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They’re baaaaaack…

28 June 2020

One point of ire for the big business community is the AMLO administration’s efforts to force businesses to pay their current and back taxes, in order to provide much-needed government revenue.

The old Mexican fascist families (the Abascals), right-wing journalists, anti-Semites, Legionaries of Christ, the Washington Post (!!!– Carlos Loret de Mola), your handy dandy guide to the “Frente Anti-AMLO” … claiming 2 million members (which works out to about 1.66% of the Mexican populace). Unfortunately, it’s the one (point six) percenters who benefit the most from the old regime, and have most of the money.

Meet the far-right oligarchs working to topple Mexico’s progressive President AMLO

A Trump-like Mexican oligarch, Gilberto Lozano, is leading a coalition of corporate leaders and far-right fanatics called FRENA to try to overthrow President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
By José Guadalupe Argüello III and Ben Norton

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s victory in Mexico’s 2018 presidential election marked a historic feat, promising a respite from a roughly 40-year period of continuous neoliberal rule over the country.

López Obrador, better known as AMLO, is taking Mexico down a new route toward greater national autonomy. Under a revolutionary process that he calls the Fourth Transformation, he is fighting systemic corruption and rampant theft of public resources, while boosting social benefits for the poor.

Read it and weep.

Give this man a statue

25 June 2020

With statues of slave holders being pulled down throughout the United States, and replacements being sought, maybe Nathaniel Jackson might be a good replacement.  Who?

Jackson had grown up the son of an Alabama plantation owner.  Common at the time, the children of the massa were allowed to play with the slave children, up until the slaves were big enough to send off to the fields.  Nathaniel’s favorite playmate was Matilda Hicks, and… playing together when they were about five years old … promised to marry her when he grew up.  Which, surprisingly enough, he did at some point in the 1850s.  Or at least, openly lived with her, buying her (and her three children from unknown fathers) emancipation.

Upon inheriting the plantation in 1857, he liberated his slaves, sold the land, and… with Matilda, her kid, their kids, a few other “mixed families” and whatever former slaves wanted to come,  headed west, intending to establish a free colony in northern Mexico.  That none of the party spoke Spanish, and Nathaniel was a committed Protestant… as much as cheap land… was probably responsible for them settling on the banks of the Rio Grande /Bravo del Norte.  The isolated Jackson Ranch was both a destination where escaped slaves could either take their chances and “pass” as freemen with some assurance that their neighbors could fend off slave hunters, or … with the assistance of Jackson’s Tejano neighbors… get some lessons in Spanish and Mexican customs before crossing the river.

It’s estimated that about 4000 people self-liberated themselves by way of the Jackson Ranch, although how many stayed in Mexico, how many assimilated into the Mexican population and how many returned after the American Civil War is unknown.

 

 

Carrizal: 21 June 1916

21 June 2020

The last battle between the United States and Mexico had global implications far beyond the embarrasment of the professional US Army’s loss to a patched together Mexican Army.

 

AMLO: live long and prosper

14 June 2020

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, and it lacks the soaring goals of Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms”speech, but AMLO’s “Decalogue for exiting the coronavirus and confronting the new reality” (if it becomes even a minor classic, it needs a snappier name) presents an idealistic though perhaps at least somewhat realistic path towards the future.

(adapted from a report by Alma E. Muñoz in today’s Jornada)

In presenting a “Decalogue for exiting the coronavirus and confronting the new reality,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for “the meaning of life to be fully restored,” to go out safely and optimistically to return to the streets; “carry out our usual activities and live without fear or fear”. He called for the people to stay informed of sanitary provisions, seek a path of spirituality and “defend the right to enjoy the sky, the sun, the fresh air, flora, fauna, and all of nature.”

… he proposed turning our back on selfishness, “being more caring and humane”, loosing our racist, classist, discriminatory or sexist attitudes; moving away from consumerism and leaving materialism behind; not consuming “junk food”, eating organic products, losing weight, exercising and living without stress. And, “If you have an addiction to tobacco and alcohol, seek treatment to eliminate them.”

