Mexican has grown up loathing government? I'm not going to sit here and defend the PRI system - perhaps politically stable but certainly violent. However, for the WSJ to ignore the shortcomings (pun intended) of their conservative Golden Boy is poor analysis at best. How about the problems of the PANista "get tough" legal system you reported on back in October? Oh, sorry, was there no discussion of the absence of meaningful legal reforms under the PAN of the judicial system in your story?

PRI, PAN, and (sorry Richard) PRD? If distrust exists, we're looking at the product of the poor of any party subject to the whims and lawlessness of the wealthy of any party for whom no rule of law exists. Class, not party, is the dividing factor between ruled and ruler in Mexico.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Caribbean?

Ok, final reflections on the semester spent with students and what was hardest to teach them about Latin America.

1) The Spaniards did not kill all the indigenous. Even the very Aymara girl sitting third row back could not convince some that the Spaniards did not "kill all the Indians." I'm here to report that the black legend is alive and well.

2) There were no Indians when the Spanish arrived. There were no Africans that came as slaves. The students expected total racial solidarity and a complete anti-white coalition coming out of the boats. Slaves and Indians, one insisted, where clearly just stupid because the didn't get together to overthrow the whites. *sigh*

3) The Caribbean is part of Latin America. Again, the Boricua sitting in the back saying how much more he understood Puerto Rico now that he had a Colonial course on Latin America didn't help one iota.

These were the hardest ideas to get across, but in the end, I think I had only one that came out thinking all the Indians were dumb, dead, and certainly not from the Caribbean. Out of eleven students, that's not a bad turn around.

So, in honor of Mr. Incredulous, here's a very merry Christmas ... 70's / 80's style.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Evo Morales: Ending Capitalism by Ending Luxury?

From Democracy Now:
AMY GOODMAN: How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.
I've generally been a supporter of the Morales movement - a much needed retaking of Bolivia by the majority of the citizenry. However, Morales' climate summit speech and DN interview have me rolling my eyes? End luxury? End luxury and you end the entire export future of Bolivia, especially lithium. Define luxury, buck-o. Is luxury flying all the way to Copenhagen to complain about luxury for a few minutes? Pretty much. Come on, Evo, learn to ride the market and even moderate it ... don't try to put a bullet in its brain.

The export economies of South America demand a luxury market, and their subsequent failure to diversify the economy with the profits from those sales is glaring (cough cough - Chavez's Venezuela - cough cough). Text book after text book gives us enough single-export ppopulists to float a battleship. Diversify, democratize, distribute - the three words of the day for the Latin American economy.

Bolivia has potential to profit from "luxury" and use those profits for good. And the environment? If the market demands "green" then let the entrepeneurs of Bolivia profit from that demand.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Peru to Iglesia Catolica: Massacre Was Your Fault

Yesterday the head of the Peruvian Bishops Conference rejected accusations from a commission set up to investigate the June 5 violence near Bagua (1,000 KM NE of Lima) that the Church and people associated with the Church precipitated the violence. A nun sitting on the investigative commission has refused to sign the document, and the Bishops as well as activist organizations have condemned the report for ignoring the actual violence from the police. Amazon Watch and Democracy Now discuss a number of disappeared as well. Hidden, no doubt, in a cloister some where (Snark).

What I find interesting is a paraphrase of the report written up in Noticias de Prensa Latina that says:
El documento sostiene que que los nativos fueron engañados y manipulados por intereses extranjeros y sectores opositores, religiosos y organizaciones no gubernamentales, que les hicieron creer que los decretos en cuestión iba a privarlos de sus tierras.
This sounds like a page out of the cold war from Guatemala and El Slavador to Brazil and Chile. I knew Alan Garcia was old school, but who knew he was going to use form letter reports from the Cold War. Are these in a surplus "Operation Condor" file drawer somewhere? Outside agitators tricked the peasantry into thinking the central state, logging companies, mines, and oil companies didn't have their best interests at heart? Wow, that must have been a really hard line to sell to the Indians of the Peruvian Amazon. (Extra snark).

The liberation Church is alive and well in the Andes, and that includes not only Ecuador and Bolivia, but it seems Peru as well. It sounds like Garcia is ready to engage in a PR war against the Catholic Church, but I wonder how far he will push it.

Death threats are already being leveled against the Amazonas persecutor involved in investigating the case, Marleny Luz Rojas Méndez, says LivinginPeru. Would it be to far-fetched to imagine that threats will start appearing for religious agitators next? This situation is going nowhere good, fast.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Celebrating the Virgin ... USA

It ain't just California and Texas any more, folks.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Miami Beach, Florida

Lombar, Illinois

Brooklyn, New York

La Pura Cotton Candy

Beyond religion I don't often make forays into Mexico and culture. There are a 101 Carlos Monsivais wannabes in the blogosphere to suffice any reader's desire. However, I did want to make a brief mention of the most recent Teleton in DF earlier this December in what seems to be my most Cotton Candy post (all fluff and sugar).

Fans in the capital "enjoyed" the appearance of a U.S. export named Selena. Not, unfortunately, the beautiful 23-year-old Texan that still makes many a young man from the nineties heart go bidi bidi bom bom, but the pre-pubescent American Girl doll (also from Texas) Selena Gomez who is (I am almost ashamed to admit I know this) named after the real Texas bomb shell, Selena Quintanilla. Perhaps my judgment is clouded by fond memories of sitting in papusarias and burrito places in El Monte, Baldwin Park, San Gabriel and East LA in the 90's slurping down horchatas and good food while listening to la reina - perhaps.

However, I submit for your comparison the two Selenas - and I think the South Texan wins.

The (mildly) Curious Case of The Judge and The Scholar

Mexican President Felipe Calderón appeared in Yucatan this week to assign awards to members of Mexican society important to that nation's development in science, art, and technology. On the list of award recipients was José Ramón Cossío Díaz, an associate justice of the Supreme court - the same supreme court that upheld the decriminalization of abortion in DF. While the wunderkind minister is a prodigious author as well as a known for allowing expert consultation in court matters, his prominence in the abortion decision is undeniable. The award was given for philosophy, history, and social sciences.

The other award winner in philosophy, history, and social sciences is yet another scholar in the thick of controversy - Enrique de la Garza Toledo. Not that Garza Toledo has been deeply involved with the electrical workers, but his work centeres on the sociology of labor. In particular, he asks about the nature of democracy within unions, their legitimacy, and the sort of systems of labor that exist in the "New" political Mexico of post-PRI domination. I do not know how influential he has been on Calderón policy in terms of labor. It is, however, a curious choice with curious timing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mexico and the Environment

Saturday in Chihuahua a cloud of smoke descended on the city of Cuauhetemoc, Chihuahua. Reports El Diario:
Una capa de contaminación y humo cubrió ayer la ciudad, luego de que se registraron dos incendios en campos menonitas en los que se realizaba quema de rastrojo, método prohibido por la Dirección de Ecología y autoridades de salud.

