(It will be a bit slow on the blog for the next couple of weeks-- too many jobs, too little time.)
(It will be a bit slow on the blog for the next couple of weeks-- too many jobs, too little time.)
Gail Collins in the New York Times on politicians in New York, New Jersey, California and Nevada, for just a start. And this is just very recent news. It's funny on the one hand, on the other, among many, many other things, the once-stellar California system of education and its once stellar University of California are being decimated.
And they didn't even mention Texas, home of the Tea Parties and good ole boy Rick Perry.
Little old ladies must love this shot of Rick:
I bet Sarah Palin does, too.
Anyway, the Tea Parties are connected to Rick's being champion of Texas sovereignty and turning down stimulus money for it.
A good blog for good ole Texas gossip is South Texas Chisme. My friend Escotito de New Orleans says Louisiana is awful. I imagine it is. Which actually gets us back to DC and the fact that Mississippi is swimming in money for post-Katrina repairs (good ole Republican guv, good ole Republican Senators) while Louisiana, and in particular New Orleans, is not.
Hey, folks, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Mexican Catholicism is many-faceted, many-splendored, maddeningly obtuse and incredibly progressive. It can unite communities for good and for ill. It can be a force of love, or bitterly harsh. It can be completed and comfortably melded with the indigenous beliefs of tiny communities or as papist as the church in Rome.It can be and do all these things, or some of them, or none of them, depending on where you are and whom you are talking with. It is embedded in the being of most Mexicans. Sometimes things Catholic in Mexico can move me to tears, as standing in the Iglesia de Maria Magdalena did in Xico last weekend.
The church interior is breathtakingly lovely for Fiesta. My pictures only give you poor shadows.
Xico is in the midst of celebrating its Fiesta de Santa Maria Magdalena which runs from July 18 to July 26 It is a big, extravagant, noisy affair with everything from deeply religious ceremonies and processions and rituals to a bull run, bull fights, endless food and drink, dancing, firecrackers, carny rides, and a sawdust carpet running the entire length of the main street thrown in. It is Xico's "honey season,"* the time when the order and control and work of every day are cast aside for eight days at least, and to some extent for the whole month of July.
*"honey season" was a term I learned many years ago in graduate school. The anthropologist writing about a group livingin the rainforests of western Uganda described a time of year when for a brief few days or weeks, enough food had been gathered for survival, and the group cut loose with fermented honey, throwing caution and normal restraints to the wind. I remember that we learned that many societies, especially those that have to depend on strict discipline and careful use of their resources most of the year,have periods like this. Until the recent crisis, it seemed that for some in the US the honey season was never ending.
NOTE: A friend got some excellent shots of the bull-running and has written some good commentary on it and his experiences here. Scroll through the most recent three blogs. He mentions that some people were injured. They were taken by helicopter to Xalapa. The helicopters flew over our house. We were glad to hear they were ambulance 'copters.
July 29 marks the 119th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh's death. Here are snippets of the article talking about Van Gogh (1853-1890) that appeared today in the online version of El Diario de Xalapa, with a front page notice. It is by Isabel Serrano, art critic and historian. The translation is mine. I've interspersed some images of Van Gogh's work.
Vincent's life was solitary, and he came to feel sad and abandoned. At every turn, he sensed the rejection of a society which treated him indifferently. Perhaps because of the uncaring attitude it showed, and, among other things, because of its incomprehension of his work, during his life, he sold only one or two of his paintings. He was an uncommunicative man who passed by silently, but this did not keep him from making extroardinary paintings and drawings of landscapes, still-lifes, campesinos, portraits, self portraits, and aspects of everyday life.
From childhood, Vincent revealed an intense temperament and a very difficult personality, which meant that he failed in many of the activities he undertook; however, he succeeded in his work as a missionary among underground miners, whose pain and great weariness he understood. These experiences he brought to some of his most famous paintings.
Today we contemplate his work and we clearly see that in the midst of his internal torment, he had a pressing need to convey strong emotions.... [The resulting] would pass, unbeknownst to him, with great success to posterity.
....Van Gogh was tireless, and he knew how to capture the dusks, the streets, the valleys and the wheatfields of the region where he lived.He painted in a different manner from those who had come before him. His paintings are distingished by a loose, sinuous brushstroke, conveing great emotion; thick black lines which enclose warm colors and an intense ligiht which bathes every scene with splendor.
His interest, almost an obsession, with sunflowers inspired him to create various works in which they occupied the place of protagonist. The sunflower is different from all other flowers, with its center turning towards the sun and with its great size. In his paintings, it apears to us as if the flowers were turning towards Vincent. Vincent knew these characteristics very well. He had devoted hours to studying sunflowers, he observed them thoroughly and drew them over and over again, puttting them in the right position with relation to the sun. Throughout his life, he finished many works with yellow sunflowers which sometimes appeared over neutral backgrounds, others in the midst of exceptionally brilliant tones.
