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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Frontera Santa

El Sol de Toluca reports today that the number of Mexicans able to return to Mexico for Semana Santa is WAY down this year - almost 50%.
El retorno de paisanos en esta temporada vacacional podría caer hasta en un 50%, debido a que les sale muy caro volver a pagarles a los "polleros" para ingresar nuevamente a Estados Unidos, afirmó Alfredo Castañeda, líder de la Unión de Productores Agropecuarios Mexiquenses.
Family friendly and effective, no? Anyway, teaching the Progressive Era this week in class and ran across Teddy Roosevelt's policy on the border. The four border agents that patrolled the border (from San Diego to South Texas) were ordered to keep out Syrians, Greeks, Japanese, and Chinese. Theodore Roosevelt declared the border: “Closed to all but Citizens of Mexico.” Texas students were outraged - I think especially so now that Glenn Beck has given the go ahead to hate TR.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Argentines Demonstrate... and Demonstrate

Striking Argentine stevedores in Rosario have brought that export port to its knees over the last week. While workers are waiting to hear from the export terminals about negotiations, the soy bean harvest has already started. Reuters reports that workers in Argentina are costing businesses $US 12.5 million daily. It looks to me like the Argentine workers are on the ball. Bloomberg's reports that soybean futures are up about $.10 a bushel, while soy meal is up nearly $3 per ton. High demand for soy products and a rising market will soon place the grain loading terminals in Argentina in a sticky position, once again demonstrating that you can say what you want about the brilliance of business people and entrepreneurs, but the food doesn't load itself on ships.

For more on labor and export booms, see Charle's Bergquist's oldie-but-goodie, Labor in Latin America. Meat workers were absolutely linked with Peronismo in the day, but I'm not so sure Kirchner's neo-Peronism is being so agressive (NASDAQ reports sound like Kirchner is trying to get labor unions to play ball with business).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Latino Churches to Parishoners: Take the Census

The string of bilingual newspapers running through LA county (Eastern Group Papers) reports today that East LA churches are encouraging Latinos to take the census. In what may be the first instance EVER of the Catholic Clergy and the Luz Del Mundo agreeing on something, both churches are working to educate their parishioners about the importance of participating in the census. In fact, over 1,200 Latino churchers are pulling together on this one with a program called "We all count in God's eyes: Make yourself be counted." Catchy.

The paper quotes Los Angeles politicians on the consequences of not participating in the census:
On Tuesday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa estimated that the city of Los Angeles has lost about $206 million in federal and state funding over the last decade because 76,800 Angelenos were not counted in 2000. Similarly, Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian (CD-2) said that for every 100 people that are not counted in this Census, over one million dollars could be lost that could be used to fund healthcare, child services, for community development block grants and for education.
The churches, however, are standing in opposition to Latino activist organizations (including one massive coalition of Latino churches) who are advocating a boycott of the census. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) is urging immigrants to boycott the census until immigration law is reformed. Clearly, pastors on the ground in US America's most Latin American city disagree with that assessment.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reading Mexico: Area Specialists Needed

Dallas Morning News carried an interesting analysis of the narcotics violence in Mexico by Andrew Steele of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars. I would love to see an extended conversation with Steele and see him as a talking head more than some half-educated journalist. I think his observations are level-headed, and while I don't feel like I have to agree with everything he said, it at least has some logic behind it and avoids blanket buzz words like "apocalyptic" and "nightmare." Steele is a good example of the kind of commentary we should see the press going to instead of Wall Street Journal reporters or former Iraq correspondents plopped down in the Zona Rosa. Kudos to the Dallas Morning News and Alfredo Corchado for presenting a conversation that was worth reading. And double Kudos for Steele in acknowledging the corruption, criminal partners, and demand in the United States that make high-violence narco-crime in Mexico possible.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The OTHER San Patricio

I have a student working on the Irish in Texas, and it prompted me to give a nod to her work on this St. Patrick's day.

Tucked away just north of Corpus Christi, Texas are two communities founded by Irish immigrants to Mexico. One is Refugio, Texas, (pronounced by the locals as Refirio) and the other is San Patricio - located in San Patricio county and sporting such street names as McGloin and McMullen. Brought to Mexico by the promise of land, they intermarried with powerful Tejano families. The Irish settlers hopped quickly on the Texas Revolution band wagon, supplying food to the troops and coming out the whole squabble as powerful land owners in the new republic. And, unlike their more famed and not-so-Irish cousins in the San Patricio Brigade (which were as much Protestant, Scotch, and German as Irish and Catholic), these Irish Mexicans have been fairly well ignored in history. My student reports that not even the local history museums - as prolific in Texas as In-n-Out burger joints in California - carry much information on these Irish Dons. Looking forward to seeing her work with the papers of several of these families as well as land records, etc. Check out an annotated bibliography of the Irish in Mexico here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Students Drawn by Cheap Booze - And That is Exactly the Problem

BNET reports that many of Mexico's resort destinations have remained popular over spring break, despite warnings of violence in Mexico. What's drawing these fine young scholars?

