Sunday, October 25, 2009
All Mexicans and Latinos are welcome to the USA as long as they bring their Visa cards. The only restrictions they will find are aimed at those who cross the border illegally to work in the fields, sewing shops, hospitals, or collecting garbage and cleaning out the sewers. We prefer to save these jobs for our own citizens.
Our visitors from the south should not be worried about Americans speaking Spanish. We always understand such words as "hola," "wot's up, mon," "Vaya con Dios" and "Los Ángeles." In addition, most Americans can count up to ten: "uno," "dos," "cinco," "nuevo," "cuarto," etc. For their part, visitors should bone up on such key phrases as "Here's my credit card," "How much is that Mercedes in the window?" and "I've been mugged."
Visitors should be very careful of their language. A man who calls a woman a "chick" (gallina) or a "girl" (niña) is required to do six months of sensitivity training and spend a year in alternative service as a Mexican nanny (cuidaniño).
If you have legal work papers, there are many jobs for you in the United States. You can be a farm worker where you get to test pesticides directly in the field.
You can be a construction worker and tear down the scenic older parts of our cities. Sales are very attractive to some people. Many unskilled workers go into "telemarketing." This means they call people on the telephone during dinner or while they are performing brain surgery and try to sell them something. Car salesmen sell you cars permitting you and your descendants to make payments until 2095 or so. Time-life salesmen take up your time, sometimes for life (toda la vida) selling you things you may not even need until the next life.
You can also work in a sweatshop, making sweat. The most popular sweat is used by businessmen being investigated by the IRS, or mothers with a dozen or so four-year olds at an all-day birthday party. High-test designer sweat (called "perspiration") is available to upper-class people as they tend their gardens, run on treadmills, or lie in the sun working on their melanoma. Finally, there is your industrial-strength sweat used by steel workers, roofers, field hands, or drivers stopped for a broken tail-light who at the moment are carrying illegal drugs under the seat. The most popular sweatshops are located in the Bronx or southeast Los Angeles, in nondescript run-down industrial or apartment buildings. They can be recognized by storm fences topped with accordion wire, and pit-bulls who chase workers trying to get out on vacation.
There are some poor people (gente pobre) in this country. Most of them are unwed mothers who receive money from a Welfare Office where social workers talk mean to them and threaten to cut off their payments if they don't stop working or having babies without permission or living with men who are not their husbands. Poor people are also required to watch daytime TV because they can't afford to go shopping or go to the movies. When poor people are not watching TV, having babies or pretending not to work (or being talked at by their social worker), they raise large black Norwegian rats in their apartments as a hobby. Poor people's rooms are so small they often have to go outside to change their minds. For that reason, many of them prefer to live in the streets. Supermarkets loan them shopping carts so they can carry their clothes, bags, food stamps, bottles, husbands and children around with them.
America also has some rich people (gente decente). Rich people live in houses that have guards, high walls, barred gates and windows, alarm systems and machine-gun towers. They don't mind living like this because the guards let them out once or twice a week to visit their lawyers or have their hair done. Rich people are also allowed out to go to country clubs where the men play golf and conduct "deals" and tell dirty stories while their wives stay inside the clubhouse and play bridge and drink sherry and talk about their poodles and nannies and the undocumented Mexicans sneaking into the country, living off welfare.
Our way of life may confuse some of our visitors. Most American families consist of a father who works, a mother who works, a boy who watches TV, and a girl who does her hair. There are sometimes one or two younger children who also watch TV, do their hair, and run the family computers. American families believe that Mexican women make great nannies. In fact, several famous and important American women have given up their jobs in politics so they can be at home with their nannies to help raise their children. Unlike Mexico, American families do not include grandparents, cousins, uncles or aunts. These relatives stay in their own homes, watching TV and doing their hair. When parents reach fifty-five years of age, their children send them off to places called Happy Acres where they can be with their own kind, playing shuffleboard and talking about their prostates (the men) or playing gin-rummy and talking about their ungrateful children (the women). Their favorite occupation is stealing Social Security from their children. When they do this too often, they are punished by their children who send them to nursing homes for the rest of their lives.
By John Russell;
IN THE MATTER OF Mexico, I hold a position that is committed but incomplete, fragmented but constant, and lopsided but affectionate.
I am, for instance, perfectly well aware that Mexico City is, in demographic and ecological terms, a disaster. The capital, which was in the 16th century described by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a companion of Cortes, as a floating metropolis with a more than Venetian abundance of canals, is today literally sinking under its own weight. Buildings old and new have trouble standing up straight on ground that is basically unstable. Progressive overcrowding (at a reported daily increase of 1,200 more human beings), a level of pollution that is almost beyond measurement, a garbage dump from which thousands of people scratch a miserable living -- all these suggest a catastrophe in progress.
For this and other reasons, there are sensitive souls who can't wait to get out of Mexico City. After a pit stop at the National Museum of Anthropology, with its majestic presentation of pre-Columbian art, they hit the road. But even then, there will be disappointments. Time, aided by overpopulation and quick-profit, slash-and-burn cultivation, has also dealt harshly with the landscape.
Yet the countryside remains abundant and hospitable. To witness this, the visitor has only to take the road that leads out of the dozy, sweet-scented and intermittently palatial city of Merida southwest toward Chichen Itza. Walk in any small-town market and you may find no fewer than 11 different kinds of bananas. Walk through a Mayan village and you may be invited into a one-roomed, mud-floored house of pole-and-thatch construction in which the few sticks of furniture have been pushed against the floor and the hammock (for sleeping only) has been hung close to the ceiling.
Your hostess, dressed in bone white and newly laundered cotton, has the fine manners common among Mayas. Her garden is not large, but if you take a look outside you will be offered your choice of the citrus fruits and berries that glisten in the sun. (You may also make the acquaintance of a large and stately turkey, with black silk-stockinged legs, that stalks around from time to time.) And when you are done, a bowl of perfectly clean water for you to wash your hands will appear as if from nowhere.
On that same road, and with the help of an experienced guide, you can also glimpse the secret resource of Yucatan, the hidden waters, deep below ground, that were fundamental to Chichen Itza, the great city that roughly 1,000 years ago was shaping as a political, military, architectural and cultural center of the first importance. (The name Chichen Itza means roughly "at the mouths of the wells of the Itza.")
The visitor is led from the road along an unmarked path through featureless brush, overhung by scrawny trees. The guide parts the branches with a practiced hand and motions toward what looks at first sight like any other hole in the ground. But that hole reveals itself as 50 or 60 feet deep. At the bottom, in darkest shadow, water lurks. And not water only: after a few moments, a shoal of apparently centenarian catfish comes to the surface. Every mouth is raised, every eye a-swivel in search of a bite from above. Hopes clearly rooted in antiquity -- these were sacrificial wells -- are revived, only to be dashed when, curiosity satisfied, you head back to the road.
Once reached, Chichen Itza turns out to have been cleaned and tidied up to dazzling, if anachronistic, effect. Housekeeping is exemplary, even when visitors by the thousands have trooped in for the day. Lawns worthy of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge have taken the place of the jungle.
And the stupendous monuments? Well, we know from the drawings made on the spot by an English draftsman, Frederick Catherwood, that in around 1840 they were arresting, but ruinous. Even where the stones were more or less intact, they were bearded, mustached and eyebrowed with patches of jungle that just wouldn't let go. Today, they come clean-shaven. What you see has little relation to the thriving cosmopolitan metropolis, thronged with gaudy and tumultuous people, that existed a thousand and more years ago: Chichen Itza today is, in effect, a perfectly run sculpture park in which visitors by the thousand maintain, on the whole, an awed silence.
That awed silence is well founded. In these formidable surroundings we never know at what moment a new vision of human possibilities will take us by surprise. The Mayas were past masters of measurement. They set themselves to measure time and to have a privileged relation with the heavens. But knowing that is a different thing from seeing it. We get quite a different sense of that grand design when we wait indoors in deep shadow and can foretell to the nearest second the moment at which a bright sliver of golden light will slice through the darkness and streak across the floor.
In that grand design we are all of us accomplices. And in those complicated stones, with their plumed serpents cut deep in manic and repetitive decoration, we glimpse, as the philosopher and poet Octavio Paz once said, a buried part of our own being and peer into our own abyss.
Dedicated restoration has had the impact of major cosmetic surgery. Today the celebrated and potentially murderous ball court at Chichen Itza -- once the home of a deadly ancestor of basketball -- is neat enough for the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. The high walls are in good order, as are the stone rings through which the masked and heavily padded players tried to maneuver the heavy rubber ball. The bleachers are intact.
The elegant simplicity of the building known as Caracol -- often called the observatory -- was equally obscured by vegetation. Even the outline of the rounded and now knoblike tower -- a novelty in Mayan days -- was hardly legible. Today, the Caracol has a limpidity of geometrical statement that makes us accept it, whether mistakenly or not, as a place in which the only thing that mattered was the search for truth. Climbing in and around it, you might conceive of it as a Mesoamerican Institute for Advanced Study -- a Princetonian think tank in the jungle where savants, unknown to us by name, worked out a cycle of 18,980 days during which notated time would make a complete rotation, thereafter to start again all over.
