(information from El Diario de Xalapa, June 29 and 30):
The night of June 28-29, too much rain again fell in the area north and west of Xalapa. Banderilla, adjoining Xalapa on the west and north suffered severe damage to businesses and a number of families lost their possessions. Part of the federal highway (140) west of Banderilla and higher in altitude "turned into a lake" according to Enrique Noé Romero in El Diario de Xalapa, "closing traffic for more than two hours. A garage for storage of tourist buses had water running through it as if from a torrential river. Much other damage was also reported.
The lack of planning in the construction of a bridge on the route is reported to be the cause of the constant flooding in this rainy season, the worst since the bridge was opened ten years ago. At this point, businesses and residents are frightened in the face of already large losses.
As a consequence of this seemingly ceaseless and very severe flooding problem caused by the particularly severe rains, El Diario reported today that the people most affected, those in La Martinica a community in Banderilla, took up a familiar form of protest: yesterday they blocked the main highway in the direction of Mexico City for an hour and a half demanding that government construct proper drainage in this region. They said they'd been promised help before, but nothing had happened.
According to government officials, solutions are complicated and very and will take a long time. Paving projects in the municipality of Banderilla have added to the problem because water pours down these newly-paved places and into La Marinica and existing storm drains can't contain it. Some progress has been made: the National Water Commission (Conagua) has authorized "extraordinary resources."
The citizens of the area have a powerful tool: the threat of blocking the main Veracruz-Mexico artery in both directions. While this is illegal (if you remember, it came up in our colonia when people were agitating about our water delivery -- nothing has changed here, by the way) public sympathy for the sufferers tends to mean that it is not politically wise to arrest them instead of addressing the problems.
Jim and I tend towards dithering, not because we're lazy but because we overworry about how to go about things. That's why numbers 1, 2, 7 and 8 haven't materialized. We made a fair amount of effort on number 5 but found unless we wanted outhouses and to deal with the stuff ourselves, we'd essentially have to tear out the current plumbing system and the walls and floors in which it is embedded and tear up the front lawn which we'd have done if doing the plumbing part had been feasible. Essentially, we wanted to have a series of non-chemical treatment tanks for the sewage, a reasonable approach which leaves you with water that can then be drained into the soil. But it is really reasonable mostly when you are just starting to build, not afterwards.
Nos 1 and 2. Building a studio and enlarging our bodega: the house isn't packed enough yet and we haven't been crowded in our projects enough to follow through.
No. 8. I swear this will come to pass this July.
No. 7. I worked in bureaucracies enough to learn that if you just didn't get certain paperwork done, the time would come when it was no longer necessary to do it. I'm wondering if water capture might just be like this. Today, this post appeared in the NY Times's Green Inc. blog. So I'm thinking, capturing rainwater may not be the totally wonderful and essential idea I thought it was. We don't need to capture water during the rainy season for sure. Maybe in the dry season I'll have second thoughts, but maybe that's the worst time to do it. In any event, while I grumble at our externally-imposed unintentional water conservation system which provides us with some water in the house every other day, it turns out it is enough water (so far) for domestic purposes. In the dry season it keeps us from watering our lawn (one of the supremely wasteful water uses in the US) and it ensures we don't leave taps running, keep leaks fixed, take reasonable showers, etc. The water comes from springs whose source lies in Cofre de Perote. That Cofre's water tables are endangered is due to the large issues of deforestation and industrial use. We pollute the spring water in its passage from the spring to the rivers, but we don't diminish it. We'd pollute the water if we used captured water as well.
Pollution of water in our area is probably not as grave as it might seem. Here we do not have heavy metals in the water and we don't have large quantities of chemicals from industry and medicine as they do in the US (and, for that matter in Xalapa and elsewhere in Mexico where industry abounds). Human wastes are nasty but not as serious since they are organic. But we do need to investigate the effects of the materials we use for cleaning, for various processing systems, for agriculture.
Nick Kristoff has picked up on one aspect of the world's water problems. As with global warming, many water problems are caused pretty much by too many people making and using too much stuff in wasteful and other harmful ways.