After praising the populace for “without authoritarianism, in a very disciplined and even stoic manner, [most people ] obeyed the instructions of the political and health authorities; staying at home, keeping a healthy distance and apply personal hygiene measures like never before. ” He added that the measures adopted and generally accepted have been essential to “preventing an exponential growth in infections, not saturating the hospitals and saving as many lives as medically and humanly possible.”

But added a call for serenity and self-confidence, and a few health tips: “Stand up, don’t sit for so long, walk, run, stretch, meditate; apply everything you consider to be good for your body, for your body.

In presenting a “decalogue to get out of the coronavirus and face the new reality,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for “the meaning of life to be fully restored,” to go out safely and optimistically on the street; “carry out our usual activities and live without fear or fear”. He called to stay informed of sanitary provisions, seek a path of spirituality and “defend the right to enjoy the sky, the sun, the fresh air, flora, fauna, and all of nature.”

13 days after the new normality, he proposed turning his back on selfishness, “being more caring and humane”, not having racist, classist, discriminatory or sexist attitudes; move away from consumerism and leave materialism behind; not consume “junk food”, eat organic products, lose weight, exercise and live without stress. “If you have an addiction to tobacco and alcohol, seek treatment to eliminate them.”

After “long, painful and uncertain days due to the Covid-19 pandemic”, the head of the Executive considered that “we have already had enough time to familiarize ourselves with the medical recommendations and the sanitary provisions. Now is the time to put them into practice following our own criteria “, with independence and responsibility. The best medicine in the face of the danger of contagion and disease, he added, is prevention.

In a video broadcast on social networks, he stressed yesterday that “without authoritarianism,” most people, “in a very disciplined and even stoic manner, have obeyed the instructions of the political and health authorities; they stay at home, they keep their healthy distance and personal hygiene measures are applied like never before. “

López Obrador added that this “has been essential to prevent an exponential growth in infections, not to saturate hospitals and to save as many lives as has been medically and humanly possible.”

He called for serenity and self-confidence. “There can be no problems that make us ill or have no solution. Everything can be solved without anguish, without suffering stress, anxiety,” he said from the National Palace. “Stand up, don’t sit for so long, walk, run, stretch, meditate; apply everything you consider to be good for your body, for your body.”

He proposed to reinforce cultural values ​​and regardless of having a religion, “whether you are a believer or not, look for a path of spirituality, an ideal, a utopia, a dream, a purpose in life; something that strengthens you internally, in your self-esteem and to keep you active, enthusiastic, happy, fighting, working and loving loved ones, your neighbor, nature and the country. “

And.. drink more water, eat your vegetables, and watch your weight. He cited corn, beans, seasonal fruits, vegetables, fish, particularly tuna because it has a low price. He added that it was ok to eat meat, after “ensuring that they are from the yard and pasture, not fattened with hormones.”

He also invited to share if you have more than what is needed. “Let us not harden our hearts,” he added.

What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is negotiable.

11 June 2020

The Mexican tax service (SAT, Servicio de Administración Tributaria) has estimated that the Canadian mining firm, First Majestic, owes AT THE VERY LEAST 180 million, 3000 US dollars (about 4.12 US billion pesos) in back taxes.  Not counting fines for unpaid taxes from 2010 to 2018, and the final bill, including taxes on unreported transfers to third parties, is expected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 42.8 US billion pesos (about 2.6 billion Canadian dollars, or 1.9 billion US$).

Naturally, First Magestic is trying to weasel out, insisting on arbitration under the terms of the NAFTA treaty, which was in force during that period.  So far, Mexico is only trying to convince the Canadian government to “persuade” First Majestic not to try wiggling out of their obligations, but to pony up, but to sit down with SAT and maybe find a few legitimate deductions.  Walmart did, bringing down their 10 billion (thousand million to everyone not in the US) peso bill to a measly 8 billion.