A fantasy, perhaps? Yes: but one reinforced by the fact that the neighboring four-sided pyramid of Kukulcan has in all 365 steps and still gives a specific signal, at the time of the autumnal equinox, that another year has been completed.
What Chichen Itza has long lost, and what even the most enthusiastic restorers have not dared to reproduce, is the brilliant color that characterized it in its heyday. The Whistlerian whites, the silvery grays and the dusty, sun-bleached mottlings look just right to us, in the same way that the Parthenon, shorn of all its original color, looked just right to us until the pollutants got to it. But in their glory days the makers of Chichen Itza did not stint on paint.
That is a trait still current in Mexico. The stronger the feeling, the brighter the paint, and nowhere more so than where the dead are in question. On that same road from Merida to Chichen Itza there is a little local cemetery. Slathered with colors that range from turquoise to tangerine and back again by way of marigold yellow, rose pink and scarlet, it is anything but funereal. Buried bodies there may be, on this big patch of ground, but the bone box predominates.
Those boxes (sometimes racked one on top of another) take on a wild range of architectural forms. Some are distantly related to the neighboring antiquities, but most are free fantasias on colonial architecture, with huge sprawling inscriptions of recent date and painted flowers that would make a visiting seedsman fall in a dead faint. There is a prevailing confusion, in which each set of bones seems all set to socialize with the others and John Donne's famous injunction "Death be not proud" finds flamboyant expression. This, too, is Mexico.
There is, of course, a Mexico in which antiquities play no part and colonial after-echoes are paramount. Like many another English-speaking visitor to Mexico, I have been drawn back by friendships old and new to the town of San Miguel de Allende, close on 200 miles northwest of Mexico City.
So pervasive is the American element in San Miguel that the French-language Guide Bleu now describes the little colony of American retirees as being "in a permanently seraphic state, thanks to the joy of living that San Miguel irradiates." (The guide also applauds their readiness to go back to school in the noble 18th-century building that houses the Instituto Allende.)
Seen en masse on social occasions, these retirees are so trim and chipper, so good-humored, so thoughtful for one another and so evidently delighted with their lot that they evoke a lost age of innocence.
But San Miguel has also a cosmopolitan society in which people live privately and very well behind high walls. In that society, the new movies arrive on videotape even before they open in New York. An expatriate Russian pianist may be overheard as he polishes up Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" in a room set aside for him in the academy of fine arts. Elsewhere the talk is of horse races run long ago in Vienna, ballet companies in upheaval in New York and an insider's view of affairs of state during the heyday of General de Gaulle.
Nobody shows off in San Miguel, because there is nowhere to do it. The town (now ranked as a national monument and protected as such) has enough beautiful old buildings to keep the esthete in high spirits, but its life in general moves at a slightly sedated pace. For the foreign visitor it is, in fact, what the south of France was in the 1920's -- a source of harmless disorientation, ideal for hanging out, open to the arts at an easygoing level and the reverse of extortionate when it's time to pick up the check.
Although it bears in part the name of a revolutionary hero, Capt. Ignacio Allende, what cannot be felt in the pre-eminently pacific township of San Miguel is the high drama of a Mexican history that postdates Mesoamerican times. For that, you have to go to two cities not far away: Guanajuato and Queretaro.
When Napoleon's armies invaded Spain, in 1808, the moment seemed right for revolution, for a determined attempt to march on Mexico City and shake off the Spaniards once and for all. Guanajuato especially would benefit enormously from independence, in that it had been known for centuries as a center of silver mining and was, in a sense, made of money -- which was shipped to Spain. (One of its nearby mines, La Valenciana, at one time produced up to 25 percent of all the silver in Mexico.)
But the rebels were no match for the armies loyal to Spain, and in 1811 the leaders of the revolt were executed. As a warning to the people of Guanajuato, the heads of four of them -- among them those of Captain Allende and of a priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo -- were salted and put into cages. For 10 years, those cages were hung high on the walls of the Alhondiga de Granaditas, a monumental granary that was the scene of bitter fighting at the time of the rising. The hooks from which the cages were hung have stayed right there on the four corners of the building.
Guanajuato still feels like a rich town, which engenders a real animation among cafe tables set out by the score in the shade of Indian laurels. It also has a handful of old-style hotels, mercifully unrenovated, near the main square and hard by the opulent late-19th-century opera house.
In the late 19th century, too, Guanajuato had a tradition of local painting that owed nothing to anywhere else and was not at all arty. When you look at the oaken features of the self-portrait of the painter Hermenegildo Bustos, in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, you see an authentic likeness of a proud and self-sufficient individual. And when, in the House of Culture in San Luis Potosi, you look at the painting by Antonio Becerra Diaz of a rich landowner with his high-yield acres all around and, by way of piety, the local church far away in the background, you realize that this was a countryside that made a great deal of money for people who meant to hang on to it.
Just under 100 miles from Guanajuato is the city of Queretaro which was, if anything, even more important to the rebellion of 1810. It was here, among a group of creole litterateurs, that the notion of independence took fire, the independence that was proclaimed by Father Hidalgo that September in the nearby town of Dolores (now called Dolores Hidalgo).
In 1847, while Mexico City was under the control of United States troops, Queretaro functioned as Mexico's capital, from which the Mexican Government opened the negotiations that led up to the treaty that ceded California and much of the Southwest to the United States. And it was once again in Queretaro that in June 1867 the Emperor Maximilian was taken prisoner and later executed on a little hill on the outskirts of the city.
Yet it is not for its role in Mexican history that Queretaro is most rewarding. It is for its stature as a matchless colonial ensemble in which great mansions, churches, convents, fountains and traffic-free side streets allow us to lead a Spanish life at a Mexican pace (or the other way round). We can stroll around at leisure, unhurried and uninterrupted. We can take a sip of this or that. We can put our noses inside very handsome public buildings and feel like the distinguished visitors of a hundred and more years ago. And we can dream of renting, for the winter, a small villa on one of those quiet lanes, where purple bougainvillea comes foaming over the garden wall.
In the center of the city nothing is overbearing, nothing is too large and not everything is on show from the street. Every house is the neighbor, not the rival, of every other house. Branches heavy with flowers bend down to greet us. Hotel entrances are scaled to the passing horseman. Plain facades mask dazzling interiors. Unhurriedly, we walk in a dream. This is a Mexico at peace with its past.
THE SINGLE most eloquent expression of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in 1965 was a preposition - the word “in.’’ The title of the council declaration “The Church in the Modern World’’ could readily have been expected to be “The Church against the Modern World,’’ reiterating a long-held opposition. Or, a little more positively, it might have been “The Church and the Modern World,’’ defining a gulf between the sacred and the secular that devalues both realms. But instead, the council fathers stated their conviction that the church, neither above nor detached, is integrally a part of the contemporary human condition - happily so. The decree’s Latin title “Gaudium et Spes’’ translates as “Joy and Hope’’ - an even stronger signal of the council’s affirming mind-set.
Last week’s anti-Anglican salvo from Rome shows how far the Catholic leadership has fallen from the heights of Vatican II. The invitation to “disgruntled’’ members of the Church of England’s extended family to abandon the Thames for the Tiber is a rejection of contemporary human experience, a resounding response of “No!’’ The church against the modern world, after all. Not only a cruel assault on a fellow Christian communion that is valiantly struggling to strike a balance between liberal and conservative impulses; not only an insult to loyal Catholic liberals who will be denied what converted Anglicans are offered (notably a married clergy); not only a slap at women and homosexuals whose progress toward equality is a global measure of justice; not only a stark contrast with the common Anglican practice of fully welcoming alienated Roman Catholics, while eschewing any pressure on them to convert - there is more.
Equally damaging, the Vatican’s preemptive exploitation of Anglican distress explicitly ducks the large and urgent challenge facing every religion and every religious person, which is how to positively reconcile tradition with the massive changes in awareness, knowledge, and communication that come with the scientific and technological breakthroughs that daily alter the meaning of existence.
From the misfit fringe of another denomination, Rome recruits the naysayers it needs to bolster what has become its own place on the margin of Catholic life. First there was Opus Dei, with its crypto-fascist origins, then there were the Holocaust-denying lovers of Latin - and now the Anglo-fundies. Come on over, guys!
While the Vatican and its recruits just say no, the rest of us attempt to apply tested modes of ethical reasoning to revolutions, for example, in genetic science that separate reproduction from sexuality. While the Vatican just says no, the rest of us reckon with the ways in which the worldwide status of women emerges as the key to development and a hoped-for eradication of poverty. While the Vatican just says no, the rest of us see the link between triumphalist rejection of pluralism and the intolerance that undergirds most of the world’s violence.