A pesar de advertencias y multas, es común la práctica de limpieza de predios por medio del fuego, y algunas veces se sale de control, como lo sucedido ayer en el Campo 22, donde las llamas cubrieron una larga extensión de terreno.

I've posted earlier on Mennonites and drilling for water before, with the upshot being that for the colonists it is easier and cheaper to punch wells wherever they want and pay the fines than it is to follow the rules on water rights and use. It appears to be the same with burning weeds and stubble. What seems to be the offense of the Mennonites? American-style agriculture, it seems to me. Potato farmers in Idaho have nearly sucked the Snake River aquifer dry (while simultaneously destroying drinking water sources with pesticides) while Montana looks like a Mordor scene out of LOTR come spring and the burning of stubble fields.

It seems to me that Mexico has the sensible environmental approach to water regulation and air quality while the U.S. falls short. One might be tempted to say that the United States better adheres to the rule of law in environmental matters, but when the rules are bent in the legislatures BEFORE they get to the application then it appears the rule of law is as moot an exercise in the U.S. as it is in Mexico. At least if the laws are on the books in Mexico the hope exists that one day adherence by the population will lead to a better environmental ethic in sensitive areas like Chihuahua.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Luz Del Mundo - Tragedy in Yucatan

On Sunday, Dec. 6 at least two were killed and twelve were wounded when followers of the LLDM church gathered to carry out construction work on a temple in Uman, Yucatan. LLDM prides itself on donated labor for work, and this time it had dangerous consequences.

Read more at: Diario de Yucatan and here as well. (The original news and stories of bad permits).

La Jornada is saying that the construction was carried out without the proper permits and had grave structural errors:
"...fue erigido por los dirigentes de la Iglesia La Luz del Mundo sin permisos de construcción ni de uso de suelo; funcionaba sin estar terminada, y además se detectaron fallas estructurales en el inmueble, dijeron autoridades locales y estatales." See more here.
Diario de Yucatan is saying that they didn't have the technical inspection necessary to go ahead with the work.

At least that is what La Jornada and Diario are saying now... but we need to see what the official report is. With a PANista gov't in place and many LLDM members being a fairly vocal opponent of the PAN (see Sara Pozos Bravo's essays, for instance), this may be the opening that the PAN will want to go after the evangelical church.

Then again, no PANista government in the church's home state of Jalisco would dare touch them... that would be like going pro-Castro in South Florida (political suicide).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Narco-Menonitas (Or So Says the PAN)

Rosa Maria Baray, a PANista state congress person from Chihuahua announced that the violence that is affecting the Mennonites in Chihuahua is something of their own doing. Says Baray:
"Así como en otros tiempos los menonitas se involucraron en delitos del fueron común, ahora también están tomando parte en actividades propias del narcotráfico." Read more here.
What she says, of course, has a some veracity. In the 1990s Mennonites were the largest transporters of marijuana into Canada, and the CBC has focused on the narcotics and violence present in the Anabaptists community in Canada and in Mexico (though melodramatically calling it the Mennonite Mafia). Indeed, Mennonites have certainly been involved in the black market economy of guns and drugs in not only growing and distribution, but also in using their mechanical skills to build automobile compartments for the transportation of contraband. On a personal note, in a visit to Chihuahua in 2007 with students our van driver suggested we not allow students to wander into the apple orchards surrounding our motel in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua as we might find people or items harmful to our "seguridad."

On the other hand... .
This sort of focus on the religion of the Mennonites allows everybody to get a little bit of exotic titilation (oooh...german speaking drug runners - isn't that for those dark Mexicans) while also satisfying the anti-religiuos bug (those pacifist hypocrites). It makes for good press in the same way a Protestant pastor that frequents male prostitutes gets attention: We like to see the sanctimonious cut down to size. However, would any activist of immigration approve of painting all Mexican Americans as illegal aliens who come to the U.S. with bales of Acapulco Gold strapped to their backs and leprosy in their blood? Painting the Mennonites with this broad-brush is inaccurate at best, and unfair to boot.

Again, while in Chihuahua in 2007 I had the chance to talk to the Mennonites about the detox center they've started in the campos to help the young people that have become involved with narcotics and alcohol. They are openly addressing a problem within society and are taking steps to correct the problems. Tobasco Hoy reports that Menonites have even created their own Guardia Civil (minus the guns) to patrol the campos and discourage not only outsiders but also members of the community from participating in crime. This is a long way from when Lazaro Cardenas authorized Mexican soldiers to apprehend and execute in the field criminals that harrassed Durango's Mennonites.

Anyway, the point being that Baray's comments allow Chihuahua to continue to try to marginalize a community that is one of the great legitimate economic engines of the state's economy based mostly on racial distrust and economic jealousy. If some Mennonites participate in narcotics, that doesn't make them less worthy of protection. Such logic applied to all Mexicans would eliminate whole cities and neighborhoods in Chihuahua - including many of the pueblos represented by Ms. Baray.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Caution: Two Way Street

Put aside the guns, and most U.S. Americans aren't thinking about smuggling from the United States in to Mexico. This news release from ICE:

LAREDO, Texas - Two businessmen from New Jersey and a California each pleaded guilty on Thursday for their roles in an illegal export scheme. The guilty pleas were announced by U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Vahram Aynilian, 59, of New Jersey, and Fred Lukach, 50, of California, each pleaded guilty to one count of illegally exporting goods from the United States into Mexico. Both defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Saldana to enter their guilty pleas.

From 2005 to 2009, Aynilian received about $199,201 for providing and/or allowing fraudulent NAFTA Certificate of Origin documents and fraudulent U.S. invoices to be provided for 243 shipments. As part of his plea agreement, Aynilian agreed to forfeit and will pay to the United States at or before sentencing the $199,201.20 he profited from the scheme. During the same time period, Lukach paid for and obtained fraudulent NAFTA Certificate of Origin documents and fraudulent U.S. invoices from Aynilian for numerous textile shipments. Read more.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Cold at the Top... ICE is Numero Uno

The TRAC Immigration project at Syracuse University reports:
The number of individuals held in custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the just-ended FY 2009 is now estimated to have reached 369,483 detainees, more than twice what the total was in FY 1999. According to a recent agency report, this growth means that ICE is now operating the largest detention system in the country. Read more here.
This detention also comes with arbitrary and confusing transfers from center to center. For example, the Houston Chronicle reports:

After Alejandro Sibaja was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Houston 15 months ago, he was transferred six times and finally ended up in Haskell, north of Abilene.

By the time an immigration judge in Dallas granted Sibaja a green card last Wednesday, his wife, Iris Lopez-Sibaja said she had spent countless hours trying to track him through the nation's troubled immigration detention network, which faced criticism on Wednesday from government auditors and immigrant rights advocates for resulting in haphazard detainee transfers.

