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Bush– annoying the locals in the Yucatan

18 March 2007

From “Yucatan Living” comes this post written by one of the sizable MexPat community, in that usually welcoming city:

Yesterday George W. Bush left Mexico, and for many of the local inhabitants of Merida and the surrounding countryside, it wasn’t a moment too soon.From what we have seen in the past few days, the Leader of the Western World appears to be very afraid, and his presence projected those fears onto our traditionally tranquil city in a most bizarre and invasive manner.

…the metal barriers started showing up around town. First stacked on street corners, then gradually blocking streets and keeping cars from parking. Eventually there were pairs of black-shirted policemen on every corner within twenty blocks in any direction from the Forbidden Zone around the hotels. Then two days before the arrival of the leaders, ten-foot-tall metal barricades were erected that connected together to form a solid metal wall around the hotel area, effectively creating a walled city of three square blocks with heavily guarded entrances. To pass through the gates on Monday morning before Bush arrived, a person had to show their ID and have a good reason to be there. After his arrival, it was impossible for most people to gain entry. Once inside this walled city, the empty streets were eerie. Businesses on the ground floors of the hotels were closed and other businesses, like taxi drivers who cater to the hotels, were also effectively shut down. Schools around the hotels and around the pueblo of Temozon were closed for several days as well. Traffic was re-routed around the [sic] Historico Centro to stay clear of the Forbidden Zone encircling the hotels. Most people we talked to were not too pleased to have their routines, their income and their studies interrupted for this circus of powerful potentates, a circus that their government paid handsomely to host. 

Frankly, we are left puzzled and confused by our President and by his visit to Merida. We know that Bush grew up in Texas, which has a long history of relations with Mexico. We know he and his family have many Mexican friends. We know he has a better grasp of the Spanish language and Mexican culture than most gringos, so ignorance cannot be what caused Bush to leave an impression that could only create the kind of resentment his tour was supposed to ameliorate. As U.S. expatriates living as guests in this country, we cannot help but feel that his visit reinforced old stereotypes and resentments toward the U.S. that may eventually – however unintentional, however impersonal – be directed toward us. Seeing what we’ve seen these past few days, we can hardly blame any Mexican for having those feelings. And so it seems to us that no one, not the U.S. nor Mexico nor the president himself was served by this visit.

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