The story of the Vatican raid on the Anglican communion was front page news because these issues go deeper than religion. Nothing less than the survival of the human species is at stake. Will 21st-century fundamentalism thwart science across the globe? Will old habits of tribalism, nationalism, and excluding religious denominationalism prevent a new world humanism from emerging? Will the ancient wisdom of moral philosophies embedded in the great spiritual traditions be available as guides to future decisions? Or will rational, self-critical, ecumenically minded religion self-destruct just when humanity most needs its positive influence? Positive is the point.
Catholicism is only part of this story, yet the affirming spirit of Vatican II was a resounding yes to the human future. The Catholic Church, with due modesty, embraced its role as a builder of that future in equal partnership with other believers and all people of good will. That meant not just tolerance for differing religious bodies, like the Anglican communion, but a compact of mutual advancement.
That respectful mutuality is now betrayed, but only partly so. The affirmative spirit lives on outside the Catholic Church - notably among Canterbury’s affiliates - but it is alive inside Catholicism, too. Nothing defines the ongoing triumph of Vatican II more clearly than the way the Catholic people - who are the church - are taking this latest demonstration of the Vatican’s rampant fallibility. Rome has spoken. Now, let the conversation begin.
Inside México: Do you consider yourself to be Mexican?
Denise Dresser: I define myself as Mexican. But I am not a traditional Mexican. I'm more outspoken and combative.
What I love about Mexico is the warmth, the social graces, the love of the aesthetic, family traditions, the history, enchiladas suizas, bougianvilleas, the houses of Luis Barragán. I love the way Mexicans say hello to each other.
There's a long list of what's wrong with Mexico, and the book [México: Lo que todo ciudadano quisiera (no) saber de su patria, by Denise Dresser and Jorge Volpi] tells it.
But this is still a country under construction. It's an incipient democracy.
IM: Do Mexicans think of you as Mexican?
DD: I have been called La Gringa and told that I'm not really a Mexican.
Maybe my vantage point is a bit like [Alexis] de Toqueville's [the French writer and politician who wrote Democracy in America] when he was in the United States. Since I'm something of an outsider, not 100 percent Mexican, maybe I can see the country more honestly.
I was on a political talk show and someone said, "You and your gringa ways." I got very upset. At the break the person said, "You are running ahead. Wait for Mexico to catch up to you."
I am saying, "Hurry up." Sometimes I can't sleep at night when I think of all the invisible people with their hands out, the 20 million people who live on $2 a day.
How do you create change? You yell, demand, push, suggest, and advocate.
I can't be a conformist. I have no intent in being a member of the establishment.
IM: Where do other people/countries, and particularly the United States go wrong when they look at Mexico?
DD: The US has a problem acknowledging that Mexico is many Mexicos. You have to visit the many Mexicos: Chiapas, Oaxaca, Monterrey with its vibrant, North Americanized entrepreneurial Mexico. The Sierra de Chihuahua.
And, the US needs to start thinking of Mexico as a North American country and a partner. If it did this, it would have to take Mexico seriously. The way the European Union did with Spain and Portugal. What I'm alluding to won't happen in my lifetime. But if the US wants to solve the problems between the countries it has to help Mexico grow.
IM: Should entrepreneurship be encouraged in Mexico?
DD: It's a critical task. We are a country of employees, not of entrepreneurs. There are such bureaucratic hurdles and high costs that many Mexicans would just prefer to go to work for someone. This is one of the projects and causes I support.
Being an entrepreneur is about two things: taking risks and solving problems. Mexicans aren't educated for this. We are educated to conform. To say "yes."
IM: What is the role of public intellectuals in Mexico?
DD: Public intellectuals exist in Mexico. In the US you can be a pundit, a professor, but not necessarily a public intellectual.
That said, I have a very ambivalent view of Mexican intellectuals. The fact that intellectuals are so revered is a problem. It will be better for the country when they are just another group in the society. The reverence with which Mexico underscores its intellectuals is elitist. A country in which there is a broad middle class wouldn't allow this. They don't need to be interpreted for themselves.
As the media democratizes and there are more choices of information, the preeminence of the elites will begin to fade.
IM: Do you have Mexican heroes?
DD: People whom I admire? Yes. I'm not going to talk about Madero or Juárez. But the artists and scientists. Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñarritu, Julieta Ferro, Ricardo Legorreta, Elena Poniatowski. These are people who have gone against the grain, who are anti-heros, unorthodox.
IM: You have said that your work can feel lonely: what do you mean?
DD: If feels lonely when I say things that seem so self-evident but are so controversial to others.
There's a common Mexican phrase - you hear it everywhere - that I condemn. It's "Por lo menos - At least." When the bar is set so low, no one feels the need to change anything. How do you create participants? That's the question.
I live in a state of permanent indignation. That's how things get better in the world. I'm indignant and I don't accept that "Las cosas son como son (things are as they are)."
IM: As such an outspoken critic, do you ever worry for your safety?
DD: I'm not powerful enough to matter. What I worry about is not making a difference, of not leaving a mark.
IM: Will you keep being a professor?
DD: I will never stop teaching. It's an essential contribution to creating a more critical citizenry. My work is about the daily construction of Mexico. Of citizenship.
Denise Dresser is a professor of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), where she teaches comparative politics, political economy, and Mexican politics. Educated at the Colegio de México and with a Ph.D. from Princeton University, Dresser writes for Reforma and Proceso. She has published two bestselling books, Gritos y susurros: Experiencias Intempestivas de 38 Mujeres, and most recently a book of political satire entitled México: lo que todo ciudadano quisiera (no) saber de su patria, with novelist Jorge Volpi.
“En todas sus dimensiones, de frente y de perfil, en su pasado y en su presente, el mexicano resulta un ser cargado de tradición que, acaso sin darse cuenta, actúa obedeciendo a la voz de la raza...“”
In all his dimensions, in front and in profile, in his past and present, the Mexican is burdened with his tradition, that, without even realizing it, he acts obeying to his race...
Mexico is a country full of contradictions: melancholy vs euphoria; solitude vs collectivity; a religious sense of life vs cinicism are just some of its many dichotomies.
The country rose from the union of two different cultures (Indigenous and Spanish) and yet Mexicans deny their local origins, experiencing a never ending “sense of lack”.
Since they feel they are constitutionally missing something, their life is a continuos quest.
Like the Mexican poet Octavio Paz did with “The Labyrinth of Solitude”, Victor Hugo Cabanas' illustrations represent his country's most contradicting issues with the strong objectivity and rationality due to the geographical distance between Treviso and his Motherland.
Five illustrations telling about what being Mexican means, in a evocative language that fits well with the contemporary situation of this wonderful, problematic country.
1. The Mexican identity
Mexico's identity is very recognizable worldwide. Apparently Mexicans are proud of their Spanish roots, of tequila, of chili, of their aesthetics and their relation to death.
On the other hand, since they have a mixed ethnicity (“Mestizos”), resulting from the union of Spanish and Indigenous people, they feel ashamed of their origins and avoid every contact with the native population.
2. To be Mexican
Most Mexicans suffer from a inferiority complex and are "malinchists": they deny and mock the Indigenous culture, even if it's at the roots of their present.
3. To be an Indigenous woman in Mexico
The Indigenous woman has no precise identity: she is not purely Spanish, and neither purely Indigenous anymore. As a victim of denigration and humiliation, her life swings between these two poles, waiting for the future to provide her with a function in society.
4. Repression in Mexico
Even if Mexicans love to celebrate the Revolution Day and their liberation in 1910, repression is still present among their lives.
Repression is not only a question of governements, it's also a question of society. The people themselves can be self-repressive.
5. Education in Mexico
The leftover apple, as metaphor of the educational system, shows ignorance as one of Mexico's main problems.
Equality is far from being a reality as well: whereas the Mexicans read one book a year in average, the Indigenous have rarelly access to education.
Para los mexicanos el Día de Muertos o Día de los Fieles Difuntos representa algo más que la veneración de sus muertos, podría decirse que para los mexicanos a diferencia de otros países, lo reflejan burlándose, jugando y conviviendo con la muerte. Esta convivencia ha dado lugar a diferentes manifestaciones de su arte popular, a través de expresiones muy originales como lo son; las calaveras de dulce, el pan de muerto, dibujos que se burlan de la muerte, versos en los que se ridiculiza a cualquier personaje vivo, de las artes, ciencia y en especial los de la política y las tradicionales ofrendas, las cuales se preparan con respeto por los familiares para recordar a los que se han ido, alimentos, flores y objetos personales del difunto son parte esencial del altar y según la creencia, los seres queridos regresan este día para gozar lo que en vida más disfrutaban.
Haciendo un repaso de la historia, en las culturas mesoamericanas los nativos consideraban a la muerte como el paso a seguir hacia una nueva vida y fue hasta la llegada de los españoles que trajeron consigo las nuevas creencias con respecto a la vida y la muerte. La muerte producía terror, pues en el juicio final los justos recibirían su recompensa y los pecadores su castigo... Y lo difícil era no contarse dentro de los pecadores.
