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No more “special rights” for serial tourists?

27 October 2021

Immigration consultant Pedro Luis Alvarez posted recently on some changes in Mexican immigration policy meant to correct the assumption that one can “live” here, or work from here indefinitely, and still be considered a tourist.

For years, people entering the country (especially those from Canada and the United States) with very rare exceptions, had permission to freely move about the country for up to 180 days. While this is reasonable for leisurely tourists, or “snowbirds” who spend a few months in a resort or rental cottage every winter, or academics on sabbatical, it’s become a standard in sales pitches to buy property in Mexico suggesting one can, without establishing residency (and, perforce, paying taxes) live out their lives here, only returning every six months or so to visit their “old country” for a day or two, return “home” paying a modest fee ($595 pesos… about 30 US$) each time.

That’s changing: the assumption being that if you WORK here (and that includes the so-called “digital nomads”) or for all practical purposes LIVE here, you are a resident. And, doing both makes you (as I was for a time), an “illegal alien” … though I prefer the much politer term, “mojado inverso”.

No one is going to claim the people taking advantage of the quirks in the immigration/tourism regulations were trying to pull a fast one (though, admittedly, many were), most never gave a thought as to what that moderate entry fee had to cover… the “normal” expenses the state racks up with any person living in their country… infrastructure, public security and safety, etc. That 30 dollars a pop probably doesn’t cover all the costs any individual tourist might casue a community to incur, though tourism in general as a revenue stream and “job creator” probably evens things out if one is talking about “ordinary” tourists, staying a week or a month or two at most. Whether the “job creation” (overwhemingly low paid service jobs) really is a route to “sustainable development” is another story.

Where there is a problem is when “tourists” are de facto residents (or income earners) and not contributing like they could… or should. Dividing the federal budget by the population (my calculations done literally on the back of the envelope), everyone in Mexico … citizen or not… needs to kick in about 18,500 pesos (or about 915 US$) a year.

Obviously, I am not suggesting raising the 180 day tourist fee to half that 915 dollars and, obviously, not everyone in Mexico pays anywhere near 18,500 pesos in taxes every year. However, what the government is “suggesting” is that those who are here, and stay here get with the program.

SOOOOO….

Cracking down on the misuse of tourist visas… not to punish travelers but to educate and inform… INM (the immigration service) agents are asking for more proof of travel itinerary when entering the country: hotel accommodations/dates, return flight tickets, length of stay, etc .

**Regular tourists ( typically planning to stay one to three weeks) are being given the appropriate time of 30 to 180 days depending on their itinerary.

** “Snowbirds” (based on their age and whether or not they are retired) would also be given “normal” visas up to 180 days as required. HOWEVER… if the “snowbird” owns rental property in Mexico, they will be expected to apply for residency. At least temporary residency until they can regularize their situation.

**Remote Workers and so-called “digital nomads” … which tend to be younger travellers… might just be temped to blend in with your normal everyday passle of tourists, but if INM agents suspect… based on your age, accomoation plans, requested lenght of stay, return ticket, etc., the screening is likely to be more intense than for other tourists. Agents are more likely to give shorter visa stayssituation based on age, accomodations, length of stay, return plane ticket, income source, etc. ).

**Border-Jumpers or Serial Tourists may be SOL if they thought their situation would last indefinitely. Updated computer software and equipment means INM records are synchronized and up-to-date. One’s trip history available to INM agents, and the agent can quickly idenify those who misuse tourist visas. Any one who stays for 180 days, leaves and comes back for another extended period within the same year is obviously living in Mexico and not their native country. Border-jumpers are now being flagged by agents and given short periods or simply denied entry. They can come back when they apply for residency (something they need to do back wherever they came from).

I expected something like this for years now, and I know this will hurt some people who never saw themselves as doing anything wrong (and are rightly upset). I don’t think I would have been able to establish myself here had these regulations been in effect 20 years ago. Nor, given the ridulously tiny social security pension I receive, could I have qualified for an income based visa today.

On the other hand, my stint as an “illegal” was long ago, and I just applied for, and received, a working visa, working for a Mexican employer, later becoming an “assimilated immgrant” (a classification that no longer exists), and a permanent resident. I’ve always thought that if I expected the same rights as anyone else in the country then I have the same duties… including the duty to at least say where I live.

President Sheinbaum?

