Saturday, September 02, 2006


When Sunshine got off work today, the first order of business was to go shopping for the two bottles of rum and hunk of cheese that will sustain me this weekend. She'll be flying to Minneapolis early tomorrow to see her grandparents, and I will be bachelor padding it for three evenings. On the way home the radio reported that protestors were attempting to topple the steel barricades separating them from Mexico City's congressional building where the national presidential address was to happen at seven pm this evening. At home, television news frustratingly broadcast the damn speeches themselves instead of concentrating on the protest outside the building. Soon enough, it was time to go have an incredible sushi dinner at Ikkru with Olga, to which we were all late because we were paying attention to news (and traffic was bad). What happened? I had tobiko rolls, unagi don, and a jo platter, and for once I had the discipline to hold myself to one full sake instead of the usual two halves. Olga informed us that, apparently, AMLO cleverly rallied his troops well away from the congressional building, but the PRD congressmen inside (ALMO’s political party amigos) managed to block access to the podium as Vicente Fox arrived to give his speech. In a move that might play as losing this battle of wills,* Vicente Fox handed a written copy of his speech to lawmakers and left the building without taking the stage. Of course, Fox will say he refused* to address the opposition's disorderly brouhaha. Now he plans to address the nation on video, to be televised later tonight. In the wild west, Hurricane John's creaming Cabo San Lucas,* and poised to march right up the narrow Sea of Cortez, something I've never seen happen before. [Cavin]

Friday, September 01, 2006


Lightening struck city hall in Mexico City, Missouri yesterday, frying the computer systems.* Okay, just keeping you on your toes. In the country of México: tension strikes city hall as the outgoing president, still without a formally-announced successor, prepares to go ahead with his final state of the nation address before congress tomorrow--in a city still besieged with opposition protest over the former mayor's unofficial loss of this year's presidential election. Vicente Fox swears he will not be deterred,* and the AMLO camp swears he will be,* listing numerous plans to disrupt tomorrow's thing. Commentators are concerned that this will be the catalyst sparking the real violence. If not this, then everyone is worried about the official announcement of Calderón's victory next Wednesday, the annual national Independence Day celebration in the Federal District's Zócalo on the fifteenth, or maybe any of the other days AMLO will not be crowned king of México. The power struggle may come to a boil here tomorrow night, or may continue to simmer--it's all in the hands of zealots and shock troops, now. I see that there is a large tropical storm* menacing the southern border of my home state: when I first predicted Ernesto was going to be the year's first Atlantic Hurricane, I thought he was heading for the Gulf; but now he is hanging out with my friends and making me homesick. In the mid-Pacific area of México, Hurricane John weakened* to category two, still charging directly at Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California. People are being evacuated.* As of this writing he is hovering offshore near San Blas, the fishing village where the rescued shark fishermen of last week's news recently returned. Water, water everywhere.... Except here in Monterrey, where it's sunny and dry. [Cavin]

Thursday, August 31, 2006


This is probably not the time for you to be a tourist in Oaxaca. After months of first one, then many, factions angrily blocking off the beating heart of this culturally and racially indigenous state, businesses struck back yesterday. Tired of killings, riots, steel barriers, checkpoints, burning tires, lawlessness, and a flag sporting APPO (initials for the "Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca")* flying over the capital, local business owners walked out yesterday,* closing down all that remained of commercial civilization there. Police and town hall buildings have stood empty for a month or more, but yesterday no grocery stores, banks, taxis, mechanics, restaurants, or etc. were open for business. Were you to have decided to finally flee Oaxaca yesterday, you would not have been able to because all of the bus stations were locked. All semblance of normality is shuttered in guarded houses behind neighborhood blockades. The government came into the game yesterday, starting talks to end unrest here. Federal emissaries to the APPO began to sit down with those who wish to unseat the governor and hash out a plan to settle things to the point that tourist dollars might eventually return to the city. Five hundred kilometers west of Oaxaca, the Pacific hurricane John,* strong category four, remains thirty-five K out to sea churning parallel to the coast as he moves north-northwest toward the tip of Baja California. This is a worst-case scenario, frankly: 140 mile per hour winds and ten-foot storm surges beat the hell out of the costal resorts of Mexico slowly, spun out of a hurricane that is not really weakening because it is not making landfall. Maybe it is a good idea to stay in Oaxaca after all. PS, now the L.A. Times is starting to speak my language. [Cavin]