The secret to luring American college students? Cheap,all-inclusive package deals including all-you-can-drink.

Let’s face it, the Spring Break bottom line is booze, beaches and sun at the cheapest price possible. If hotels and airlines can get together to make a cheap package where a college student never has to pay for a drink, that package becomes pretty appealing. And Mexico knows that.

About 25,000 students from the United States and Canada are expected to lie on Mexico’s beaches, drink and party, up from 20,000 last year.

And that, folks, is the problem. Spoiled children of the middle class demand their thrill without having to deal with the cost - exactly the parable of the narcotics war. US Americans want their buzz, and Mexico pays the price via the violence.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Violence and Drug Crime to Fall in Mexico: Texans to Stay Home

The student paper at UT Austin announced today to all their fine young scholars that the Texas department of safety has decided Mexico should not be on the destination list for Texas students. Mexico breathed a collective sigh of relief as both narcotic crime and sexual assaults will all drop off with the absence of the fine young scholars. Meanwhile, back in safe-n-sane Texas, a man walked into Wal-Mart this weekend with two guns (I heard AK-47 on the local news) and started a shoot out. This follows months of church burnings south of Dallas and a tax protester smashing a plane into an IRS building in Austin. Besides, fine young scholars will be safer here, in Texas, from all that Mexican debauchery.

Latin Americans, on the other hand, are perfectly safe when they come to Texas. Just ask Jaqueline Saburido (below) who had a great time in Austin, TX.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Memory, Wilderness, Recreation, and Indigenous Rights (and Rites)

Indigenous issues are indigenous issues. This article from the Missoulian in Missoula, Montana, on the Centennial of Glacier Park in Montana certainly reminded me of issues of tourism and indigenous rights in Mexico, Guatemala, and Brazil.

WEST GLACIER – They used to dance here.

Back before the tourists and the motor inns, before roadways and boat ramps, before blacktop and gift shops and bus stops.

They danced in the winter, when the year was young, to the song of water, the song of chickadee, nuthatch, wren and raven. They danced for health and wealth and for food, danced the circular trail of the seasons to come, danced songs given by spirit helpers, at the beginning.

“For 10,000 generations, the Kootenai people danced there, and it became known as The Place Where They Dance,” said Vernon Finley. “It was our home.”

Now, that place is known as Apgar, on the shores of an ancient waterway known today as Lake McDonald, shining like a sapphire in a mountain vastness known as Glacier National Park.

Read the rest of the story... .

Monday, March 1, 2010

Moving on Correa? Terrorism, Indians, and Oil

Wall Street Journal reported last week that the CONAIE organization is preparing to launch into demonstrations and protest against Rafael Correa. The article was careful to point out that Correa is "left-wing" and that Correa "is facing widespread discontent and protests against his policies, amid a deteriorating political and economic environment." Hmmm. What policies?

After two days of meetings, CONAIE heads blamed the government for the breakdown of the talks, which started in October, after the death of a member of the Shuar native in a clash between police and protesters amid demonstrations against a proposed law regulating water and mining and oil activity on their lands.

Delfin Tenesaca, head of the Ecuadorian Confederation of Kichwa Nationalities, or ECUARUNARI, a CONAIE arm, told Dow Jones Newswires that indigenous people "will start to implement a plurinational state with our own rules in each of our communities."

Ok, from reading the WSJ it sounds like the Indians are looking to use their resources as they will ala Milton Friedman and these commies from Quito are swooping in and regulating the heck out of their resources. No details, and just a small quote. Let's see another take on that... .

The Latin American Herald Tribune which appears to quote extensively from actual CONAIE members has a little different POV.
In the assembly, Conaie denounced the government “for not modifying the colonial state and continuing to strengthen the neo-liberal and capitalist system, betraying the Ecuadorian people,” Santi said. “Neo-liberal” is in Latin America a term used as a slur by leftists to describe advocates of free-market, laissez-faire economic policies.
That doesn't sound like what the WSJ says or at least intimates. The CONAIE are upset because Correa isn't EZLN enough. But Chevron and the WSJ are pretty sure he's the bad guy.

What else happened earlier in the month? Ecuador was placed on financial terrorist list by the French. And earlier this year? Ecuador deepened ties to both China and Iran and ended leases on US military bases. When the only reporting I really see in the mainstream on this supposed coming revolution in Ecuador is on the pages of the Wall Street Journal after Ecuador has decided to screw the US military and Chevron, I have to encourage Correa to not fly *cough*(Torrijos)*cough* or take any cigars from strangers.

PLEASE, follow the Chevron link to see what sort of power they are throwing behind a lawsuit in Ecuador. Not eye-opening, but certainly position affirming.