22 October 2021
A skinny, Jewish woman scientist for President…Hell, Yeah!

A recent El Universal poll, not exacty surprisingly, showed MORENA likely to hold the presidency and Congress in 2024, even if it faces a fusion ticket of the four opposition parties (PRI-PAN-PRD, presently the official opposition, and Movimiento Ciudadano… the third force in the legislature). What is surprising is that over 80 percent of respondents would welcome a woman president… and the only woman being mentione is Mexico City’s “governor”.

One can imagine the head-shaking and disbelief among conservtives and those who “buy” the myths about Mexicans. She is not of Spanish, but rather of Lithuanian and Bulgarian ancestry, a Jew in a Catholic country, a PhD in Energy Engineering (which makes sense in an oil producing nation), an environmentalist (more surprsinging in a resource-exporting country), and… oh yeah… a single woman (she was divorced in 2016, following her then-husband’s entanglement in a complicated political scandal). All of which go against the grain of our image of Spanish, macho, Catholic, export-export-export! leaders.

Yes, Latin American has had, and has, women leaders… and actually more than the English speaking Americas. Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have seen women president, while women have run on major party platforms in Colombia, Paraguay and here in Mexico as well. And, despite what one may think, lip-service to the Church has never really been much of an issue, although militant anti-clericalism has led to backlash. Sheinbaum is described as a “Secular Jew”. As Engineer and academic, she is better known for developing energy-saving statergies and sustainable development projects (as a member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change… specifically as an expert on the effects of energy consumption on migration patterns… she shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007).

Of couse, before we start talking about Presidenta Sheinbaum, one can expect a few roadblocks being thrown up. Besides the far right (which lately bends over to pretend to not be misogyntic) whispering that “you know… she’s a Jewish socialist”: well, DUH! And the usual scandals that befall the administration of any megacity (and even those of the federal government) will be used against her… though, other than last year’s Metro bridge collapse… there haven’t been too many out of the ordinary juicy scandals to pump. And, when it came to the bridge collapse, she made a brilliant political move: almost the next morning, hiring a Norwegan engineering failure team to begin studying what went wrong. Considering her only possible rival for the party’s nod… Foreign Minister Ebrahart… was the head of city government when the line was built (and had problems even then)… she is pretty much bullet-proof on this issue.

One more factor in clearing her way may be the hard-fought energy bill pushed by the administration… which would limit foreign ownership of energy providers, and give a larger role to the state energy company, CFE.While the argument that this might lead to move CO2 emisions from coal plants (ironic, coming from the conservative side) and higher consumer prices, the claim that this is a return to the PRI policies of the 1960s and 70s has some appeal to the “old guard” of what was once the ruling party (really, the only party) and claimed a socialist-develomentalist philosophy. And, with some disgust among even conservatives with what appeared to be a link between some in PAN and the Spanish Fascist party, VOX, it’s possible a few PANistas may be distancing themselves from the party.

AND… at least for now… while not unexpected, the opposition did well in the mid-term elections (denying Morena and its allies a supermajority in the legislature)… AMLO himself enjoys an approval rating of somewhere over 60 %. Numbers any President of the United States would sell his mother to garner, two thirds of the way through his term. If the election comes down to a two candidate race (and, there’s no guarantee it will) and Sheinbaum is — as it looks — Morena’s candidate, it will be another nail in the coffin of our collective imaginings of Latin American presidents.

Is this the end for… Enrique Peña Nieto?

19 October 2021

Milenio… which has usually been seen as a not-particularly-friendly media company when it comes to the present administration, and somewhat an apologist for the previous one (at least in some of its opinion columns) publishe a shocking story… said to have been leaked by the Fiscal General’s (Attorney General in the US system) Office: the very real possibility that former president Enrique Peña Nieto, his #2, Luis Videgaray (who, incidentally, was a person and business associate of former US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner) and former PAN candidate, Ricardo Anaya … and other high ranking members of the two former ruling parties… will be charged with money laundering, criminal association and bribery.

The Odebrecht bribery scandal, which landed any number of Latin American and African politicians in hot water was always somewhat sidestepped in Mexico, until former PEMEX CEO, Emilio Lozoya … who either was the master-mind of the bribery scheme, or — having been extradited frm his Spanish refuge, and in protective custody since returning to Mexico (and looking to ameliorate his probable sentence whenever, ofr if, he is actually proecuted) had sopposedly been spilling his guts, fingering the high level former leaders, and detailing more serious allegations which could land them prison sentences of up to 60 years behind bars.

