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Be it ever so humble Sunday readings: 21 September 2008

21 September 2008


Lydia Crafts (Texas Observer) writes on David Redmond’s documentaty on the struggles of a Reynosa couple, Cecy and Camilo, to build the dream shack in the border city:

Cecy and Camilo showed the filmmakers a different side of Reynosa emotionally distant from the factories and seemingly oppressive poverty.

Both 21 at the time, the couple welcomed Redmon and Sabin into their home and allowed them to begin recording their lives.

Cecy and Camilo were from Santa Maria, Puebla, in the far south of Mexico, but had migrated to Reynosa to work in the maquiladoras. Too poor to afford a decent home in the more expensive north, they left their infant daughter Loida in the care of their families.

Intimidad picks up the story as Cecy and Camilo pursue their modest dream of purchasing land and building a house outside the city, away from the flooded streets and pollution, where they can feel comfortable bringing Loida to live with them. The problem is that they make barely enough money to survive.

Both work in maquiladoras. Cecy sews bras for Victoria’s Secret, a unit of U.S.-based Limited Brands Inc. She says she gets 18 cents per bra. Camilo assembles fire hydrants for Johnson Controls Inc., another U.S. corporation.

Clean living

Maggie Drake writes on the havoc being created by unjustified complaints about sewage treatment in Tijuana by the U.S. environmental group “Wildcoast” which seems to think Tijuana is THEIR town.

The point is, this type of bombastic eco-warriorism serves no purpose other than to inflame hostility on both sides of the border: the Mexicans resent it and become alienated, it makes them feel sub-human and unaccomplished with no dignity, the Minutemen and those of anti-Mexican sentiment run with it and use unbalanced information as propaganda foder, and the not well informed public immediately draw conclusions and perceive Mexico as doing nothing at all and having no agencies at all which address environmental problems, and that is unfair. Of course, in a developing country, one should never expect everything to work the same as it does in a developed country, that’s just common sense. In addition, this type of blame laying and fingerpointing is quite colonial in nature, and it just does not wash with the Mexicans, they don’t like it, who would? The Mexicans are keenly aware there is an huge problem with lack of infrastructure here, but don’t count on this gringo environmental group to let you in on the Mexican struggle to create plans or even their acomplishments so far to deal with it. Unfortunately, none of us will be able to escape the development in Baja, that is a fact.

As a twofer, she adds Sylvia Tierstein’s “It’s A Second-Hand Town” form the University of California San Diego alumni magazine which writes about some residents of that Mexican city balancing their own needs with the environomental realities of the region

Life’s not bad for Sergio Arreola Armenta – as long as the sun in shining. Four years ago he moved to Colonia de San Bernardo, in Tijuana’s Los Laureles Canyon. He owns his home, a 750 square-foot structure he built himself, and he owns his liveihood, a small construction materials store that extends credit to local residents. But when it rains in Tijuana, life stops in San Bernardo, a hillside neighborhood with no paved streets, no sewer, no storm drainage system and no external lighting.

Some 80,000 people – many of them squatters – live in Los Laureles, or Goat Canyon as it is known in the United States. “It’s a secondhand town. Everything has been used by somebody else before,” says Oscar Romo, a UC San Diego lecturer on urban studies and planning and the Coastal Training Program coordinator at the 2500-acre Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR) in Imperial Beach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administers the coastal Training Program.

When torrential rains come – as they did in the winter of 2004-2005 – mattresses, tires and other secondhand debris hurtle down the canyon’s eroded hillsides, and end up north of the border in the Tijuana river estuary. South of the border, the storms bring death and destruction to impoverished canyon residents – as improvished shacks built from tires, garage doors and other scrap materials tumble down the slopes.
Culturally and economically, San Diego and Tijuana are worlds apart. But geography, globalization and runaway urban sprawl have pushed the two communities into a difficult marriage – and divorce is not an option.

“They share a common watershed,” says Nina Jean Thurston, MPIA ’08, a former student at UCSD’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) who worked as Romo’s assistant in 2007-8. The Tijuana Reserve is the largest coastal wetland in the southern United States, a United Nations-designated “wetland of international importance,” a living laboratory for education and research, and a paradise for birdwatchers. More than 370 varieties of migratory and native birds have been spotted in the protected marsh habitat, which is home to six threatened and endangered species.

The Rabbit House

German(?) blogger “Lillie Langtry” (Memory in Latin America) reviews Argentine novelist Laura Acoba’s “The Rabbit House”:

Laura is a little girl in Argentina in the 1970s, who likes dolls, and animals, and attention from her parents. A normal little girl. But normality in Argentina in the 1970s can be terrifying.

Laura’s parents are Montoneros, leftist militants who oppose the regime of President Isabel Peron, the widow of the famous General. The state fights back with clandestine death squads and the guerrillas are forced to go underground. Laura’s father is imprisoned and she becomes trapped in a world of hideaways, secret rooms, changed names, and fear.

Home Invasions

Brenda Norrell (via Jeffrey Sinclair’s “Red State Rebel”) on the consequences of not respecting the homes of others:

A delegation of Navajo, Hopi and Lakota warned Lehman Brothers stockholders of the dire consequences of their actions in 2001. In a rare move, censored by most media, the Navajo, Hopi and Lakota delegation warned Lehman Brothers, after it acquired the financial interests of Peabody Coal, of the spiritual consequences of mining coal on sacred Black Mesa …

A traditional Hopi was among those addressing the Lehman Brothers stockholders. His admonitions followed those of the late Hopi Sinom elders Thomas Banyacya and Dan Evehema, among the Hopi elders who warned of dire consequences, including natural disasters and worldwide consequences, if Peabody mined coal on Black Mesa and Navajos were relocated from this sacred region.

The extended family

A site worth exploring, especially for those who are of Latin heritage, or suspect they might be, is Somos Primos. I an across this very fine on-line magazine while looking for something else entirely, in a reference to an African-American family in Texas, which of course, includes Mexican ancestry.

The editorial focus of Somos Primos is to connect present day situations to its historical foundation. The goal is to awaken Latinos to the fact that we are walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. Whether that path is clear to our vision or not, we are in the midst of that road. It is imperative that we grasp the unique and individual part in world history, and especially United States history, that our grand-parents walked. The contributions of our ancestors are important to understand the many social issues of today.

Whether the umbrella title is Hispanic or Latino, the problem is one of a confused and distorted image. Who are we? The identity problem is based on many historical occurrences and political/social factors.

Two lively blogs from Americans we seldom hear from caught my attention this week. Barbados Free Press and Guyana Free Press (“We na affiliated wid de bajans dem”) — both brave, witty and irreverent alternatives to their small nations’ “mainstream press”.  Like us, these smaller American nations have face many of the same problems: “free trade” that turns out not to be so free, gangsters in and out of the government,  police corruption, overdevelopment and … who knew… immigrant labor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 September 2008 10:34 am

    Hi, thanks for the link. In fact I’m British, but I live in Germany 🙂

  2. Maggie permalink
    23 September 2008 11:57 pm

    Thxs for link Richard, que paso? Yea, you know, I am an environmentalist supporter – so it is not easy to say wait a minute, you guys didn’t do that and it would take volumes to explain to folks how this group has claimed so many accolades and victories for matters in Mexico which the Mexicans themselves should have been credited for, and yet, in the US press, were not.


    I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And the grant money.


    Take care, Maggie

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