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, August 27, 2009

Spanish Colonial East Texas Borderland

The pineywoods. ArkLaTex. Behind the piney curtain. If anybody ever thinks of East Texas, SE Arkansas, and NE Louisiana (which most people don't) they tend to think of the isolation of the area, the poverty, the violence, and the racial division. And certainly not more than a hand full of people ever think of the history of the area, let alone the colonial history.

For those interested in borderlands history - the study of those liminal areas where the power of empires and the cultural impositions of the core begin to give way to the realities of geography, climate, indigenous culture, and the human condition - the ArkLaTex is a perfect place. Thousands of archival records reside at Mission Dolores in San Augustine, TX, Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, and with the Los Adaes and Mission Tejas state parks. Nevertheless, students of colonial New Spain choose to wing off to Seville (but honestly, who wouldn't?) instead of investigating what is in their back yard. Conversely, many out of the "big" schools in Texas focus exclusively on the San Antonio / Rio Grande area rather than make what is seen as an oppressive drive into the piney woods.

For those interested in the area, take a look at the scholarship of Francis Galan at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio or George Avery at Stephen F. Austin. Take moment to visit the missions and mounds of the area and get a feel for how this strange and rootless part of the world started to take shape. Pay attention to the new scholarship in Native American history from Pekka Hamalainen, Juliana Barr, or David Lavere. Texas historians can certainly move past "Daniel Boone slept here" and scholars of New Spain can certainly move farther north and east of Saltillo and San Antonio.

And one finally note ... for those that can read in French AND Spanish, a real winner of a book is there for the taking.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"No pierdas el tino..."

There ... are ... no ... words.

Click the picture. See the site.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What US Students Should Know, or, What the "Area" People Have to Say

Ok, another incredibly frustrating conversation with a colleague over people of the Americas in the United States. When I asked her what she taught about Latin Americans in the US, she responded that she taught about Coronado, Cortes, Zoot Suit Riots, and the UFW. I was floored. So, here are a few books I think US historians need to read and incorporate into their survey US history courses.

- Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. Say no to white gods that show up with no context and kill all the Indians.

- Empires of the Atlantic World. Say no to the ANGLO/franco focus of the imperial projects of the Americas.

- Ecological Imperialism or The Columbian Exchange. Say no to teaching kids that the "Columbian Exchange" is the old "triangular trade" of third grade, just with a new name.

- Neither Enemies nor Friends. Problematic at times, but helps say no to the 50s notion of simplistic racial US.

- Empire's Workshop and Empire and Revolution. Say no to US imperialism starting in 1898.

- True Tales and Delfino's Gun. Say no to simplistic ideas on immigration.

- Barrios Nortenos and Chicanos. Say no to lectures on Latino-free labor movements.

- Captives and Cousins and Comanche Empire. Say no to a West devoid of Mexico and Spain.

- Whitewashed Adobe. Say no to a California absent Mexicans until the summer of 1943.

- Tree of Hate. Say no to the reasons Latin America and Latinos disappear from US history survey courses.

Ok, so there are ten of my entries. For the three people that follow this blog and the two that will stumble on to it from google: What would you want a US historian to read and incorporate into their courses? Martinez? Anzaldua? M.T. Garcia? Who do you think they should be reading?

Final note: This frustrating conversation came just two days after a student came up to me after we did civil rights and thanked me because she thought only African Americans had a civil rights movement. She'd never heard of LULAC, AGIF, Bert Corona, Dolores Huerta...nada. Crazy, man.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Order of Bratwurst ... With Corn Tortillas, Please.

Frustrating conversation with a student at the end of last week. One of those "I can't go into a store in Houston without speaking Spanish to some kid who is talking for his mother" conversations. I asked him if he liked dancing and Shiner Bock Beer.

Students in East Texas refuse to accept the idea that new immigrants to the United States are incorporating into U.S. culture and language far faster than their European predecessors had done. Show me a Spanish Language University like the Germans had in Pennsylvania (St. Vincent's College) or Minnesota (St. John's) and I'll concede the point. And when you can find me a school district in the United States that requires students to take Spanish, Chinese, or Tzeltal so that everybody can understand one another - as was done in Cincinnati, OH for Germans - then I might concede the point. And IF you can find me 200 schools in Texas that teach in exclusive Viet, Spanish, Khmer, Mandarin, etc. as was done in Minnesota for Danes, Swedes, Germans, Norwegians, Poles, etc., then I might just agree the "transition" is slower.

And of course, what Texan doesn't enjoy a night of dancing in the Central European-style dance halls and down the Texan National Beverage: Shiner Bock Beer from the K. Spoetzel Brewery (where a small few families still speak Texas-Deutsch). The face of Texas was changed with the arrival (to quote the book of that title) the Germans in the Winter Garden. As Hispanics return in larger numbers to Texas (unlike south Texas, East Texas had very sparse populations of Tejanos by the 1960s), the face of Texas might change a bit. It might even to look a little more like it did before the Czechs arrived - but at the end of the day, Texas is a migrant destination (ummm, Stephen F. Austin) and is all the better for it (well, unless you are Karankawa, Tejas, Alabama Coushotta, etc).