The Fiscal General’s Office (which is, at least in theory, independent of the Executive Branch) has been investigating Lozora’s claims for over a year, but according to the Milenio story, the Investigators only turned over their findings to the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime on the 2nd of September. A day later, the Speical Prosecutor’s prepared its “inveigative folder”… the first step in bringing formal charges… specifically against former President Peña Nieto and his Secretary of the Treasury, Luis Videgaray Caso, against whom arrest warrants had been sought last year, but where turned down by the judge. The new charge sheets also name (according to Milenio) former PAN senator Jorge Luis Lavalle, former presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya, the sitting governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, as well as former senators Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, David Penchyna Grub “and others”. In both the original and new documents, Peña Nieto and Luis Videgaray, are specifically named as those who “obtained resources” via Lozano from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

According to the Fiscal’s Office, these “resources” (i.e. cash) was used both to finanance the PRI’s 2012 Presidential race (which Peña Nieto won… though “fair and square” might not be applicable here),as well as for bribes to both the lower and upper houses of Congress to vote in favor of changes to the Cnstitution and and in favor of laws related to the energy sector,which allowed foreign interests (specifically Oderbrecht) access to Mexican oil and other natural resources. In addition, the changes and new laws were designed to permit PEMEX to grant contracts favoring those foreign comapnies, specifically,the Brazilian firm.

The Attorney General’s Office — based on interviews with PEMEX, Legistaltive, and Oderbrect personnel,– turned their findings over to Alfredo Higuera Bernal, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime, , “so that according to his powers, he may initiate what accords to the corresponding law ”.

I.E. file charges… or not.

So far, this story has only appeared in Mileoio and a few of the on-line news outlets. Surpisingly, there wss no mention (none that I saw) in the “mainstream” lefty Jornada. Whether or not this goes to court, and whether or not anyone ever sees Peña Nieto behind bars (the vertical kind… not the ones he’s been sighted hanging out in, in places like New York) is probably wishful thinking, but it does show there is more than lip-service being given to the present administration’s anti-corruption campaign: at least (according to those on the right) when it comes to previsous adminsitrations.

On the other hand, a bit amusing, is oppostion to a proposal from AMLO to hold a recall election, in which at least half the voters would have to support his finishing his term (in 2024). AMLO said he’s leave even if he received 60% of the vote to stay. Since to even have a recall, there would first need to be a referendum, the PAN and PRI argue that such a referendum would be likely to fail (like the recent one that would have permitted criminal prosecutions of former presidents… something that could happen anyway, though not for the charges mentioned by the Special Prosecutor’s Office… AND… if that doesn’t persuade their parties, then perhaps the realization that AMLO would receive more than 60% of the vote to stay is what weighs on their minds

FGR acusará a Peña Nieto, Videgaray y Anaya por delincuencia organizada (Milenio, 17 October 2021)

Arms and “the man”

17 October 2021

… or is it, when the shoe is on the other foot?

Jesús Esquivel in Proceso reports on the security negotiations between the United States and Mexico, which are hung up over something Mexfiles has been asking about for years… if the US can insist on “embedded agents” in Mexico, why can’t Mexico embed agents in the United States?

Loosely translated:

WASHINGTON (Process) .– “Reciprocity” is a keyword when it comes to negotionas between the United States and Mexico over Mexico’s approval for 12 visas for DEA agents to operate in this country. In return, Mexico wants 12 Mexican agents in the United States working to verify measures against arms trafficking, sources with the Bigen administrtion reveal.

“There is an impasse in the negotiations with the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the case of the DEA agents,” a US Department of Justice official told Proceso.

Given the on-going negotiations in progress, the official requested anonimity, but admitted that the reciprocal visa approval was discussed turing the High Level Security Dialogue held Thursday (7 October), but that the discussion did not lead to anything.

“In the meeting with their counterparts in Mexico, the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, negotiated the issue of the visa of the DEA agents. There was no settlement and it was determined that negotiations will continue, ” the source stressed.

Following the arrest in the United States of Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, the former Secretary of National Defense, last year (15 October 2020), the Mexican government cancelled the vista for 12 DEA agents. This scenario has been confirmed by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations (SRE).

Cienfuegos was arrested at the Los Angeles international airport, accused by the DEA of drug trafficking and collusion with a fraction of the Sinaloa Cartel. Although he was exonerated by the Justice Department and repatriated to Mexico, the consequences of the general’s case are latent and imply a high cost for the security interests of the United States.

“The Mexican government asks that, in order to authorize visas for DEA agents, the United State authorize 12 Secretariat of Security (and Citizen Protection) to collaborate in the fight against arms trafficking,” the American official says.