“It was tough. It was harder on my kids, though,” Lopez-Sibaja said. “They were the ones always asking where their dad was.”

In separate reports released Wednesday, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security and the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch criticized the controversial and increasingly common practice of transferring immigration detainees to detention centers far from their families and attorneys.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Deportation of Rigoberto Padilla

This came in the e-mail today. Thought I would pass it on:

Dear Colleagues-

Please help us. We only have 2 weeks left to act to prevent the deportation of our student and Latin American and Latino Studies major, Rigoberto Padilla.
The faculty of the Latin Amercan and Latino Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago is asking university faculty across the nation to join in a petition to halt the deportation of Rigoberto Padilla. Last winter, Rigo was arrested by the Chicago Police for a driving violation. While in police custody, his undocumented status was discovered by ICE officials, who charged him with entering the United States without authorization in 1994 as a six-year-old child. While his misdemeanor is not a deportable offense, his deportation is now set for December 16, 2009.

We are asking university faculty to sign an online petition requesting an administrative closure of his case. The online petition automatically sends faxes to the offices of Janet Napolitano (Secretary of Homeland Security), John Morton (Director of I.C.E.), Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Roland Burris.

In addition, we are asking university faculty to sign an individual petition to halt Rigo's deportation. This second petition can be signed by anyone so please forward the link to non-faculty. Links to both petitions are listed below.

To sign the university faculty petition, please click on the following link:

To sign an individual petition, please click on the following link:

For details on Rigo Padilla's case go to:
Please send this message to your colleagues. We urge you to act now as Rigo's deportation is quickly approaching. We truly appreciate your support.

The UIC Latin American and Latino Studies Faculty:
Frances Aparicio
Xochitl Bada
Christopher Boyer
Simone Buechler
Ralph Cintron
Nilda Flores-Gonzalez
Elena Gutierrez
Alejandro Madrid
Joel Palka
Amalia Pallares
Cristian Roa
Maria de los Angeles Torres
Javier Villa-Flores

Fun note: I found an anti-immigration site that lists Padilla's offenses against the United States. This includes: "
The guy is a race pushing activist. He has focused his college on attaining an Associates Degree in Arts with a Latin American and Latino Emphasis. He is the former president of the Organization of Latin American Students and a volunteer for the non profits Casa Aztlán and Erie Neighborhood House" (I hesitate to do it, but you can find the full quote here). Travel there at your own risk.

The emphasis is put in by the anti immigration site. Oh no! He has an emphasis on studying Latin America. I have a whole Ph.D. in Latin America and I teach red-blooded WASP kids about it almost every day. Wow, me and Whitey Bulger... dangers to society all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Satire or Parable? ET and the Other.

Every now and again The Onion accidentally spits out some offensive satire that goes beyond the silliness to get at the heart of U.S. culture. I'm not sure The Onion was shooting for a reflection on the U.S. perception of Latin Americans as less than human, but it certainly hit the mark. Satire or Parable?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Baby War (or fetus war, or embryo war, or sperm and egg war...)

This week the Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate Spanish politicians for their vote legalizing abortion in Spain up to 14 weeks. At the same time, back in Mexico the Archbishop of Acapulco, Felipe Aguirre Franco, has admitted to entering into agreements with the PRI to go after both abortion and contraception in Mexico.

Let's remember that just a generation ago under Echeverria the Catholic bishops tacitly supported the birth control option for the poor. Heck, the PRI even offered birth control in the CONASUPO subsidized markets for a time. For the nation that gave the world the birth control pill and pretty freely embraced it in the late '70s it is a real whiplash situation to see even the PRI working against contraception and abortion.

However, I was interested to see a study by a Columbia University public health professor (Jennifer Hirsch) in which she demonstrates that rural Mexican women (the group that was the most resistant or misinformed about contraception in the 1970s) is using contraception and finding that it meshes perfectly well for them and their Catholicism. If the PRI and the PAN are gunning to make this a big political issue in 2012 it may be more of a flop than a flyer if Hirsch's study holds true.

At any rate this seems like a full court push against contraception and abortion in Latin America, as one of my colleagues here in Texas got a full sermon on abortion and contraception in Mexico in his East Texas parish on Miguel Pro's feast day a couple weeks ago.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wisdom From the Mouth of the Parrot

No sense giving yourself a hard time or burning up your brains studying books. Study the course that your professor tells you, learn to handle the ergo by imitation, and spend a lot of time at the University, because the classes are important, my boy; the classes are more important than learning itself, because you have to get that grade. They know and we know that the most of us students don't go to the University to learn anything, but to pass the time jawing with eachother; the truth is, though, you've got to get a certificate saying you took classes for the amount of time fixed by statute, or you won't graduate even if you know more theology than St. Thomas... .
- Jose Joaquin Fernandez de Lizardi, The Mangy Parrot, 1816.
Just prepping a take-home exam on The Mangy Parrot and I ran across this old gem. As I've mentioned before, continuity over time, folks, continuity over time.

And yes, I understand it is not Pedro himself speaking in this passage, but the title was just a whole lot catchier with that instead of wisdom from the slacker priest.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Bring Out Your Dead... Bring Out Your Dead...

According to the Wall Street Journal
The End of Bolivian Democracy
Elections scheduled for December 6 will mark the official end of the Bolivian democracy.

A dictatorship that fosters the production and distribution of cocaine is not apt to enjoy a positive international image. But when that same government cloaks itself in the language of social justice, with a special emphasis on the enfranchisement of indigenous people, it wins world-wide acclaim.

This is Bolivia, which in two weeks will hold elections for president and both houses of congress. The government of President Evo Morales will spin the event as a great moment in South American democracy. In fact, it will mark the official end of what's left of Bolivian liberty after four years of Morales rule. Read more here.
With talk like this coming out of the world of business, Evo Morales is probably thanking his lucky stars every day for Afghanistan and Iraq. In the pre-9/11 world an article like that combined with lobbying and an unoccupied military would have spelled an invasion or at least a CIA supported coup. I suppose folks don't like it when the indigenous fight back.

At any rate, the Wall Street Journal reminds me of that scene in Holy Grail where they are trying to throw away the living man just by saying he is dead, then they crack him on the skull so that he really is dead.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oaxaca and the Origin of God (?)

It turns out that anthropologists have found the origin of God in Oaxaca, and they say his name is gene. So says the NY Times:
In the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico, the archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery have gained a remarkable insight into the origin of religion.

The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state

For fear of divine punishment, people followed rules of self-restraint toward members of the community. Religion also emboldened them to give their lives in battle against outsiders. Groups fortified by religious belief would have prevailed over those that lacked it, and genes that prompted the mind toward ritual would eventually have become universal.

Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.
And, in what seems to be one of the great understaments of the season, the NY Times says:

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

For believers, it may seem threatening to think that the mind has been shaped to believe in gods, since the actual existence of the divine may then seem less likely.