And kid, if that store owner's child is talking in English to you, then I think you really need to re-think what that means.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Smells Like Chilangos

Wow, so I just had my twittery little notion of the PAN as an "outside the distrito" bubble burst. Running through the members of the gabinete I am hard pressed to find any non-Chilangos in the highest levels of power. Interior, PGR, defense, foreign affairs, finance, econ.... and on and on.

La Luz Del Mundo - Giving the People What they Want

Considering La Luz Del Mundo church in Guadalajara, Mexico is engaged in its largest religious festival of the year, my entries on the group have doubled traffic to the blog. I thought I could contribute something to the discussion of the highly controversial group by at least creating a basic info entry (as long as you all promise to still buy the book - hahaha). Anyway, it boggles my mind how this powerful and fast-growing institution has essentially been flying under the radar of Mexicanists for decades. However, as Schmidt points out in Fragments of a Golden Age, Mexican historians have hardly given religion in the modern period much of a look - let alone non-Catholic or non-traditional practice.

Founder: Eusebio Joaquin Gonzales. Eusebio joined the Iglesia Cristiana Espiritual in 1924 in Torreon (following his wife) and later became a disciple of barefoot self-proclaimed prophets Saulo and Silas. During this period Eusebio claimed a vision from god in which his name was changed to Aaron and he was charged with starting a "new dispensation" of time marking a new pact between God and man - essetially a restoration of primitive Christianity.

Major Moments in early LLDM history:
1) Eusebio's arrival in Guadalajara on the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1926 and his dedicatory prayer for that city. It sets up LLDM as directly in competition for not only spirituality but also mexicanidad.
2) 1930 Aaron introduces heirarchy into the previously loosely associated pentecostal church. Begins taking on the more formal structures of similar neo-pentecostal groups.
3) 1931 Santa Cena introduced. A formal celebration of the body and blood of Christ. Today members of LLDM gather on August 14th on the birthday of Aaron (about 250,000) in the Hermosa Provincia neighborhood of Guadalajara to take the sacrament of the holy supper: Another challenge to the ceremony of Catholicism. They also have competing ceremonies for newborn babies and watching over the dead.
4) 1933/34. LLDM begins forming their first community of LLDM members on Calle 46 in Guadalajara.
5) 1939. Growth and outside pressure move the group to build their second somewhat exclusive neighborhood.
6) 1942/43. A major schism within LLDM splits away hundreds of members of the group in central Mexico, but also leaves Aaron firmly in charge. He baptizes himself and is proclaimed an apostle of Jesus Christ.
7) 1953/54. LLDM purchases a hacienda east of Guadalajara and obtains an exception from the municipio to turn it into a development. The neighborhood is the famous Hermosa Provincia (named after the reference to Zion of Psalms 48). It becomes closely associated with the PRI through the FOPJ, or neighborhood organization associations of the ruling party.
8) 1964. Aaron dies and his son Samuel is proclaimed the new apostle. The church enters into an expansive phase of growth.

Thos are just a hand full of early highlights. The church claims 1.5 million members in Mexico (though only a fraction of that indicate such a denomination on the census). It also claims 5 million members globally. It has followers in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania in addition to the Americas.

The group has been both highly praised for literacy and poverty campaigns as well as highly controversial for centralized control, allegations of child abuse, improper use of funds, and possible tight links to the PRI.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Peruvian German Chica in Devil Dance With Bolivia - Phew!

Ok, so this was supposed to go up last week after I saw it on the Livinginperu web site, but I never got around to it.

Karen Schwartz, a Peruvian candidate for Miss Universe announced she is going to dance the Diablada dance (see picture). The Bolivians claim it as theirs, the Peruvians responded by saying ""The Highlands cultures are one. If Miss Schwarz is Peruvian, she has the right to wear the 'Diablada' dress.”

So, let me get this straight, we have a euro-Peruvian in a pseudo-dominatrix Bolivian "folk" outfit representing the unity of the Andean highland culture AND the international euro-beauty monopoly at the same time. Sweet. I suppose that beats Mexico's narco-beauty queen.

I love globalization. In fact, for your bubble-gum moment of the day (empty calories and wasted time) see a slide show of many of the national "folk" costumes at the Beauty Pageants blog. The blogger appears to be partial to Miss Japan.