En la cotidianeidad del mexicano la muerte aparece salpicada de picardía, y en este día en particular, todos los cementerios del país se llenan de gente que esta ansiosa de compartir esta sagrada fecha con sus difuntos. Familiares y amigos llegan a la tumba de su ser querido, con flores y escoba en mano, ya que ha pasado mucho tiempo desde la última visita, algunos llevan comida para disfrutar en compañía de sus difuntos, otros hasta músicos llevan para alegrar el momento que pasan en el cementerio con sus seres queridos y muchas veces los familiares y amigos deciden continuar la fiesta en la casa de algunos de ellos, quizás pensando en el ya célebre dicho popular: "El muerto al cajón y el vivo al fiestón".
Sus tradiciones culturales se han seguido conservando gracias a la religiosidad y fervor de su gente, las cuales se han transmitido de generación en generación a pesar de que estas tradiciones están en peligro de desvirtuarse debido a la influencia y mezcla con otras costumbres extranjeras.
Es por eso que en el extranjero es aún más importante que se conserven estas tradiciones, ya que mantienen el espíritu de unidad y nacionalismo entre las personas de un mismo país y de aquellos que sin importar el lugar de donde provienen se sienten identificados con esta bella expresión cultural.
Éste es un festivita antiguo que se ha transformado mucho con los años, pero que fue pensado en México prehispánica celebrar niños y los muertos. Por lo tanto, la mejor manera de describir este día de fiesta mejicano es decir que es una época cuando las familias mejicanas recuerdan a sus muertos, y la continuidad de la vida.
La celebración original se puede remontar a los festividades sostenidos durante el mes de el dios Azteca de Miccailhuitontli , presididos ritualmente por la diosa Mictecacihuatl (" señora de los muertos "), y dedicados los niños y los muertos. Los rituales durante este mes también ofrecieron un festín dedicado al deidad principal de la guerra de Azteca, Huitzilopochtli . En el calendario de Azteca, este ritual bajó áspero en el final del mes gregoriano julio y el principio de agosto, pero antes de la conquista fue movido por los sacerdotes españoles del de modo que coincidiera con el día de fiesta cristiano de todo santifique víspera (en español: " Día de Todos Santos, ") en un esfuerzo inútil de transformar esto " de un profane " a una celebración cristiana. El resultado es que el mejicano ahora celebra el día de los muertos durante los primeros dos días de noviembre, más bien que al principio del verano, pero recuerda a muertos que todavía lo hacen, y el festival moderno es caracterizado por la mezcla mejicana tradicional de características cristianas aborígenes e introducidas antiguas.
Generalizando ampliamente, las actividades del día consisten en visitas de las familias a los sepulcros de sus parentescos cercanos. En los miembros de la familia enganche a ataviar encima , a adornarlo con las flores, a precisar y a gozar de una comida campestre, y a obrar recíprocamente social con otros familia y los miembros de la Comunidad que recolectan en el cemeterio. Las familias recuerdan salido contando historias sobre ellas. Las comidas preparadas para estas comidas campestres son suntuosas, generalmente ofreciendo platos de la carne en salsas picantes, un especial huevo-estropean el pan, las galletas, el chocolate, y los dulces azucarados en una variedad de formas del animal o del cráneo. Los altares de la familia se adorna profusamente con las flores de las flores , y se adorna con amuletos religiosos y (en aldeas más pequeñas) con ofrendas del alimento, de los cigarrillos y de las bebidas alcohólicas. Debido a este ambiente social caliente, el ajuste colorido, y la abundancia del alimento, de bebida y de la buena compañía este conmemoraciones de los muertos tiene insinuaciones agradables para la mayoría de los observadores, a pesar del fatalismo abierto exhibido por todos los participantes, que interacción festiva con vivir y absolutamente en un ritual social importante está una manera de reconocer el ciclo la vida y la muerte que es existencia humano.
La observancia tradicional llama para un banquete durante las horas tempranas de la mañana de noviembre las 2das, el día del apropiado muerto, aunque las familias mejicanas urbanas modernas observan generalmente el día de los muertos con solamente una cena especial de la familia que ofrece " el pan de los muertos " (pan de muerto). Es buena suerte ser el quién muerde en el esqueleto plástico del juguete ocultado por el panadero en cada pan redondeado. Los amigos y los miembros de la familia dan a uno otros regalos que consisten en los esqueletos del azúcar u otros artículos con un adorno de la muerte, y el regalo es más estimado si el cráneo o el esqueleto se realza con su propio nombre.
Dos cosas importantes a saber sobre el día mejicano de los muertos son:
Es un día de fiesta con una historia compleja, y por lo tanto su observancia varía absolutamente un pedacito por la región y por el grado de urbanización.
Es una no ocasión mórbida, sino algo un rato festivo.
El día de los muertos puede extenderse de un acontecimiento cultural muy importante, con las responsabilidades sociales y económicas definidas de los participantes (que exhiben el comportamiento social que iguala que los antropólogos sociales llamarían banquetear en la isla de Janitzio en el estado de Michoacan ), a una observancia religiosa que ofrece la adoración real de los muertos (por si los sacerdotes católicos de ella o no, , Cuilapan, Oaxaca), simplemente a un día de fiesta únicamente mejicano caracterizado los alimentos especiales y los dulces (el caso en todas las ciudades grandes.) Vea el mapa de México (busque Michoacan y Oaxaca en la porción al sudoeste del país).
En general, cuanto más urbano el ajuste dentro de México la importancia cuanto menos religiosa y cultural es conservado por los turistas, mientras que el más rural e indio el lugar mayor es la importación religiosa y económica del día de fiesta. Debido a esto, esta observancia es generalmente de mayor importancia social en México meridional que en la parte norteña del país, que es caracterizado por más influencia cultural india diluída.
La Cámara de Diputados apoya la repatriación del Penacho de Moctezuma.
La petición que hace la Cámara de Diputados para que regrese a México el Kopilli Ketzalli o penacho de Moctezuma, ya la tiene en sus manos el Presidente Vicente Fox. Se le envió desde el pasado 4 de noviembre, luego de que fuera aprobada como punto de acuerdo durante el último periodo de sesiones, según indicó el diputado panista Ernesto Herrera.
Explicó que el legislador Jorge Triana Tena fue quien presentó al pleno de la Cámara la iniciativa que exhorta al Presidente de México a solicitar al gobierno austriaco el regreso de este símbolo de la cultura mexica.
“Esperamos que en próximos días o semanas se vean cristalizados nuestros deseos, esperamos una respuesta favorable y comprensible del gobierno”, dijo.
Herrera señaló que esta propuesta impulsada por el grupo parlamentario del PAN, se realiza en un momento oportuno.
“Nosotros sabiendo que el penacho de Moctezuma es un símbolo, que en su momento fue de poder, de hecho es un antecedente de lo que es la banda presidencial. Cada emperador iba pasando este Penacho como un símbolo de poder y de identidad. Me parece que es de vital importancia hacer las gestiones para que regrese a nuestro país”.
Indicó que este objeto milenario que se encuentra en Austria desde 1524 no aporta nada a la identidad del pueblo austriaco, sólo es significativo culturalmente para el pueblo de México.
Xokonoschtletl Gómora quien —a decir de sus críticos se ha aprovechado de su supuesto interés por el regreso a México de la Corona imperial de Moctezuma II, para escribir más de cuatro decenas de libros y viajar por más de 40 país—, lleva 20 años de luchar por el regreso de esta pieza, dijo que existen enormes posibilidades de que el gobierno de Austria ceda ante la petición de México.
“Tenemos 85 por ciento de posibilidades de que regrese, pues a fines de este mes abordará el tema el Parlamento austriaco”.
Señaló que este objeto cotizado por los austriacos en 50 millones de dólares, tiene un valor cultural que sobrepasa ese monto económico.
“Para nosotros si cuesta un dólar o cincuenta veces más de lo que ellos dicen, eso no nos interesa, porque para nosotros su valor es total y absolutamente espiritual”.
Historia de una petición
En 1993 se pidió la devolución del Kopilli Ketzalli o penacho de Moctezuma de manera Oficial.
Con fecha del 4 de marzo de 1991, el entonces director del INAH, el arqueólogo Roberto García Moll, hizo la petición oficial a Erhard Buses, Ministro de Ciencia y Arte de la República de Austria.
“Como es de su conocimiento, el penacho del emperador Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, que formó parte del presente que el Emperador envió a su similar Carlos V de Alemania y I de España, y que se exhibe actualmente en el Museo de Etnología de la ciudad Ciudad de Viena, en Austria, es de gran significado para los mexicanos.
“Grupos y pueblos indígenas diversos de este país han solicitado a un sinnúmero de instancias el que inicien gestiones que concluyan en la devolución del Penacho para incorporarlo a nuestro Museo Nacional, donde se custodian diversos bienes, símbolos de la grandeza nacional. Sustenta nuestra petición la relación fraterna y lazos de amistad que han vinculado a ambas naciones”.
En esa ocasión no se tuvo respuesta porque los austriacos no entendían la jerarquía de esta dependencia. “Ese ha sido nuestro máximo problema, pues siempre nos indicaron que se debería de hacer la petición a través del Presidente de México, y de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores”, señaló Xokonoschtletl Gómora.