Read the whole thing. Pray that there is no French connection (rim shot).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

18th Century Erotica? *sigh*

The San Antonio Current is covering an exhibit on Mission art from the norther frontier of the colonial period, of which the publication says: (Oh, use caution, there is erotic imagery that follows the quote.)
The Arts of the Missions of Northern New Spain: 1600-1821, installed in the museum’s forbiddingly dark special exhibitions space, is claustrophobic and oppressive — beginning as it does with lifesize paintings of wounded and bleeding missionaries, moving quickly into virgins, babes, and vicously mauled Jesuses, circling back to sainted martyrs, and ending with a sort of reification of submission — but also tragically beautiful and occasionally strangely erotic.
Read more of this new artsy twist on the black legend here.
Well, I can't imagine why the Spanish colonial period and Mexican national period are so ignored as part of American history. Violence and erotica? Sounds like a week at the movies to me, or even some presidencies.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marijuana: $30 gram; Wholesale: $3000 pound; Having a Marijuana Debit Card: Priceless

There are some things you can't buy legally, but for everything else, there is the Medical Marijuana Debit Card.

The Credit Union Times reports that Commerce Online is launching a debit card that can be used at medical marijuana dispensaries in California and Colorado.

"Being an established player within the merchant services sector and aligning ourselves with the strongest banking and technology partners within the space, we believe Commerce Online is uniquely positioned to offer the most reliable pre-paid debit and identification card to the medical marijuana industry, and roll out our pilot program immediately. Presently, most of these operations only accept cash, as well as pay cash to suppliers to the collectives, subjecting operators and collective members to theft, unregulated and potential criminal activity. There is no doubt that with new legislation for the operation of these facilities and potential legalization in select states, there will be tighter safeguards put into place by federal, state and local governments,” said Kyle Gotshalk, CEO of Commerce Online. Read More
With conservative Mormon, PANista, and FORMER assistant secretary of agriculture in Mexico Jeffrey Jones using the narcotics industry as an economic model for Mexican farmers and the US banking industry now using a legitimate debit card (excluding the illegal laundering done by banks), we might be looking at a new industry in the New World.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Continuity Over Time

I embrace a theory of history that includes a focus on continuity and change over time. The above tourist spot is interesting to me for the sort of continuity visible in the tourism of the Aleman years (post '46) and today. It appears that Miguel Aleman and his legacy of tourism may make him the fourth most important president of the "post" Revolution (in terms of income).
1) Calles (and the northern governors) for nursing along the early narcotics industry.
2) Avila Camacho for the Bracero program.
3) Cardenas for oil.
4) Aleman for his marketing of Mexico as a tourist destination.

And in terms of the over-the-top video, I have nothing beyond the obvious say about the skewed focus on who is and is not shown in the video. For the most part it is beautifully shot, and the colors are marvelous.

At any rate, pick up a copy of Dina Berger's Development of the Mexican Tourist Industry for some good details. (Palgrave, 2006)

All the below images are from 1950 to 1970. Some times the images are just pretty doggone overt in their message. Some times, like the last picture of the concha and machete, they are pretty Freudian.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

While the Hispanic Blogosphere rejoices at the resignation of Lou Dobbs, I'm fairly unhappy about the action. Why? A Dobbs quote as reported by the NY Times is why:
Sitting before an image of an American flag on his studio set, he said “some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”
Great. So, while on the leash of third-place ratings on a fairly moderate CNN Dobbs was predictable and controllable. Now the dog is off the leash, so to speak, and free to run the neighborhood of talk radio or, heaven help us, politics. Hispanics in America should probably put down the champagne until we see how far this old dog will run.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You Fire 16 Teachers And Whadya' Get...

... another day older and with a new teacher's union in the state of Mexico.

Back in 2006/07 teachers in EdoMex tried to organize a new teacher's union called Sindicato Unificado de Maestros y Académicos del Estado de México (SUMAEM). For their trouble scores of teachers were harassed and 16 of the organizers were fired. Now the education supervisory panel in Cholula, Puebla has reinstated the teachers and they are back at work with the added bonus that an EdoMex reconciliation panel has forced the Secretary of Education to recognize the new 900-strong union. See the Sol de Toluca story.

While Mexico's teacher's certainly need unions that are not co-opted by the parties, looking at the SUMAEM site doesn't seem to hold out much hope. The organization seems to be dripping with functionaries, and despite the snazzy web site and incredibly long fight song (here), there seems to be little in the way of specifics and documents offered by the group. Same himno, second verse, a whole lot longer, and probably just as poorly administered as many other Mexican labor unions.

For more, see here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthdays, All Around

Today marks the day that "Secret History" got up and running. November 13th marked the first posting. It so happens that SH shares the same birthday as the U.S. Marine Corps. So, to mark the occasion, I think it is fitting to hear from a U.S. Marine about Latin America:
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, War is a Racket, 1935.
Happy birthday Secret History... and happy birthday USMC.
"From the Halls of Montezuma... "

PS. Secret History also shares this birthday with Sesame Street. Vivas for Plaza Sesamo.

Friday, November 6, 2009

High Power Legal Firm - And Hugo Chavez

I'm about to blog about a lawyer, so I need to be VERY careful what I say here.

Not long ago I received a package from Amsterdam and Peroff, a high-profile legal outfit with offices in Toronto and London. They say they have a "... strong concentration in international trade and customs law, handling multi-jurisdictional commercial litigation. We also work extensively on international human rights cases." Under Amsterdam's biography it says he has represented clients such as PriceWaterhous and the Four Season's Hotel Group. His partner, Dean Peroff, is best known for his work in Canada on behalf of (drum roll) The People's Republic of China.

Clearly part of a mass mailing, it simply invited "Dear Professor" to consider the case of Eligio Cedeno. Titled Bolivarian Rule of Lawlessness, it was co-authored by Amsterdam & Peroff lawyer Robert Amsterdam, as well as Venezuelan lawyers Gonzalo Himiob Santome and Antonio Rosich. Himiob Santome is listed as one of the lawyers for the "Caracas Nine" and a partner in Rosich, Himiob, Romero & Associates. Antonio Rosich is a vocal anti-Chavista and has done some interesting interviews on Telemundo. Himiob has done interviews with Univision.

From what I can see this looks like one piece in a flood of press releases, interviews, and media hype.

Interesting law firm. Interesting partners. Interesting defendants. I'm talking about lawyers here, so all I dare say is that it is ... interesting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Liberation Theology Alive and Well in Paraguay?

After Paraguay elected a Catholic leftist-bishop (who, it turns out, you could call "father" for more than just his job description) they really dropped off the religious radar screen (and political radar screen) for many followers of Latin America. While that Catholic president is in a world of hot water with the congress (a whole other post), the Catholic Episcopate Conference of Uruguay has declared on the side of the ava guarani people of the Itakyry district in the department of Alto Parana (SE Paraguay).