On one occasion, Vincent decided to paint fourteen sunflowers in a round clay container. When he finished, he hung it on the wall and spent the whole night gazing passionately at it. At that moment, he could not imagine that with the passage of two years, it would become one of the most famous works of art in history, a work admired by all of us ho have seen it, a work which came from the very hands of that misunderstood man who dedicated his days and nights to painting without rest.
You of course recognize that the colors online do not do justice to the real thing. Even more, the paintings are more or less flattened, when in fact, Van Gogh's paintstrokes seem still to live. I was lucky enough to grow up in New York City. A Starry Night hung in the Museum of Modern Art. I could just go and stand there and get lost in it.
Groan. Richard Grabman over at Mex Files is the real blogger in English on Mexican topics. Once again, he has posted on the topic du jour with more information and ahead of me. This time, he captured the news from Reuters on the bidding for the contracts to provide the hardware for Plan Mérida, the joint program for the US to supply technical and arms equipment to Mexico in the struggle with narcos and organized crime. You knew of course that Plan Mérida was in reality just another means of providing income to US arms producers. To sum up a few points in case you're not up to following the links:
Plan Mérida represents, it seems, much more than a simple security and cooperation agreement between the Mexican and US governments which addresses the fight against narcotráfico and the fight against terrorism. It also constitutes, as today's edition of the paper informs us, a splendid opportunity for dozens of our neighboring country's businesses: some 40 US military-industrial corporations are hoping to receive a substantial share of the hundreds of millions of dollars remaining (after a substantial reduction) in the mountain of aid that Washington is giving the Mexican authorities. Among the companies can be found Dyncorp, Northrop Grumman, NOC and Blackwater [now Xe], firms which in the various military conflicts undertaken by the US throughout the world have turned war, destruction and human suffering into bulging profits for their stockholders.
This initiative was criticised before it was signed because of, among other things, its unilateral, militaristic and simplistic focus on the problems of criminality and security, because of its similarities to Plan Colombia --which injected that South American country into the existing counterinsurgency activity--, because of the sacrifice in matters of sovereignty which it entails, and because it plunges Mexico to causes which, besides being outdated, are not its problems, like the war against terrorism undertaken by the last US administration.
Newly available information adds a new negative aspect, and one that is particularly alarming, to the agreement signed by President Felipe Calderón and then-U.S. President George W. Bush: The contracts dedicated by the US Congress to help Mexico are actually a subsidy for the voracious military industry of the US which is desperate for new war scenarios -- that is to say new markets -- following the announcement of the exit of the US troops occupying Iraq.
There is a perverse cycle which links the military-industrial complex of the superpower to geo-strategic decisions of the US government: on numerous occasions, the decision to involve itself in armed conflicts or to generate them has been economically motivated precisely to create business opportunities for the war industry. The concerns expressed about democracy, liberty, seucrity and peace were generally just rhetoric added to justify the action, which includes subordinating geopolitical calculations to the goal of business's selling arms and military technology.
With these facts in mind, one can't ignore the risk that the military-industrial interests of our neighboring country pressure it to exaggerate, prolong or extend threats real or imagined in Mexican territories for the purpose of perpetuating themselves. What started as a police problem of public security can be escalated, in this perverse logic, with unpredictable consequences, certainly undesirable ones for Mexico. For now, it is logical to suppose that the arms and defense equipment factories have undertaken to present the worst possible scenarios of Mexico's current situation to the government in Washington.
Everything mentioned above confirms, one more time, the central mistake of the anti-crime strategy formulated and put into place by the current Mexican government. The battle agaisnt drug traffic and organized crime in general ought to be re-planted, in a radical fashion, on a different foundation.
This being a very good and pithy summation of everything wrong in US-Mexican relations and some reasons we both have big problems..
Means....women with eggs, yes indeed. And it is the name of a women's cooperative in our area now with branches in several small communities. In a shared area, community members with some volunteer help build chicken coops for maybe forty or fifty gallinas who also have a fair amount of open space in which to hunt and peck as chickens do. The eggs produced are not truly organic because among other things the chickens are vaccinated against disease and the land is not certified organic, a process which makes it impossible for many small-scale producers to become organic producers. The hens are called criollos: they are varied breeds but proven to be survivors in our area. They are grown without hormones or other additives and they eat wheat, corn, grass, leaves and bugs -- some of which they find as they hunt and peck. No industrial feed is used. The eggs are quite delicious and are now sold in a large number of stores from here to Mexico City.