According to this version, the López Obrador government asks that Mexican agents be directly involved in the actions carried out by US agencies against arms tranfers to Mexico, specifically actions by the DEA, the FBI, the ATF ( Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service) or CBP (Office of Customs and Border Protection).

It only seems reasonable, given the United States is also the center of financing for the narcotics trade, that if they don’t want the narcos’ products, that Mexican SAT agents (the Fiscal Intelligence Unit) also be embedded in the US to look into those money laundering states like Biden’s own Delaware. 

Only fair, right?

The ball’s in your court: US-Mexico Security Pact

12 October 2021

My translation, and rework of “Cooperación entre México y EU en seguridad puede mejorar: especialista“, Emir Olivares Alonso, La Jornada, 11 Oct 2021, page 10).

When it comes to a bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States, security cooperation is fundamental, but it can improve, readjusted and, above all, respect the the sovereignty of the two nations, said the internationalist and expert in US_Mexican relations, Eduardo Rosales.

Interviewed on the high-level security discussion being held between the two nations, the Acatlán School of Higher Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) researcher noted that the United States would have to take co-responsiblity for combatting violence and crime in Mexico (and at home. He indicated that while any agreement must criticize Mexico’s inability to stop crime, the White House must also be self-critical and recognize that the problem is also its responsibility.

“Corruption exists there as well; drugs pass through and are sold not by large cartels, but by organized gangs that operate freely and have not been fought; They give criminal groups firepower with little control over the sale of weapons; The beneficiaries of money laundering are the banks, the most conservative figure is that around 30 billion dollars from drug trafficking enter the US financial circuits a year, the drug traffickers are the criminal and visible arm of the neighboring country’s banker. The United States must work to bring all of that down. ”

The specialist said that the war on drugs — begun in the mid 1970s by the Richard Nixon administration — has spent 100 billion dollars to combat trafficking and consumption: And what has been the result?

“They have not been able to change the culture, in their country there are between 23 and 24 million habitual drug users and if you count the occasional drug users the figure is close to 50 million people. Nothing is done about the demand, and little is done about the supply”.

Goodbye, Columbus

12 October 2021
He’s just a man, and I’ve know so many other men before…

When the stature of Christopher Columbus, which has stood in the Reforma roundabout in Colonia Juarez since 1892 was “temporarily” removed last October — ostensively for cleaning and restoration (and, admittedly, because defacing landmarks has become something of the fashion of street protests lately) — did anyone really think he would be returning?

With another 12 October… Diá de la Raza … upon us (close on the heels of the 500th anniversary of the downfall of the Aztec “Empire”) it was announced in early September that the Columbus statue would relocate, moving — like so many other Europeans in Mexico City over the years — to a swankier neighborhood: specifically Parque de los Americas in upscale Polanco, while the busy Reforma roundabout would PROBABLY be graced with Tlalli, an idealized and abstract indigenous woman. Or a woman of some sort.

On the occasion of not returning the monument to its original pedestal, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller (Mexican journalist, literature professor… and, incidentally, the president’s wife) was called on to make a few remarks.

To ‘discover America’ is to claim that such a land was lost, covered, hidden. By the logic of colonization, finding it brought it to life. No! America was not under water’. overgrown, or buried. The American continent existed, had a life of its own, and included many flourishing civilizations… architecture, astronomy, agriculture, culture, and the arts. In fact, Christopher Columbus did not ‘discover’ it. Not only are there documented traces of previous European and Asian explorers, but, unfortunately for him, he died without ever knowing that in his colossal transatlantic journey he had come across a new continent. You cannot ‘discover’ something that you do not know existed and then say you ‘found’ it.

Said obliquely, Colombus — a 15th century Italian, or Portugese, or… whatever… navigator, with the typical disregard for humanity and bloody-mindedness typical of Europeans of his time — is of lesser importance than the events set in motion that transformed the planet. Not always for the best.

Dame Rebecca West, who was somethng of a right-wing crank at the end of her life, fretted in “Survivors in Mexico” that if the Spanish had not “discovered” the Americas, the Muslims would have, and it would have been a tragedy for “western civilization” (I paraphrase). Although, among earlier “old world” visitors (and presumed visitors) to the “new world” prior to Columbus, there was Muhammad ibn Qu, a 13th century Malian ruler, said to have set off into the Atlantic, and … in oral tradition … to have reached what is now Brazil. And, had the Vikings, or the Irish, or the Chinese, or some other likely earlier visit to this side of the world had the same impact as Colombus, “western culture” would likely have been very different too.

