Oaxaca has something new for you:

In the last days of November, when the temperature drops and we get out our space heater, Diana and I went on an excursion with our pals Stan and Suzanne.  We hired a taxi, and took off for the “new” ruins off the Atzompa road on the “back-side” of Monte Albán.  We had heard that it was an arduous uphill walk to the ruins, perhaps as much as a kilometer.  On the other hand, my Google map showed the road as having been completed right up to the ruins.  “Vamos á ver” (let’s go and see for ourselves”) is our motto.

The taxista that we flagged down on the corner was a middle-aged grandfather, very pleasant.  I showed him a copy of the map, he studied it for a minute, and off we went, in an unfailing series of lefts and rights that took us (with stops for conformation from locals) to the entrance.  From the front gate, all the way up to the flat spot where the steps begin, the road is paved.  However, It is being worked on, and we ran into a road block.  We pleaded to be allowed to pass, but received only stony silence, until I pointed to Diana and told the gatekeeper that we had an elderly, feeble passenger.  He removed an orange cone, and we slid on through.  Incidentally, he refused the tip we offered him.

I’m not much for ruins.  Aside from Palenque and maybe Tikál, I try to stay away.  Having been born and raised in the inner city, I don’t much like the great out of doors, either.  So imagine my surprise, when I found myself practically ecstatic upon arrival at the foot of the stairs.  The view from that spot is beyond description: good thing we had Diana, to take photos.

Once you’ve seen the view, turn around and contemplate the long and winding staircase that wends its way up the mountain past four levels of uncovered ruins.  Note as you mount from one level to the next, the really good signage in Spanish and English, with a little history, a little architectural detail, a bit of ancient culture.  Beautiful flowering trees are in bloom at every level, the rainy season having ended a few weeks ago.

We had asked the taxi to wait for us, once we realized how isolated and far away the site is.  On our way down, we passed a family, recently arrived, who got out of their cab down at the road block.  They frowned, wondering how we got to ride, while they had to walk.  I wanted to shout out to them, “Just get old”, but I refrained…  At the roadblock, we offered a tip again.  This time he took it: this time, it wasn’t a bribe.   After six years of development, the “zone” is now officially open: they’re charging a fee…

Our taxista took us back to the Zócalo, where we ended our morning’s adventure with a well-earned cafecito.

Later that day, we received an email from a friend who lives on some acreage out of town.  A resident of 13 years, a naturalized Mexican citizen, married to a Mexican doctora, he had just been seriously vandalized while he was in town.  He says that the responsible person is the current village headman, who, with a gang of enforcers, has been (successfully) extorting his neighbors for some time, while he refused to pay.  Everybody knows what happened, but nobody will talk about it: “no pasa nada” (nothing happened), is the safest thing to say.  Oaxaca, as I may have mentioned a few hundred times in the past, has many faces.

(Some of the photos are gifts from our friend (“the other”) Stan.  All the rest are, of course, Diana’s.)

It’s Déjà vu all over again:

If you loved Carlos Salinas, you are going to go absolutely manic over our new Presidente, Enrique Peña Nieto.  Touted as the leader of a “new PRI”, president pretty-face has just announced his cabinet picks.  Among them are Rosario Robles, whose antics in the Cárdenas government of Mexico City got her fired and drummed out of the PRD.  She subsequently shifted her loyalties to the PRI, and is the new secretary of Social Development.

Emilio Chauyfett, seriously tied to Carlos, is the new secretary of Education. A privatizer to his bones, he was one of the early advocates of privatizing PEMEX, and very much the hammer of the PRI in the legislature as whip of the PRI delegation.  He was generally agreed to have been complicit in the infamous Acteal massacre in Chiapas, and was made to step down over how it was handled. It will be his job to preside over the privatization of public education, and breaking the teachers’ union headed by his arch-enemy, Elba Esther Gordillo.

Finally, there is the Tourism secretary, a member of the Ruiz Masseiu family.  Raul Salinas went to prison for being the “intellectual author” of the assassination of Jose Ruiz Masseiu, who was at the time the head of the PRI.  People speculated about whether the shooting was revenge for his mistreatment of his wife, a Salinas sister, or to keep him from exposing Carlos as the numero uno of the drug trade.

Later, his brother Mario, head of the federal investigative police, and charged with bringing Juan’s murderer to justice, fled for his life.  At Newark airport, where he was attempting to transfer to a plane to Europe, he was arrested by ICE for trying to leave the country with more than the legal  limit of 10,000 dollars.  Investigators later discovered a secret bank account in a Texas bank, with 10 million dollars, of which they confiscated over 9m.  Mario died in mysterious circumstances in New Jersey.  The authorities called it a suicide.

These are the three I know about.  I’m fairly confident that there are others. Welcome to the revival of the Dinosaurs, marching across the nation with Carlos Salinas waving the baton, up front:  the PRI marches on.

Anybody know the name of this flower?

We discovered this beautiful flower blooming on a tree on Libres street. We don’t know what it is called…

It’s medication refill time:

If you or anyone you know and trust is coming down in about 10 days, and willing to carry a small package, gimme a shout…