Saturday, September 23, 2006
First things first: at twelve-oh-three, eastern standard time, light from the center of the sun crossed the Earth's equatorial plane in declination, ending Summer 2006. Happy Autumn, everybody. For the last two and a half days it has not rained here at all. By today it was back to its normal dry state (I even watered the backyard again today). For two and a half weeks, as storm after storm crashed on our Pacific shores, it has been raining, flooding, and cool; but this last day of Summer was still hot after dark. We had Greek food tonight, and then headed over to the opening of an exhibit on Mexican Cinema at the MARCO, only to discover an enormous quantity of people lined-up there. Being crowded through an interesting exhibit was not something we wanted to wait hours for, so we went to see Trans America instead. Interesting to see a sleeper-type movie--cliché, even--act as the platform for one of the most remarkable feats of acting I've ever seen. I'm a Felicity Huffman fan--and what a jaw-dropping performance she delivers here; or rather: how impressive that this performance was so natural and heartfelt that even my jaw was fooled. I mean, if I did not already know better, I would chalk this up to a trick of casting: a role fit snugly to someone walking right through the picture playing themselves. Huffman was so utterly, humbly, calmly lost in her character that she never seemed to be acting at all. Sadly, others in the movie were not so true. One cartoonish performance halfway through was bitterly funny, sure, but such a contrast with Huffman that it seemed like a cheap special effect. Or Who Framed Roger Rabbit. PS, go see many new pictures at Flickr. [Cavin]
Friday, September 22, 2006
Speaking of the border, something needs to be done about narco-related violence along US slash México and Tony Garza, appointed ambassador to México, is just the person to talk about it. Honestly, if talking about it is the same as improving it, then things ought to start getting better any minute now: task forces are being created by both countries to really get to the bottom of what's happening.* In closed-door meetings (yesterday's in Laredo), top minds planned summits to hash out ideas. They agree: these things need to be discussed by top minds in meetings. I hope I sound mad. In the past, this has led to crackdowns and stationing federal troops in violent areas, providing a way for cartels to recruit out of trained government stock. In the past, this method has considerably bolstered the talent and technology being used by cartels to kill each other. Speaking of the border: other top minds, in Washington, have pretty much gotten together on an agreement to create real and "virtual" Berlin Walls around the US, starting with the Mexican border, in hopes of developing "operational control" there within two years.* Then all we'll have to really worry about is the security and management of all the billion-dollar corporations we've exported so we can pay employees less than they'd make if they were able to illegally work in our backyards. I hope I sound like a bleeding heart. Speaking of the border, Sunshine was there today. She took a visiting bigwig to Matamoros slash Brownsville to give a presentation on illegal narcotics culture. While she was there they crossed into the US, just to get gas, and the border enforcement officer screamed at them because they were on the phone inside their own car. Welcome to America, Americans. [Cavin]
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Mexican sources report that Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez has responded to Ambassador Tony Garza's official travel warning on Friday, referring to Garza's message as "unfortunate" and "contradictory."* The official warning is here. The diplomatic rift between México and Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez also deepens today: Derbez is widely reported in México as saying Chavez's meddlesome pronouncements about who is, and who is not, a president of México are "inconvenient."* Strong words. Derbez is also reported as saying stronger words: Chavez's plane will probably not be allowed to land in México when he tries to attend AMLO's "inauguration" as "legitimate president" on November 20th. Subcomandante Marcos came out in support of AMLO, or at least against the election that many people believe fraudulently denied him office.* Marcos has been a biting critic of the leftist candidate since the beginning of his political run, challenging him to debates and calling him on his grassroots liberalism. Still, I suspect in light of the corporate-minded PAN alternative, AMLO seems the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the Zapatista movement. New president-elect Calderón has made announcements that the ongoing situation in Oaxaca (the union strike seized the capital several months ago in order to oust the governor) will be his first order of business as Mexican leader.* Handled well, this might play well with Marcos in nearby Chiapas--this little Oaxacan coup has been all but ignored by federal peacekeepers. This will not be accomplished by jackbooted thugs overrunning a movement consisting of subsistence farmers and teachers, however. Our friend Olga has returned from the fun-in-the-sun coverage of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba. The article I cited about the NAM summit yesterday (here) was an unaccredited Basque remix of her AP story (compare with here). Basque rascals. [Cavin]