First Majestic isn’t by any means the only mining company (overwhelmingly Canadian owned) that haven’t been paying their taxes.  As Jornada’s economy and business writer Carlos Fernández-Vega writes in his influential México S.A. column:

>a good portion of the juicy businesses and the abundant profits that transnational companies make and obtain in Mexico come from the privileged fiscal treatment… that the neoliberals granted them. In return, whoever was in Los Pinos [the former Mexican presidential compound] boasted that this foreign direct investment was a sign of the “trust and respect” that these consortia had in their government.

Pure blah, blah, blah because foreign capital is invested in the country where it earns the greatest profit and there is the least responsibility, be it fiscal, labor, ecological or legal (rather all of the above)….

But now that the party is over, transnational companies do not want to pay the taxes that by law they owe.  And, as always, they resort to blackmail, threatening to leave the country and / or resort to international courts, citing past “agreements”, although – it is supposed – when they settled in Mexico, they accepted that if necessary, the only legal authority would be the Mexican one.

Need one point out that this has been the law (constitutionally, if you want to get technical) that all foreigners, including corporations, are subject to Mexican law. And that the minerals belong to the Mexican state, not the company that extracts them (though, though concessions, they can profit — and they do quite handsomely — from the extraction of said mineral), and that the state always has the right to cancel the concession, or to, if they need, expropriate the business? Cheaper by far for First Majestic to pony up, and for the other mining firms to fall in line, rather than try and rely on the defunct NAFTA treaty and some other unrelated treaty with Luxembourg.

Carbajal, Braulio. “Reclama el SAT a la minera First Majestic al menos 180.3 mdd“, Jornada, 11 June 2020

First Majestic initiates arbitration over tax dispute in Mexico.” Mining Journal, 14 May 2020

Fernández-Vega, Carlos. “Mexico SA: Mineras canadienses, una vez más // Evasoras del fisco y chantajistas” Jornada, 11 June 2020

Jamasmie, Cecilia. “First Majestic takes Mexico tax dispute to arbitration” Mining.com, 14 may 2020

Kids… leave them gringos alone

10 June 2020

I don’t know how the US Army ever lived it down… forced to retreat when faced with an angry school-mar’m and fifth graders.

During the “Punitive Expedition” (aka, Pershing’s invasion of Mexico, looking to punish that “terrorist” … and former US asset… Pancho Villa), Col. Frank Tompkins and his troops rode in to Parral on the 16th of April, 1916, insisting he had the right to billet his troops and resupply them in town.  Tompkins was a seasoned soldier, having fought in the Spanish American War of 1898, the Philippines war of 1899-1902, and had been distinguished for his defense of Columbus, New Mexico when it was attacked by Pancho Villa.  He really wanted Villa and if some locals stood in his way, it was just too damn bad.  Plus, he claimed he had permission to resupply in Parral.  From whom was the question.

The local Mexican commander had heard of no such order and said so.  He even checked with his superiors, who confirmed that the Americans were supposed to stay in their own camps while hunting for Villa, and not, by any means, in the important regional city.

With more gringo soldiers than Mexican ones, it looked like Col. Tompkins was going to stay.  Most civilians closed their doors, but among those on the street was schoolteacher Elisa Griensen, who approached the mayor asked if somebody wasn’t going to do something… anything… about their unwanted guests.

Apparently, the mayor wasn’t that someone and somebody had to do something.  So… Elisa walked into the local grade school, picked up a flag in the fifth grade classroom and led out her … uh… troops.  One would like to think there was some great patriotic shout that went up, but I expect the battle cry was something more like “nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah”.  Whatever it was, the moms joined the students, and the battle was on.

Col. Tompkins probably didn’t expect to be greeted with cheers and flowers, but he certainly wasn’t prepared for rocks and tomatoes, angry mothers and school children.  Or Elisa Griensen brandishing a Mauser rifle someone passed her.  Discretion being the better part of valor, the US forces retreated, and Elisa spent the rest of her long life (she died in 1972 at the age of 84) as a national heroine.  Possibly to recover his reputation, Tomkins would request Pershing for a battlefield command during the First World War, only to be gassed and wounded.  Unfit for further field duty, after his recovery, he taught at a military school for about a year, retiring in 1920.  If he’s remembered at all, it’s for his 1934 book, “Chasing Villa”, his account of the last cavalry campaign in US history.

