Skip to content

Hic! transit vita

23 January 2023

Today’s the anniversary of the 1916 demise of Victorian Huerta… President, by the grace of US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson.. of Mexico from February 1913 — in what would in later US policy be descibed as a “Constitutional coup” (President Madero was forced at gunpoint to resign, Vice-President Pino Suarez had already been murdered, and third in succession, Justice Minister Pedro Lascurain has gone down in history as having one of the shortest administrations in all history… never reminding whether the forms appointing Heerta as next in line… as Minister of War… or his resignation letter, or is swearing in came first during his 45 minute presidency).

Huerta hadn’t been the US Ambassador’s first choice (he prefered former Mexico City police chief, and Con Porfirio’s nephew, Felix Diaz), but anybody who might stop the threat to increase the modest extraction taxes on Mexico oil would do. Alas, for Wilson, Huerta was as much a drunk as he was. Even more so.

NEVER LET A DISASTER GO TO WASTE. While Huerta was universsally despised, desperately clinging to guns (i.e., foreign weapons imports) and religion (as of the “kill them all, let the Lord sort em out” was of dealing with dissent), there was one important faction that found a use for a drunken president. Get him looped, toss some a decree or two in front of him, and say “sign here… have another drink”. .

Or, so one imagines. He did decree a paid day off a week and set the work week at 46 hours — highly progressive at the time, and unheard of north of the border.

Of course, with a new Administration and a shift in US policy towards Germany… with President Woodrow Wilson (no relation to Henry Lane Wilson) pushing for “stability” in Mexico and with the support of teetotaling, “born again” Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan in full support, Huerta was undone by the US “intervention” in Veracruz.

He fled first to Spain, then with German support, moved to the United States (living in suburban Long Island) plotting a return to Mexico. The Germans really didn’t care one way or the other, they just wanted instability in Mexico to keep the US busy during their imperialist squabble with Britain and France (aka “World War I”). . Two years out of power, after meeting with German agents in New York (spied on by Czech dissidents, British intelligence and the US Treasury and War Departments), he set off for the Mexican border, reaching El Paso before he was “detained” for violating the US Neutrality Act.

Never actually tried, he was kept under house arrest at Fort Bliss, drinking his days away while cirrosis did the Mexicans a favor and finished him off.

He’s buried in Evergreen Cemetery… the only Mexican president buried in the United States.

MLK, from our side of the border

16 January 2023

David Brooks, in today’s Jornada:

This Monday is a holiday in the United States honoring the prophet, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr,, who warned that “we have to carry out a radical revolution of values. We have to quickly start the shift from a thing-oriented society to a people-oriented society. When machines and computers, the motive of profit and property rights, are considered more important than people, the gigantic triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism cannot be conquered…”

In his great speech, “Beyond Vietnam” (April 1967), he stated that it was impossible for him to repeat his message of non-violence in his country “without first having spoken clearly about the greatest purveyor of violence in the world… my own government.” He rebuked the American arrogance in which “we feel we have everything to teach other nations and nothing to learn from them… We often feel arrogantly that we have a divine, messianic mission to police the whole world… We are arrogant in pretending to be concerned about freedom in other nations without first putting our own house in order.” He warned that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on social betterment programs is approaching spiritual death.”

In this and other speeches in the last two years of his life, King repeated that “the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all linked. They are the interrelated triple evil.” Today, the United States has just passed a military budget of $858 billion, and by far the largest military spending of any country in the world (approximately 40 percent of global military spending), more than the next nine countries in the world. higher military spending combined.

Mad scientists in the Baja!

15 January 2023

We’ve seen hair-brained ideas in the Baja before… from William Walker’s “Republic of Sonora”… which quickly devolved into the “Republic of a couple square blocks of La Paz before Walker was sent packing in 1854 (rather than, as would have saved everyone a lot of trouble… putting him up against a wall and shooting him) to Ervil Le Baron … from a “heretical” Mormon sect …..lanching a “holy war” against his brother’s “heritical” heretical Mormon sect) back in the 1970s, to quack medical clinics to Libertarians… but mad scientists?

