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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Argentine Juan Soldado? Folk Saint Gauchito Gil and Argentine Memory

After my posts on mennonites, the post I did on Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte really rake in the hits. Apparently the reading public (meaning the few dozen readers out there that happen to google "Jesus Malverde" and make it to this site) must really dig religious guys that run drugs, saints that kill your enemies, and saints that get you into the US.

ANYWAY... I recently stumbled on to Argentine folk saint Gauchito Gil, a man separated from his lover when wrongly accused of a crime then, caught up in years of warfare, and finally tortured to death by the police. Read the story at the Argentine Folklore page. See pictures of his adoration at the Latinphoto.org page.

I was immediately struck by the similarities with Juan Soldado who, as historian Paul Vanderwood puts it, was a "confessed rapist murderer" in 1938. Faced with a mob of Tijuana citizens, the military opted to act out the sentence of Juan - death - in a public execution where the soldier was prodded to run (ley fuga) and was then gunned down. His grave, despite public shame, quickly became a site of worship and adoration as surely, the people now thought, he was wrongly accused and executed. By the All Saints Day of the same year his grave was a destination for adoration. He has since become the center of adoration for migrants and drug runners.

I can understand Juan Morales aka Juan Soldado becoming a center on which to focus the resentment of public insecurity as well as injustice during the reign of the PRI. And in Argentina, Gauchito Gil makes sense as well. I would really like to know if the popularity of GIL increased during the military regimes in Argentina. One doesn't think torture and Argentina without thinking of the 70s...and I would be curious if there was any correlation in the growth of worship of El Gauchito during the period.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Covering Bruce on Sinaloa

Just heard the BEST cover of the Bruce Springsteen song Sinaloa Cowboys. Whereas Springsteen sounds as comfortable singing the song as a lobster in a boiling pot, Cracker sings it like an English-language corrido. Great cover, great song.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saab in Venezuela - Saab GUNS, that is.

Jane's Intelligence Weekly reports today that Venezuela is expanding its ability to buy weapons from the Russians. This comes on the heels of the discovery of Swedish guns in FARC camps in Colombia that were purchased initially (allegedly) by Venezuela. (see the UPI report here).

The Russia deal has the Colombian's spooked. An increase in weapons to the FARC at a time when the Colombian right-wing has them on the run signals to the world that the imminent death of the FARC has been greatly over-stated.

US guns and Russian guns battling it out in a Latin American nation as neighboring exporters of revolution or democracy fuel the fire: I think we've danced this dance before, and all we end up with at the end of the day are a lot of dead Latin Americans. Several months ago I made a comment on a blog to which the administrator snarkily (is that a word) replied that "all the historical factors" regarding Venezuela are different and that we will repeat no history there. Really? A mono-commodity populist exporting revolution as part of a proxy battle for global resources not part of a repeated past? Things may not repeat themselves, but I agree with Mr. Twain: We have some serious rhyming going on.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Violence in Mexico - Another Thursday in Paradise

Last Thursday in my tiny Texas town of 30,000 - hundreds of miles from the border and three hours from any major American City:

1) Man blows away his wife in front of the kids then shoots himself. Two deaths. Two orphans.

2) Three drive-by shootings in the same apartment complex within three hours.

3) Over a dozen arrests in a raid on an apartment complex just two blocks from a public school and 5 blocks from the university - an apparent entire narco-apartment complex.

Welcome to rural, red-state, heartland, US of A.


Mexico 5, US 0. Ouch.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pawn Shops and Payday Loans - Gracias, Guanajuato

The invisible hand of the market is hard at work and Mexico is recognizing what the U.S. market demands - and it is responding with Efectivo Now. Respuesta Rapida is a Mexican pawn shop and loan company out of Guanajuato that recently located to Houston, Texas under the name Efectivo Now. There's hardly a poor neighborhood or declining urban area in the United States that doesn't have a wide selection of pay day loan joints or shabby pawn shops eating away at downtown development or replacing stores in strip malls.