Incluso e diciembre de 1991 Maria Rauch Kallat, diputada de la Cámara de Diputados de Austria le escribió una carta al Presidente de México Carlos Salinas de Gortari para que hiciera un escrito oficial dirigido al gobierno Federal Austriaco. “Esto haría posible que las plástica acerca del Penacho se consolidaran. Este objeto cultural es muy importante para el pueblo de México, histórica y emocionalmente. Y debe regresar a su país de origen”.
Pero esa petición jamás salió de México. Sobre el posible retorno del Penacho de Moctezuma, el diputado Triana Tena argumentó que durante la visita de Heinz Fischer, Presidente Federal de la República de Austria, el tema se puso sobre la mesa.
Aunque el mandatario austriaco apuntó que estaba consciente de que era un tema “que no sólo afecta a Austria, sino a la Europa entera y todos los museos de Europa, que se verán afectados por esa cuestión en el manejo y trato de objetos que provienen de culturales y países extranjeros… esa una cuestión que debemos encarar y discutir”.
Friday, October 23, 2009
The involvement of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in cocaine trafficking in Central America during the Reagan Administration as part of the Contra war in Nicaragua has been the subject of several official and journalistic investigations since the mid-1980s.
In 1984, U.S. officials began receiving reports of Contra cocaine trafficking. Three officials told journalists that they considered these reports "reliable." Former Panamanian deputy health minister Dr. Hugo Spadafora, who had fought with the Contra army, outlined charges of cocaine trafficking to a prominent Panamanian official and was later found murdered. The charges linked the Contra trafficking to Sebastián González Mendiola, who was charged with cocaine trafficking on November 26, 1984, in Costa Rica. In 1985, another Contra leader "told U.S. authorities that his group was being paid $50,000 by Colombian traffickers for help with a 100-kilo cocaine shipment and that the money would go 'for the cause' of fighting the Nicaraguan government." A 1985 National Intelligence Estimate revealed cocaine trafficking links to a top commander working under Contra leader Edén Pastora. Pastora had complained about such charges as early as March 1985, claiming that "two 'political figures' in Washington told him last week that State Department and CIA personnel were spreading the rumor that he is linked to drug trafficking in order to isolate his movement."
On December 20, 1985, these and other charges were laid out in an Associated Press article after an extensive investigation which included interviews with "officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Costa Rica's Public Security Ministry, as well as rebels and Americans who work with them." Five American Contra supporters who worked with the rebels confirmed the charges, noting that "two Cuban-Americans used armed rebel troops to guard cocaine at clandestine airfields in northern Costa Rica. They identified the Cuban-Americans as members of the 2506 Brigade, an anti-Castro group that participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba. Several also said they supplied information about the smuggling to U.S. investigators." One of the Americans "said that in one ongoing operation, the cocaine is unloaded from planes at rebel airstrips and taken to an Atlantic coast port where it is concealed on shrimp boats that are later unloaded in the Miami area."
On March 16, 1986, the San Francisco Examiner published a report on the "1983 seizure of 430 pounds of cocaine from a Colombian freighter" in San Francisco which indicated that a "cocaine ring in the San Francisco Bay area helped finance Nicaragua's Contra rebels." Carlos Cabezas, convicted of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, said that the profits from his crimes "belonged to... the Contra revolution." He told the Examiner, "I just wanted to get the Communists out of my country." Julio Zavala, also convicted on trafficking charges, said "that he supplied $500,000 to two Costa Rican-based Contra groups and that the majority of it came from cocaine trafficking in the San Francisco Bay area, Miami and New Orleans."
Former CIA agent David MacMichael explained the inherent relationship between CIA activity in Latin America and drug trafficking: "Once you set up a covert operation to supply arms and money, it's very difficult to separate it from the kind of people who are involved in other forms of trade, and especially drugs. There is a limited number of planes, pilots and landing strips. By developing a system for supply of the Contras, the US built a road for drug supply into the US."
 FBI probe
In April 1986, Associated Press reported on an FBI probe into Contra cocaine trafficking. According to the report, "Twelve American, Nicaraguan and Cuban-American rebel backers interviewed by The Associated Press said they had been questioned over the past several months [about contra cocaine trafficking] by the FBI. The interviews, some covering several days, were conducted in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado and California, the Contra backers said." Several of the backers told AP of firsthand knowledge of cocaine trafficking.
 Reagan Administration admits Contra-cocaine connections
On April 17, 1986, the Reagan Administration released a three page report acknowledging that there were some Contra-cocaine connections in 1984 and 1985, arguing that these connections occurred at a time when the rebels were "particularly hard pressed for financial support" because U.S. aid had been cut off. The report admitted that "We have evidence of a limited number of incidents in which known drug traffickers have tried to establish connections with Nicaraguan resistance groups." The report tried to downplay the drug activity, claiming that it took place "without the authorization of resistance leaders."
 Kerry Committee
In 1986, Senator John Kerry and Senator Christopher Dodd proposed a series of hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding charges of Contra involvement in drug trafficking; the hearings were conducted by Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Republican Chairman of the Committee. The report of the Committee, released on April 13, 1989, found that "Contra drug links included... payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies." The U.S. State Department paid over $806,000 to known drug traffickers to carry humanitarian assistance to the Contras.
 Gary Webb
Former DEA agent Celerino Castillo alleged that during the 1980s Ilopango Airport in El Salvador was used by Contras for drug smuggling flights with the knowledge and complicity of the CIA. These allegations were part of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. Castillo also testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Between 1996 and 1998 the Central Intelligence Agency investigated and then published a report about its alleged involvement in cocaine sales in the US. This was prompted by the journalist Gary Webb's report in the Mercury News which alleged that the CIA was behind the 1980s crack epidemic.
After the Gary Webb report in the Mercury News, the CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz was assigned to investigate these allegations in 1996. The CIA director John Deutch pledged that Hitz would present his findings in three months. But for almost a year and a half, there was little news. Then on December 18, 1997, stories in the Washington Post and New York Times appeared, stating that Hitz had found "no direct or indirect" links between the CIA and cocaine traffickers, despite the reporters never seeing the report. This story of no links between the CIA and cocaine traffickers was quickly picked up by the networks.
Six weeks later, the new CIA director, George Tenet declared that he was releasing the report. Tenet denied the Gary Webb allegations, which were reported nationally.
 Contents of the report
The contents of the actual report was largely ignored by the national media. In the 623rd paragraph, the report described a cable from the CIA's Directorate of Operations dated October 22, 1982, describing a prospective meeting between Contra leaders in Costa Rica for "an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms, which then are shipped to Nicaragua." The two main Contra groups, US arms dealers, and a lieutenant of a drug ring which imported drugs from Latin America to the US west coast were set to attend the Costa Rica meeting. The lieutenant trafficker was also a Contra, and the CIA knew that there was an arms-for-drugs shuttle and did nothing to stop it.
The report stated that the CIA had requested the Justice Department return $36,800 to a member of the Meneses drug ring, which had been seized by DEA agents in the Frogman raid in San Francisco. The CIA's Inspector General said the Agency wanted the money returned "to protect an operational equity, i.e., a Contra support group in which it [CIA] had an operational interest."
 Testimony of the CIA Inspector General
Six weeks after the declassified and heavily censored report was made public, Inspector General Hitz testified before a House congressional committee. Hitz stated that:
Volume II... will be devoted to a detailed treatment of what was known to CIA regarding dozens of people and a number of companies connected in some fashion to the Contra program or the Contra movement that were the subject of any sort of drug trafficking allegations. Each is closely examined in terms of their relationship with CIA, the drug trafficking activity that was alleged, the actions CIA took in response to the allegations, and the extent of information concerning the allegations that was Shared with U.S. law enforcement and Congress.
As I said earlier, we have found no evidence in the course of this lengthy investigation of any conspiracy by CIA or its employees to bring drugs into the United States. However, during the Contra era, CIA worked with a variety of people to support the Contra program. These included CIA assets, pilots who ferried supplies to the Contras, as well as Contra officials and others. Let me be frank about what we are finding. There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations.
Hitz also testified that the CIA did not "expeditiously" cut off relations with alleged drug traffickers.
Hitz also said that under an agreement in 1982 between Ronald Reagan's Attorney General William French Smith and the CIA, agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, defined as paid and non-paid "assets"--pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, as well as contra officials and others.
This agreement, which had not previously been revealed, came at a time when there were allegations that the CIA was using drug dealers in its controversial covert operation to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Only after Congressional funds were restored in 1986 was the agreement modified to require the CIA to stop paying agents whom it believed were involved in the drug trade.
By Manuel R. Cristobal
On Aug. 10, 2008, we honored the Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) leader Pope who led the Pueblo Indian Revolt, which took place Aug. 10, 1680. It was not simply a revolt as portrayed in New Mexico’s colonial history, but the only successful indigenous revolution against the powerful sovereign of Spain, and long before the American Revolution of 1775 – 1783.
