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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Really The Worst Mexico Can Do?

I understand some folks are still steamed at Calderon about the '06 election, under some delusion that the PRD's pedos no huelen. I was even there in California when the crowd gasped at Cuauhtemoc Cardenas when he suggested AMLO had lost the election and that folks needed to just get over it. At the time I was mildly amused by Cardenas... but now I find I probably agree with him. Why? La Barbie.

With the arrest of the fairly washed up former drug princepin known as "La Barbie," the blogosphere and the news folks are up in a fluster again about how "Calderon's" drug war / US proxy war in Mexico is destroying the country. Is it so long ago that the indie media (of which I am generally a fan), and the correspondents of the mainstream were all over one of Mexico's truly "bad guy" presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari for NOT doing enough to go after the cartel butchers? At the end of the day I am no big fan of the PAN or Calderon... not beyond their presence starting a little competition in the Mexican political market. However, Eddie Valdez (La Barbie) did some truly rotten things to both Mexican and US citizens for which he needs to do some serious (life) jail time. Until Mexico and the US either A) invent a time machine that goes back to 1930 and changes narcotics policy; B) they work out an economic system that legitimizes all narcotics and black market items while simultaneously creating a total global free market where everything is legal and offer amnesty for crimes committed in the past by "alternative economy" types; C) they go back to the 1970s model of ignoring narcotics trafficking THEN we have to deal with a reality where a president serious about law enforcement regarding a truly brutal sector of society needs to be engaged.

On both the right and the left the conversation about the rule of law in Latin America has been heated... and in one direction: that it is a cure for Latin American ills. But the slaughter we see in Mexico is a direct result of that transition to the rule of law. So I have to ask, do you really want it or not? And if your answer is to simply change the laws to fit the criminals (make narcotics legal), then is that really the rule of law? And if not narcotics, what is next? At the end of the day this war in Mexico is and will continue to be brutal and Calderon will continue to be mediocre president at best. And while we know he is not the best Mexico can do, is he really the worst?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Like it is Market Driven...

An extra dose of snark today.

So, Mexicans immigrate to the United States because Mexico stinks and they want to come to the US and simultaneously take jobs / live on unemployment while not having to live in Mexico while turning the US into Mexico. *sigh* Living in Texas I get to hear all sorts of perceptions about immigration.

Meanwhile, back in Montana, the Center for the Rocky Mountain West appeared in an article in the Missoulian and, shock of shocks, they point out that immigration is a product of supply and demand in the labor market. I am sure all Latin America specialists, business people, and workers are completely baffled by this concept. At any rate, it is a nice article from the Missoulian.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Northern Luz

The Anchorage Daily News reported last month that a Luz del Mundo temple in Anchorage made of corrugated tin has stalled. The church, at a cost of $1.7 million to the local congregation of 35, is designed to look like the church's central temple in Guadalajara's Hermosa Provincia colony. I was struck by a couple of thoughts.
1) the comments from the readers were overwhelmingly negative, with one commentator on a related story on the temple wondering if the building was a front for drug runners and illegal aliens. LDM is probably Mexico's closest approximation of the sort of Christianity you will find practiced by many in Alaska, such as Palin's former Wasila Assembly of God church. LDM are probably conservative Alaskans' greatest allies in terms of "issues" - but they certainly can't see beyond the racial profiling.
2) Not far from San Antonio the Luz del Mundo maintain a lavish exotic animal park and collection of vintage cars (see the San Antonio News Express story here) - an odd juxtaposition to the 4 year struggle of the Alaska congregation to finish its building. While I appreciate the interesting idea of Mexican wealth needing to prop up insufficient funds in the US, I am also struck by the lack of central planning in an otherwise very tightly controlled centralized church. Perhaps LDM is not the religious juggernaut that I and others have made it out to be. Apparently, according to the ADN story, this is not the only stalled church in the works. Perhaps, of course, I am just reading too much into a policy of asking local congregations to take control of the their own building facilities.

Monday, August 23, 2010

US Bullets Return to the Voyeur City

The lovely Himalayan campus of UT El Paso nestled just up the hill from downtown experienced some return migration from a US export this week:

A bullet that flew through a building at the University of Texas at El Paso may have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border during a shootout between drug traffickers and Mexican federal police, authorities said.

University President Diana Natalicio said Sunday a bullet struck Bell Hall sometime Saturday evening. No injuries were reported at the building.

That same evening, a "major gun battle" between drug traffickers and Mexican authorities broke out in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just 30 yards from the U.S. border at El Paso, Texas, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman said. Read more here.