Payday Loans cost Americans $4.2 Billion each year. If the US financial system is set up to rip off the American poor, why can't Mexico get a piece of that? Hmm hmm hmm, the market at work. Efectivo Now is opening up new offices in San Antonio, soon, and perhaps in a few years we'll see some Mexican business getting in on refund anticipation loans, another $1.2 billion scam perpertrated by banks and tax companies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ay, Coahuila! Mexican State Aims to Bailout Auto Industry

Coahuila is the #1 location for auto manufacturing in Mexico, and it appears the state is gearing up to try and keep GM and Chrysler plants from shutting down in that state. Marco Cantu, the promotions sub-secretary is working on the project. Vanguardia was stingy with specifics, but I'll keep an eye on this one.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Menonitas - This Time in South America

Mennonites held their world conference in Paraguay this week (where they fled to from the Soviet Union) as many Spanish Language news sources are taking a hard look at them. El Mundo ran a piece on conservative Altkolonier campos in Argentina, while Bolivia has been abuzz about Mennonite colonists in that country due government displacement of Mennonites there as well as a sexual assaults that occurred in one of the communities.

Many of the Mennonites in South America ran there after failing to make things work in Northern Mexico (meaning they ran out of land in Chihuahua and Durango or they decided they didn't want electricity and gas engines) and now we have a real dilema in the south. Business-friendly administrations were eager to take in these agricultural geniuses in the late 80s and early 90s, but now leftist governments are changing the rules and Mennonites are finding themselves on the outs in nations that embraced them - a 500 year old pattern for Mennonites by now.

Steve McCurry Kicks Me in the Teeth...Again

Photo rock star Steve McCurry, mostly of National Geographic fame, has kicked me in the teeth with a real gut-check photo. I don't have a location or description of where exactly McCurry got this, but I am going to try and track it down. I am assuming Colombia because I know he has done work there...but no guarantee. Go to his website. Buy his stuff. http://www.stevemccurry.com/main.php

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trade in Latin America / Question on Venezuela and the Cayman Islands

Ok, there is a nice resource about commerce in Latin America found at The Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America. Great overview of trade, aid, and growth for each nation, as well.

And now the question....

Between 1998 and 2007 over 1/4 of investment in Venezuela came from the Cayman Islands. What's doing with that? I thought money routed through the Cayman Islands was a masking technique for the point of origin. I'd love to know what that money does and who it comes from.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Free Trade Zone Chemical and Waste Storage

KCRW has a Sunday radio show by Harry Shearer called Le Show. In it Shearer "reads the trades" and tells you what corporations are up to as discussed in their own publications. It is horrifying.

I started doing the same back in Montana (before I had heard of Le Show, thank you very much) and I occasionally do this for Free Trade Zone companies. That is how I ran onto ZOLIC today.

While many NGOs dealing with Free Trade Zone issues deal with labor or byproducts of industrial production, a visit to the ZOLIC site shows that some trade zones are storage facilities for industrial waste produced elsewhere. In short, all the waste without even the overture of the insultingly low wage and bad conditions. Check out ZOLIC here and here.

ICE is Chilling ... An Interesting Report on Homeland Security

The National Commission on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights has put out an interesting report on ... ICE misconduct and violations of 4th Amendment rights (duh). It makes for an interesting read. In case the half-a-dozen regular readers haven't heard of this report, here is a link to the PDF. And here is a link to the web site. http://www.icemisconduct.org/icemisconduct/ NOTE: The commission is associated with the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

You can read the ICE 2008 Annual report here. I'm still combing through it, but I'm sure I'll have something to say. And I suppose in a few weeks after this goes live someone will come and inquire as to my immigration status. "Sorry, officer, my family did illegally enter North America in the early 17th century ... ."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Partido Party Means Economic Dip

Wow. PRD takes a real bruising... PAN takes a swift kick in the shorts... and the PRI jumps ahead as the only viable party to stand above the screamers (PRD) and schemers (PAN). Ouch! When the PRI is your viable option, something has seriously short-circuited in the other two parties. Then again, the PRI did keep Mexico from heading down that thorny "golpe de estado" path that Honduras is currently treading. Perhaps combined with some sense of removing corruption.... Nevermind.

Bloomberg reports that Mexico is going to take an economic pounding over this vote, as corporations find that the PAN will be less able ram decisions through congress.

And just for goofy fun...

This is how my wife refers to the three parties in Mexican politics.

PRI (The before party) Makes sense...it was the party that ruled "before" and it has that "pre" sound.

PAN (The bread party). Again...the word makes sense and they promise to improve the economy (not saying they do...just saying that is their schtick).

PRD (The pretty party). A stretch. It makes that "PERD" sound you get in "Ain't you got a purtty mouth). Not sure she has any observations on their politics.