As it was, it was probably inevitable that someone from the Iberian kingdoms, specifically someone serving the joint crown of Castille and Aragon would have sailed to this side of the world. The technology of the European late middle ages was largely imported through the Arab world, of which Iberia … until the fateful year of 1492, was still a part. The mercantile kingdom of Aragon had been losing its access to the middle east, and though the middle east to China and India, for over a century (having once competed sucessfully with Genoa and Venice, even holding Athens for a time). Between the Ottoman expansion into North Africa, and it’s understandable ideological war with the Christian “reconquista” of their territories in Iberia, and the Portuguese having worked out a way to by-pass the old “Silk Road” route to acquire goods from China and India, Aragon would be in decline without finding their own short-cut to what was the major “industrial heartland” of the era.

While still a wealthy nation, Aragon didn’t have the muscle to expand its business. That is until there was a stratigic merger… i.e…. a royal marriage. Ferdinand II of Aragon brought in cash and business saavy to Isabella of Castille’s manpower and military strength. The Ottomans already had access to the “far east”, Genoa and Venice weren’t hung up on religious ideology when it came to business, England was a weak minor northern power (and recovering from a century of civil wars), Scotland and the Scandinavia were a mess… and France seemed satisfied to get its Renassance fix via the Italian peninsula. Leaving… “Spain” (i.e. Castille and Aragon) and Portugal as the contenders for the Atlantic-Asian trade.

So… with Portugal having established a workable, if somewhat circuitous route to east Asia, “Spain’s” search for a faster route makes perfect sense. Despite Washington Irving’s 1828 “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus”, and generations of American school mar’ms, it wasn’t that Columbus knew better than everyone else, and the world was round, or… as we have it the the contemporary spirit of “debunking” the figures held up by the “great men” school of history… Columbus was just a fool who couldn’t do math and under-calculated the circumference of the earth by a few thousand kilometers. Or, had plain dumb luck.

More logical is that maps and globes of the time had the circumference about right but either over-estimated the land mass of Asia, or — as a few did — showed North American land-masses somewhere about where they should be, but without any real detail of whether they were part of Asia, or just close to Asia. The “Erdesfel”, a globe made by the Bohemian Martin Beheim (and employee of those exploratory Portuguese) shows “Cipango”… Japan… about where Mexico City sits. And Ferdinand and Isabella … while they may have been busy with the rash decision to put in motion their final solution for the Jews (something building for a very long time) sending out some obscure skipper Columbus in search of a shorter route to Asia was a high risk investment (and required going to private creditors) and one can safely assume they did their due dilligence. Say what you will about the pair, they weren’t stupid, or naive.

Columbus died still thinking he was “this close” to Asia. And he’d made an absolutely terrible administrator of his colony. A monster if you like… in the way 15th century petty tyrants tended to be. We have no clue as to how Eric the Red, or Muhammad Ibi Qu, or Saint Brendan, or any of the other earlier (sometimes merely conjectural) old worlders treated their new world neighbors. Nor does it matter, any more than it does how Columbus himself acted (one hopes they were better).

For Columbus, the man, isn’t ultimately what matters, or what should be remembered. The so-called “Columbian Exchange”… the agricultural, demographic (did Columbus himself bring the diseases that wiped out a quarter of the human race over the next century or two… or would that have happened anyway?), ethnic, historical, and ecological chain of events that created, like it or not, what the world became. It’s not that the world and its peoples wouldn’t have changed over the last 500 + years without Columbus, nor that things would be better or worse, but that it’s foolish to speculate.

As foolish as building a statue to one person and claiming that that one person made us who we are.

Francisco Franco is still dead… and so is Cortés

10 October 2021

“Osadía” is about as close a Spanish equivalent to “Chutzpah” you can find. As to a fuller definition, look no futher than the latest from Francisco Franco’s zombie minions, the VOX party.

It’s not that Cortés wasn’t a seminal figure in Mexican history (you can’t get around that), nor that the Conquest didn’t have a significant impact on world history (it did), but Vox’s DEMANDS that Mexico rebuild a tomb for Hernan Cortés… because….?

Vox, if you’re not familiar with them, basically longs for a return to the Franco era, the same way Franco longed for the by-gone days when Castillians dominated not just Spain (and those pesky Catalans, Basques, and others heard and obeyed… or at least shut up), everybody went to Church, and the Pope was definitely not some provincial from the far-flung corners of the (long gone) Empire with weird ideas about tolerance. Black Shirts pushing the Black Legend.

Much as I accept that there is some validity to modern critiques of the “Black Legend” — the common belief that Spanish colonialism, and Spanish repression at home, was somehow worse than that of other European nations. As an example, I point to the Spanish Inquisition.

