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Eisenstein’s Mexico

4 July 2015

Better quality than the Italian television version, still not “right”… these videos are from Russian film archives.  ¡Qué viva México!

 

The Atlanta Cartel… worst of the bunch

4 July 2015

It’s not “coke” that’s getting Mexican killed.  It’s Coke ®

Via Allison Jackson, GlobalPost:

 

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as Coca-Cola, Gatorade and homemade drinks known as “agua fresca” kill far more people every year in Mexico than criminal gangs.

A study by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University estimates a staggering 24,000 Mexicans die each year from diabetes, cancer and heart disease that are linked to sugary drinks.

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Compare that figure to the roughly 15,649 murders officially recorded in 2014 and it’s clear which is the biggest killer in the Latin American country.

Worldwide, the total sugary-drink death toll is estimated at 184,000, with more than 70% of deaths caused by diabetes. The researchers said this was the first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Out of the 20 most populous countries studied, Mexico’s death rate from sugary drinks was the highest by a long way, with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults.

Words can kill

4 July 2015

On 11 June 2014, Teniente de Infantería (Infantry Lieutenant) Ezequiel Rodríguez Martínez received a written order from his commanding officers outlining actions to be undertaken in “Operación Dragón”, a supposedly anti-crime operation scheduled to take place in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico.

On the night of 30 June (19 days later), 22 civilians were gunned down by Lieutenant Rodríguez’ troops.   Having left a survivor, it was impossible for the Army to deny having been involved in the massacre.  Initially, the action was described as an anti-drug operation (which wouldn’t excuse mass murder, although it would sway public opinion away from seeing this as a human rights violation.  Alas, the survivor was not a drug dealer, but just another young adult out partying at five in the morning.

On her behalf, Catholic Church supported ” Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez” has been assisting in her suit against the government for violating her human rights.  With suspicions of military involvement in the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students in September of 2014, the Centro Pro Juárez investigation has taken on a signficance beyond Lieutenant Rodríguez’ possible culpability, and called into question the role of the military establishment, and their civilian leaders.

The document sent to the Lieutenant, a “General Operating Order” outlined his responsibilities for the supposed anti-crime drive.  Point 7 in the “General Operating Order” called on Lieutenant Rodríguez and his men to conduct “massive” night operation against “delinquents” and during the day, “reduce” (criminal) activity, and… specifically… as it reads in Spanish:

… a fin de abatir delincuentes en horas de oscuridad, ya que el mayor número de delitos se comete en ese horario.

The most benign translation of that would be to “bring down the criminals in the hours of darkness, for that is when the most crimes are committed”.

But “bring down” is not exactly what “abatir” means.  To quash; to beat down; to grind into the dirt… all might be better translations, as is… to gun down.  

Although the Secretariat of Governance (which is in charge of internal security) was today pointing out the various alternative meanings of “abatir” , it’s difficult to see how a military unit … sent out armed and supposedly fighting an “enemy” would read that command as not calling for violent action at the very least.  Against…?  “Delinquents” is not clearly defined, partying at five in the morning being — without too much of a stretch — delinquent behavior.  Certainly shady to some.

As Jorge Carrasco Araizaga points out in this past week’s Proceso, the military forces have, for the past nine years, been assigned a task of fighting an “internal conflict”… with broad directives from the civilian leaders (like the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the Republic) that permit the military leaders to act independently, leaving the details of operational procedures up to individual commanders “in the field”. 

Besides the immediate issue of wondering whether the Lieutenant exceeded his orders, and — if not — where responsibility for giving those orders lies (though, of course, “just following orders” is not a legal justification should the Lieutenant or any of the soldiers involved be prosecuted), there is the more pressing existential problem for the military of seeing the civilian population … which they are supposedly protecting… as the potential “enemy” to be quashed, ground into the dust, gunned down… and for our elected leaders in having to justify turning our national protectors into our own enemy.

 

“Abatir no significa matar”: Segob asegura que el ejército no mandó ejecutar a los de Tlatlaya, Emeeques (03 July 2015)

Carrasco Araizaga, Jorge. Abatir, la orden a los militares mexicanos,  Proceso (2 July 2015)

Hubo orden militar de abatir civiles, previo a Tlatlaya (informe completo), Aristigui Noticias (3 July 2015)

Mexico troops in Tlatlaya slayings had orders to kill, report says, Los Angeles Times (2 July 2015)

Mr. Justice Roberts and the Aztecs

28 June 2015

In his dissent to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage*, Chief Justice John Roberts carped — among other irrelevancies — that:

… the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs…

While I haven’t consulted my expert on the U.S. Supreme Court, I am reasonably sure this is the first time “Aztec” (or Mexica) law has ever been cited in a U.S. courtroom.  And … I might add… cited incorrectly.

