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Spring break and Benito Juarez

22 March 2010

Jason Dormady nails  Spring Break:

Spoiled children of the middle class demand their thrill without having to deal with the cost – exactly the parable of the narcotics war. US Americans want their buzz, and Mexico pays the price via the violence.

Jason, of course, is a professor of Latin American studies, and has to deal with the excuses for undone term papers — and the misperceptions his students return with, but for me… with the annual invasion of the irresponsible gringos pretty much come and gone with no major disasters… I can be a little more relaxed about it.

Spring break doesn’t much affect me personally. The tourists I deal with are mostly geezers or people happy to sit on the beach and read books, not the sort likely to be throwing up on me, and I can honestly say no one has ever flashed their tits or mooned us in our place of business (we did have one old guy come in shirtless, which is kinda tacky, but that’s more an aesthetic criticism than anything).  Besides, I’m busy with finishing up some editing work for Ray’s book and when I did get out this week, it was to a book fair, so I really didn’t spend much time watching the spring breakers… something I kind of regret,  my neighbors finding their antics infinitely amusing or at least worthy of gossip.

As it is, this country, and the tourism industry (and everyone else) goes far out of their way to assure the safety of even the most clueless and obnoxious of tourists.  Mexico is not Jamaica where the tourists have to be kept isolated from the citizens (and vice-versa) and Mexicans are renowned for their ability to pretend to not hear (or understand) the rudeness, racism and rampant stupidity of many of our guests.

Besides, since it took me longer than most people to figure out that sexdrugsandrock-n-roll are three separate nouns and not an all-inclusive package word, I really can’t complain that foreign students come here looking for all kinds of thrills.  Besides, I’m a Juarezista at heart:  Peace is respect for the rights of others.

What I wonder about is what Don Benito (who would have been 204 yesterday) himself would have thought of “los springbreakers”.

He was, in the 19th century understand of the term, a “liberal” who was willing to tolerate weird foreign ways (within some reason) as the quid pro quo for economic investment by foreigners.   And, despite his rather austere image, he didn’t seem to have anything against people having a good time.  When the Church threatened to declare an anathema against his government for passing laws restricting the power of the Church, Juarez briefly considered an organized effort to bring in Protestant missionaries.  But thought better of it, since the Protestants were… well… frankly boring.  With no saints, and no fiestas in honor of saints, life could be pretty dull for your average 19th century camposino.

As the attempted lease of the Isthmus of Tehuanatepic to the United States demonstrates, he was quite willing to cede control of Mexican territory to the gringos for economic reasons, although the offer was made only under extreme duress (like Mexico was bankrupt and fending off the French occupation).

And… as Princess Alice Salm-Salm suggested… Juarez had an eye for pretty ladies, so might have welcomed the chance to openly ogle the foreigners.  After all, it wasn’t him, but Porfirio Diaz who wanted to make Mexico safe enough for a blond gringa to walk unmolested from El Paso to the Guatemalan border… in her undies.

And, having worked his way through law school as a waiter himself, Juarez might not want to deny his occupational descendants the chance to make a few extra pesos … although, like Juarez, they have to deal with more than their share of complete dickheads.   Allegedly, Juarez’ decision after the rout of the Mexican Army in the war of 1846-48 to forbid General Santa Ana’s entry into Oaxaca (where Juarez was Governor) went back to a long-term resentment against the “Napoleon of the West” for having said something about “stupid indians” at a dinner Juarez happened to be working.

On the other hand, maybe Santa Ana was just a lousy tipper.  I don’t know if there are any future Don Benitos waiting tables today who will have the future opportunity for such exquisite revenge, but you never know.

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