Of course, El Paso seems to be simultaneously fulfilling its historical role while missing out on much of the tourist money that could be made from that role. If you ever get a chance to take the self-guided walking tour of El Paso, TX - you MUST do it. It isn't my favorite town, but it is my favorite town in Texas. At any rate, you can still see some buildings where various revolutionary figures drank soda pop, played espionage games, or plotted coups. Most memorable are the hotels that proudly proclaim to the be the places where US Americans lounged about on the roof and watched the revolution. The US voyeurism of violence in Mexico still seems to be a popular pastime.

"A safe and comfortable place to view a Mexican Revolution." The roof garden of the El Paso del Norte Hotel was just one of the many buildings which provided a ringside seat to the Mexican Revolution (El Paso County Historical Society.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Argentine Bishops: Too Much Insecurity

Catholic Bishops in Argentina issued a statement yesterday (17 August) that they fear for the security of Argentine citizens because of the increase in street crime. The episcopal conference called for greater security in the face of "so much violence in the streets."

Under a military dictatorship with people plucked out of their homes and tortured we got nary a peep from the Argentine pastors, but now, under a leftist government and a society embracing abortion and gay marriage, the Argentine Bishops are suddenly all abuzz with the fear of street crime.

The Archbishop / Jesuit / Cardinal Bergoglio (son of Italian Argentine rail workers) is a fairly conservative fellow and probably the closest competition Ratzinger had in the elevation to pope - but essentially just two opposing peas in the same very conservative pod. At any rate, Bergoglio's sudden concern for security as an issue is most likely a ploy to get involved with Argentine politics after the July name calling / mud slinging between himself and Presidente Fernandez de Kirchner (he said gay marriage was from Satan, she called him medieval, etc).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mormons Take a Stand on Immigration ...

... and it is sort of a non-stand. Sort of. Here it is:

The complex issues surrounding immigration are a matter of increasing concern and debate for all in this country.

Elected individuals have the primary responsibility to find solutions in the best interests of all whose lives will be impacted by their actions.

We repeat our appeal for careful reflection and civil discourse when addressing immigration issues. Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship, and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God’s children.

According to KSL, the Mormon owned media group in Salt Lake, the statement was greeted with thumbs up from both Proyecto Latino de Utah and the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration. In the context of the illegal and just mean spirited release of so-called illegals in Utah earlier this summer, perhaps a weak statement just to stay classy becomes a more powerful statement. At any rate, according to my cousins in Idaho the statement was greeted with incredible anger by conservative Mormons in SE Idaho (Holly, you really should have stayed in Montana).

Utah's Latino population - like the US South - has seen an explosion of mostly Latino immigration from outside the US. As Utah's families have become more affluent, teens and adults have abandoned service and agricultural work which are two of the driving forces in the state. And, yes, most of those immigrants remain Catholic or at least non-Mormon (sorry, Lou Dobbs). At any rate, Utah's governor has convened a round table that has generated little results (that I could find) at this point, but two big thumbs up to Luz Robles and Mark Shurtleff for these two comments:

"Reactive legislation, enforcing outside our state purview is not good public policy," said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.

"In 1869, this country was joined together in this state, and the two groups that came together to drive that spike were the Chinese and Irish workers," said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. "Immigrants who were not legal at the time."
Why should we care? Considering the wealth and power that the LDS community wields in Arizona, California, Nevada, and the rest of the Mountain West, proponents of a a civil discourse need support from US Mormons in the West.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back From the Great Northern Frontier

Secret History fell silent for a few weeks while I attended to some family business and recreation in the north. Issues of Latin America were never far, however.

I spent some time chatting with a cousin who works with Latino students in the heart of spud country about the ridiculousness of Idaho's English only position as well as the excellent performance of her Mexican-American students. As Idaho children increasingly take their two week "spud picking" break from school to go on trips to Disney Land and (yes) Cabo, Mexicans have filled in the gaps - and have kept rural Idaho from depopulating as its children flee for more cosmopolitan climes.

I see that West Yellowstone has increasingly become a seasonal place of work for African American and Latino workers and less and less High School and College Students of the Montana / Idaho white middle class. Given ten years I think we will see Montana following the pattern of Colorado and South Dakota and teen farm labor will be replaced by Latino farm labor. A short visit to the Blackfoot rez will bear that out, where hip-hop Pikuni teens with names like Garcia and Gomez participate in drum circles and other cultural celebrations.

As it has always been, the hope of the population of the US west relies on cheap labor. From the time the hydraulic drill was introduced into hard-rock mining to today, the US West is a colonial endeavor in need of labor to fuel the extractive profit of its existence - be it the extraction of minerals and ag products or the inexpensive service of tourist industries.