We also commemorate this historic anniversary to all the warriors, the Keres, Walatowa, Tiwa, Tewa, Zuni, Hopi, Apache, Comanche, and Diné. I would like to honor this day with a peaceful gesture, a symbol of hope. In this spirit and contemporary time, we are all here to address the impact of Spanish colonialism 400 years afterward and the ramifications on the Pueblo people today. The majority of the public have no comprehension of the psychological “brainwashing” still prevalent within pueblo communities.
It was the Spanish thought and culture instituted from 1620 that was designed to eradicate our Pueblo beliefs and culture.
It was the Spanish thought and culture instituted from 1620 that was designed to eradicate our Pueblo beliefs and culture. In 1620, by royal decree of the King of Spain, the Keres, Tiwa, Tewa, Walatowa, and Zuni, were formed into civil government and given Spanish canes of authority. These institutions were designed to make us servants of indoctrination of a life of servitude, which is still practiced today. Mexican officials gave Pueblos canes after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. President Abraham Lincoln also presented canes in recognition of the pueblo’s non-violent position toward the United States during the American Civil War.
Most recently, King Juan Carlos of Spain presented the Spanish canes to the All Indian Pueblo Council. Former New Mexico Gov. Bruce King affirmed the same recognition with a presentation of 19 canes to the pueblos. In 2007, Spain gave the Pueblo of Acoma a cane, so tribal officials would not contest the controversial, three-story-tall bronze statue “The Equestrian” in El Paso, Texas.
Another example of such an interpretation of Spanish influence today is the patron Saint Santiago (the saint of conquest) who appears in a drama acted out during some pueblo feast days. Santiago appears in the ceremony wearing Spanish style clothing, carrying a sword and a cross while riding a puppeteer horse. He is called “sandero” (Spanish solider) by the Pueblos who impersonate him. “Santiago” is also a Spanish war cry, which echoes an eternity of human suffering. Is this the perception of celebration?
Who are we honoring this day? What is wrong with this picture?
Here in the pueblos, colonialism remains alive with civil obedience to Spanish morals and “morality dramas” of the reconquista (reconquest). Miles away in El Paso, “The Equestrian” remains a controversial memorial to the genocidal Conquistador Juan De Onate. We can define annihilation of the Pueblo people through colonization and forced assimilation. How detrimental to continue to empower the concepts of the Spanish institutions.
We are at a time in the “conscious thought” of the Pueblo people to begin to bring an end to the system of colonization, and move towards independence from symbolic “Spanish canes” and exercise our inherent right to decolonize from the Proclamation of 1620. Most Pueblo people need to assert their right to self-determination and take a stand with a democratic constitution.
Nothing creates more talk and disagreement than our Pueblo Indian women’s “lack of human rights.” True, some Pueblo women serve on tribal councils and have served as governors only when their pueblos have written a Constitution. Other Pueblo women have no voice in tribal councils in a system molded after the 1620 Spanish civil government. When these exclusions of rights do not exist, there are many hidden exploitations that Pueblo women endure today. Women in Iraq have more political rights and that is the right to vote.
The Pueblo people will look upon this “controversial issue” of historical trauma, and will see the truth and acknowledge the manifestations of the pervasive Spanish institutions, including the legacies that still indoctrinate the Pueblo today. Keeping this issue of sovereignty alive is a real concern today. We must focus on abstaining from participating in Santa Fe’s 2009 and 2010 Cuarto Centenario, which celebrates four centuries of Spanish influence. Support of this event would give the impression that Pueblo people endorse and validate events that commemorate the “genocide” of indigenous people of the Southwest.
As Pueblo people, we must secure our right to speak the truth without fear of intimidation and retaliation for speaking out. It is time to speak the truth and decolonize our Pueblo minds.
The opinions expressed in this editorial do not represent the Santa Ana Tribal Council or the 19-Indian Pueblo Council.
The Federal Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 states, “No Indian tribe exercising powers of self-government shall make or abridge the freedom of speech or the press.”
By Tim Shipman
The CIA thought it had an intelligence coup on its hands in 1994. Its friends in the Guatemalan military were bugging the bedroom of Marilyn McAfee, the American ambassador in that country, whom they regarded as suspect because she was fighting human rights abuses by the regime.
Eavesdroppers heard her whispering sweet nothings to someone whom they took to be her secretary, another female diplomat - and the CIA set out to undermine Mrs McAfee by spreading rumours in Washington that she was a lesbian.
There was just one problem. The ambassador, who was happily married, was not having an affair with her secretary. The secret microphones had instead recorded her "cooing endearments" to Murphy, her poodle.
The mistake is just one example of bungling by the CIA chronicled in a new history of the agency by the Pulitzer prize-winning author, Tim Weiner, who has covered intelligence matters for The New York Times for two decades.
His book draws on 50,000 documents in the CIA's archives, dating back to 1947, the year it was founded, and more than 300 interviews with staff, past and present, including 10 former directors. Weiner concludes that "the most powerful nation in the history of Western civilisation has failed to create a first-rate spy service" - a failure, he argues, that is a danger to American security.
He paints a portrait of a rogue agency which devoted more time to covert action to oust governments than to gathering information about America's enemies, and which failed to predict every big international event from the outbreak of the Korean War to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks.
The book, Legacy of Ashes, has infuriated some former CIA officers who insist that the agency needs support, not denigration. One dismissed Weiner's criticisms as "superficial and unfair".
It details how the CIA relied from the outset on low-level sources and ill-trained officers. In 1953 it sent its first officer to Moscow, but he was so inept that he was seduced by his Russian housemaid - really a KGB colonel - photographed in flagrante and blackmailed.
In eastern Europe in the early days of the Cold War, almost every agent parachuted in was captured and killed. More than $1 million was sent to a fake spy ring set up by Polish intelligence - effectively paying money directly to their enemy.
During the Korean War, none of the CIA's 200 officers in the South Korean capital, Seoul, spoke Korean. In 1952, the CIA station chief concluded that nearly every Korean agent either "invented his reports or worked in secret for the communists".
Things were little better in the battle with America's main Cold War foe, Weiner argues. An internal CIA report in 1956 found that just two of the 20 spies recruited in the Soviet Union had any contact with the government or military. One of its top sources was a Russian vet.
When the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, among the CIA's best agents in East Berlin were a newspaper salesman and a roofer, who occasionally worked in the Soviet military compound. Small wonder, Weiner argues, that the CIA concluded that Russia would have 500 intercontinental ballistic missiles "ready to strike" them that year, when the true figure was four.
For eight years after 1986 the CIA sent reports to Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton on the strength of the Soviet military which they knew came largely from sources controlled by Moscow.
The CIA's current difficulties in the Middle East are part of a long and undistinguished history. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Robert Gates, then the agency's head and now the American defence secretary, was at a family picnic. A friend of his wife asked him: "What are you doing here?" Mr Gates said: "What are you talking about?" She replied: "The invasion." Mr Gates responded: "What invasion?"
Weiner concludes that even the CIA's apparent successes in covert action proved to be strategic failures. Ousting the Iranian government in 1953 led inexorably to the revolution of 1979. The CIA backed the 1963 Ba'ath Party coup in Iraq which opened the door for Saddam Hussein.
Weiner lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of the CIA's leaders, including some senior officials who have since been revealed as alcoholics, and others who became mentally ill. Allen Dulles, the agency's most celebrated leader, judged the importance of intelligence reports by their weight rather than their contents, a former CIA analyst told Weiner. Frank Wisner, the chief of the CIA's clandestine service in the Fifties was diagnosed with "psychotic mania" and committed to a mental hospital.
The criticisms have enraged some former spies. Pete Bagley, a former CIA chief of Soviet counterintelligence, said: "Weiner's general conclusions are superficial and unfair. I don't remember any CIA misjudgement of Soviet bloc leaders that ever seriously weakened or disoriented American policy, nor do I think that it ever caused the government to lower its guard militarily."
He said that Britain and other European intelligence agencies did no better than the CIA in recruiting top-level sources, and were unable to match the CIA's "first-rate knowledge" from spy planes, satellites and eavesdropping.
Mr Bagley, whose memoirs, Spy Wars, were published earlier this year, urged support for the CIA in its battle against militant Islam, "targets even more difficult than the tight Soviet regime of my time". He said: "I am glad that I don't have to penetrate little groups of fanatic, related, death-seeking zealots."
The CIA has not officially commented on the book.
A valuable lesson was learned on the treacherous road that led to the creation of this month’s column, a journey that began as a review of Amigoland, the debut novel by Oscar Casares, and ended with the vow that I shall never again attempt to understand Mexico, not through literature and history and scholars, nor through the field and clinical data compiled by sociologists and ethnologists.
The Mexican psyche and character is a slippery beast that defies understanding. Before the 300-year Spanish occupation, the indigenous peoples of Mexico were comprised of the Maya, the Zapotec, the Olmec, the Aztec, the Mixtec, and the Teotihuacan, advanced civilizations that thrived for over 4,000 years before the Europeans turned the nation into their own Extended Stay hotel, bringing along a foreign religion that they were more than eager to share with the native populace.