The latest project is in Matlalapa, the next-to-the-last town on one of the roads going up the slopes of Perote. I've posted about it before here and here. Below you can see Matlalapa towards the upper left hand corner on the map. You can see where we live in the lower right corner. The distance between our house to Matlalapa is maybe ten miles or twelve miles. Very roughly.
Our instructions were to find a woman named Doña Lucia who could show us the way to the project.
Below is a picture of sheep on the road to her house which is behind the shed whose roof you can see.
We walked down to her house where she welcomed us warmly and then accompanied us with her granddaughter, who was about ten, the rest of the way. Somewhere in a previous post I think I mentioned that Kayeko, a Japanese volunteer who lived with our friend Doña Gloria in Xico commuted daily by bus from Xico to Matlalapa. We had the vague notion that she labored in a couple of small greenhouses in which people were experimenting with growing tomatoes. I imagined her the only Japanese person in Matlalapa. But we were wrong. Matlalapa is the site of an extensive but unobtrusive community development project sponsored by Japan. which has brought a new elementary school staffed in part by the Japanese and a bunch of community education projects, including a computer literacy project for women, in addition to the nursery for growing tomatoes which are big round ones, not the normal pseudo-romano tomatoes which are the norm in markets and supermarkets alike (tomatoes are another whole topic). The first time we drove up to Matlalapa a number of years ago, I had the feeling we were the first foreigners people had seen. This time we were hardly noticed.
Doña Lucia's granddaughter knew Kayeko and had had her as a teacher for a number of subjects. She liked Kayeko and enjoyed having someone so different to learn from. She didn't have a clear idea about where Japan was, so I explained what I knew. She shook her head at the idea that a whole country could fit on an island.
The site is on the main road next to the government-sponsored community store. These stores, always white blue and dark pink, sell basic food products like beans at reduced prices in small communities. They also sell basic medicines. The proprietors can add some other products as well, including popcorn, which we bought here in Ursulo Galván at our local community store.
The construction of the chicken coop is under the watchful eye of a volunteer from a Baha'i group who lives in Coatepec. She brought some other Baha'i with her, but the main work is in the hands of the people from Matlalapa. Below you see construction under way.
The idea is to keep everything simple and easy to maintain. With roosts, this little house apparently will have room for forty gallinas.
Since school is out, people bring their kids with them. Doña Lucia's granddaughter had been designated the unofficial teacher, and here you can see her with a a few boys who are drawing.
We were invited to eat with everyone in the building immediately behind the community store. We had chicken soup with big pieces of chicken, tortillas and orange drink.
Everything had been cooked on the stove you see in the picture below. It is a simple and inexpensive one which is very good because it has a chimney to eliminate smoke and it gets warm enough all over to warm the room in the winter. The woman who cooked said they had become common in the area. I don't know if it consumes a lot of wood or not.
Mujeres con huevos is a wonderful project and still growing. We would really like to get a project started here in Colonia Ursulo Galván. My neighbor is soliciting names of women who might be interested. Of course, help is always needed, especially for things like tools and nails and materials to get individual efforts off the ground.
More on the fake tequila story from this morning's Diario de Xalapa (my translation):
The product [fake tequila], made from distilled alcohol, was seized a month ago and laboratory tests [chromatographic analysis] proved that it was a false product which didn't compy with the requirements for being a genuine product made from agave.
As part of the destruction protocol, the false tequila was thrown in the receptacles at the plant in the northern zone of Veracruz which treats residual waters whr ee it was mixedwith discharges of black water to be incorporated in the cleaning process after which it would all go into the sea (Gulf of Mexico).
En Jalisco, [Ramón González Figueroa, director of the Tequila Regulatory Council] emphasized that in Jalisco [state which is the origin of much if not most agave used in tequila] the number of people wanting to sell fake tequila is declining. Recently four people were detained for this practice which damages the tequila industry.
"Attempts to export fake tequila are occuring with less frequency, but it is [in Jalisco] that the problem which discredits the image of Mexican tequila in international markets occurs. The good thing is that there is a federal government infrastructure to monitor the product and to ensure its authenticity," he emphasized.
He said that at present the falsification of labels and elaboration of false tequila is a serious crime and that a permanent operative functions under the Procurador General's Office [I think more or less like the Justice Department in the US] together with the Office of Consumer Protection and the Secretary of the Economy.
In the last five years, he stressed, there have been strong measures taken against fake tequila at customs in Nuevo Léon, Tijuana and Veracruz, which have led to the capture of more than 150,000 liters of fake tequila. Also there have been efforts to combat its use in countries where it is consumed, such as Uruguay and Spain.
And now: Mexico has drawn a much clearer and bolder line between religion and government than has the United States. This is very evident in the schools. There is no issue with teaching. evolution in them. Aspects of the theory of evolution exist not only in the schools but on them: