For Brazilians, even more than the Mexicans, Futbol IS politics… even when it comes to protests … and police repression. Beautifully executed return on the tear-gas cannister, guys.
Cometín… aka Esteban Sánchez is seeking to represent a blue-collar/poor district in Sinaloa. As a candidate for the left-wing populist Citizen’s Movement, Sánchez’ campaign is arguing that neighborhoods like his are ignored by the clowns in the legislature, except when they come begging for votes. In other words, your usual better street lights, garbage collection, safe schools type of campaign.
Criticized by a former party leader (now with the conservative PAN) for making a mockery of politics, Sánchez’ personal story — that of an orphan and street kid who took advantage of a public education to develop a trade that supports himself and his family — resonates with his constituents, and candidacy is taken seriously enough by his opponents for him to receive death threats, which has made for a sad clown, but not one to be laughed at.
I don’t think we’d ever sell A History of Lower California (The Only Complete and Reliable One) by Pablo L. Martinez, translated by Ethel Duffy Turner (widow of John Kenneth Turner), self-published in an edition of 3000 by the author in 1960. So, I just took it home.
While perhaps it is “the only complete and reliable” history of the Baja up through 1960, it wasn’t exactly the most exciting of reading (which … my sleep cycle being off… was kind of the point). Still — despite the bad writing (and, I am afraid, rather clumsy translation) — there were a few eye-opening passages.
Sent to Mexicali to put down the short-lived and doomed anarchist uprising in the Baja in 1911, Major Esteban Cantú was nothing, if not flexible. A soldier in the service of Porfirio Díaz, he served the Madero government, supported Huerta (who, as a reward, promoted Cantú to Colonel and left him basically in charge of what is now Baja California Norte, but at the time was sub-district of the remote, largely ungovernable and under-populated territory of Baja California). With Huerta’s overthrow, and not quite sure the Constitutionalist government of Venustiano Carranza was going to be around all that long, Cantú basically ran an independent fiefdom.
With the back and forth fighting on the mainland, “Cantúlandia” more or less had to fend for itself, and for the first time in its history, was economically viable. From its late incorporation into Mexico (in the 1600s) up until the time Martinez was writing, the Baja’s history was one of a forgotten appendage. Under the Viceroys, it just wasn’t worth the time and expense of settling the place, so it was turned over to the Jesuits… who could only support modest developments by depending on outside income (Specifically, they set up an endowment fund of a sort… convincing wealthy supporters to buy the Society cattle ranches on the mainland, and dedicating the profits — at least in theory — to Church activities in California). When the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain, the Franciscans, and later the Dominicans, took a crack at turning the Baja into something more than a drain on the public treasury, to no avail.
The region’s post-independence history was mostly one of a financially unstable federal government only reluctantly sending a few troops when it could, and mostly forgetting about the place. That the country held on to the territory after the 1848 forced annexation of northern territories to the United States was more a matter of protecting the mainland states facing the Baja (Sinaloa and Sonora) from the U.S. than any concern for its inhabitants.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Don Porfirio’s governments did get some financial return out of the Baja, mostly by granting concessions to U.S. and British corporations seeking to “develop” the property in some way (usually convincing suckers that there was water out there). By Cantú’s time, the foreign companies (which, on paper, owned about 90 percent of what became Baja California Norte) and, other than a few small settlements along the coasts and the Colorado River, was still a desolate, economically marginal place.
What Cantú did… when he decided the Baja was “neutral” in the Mexican revolution (meaning he’d side with whoever won… maybe), was to keep on collecting federal taxes, but not send them along to the Capital, as well as impose some local taxes (including an income tax). Keeping the federal funds in reserve (which, in the end, is what saved him from being considered a traitor to his country), he is highly praised by Martinez for investing the state funds in development.
More amazing to me, is that despite the unsettled conditions in Mexico as a whole, Cantú’s irregular regime (1915-1920) was something of a golden age for education. Schools were built and teachers extremely well paid though fostering one industry where the Baja had a distinct advantage. Geographically and politically isolated from its own country, Cantú’s administration sought out products that it could export to the United States.