It turns out department officials and land owners are jockeying to seize land owned by the state of Paraguay considered ancestral territory for the ava guarani, and the Paraguayan bishops consider it a violation of the "derechos de los pueblos indígenas" and would cause a massive migration to Paraguayan cities of landless indians.

A couple of years ago I got into a professional scrape with an "independent scholar" who claimed that liberation theology was dead and that its last academic proponent, Edward Cleary, was a deluded old Dominican whose scholarship needed ignoring because of his religious affiliation. I maintained that Cleary's studies demonstrated liberation theology alive and well in places like Bolivia, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. I still stand by Cleary (unless some great new piece of research points me in a new direction) and I would argue that the case of Paraguay demands some attention in terms of the persistence of the left-leaning church in Latin America.

And yes, the ava guarani are the ones displaced by the presa de jasyretä dam (called the monument to corruption in Paraguay) that is set to rise another several meters and displace another 80,000 people.

(Click on the picture to see some great flickr.com photos of the ava guarani and the Itykary area).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mexico: U.S. Totem

The United States desperately needs Mexico, and I'm NOT talking about trade and labor.

This week two things happened to get me thinking about this idea of Mexico as a sort of totem for the modern U.S.

1) My son came home with an Enrique Camarena Memorial Red Ribbon from the Texas Combined Armed Forces. My son has no idea who Camarena is/was or who the men are that tortured him. Yet there was my five-year-old with Camarena's ensign pinned to his chest and it came as a device for a discussion on drugs (putting aside that I have to talk to my kindergartener about drugs!!!). I decided that the United States needs a hyped-up sense of violence and narcotics in Mexico to simultaneously avoid the painful cultural upheaval that would happen if we truly addressed our narcotics problem as a health issue BUT STILL talk about an issue we might otherwise sweep under the collective carpet. With Mexico, we have some outlet for discussion.

2) Day of the Dead. Texas is far crazier about Day of the Dead than California was. Again, the hyped-up sense of openess about that "last step in life" in Mexico gives Americans that moment to think about death in a way that we don't usually do - and to confront our own fears about death.

And while it didn't happen to me this week, I consider the general U.S. obsession with Mexico as a place to get cheap and easy sex and booze as serving as something of the same function as Carnival serves in Latin America. Americans take a few days to blow off some steam before returning to the norms of society - at least in their minds. Once more, the pressence of an "outside" entity allows U.S. citizens to consider themselves more saintly at home than they really are, letting them address issues of consumption and sexuality they would otherwise be unwilling to address.

Of course there are exceptions (probably for most people) and just because I say "totem" it doesn't mean that it truly serves the long-term good of the society. It also doesn't mean that there aren't some deeply flawed notions of nationalism and racism involved. And finally, I haven't even started to address what sort of totem the U.S. is for Mexico... .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anarchic Strife? What the heck?

This from the World Affairs Blog Network:

The gaping hole in President Calderón’s push to reform Mexico is local governance. Absent effective local police and bureaucracy problems like vigilantism emerge. With the drug gangs yet to be defeated and America pressing for results, Calderón is unlikely to divert his attention in the short-term. Anarchic strife in Mexico’s villages is sure to continue. At some point the Mexican reformer will have to reaffix his gaze.
Holy cow. I'm seriously reconsidering my link to their site.

Three things that burn my shorts on this one.

1) Calderon is a reformer? Glad World Affairs Blog is doing comedy these days.
2) "reaffix his gaze" Yes, by simply adjusting his glasses, Felipe can accomplish all. Super Barrio? No, Super Calderon!
3) Anarchic strife? Vigilantes are - in some places - stepping in to police the streets and beat and embarrass some rowdy kids? Even a general shooting a robber in his home - these hardly sound like the rumblings of the foundation of collapsing society (ala Guatemala). This week in our small town TWO sets of hunters went out with only one man coming back. Going out into the woods and shooting your hunting buddy six times seems like anarchic strife to me, not knocking the heads of some snotty kids.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Let the Dead Begin

Seeing how in parts of the cuenca of EdoMex and Morelos Dia de Los Muertos starts today for those who died violent deaths, I thought I would toss up a post on El Dia.

1) Great story in the Chicago Sun-Times about Mexican bakeries and the half a century of baking they have been doing for latinos in that city. The story focuses on pan del muerto. Read more.

2) I'm pumped because my wife bakes and sells bread at the local farmer's market, and I think this year she will have pan del muerto. Fantastic.

3) Quetzal Ollin Chikawa is visiting our University this week and next. They will be performing indigenous dances from central Mexico (don't worry, the anthropologists and historians have no grand illusions of authenticity) and the art department will be working with them in a recreation of an altar in our native plant center as well as participating in what is billed as a pre-contact ritual. I believe I'll go over with the kids after the flaying is done. Of course I only say that tongue (mine) in cheek. (rim shot)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Latino TV - Same Song (as Anglo TV), Second Verse, Same Focus on Beauty, Little Bit Worse (on Race)

I noticed it first at the Alma Awards. Elegantly dressed stars - all brilliantly groomed for public consumption - dazzled the crowd as they would at any other celebrity gathering. Standard. What was NOT standard, however, is the extreme "whiteness" of the crowd. Hold on, you say, mestizo power fully ruled the evening. Did not Eva Longoria Parker melt fans with all her shiny Cal State Chicano Studies charm? And that is exactly it. What we saw at the ABC hosted awards was the Mestizo and "Spanish" middle and upper class partying the night away. Mestizaje - the mask for ignoring the indigenous presence - reveled in full glory that night. When George Lopez is the darkest man in the room, something has gone awry. (Though Jamaican/Floridian rapper Sean Kingston did perform at the very end of the show). And forget Asian Latinos - there's not even a glimmer of hope for their presence in the ALMA /Univision World.

I was pushed over the edge, however, by looking at La Sala de la Tele. A smart look at advertising in the Latino (mostly Univision) world, it (accidently) points out the total absence of Afro-latino or indigenous members of society. The National Council of La Raza created the ALMA awards because they felt that the Oscar/Emmy/Tony world was ignoring latino contributions. I suppose we are now going to have to create the AIM awards (Asian/Afro/Indiginous Media - and pun intended, BTW), to highlight contributions to the audiovisual world by Susana Baca, Tizuka Yamasaki, Octavia, Lucila Campos, etc. Can I imagine that the only thing to come out of the DR or the Afro Brazilian world is exactly nothing? And don't even start with me about this being a US Latino thing since there seems to be no problem dragging in Salma Hayek and her mostly bare chest or Shakira at the drop of a hat. And can you tell me you can't find one afro-latino actor or musician to even PRESENT an award?

Again, I understand that mestizos are the majority in the Latino upper class in the United States, but ignoring the true spectrum of Latino heritage in the United States is a disservice to both Latinos and the "anglo" Americans they are trying to educate about hispanic heritage.