Seems so. No one seriusly doubts the planet is getting warmer… and there is pretty much consesus on the causation, though a few oddball sceptics out there have an “alternative solution” to the problem. Rather than lowering atmosphereic carbon which traps heat on earth, the “geoengineers” propose lowering the earth’s temperature by decrasing the amount of energy reaching the earth… i.e., blocking out sunlight.

Somehow, Harvard University (the real one, in Cambridge, MA) along with a well.known “venture capital” broup, Pironeer Fund.. underwrote experiencts by some group calling itself ETC (which promises to sell not “carbon offsets”…a semi-scam all by itself), but what they call “climate offsets” — something I don’t think any government considers a tax deductins at this point) wotj attempts to “diffuse” the sunight, by bombarding the admisphere with sulfer dioxide chrystals.

HUH? Wasn’t that the stuff that was causing acid rain? And… given the desert climate of the Baja, who in their right mind would want to poison what water there is? Not to mention the effects on crops and other living beings. Or how much sunlight you can really block out by launding high altatude balloons to scatter sulfer dioxide aross the skies of the Baja.

The State and Federal governments both claim they knew nothing about the probject, nor were their any permits issued to ETC to try this. Forget it, it’s the Baja.

(Jornada)

Brasilia boog-a-loo

8 January 2023

What is Putin up to? At least some commentor in a US site seems to think that Putin is the one pushing the Bolsonarista crazies to try occuping state buildings. I get that Putin, being Public Enemy #1 right now supposedly has evil super-powers, but that makes absolutely no sense. If anyone is unhappy with the new regime in Brasilia, look northward:

What Worries The US Most About Lula

(copyright 2022, Brasilwire.com)

Pundits have interpreted the Biden administration’s words on the Brazilian election as a demonstration that it was rooting for Lula over his opponent, known as “Tropical Trump.” This reasoning is at best misleading, if not completely faulty.

…what the U.S. is worried about are concrete actions he may take as president that would challenge U.S. hegemony. The threat stems largely from the bloc of five powerful nations that form BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Washington views BRICS’ expansion as a threat, exacerbated by Russia’s and China’s membership in the organization. In the closing weeks of Brazil’s presidential campaign, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), wrote:

“With the BRICS … set to expand to include Argentina, Iran, and possibly Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, Russia may acquire even more partners, ones that together represent a significant percentage of global GDP and a large percentage of the world’s population.”

Washington can’t be at all pleased by Lula’s position on the Ukrainian conflict. Lula has insisted that BRICS play a role in the search for a negotiated solution and is committed to attempting to broker a peace deal.   In the words of Telesur, Lula said “peace could be reached at a bar table, which caused uneasiness in the diplomatic representation of Ukraine in Brazil.”

But it’s not only the fear that Lula is closer to Russia and China than he is to Washington (which he is) that keeps U.S. policymakers up at night. Unlike Washington, Lula has acknowledged the legitimacy of Venezuelan democracy and, according to journalist Ben Norton, told local media that U.S.-recognized president Juan Guaidó is a “warmongering criminal who should be in prison.”

Entire article (which I can kick myself for missing until now) here: https://consortiumnews.com/2022/11/03/what-worries-the-us-most-about-lula/

The wild west… mayhem after arrest of Ovido Guzmán

7 January 2023

One needs to ask whether something else wasn’t at work in bringing down onlly-relatively-important narco Ovidio Guzmán. Coming as it did the weekend before US President Joe Biden (always a fanboy of military solutions … in other countries… to his own country’s “drug problem”) . As it was, the Sinaloa Cartel… whose leader, Ovido’s dad, Juaquín (aka, “Chapo”) was briefy the US’s favorite evil mastermind, following the death of the previous title-holder, Osama Bin Laden, and a position now held by Vladimir Putin. Apparently, Chapo could do about anything (evil) though Ovidio is — at most — a minor figure in what was once the favored cartel of previous Mexican administrations.