In no way better, or worse than other ideological courts of the time, it did at least have codified rules of evidence, and wasn’t as likely to resort to torture as other analogous courts. And, a much lower body count than most. About 2 executions per year for 300 years thoughout a world-wide Empire, compared to Henry VIII of England, who managed in 38 years to off something like 10 times that number, just in England and Wales for various forms of “heresy”. Where the Black Legend goes off the rails is what VOX finds admirable. Imposing European culture on the Americas. Oh, sure, they argue, some mistakes were made, but to them, destroying indignous cultures and the more than occasional genocide, wasn’t the same as the English colonial system’s policy of genocide … and that, besides, it made Spain rich (which it didn’t, just inflated the currency).

The piratical Cortés and his “ad-venture capitalism” kick-started the wholesale looting of what’s now Latin America, with disasterous consequences for the Iberians (something VOX overlooks) not to mention what heppened here, not discounting the various Eurasian diseases introduced that wiped out up to 90% of the peoples of the Americas. Mexican’s don’t forgive or forget Cortés, but accept that the Conquest he led as historial fact. As the monument at the site of the final defeat of Cuauhtémoc reads: “Neither a victory nor a defeat, but the painful birth pangs of the Mexican people”.

And, so, Cortés is not a Mexican as such, but a figure in an event, or at the beginning of a 300 year series of events that came from the outside that went into the creation of the modern Mexican state and was (and remains) an important element in Mexican cultures. Note the plural.

For Mexico, and Mexicans, those 300 years of Spanish domination were at base, the beginning of large scale, external expoitation. VOX, devious, back-stabbing pious thugs –whether Franco or Cortés — are to be celebrated. Even if, as Vox will reluctantly admit, there were some “mistakes” (hey, they only destroyed the indigeous culture and reduced them to peonage… it’s not like they regularly committed genocide, right? it’s a minor matter. What matters to VOX is the romantic appeals of Making Spain Great Again (remind those north of the border of anyone?).

What more does a dead guy need?

And, in a fit of pique over Mexico’s request that the King of Spain just admit the Conquest wasn’t all that great, VOX demands… reparations?

For… those damned independence leaders (who couldn’t have been in their right mind, some not even Criollos of “pure Spanish blood”) for misplacing Cortés… a mere 367 years after he died. And, a mere 30 years after the old rogue’s wishes had been fulfilled and his remains placed (in an overwrought, now-gone tomb) in the Church of the Hospital de Jesús. Don’t ask the VOXistas about what happened to the Spanish Jews in 1492, when they’re focused on the 1820s expulsion of Spanish subjects from the new Mexican republic, and Lucas Alemán, the hospital administrator at the time, and a fan-boy of the Vicerealm, broke open the tomb, shoved the bones in a box, and deposit them in the soon to be Spanish Embassy. Which reopened in the 1840s, but bureaucray being bureacracy, was pretty well forgotten about until in 1948 some low level clerk going through a filing cabinet had an “oh, shit! What’s this doing here?” moment, and, with press and officials in attendence, what remained of the remains were popped in a hole to the left of the main altar back in the Church of Hospital de Jesus and given a nice bronze plaque.

I am tempo write something like “what happens next remains to be seen”, but I won’t. For all the aburdity of the “demand”, VOX, just for taking any interest in Mexico’s internal affairs, needs to be taken very seriously. That they convinced some PAN senators and delagates to sign on to a common manifesto, which appears to be some some of anti-Bolivarian, or rather counter-Bolivarian, common front against “communism” in the “Hispanic” world is troubling. PAN’s fascist roots are well known, but we thought the pro-fascist elements had been marginalized within the party, and it’s recent coalition with PRI and PRD was expected to tame the more reactionary elements. If they really think Cortés’ rotting bones are all that important, they can have them… provided they take their Latin American supporters with them, and go away. 0

The Canaries in an Empire

8 October 2021

An opinion piece by in today’s Jornada by Raúl Zibechi on the La Palma volcano eruption and it’s effects on both the local economy and on the woes of “tropical paradises” in general (too damn many tourists with too much money) brought to mind Alan Taylor’s 2001 “American Colonies”. Taylor looked at the creation of the United States not just as the story of the English colonies moving westward, but of all the colonial policies of all the imperial powers that once held territory in what is now the United States (including the United States itself in Hawai’i). What Zibechi’s column had to do with Taylor (and United States history) was his somewhat passing reference to the difference between British and Spanish colonialism, based on the two countries first “overseas” colonies. Ireland for the English, the Canaries for Spain.