 

 

 

It’s always something

9 June 2020

No matter what story is in the news … if you really want to find one … there’s a Mexican connection.  The news about Martin Gugino, the 75 year old Catholic Worker volunteer getting knocked down by the cops and his head injured, reminded me of another Catholic getting his head smacked by the cops.  That the Mexican guy had been what today would be called an asylum seeker and an under-the-table day laborer sorta adds to the semi-relevance of at least mentioning his story.

Pedro de Jesus Maldonalo Lucero, born in Chihuahua in 1892, was studying for the priesthood in Chihuahua, but fled ahead of the Revolution to El Paso in 1913.  The concept “legal” vs. “illegal” aliens being more flexible at the time (in the sense it didn’t exist), he could, I suppose, be considered an asylum seeker.  Whatever his status would have been today, like young Mexican before and since, he worked odd jobs, construction, house painting and the like while finishing his studies, both in Chihuahua and El Paso, being ordained at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1918.

Photo: Zenit (Spain). date unknown, ca. 1935.

Working among the Tarahumara, he doesn’t appear to have had any connection to the Cristero counter-revolution of 1926-29, which was mostly in the Bajio, although even in Chihuahua the anti-clerical state persecuted priests, trying to curb their influence over the masses.  He was beaten up more than once but … one of his major activities being attempts to control alcohol abuse among the Tarahumara, one can speculate he might have been just running afoul of economic interests in the tiny community of Santa Isabel.

For unclear reasons, Maldonaldo was arrested on 10 February 1937.  It happened to be Ash Wednesday, and he happened to be carrying a host.  A police officer took the host from Maldonaldo then smacked him in the head with the butt of a pistol.  Hard enough to break his skull (and pop out an eyeball).  He died a day later of his injuries.

Whatever the circumstances might have been, the incident was widely reported, used to undermine claims that under Lazaro Cardenas’ administration, open persecution of Catholics and priests had come to an end.  Having been said to be killed because of hatred for the Church, he is considered a martyr to the faith and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.  He was canonized in May 2000, as one of the 24 “Cristero Martyrs”.

 

 

Nothing is certain but death… and bribery?

6 June 2020

Saturday, June 6, 2020. Chief of Government Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, has ordered the Mexico City Attorney General’s office to launch an investigation into private doctors and public officials selling altered death certificates during the on-going Covid-19 crisis.

Since early May cemetery workers have claimed that some funeral parlors were asking for money from the relatives of people who had died of COVID-19 to hire q”quack doctors” to change the cause of death on the certificates from COVID-19 to some other cause, which would allow the deceased to be buried rather than, as the health law requires, cremated.

Loosely translated from today’s (6-June 2020) La Jornada, it seems the scandal has less to do with the creative ways “corruptos” will take advantage of changing situations (not just the virus, but the reformist Sheinbaum administration), as it does with the enduring funeral practices of traditional Mexico… or those traditionalists with the wherewithal  to pay a hefty bribe anyway.

Despite a  3000 year old tradition of cremating the dead in Mexico, not all indigenous cultures practiced cremation, and the imported Spanish Catholics generally opposed cremation except in times of necessity (epidemic diseases being one obvious example).  Funeral customs, as they developed here, fascinate outsiders… not just the annual “Day of the Dead” celebrations, which families often spend a night in the cemetery partying with their deceased relations, or like some Mayans, opening up coffins to dress a corpse (or skeleton) in new clothing, but the entire ritual.

Labor contracts in Mexico often include the right to a “dignified burial”, and everyone strives to provide the “dignity” to the event in some way.  I have been to wakes held in family garages (with the … er… “guest of honor” resting on a couple of saw horses) and those in funeral parlors that had a cafeteria (or taco vendors wandering in).  Even if the corpse has not been embalmed (the reason for the elaborate floral displays… and, why, in tropical area, especially in places where electricity might not be available… funeral directors rent out casket-sized styrofoam  ice chests for the wake) it may run several days.