The latter bit of snark (the “favored cartel” bit) seemed obvious (at least to Mexfiles during its time in Mazatlan) but as long as it appeared the Mexican administration was “doing something” about narcotics exports, the US government (and Biden, even when he was merely a Senator in the opposition party) was more than happy to finance, as long as it meant the “right people” (ie., the neo-liberal Caldeón and Peña Nieto adminstrations) kept the lefties at bay. Never mind the bloodshed, the disappearces, the extrajudicial killings, the economic lossses to agriculture and tourism… it boosted funding for “security” (for the increasingly corrupt governments) and played well with the US public… and — as a bonus — put the onus for undesirable consumer habits in the United States — on Mexico.

Of course, with the need to appear to be “doing something”, but understanding very well that the “industry” was immensely profitable and US consumers were not about to eschew the product, to leave at least one “cartel” in operation… more or less consolidate the (well, not means of production), but the means of distribution. And, Chapo at least was punctillious in paying his bribes.

Becoming perhaps a tad too obvious, and with the US media focused on Chapo and the “drug war” making it more and more difficult for the Mexicans to conduct other lucrative businesses in the United States — not to mention Chapo slowing down, and the inevitable infighting you find in any major business operation — he was disposable. But the name still resolates… at least with old pols like Biden. Thus, the trophy arrest of Ovidio, just in time for the Biden-Trudeau-AMLO sit-down this week.

Not that it much matters as far as the narcotics trade goes, although Ovido’s scalp gives AMLO more leverage when arguing that Mexico is “doing its part” to resolve what is, at it’s base, a US and Canadian user problem.

But WHAT THE HELL! AMLO’s “abrazos no balazos” (badly translated in US media as “hugs not bullets”) approach to lawlessness was derided after the aborted attempt to arrest Ovidio the first time ended in a fire-fight that was about to spill over into a miltiary housing complex … just as schools were letting out for the day… and was wisely called off, although both in the foreign and domestic media, it was seen as a sign of weakness in the new administration, and AMLO derided as a utopian dreamer, not ready for prime time.

However, the foreign media (and much of the national media) paid no attention to the crackdown on the criminal enterprises that more affect Mexicans than foreigners… the gasoline and timber thefts, rampant corruption, tax evasion, the wholesale 8″legal”) looting of natural resources. As it is, the domestic market for narcotics is not all that large, and as an export crop, marijuana isn’t all that profitable any more (although the opium derivatives sector is holding strong), and the exporters are having to adjust to foreign consumer demands.

All of which makes me wonder what led to this particular outbreak of mayhem over Ovidio’s arrest. Either he is more powerful within the gangster fraternity than we imagine, or… coupled with the dramatic prison break in Juarez… gangsters in general have — independently, or collegially — realize they have lost the “ally” in state tolerance, and are mounting a desperate counter-offensive, hoping that it will force the state to back off, or come to some sort of truce.

But, it’s silly to think there’s some Moriarity type running “Gangster Inc.” out there…a super-capo that if he (or she) is “taken out” the whole industry will collapse. Gansters tend to be “libertarian” Capitalists, whose mantra is “greed is good”. Even if, as some would like to believe, there is some “key figure” in the various gangs, all that happens when the head is out of the picture is the rest of them fight over the scraps… as Laura Carlsen tells Deutche-Welle’s English news service.

Gentrification is too much with us, late and soon…

4 January 2023

From Alex González Ormerod in the on-line newsletter “The Rest of the World” (latam@restoftheworld.org)

Why we can’t look away from Mexico City’s gentrification

Happy 2023! Or is it still 2022? You can’t tell going by the incessant, and near identical, reporting about the gentrification of Mexico City by digital nomads. You might even remember reading my own thoughts in this newsletter about whether tech was a force for gentrification in Latin America — 11 months ago!