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Fresh from acting as ringleader at the Non-Aligned Movement in Cuba this last week (NAM, a summit of ostensibly anti-American nations who this year condemned Israeli attacks and supported Iran's right to nuclear technology),* Venezuela's nutty president Hugo Chavez announced that the Mexican election had been a fraud. He, too, will not be recognizing Felipe Calderón as the country's legitimate leader.* Unrelated, maybe: México opted to support Guatemala, instead of Venezuela, into a seat in the UN.* Plus, today Vicente Fox, a veteran of past tussling with Chavez, issued a statement that the Venezuelan was "meddling" and should keep is nose out of Mexican politics.* I wonder how long it will be before the respective Embassies are shut down, again (last year, Chavez referred to Fox as George Bush's "puppy,"* and México demanded an apology it never got. A diplomatic breakdown ensued). Sunshine and I had drinks to honor a drug rehabilitation bigwig in town from the US tonight. This soiree was at her employer's house, located on the other side of a particularly difficult new traffic circle we've been avoiding. You may remember that this roundabout was big trouble because it was only half finished: a traffic half-circle is exponentially worse than one whole. Nervously driving through it tonight, we noticed it was mostly completed. All incoming lanes have their own alto signs now, limiting the number of cars on the middle island or in oncoming traffic. Presently, the worse thing about driving around this thing is the lack of nearby street lights; and, oh, there are several black telephone poles jutting from the middle of the inner lane along the north side of the circle. These poles are left over from when this curve of the circle used to be innocent roadside shoulder. Muy Sheesh. [Cavin]
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Last month, the US Coast Guard nabbed the youngest and freest leader of the Tijuana Narcotics Cartel, Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, while he was fishing the Sea of Cortez with friends. Since then he has plead, get this, not guilty of charges relating to being the de facto head of México's most brutal criminal organization of the last two decades. The fates of the other passengers on that ill-fated fishing trip are leading speculators to believe that there is a very large case at stake.* So far, only the teenage babysitter has been allowed back to México. Others are being offered immunity to testify, or being held on trumped-up charges of misidentification to maybe lengthen the time the DEA has to bring more severe charges. And the other brothers? Ramon was gunned down, Benjamin languishes in jail, and Francisco Rafael, the oldest, has been extradited to the US just today.* Twenty-six years ago, Rafael allegedly sold nine ounces of cocaine to an undercover narcotics agent in San Diego, was arrested, and then jumped bail and fled back to México. This is a hilariously low-rent type of a crime in light of the vast and bloody evil empire that has sprung up under the Arellano Felix name in the ensuing years. A decade ago, Rafael was arrested and indicted in México on weapons and bribery charges, and just recently completed his ten-year sentence. Now he will go to serve a sentence in the US. This orchestration of events should serve to keep the Arellano Felix organization headless, and according to the cited article, Benjamin, who might just run things from his cell, may get extradited as well. I am concerned that this might prompt a turf war in Tijuana similar to the one being fought along the border here. [Cavin]
Monday, September 18, 2006
Hurricane Lane amped up Friday night to smash into México's Pacific coast as a category three storm. Lane touched land south of Culiacán* and rapidly fizzled back into a category one storm, but not before leaving villages flooded, washing out roads, and killing two or three people (sources vary). Now scattered storms are moving all across the country: we've had two thunder storms here today already. I have had a little trouble finding any news about the Grito de Dolores that president Fox performed in the actual city of Dolores Hidalgo this year, so I assume that it went off without a hitch. While everyone was shocked that Fox had moved the celebration from its normal setting in the México City Zócalo, the government is pointing out that it is traditional for the Grito to be performed in its original colonial town once per presidential term. So this happens at least once every six years. What? Then why is everyone so freaked out? I don't know. In the capital, AMLO laid low on Friday night (while the PRD Mayor shouted his own cry of independence), and Saturday's military parade was peaceful and typical. By Saturday night, ALMO returned to the Zócalo, rallying his "National Democratic Convention" to declare a parallel government, surprise surprise, of which he was, in turn, immediately declared the president--declared "legitimate president" of all México, in fact.* Odd as this may seem, commentators are treating this as a good omen: as an unnamed dissenter ALMO is just another wing nut; but it is possible that after declaring this movement, he will work within the existing democratic system to push his contrarian political agenda. It looks as if AMLO, as canny as ever, may actually be leveraging a political position out of his nutty revolution. [Cavin]
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Happy Independence Day! The Grito in Monterrey was great last night. We took a cab to the Barrio and ate at la Casa de Maiz (huitlacoche and flor de calabaza quesadillas, tlacoyos, memelas). After, we hit a favorite coffee shop for drinks. Just guessing here, but a Bandera Méxicana seems to be Grenadine, tequila blanco, and Midori layered to look like the flag--sweet and a little lethal-tasting. Afterward, we wandered down the middle of the street, with thousands of others, to the palacio where we waited for the Grito. The capital building was brightly-lit by flag-colored floods. There was a crush of people filling Monterrey's widest space. A variety of Mexican music played, vendors sold enormous patriotic hats and corn, and massive TV screens here and there showed this and that. I thought that being a foot taller than most Mexicans would be some advantage, but no: everyone carried a child wearing a striped sombrero* around on their shoulders. At eleven, the governor came out and shouted the Grito (Viva Hidalgo! Viva Independencia! Viva México! Viva México! Viva México!) and rang the bell; confetti cannons blasted a ticker tape parade into the air, the anthem was sung, and fireworks were set off over the crowd. Actually "at" is a better preposition than "over": the fireworks were so close flares were bouncing off the plaza around us; drifts of burning dust, left in the air after the cores discharged, raining onto the surrounding towers. Later we walked out: the crush became a mosh for a while, then a press and then a crowd again. Ten blocks away we were able to hail a cab home. [Cavin]
* Speaking of sombreros, I am happy to report my first ever sighting of a Tacate beer hat, certainly a fratboy holy grail.
* Speaking of sombreros, I am happy to report my first ever sighting of a Tacate beer hat, certainly a fratboy holy grail.