Although urban funerals are, like in the United States, generally followed by an procession of mourners in automobiles to the cemetery (and, here in Mexico City, some funeral directors provide their own bus), rural funeral processions still walk.. led by a band playing the deceased’s favorite music, or a lively marching tune. In B. Traven’s “Bridge in the Jungle” (about a young boy’s death and funeral), the band plays “Yes, We Have No Bananas”.

Depending on their wealth, their interests (or those of the deceased) and their skills, families often have their own monument’s built… anything from a simple iron marker to those gangster tombs replete with game rooms, piped in music and even cable television (one assumes for visitors, not the occupant).  I spent an afternoon in Villahermosa going through one cemetery where I found a dead rocker’s tomb covered in pink ceramic tile, with a window into the chamber, where there was a guitar… and a pair of blue suede shoes.  And … a woman’s work never done… another for a house-wife with a broom and mop at the ready.  For all eternity?

Not quite.  with limited burial space, cremation has become more and more popular in Mexico, especially in the City… and “perpetual care” for a grave only lasts as long as upkeep is paid.  Generally, about seven years, after which, if no one pays, the remains are dug up, and… NORMALLY… cremated.  I know of one family (and I am sure there are many out there) that every few years digs up the past (so to speak) to make room for the next generation, sorting out the bones of various great-grandparents for eventual interment in a smaller ossuary they have on a long-term lease.  Or… the cadaver .. .or what’s left of it… might just be turfed out.  Ernest Hemingway’s odd short story, “The Queen’s Mother” in which a bullfighter won’t release the check to pay for the upkeep on his mother’s grave explains his reasoning as wanting to release her to the elements… a not unheard sentiment.

Whatever the final outcome, the rituals surrounding burial are complex and involve social attitudes going back hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of years.  To expect people to give them up, in the name of a “new normal” isn’t going to necessarily sit well, and one can understand that there are those willing to turn to less than legal methods to preserve their traditions.

 

Nothing right?

5 June 2020

What was said then, still applies:

 

“It is evident that there are different visions of how to face the COVID-19 pandemic, from the Swedish to the Asian model. Without a road map the debate is important. However, the debaters have diverse interests: large corporations that seek to attack the official that represents a threat to corporate interests; those that have a political agenda and and seek to take advantage of the situation to position themselves; and those who are convinced the strategy pursued here is unsuccessful and a different approach is needed.” (Alejandro Calvillo in Sin Embargo, , my translation)

What has changed since mid May is that the virus is still rampant here (being just south of the epicenter suggests it’s moving this direction) and the final mortality rate may be about three times today’s 12.500 COVID deaths. Of course, as has been mentioned elsewhere, deaths were under-reported, and there have been significant lapses in entering data… a death listed today might have been last week, or last month. More testing is being done, although with testing mostly whena person is already very sick, naturally the percentage of mortality among those testing positive is much higher in Mexico than elsewhere. In the United States… where there are also issues surrounding testing, although one assumes better and more widespread testing, the case-fatality rate is only 6%, compared to Mexico’s 12%.

This does not mean twice as many Mexicans with COVID die as in the United States, only that twice as many Mexicans diagnosed die. Even if the fatality rate does triple to 38,000 that is still, by population, not much more than that in the United States today. In other words, when the pandemic runs its course, it’s expected the Mexicans will have taken less of a hit than the United States.

A huge worry is that the country is “opening up” too soon, which may be true, although for the most part, what openings there have been are those driven by political and economic factors, and not much different than the cautious measures taken elsewhere.