Only a few articles have actually moved the story forward, so why are we still talking about this? On the face of it, the gentrification of Mexico City feels like a story that has repeated across many moments in history: class conflict, migration, displacement. And yes, it is fundamentally about those things. More recently, though, I’ve been thinking that this story also reflects something very specific about the time and place we are living in right now.

Digital nomads are not your typical migrants (or even expats, if you can stomach the term). They are a specific product of the Covid-19 era — often employed and facilitated by tech, untethered by and unmarried to geography. They are a prime example of the consolidation of the new global economy, and the negative externalities it has dragged along.

Take these three issues Mexico City is facing that have come hand in hand with this tech-enabled kind of gentrification:

  1. Digital nomads are being accused of community displacement while still depending on the displaced. You can see it on every corner of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods: armies of last-mile delivery workers recruited to service digital nomads with the disposable income to order out for every meal. These gig workers depend on generously tipping foreigners but cannot afford to live in the gentrified parts of town that their customers have filled out. 
  2. Startups catering to foreigners have become culture vultures. As many neighborhoods have become increasingly populated by Airbnb and other home rental platforms, properties must now appear “authentically Mexican” but may have been gutted of the most genuinely local element of them all: genuine locals.
  3. Social media highlights gentrification in all its glory and infamy. Migrants have always changed neighborhoods, but never before has this phenomenon been so easy to see (and call out) than in the age of digital oversharing. There is now a whole subgenre of Twitter in which foreigners will post their impressions of the city, only to get harangued for their ignorance. Internet culture has made their cultural dislocation all the more evident — and so much more cringe.

Margarita Maza (29 marzo 1826 – 2 enero 1871)

2 January 2023

A rough, dranatic (and relatively short) life is hardly would you would have expected for the pampered daughter of a wealthy Oaxacan hacienda owner in the early 19th century. Señor Maza certainly didn’t expect, when he hired a zapoteca servant, Josefa Juárez García.

Josefa’s parents having died, and her uncle who’d taken in her youngest brother, had been teaching the boy Spanish, and recognized what little education he or his community could offer was limited. Packing 12 year old Benito off to his sister in the “big city” of Oaxaca would open some other opportunities than his limited prospects as a shepherd and “go-fer”. For a few years, Benito lived with his sister, running errands for the Mazas (and…. according to legend, once serving as a waiter when General Santa Ana came to dinner), eventually finding a job with a book-binder… who, a religious man… though Benito might have a good future (and a secure one) as a priest.

Meanwhile, Josefa had been promoted… from maid of all work, to nanny for the Maza’s newest baby, Margarita. Benito was never really cut out for the priesthood.. he liked girls — more than a priest really should — for starters. He studied law, practiced mostly bankrupty law and defending poor clients, taught in the law school and went into politics. Along the way, he managed to father at least one child. But, having gone from peasant shepherd to up and coming poolitician… and behind every successful man (and all that), he was looking for a wife.

That he was an “Indian” … albeit one that had managed to claw his way into the upper middle class… there was something unusual in marrying his one time boss’ daughter.. including that he was 37 and she was 17. Then again, this was 19th century Mexico.

Despite the age and cultural differences, the marriage worked. Margarita would have five children of ther own, as well as raising one of Benito’s “natural” daughters as her own… while Benito was busy trying to overthow Santa Ana, serving as governor of Oaxaca during the US “intervention” (and doubling the number of schools in the state despite the on-going warfare). She had to move the kids and herself several times during their various exiles, including to New York during the French invasion… where she came into her own as a politican in her own right… an unofficial, but recognized representative of the Mexcian Republic. Officially, through the Republic’s Washington Ambassador, Matias Romero, and unofficially through correspondence with Secretary of State Seward, General Grant, preparing and sending pro-Republican propaganda to the American press (a sort of “influencer” of her time), while keeping her husband’s government apprised of US policy and public sentiment during the American Civil War. All while on a miserable income that meant less than ideal housing, and the death of two of the children during a particularly cold New York winter.