Both nations, in their drive to dominate and exploit their possessions turned to cultural and physical genocide, there was a distinction WITH a difference. The English, especially in the north, sought to replace the indigenous Irish… the pioneering “settler state”. The Spanish did erradicate the native Canarians (the Guanches) more by accident and ineptitude than design.

Where the Irish had immunity to the usual Euroasian diseases, the Guances had no such protection. As it is, given all we know about the native Guanches is that they were extremely big people by the standards of the time, the Spanish were at a loss, and geniunely bothered by the massive and rapid decline in the Guanche population. After all, they’d hoped to make slaves (another route to quick extinction of a population) or at least productive workers out of the natives. Preferably Catholic (at least, sorta Catholic).

The “conquest” of the Canaries, came about a century before the conquest of Mexico, which came about 400 centuries before there was anything like a decent understanding of germs and how they spread. While it doesn’t exactly let the Conquistors off the hook for setting off the American holocaust (reducing the native population of the Americas by up to 90% over the next century). but it was deliberate, as was — a century and a half later — the English realized infected clothing and blankets could be a useful tool in solving their “native problem”. Native massacres (that is, massacres OF natives) were less common, and less acceptable by the Spaniards than by the English, and the later United States, that not only accepted, but encouraged, them.

THe Canarians, having the misfortune to leve in a popular tourist destination, have to put up with tourists eager to “enjoy”” the various thrill of watching people’s homes and possessions consumed by a volcano (Reuters photo).

The English sought to replace the local population with their own expendibles (in the Americas, the less desiderable religious minorities and criminals) while just enough elites to command and control. The Spanish only sent out those needed for administrative tasks, although individuals in both Empires would emigrate hoping to better their economic condition, or to escape their past.

It might be tempting to imagine an alternative history in which there weren’t empires, but it would be fruitless, and foolish to assume the cultures in places like the Canaries, or Ireland, or the Americas would not have changed over the centuries, even if left alone. They weren’t. When it came to imposing themselves on the Americas, the English did a much more thorough job of wiping out the original cultures, whereas in Latin America, as much for demographic reasons as anything, the cultures of the “mother country” have been assimilated by the native population.

Decriminalized abortion

8 September 2021

For now, lifted directly from Latin America Daily Briefing. My comments later on.

Mexican court decriminalizes abortion
Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion yesterday, in a landmark ruling that struck down a Coahuila state law that imposed up to three years of prison for women who underwent illegal abortions or those who aided them. The ruling, which determined that criminalization of abortion unconstitutional, is binding on other states. Under Mexican law, a supreme court ruling supported by at least eight justices supersedes state laws. Yesterday’s ruling was unanimously supported by 10 justices. (Animal Político)
The decision does not automatically make abortion legal across Mexico, experts said, but it does set a binding precedent for judges across the country, reports the New York Times. Abortion is legal in four of Mexico’s 32 federal entities — Oaxaca, Veracruz, Hidalgo and Mexico City.

“Today is a watershed in the history of the rights of women and pregnant people, above all the most vulnerable,” Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar said. “The unjust criminalization of women ends with one stroke. Never again a woman in prison for exercising her rights.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not immediately comment yesterday. He has had a conflictive relationship with women’s rights activists since taking office.
The decision reflects the growing power of Mexico’s feminist movement, and will impact the womens rights agenda in Latin America, reports the Washington Post. Victories in one country often catalyze activist efforts in others, as occurred with Argentina’s abortion legalization campaign, which succeeded in December of last year. In Mexico, as in the rest of the region, activists have linked demands for abortion legalization with protests against gender-based violence.
“Mexico’s decision represents a turning point that Latin America and the Caribbean are making in recognizing women’s rights to abortion as a matter of fundamental rights and reproductive rights,” said Brazilian women’s rights activist Debora Diniz who presented an abortion case that Brazil’s Supreme Court is set to rule on soon. (Wall Street Journal)

Which side (of the border) are you on?

6 September 2021

Jornada’s David Brooks with some compare/contrast for the US Labor Day.

Today, the unionization rate in the United States is among the lowest of the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries, even lower than that of Mexico. Furthermore, the United States has fewer legally protected labor rights than Mexico (for example, there are no regulations here to defend non-union workers from being laid off, no health insurance, vacations, and other benefits), and in fact there is no protection of the right to freely associated, or to negotiate collective contracts. Some 20 percent of persons involved in union organizing efforts are fired by companies – there are thousands each year – while reprisals of all kinds continue against those who dare to promote unions in this country. Under the law, millions of farm laborers, domestic workers and others have no protected right to unionize. The fight for civil rights in this country has always been intertwined with a fight for workers’ rights.

