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150 years ago today

18 June 2017

Will be back Friday

24 May 2017

I broke my leg last week, and have been in hospital.  Leaving tomorrow.  Although financial and other concerns someathing of an overwhelming issue, in talking about my own brush with Mexican medical care snd emergency services,  I’ll try to stick to the historical trands and the “big pictute” rather than dwell too much on what this might mean as far as my ability to keep publishing and writing.

Monsanto out for good? Maybe

14 May 2017

Via Regeneration, May 11, 2017.


In an ongoing case, the Mexican Supreme Court (SCJN) has refused to accept an amparo (injunction) from the lower courts which sought to allow Monsanto to market transgenic maize, initially halted in 2013.

In moving forward, a decision regarding the issue will be based on an earlier civil court decision in favor of four original plaintiffs who sought to prevent the Monsanto sales.  In that 2013 ruling, the court halted transgenic maize sales in Mexico as a precautionary measure.  However, in August 2015, another court overturned that decision on the grounds that there was no scientific evidence that trangenic maize was  the marketing of transgenic maize in Mexico as a precautionary measure; But by August 2015, a court overturned this measure on the grounds that there is no scientific evidence to support claims that the transgenic maize endangered the plaintiffs. 

Following an appeal by the plaintiffs, in something of a half-victory for Monsanto, Circuit court judge Benjamin Sota modified the originaln injunction to allow Monsanto to continue “pilot programs”, under authorization from the Federal government.  Seeking to expand beyond the pilot programs, Monsanto went to Supreme Court, where Soto’s compromise that allowed Monsanto to continue planting trangenic maize was rejected.

The only guide for how the Supreme Court is likely to rule is from a previous case relating to soya plantings.  However, the arguments in that case turned on consultations with affected indigenous communities rather than the scientific issues related to transgenic seeds and environmental impact.



1960s: Thomas Pynchon in Mexico

11 May 2017

The Thomas Trail:

The Thomas Trail: every contact leaves traces

1960s: Thomas Pynchon in Mexico



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Safe at home?

11 May 2017

Thanks to Fidel Rodriguez for this:

I’m thinking of moving back to where I’m from.

Before I moved to this small ciudad, I should’ve taken precautions and done some research because I had no idea that it was this bad.

Today, I decided to write this because I just want to give others an unbiased point of view from a local’s perspective.

So, I moved here the first time in 1999 and then again in 2009.

Since then:
My good friend’s father-in-law was killed because somebody broke in and murdered him as he slept in the living room. The murderer was never caught.

Just last year June 2016, at a large chain grocery store, a man took two hostages and was killed by la policia. Crazy thing is that this was just 7 minutes from my house and we shop there often. And for some perspective I live in the so called “good” part of town.

I also should have researched the city a little better because we are situated along a major autopista known for human and drug trafficking. Just last year la policia confiscated more than $90 million worth of money and drugs just last year 2016.

And I won’t mention another city’s name as to not deter others from moving there but there were 5 people killed there just last week. A 53 year old man, outside a shopping center, 56 and 54 year old couple shot in their apartment as well as a 28 year old mother and 2 year old daughter found dead in their home and all in the same week. And this ciudad is only a short drive away from where I live. WTF

This may sound naïve but if only I would have checked the FBI report I would have known that the small ciudad where I live ranks number 6 amongst the most dangerous cities to live in the state. And #2 and #1 are only a short two and four hour drive, respectively.

That being said, I feel totally safe. I leave my door unlocked when we go to dinner or to the store. My kids play outside and even walk home from school sometimes. My wife is out and about all day and never ever feels threatened, concerned or unsafe.

Here are the details:

-I live in Amarillo Texas.
-The large grocery chain store where the hostage and killing situation occurred is Walmart.
-The highway is I-40.
-The city where 5 people were murdered last week was Dallas.
-And the #1 and #2 cities with the highest crime rate in Texas are Odessa and Lubbock and are very close to where I live.

The reason I wrote this is because I’ve been researching crime statistics and safety in Mexico and it occurred to me that I’d never even checked those statistics in the city where I’ve lived off and on for 10+ years here in the U.S.

And even knowing all of this, I still don’t feel unsafe and it hasn’t changed anything the way I’m going to live my life. I then realized that personally I was putting way too much emphasis on cold hard statistics and although statistics are important they almost never show the entire picture.

Amigos, I ask you con todo el respeto del mundo to please don’t take offense to this post as it’s written with the intent to demonstrate how anything can be made out to look worse than it really is. I mean I didn’t even scratch the surface and didn’t even get into real details of the city where I currently live.

Someday, I do want to move back to where I am from because I am originally from Mexico but have lived in West Texas since 3 months old. Looking forward to learning more about Moving to Mexico and hope see you in Mexico someday amigos. Saludos!


Eat, drink, and I’ll be contrary

10 May 2017

42 percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line (defined as less than 5 US$ per day).  In the State of Yucatan, that percentage is 49%…. which  at least it’s less than half. So, what better place to find rich hippies and foodies from around the world flying in to spend 600 US$ (plus tax and gratuities) on a meal concocted and served by a team of Scandinavians?  Who then fly home again, feeling they’ve done something incredible.

Danish chef Rene Rezdepi … though Denmark has never been anyone’s idea of a Mecca for fine dining (Babette’s Feast excepted… and the Chef was French)… with a keen eye for the hipsters with too much money came up with the concept of “pop up restaurants”… ie., plonking down somewhere, serving overpriced food for a limited time only, then retreating back to the far north. In this instance, the “somewhere” is Tulum… best known for exploiting the local community and destroying the enviroment  in the name of tourism development, and “spiritual development”… you know, “self-esteem” through self-indulgence.

I’m sure the food is lovely… or so the foodie writers tell me.  I haven’t a clue.  I must admit food isn’t all that interesting a subject to me, and living in a country where food security is always an issue, what strikes me is variety of foods we find to eat… is based on what there is to eat. We don’t eat insects because it’s “exotic”, or because they have an unusual taste… we eat them because we have them, and they’re relatively nutritious.  And what’s not part of your daily routine is, I guess, “exotic” and merits shelling out some cash.  Though, about as exotic as we get is at Christmas, when we indulge in the exotic… semi-SCANDINAVIAN food… Bacalao:  Basque style codfish.  Or, other people do… I don’t particularly like it, and, from what I hear, people buy it more because its “tradition” to eat it at Christmas than out of any real enjoyment.

But one doesn’t have to travel very far to find bacaloa at Christmas… just about any fish market will have it, and enterprising neighbors will cook up a batch to sell.  Maybe a few hundred pesos a kilo, if that.  But Six hundred dollars (about 12,000 pesos, or 144 .5 salarios minimos.  Well, OK, it’s a 12 course meal.  In my local comida (and I’m in a pricier neighborhood of Mexico City than most), a three course meal runs 50 to 70 pesos.  So, for 12 courses, I might have to indulge in a bit of a moveable feast (like walking a block or maybe a block and a half during over the course of the dining experience) and plonking down around 320 pesos, including tax and gratuities).  Oh… the Danish guy’s “pop up” includes wine… so maybe another 50 to 100 pesos.  Lets get indulgent and call it $500 pesos altogether.  26 US$ … a week’s salario minimo, but within the budget of those of us with some disposable income.

Of course, we’re not going to have to travel for it.  Not really.  But, it’s worth it, according to the Danish diner director:

Redzepi has heard the criticism: Six hundred dollars is a lot to pay for a meal, especially a dinner that isn’t easy to reach. (My journey from Washington involved two planes, a ferry and a taxi each way.) “There’s a Protestant reaction to spending money on food” that doesn’t extend to indulgences including apartments, cars or clothes, he says, almost with a sigh. (Washington Post, 25 April 2017).

Okie-dokie, but apartments, cars, and clothes (most of which are bought to fit into an overall budget) last a bit longer than the digestive process. Certainly longer than the 144.5 days of labor it would take that 49 percent of Yucatecos to enjoy that single meal. Excluding transportation, taxes, and gratuities, of course.

Oh sure, it provides (temporary) jobs for a few Mexicans. Redzepi’s “Noma pop-up” also features “a view of the kitchen that captures the four local women whose sole job is making tortillas”: something you’ll also see in just about any “mom-n-pop” three (and sometime four) course meals for 50 pesos joint in the Republic. And, part of the proceeds go to “scholarships” for Mexican chefs… to learn, presumably from foreigners, how to make Mexican food.

And, OK… Denmark is a tiny country. Rezdepi’s claim of using “local” products isn’t quite true. Yeah, the coffee is from Mexico — Chiapas; the wine is too — from Baja California; and that “local” extends throughout the 194 million hectares that are Mexico. And beyond: one “signature” dish is “Rosio’s mole with dried scallops”. Rosio is from Chicago.

Yes, the whole thing is absurd (something even a few foodies noted), but it’s an obscenity in a country where malnutrition and the obesity caused by lack of access to decent local food are both major health problems, where wages are low and in an area already exploited and the people forced to give way for the self-indulgent foreigners. One might even entertain thoughts of the local Yucatecos, Mayans that they are, trying out some new variations on forgotten ancestral recipes: Roast hipster with a side of fried trust-fund baby anyone?


And, speaking of ridiculous alimentary indulgences…

I suppose it’s good news, for investors in Constellation Brands and Heineken (Anheuser-Busch and SAB Miller brands) but Mexico now exports more beer than Germany. Unlike Germany, Mexico has water shortages everywhere, especially in those desert towns close to the US border where most of this beer (made with grains either imported from the US, or grown in lieu of food crops).

“Three times is enemy action!”

27 April 2017

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action!”  Or so said one of the great all-time super-villains, Aurich Goldfinger.  While by no means is Andres Manuel López Obrador a saint, nor does he head a party of saints (they, are, after all, politicians), despite what has been written and said about him over the last several years, about the only thing he has in common with super-villains is having to put up with unimaginative attempts to discredit him and his movement.  This latest bribery scandal just goes to show that the third time isn’t a charm, it’s just… well, obvious.

I don’t expect you to talk, Mr. Lopez Obrador. I expect you to die!

Back in 2004, during AMLO’s tenure as head of the Mexico City government, videos surfaced showing René Bejarano, AMLO’s former personal secretary — and at the time, a member of the Federal District administration — receiving bags of cash ($45,000 US).  Weirdly enough, the videos were broadcast on a clown show… although, in a bit of honest political theater you don’t find often anywhere, the clown was Victor Trujillo, aka “Brozo the scary clown”, our version of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly, and his morning show a regular part of political discourse at the time.  And that particular morning, Bejarano was Brozo’s on-air guest.  The videos came from Frederico Dörring, a local conservative politician (PAN), and the bribes were traced back to Carlos Ahumada, a businessman and soccer team owner. Ahumada eventually fled to Cuba, but was extradited when Bejarano was fired, and sent to prison.  Ahumada, was also imprisoned, eventually fessing up that the who thing, was … as AMLO had been saying… a “plot”,  that traced back to Carlos Salinas, the “godfather” of the PRI.

Then, once again using Ahumada as the money source, Carlos Imaz, a founding member of the PRD (and husband of the Federal District’s Secretary for the Environment, and PRD stalwart, Claudia Sheinbaum) was “coincidentally” videotaped receiving $350,000 pesos.  This time, it turned out the money was earmarked not for AMLO, but for his more conservative rival for party leadership, Rosario Robles.  Although party founder, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas called upon both Imaz and Robles to resign from the party, Imaz hung tough, and it was Robles (who would go on to be part of the Peña Nieto cabinet as a PRI activist) who left.

As it is, AMLO and Imaz (along with Sheinbaum) eventually left the PRD… or the PRD left them… to form Morena, now the second or third largest party in the country, and seen by many as an alternative to the big money, dirty politics associated with people like Salinas’ PRI and Dörring‘s PAN.  And the increasing irrelevance of PRD, which drifted towards the center, and had a series of unrelated scandals of its won.

Ahumada, after his release from prison, of course wrote a book (or, was listed as the author of one) about his time as a video-auteur, but has, it seems, retired from that line of business.  Not so Carlos Salinas (at least according to AMLO).  Or, at least the PRI, for which AMLO and Morena has become an increasingly real threat, especially with fresh mega-scandals involving former PRI governors appearing weekly.  And, with PAN embroiled in both internal disputes and some juicy scandals involving money laundering (and only one of its former governors … so far… ending up in the slammer) and PRD’s leadership running around like headless chickens… the polling that shows AMLO as the probable winner of the presidency in 2018, as well as the surprising possibility of a Morena governor in the State of Mexico… it was time for a new, improved video-scandal to surface.

What better timing then when the PRI really needs to deflect attention from its own woes and when the Morena candidate has been hitting the PRI candidate in the State of Mexico than right now?  So, after weeks of announcing the coming attraction of “proof” that AMLO was just as corrupt as his opponents,  by Enrique Ochoa Reza (the PRI party chair!), we finally got to see the season III of the “sorta bribing of AMLO”… starring a former local PAN politician running as a Morena candidate for a municipal presidency in Veracruz State named Eva Cadena as the bribee, and …. a mystery woman to be revealed later… as the briber.  With much slicker production values (including scary theme music!).

AMLO, in response to the “coming attractions” speeches by Ochoa, had said he’d resign if there was proof he’d taken a bribe.  Alas, no one can show Cadena had any intention of passing the money on to AMLO, nor that he had any knowledge of the funds.  Cadena has withdrawn from her own race, and claims the video is doctored… and that she was duped by taking a cash donations which she later returned.   She also claims her acquaintance with AMLO is slight… that of a local politician appearing at a campaign event with the popular national leader.

Naturally, as soon as the “Enemy Action III” debuted, “shocked, shocked and appalled!” PRI politicans… joined by PAN… began calling for an investigation of Morena’s funding.  Which, to the surprise of the two main parties, was enthusiastically applauded by… MORENA.

Although not know as a film critic, AMLO saw the plot line as … well, one he’d seen before.  A plot… the only update in the series being a new surprise villain, Veracruz’ former governor, Javier Duarte, and his successor, Miguel Ángel Yunes.  That Duarte was legendary for his corruption and has become the star attraction in PRI stable of corrupt governors makes him all too predictable as the surprise baddy.  And, AMLO’s probably right.