Wednesday, August 30, 2006


This is a story of plan B. Remember the famous mummies of Guanajuato [blog, photos]? Well, they're following me: several armfuls have become a traveling exhibit* and it has reached Monterrey's history museum,* showing through Halloween. At the grand opening tonight I was amazed at the turnout--mummies seem pretty popular here. Hundreds of people were waiting without shade, lined-up to the hot riverwalk construction area at the capital building. We had complimentary tickets for an exclusive kickoff conference where panelists were to talk about different methods of mummification and the different types of mummies which result. Because of the vast number of attendees, though, this talk was sold out, they were very sorry to say. That was plan A. Up the street, however, the MARCO had been set up for an annual awards gala* honoring Latin American journalism. We were walking back to the car when we decided to crash it. Sunshine had complimentary invites to this, too, but she'd given them away (although we just walked right in without any hassle). Olga was there, and we found good seats. The governor of Nuevo Leon was there. Gabriel Garcia Marquez* was also there. He doesn't speak at these things, just sits at center-table, filled with dignity, poise, and charm, greeting the yearly winners in the fields of print and photo journalism. He is a perfect gentleman. I could not believe that we got to sit in the same room with him for nothing. When the awards were finally given and the crowd was milling, well-dressed men with trays of strong drinks and good food started to mingle, and Celso Piña's* seven-man band broke into a surprise set so heroically cool it took two accordions.* I'll say this for the luminaries of Latin American journalism: they can dance. [Cavin]

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Not only did Tropical Storm Ernesto* become the year's first Atlantic hurricane on schedule over the weekend, but after relaxing today he stands poised to be the first to become a hurricane twice--rare behavior symptomatic of Ernesto's really low wattage. He is expected to pick up speed again in the straits and eventually ram into the Florida's Atlantic tip. New Orleans and Gulf oil are heaving sighs of relief. In Chiapas, election officials have handed the gubernatorial victory* to the PRD candidate who squeaked by with a roughly four-tenths of a percent lead over his opponent, some kind of electoral narrowness record. In Mexico City's narrow race: federal judges held an all-day session today, rejecting outright many of AMLO’s 240 accusations of fraud (some directed at the selfsame judicial tribunal), virtually locking Calderon's victory on the sixth (and ending any chance of my not having to pay the hundred pesos I lost in election-related betting). AMLO, on the other hand, is setting-up* a "convention" to plan "civil disobedience" on September 16, which happens to be Independence Day. He has also uttered bondvillian intimations of conducting up his own "parallel" protest government. The world has a word for this: insurrection. If the election were to happen all over again, I don't think he'd again come so close to winning it, and I suspect he will not be popular enough to even run again in '12, but wackier things have happened. Like what? Well, if you have fifteen dollars in your pocket, a Mexican park is willing to provide you with an experience* otherwise mostly ouside of my standard reader's experience: the opportunity to simulate an illegal and traumatic entry over the US border, sans, I hope, all the fatal danger. Great. [Cavin]

Monday, August 28, 2006


I ran into this little article online, dateline today, wherein the commentator discusses a restaurant experience that he had "just the other day" in Guanajuato. In this strange little article, the writer enjoys a well-prepared dinner at Restaurante Vegetariano Yamuna off the Plazuela de San Fernando. You'll remember,* of course, that Sunshine and I looked for this place when we were in town last year, finding a menudo shop where it was supposed to have been (re: Lonely Planet). Later, after giving it up for closed, we discovered that it had, in fact, only moved across town. What's strange about this article? Well for one, he mentions that tourists might have trouble finding the place, but then neglects to tell his readers the restaurant's name. He alludes to being a resident of town, but seems convinced that the place is invisibly tucked away; even though, as he says, it is just a few steps up an alley off a popular central plaza. Another detail seems spurious to me: I do not recall it feeling any more like I was in someone's home than any other establishment where proprietors live on the upper floor. Yet, even nameless, this is indisputably the same place we visited last June; a place that opened sometime before 2003 and moved to this location sometime before last summer--so certainly not recently as of "the other day." This guy seems hell bent on keeping his little place secret, and romanticizing its informality, while challenging the rest of the world's tourist-minded assumptions of restaurant culture here and industriously propping-up the mythology of México's homey provincialism. If you are ever in Guanajuato, eat at Yamuna. If you see this guy, point out the restaurant's name, painted in nearly foot-tall letters on the wall beside the door. [Cavin]

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Lately it seems like Monterrey has grown smaller. Sort of in the way that familiarity always makes home more intimate, Monterrey has just naturally become more intimate the longer we have been here. Not that there isn't a whole lot of it I haven't seen, but what I have seen, I feel like I know very well. I can give directions competently in English, and I can point my way to places, if necessary, in Spanish. We have witnessed several restaurants open and close, and grown used to things we saw them building when we first arrived. Witnessing the landscape change in this way makes us feel like old hands: I remember when the Wal-Mart was the Carrefour grocery store, we sit in our rockers and think. A lot of this comes from running into the Carapan man in La Casa de Maiz the other day and realizing we are very much part of the downtown community now. On the way to the restaurant, we had walked down the wrong side of the street to avoid being noticed by the staff at Estia, the Greek restaurant we like, who tend to wave at us from the windows when we pass because we have become regulars. We did not want to feel like we were cheating on one favorite restaurant for another. Today, they unveiled the yearly children's fund-raising fair at the church near our house. Last year this was blocking our road, but now it is all contained in the gravel parking lot across the street (it was still filled with equipment last year while the church was under construction). Last year,* the fair made us feel too big with all its teens and child-sized rides. This year, all packed into a lot, it even feels smaller somehow. [Cavin]