Much has been said about the labor reform in Mexico and the need to ensure its implementation and compliance with its regulations and labor rights, including monitoring by the United States. But it is just as urgent that Mexico and other countries provide support to advance the fight for labor rights in the United States starting this Labor Day. Solidarity is a two-way street.

Knights of Labor parade, Geneva NY 1911

Plus ça change

16 August 2021

US intervention, whether by a coup in Mexico in February 1913, or chasing Osama bin-Ladin around Afganistan in 2001, it never works out as intended.

Captain iuikpa castille*

10 August 2021

Hollywood, with a few notable exceptions (Warner Brothers’ 1939 “Juarez”), has normally turned to cliches and romanticism when the setting is Mexico. Especially “Olde Mexico”. The 1947 “Captain From Castille” would have been just another Tryone Power swashbuckling adventure story… sword play and… being “olde Mexico”… an evil Inquisitor, a Señorita (Jean Peters) to be saved from a fate worth than death (and to be won by Tryone in the end) and … surprisingly.. an unusual bit of historial accuracy you wouldn’t expect… But only thanks to an uncredited actress in a key role.

Shellabarger’s novel, and the script based on the novel, is based on Bernal Diaz de Castilo’s Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España written by the Conquistador about 50 years after the Conquest, no doubt a bit … shall we say… enhanced …over the long intervening years, and Diaz’ own sense of self-importance, mixed in with a romance and … for a villian… an agent of the Inquisition, doing what cliche Inquisitors do best (at least popular culture inquistors, not the inquistors about whom recent historians have discovered were not at all what we imagine). But… Hollywood being Hollywood… when the legend becomes the story… film the legend. Accuracy be damned. While there was a few “hispanics” in the cast playing hispanic characters (Cesar Romero as Hernan Cortés), one of the few Mexicans playing the part of a Meixcan… Stella Inda as Doña Marina… la Malache… Malintzin… who wouldn’t even be listed in the creidts at the flim’s end (although the real Doña Marina probably deserves the credit… or blame… for the eventual success of the Conquest) is credited with giving the film an unusual veneer of historical accuracy.

From the time she was first cast, Inda fought for accuracy. The costume meant for Doña Marina was something more suitable to a far east swashbuckler than one set in 1520s Mexico. Aztec women certainly didn’t wear silky sarongs. And, looking over the script, Inda noticed something that her gringo employers boviously had never given a thought to. While, in an American film for American audiences, it was natural that the “Spaniards” spoke in English, it made no sense that the “Aztecs” spoke Spanish. Surprisingly, when Inda brought her concerns to director Henry King, he agreed to her suggested changes.

One wonders if King or Inda knew what they’d just let themselves in for. Inda drew up designs for a more authentic huipal for her Doña Marina to wear, but neither she, nor any of the actors with roles as “Aztecs” spoke authentic Nahautl. King hired anthopologist Daniel Rubín de la Borbolla to translate the lines spoken by “Indians” into Nahautl, and brought in the noted linguist R. H. Barlow to not just teach the actors their lines, but to stay on the set and… if they misprounced a word in Nahautl, to insure King would re-shoot the scene. Barlow was no mere academic, at various points in his life being the literary executor of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and later a mentor to Beat novelist William S. Burroughs during his stint in Mexico.

Amazingly, Inda herself didn’t know a word of Nahautl when she made her suggestions, although she felt compelled to learn it. Nor did the Canadian actor playing an Aztec, Jay Silverheels, know Nahautl. Although, it has to be said, unlike his role as Tonto in the 1949-55 television series “The Lone Ranger”, at least the Mohawk actor for once got to speak a real indigenous language on screen.

Inda would have a long, but not distinguished career (including a role in the worst horror film ever made, “Curse of the Aztec Mummy”) in Mexican films, but never was in another Hollywood film. Still, it was thanks to her that at least one “Olde Mexico” film out of any number of Hollywood films, had an unsual degree of historial accuracy and was probably the only major release film with significant dialoge in an indigenous American language.

* I don’t speak Nahautl, but I know where to find an English-Nahuatl on-line translator!

Sources:

IMDB, “Captain From Castille

IMDB, “Estella Inda”

Paramo, Pedro, “El capitán de Castilla” Cuando Hollywood denunció al racismo mexicano, Praxis, 7 Ago 2021

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