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, 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.