Tying_the_knotWhile we hardly have the legal records, we have a good idea of court procedures among the Aztecs, and at least the outline of their legal code.  M.C. Mirow’s Latin American Law: A History of Private Law and Institutions in Spanish America (University of Texas Press, 2004) begins its discussion of its subject with a discussion of… specifically, Mr. Roberts… Aztec law.  The Aztecs had a system not all that different from ours… with a “Supreme Legal Council” which oversaw district courts, and capulli (village or “urban ward”) courts … the latter of which heard marriage cases.

Based on what court documents we have, as well as what we know of Aztec marriages, they were hardly of the “one man-one woman” and “til death do us part” variety.  Polygamy (especially among the upper classes) and divorce were common, as were arranged marriages among widows and her surviving brothers-in-law (already married or not).

Homosexuality was, apparently, in the criminal code, but given that cases involving homosexuality were only taken up by the Supreme Legal Council, one is left wondering how often a case was even heard.  This doesn’t mean that there were homosexuals in Aztec society.  Lamentations of rampant “sodomy” among the indigenous Americans by early Spanish writers (mostly clerics) argue that the opposite was the case.  As does the plethora of words in Nahuatl for gay sex acts.  As I have noted before indigenous Americans (including subject people of the Aztecs) did not always define gender (and gender roles) the way we do.  Among the Zapotecs, marriages between biological males, one of whom is a muxe (a “two spirit person”… biologically male, but recognized culturally as a female), would not technically be “gay marriage”, but are — to our way of thinking — “same-sex” marriages.  How such marriages are treated in Mexican courts when it comes to inheritance rights, I can’t say, but being a matter of indigenous “usos y costombres”, the two parties are seen as a married couple.

Although the “Aztec” courts still functioned, at least at the capulli level, into the colonial era, they were rather informal proceedings, more like a Justice of the Peace court, and we do not have the records.  While we have information based on interviews of the “one percenters” of the Aztecs, thanks to Padre Saguhan and Motolina, we really know very little about how ordinary Mexicas conducted their intimate affairs.  We know they regularly resorted to prostitutes (male and female) and that the customary forms of marriage continued.  But, unless the couple sought the legal recognition of the Crown, by way of the Church (which most people didn’t need), we would have no record.  It’s assumed, based on other cultures of the time that given that work was often divided by gender, a family without children of one gender would simply assign the opposite gender to a child… that is, a family of girls needed someone to do “man’s work”, or a family of boys someone to make the tortillas and keep the family hearth… and, as with the Zapotecs, likely just raised the child to be  another gender.  Or… as people always have found… they were attracted to persons of the same gender.  Such children could have married to a person of the same biological gender, or … were they to chose the opposite gender, might have been gay in our modern sense.

We know, also, that the Aztecs had gender segregated schools… with teenaged boys from the upper class, and promising lads from the capulli classes… boarded under the not-particularly-watchful eyes of the Aztec priests.  From what we know of such institutions throughout history, of course, there was male bonding beyond the sports field.

Mr. Justice Roberts may or may not be correct in saying the Aztecs did not recognize same-sex marriages, but one may judiciously say, he doesn’t have a fuckin’ clue!

*  Why assume two people of the same gender are marrying only because of their sexual orientation?  Gays have married “straights” for centuries for reasons having nothing to do with intimacy, and everything to do with property, inheritance, security, and/or status.  I don’t see anything that presumes persons of the same gender might not marry each other for the same reasons.

Outside Sources:

Aztec Family Law, Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas

de Landa, Fray Diego.  Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan (1567)

Mirow, M.C. Latin American Law, pp 1-5

Joyce, Rosemary, Ph.D., “Aztec Marriage: A Lesson for Chief Justice Roberts” Psychology Today (26 June 2015)

Angel of Independence tonight

28 June 2015

Angel

The Afectados… an object lesson if you will

18 June 2015

There is an intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet.

With today’s release of Laudato Si — dealing, as it does, with the moral issues surrounding our dependence (or rather the global north’s over-dependence) on the resources of the poor countries… and the cost of environmental damage (in all senses, not just monetary) to the poor above all — the release of this short documentary earlier this week might be seen as a marginal gloss on the text.

 

Cupable: a short film on the for profit imprisonment of migrants

16 June 2015
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