As the new functionary encountered the land burned out, as the offical coffers were empty… he set about contrying [sic] to obtain funds, as a first measure, by collecting a duty on all national merchandise that entered the territory, just as was done with foreign goods. His second act was to impost a personal tax that lasted for a long time, even after the financial crisis of the moment was over. For the same purpose he opened gambling houses, prostitution increased rapidly, as well as the drug traffic, although for the time being this traffic was clandestine.
Abelardo Rodriguez, the future president, then an army general, was tasked with “convincing” the self-appointed Cantú to step down in 1920. Rodriguez was then put in charge of the territory (territorial governors being appointed by the President, not elected) and had the good fortune to come into office just as the United States had outlawed liquor. So… with Cantú having paved the way to financial security through whores and drugs, Rodriquez fostered the booze industry.
Martinez wrote that the worst blow to the Baja economy in the early 20th century was not the world-wide Depression of 1929, but the end of Prohibition in the United States in 1933. One wonders what he’d make of calls for an end to narcotics prohibition today.
It took me a minute to recognize this… I used to live just down the street.
The theater was across from the park in Santa María de la Ribera, in Mexico City. The building has been replaced with apartments and shops. Off to the right from the lady watching the little boy with the balloon (the photographer’s grandmother and younger brother) and across the street was the biggest shop in Mexico specializing in insects (you can find anything in Mexico City, if you aren’t looking for it!). Two or three doors down was the former home of Madre Conchita, the female Osama Bin Ladin of 1920s Mexico.
Then 12-year old Eduardo Molina Moysén took this photo in 1967 with his first camera.
And here it is today, on “Google Earth”:
This epic before us is going to be written by the hungry Indian masses, the peasants without land, the exploited workers. It is going to be written by the progressive masses, the honest and brilliant intellectuals, who so greatly abound in our suffering Latin American lands. Struggles of masses and ideas. An epic that will be carried forward by our peoples, mistreated and scorned by imperialism; our people, unreckoned with until today, who are now beginning to shake off their slumber. Imperialism considered us a weak and submissive flock; and now it begins to be terrified of that flock; a gigantic flock of 200 million Latin Americans in whom Yankee monopoly capitalism now sees its gravediggers …. And the wave of anger, of demands for justice, of claims for rights trampled underfoot, which is beginning to sweep the lands of Latin America, will not stop.
(Che Guevara, to the U.N. General Assembly, 11 December 1964)
Ernesto Guevara Lynch, born 85 years ago today, in Rosario, Argentina.
There is an adulatory short biography on the Che Guevara blog, but for those looking for something more:
John Lee Anderson’s Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, is as complete as a U.S. author could be expected to write, based on mostly “official” sources and oftentimes almost apologetic for admitting there was a reason so many (especially in Latin America) see Ché as a legitimate critic of U.S. imperialism.
Two Latin American biographers (both Mexicans, as it happens), are better on capturing and considering the rootedness of Ché’s internationalism in his Latin American heritage, and both were able to access sources not available to Anderson.
Jorge Castañeda’s Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara is probably the fullest English-language biography. Castañeda is faulted for on the one hand being overly-academic and on the other for portraying Guevara as ” nothing more than a spoiled child with delusions of grandeur throwing a temper tantrum” (in the words of one “Goodreads” reviewer).
While much more readable, and the product of a much better (and much more entertaining author), the English-language translation of Paco Ignacio Taibo’s Guevara, Also Known as Ché has more than its share of typos and awkward translations. It is, however, the best of the biographies, concentrating on Ché as an enduring touchstone in any consideration of Latin American (and international) confrontation with the great powers.
The Brain Observatory (University of California at San Diego) is doing serious medical research, and while they need all kinds of brains, they are also finding that Mexican provide the brains Americans can’t.
Por supuesto,los derechistas y los nativistas están siendo pendejos. ¿Porque?
The United States, being either the 4th or 7th largest Spanish speaking nation (depends if you include Puerto Rico, and if you accept all variant forms of Spanish, including the two or three dialects of Spanglish as Spanish) one shouldn’t be surprised that some of its most prominent citizens can speak the language of Cervantes. If you’re wondering, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) was a lay worker with the Jesuits in Honduras as a young man. What’s impressive is that he even used the body language of native speakers in his speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier today.