T.C., a Mexican-American friend of mine, a man immensely proud and aware of his Mexican heritage, put it more bluntly: “How can anyone try to describe the Mexican experience or modality without mentioning the indigenous historic culture and its Spanish medieval Catholic conquerors who, through painful birth, gave the world Mexico and Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, who have influenced so much American culture yet remain, by and large, invisible and misunderstood.”
The majority of Mexicans (60-80 percent according to the latest census figures) are Mestizos, those of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry, living in a federation of 31 free and sovereign states, with each state divided into municipalities. The municipalities can be even further divided into boroughs in many states.
Despite all those tangled bloodlines and administrative divisions in the nation of Mexico, certain collective and nationalistic behaviors can be isolated and explored exhaustively. And one will come away from the experience more confused than when the journey began.
A few days before my deadline, Vaughn Croteau, a New Mexico artist whose work with exotic woods and precious metals has been displayed in galleries throughout the American Southwest, sent along a note of support after I informed him that the topic of my new column had me in a stranglehold and was not letting up.
“Years ago a good friend of mine was an elderly Spanish gentleman – an incredible man of letters – who was a historian,” Vaughn wrote. “His primary study was Spanish colonial history, particularly in New Mexico; we spent many hours discussing the gamut of topics within his knowledge while drinking and eating fine regional meals. I learned an awful lot during our association, but I really came no closer to understanding or being able to articulate anything definitive about Latin culture in the Americas. The history can be incredibly harsh, but without it the world would be a much sorrier place.”
The Plight of Jesus Christ
The nation of Mexico, Malcolm Lowry writes in Under the Volcano, boasts “some extraordinary land… but the name of this land is hell.”
Long before and long after Lowry’s 1947 masterwork, born of his own experiences in Cuernevaca in the ‘30s, writers from all points of the globe have fixed their gaze and their miles of bleeding typewriter ribbon upon the murky interior of America’s troubled nation to the south. Many have peered at the interior of Mexico’s dark heart – indeed, American writer Ambrose Bierce literally disappeared in it in the middle of a 1914 revolution led by Pancho Villa – but very few have penetrated its contradictory mazes and chambers.
Mexico is like the dispassionate cantina whore one might encounter in a Cormac McCarthy novel or a Sam Peckinpah western. When you ask her name she blinks her long black lashes, smiles coyly and mysteriously, then she takes you by the hand and leads you to a room above the bar where you will find a bed and a wash basin. The most conspicuous object in the room is a large crucifix hanging by a rusty nail on the wall above the bed.
That crucifix is a big part of the problem.
In The Silver Christ of Santa Fe (Portions From a Wine-Stained Notebook, 2008), Charles Bukowski essays his clumsy attempt to sustain carnal knowledge with a friend’s houseguest:
… There on the wall opposite to my sight hung a life-sized silver Christ nailed to a life-sized silver cross. His eyes appeared to be open and He was watching me… His eyes seemed to grow larger, pulsate. Those nails, the thorns. The poor guy, they’d murdered Him, now He was just a hunk of silver on the wall, watching, watching…
According to a 2009 census, 95 percent of the population of Mexico is Christian, with Roman Catholics making up 89 percent of that figure, and 47 percent of citizens polled say they attend church services weekly. One would be hard pressed to find a more theistic, heavily Catholic human population outside the walls of the Vatican.
In Mexican culture, as presented in literary works like Kerouac’s poetic mini-masterpiece Tristessa, and Lowry’s booze-soaked and hallucinogenic novel Under the Volcano, God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary are always watching. One can never escape their punishing or forgiving gaze, not even at home. From Tristessa by Jack Kerouac:
…the mother, the woman, the Virgin Mary of Mexico—Tristessa has a huge ikon (sic) in a corner of her bedroom.
It faces the room, back to the kitchen wall, in right hand corner as you face the woesome kitchen with its drizzle showering ineffably from the roof tree twigs and hammerboards (bombed out shelter roof)—Her ikon represents the Holy Mother staring out of her blue charaderees, her robes and Damema arrangements, at which El Indio prays devoutly when going out to get some junk. El Indio is a vendor of curios, allegedly—I never see him on San Juan Letran selling crucifixes, I never see El Indio in the street, no Redondas, no anywhere—The Virgin Mary has a candle, a bunch of glass-fulla-wax economical burners that go for weeks on end, like Tibetan prayer-wheels the inexhaustible aid from oru Amida—I smile to see this lovely ikon.
“The plight of Jesus Christ,” my friend T.C. points out, “is a perfect icon for the Mexican raison d’etre: scorned, tortured, and crucified by his own people, only to rise again and become legendary for over 2,000 years. His suffering mother, in the role of the Virgin of Guadalupe, appeals to all Mexicans as Mother Earth and is maybe even more popular than Jesus himself.”
There is no doubt that T.C. is culturally and theologically correct in his assessment but theology, as the late Roberto Bolano argues in his mammoth masterpiece 2666, can breed not only superstition and paranoia – God is watching you at all times – but also a more than vague suspicion of God’s honesty at the poker table.
In a tangential moment in Book Five of 2666 (The Part About Archimboldi), a German infantryman becomes hopelessly lost in the tunnels of the French Maginot line during combat in World War II. In his sleep, God visits the soldier and tells him that the pathway out of the maze will be revealed if the man surrenders his soul (“Which I already own,” God reminds the man) in a blood oath. The infantryman agrees to the pact and upon awakening he finds his way out of the tunnels and returns to the 79th Infantry Division unscathed.
“Four days later,” Bolano writes, “the soldier who sold his soul to God was walking down the street when he was hit by a German car and killed.”
The anecdote may be about a German soldier but the story’s dark humor and sense of fatalism – not to mention a higher being who is a greater trickster than the slick coyote – is pure Mexican and Mexico, of course, is Bolano’s focus in his final epic novel, a book that rivals James Joyce’s landmark Finnegans Wake for its scope, complexity, and enigmatic narrative, which is no small literary accident.
Like Joyce, Bolano draws upon an encyclopedic range of literary works in 2666, everything from Graham Greene’s 1940 parable The Power and the Glory, set in Mexico during a period of anti-clerical violence and persecution, to William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (1971), a nightmarish plunge into the dark side of the Jesuit faith where demons really do exist.
The motivational spark for Finnegans Wake, taken from the 18th-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, is that history is cyclic (Finnegans Wake begins with the end of a sentence left unfinished on the last page). Looping Mexico’s current human homicide crisis around the sins of the Nazis – ghosts of the German war machine appear and merge and disappear in 2666’s 900 pages – Bolano invokes the same philosophy but takes it one step further to suggest that God is a human construct and the cyclic loop of man’s depraved crimes against his fellow man cannot simply be dismissed as anomalies in an otherwise ordered and structured universe.
Chilean-born Bolano – who spent many years living in Mexico – posits that the barbaric, unsolved murders of the factory girls of Ciudad Juarez in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, where the bodies of more than 1,000 women, some raped and hideously mutilated, have been found since 1993 (with scores of others still missing) must be seen as incontrovertible proof that human existence is governed by the laws of chaos and that theocracy – the kind of suffocating Roman Catholic theocracy that hovers over Mexico like a dense layer of smog—gets in the way and leads to the sort of perversity it aims to prevent: After all, if God is watching everything you’re doing and you’re going to hell for it anyway, why not descend into absolute deviance in the process and slice off a nipple or torture the genitalia of your innocent victim with shards of broken glass if you’re intent on killing them (for whatever nefarious reason) in the first place?
“Modern man likes to pretend his thinking is wide-awake,” Octavio Paz, the first Mexican writer to become a Nobel laureate with his 1990 prize for literature, writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude. “But this wide-awake thinking has led us into the mazes of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeated in the mirrors of reason.”
Cain Velasquez keeps his immense pride in his Mexican heritage close to his heart.
In fact, he wears it across his chest.
Velasquez, who will fight Ben Rothwell in the co-main event at UFC 104 on Saturday night in Los Angeles, has "Brown Pride" tattooed prominently on the front of his body.
"I did it (as a tribute to) my dad and all he did to get over here. He gave me something to look up to when I was little," Velasquez said. "I'm proud of my roots and where I come from. We're hard workers. I love that. I love everything about my culture."
Velasquez said his father crossed the border illegally and was deported several times before finally settling in Salinas, Calif., and starting a family.
The Velasquezes moved to Arizona when Cain was 2 years old. He eventually took up wrestling there. Velasquez had incredible success as an amateur and was a two-time All-American at Arizona State.
Those accomplishments led him to mixed martial arts after college, and Velasquez is 6-0, including four victories in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
He is quickly rising in the UFC's heavyweight ranks and also serves an important role as the organization's unofficial ambassador to the Latino market that UFC brass covets.
UFC 100 in July was the organization's first event televised in Mexico, and organization president Dana White said ratings were very good. He also said the numbers for subsequent events have increased.
But Velasquez might hold the key to making further inroads with Latino audiences.
While the 27-year-old heavyweight is marketable, White said, there is only one way to ensure that he spearheads the UFC's drive for popularity in Mexico and the rest of Latin America.
