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Can we drop the word “machismo”?

21 April 2019

(a response to a query from a would-be migrant):

How is “machismo” different from plain old vanilla “sexism”? It is a racist term, as well, suggesting there is something particularly worse about Latin sexism compared to sexist behavior and attitudes among any other group of people.

I did some linguistic research, and — as far as I was able to discover — “machismo” wasn’t even a word in Spanish until about 1970, a “hispanicized” English word based on a misuse of the technical term used in bull-fighting and cattle breeding when referring to bulls: “machos”. Both Robert McAlmon and Ernest Hemingway, used “macho”not for the bull, but for the matador, and “machismo” for what they believed were the virtues of the bullfighter: an indifference to danger, masculine pride, athleticism, etc. Later writers, notably Normal Mailer, used it to “celebrate” masculine attitudes (or, in Mailer’s case, to justify his being a total asshole). The women’s movement here borrowed much of its rhetoric from English speaking women’s literature, and as far as I can tell, just won out over alternatives like “sexismo” or “chauvinsimo” for the same concept.

Shhhhhh! It happens…

21 April 2019

Outside a few of the geezer-oriented right wing nut sites (here’s looking at you, “Free Republic”), not much can be said about this, though of course geezers gotta geeze.

(CNN)Two US soldiers were questioned by Mexican troops earlier this month while conducting a surveillance operation on the US side of the southern border, two US defense officials tell CNN.

America’s first line of defense.

“On April 13, 2019, at approximately 2 p.m. CDT, five to six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers who were conducting border support operations in an unmarked (Customs and Border Protection) vehicle near the southwest border in the vicinity of Clint, Texas,” US Northern Command told CNN in a statement.

“The US soldiers were appropriately in US territory” during the encounter, the statement added.


The encounter took place south of the border fence in the area but north of the Rio Grande, the officials said.

However, the officials said the river in that area consists of brush-filled and dried-out riverbed, making it “very easy” for people to be confused as to what side of the border they are on.

I sure the fighting keyboard brigades will disagree, but it appears the U.S. has ceded the territory south of LA GRAN MURALLA™ to Mexico, as surely as Mexico ceded the land between the Rio Nueces and Rio Bravo del Norte to Texas when General Santa Anna withdrew below the Rio Bravo and the Texas called it the “Treaty [sic] of Velasco”.

And, are we sure that land below the wall in Clint IS in the United States? The border river changes, the original survey was done as inexpensively as possible and mistakes were made, and it really isn’t all that well marked.

Speaking of border incidents..

Still, I do enjoy (in a twisted way) reading the comments from people who are in no shape, condition, or have the least bit of familiarity with the area to say anything useful.  “Remember the Alamo”… besides being a bit of a cliché  really has nothing to do with United States history to begin with, and besides, it’s remembered as a battle won by the Mexicans.   “Where’s General Pershing when we need him?” shows a bit more insight, though the Pershingistas forget that the only battle during the Pershing Expedition ended with U.S. troops surrendering to the Mexican Army and Pershing being ordered by President Carranza to stop all movements South, East, or West of their present position, but to start moving the one direction that was left.

I’d ask where was Abe Lincoln, who famously lost his congressional seat in 1848 for continuing to ask exactly where, as President Polk had claimed to justify the invasion and occupation (and later annexation) of northern Mexico, “American blood was spilled on American soil”.

No blood was shed, it’s not all that clear this was US territory (though we’ll cede that point for now) and nothing really happened. So… that…. is ….. that.

Stupid politician tricks…

20 April 2019

When it comes to stupid politicians, something there is that loves a wall.  Although this one will never beat the one pulled by Raj Peter Bhakta … a Republican candidate for the 13th District U.S. House of Representatives seat in Eastern Pennsylvania who was running in 2006 on his “fame” as a a former star on the NBC show “The Apprentice,” (yeah, the show where some guy named Donald Trump would yell “You’re fired!” at people)… but it deserves an honorable mention.

Bhakta attempted to film a commercial with himself crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas on an elephant. Neither the elephant nor the border patrol was amused. 

Duncan Hunter, a Republican house member for the 50th California Congressional District, is apparently facing a serious challenge from his Democratic opponent.  Hunter, a ally of Donald Trump (Bhakta’s one time co-star?) has been running on an anti-immigration platform (and some other stupid ideas), so had the bright idea of having himself filmed crossing from Mexico into the United States.  One… teeny…. weeny… problem.  Hunter is out on bail, pending his trial on federal corruption charges, and — as a condition of his bail — cannot leave the confines of the continental United States.