Still, she charmed the American public, as a “good will ambassador” and… in a bold diplomatic move, traveled to Washington to publically make a condolence call on Mary Lincoln following Abe’s assassination. Seward made certain the press was informed of the visit, and that the Empress Carlota’s letter of condolence was returned unopened.

All while also having to outwit Santa Ana.. living in slightly more posh digs out on Staten Island… who in one of his more hare-brained schemes, planned to kidnap her and the children… the ransom to be used to help finance a coup against the Republic. Under the protection of the US Army, she, the children and the embalmed remains of the two who had died, were taken by train to St. Louis, down the Mississippi to New Orleans by steamboat, put on a Coast Guard cutter and sent to Veracruz in the waning days of the “Empire”. She was greeting as a national heroine, making her way to Mexico City while the rump of the Imperial Army was beating a hasty retreat to Queretaro. Finally reaching Mexico City in July 1867 (Maxmillian had only be executed a couple weeks earlier, effectively putting the kibosh on the whole idea of monarchy), would hardly be the end of the difficulties, nor did it mean she could just settle into a quiet life of a 19th century wife and mother.

Juarez was campaigning for a second term, and despite women not having the vote, she could take some part in that… pushing “Republican austerity” (shades of Lopez Obrador), stripping the national palace of its monarchal pretentiousness, although in high Victorian style, charming the visiting pols and foreign ambassadors, while pushing, always pushing, Benito to pay more attention to public education, was a more than full-time job.

If Juarez’ re-election would mean she could finally relax, there were the occasioal coup attempts to keep them up at night… and her health was mysteriously declining. But 1870, it was clear something was terribly wrong. Although undiagnosed, it was probably some form of cancer, passing away the 2nd of January in 1871, and although the funeral … as was the custom in those days… was a family affair, thousands lied the streets to Panteon San Fernando… where Benito would also be buried (with great pomp and ceremony) a year later.

Naughty and nice

27 December 2022

If there was anyone arbitaring who was bad or good… be good for goodness sake when Pancho Villa came a calling. This photo, with presumably one of his many biological or adopted children taken at his “retirement” hacienda in Canatulla, Durango at Christmas time, 1922.

Daily baths… how disgusting!

24 December 2022

Despite the title, and overlooking the narrator’s butchery of Nahuatl words… a nice overview of Aztec hygine… probably the best in the world at the time, or at least something unknown to those “barbaric” Europeans:

Qué pasó, presidente Biden?

23 December 2022

For some reason, although the topic was Mexico’s strained relationship with the defacto government of Peru, The lightening visit of Ukrainian President Zelensky to Washgton came up. In a veiled slap at US imperialism … as demonstrated by it’s hasty support for the (ummm) “irregular govenmental reorganization” in Peru (former CIA offical and US Ambassador Lisda Kenna, tweeting out warm support for “stabilization” (i.e., shooting peasants, and declaring a state of seige) … AND the arrogance of imperial powers, riffed on that annoying faux-pas people from the US are all too prone to commit.

Yesterday the president of Ukraine arrived and “my president” – and I really love the guy– of the United States, who also constantly tells me that we must have a relationship on an equal footing, on is Twitter feed says to the President of Ukraine: ‘Welcome to America.”

What happened [more in the sense of WTF?] President Biden? With all due respect, America is all of us. It’s common in Europe and other places that when people talk of “America” then mean the United States, but America is Peru, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico… And I’m not saying that a [foreign] president shouldn’t be welcomed, what I don’t like is the asumption behind this. Welcome to where [or by whom] in America? Let’s start now to change that. We need to keep moving forward – as the old song says, “custom is stronger than love” — has been around now for two centuries, the Monroe Doctrine, and the idea that America for the “Americans”.

