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Safe Sunday Readings

9 August 2009

Is it safe?

Sombrero tip to Lillie (Memory in Latin America) , who found a travel guide to Nazi war criminal Joseph Mengele’s hideaway in south Paraguay (Graeme Wood, “Mengele’s Undisclosed Location”, The Atlantic):

Hohenau is a pleasant little Paraguayan backwater. It offers much to escaped Nazis and to normal people: an agreeable, temperate climate; a prospering economy, due to the mate boom; and a sizable German population that to this day cooks a mean schnitzel in local restaurants. But Hohenau is still a mud-road farming community. It is no Buenos Aires, and has none of the high culture an educated Nazi like Mengele (survivors say Mengele whistled Puccini arias while selecting victims) would want.

Safe Investments

Nezua, the Unapologetic Mexican, reprints Angel Luna’s “Managing Your Money Oaxaca Style” (Debug: The On-Line Magazine of South Bay) on how to save money and invest the old fashioned way:

I had delinquency notices strewn across the carpet that I stepped on every morning when I woke up and every night when I went to sleep. That’s when I made the decision to ask elders from my Oaxacan community to help me solve my debt burden and joined a “tanda.”

The tanda is an ancient custom that was brought to Mexico by the Chinese in the late 1800s. A common practice in Latin America, the tanda is essentially a rotating credit association that is built on trust. It is a system for people to save money as well as a way to build relationships with each other. I told my mom that I wanted in, and she told me that this was a monthly commitment that I would be expected to pay.

Unsafe Sects

James A. Haught (“Council for Secular Humanity“) provides an object lesson in why Mexico has the right idea, keeping the church separate from the state, and keeping religious language and symbols out of public discourse.

Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.

This bizarre episode occurred while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

After the 2003 call, the puzzled French leader didn’t comply with Bush’s request. Instead, his staff asked Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne, to analyze the weird appeal.

A World Safe for Democracy

Inca Kola News notes the passing of Harry Patch, the last surviving English World War I “Tommy”  with a poem by Wilfred Owen.   Patch, having survived the carnage of the trench warfare of the western front, lived long enough to be a celebrity simply for being old (he was 111 at the time of his death).  As one of the last survivors of that mass slaughter, he used his celebrity to speak on the stupidity and futility of war.   At his own request, pallbearers at his well-attended media-event funeral included both British and German soldiers.

Safe to say?

“Disappearance” has a more than sinister nuance in Latin America, especially in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay).  Some less fatal — but equally sinister disappearces are still going on, according to Secrecy News:

In the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration plotted to interfere in Uruguay’s presidential elections in order to block the rise of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition.  But when the State Department published its official history of U.S. relations with Latin America during the Nixon era last month, there was no mention of any such activities.  Instead, the State Department Office of the Historian said that Uruguay-related records could not be posted on the Department website because of “space constraints.”  Following repeated inquiries, however, the Historian’s Office revised its position last week and said it would include Uruguay-related records in its Nixon history after all.

Safe for general audiences

Julie Carmann, has been writing on “the life and times of a gringa in Mexico City” on her “Midwesterner in Mexico” site for about a year now. Ms. Carmann is a U.S. Embassy spouse, but nothing wrong with that.  Carmann is in the great tradition of Edith O’Shaughnessy, who wrote well on the Huerta regime, and was a perceptive observer of Mexican culture and society.  But, the maddening Mrs. O’Shaughnessy didn’t take photos, and never got to attend a Luche Libre Convention:

Despite my husband’s claims of being “lucha-d out”, I convinced him that since I’d spent half my weekend in class, I TOTALLY deserved to go see shirtless men in external underwear prancing around on Sunday afternoon. It worked.

The expo had a big lucha ring set up with stadium seating on four sides in one corner of the event hall, supplemented by loads of booths featuring both vendors & luchadores, and then 2 smaller rings– one where kids were flopping all over the place and another where young men were trying to learn the tricks of the trade.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timo permalink
    9 August 2009 4:38 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. You should think of doing this kind of witty omnibus post every week, if stamina and serendipity allow.


  1. George Bush was simply not fit for offic… « Chad Black

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