Wrong foot forward

19 April 2019

An interesting thread on a facebook page for foreigners in Mexico City asked people what their biggest mistake was when they move to Mexico.  The original poster appears to be someone for whom English and Spanish are both acquired languages, and many of the responses dealt with personal problems (one woman posted that she should have checked out Mexican tax law before moving here, several people — whose names suggested they came from countries with a alphabet other than Roman lettering said they should have had documents translated and apostilled before coming here (though, for things like birth certificates, professional licenses and maybe diplomas, that’s not a bad idea, no matter what language other than Spanish they were originally in).  And, the #1 “mistake” mentioned was, unsurprisingly, not learning Spanish.

I agree, people SHOULD learn the language of the country to which they immigrate (ok… for most of them… “espatriate” themselves), but accept that it’s not always possible, especially for people from the US, where so many of us suffer from an otherwise excellent educational system, but are fortunate to have taken 2 years of French in high school.  And, while the query was in a Mexico City focused site (and Mexico City’s foreigners are less likely to be the stereotyped retiree looking for a cheap and sunny place) it’s understandable that older emigres are going to be less linguistically flexible.  And, of course, in every society people complain about immigrants not learning the majority language.

But even not being able to speak Spanish (let alone Nahuatl, or Otomí or one of the 30 Mayan languages, or any of the 60-odd national languages in Mexico), there are some common mistakes newcomers make… though I can’t speak for all foreigners, not even for all global northerners, people from the US, or even people raised in New York, long-time resident of Texas, and mid-life immigrant to Mexico,  I’m going to offer some “what we do wrong” observations anyway.

Lift up the brown man’s burden…

Yes, of course people WANT to move here, for all kinds of reasons.  Financial ones are nuts, in my opinion, and I can’t fault anyone for wanting to come here before they retire, but I see an assumption among some people that their particular job skill (or what they think is a job skill) will qualify them to work here, and that,,, being a “first worlder” …. Mexican employers are anxious to employ them. Sure, there are still those “Business English” schools that pay anyone live and breathing with an undergraduate degree to teach English… sort of (I did this for a few years, and whether I did more damage than good is something I wonder about).  Not that there aren’t openings for qualified ESL teachers or agronmists who speak Spanish, or geologists, but it’s not like Mexico doesn’t have nurses, and massage therapists and computer programmers and tax accounts and chefs and marketing placement specialists (whatever they are) and…

You get the idea.  Intentionally or otherwise, wannabe migrants too often suggest they deserve to be hired, because, well… they’re from the “advanced” world.  A little secret:  Mexican managers often have advanced degrees themselves (I had one student, looking just to polish her English, with both a law and accounting degree, and a masters’ in foreign policy to boot; another with a doctorate in psychology, who spoke German, Hebrew, Catalan, and Finnish… no idea why he learned Finnish):  people unlikely to be impressed with a bachelor of arts degree from East Texas Baptist Women’s College, or any prestigious university no one has ever heard of outside the English speaking world.

And, on the other hand, managers almost expect their foreign job seekers to try to pull the “white privilege card”, and are going to consider how well a prospect fits into the Mexican corporate structure.  Not to mention, outside of a few, mostly foreign owned and with a foreign clientele, companies, are employers likely to hire people without working papers.

Don’t, don’t you love me?

Yes, one generally does receive permission to stay in Mexico for 180 days, but not always.  And, that is no guarantee that a person will be able to stay after that time, or … if they’re a “border jumper”… that they’ll be able to return.  the immigration authorities are pretty relaxed about those “FMM” (Forma Migratoria Multiplé) and don’t normally care even if it has expired, but … given the uncertainty of the person’s status, is it at all strange that landlords are reluctant to sign a lease, or employers are willing to risk hiring people not legally permitted to work, or that banks don’t always accept them as customers?  Being a nice person is not enough, I’m afraid.  Having been an “illegal alien” for a time here myself (back before the FMM even existed), I can’t fault people for coming in without definite plans and just staying, or … not knowing that the FMM is not a visa or residency permit, just a generic entry card for everyone from tourists to asylum seekers to journalists covering a specific event, scientists meeting with colleagues, and business visitors, do try to establish themselves.  But, the experience can be frustrating, and the temptation to decide the Mexicans are anti-gringo, or just creating bureaucratic hurdles (unlike, say, those Mexicans moving to the United States face?) or assuming landladies just won’t rent to foreigners because they are bigots, is an easy first mistake to make.