The inserted painting is by Nayarit painter Pere Greenham called La Bacante Juchiteca. Visit his website. Buy his stuff.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Looking for Human Rights in ... Iowa?

St. Pius X Catholic Church in Urbandale, Iowa, seems like a fairly typical prairie church in the middle of Iowa. And as part of the reality of the twenty-first century, the church held an information fair on Catholic Social Justice and immigration in the United States. While Urbandale may be 1.6% Latino (not sure how far you would need to adjust that for undercount), it is snuggled up against Des Moines, Iowa, which has a Latino population of over 10% - almost twice what it had at the census of 2000. Better yet, in a world of double-digit unemployment, Iowa has only 6.8% unemployment. And to add to the complexity, Catholic Charities in Des Moines also takes in refugees from Latin America - the coordinator of the event is an Argentine.

Well, and Iowa has corn - elotes, anyone? Chile and lime on corn has to be better than using it for ethanol, no?

Seriously, though, St. Pius is attempting to accomplish something important: Help Catholics make decisions based on sound facts and faith and not talking heads:
Confusion over the need for immigration reform has polarized the voting public in such a way as to make it impossible for legislators to satisfy their constituents. There are many sound bites out there that attempt to tell us what to think based on a 90 second TV infomercial. St. Pius X is hosting a symposium designed to explain the issues and answer questions about immigration reform. More on the parish.
Sounds like a good goal. By the way, the United States Catholic Conference on Bishops supports immigration reform to promote human rights. These steps include: At least minimum wage for immigrants, family reunification, restoration of the legal process suspended by the 1996 immigration law, and general access to humane treatment and conditions.

Recently the Methodist Women's Group in Ft. Worth started sponsoring events that center on the humane treatment of immigrants to the United States - illegal or no. That this is not just a Catholic Social justice question should be highlighted by the detention of a Mormon missionary in the United States illegaly and scooped up by DHS and detained as he was returning to Utah from a mission for the LDS church in Ohio.

Latin America long ago addressed the question of rights and religion in the way that the United States used to. Perhaps these anectodtal incidents point to a new trend of a return to thoughtful religious practice in the United States regarding human rights.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Sins of Sister Forcades

In this corner, a Catalonian nun with degrees in public health and theology. In the other corner, The Vatican.

Earlier this week The Vatican called on pro-abortion, anti-flu vaccination Benedictine nun Teresa Forcades to get in line with church doctrine. While the church may not be so upset about her attack on the World Health Organization decision to change the definition of pandemic (they dropped the requirement to have massive casualties), they are upset about her position on abortion.
"God has placed the life of the fetus while it is not viable in the hands of its mother [...] Because of this intimate link of the mother and the child while it is not viable outside of her, the decision to abort is inseparable from the mother's self-determination, from her personal freedom. This intimate link between two lives means that the life of the child cannot be saved against the wishes of the mother without violating her liberty." Read more here...
So why mention a Spanish nun on here? I'm starting to notice Forcades more and more on Latin America related sites, and she has "gone viral" (pun intended) on YouTube for her attack on vaccination - taking her squarely into the lives of Latin Americans that deal with BOTH of the public health issues, government health programs ... and their faith.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Colonia Industrial Mexicana Nueva Jerusalen

In 1901 a dying Margarito Bautista received some gringo Mormon missionaries in his home in Atlautla, Mexico. After what Bautista described as a miraculous laying on of hands, he was cured of his illness and soon became a Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

What followed his conversion is a rollicking ride of religion and politics. Bautista was pushed of his land in Atlautla by a local cacique, spent time in the Mormon colonies in Chihuahua (this is WAY before the LeBaron people had their colony), fled the Revolution and moved to Arizona, and then settled in Utah. There he helped found a Spanish language congregation before heading back to Mexico. In Mexico, however, Bautista was the convert. He quickly became enamoured of Obregon and Calles - mostly for their anti-clerical positions, and upon his return to Utah, Bautista became a hard core partisan of the Revolution, or at least the Callista approach.

When Bautista wrote a book about native Mexicans being the chosen children of God and gringos being in deep condemnation with same said deity he had a falling out with the LDS church and headed off to Mexico. There, he joined a schism of Mexican Mormons, tried to found a New Tenochtitlan, got excommunicated from the schism he had caused, and retreated to Ozumba, Mexico (at the base of Popo), to found a utopian community: The Colonia Industrial Mexicana Nueva Jerusalen. Like most utopian experiments, it was a train wreck. His resurrection of plural marriage and laws of shared property caused infinite amounts of strife, including disgruntled members that burned down the communal food warehouse and a young wife that simultaneously blackmailed him and cuckolded him.

Nevertheless, Ozumba still plays host to the colonia of just over 1,000 people on the north edge of town who still live plural marriage and trie to share community resources. If you visit Ozumba you will know when you have strayed into Colonia Industrial: the streets are wide, the sidwalks are in great shape, the houses have white picket fences with green grass and fruit orchards around them, there is a milk cow in sheds by the house, and there is a big white temple in the middle of town. Not sure if I have described Colonia Industrial or Colonia Juarez, but both are interesting paths taken by Mormonism in Mexico - one estilo gringo, el otro estilo indigena.

For more, see:

Thomas Murphy, “From Racist Stereotype to Ethnic Identity: Instrumental Uses of Mormon Racial Doctrine,” Ethnohistory ( Summer, 1999)

Thomas Murphy, “’Stronger than Ever’ Remnants of the Third Convention” in The Journal of Latter-day Saint History, Volume 10, 1998

Jason Dormady "Not just a Better Mexico" : Intentional Religious Community and the Mexican State, 1940-1964 (Ph.D. Dissertation, UC Santa Barbara, 2007)

F. Lamond Tullis, The Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1987)

Fernando Gómez, From Darkness in to Light (Mexico City: MHMM, 2005)

Margarito Bautista, La Evolución de México, Sus Verdaderos Progenitores y su Origen: El Destino de América y Europa, 1935

Stuart Parker, Mexico’s Millennial Kingdom of the Lamanites: Margarito Bautista’s Mormon Raza Cósmica (2009 Presentation at the Rocky Mountain Conference on Latin American Studies)

Pictures, Top to bottom: 1) A view of Popo blowing its top in 2004, 2) The Colonia in the late 40s, 3) Bautista and his wife (the teenager), his mother in law (the older woman), and his borther and sister in law (the little kids).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Marshall Fox

I am a bad man. At least in the circles that I run in, I am a bad man: I tend to think that Vicente Fox (despite his shortcomings) is a fairly astute fellow. Some times I even agree with him.

"This is brand U.S.A.: the goodness of America. And the day America no longer stands for this goodness - the day the United States turns out the torch on the Statue of Liberty and replaces it with the searchlight of the guard tower, the day that the visionary America of the Marshall Plan becomes the Fortress America of the Minutement- on that day America will cease to be the good and witll no longer be the great." Revolution of Hope, 352.