Here is what my husband wrote to the site consumer affairs.com about our missed connection in Houston:
June 25, 2009, the departure of our flight from Boston was delayed 1 1/2 hours. The Continental Airlines agent who issued our boarding passes made it clear that if we missed our connection in Houston, which was likely, Continental would pay for our Hotel and meals in Houston. We did miss our connection. Customer Service for Continental Airlines in Houston said that "Air Traffic Control" was the reason and that therefore they would not pay hotel or meals. When I protested that we had been told the opposite by the Continental employee in Boston, they said they could not confirm that and then got rude and said that "customers with attitude" were the least likely to be helped.
You'll notice a lot of other complaints on the same page.
In my experience, the most unpleasant place I've been in my air travels is Houston which of course is Continental's hub. The most unpleasant people have been airline personnel and the folks running the security check. When you arrive in Houston from someplace foreign, you have to go through security all over again, and a meaner bunch of security personnel you haven't met. Not all of course, probably not most. But there is always at least one designated slave driver yelling, "keep it moving, keep it moving, you're holding up the line," and so forth. This time in Houston, a new wrinkle: we couldn't put our shoes in one of the trays so a woman was yelling, put your shoes on the belt, take them outta the trays, outa the trays." When one man paused to put his shoes on on the other side of the belt she screeched, "don't slow the line, don't slow the line, use the tables, did you hear? I said use the tables..."
I suspect that things would be no slower if people tried a little courtesy, a little respect.
In Boston, it rained every day except on the day we arrived and for a few hours when the sun seemingly miraculously broke through just in time for my daughter and her novio to exchange their vows on a small, flower-strewn dock on a pretty lake in front of the houses of her father and grandfather. In Houston, of course, it had not rained at all for weeks. Here back in the Xalapa area, it rained way too much, as we discovered yesterday upon talking to friends and neighbors. There were horrific storms that frightened even people who have lived with storms their whole lives. The quantity of rain that fell sounds biblical.
According to Miguel Zalazar, writing in El Diario de Xalapa today, "the rain left more than 60 colonies in Xalapa emergency zones. The Director of Civil Protection for the city, Silverio Avila Contreras, said also that the rain had been more intense than anything in recent years. He said [and this sounds a little odd to me] that the amount of water that fell in four hours was equal to that which had fallen in two years."
The greatest damage was in Xalapa and to its north, west and east. We live to the south, so our area seems to have escaped the worst. And since Jim and I weren't here for the storms, we have awakened only to beautiful skies with lazy, drifting clouds crossing them. Everything is green and fresh.
Climate folks say that we are likely to have more rain in bigger storms separated by less rain and stretches of warm weather instead of the daily rains of tradition.
I am going to be shifting over to Jim's satellite for my internet coverage. Mr. Slim's Infinitum DSL service has deteriorated to the extent that I cannot upload pictures. When we do make the change, more pictures on the blog.
Work and my daughter's wedding in Massachusetts put a longer stop to this than I thought they would. This post was started in the lobby of the Holiday Inn at the Houston Airport. We missed the connection for our flight to Veracruz because the flight into Boston from Houston using the plane we were to take was an hour and a half late. As the incoming-Houston-to-Boston flight, it had turned back to Houston mid-flight because someone on board had suffered some kind of medical emergency. That seems to me the mark of some continuing humanity in the rushed and impersonal world that the USA seems to be, for the most part, in its public spaces. The ripples of the delay washed over many people, but we are better for it.
Unfortunately Continental Airlines' treatment of the passengers delayed by this wasn't good. We had been told in Boston that if we missed our flight to Veracruz, Continental would take care of our hotel and two meals. But when got off the plane in Houston, we were met by an attendant who rammed a piece of paper in our hands with a telephone number where we could find motels where we could get a discount, not an airline paid-for room. He then literally shoved us on our way. It took someone else to point out where customer service was located. We were kind of annoyed: if we'd known that would happen, we'd have spent our unexpected waiting time in Boston. So my husband protested rather sternly when we arrived at the customer service desk He can look quite stern. I've always thought he doesn't know just how stern. The passenger assistance women responded belligerently refusing to even check whether we were telling the truth. First she said, snarlingly, it was weather, then she said it was air traffic control, neither of which Continental is liable for. When another passenger in the same boat, a tall, amiable graduate physics student repeated exactly what we said, the agent, everyone's idea of a nasty, burnt-out school teacher passing out of middle age, finally agreed to review the situation. At first she denied him, too. But then magically, the information on her screen changed. We were right! But the agent, glaring at my husband with jaw thrust out and wagging a finger, told him lack of courtesy would get him nowhere. She refused us meal vouchers.