My Mexican friend… 

Even those who come “the right way”… or more realistically, either have the bucks to get a residency permit based on their foreign income, or had arranged a job ahead of time, and went through the process of obtaining a working residency vista, or come as the spouse or dependent of a Mexican national… there’s the common mistake of assuming the one or two Mexicans you know are Mexico as a whole.  I saw this more when I lived in a beach town with a large “gringo ghetto” of retirees.  Perfectly nice people, but … their “Mexican friend” being either the neighbor who could also afford a condo in the same resort community, or the waiter who speaks  English (having been deported after 15 years in Los Angeles) or their cleaning woman.  One, or two, or three Mexicans does not a people make.  It’s not a crime, but it is something of a shame, when intelligent, interested people make their assumptions about a country based on limited information.

Just as it is when a foreigner moves to one location, and doesn’t at least venture out of their comfort (or slightly discomfortable, but tolerable) zone.  Oh, I know… I still see Mexico through the lens of “progressive” middle-class Mexico City… but I’ve been around, I watch the news, read the local media, talk to people.  I didn’t make the mistake (mostly by sheer luck) of not ending up in Condesa or Roma, unaware of anything outside my neighborhood, and my perception of the country that of a few square blocks of the metropolis.  I admit, I am bemused when I read queries looking for something like ingredients for Chinese cuisine … in Roma or nearby (Barrio Chino is only a short Metrobus ride away) or people excited to find some Canadian brand of coffee in a shop, or… complaints that U.S. Netflix programs aren’t available on their cable service here, and there’s nothing BAD about wanting Chinese herbs, or Canadian coffee or having a favorite TV show… just the mistake of missing out on what it’s like to live in a wildly multicultural and mixed-culture country.

And, of course, there two basic errors I hope no one here every makes:  not reading Mexican history, and not reading MexFiles!



Nôtre Dame

16 April 2019

Rocha in today’s La Jornada:



Conquest 2.0

14 April 2019

The German-born Emmanuel Leutze is responsible for much of our mythic imaginings of American history (his most famous work was “Washington Crossing the Delaware”), his 1848 “Storming of the Tecalli by Cortez and His Troops” very much one of “American history”… or at least as he saw it in his time. After all, the United States was still occupying Mexico City, and … for the United States troops, the massacre of 22 May 1520 resonated north of the border as the “conquest” of the “halls of Montezuma”.

Emanuel Leutze “Storming of the teocalli by Cortez and his troops” (1848) detail.

Border security… 1851

14 April 2019

Of all the odd things to be reading: Millard Fillmore’s Second Annual Message (what today is called the “State of the Union Address). An “accidental president”, as a Whig Member of Congress, he had been an early opponent of the Mexican-American War. As a compromise within his own party, he was the Vice.Presidential candidate in 1848, when the party’s Presidential candidate was the apolitical “hero” of that “unjust invasion by the North Americans”, Zachary Taylor (Taylor was also a southern, and Fillmore from western New York, adding geographical balance to the ticket). When Taylor died (apparently of food poisoning from something he ate at a 4th of July picnic) on July 9 1850, Fillmore became 13th president of the United States.

While remembered, if at all, as supposedly one of the worst U.S. presidents (his reputation never recovered from his refusal to veto the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850), and the one with the silliest name, he deserves some credit for being one of the few U.S. Presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and maybe Lyndon Johnson being the others) who genuinely wanted nothing more from Mexico than decent relations, and was anxious that Mexican citizens in the United States received equal protection under the law.

In that address of 2 December 1851, Fillmore mentions an executive order forbidding U.S: citizens to take part in military and paramilitary operations in Mexico… aimed squarely at the “filibusters” of the era, the adventurers who would cross the border (or, a few years later, invade Nicaragua) usually bent on annexing territory to the United States, or setting up their own small independent republics. He also directs the U.S. Army to protect Mexico from Indian raids, and to protect Mexican citizens in the then newly acquired U.S. territories on the same basis as they protected Americans.

The border itself was still being surveyed, and… while there had to be some kind of demarcation, it wasn’t something he was willing to spend too much money on.

The joint commission under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo has been actively engaged in running and marking the boundary line between the United States and Mexico. It was stated in the last annual report of the Secretary of the Interior that the initial point on the Pacific and the point of junction of the Gila with the Colorado River had been determined and the intervening line, about 150 miles in length, run and marked by temporary monuments. Since that time a monument of marble has been erected at the initial point, and permanent landmarks of iron have been placed at suitable distances along the line.
The initial point on the Rio Grande has also been fixed by the commissioners, at latitude 32 degrees 22′, and at the date of the last communication the survey of the line had been made thence westward about 150 miles to the neighborhood of the copper mines. The commission on our part was at first organized on a scale which experience proved to be unwieldy and attended with unnecessary expense. Orders have therefore been issued for the reduction of the number of persons employed within the smallest limits consistent with the safety of those engaged in the service and the prompt and efficient execution of their important duties.