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English? Spanish? Spanglish?

22 October 2014

Via Stace Medellin (Dos Centavos), comes this political advertisement from Texas.  Where I grew up in western New York, it wasn’t unsusual for politicians to throw in a little Italian  into their advertising, but about the only Italian anyone uses regularly up there are a couple of Sicilian swear-words.  Meaning, I guess, that the Italians were assimilated into the mainstream, though a few traces of what was once a minority left its marks on the mainstream.

I wonder if the candidate is inching into “Spanglish” (which I believe is a true “creole” language… with its own literature to boot) or just … like politicans appealing to any minority community… proving she is one of them, while simultaneously assuring mainstream voters (i.e., English-speakers) that she is not an “ethnic” candidate.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  Her opponent apparently is also running ads in Spanish-language media… though weirdly enough, he’s running on an anti-immigrant platform.  If I were still a Texas voter (and some of you are), I’d vote for her, even if I’m not sure she’s speaking one, two, or three languages.



20 October 2014


I’m not sure if this is more an illustration of the generally more relaxed attitude towards physical contact among Latin Americans, or of the general nonchalence with which Mexicans let the law catch up with the reality of human relationships.

One that got away…

19 October 2014

The kind of book I’d want to have published.

Mercedes Olivara in the Dallas Morning News on Mexican novelist Carmen Boullosa‘s “Texas, The Great Theft” from Deep Vellum Press, which specializes in foreign works in translation:

It may be historical fiction, but many of the events in Carmen Boullosa’s latest book seem as if they just happened yesterday.

Texas, The Great Theft takes us back to 1859, in the years following the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, which ended the U.S.-Mexican War. Tensions were high as one culture displaced another. Bandits were commonplace, and so was legal chicanery.

Many Mexican landowners who had been given land grants centuries ago by the Spanish crown lost them in legal schemes or in English-speaking courts where Spanish documents were not recognized. This caused one landowner, Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, to fight back as best he could — with his own army.


(more at the Dallas Morning News)

Hasta la muerte

17 October 2014

Federal Police officer Esteban Morales Santizo disappeared 3 December 2009, in Lazaro Cárdenas, Michoacán.  His mother, Margarita, like family members of other disappeared people have never received any answers, or assistance, from the government, and have been protesting for years.

Margarita never did get an answer, but she wasn’t going to stop demanding one either.


(Reforma.  Photo by Óscar Mireles)

Oh, how hard it is to speak Spanish (Your Friday Night Video lament)

17 October 2014

Rural teachers were once our heroes… what happened?

16 October 2014

One of my favorite films… Indio Fernandez went all out to create this extravagent twist on the western… with María Felix as the new schoolma’arm in town (personally chosen by President Manuel Avila Camacho… who appears (in shadows) about 10 minutes into the film) who ends up in a gun-fight with the villanous local caiquel (played by Carlos Lopez Montezuma) as she and the public service doctor fight ignorance, dirt, and illiteracy as they clean up the worst school district in Mexico.

A shameless tear-jerker and even more shameless propaganda … presenting a vision of Mexico as a country where the people could believe it was the state’s job (and within their power) to fight  poverty, ignorance and abuse of the campesinos, not as something the state fostered.


Return with us now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear…



15 October 2014


I honestly don’t know what to say about the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School.  Sin Embargo has an overview of the situation as of this morning, focusing on the investigation and the political aspects of the situation.  The foreign media, as expected, has seen this as somehow related to the narcotics export trade (which, of course, would not exist without the huge buyer’s market in the United States).  That the alleged head of the alleged gang that allegedly kidnapped the students allegedly committed suicide and that PAN is now demanding the PRD state government resign, while the Peña Nieto administration worries about the economic fallout from reportage on this, raise the kinds of questions that the historian in me wonders whether they even need to be asked at this time, or if they can only be addressed when there is more information.

And, what seems to be missing from all the discussion is any mention of who these students are, and what their disappearance (I have no doubt they’ve been murdered) means.  These kids were the best and the brightest of very poor families, most of them from indigenous communities.  It was a sacrifice on the parts of their families to even send their sons (and most were young men, though a few are women) to lose their labor while the students themselves lived in appalling conditions BY CHOICE.  There were not pampered college kids… these were young men and women on a mission.

We are told that these students were “radicals”, but radical only in the sense that educating the poor is a radical idea, and educating minorities is “radical”.  If the rural normal schools have a reputation for being on the political left, whose fault is that?  Who else have supported the schools, and who else is providing the material support (like books for their libraries, let alone food for their cafeteria)?  And, given the “support” given to rural people and the indigenous in this country, what would one expect?  When “education” is being re-defined as job training and not as a way of means of liberating one’s self, students are right to rebel.  And… in this political and social climate… to liberate one’s self, and to see one’s role in life as assisting others in their own liberation is a “radical” act, a defiance of the State and of the prevailing economic assumptions.

We are mislead when we see this tragedy as tied up with “DRUGS!”.  It may very well involve narcotics exporters in cahoots with the local estabishment, but I have long argued that the narco-trade is no different than any other exploitive agricultural enterprise… requiring what Aldous Huxley called “sweatable coloured labour” to provide the wants — not necessarily needs — of the planet’s priviliged.  That the local administration is the party usually considered the left (PRD) is only a matter of degrees without much meaning.  That these students are actually very conservative (simple “peasants” seeking to preserve their culture, but within the modern world) is lost when we see those posters of Che or Lenin or Emiliano Zapata.. but what other models are presented to them?  What neo-liberal — or social democratic — model would make room for their survival, or accept their way of life?  What has representative “democracy” given them?  I’d be tempted to torch a statehouse myself if my representatives were not just doing nothing (I’m used to the U.S. Congress), but actively working against my survival, and appeared to actively participate in the destruction of my family, my culture and the future.

There is a war in this country against the indigenous, and the campesinos.  Whether the fight is over water, or electrical power, or minerals, or narcotics, it has less to do with access to the product than with who stands in the way of “progress”, and what they are able to say or think about those who have access.  Those that teach, those that speak up, those that refuse to acquiese in their own destruction, are the ones being “disappeared” or murdered.

Who are the killers?  We are.




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