In any event, the delay wasn't so bad after all. We spent much of the time at the Holiday Inn at the airport. It's a pretty nice one, decorated with a variety of geometric designs, often whimsically used. We sat for several hours in the lounge as did other people apparently waiting for flights. Clumps swirled through: teenagers bursting with energy and then quieting themselves, self-important men with their cellphones and blackberries at their ears or held out in front of them, a somewhat martial group of women, their chests leading the way, an African and a middle-easterner captured by the soccer game on the tv. I sprawled with my Kindle on a sofa looking out onto dense tropical greenery through louvered windows, their slats cocked at different angles to mute the sun's heat and brilliance.
Houston had been baking and dry for the previous three weeks, the temperature dancing around on both sides of the 100 degree mark. At one point, I caught site of glitter on the other side of the windows and realized it was raining: celebration in the lounge.
Which brings me to note that I sat in the lounge in my bulky sweater, brought for Boston weather. It couldn't have been above 72 degrees inside while it broiled outside. When we went to the airport, it was the same. One would think daily experience in Houston might have an impact on people's awareness of global warming, of energy use, etc. etc. If these public spaces, giant ones in the case of IAH, are so oblivious, what point is there in individuals making their own small efforts?
I'd been lazily snapping photos of our local candidates in the congressional elections coming up on July 5 when I came across this post on MEXFILES about a candidate in Pachuco (capital of Hidalgo) who is involved in an imbroglio overe whether her ads are too sexy. Stolen from El Universal, a picture of one of her ads:
Well, maybe it's too cute, but for sexy it doesn't come close to this one of Sylvia Monge, running as a Panista here in our area (my photo):
It says: Woman of action.
Here's Sylvia meeting with dairy farmers (from her website):
And Sylvia, Woman of the People (from her website):
Sylvia is from Coatepec. She was a nursery and elementary school teacher for fifteen years. She's been actively involved in politics for ten years and has served as a Deputy in the State Legislature (Veracruz). She is running as a family values candidate. You can read her biography here.
I haven't heard of any objections to her campaign.
The US military is providing funding for the very detailed mapping of indigenous lands in Oaxaca. This is not the only project of this sort the military is involved with. This certainly seems worthy of investigation. What is the military's interest?
This has now come to the attention of Michael Smith, Professor at Arizona State University and author of a very good book on the Aztecs. Below in his posting to the Aztlan users' group (link below).
Some academic geographers from the University of Kansas are conducting field research on indigenous landholdings in the Mixteca, with funding from the U.S. military. The program is called "México Indígena," and it is part of a broader military-funded endeavor (called "the Bowman Expeditions") of mapping and data gathering in rural areas around the world. For a discussion, see the recent post, "Human Terrain in Oaxaca" on the Savage Minds blog:
There are links at the bottom of that post to the home site of the Bowman Expeditions and to some works critical of the project. A number of indigenous activities are strongly critical of this work. Mike Michael E. Smith, Professor School of Human Evolution & Social Change Arizona State University www.public.asu.edu/~mesmith9 http://publishingarchaeology.blogspot.com
The Union of Oraganizations from the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO, Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez de Oaxaca) denounced a "joint" initiative called Indigenous Project Mexico (Proyecto México Indigena). This project allegedly puts the sovereignty of indigenous pueblos in jeopardy and facilitates the looting of their natural patrimony through the mapping of their territories. Critics call this activity, which involves compiling high resolution geographic information about the precise location of various resources, including water resources and biodiversity, "geo-piracy."
In the words of Silvia Ribeiro of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration(ETC Group), "The implications of this type of activity are so vast that it is difficult to summarize them. The detailed and exact mapping of the areas is possible only by obtaining the local knowledge of the people who live there. By processing this data with new technologies such as systems of digitized geographic information superimposed on satellite maps freely available on Google, one can obtain an enormous amount of information which was previously unknown or was not visible. These maps are not only very useful for military purposes and for counterinsurgency efforts, but also for industrial purposes (exploitation of mineral resources, plants, animals and biodiversity, mapping accesses to constructed or 'necessary' highways, sources of water, population centers, social mapping of possible resistance to or acceptance of projects, etc.)."
The critics of the project "Mexico Indígena" note with great concern that among its financiers is the United States Army.