Nobody’s perfect… but…

27 May 2020

Even though the Mexican health authorities have been open about the fact that the reported statistics on COVID-19 infection rates and mortality are incomplete and data is under-reported, criticism of the Mexican response (as well as Mexfiles’ comments on the pandemic stats) has been mostly centered on an assumption that there is insufficient testing, and an unspoken assumption that the government should somehow make the pandemic the center of all governmental decisions, or… perhaps… that the commentator’s priorities MUST be state priorities.

As to limited testing, the so-called “Sentinel Model”, in which only those persons showing a set of symptoms, and only those at a certain number of test sites, are monitored, of course the data is incomplete.  The Sentinel Model was developed in response to a previous near-pandemic… the Swine Flu outbreak of 2009, which started in Mexico but was successfully controlled in large part thanks to quick and effective work by the (corrupt) Calderón Administration’s health department.  That corruption in all departments flourish in the administrations of both Calderon and his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, including the health department, was a factor in the election of the present administration.  It was simply bad luck that the pandemic hit at a time when the Health system, as with other government functions, was being re-organized, and the state was watching every centavo, leading to massive cuts in programs said to be inefficient, redundant, or hopelessly corrupted.

None of which has changed the general commitment (even under terrible governments) of health workers to provide for the benefit of the general populace.  The Sentinel Model may not be the best testing procedure in the world, numbers may be under-reported (and where are they not?) but with a few notable exceptions, like in US border communities, the  model has allowed to at least keep the resources available ahead of the number of those in need.

As to the assumption that the commentators know what should, or shouldn’t be the state’s priorities, there are two issues.  The most obvious is that some people have an agenda:  either they want their particular business interest to return to normal or that they have a political stake in resetting priorities (or canceling programs that work against their own, or their party’s interests).  The second issue… one easily (and perhaps forgivably) forgotten… is that life will go on.  Even if there is a miracle cure, a wonder drug, or a vaccine, discovered tonight, the government we have was not looking to preserve the status quo, but sold itself as a government of “transformation”… for the good of all, but first the poor.  For Mexico, the priority is not to “return to normal”, but to return to the job of creating new paradigms of citizen-state relations, and a new economic/social system.  All while maintaining a state that has bled money for years on irrelevant investments (and outright theft) and, can expect more than its fair share of natural disasters.

So… is the testing model or the state response perfect.  HELL no… but at least the World Health Organization doesn’t think it’s doing the bad job some might like you to believe.  (translation from SinEmbargo, “La OMS felicita a México por “las firmes medidas sociales y de salud pública” ante la COVID-19″ 26 May 2020):

Mexico City, May 26 (SinEmbargo) .– The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulated the Mexican Government for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE, for its initials in Spanish) reported today.

“The WHO wishes to congratulate the Government of Mexico for the firm social and public health measures it has adopted to date, including the imposition of strict restrictions on movement and the temporary cessation of the activity by major companies to limit the spread of COVID-19, ” the WHO noted in a letter sent in response to a verbal note of May 8 that the Mexican government had delivered to the WHO.

“In response to the consultation in Mexico, the @WHO congratulates @GobiernoMX for its work to face the # COVID19 pandemic and expresses its agreement on the model that our country will follow as of 1 June, including its application of test stategies, “ the SRE tweeted.

In the letter dated 26 May, the WHO stated that the economic aid plan promoted by the Mexican Government “demonstrates its long-term vision of the path that remains to be followed and [the government’s] will in prioritizing the interests of its citizens, both during the current situation, and as the world faces an uncertain future..”. The letter went on to complement Meixo for its decision to keep various measures in place until the number of infections drops

“In the hope that it will be useful to the Mexican health authorities, the WHO wishes to draw attention to the recently published guidelines regarding adjustments to health and social measures, including several annexes with specific indicators and advice on issues ranging from reopening schools and workplaces to the possibility of allowing for public meetings and tracking contracts, among other issues,.”

However, the WHO noted that the world “will not be able to beat this virus” until member states are able to detect suspected cases and perform tests allowing them to locate and isolate those in contact with persons testing positive.

