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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mexico closing schools - GOOD!

The SEP (Secretariat of Public Education) in Mexico is closing down around 500 schools in Mexico, almost 100 of them in Mexico State. Good.

Most of these schools are what are called "patito" or "garage" schools where students in poor areas think they are getting an education when really they are getting some cut-rate teacher in a cruddy shack tucked away in a bad neighborhood. Very "Nine Guardians," no?

While these schools may be the only schools in some areas, it is a grave disservice to get into the pattern of simply saying "crappy education is better than no education," so you poor folks just need to suck it up and try to read your torn books in your black-mold-infested rat holes while the instructor listens to merengue music. Wish that were an exaggeration.

When asked if the Revolution is a revolution, I have always been inclined to say that absence of true democracy doesn't negate the great gains that much of the population made in education up to the 1960s or in general access to the benefits of society - again until the 1960s. As an historian, I can understand the initial thought that "patito" schools would be at least SOMETHING for the poor - it feels very Calles and Cardenas era at least. However, I think SEP has finally (and wisely) understood that the "patito" schools were simply a safety valve for dumping kids from poor neighborhoods or small villages.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hunger Strike in Toluca

Just before Christmas I pointed out the the city government in Toluca had "cleansed" the portales area of the centro of the "ambulantes" that sell their goods in that area. It seems that since last week these same merchants have established a sit in and hunger strike in front of the municipal palace. According to Sol de Toluca, they are calling on the Bishop of Toluca to shame the mayor into giving them their stalls in the portales back. Some of those "ambulantes" have been selling there for over twenty years.

Like most things, the heavy labor people are going to get all the press this week with their gas strike. The little pedllers - themselves taking a beating as they sell on the buses and at intersections to truckers, passangers, etc., are not going to get a glance on the national stage. Perhaps one of the most civilized things about Mexico is the human contact of the peddler to the home or the pedestrian. It simultaneously reminds you of the position of the hard working people in difficult economic conditions while tying you to them in a social exchange - unlike treating with the checker at Gigante. Somehow the attack on the peddlers of the portales seems like an assault on the civility of Mexico itself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Technocrats vs. Dinosaurs - in the PRD

This morning's Excelsior has Jesus Ortega, head of the PRD, taking another step back from AMLO. "He has his plans, we have ours." Hmmm.... Well, it seems those plans will include wunderkind Marcelo Ebrard, of whom Ortega says:
“Marcelo ha hecho su mejor esfuerzo; está haciendo un gran trabajo y con buenos resultados, que ayudarán para la votación nacional.”
Well, Marcelo has a soap star wife, Mexico City in his pocket, and Calderon-Zedillo nerd chic going for him already, and it seems that the leadership of the PRD has found its attempted antidote to AMLO fever - already on the decline. Unlike Cardenas, however, I'm not sure we'll see a protracted period of public dormant reflection and back-room wrangling before bowing out - dollars to donuts AMLO makes a fight out of PRD nomination and attempts to make a (failed) third party stand. Of course, predictions are like the old saying "if grandma had different plumbing she'd be grandpa."

And a final note on that nerd chic ... my bet is that Mexicans might be more willing to climb in with the seminarian looking boy than the cacique (consider Labastida!). Then again, that doesn't explain Fox, who had bar room bad boy written all over his face like a set of M13 tattoos. So I'm making my calls early - 3 years in advance. Alberto Cardenas vs. Marcelo Ebrard, with Marcelo coming out on top if AMLO puts a lid on it. Tune in July of 2012 so you can make fun of how horribly wrong my early picks went.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Poor Mexico, So Far From God...So Close to Ohio

Bloomberg reports that the Mexican central bank will continue buying pesos in an effort to keep it from further sliding down in value. It looks like 2009 will be the first time in 8 years (!!!) that Mexico will have negative economic growth. The US sneezes, Mexico catches the cold.

And then, on top of that, they have to play the US in OHIO (!!!) tonight. Cold, damp, Ohio. El Tri could use a "si se puede" type moment by defeating the US in the US as a boost to national morale, that's for sure. Maybe justify all the stink about this Sven-Goran Eriksson - (Mexico's version of the Beckham/Galaxy deal, I'm thinking).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Film, Cash, and Latin America - last call

I've put this up once before, but I see I'm getting some hits on this. So I will put it up again.

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 malpasseliza@sfasu.edu 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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Playing Both Sides, Gutierrez Barrios Style?

On the home page of Excelsior this evening, buried under the MASSIVE banner about the Steelers victory in the Super Bowl, there was a small notice that Felipe Calderon had visited with the "President of Puerto Rico." Later in the article it referred to Luis Fortuño as governor. In good Mexican journalistic style it referred to Puerto Rico as it would any fully independent nation. But it was the banner that caught my eye... President of Puerto Rico. Is this the sort of left-leaning writing and action that covers up for the right leaning path of the remnants of the Revolution? Would Excelsior really care?