"The one key thing about Cain Velasquez in that (Mexican) market is they've never had a heavyweight champion in anything. So if this guy can win the heavyweight championship, it would be big," White said. "But we don't make those decisions. It's up to him Saturday night. He'd have to beat Rothwell this weekend. Then he's got maybe another fight, or he'll fight for the title.
"He's got to keep winning. But I don't make those decisions. If it should work out that Cain Velasquez keeps winning and wins the title, yeah, I guarantee it would be huge for us in the Hispanic market."
Velasquez insists he doesn't feel the pressure of trying to perform for an entire segment of the fan base.
"I know what my job is. I know what I have to do, and I know how to do it. I know I have to train hard," he said. "But it's great that I can be that type of person that people can look up to."
Velasquez said he embraces being a role model, partly because there were few Latinos in entertainment when he was growing up.
"It's important to me because when I was growing up I didn't have anyone that looked like me in the media or on TV," he said. "I didn't have the feeling that I could (make it) because I didn't see those people that looked like me."
Having Velasquez fight in Los Angeles appears to be a good marketing move by the UFC given the city's large Hispanic population.
He said he has enjoyed the attention.
"I had a great welcoming at the last press conference that we had in L.A., and so far (this week) the fans have been great," Velasquez said. "So I think it's an honor to be here and have so many fans behind me."
White insists it's purely happenstance.
"I'd love to tell you that I'm a genius and I planned that whole thing out for him to fight in L.A. with the big Hispanic market. But it just fell on me that he was going to fight on this card," he said.
Velasquez's connection to the Hispanic community is no coincidence, however.
It's written all over his chest.
It seems that most Muslim groups in India have a great deal of genetic similarity with neighbouring Hindu groups. This suggests that the bulk of Indian Muslims are descended from Hindus who converted to Islam in the past. Despite religious differences, there are thus great genetic similarities between Hindu and Muslim populations.
However, there is also a certain level of Iranian and Central Asian descent in Muslim populations in South Asia as well. This is not the predominant part of people's ancestry, but the scientists claim they could find some trace of it in some genes. This suggests that the Mughal Empire and its predecessor Muslim empires in the Indian subcontinent mainly had soldiers and settlers who were of Central Asian or Iranian [not Arab] origin. These groups settled in India and then intermarried with the local population. In elite groups, perhaps this level of intermarriage was less than in the population as a whole - as the elite may wanted to retain and maintain marriage alliances with princes and generals in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan etc, especially in situations where they lived in areas that were borderlands.
In terms of the Pakistani elite, Razib points out that Benazir Bhutto's mother was Kurdish. There may thus be a greater prevalence - even to this day - of marriage with Iranian or Kurdish peoples among the landowning elite in Pakistan.
Having read Levitt and Dubner's book and looked at the article and some of the comments around Nick Davies' investigation into the existence or non-existence of notable amounts of people trafficking , I thought I would write an article highlighting views on the economics driving prostitution. Additionally, as mention of sex tends to increase the number of visits to a internet site, I think this might also be a good way of increasing my blog hit stats! :)
Levitt and Dubner's basic argument is that there will be a market for sexual services because of differing demand for sex between the sexes. They do not take a view on whether this is morally or socially a good or bad thing - in contrast to the criminal law in most US states, which makes prostitution a criminal offence.
They look at stats from the early 20th century and claim that, in the 1910s, perhaps 1 in 50 women in her 20s in the US was working as a prostitute. They also claim that the annual earnings of a prostitute in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century were about $76,000 in today's money [taking into account inflation and earnings growth since then]. Apparently, girls working at one of the most lavish brothels in Chicago - which was run by the Everleigh Sisters - could earn up to $430,000 per year in today's money. The Everleigh Sisters themselves did even better at the expense of their workers. When arrested, they had a fortune in excess of $22m at current prices.
Unfortunately for street prostitutes in Chicago, the wage level for them seems to have fallen below the level earned by girls working in brothels in the early days of the 20th century. Sudir Venkatesh, the academic who studied a drugs gang in the past [and was cited in the first Freakonomics book] now turned his attention to prostitutes and calculated, via a survey carried out by interviewers who were more likely to be trusted [i.e. former hookers themselves] that street prostitutes were earning only about $25,000 a year from their work. Like the "foot soldiers" in the drugs gangs, who were only getting the equivalent of $3/hr, the prostitutes of the streets of Chicago seemed to be getting a bad deal - particularly given the stress and risk of violence. Partly this was because they were addicted to drugs and in a weak bargaining position. Venkatesh also worked out that having a pimp seemed to improve these women's bargaining position and they got more money if they had a pimp than if they were trying to work on their own.
Despite the fact that $25k is not that much money for a whole year, Levitt and Dubner, by looking at the other sources of income [such as shoplifting and informal work] that these women do - it seems prostitution is the most lucrative. This does illustrate the lack of legitimate employment and, even when obtained, the low level of wages on offer for women in the most deprived neighbourhoods of Chicago.
The illegality of prostitution in Chicago also left the women open to harassment from the police. In what Levitt and Dubnet call an illustration of the principal-agent problem [and what others would call an abuse of power] it seems that 3% of all the sex prostitutes had was with policemen in exchange for not being arrested. Probably not what the social-conservatives who brought in the anti-prostitution legislation intended!
Levitt and Dubnet interview one prostitute who seems to have made a good living from it, who they dub 'Allie'. She was earning upwards of $200,000 a year as an 'escort'. This salary is far higher than she said she was getting in her previous job. In fact, in her case, Levitt and Dubner argue that the fact that prostitution is illegal may help her since it constrains supply and thus reduces the number of competitors she might have. Perhaps this was also why women in the Everleigh Sisters' brothel earned so much. They were a relatively small number of suppliers serving a big market.
'Allie' grew up in the South and then moved to Chicago. This movement for the purposes of such work - particularly as this sex work is socially stigmatised by social conservatives - is stated as being quite common. This is likely to be because prostitutes do not want to bump into friends or relatives while they are working [or, worse still, encounter them as potential customers!]. This may also explain why many prostitutes cross international borders to work. Davies' points out that, if they haven't got a valid visa, they may have to be smuggled in. But being smuggled is not the same as being trafficked. These individuals may be perfectly willing to travel - and are not being forced into prostitution in a foreign land.
And, like for the street prostitutes in Chicago's poor neighbourhoods, the lack of alternative economic opportunities to make a living encourages people who have been smuggled into the UK to take up prostitution. The income they can get this way will be greater than the income they could get other ways - due to the danger and social stigma involved in the job. In a chilling statistic, Venkatesh and his colleagues said that at least 3 of the 160 women they surveyed died during the course of the study!
Posted By PETER HENDRA
Mexico is undergoing a "nutrition transition," and a Queen's University professor is hoping a new research project will lead to healthier eating habits being instilled in its inhabitants.
A nutrition transition occurs when a country undergoes rapid economic growth and the size of its middle class also grows, both in population and girth.
"When we were doing the research for the grant, it became clear that what's been called the 'nutrition transition' has been happening in Mexico," Elaine Power said, who added that India and China are two other countries undergoing a similar transformation.
"It's fascinating and very troubling that you have high, high levels of malnutrition existing along with high levels of obesity."
Power, an assistant professor of kinesiology and health studies at the university, said that almost 15% of preschool children and 26% of school-aged children in Mexico are considered overweight.
The study -- which will cost 149,500 Mexican pesos, or $12,022 Canadian -- is being funded by the Canada and Mexico Battling Childhood Obesity (CAMBIO) program based at Queen's.
Power will be working on the project along with Dr. Jess Haines of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Hotensia Reyes Morales of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico.
The study will focus on children currently enrolled in government-funded child care. The group chose the preschool population because their habits weren't as ingrained as they are in older children.
"At [the preschool] age, kids learn not by what you tell them, but by what they see you doing," Power said. "By providing healthier food, they'll learn that that's the accepted norm."
Preschoolers are also more likely than older children to emulate their classmates' eating habits, Power said. If one child is chomping green beans, for example, another is more likely to try them since his or her classmate is eating them.
One of the obstacles to establishing healthy eating habits in Mexico, Power said, is that being fat is often considered a status symbol.
"You're up against a whole kind of culture, and needing to shift that culture," Power said.
For example, Power said Mexicans are the world's largest consumers of Coca-Cola.
"[Coca-Cola] is such a powerful symbol of particularly American success," Power explained. "Everybody can afford to drink a Coke. In a consumer society -- and that's where Mexico is moving -- being able to purchase that, being able to drink it, is a sign of belonging."
Power said that it will also be vital for researchers to speak with parents.
"For me, what's really, really valuable is actually talking to parents and what's important to them," Power said.
Originally, Power's role was to help hone researchers on how to conduct the research. That role, however, has changed, since Power found that Mexico, in fact, already boasted some excellent researchers. She will now play a more supportive role instead.
As a "food sociologist," Power is curious about what food means to people and what it means to them in different circumstances.
"In Mexico," she said, "I'm really interested how cultural issues affect food."