I know that a few years from now there is absolutely going to be a dissertation on this from an Anthropologist. And for good measure, see Rick Lopez's article on the India Bonita contest in Mexico in 1921 as a good academic chaser. (HAHR, 2002).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Department of Treasury

Over the last two weeks I've had my blog entries (here and here) on Homeland Security visited over a dozen times by the treasury department. Really? I provide some links to interesting resources (I think) and a few news stories that really caught my eyes regarding the ICE folks. Treasury? Really? Is it the Financial Crimes team?

Well, for you guys at Treasury, here's another ICE-y treat.

Poor Guadalajara, So Far From God....

El Informador was not my paper of choice when I lived in Gdl, but I popped in the last couple of days to read the local coverage of the impact of the Canada/US/DF visit to one of my favorite Mexican cities. While the play by play was interesting, I enjoyed most a story about the impact of the visit on the Corona market near Hidalgo that was shut off from traffic - and from customers.

I'm good with the US going south to discuss its protectionist policies that will strip Mexico and Canada of billions in trade dollars, but it also served as an interesting reminder that we can't even visit Mexico without ripping the food out of somebody's mouth.

Se quedaron los bolillos y las flores...

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO.- Luces en el horizonte de la Avenida Hidalgo. Todo era quietud ahí, frente al Mercado Corona, donde las personas esperaban. “¿Quién va a pasar, disculpe?”, dijo un hombre que se acercó al barandal, como todos los demás. “¡Obama, Obama!”, comenzaron a gritar los niños.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Resources on Luz Del Mundo

For those interested in the controversial and growing church out of Mexico known as Luz del Mundo, I'm including a short selection of works to help people learn more about the group.

The most refined foundational works on LDM com from anthropologists Reneé de la Torre and Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola. See:
- Los hijos de la luz: Discurso, identidad y poder en La Luz del Mundo (Guadalajara: CIESAS, 2000).
- “Religión y Política el los barrios populares de Guadalajara,” Estudios Sociologicos, (VII:24, 1990) with Guillermo de la Peña.
- “La construción de una identidad nacional el La Luz del Mundo,” Cristianismo y Sociedad. XXIX/3/ No. 109 (1991).
- “Origins, Development and Perspectives of the Luz del Mundo Church,” Religion, No. 25 (1995). Also Creyentes and creencias en Guadalajara, CIESAS, Guadalajara, Mexico, 1999.
- “Mujer, participación, representación, simbólica y vida cotidiana en la Luz del Mundo. Estudio de Caso en la Hermosa Provincia,” Estudios sobre las culturas contemporáneas. Vol. IV, No. 12. (1991).

A secondary study by Rodolfo Morán Quiroz relies heavily on the studies of de la Torre and Fortuny. See Alternativa Religiosa en Guadalajara. (Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara Press, 1990).

Several key masters’ theses exist on the study. De la Torre and Fortuny Loret de Mola both cite as foundational the 1972 Universidad de Guadalajara masters thesis by Araceli Ibarra Bellon and Alisa Lanczyner Reisel, “La Hermosa Provincia: nacimiento y vida de una secta cristiana en Guadalajara.” Responses to the work of de la Torre, Fortuny Loret de Mola, Morán, Ibarra, and Lanczyner include the well-balanced 2001 University of Guadalajara maestria thesis on state/church relations by Sara S. Pozos Bravo, a member of LLDM and former Assistant Director of International Affairs.

These selections do not include the wide variety of actively "pro" and "anti" LLDM material written by members of LLDM or Mexican scholars.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pick of the Month

I've been putting up my suggested read for the month on the right-hand side of the blog, and who knows if anybody even looks at that part of the blog. I do want to take a moment and put in a plug for the August pick, Julio Moreno's Yankee Don't Go Home. An excellent read on the presence of U.S. culture and business in Mexico after the armed phase of the Revolution and the way in which Mexicans interacted with or reacted to that presence.

Nuanced with great stories and some great sources, this really should be on any Mexicanist's reading list for the modern era. Identity, state formation, religion, economics, culture ... definitely the right book for the August read.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Luz Del Mundo and Adult Education - WARNING: A Personal Indulgence Post

Living in the bubble of faculty, students, and academic colleagues I forget how really cool our job can be sometimes.

I just spoke this evening at the Unity Church for their religion lecture series. After finishing my presentation I was grilled for 40 minutes about the Luz Del Mundo organization based out of Guadalajara, Mexico. I rarely sit in front of an audience of non-academic adults (the over 30 set), and their enthusiasm for the topic was refreshing. While I understand that my only real claim to fame is having married a really good baker, today I participated in helping a few people understand the world around them a little better, and that feels really good. I get a little tired of academic panels where some @$ always gets up and says "I understand you only had twenty minutes, and I appreciate your focus was on topic X, but what I REALLY wanted to know was topic Y." Next time FAX me in advance, pendejo.

I think I will start a small series on Luz Del Mundo with some basic observations on this (alleged) Mexican religious juggernaut. With even the most basic membership numbers in dispute, this baby is a real hot potato.