What do I mean by a Marshall Plan for Mexico (and I'm sure I depart from VF on some points):

1) Regulated (for the safety of the workers) but free flow of labor between Mexico and the United States. What more could the U.S. do for Mexico than to make sure that immigrants could make AT LEAST minimum wage and have the opportunity to keep their families together in Mexico because they would have the freedom to come and go at will. Happy families. More money remitted. Good times all around.

2) Microfinance banks. Mexicans are some of the best capitalists in the world. Microfinance has worked well in Mexico (consider Pro Mujer or even the controversial Compartamos). A pool of money made available to NGOs for microfinance in Mexico kicks to the curb the notion that a Marshall Plan has to be about foreign control.

3) Infrastructure. Highways for the transportation of goods. The revitalization of rail. Water distribution and water quality projects in general. In terms of environmentally sound infrastructure projects, the possibility of jobs in Mexico is infinite. A little funding from the U.S. without the "hands on" approach of the IMF/World Bank crew would be an incredible boost to commerce in Mexico. I think some of these projects can be carried out in areas not sensitive to the indigenous and not in general promotion of Mexico's already massive D.F.

4) PEMEX restructuring. I still think you can have a prosperous, state-owned PEMEX. That's not possible right now with the company losing over a billion $US a year in inefficiency and corruption. Is there something Europe or the U.S. could offer in terms of helping to restructure PEMEX? Is there a French of Scandinavian model that Mexico could work with? What about a successful Mexican model? Venezuela?

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Kinetic Nobel Peace Prize vs. A Potential Nobel Peace Prize

How the president could turn a “potential” Nobel into a “kinetic” Nobel by engaging in a reform of Latin American policy.

1) Drop the embargo with Cuba. Numero uno. Top of the heap. If you want to inspire the world, El Presidente, drop this sham right now and strike a blow for international cooperation and sovereignty.

2) Drop the drug war in South America. Propping up the military in Colombia is a benefit to nobody. A massive resource draw on the United States and a human rights nightmare in el sur, just wake us up from this nightmare.

3) Commit to a dual reformation plan: Treat narcotics as a health issue in the United States and promote true free trade for Latin American agricultural products entering the United States.

4) A Marshall Plan for Mexico or Brazil. Mexico and Brazil are on the edge of entering into the next tier of development (particularly Brazil) and reasoned and well developed Marshall Plan for those nations could serve as an engine for the region. Not some interventionist Kennedy-style plan, but a real plan that allows for different paths toward development. For Mexico this may mean the real free flow of goods, services, capital, and … labor.

5) Take a real stand for indigenous rights. Refuse to do business with Latin American nations that refuse to treat indigenous populations with equality and dignity. This would have to include U.S. sponsored projects from the IMF/World Bank that have, at times, been incredibly detrimental to the indigenous.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And Also With You, Legislature.

The Archdiocese of Mexico under Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera rebuked the legislature this last week, attacking what he sees as a real lack of accountability on the part of the legislature.

"...el Congreso es una de las instituciones menos sujeta al control de los ciudadanos y con menos rendición de cuentas sobre sus trabajos y responsabilidades, de tal forma que pueden realizar o no su tarea sin que sea posible un reclamo efectivo."

It is also one of the institutions "menos sujeta al control" of the PAN - and I have to wonder if that isn't what has El Cardinal in a "mood." I don't recall hearing this sort of talk when Fox had to deal with an unruly legislature - and no surprise that Fox was not a favorite of the Church PANistas and FCH is.

On the other hand, I like this "accountable to the people" talk coming out of Cardinal Rivera: keep it up for all legislatures - and their accompanying presidents.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seeking Familia

MWNP* seeks tracts and pamphlets by La Familia for his collection of religious tracts. Where can I get me some? Will be in Cuernavaca this summer.

*Married White Nerdy Professor

Monday, October 5, 2009

Guns, Guns, Guns (sung to the Motley Crue tune)

This from the Houston Chronicle about guns from Texas:
Agents inspected gun dealer records and knocked on doors to ask people what happened to guns they purchased that ended up in Mexico. Among the cases that have yet to be resolved are those involving a small-town Texas policeman who bought a few military-style rifles, left them in his car and — on the same night — forgot to lock a door. He couldn't explain why he had not filed a police report or why he visited Mexico the next day.
Sigh. And I have students that freak out about going to Mexico because they think all the cops are dirty... .

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mexico: Fiery Social Explosion?

Sez Todd Miller at NACLA:

"They say that we're due for another revolt in 2010," Javier says. His eyes slightly spark when he says this. It's the kind of spark that says that something has to give, something has to change, there are too many people like him with not much more to lose.
https://nacla.org/node/6141 to read the whole thing.

1) If everybody has been reading drug violence incorrectly, and what we have seen is a series of local revolts then I might buy it. After all, isn't the big emphasis on 19th C social banditry in Mexico designed to explain a precursor to the 1910 Revolution? But I'm not buying that drug violence in Chihuahua is the same as something like a Tomochic ... but then again, my wife does tell me I am wrong about most things. And not all of the violence Miller refers to in the last 20 years is even remotely connected to narcotics.

2) When I hear these reports by U.S. scholars about a possible Revolution, I often wonder if they aren't getting a kick out of the idea. They've spent a lot of time Romancing the Revolution and maybe (just maybe) there's a little tickle in the back of their mind that looks forward to the carnage of a new revolution.

3) Who would lead this thing? Clearly there are groups in the Huasteca and the Tierra Caliente that have operations already in place, but for the most part, who would lead any revolutionary factions? Angry AMLOistas? I'm just not sure who the clear regional leaders are that would stir up a 2010 scuffle.

4) Who would benefit? Clearly there are social factors at play that Scott or Wolf would identify, and I guess I'll have to start looking at what some of the folks in poli sci (sigh...charts and graphs) are up to. But in the end, I'm hard pressed to see what large result would come of a Revolution. While you could turn back the PAN tide, I'm unclear as to what massive changes can happen in Mexico at this point with limited resources - no matter who is in charge. $$$ is global now, and it isn't like a revolution would place all the wealth and resources of Carlos Slim in the hands of the urban poor. More likely, if things continue as they do, I think we can count on urban riots - and we have a long pattern of urban riots in Mexican cities.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hate Crimes, Indigenous Style?

Prairie Mary, whom I used to read with far more frequency before the baby was born, has posted an interesting note about a bar fight just off the Blackfoot reservation in Cut Bank, MT. Sez Mary:
The narrative: Three brothers, not Indians but possibly with some Mexican blood, liked to fight and had been drinking all evening. At closing time, 2AM, they chose as their victim a hired hand, a Native American single guy who was mild-mannered and well-liked, but not very good at self-control or social smarts, esp. once he was drunk. They picked a fight with him and all three began to beat on him. When he went to the ground, they began to kick.