I doubt it even occured to Biden (or to most “USAnians”) that there was anything at all controversial about the US President’s tweet. But AMLO is making two important points. First, that the United States (ok, and Canada) are not only NOT all America, but are alone in this hemisphere in their obsession the Ukrainian situation, but more importantly, by his unwitting assumption that the US represents “America” (all 35 independent nations?) and can set the agenda and policy of the other 34, the United States is “losing” it’s hemispheric dominance, or relevance, at a time when it both trying to counter the influence of other powers (like China, Russia, the EU) when it could be strengthening mutually beneficial economic and social ties, while at the same time accepting that those 34 other American nations have their own political positions and might see affairs in their own hemisphere (like in Peru) as more their concern than those half-way around the planet.

Quetzecóatl is comin’ to town

22 December 2022
tags:

It’s like finding a grain of gold in a pile of shit, but there is one… and exactly one… thing D.H. Lawrence got right (athough only very, very slightly) in his 1925 novel, “The Plumed Serpent”… and that by accident, having only a slight echo in an official Christmas celebration held on the Zocalco in Mexico City in 1930.

In Lawrence’s novel, the extended musings on the “savage” bloodlines of the “primitive” Indians, and the “tamed” and decadent bloodlines of “white” people, is at the heart of the absurd fantasy of a revived Quetzcóatl religion taking over a town .. of all places on Lake Chapala in what was ground-zero for the then growing “Cristero” movement… a reactionary Catholic movement that might have… if not for the Catholic bit… have perfectly fit into the world-view of a proto-Nazi like Lawrence (who had the good sense to die in 1930 before Fascism had moved much beyond economics … not his bag… into something more in his line of inquiry… racial supremacism).

That said, what Lawrence had (sorta) right was noticing the nationalist concerns of the Mexican state (represened by the “Indian” general) which… especially during the 1920s did increasingly attemt to harass and lessen the influence of the Catholic Church (considered a foreign institution), and leading up to a full-fledged counter-revolution centered in Jalisco (where, remember, Lawrence has set his story) and even today is a center of reactionary Catholicism. At the same time, or in the aftermath of the 1926-28 Cristero War, state policy was to de-emphasize the religious aspects of national holidays, while at the same time, reject the pernicious influence of the dreaded gringos and their emphasis on consumerism and capitalism.

And… in what’s perhaps the first attempt at a stike against “Coca-colonialism” the popular image of Saint Nicholas, who had been beating the Three Wise Men in gifting good boys and girls by a goodly 12 days, as reintrepeted by the purveyors of “aguas negras de los imperialistas” (“imperialist sewage”…i.e. Coca-Cola) as the jolly old fat man in the red suit, that had been flooding Mexico at the time… President Ortez Rubio — not wanting to stir up the simmering reactionary Catholics (who’d tried to assassinate him at his inaguartion and shot him in the face) — turned his attention to that other foreign institution… Santa Claus.

And, so.. having probably never read, nor heard of Lawrence (who had died the previous March) … did, in a very small way, “restore Quetzcóatl” (or even, as in the novel, Huitzilopochtli, who is not the Plumed Serpent, that being Quezecóatl), and certainly not as a fusion with a “white goddess). Ortiz Rubio sought a benign gift giver for December, one who would be neither overtly Christian, nor a product of foreign marketing agents.

Ergo: the eminently flexible god of, well whatever you want: Quetzcóatl. Who did distribute gifts to good boys and girls (at least those whose parents were good party faithfuls) at Christmas in 1930. The kids may have liked their presents, but even with the hard work of the Education Ministry to redesign a benign looking Quetzcóatl, he never really caught on, and the idea was quietly shelved by Christmas 1931.



Happy Hanukkah… Mexican style

22 December 2022

Cantor Moishe Mendelson:

%d bloggers like this: