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Alpine, Oaxaca, the border and the Un-battle of Bagdad

21 July 2007


Thanks to those who’ve responded so far, I have SOME financial breathing room, I’m not out of the swamp yet. Keeping my phone service connected is still a worry, as are the long-term financing.

In a perfect world, there’d be enough coming in to finance the Mex Files for a year, and I could be low key about asking for funds. Time I spend on free-lancing for local papers (well spent, but not well paid) and… it looks like driving for the railroad (a van, not a train!) … is time away from the Mex Files.

The immediate needs are down to a little over $400. The yearly need is about $12,000. Among 400 regulars, that’s only $30 each… even if you only use the Mex Files once a week, that’s less than 0.60 a week.

Again, donations can be made via paypal, or, you can write me at “richmx2-AT/Arroba-excite-dot/punte-com” for a mailing address or other information.


Excellent “on the ground” comments on the July 16 Oaxaca “riot” (or maybe police attack is more accurate) come from Eunice Goetz, who comments in my 18 July post, “Must the Show Go On in Oaxaca?” . Her information, and that of other local witnesses and commentators, makes “The Laughing Nomad” an essential information source for anyone concerned about Oaxaca.

The border

The “Hands Across el Rio” project, sponsored by Border Ambassadors, has a schedule out for those of us in South Texas/northern Mexico who object to the federal imposition of a wall which will negatively impact our economic, social, environmental, agricultural and recreational infrastructure. In other words, the “stakeholders” (a word the bureaucrats love these days) are everyone.

Turn out if you can, or bring your canoe, rowboat, kayak, inner tube…

26 August (Sunday) El Paso/Juarez 1 P.M.

28 August (Tuesday) Presidio/Ojinaga 6 P.M.

31 August (Friday) Del Rio/Cd. Acuña 6 P.M.

1 September (Saturday) Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras 1 P.M.

2 September (Sunday) Laredo/Nuevo Laredo 1 P.M.

3 September (Monday) Roma/Miguel Alemán 6 P.M.

5 September (Wednesday) Rio Grande City/Camargo 6 P.M.

6 September (Thursday) Los Ebanos/Diaz Ordaz 6 P.M.

7 September (Friday) McAllen/Hidalgo/Reynosa 6 P.M.

8 September (Saturday) Brownsville/Matamoros 1 P.M.

9 September (Sunday) Boca Chica/Bagdad 3 P.M.

The UnBattle of Bagdad

For those of you wondering, yup, Bagdad is at the mouth of the Rio. It had its 15 seconds of fame when the OTHER Bagdad was invaded. But the OTHER Bagdad wasn’t the first one gringos invaded, though that invasion was more or less a friendly operation.

At the end of the U.S. Civil War, when Mexico was fighting off the French occupation, the vehemently pro-Juarez Ulysses S. Grant used the excuse of “terrorists” operating in South Texas to funnel federal troops into the region, basically to cover his tracks while he passed Confederate arms and U.S. Army supplies to General Mariano Escobedo.

Recently freed slaves, who had joined the U.S. Army and put into a labor battalion were unloading weapons at Bagdad when they ran into a Austrian “volunteers” serving Maxmiliano,commanded by Count Erst Pitner. A short fire-fight ensued, and the Austrians surrendered.Not quite sure what to do with their prisoners, the U.S. soldiers marched them into Brownsville, and deposited them in a second-rate hotel (the only kind available then… Matamoros was the nice side of the border, and Brownsville the sleazy border town).

Count Pitner, a born snob (hey, he was a count, after all), whined not only about the indignity of being captured by what he considered his inferiors, but also about having to pay for laundry service (he ran out of clean underwear).

Count Pitner’s sent whiny letters back to his mommy in Vienna, who complained about the harsh treatment of her baby boy to Emperor Franz Josef, who called in the U.S. Ambassador who decided… Austria and the U.S. were not at war, so the whole thing was a terrible misunderstanding. The Count, and his men were lost tourists, needing to be escorted back to Mexico. They were.

Ernst got back just in time to get captured with Emperor Max at Queretaro, spend time under a death sentence and then get himself expelled from Mexico. He became a minor Austrian diplomat, and complained incessantly about laundry service wherever he was stationed.

His distant descendant, British diplomat Gordon Etherington-Smith (who, having served in Vietnam, was especially interested in diplomats serving in losing imperalist causes) translated Pitners’s diary and letters, publishing them as Maximillian’s Lieutenant: A Personal History of the Mexican Campaign, 1864-7. (University of New Mexico Press, 1993).

The U.S. Congress passed a law to prevent passing off weapons to even friendly foreign powers without congressional approval, which has been more or less U.S. policy ever since. In 1987, Ulysses S. Grant’s generous assistance to Juarez came back to haunt the Reagan Administration during the Iran-Contra Affair.

Bagdad itself is nearly gone as a community, but folks in Tamaulipas welcome visitors… just not armed ones.

One Comment leave one →


  1. juarez mexico

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