A Native American county commissioner came out with his wife, saw what was happening and decided to intervene. At first he just remonstrated, saying he was going to call the police. (He had a cell phone.) So the brothers began to beat him and took him down. His wife tried to help but she, too, was shoved and sent flying. By that time enough people were there that the brothers thought they should get scarce.

But the county commissioner, a handsome and resourceful man from a strong rez family chose to make an issue out of it. He tried to press charges, saying it was a “hate crime” because the men were shouting phrases like “dirty Indian.” The white county attorney refused, saying that it was NOT a hate crime, just a fight as usual.

Read the whole post.... (A great discussion of race and class.)
Indigenous folks in the United States and citizens of Mexico (and the empire before it) have had close ties for generations. Nevertheless, I don't think most Anglos think about those ties - at least not since we quit making Westerns - and perhaps many U.S. Americans of Mexican descent don't either. Last semester one girl gasped when I said that we were going to talk about the right of those of indigenous descent in the United States, but that we were not yet going to focus on people who self identified as being descended from one of the Latin American nations. She raised her hand and said that she had never thought of herself and U.S. Native Americans having anything in common.

Anywho, a couple things struck me about this post from the talented Prairie Mary:

1) The county decision not to call it a hate crime. In Latin America if you have a few mestizo guys whooping up on a guy shouting "Indio sucio," I don't think anybody would think twice about calling it a racially motivated crime. Of course in Guerrero or Oaxaca you might just call it the police.

2) The fall back position that this was just a standard bar fight for the area. You know, all those hot-blooded folks like fightin' anyway. (***Please note that last sentence was written dipped in irony and dripping with exasperation***)

The Great Falls Tribune had an article on the incident, but what I liked most about that post was the comment of one of the readers. To find an "impartial" jury they moved the trial to the extreme NW corner of the state - the Lilliest portion of the state bristling with militia members, drugged up vets, and white supremacists (at least it was 15 years ago). Violence in Latin America, indeed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monumental Destruction

This week the Giraffes of Toluca died. Not the ones out at Zocango park, but the monument located on the road to DF called the Puerta Tolotzin that looked like the African animal. And, as Sol de Toluca reports, there wasn't an ounce of complaint about the removal, either. I had mentioned earlier that a bicentennial tower might be put up there, but that project seems on hold. Alexander Naime, however, gets props here for the best quote of the week in my book:
Toluca es una ciudad que se construye al capricho de quienes gobiernan y muy lejos de los intereses de los ciudadanos, muy lejos de su historia, muy lejos de los símbolos prácticamente borrados de la memoria colectiva.
I guess I can cut those three weeks out of my Mexico course that are post-1940 and just have the students read a translated version of that sentence.

One of the things I certainly appreciate about Mexico is the Roman near-madness for public monuments. The great Minerva and Arch in Guadalajara that illustrated the split personality of that city, the outlandish and striking revolutionary of Acatlan, the penitentes of Taxco, and of course, almost every square inch of DF. Public monuments give us a Mexico that simultaneously deigns to offer citizens a higher concept of community life while at times betraying that desire by covering for the lack of real improvements through lumps of brass and stone. My favorite monuments, however, are by far the glorietas. These islands of imposed and manufactured history are awash in a sea of racing modernization, but they are now so much part of the landscape and community that their original meaning is wrested from hands of their builders to become places of navigation, protest, hope, or resistance. So, while I appreciated Alexander Naime's complaint on the absence of a powerful monument outside of Toluca, perhaps he has missed what the "jirafas" of Tolotzin or the other monuments have meant to those not consumed with them as ideas of grand public art.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Random Islamic Post

Got this the other day from Richard at Mexfiles:

I get an occasional email or comment on my site from someone who has returned to Judaism (I once posted on the "secret Jews" of Tijuana), but have seen very little (other than inflamatory "THE AY-RABS ARE TAKIN' OVER") on Latino Muslims... which is also a sort of return to the Iberian roots (or, at least those of AL-Andaluz).

I caught this on U.S. "Hispanic" Muslims: Brooklyn Rail, "The Latino Crescent" . I don't run into a lot of Mexican Muslims... there's a small community of Mayans who adopted Islam (basically as a way of opting out of the wars between the Catholics, Traditionalists, Pentacostals and JWs) and some recent immigrants from the middle east, but very little in the Mexican press on this. Seems to be more a U.S. phenonoma.
One of the things I enjoyed about living in Guadalajara was the Middle Eastern food. Mexican yogurt is disgusting (sorry, folks) and we enjoyed giant buckets of fantastic yogurt from local Lebanese restaurants - and not one of the owners was Muslim. All the restaurants dripped with Christian imagery and at least two of the four we regularly visited were well intermarried with Tapatios. The only Muslim's I've met in Mexico have generally been African refugees from the horn in DF when staying at the Quaker house.

For now, I suggest folks grab Jose Reis's wonderful Slave Rebellion in Brazil on Muslim slaves involved in a, well, Slave Rebellion in Bahia in the early nineteenth century.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Penitentes

The SF Chronicle recently ran a "reflective" essay in which a person "discovers" Santa Muerte and gives us his oh-so profound final shot: "We are Mexicans, and our affinity for Death runs deeper than hope." The first comment from a reader? "Whatever dude."

Americans - of whatever ethnic stripe - have been getting their kicks off of the "salacious details" of Latin American religion for some time. From colonial-era tales of the cruelty of Spanish priests to the skinny chick Santa Muerte, the English-speaking world likes to focus on the "exotic" religion of Latin America (wow, how many more quotes can I use in this selection). There is even a new film out with Simon Baker called Not Forgotten that includes - ahem - the "bloody" rites of the Santa Muerte. Gag.

Just for fun, I thought I'd highlight a previous obsession U.S. Americans used to have with another aspect of Latino religion, the Penitentes Brotherhood of New Mexico. Centered around flagellation that was introduced to New Mexico by the Third Order of St. Francis in the seventeenth century, the Penitentes started out as a public organization but by the arrival of the U.S. in the area they had most certainly gone underground. And of course, like any religious practice that is supposed to be personal, private, and sacred, the media got right on to "exposing" the rituals of the Penitentes which include mock crucifixion.

Famed writer Charles Lummis wrote an article for Cosmopolitan in 1889 with engraings based on his photographs of the mock crucifixion and whipping. Writer Carl Taylor was allegedly murdered by his house boy for an article he published in Today on the topic, or so said Time magazine in 1936. '36 was a busy year for the Penitentes as that year marked the introduction of Roland C. Price and Harry J. Revier's explotation mash-up of documentary footage and S&M studio footage called Lash of the Penitentes. Some how this film didn't make it into Helen Delpar's book The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican.

Anyway, the a fun YouTube clip is included below. I hope you enjoy the campy trash ... um ... trailer (trailer trash?).

FYI - For more info on the Penitentes, see Marth Weigle's 2007 A Penitente Bibliography. The drawing is by Santa Fe artist Will Shuster.