The president who went to Hollywood

25 May 2020

Although Venustiano Carranza signed off on the 1916 Constitution, he didn’t necessarily approve of it… not when at the end of his term, the voters had the temerity to vote for the wrong candidate. The “Liberal Constitutionalist Army” put an end to his Carranza’s plan to hold on to office… and to Carranza himself, when his train… loaded down with the country’s gold reserves… was ambushed during his attempt to move the government to Veracruz and re-ignite the revolution from there.

To restore the new Constitution, Adolfo de la Huerta was installed as “acting President” on the 25th of May 1920. His term would only run until November, allowing Alvaro Obregon, to win the election that Carranza had cancelled when it was clear his chosen successor (the unknown Ignacio Bonillas) was going to lose, and lose badly. De la Huerta was one of those guys who’d never had the chance to turn his artistic pursuits into a living, although, unlike his contemporary, Adolf Hitler, he could return to his preferred vocation with some success. But then again, ending up in politics (as did Hitler) was not nearly the disaster for everyone that the German Adolf’s fall-back proved to be.

Although his family was well-off, a musician’s life would hardly support young Adolfo in the style to which he was accustomed. And, so, he also learned bookkeeping and accounting, landing him a safe, boring job in the Sononan state bureaucracy.  Taking a hand in civic affairs, he was appointed Secretary of the Guaymas “Anti-Reelection Society” in 1911 (opposing another term for Porfirio Díaz) which got him summarily fired from his cushy job and drove him into the Revolutionary camp.

Never a military man (unlike that other Adolf), but (again like that other guy in Germany), he did go into politics, winning a seat in the new State Senate, before going back to bureaucratic duties as chief clerk (basically head of the revolutionary’s civil service) for Carranza as the Constitutionalists consolidated the Revolution in 1915-16.  That was followed by a short stint as Governor of Sonora, and .. with the United States entering the First World War in 1917, and pressuring Carranza to shift from a neutral but pro-German position to one more aligned with the U.S.  Perhaps thinking musicians have charms to soothe the savage beast, he was also charged with smoothing over relations, and defending Mexican neutrality.  He returned to Sonora as Governor in 1918 for another two year term, as Carranza was attempting to consolidate federal power in the state … specifically to sell off the lands controlled by the still independent Yaqui nation.

Being an accountant and all, when Carranza tried to seize the national treasury, maneuvering to hold on to power in 1920, de la Huerta, together with his more military minded fellow Sonorans, Alvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elias Calles, drew up the “Plan of Agua Preita”… the last of the revolts within the larger 1910-20 Revolution.  The plan was quite detailed, but didn’t exactly spell out what the long-range plan was.  De la Huerta would be the interim president until Obregón could be elected, his term to be followed by Calles.  It would work out that way, but with a huge bump in the road.

During de la Huerta short term the last important dissident rebel, Pancho Villa, was convinced to lay down his arms, and the critical work of pacifying the country and restarting the economy began.   He oversaw Obregón’s election (by 94 percent of the votes… draw your own conclusions about “free and fair”), stepped down in November, to take a cabinet post as Secretary of the Treasury.

In 1923, with new elections coming up, meant to install Calles, de la Huerta either genuinely was “shocked, shocked and appalled” to find corruption had crept into public finance, or…was duped into backing an attempted counter-revolution by Catholics who had chafed at the anti-clerical laws that Callas promised to strengthen, joining with pre-revolutionary conservatives, disgruntled generals who chaffed at Obregón de-militarization and support for more pacific and useful social sectors like farmers and workers, and financially supported by the foreign oil companies.  The very short revolt ended with de la Huerta having to flee the country.

Not exactly in a position to receive a pension, not having had the foresight to steal a fortune, and only in his early 40s, de la Huerta had to find a job.  Or… being the creative sort he was… make one.  It was still the silent movie era, but Hollywood was the entertainment capital, not just move-land.  And so… there was a need for even silent film stars… expected to go on the road and do public appearances… were expected to be able to sing and dance.  And, politics is largely entertainment.  Although, in revolutionary Mexico, a much less dangerous kind.

Until he returned from exile during the Cardenas administration, he was a behind the scenes Hollywood figure, running a singing and dancing academy.

 

 

Jumping the gun… May 1942

22 May 2020

In World War II, where was the first US counter-attack on Japan?

Would you believe… Mexico?

Despite tense relations with the United States and Great Britain over the oil expropriation in the late 1930s (when Britain briefly broke diplomatic relations with Mexico), having a militantly anti-Fascist foreign policy (unlike the United States, the British, and the French, Mexico had backed the Spanish Republic and refused to recognize Francisco Franco’s government, as well as having opposed both the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and the German annexation of Austria in the League of Nations), it strenuously argued in January 1942 for a hemispheric front against the Axis powers and cooperation with the United State (which had already declared war) at a gathering of American foreign ministers held in Rio.

After a Mexican oil tanker, the Potrero de Llano, was sunk by a German U-Boat on 14 May, killing 13 Mexican sailors. By the 15th there were reports around the country of protests outside German businesses. In Mexico City, the German social club was mobbed, and a German teenager was arrested after stabbing a Mexican teen. Mexican diplomats delivered an ultimatum to Germany on the 20th, which was rejected on the 21st. 22 May 1942, Mexico…despite not having been directly attacked by Italy or Japan… declared war on all three Axis states.

As far back as the 1890s, when the Porfirian dictatorship was rushing towards modernization, Japan was seen as both a model of a modernizing society, and as a likely replacement for an over-dependence on European and US markets. And, Japan had, even after the Revolution, shown an interest in obtaining a naval base (or at least a naval fuel station) in Baja California. Add to that, while there were relatively few Japanese immigrants in Mexico, they tended to live along the Pacific coast.

While anti-Asian bigotry in Mexico was mostly directed at the Chinese, there was always suspicion of the Japanese as “cultural outsiders”. Coupled with long-term paranoia in the United States about possible Japanese designs on California (famously, William Randolph Hearst had produced “Patria”, a silent film in which Lilian Gish fights off Pancho Villa and Samuris bent on dominating the “white race” of California). a rumor that Japanese migrants had buried caches of weapons in the Baja was taken seriously by the US military.

Mexico, of course, even as an ally of the United States (or… rather… in solidarity with the nations of the hemisphere, which sounded a little less servile) was not about to allow even a “friendly” incursion. The inevitable happened. 100 US soldiers, were surprised by Mexican soldiers, the night of 28 May, both searching for the (non-existent) Japanese weapons. Were in not for former president and sitting Secretary of War, Lazaro Cardenas, history might have been quite different.

Mexico neither forgive nor forget easily, and the 1916 “Punitive Expedition”… Pershing’s tragicomic hunt for Pancho Villa (supposedly at the behest of the Carranza government) was not exactly ancient history. And, minor as it might have seemed to the United States at the time, it was taken very seriously indeed by the Mexican government. Cardenas had played hard-ball with the United States before… as President when he nationalized the oil companies, he forced the US government to accept the expropriation rather than see Mexican oil going to Japan and Germany (which, for a time, it did). Not that Cardenas threatened to switch alliances, but if the US wanted Mexican help, they needed to ask, and… more importantly… remind the US that if Mexican wanted help, they were perfectly capable of asking themselves, and defining the rules under which such assistance was accepted. US military personnel would be permitted to operate in Mexico, but only under the express approval of the Mexican government, and — more importantly — only in coordination with their Mexican counterparts.

The established rule more or less is still accepted today, although more in the breach than the honor. See “Fast and Furious” or the recent US television show “Narcos: Mexico” for that sorry story.

More:

Pruitt, Sarah: “The Surprising Role Mexico Played in World War II” (History.com)

Turner, Ashley, “Mexico Declares War on Axis Powers After U-Boat Attacks” (WorldWar2.0)

Pérez Montfort, Ricardo. Lázaro Cardenas: un mexicano del siglo XX. Debate, 2019.

McConahay, Mary Jo. The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds and Riches of Latin America. St. Martin’s Press, 2018.